Thursday, April 15, 2021

First Class Staterooms on the Titanic

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

High Tech Tulips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Jesuits should be suppressed (again)

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

Friday, April 09, 2021

Monday, April 05, 2021

Constantinople suggests more changes to church calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(HT: Blog reader John L)

Sunday, April 04, 2021

Happy Easter

Wishing a blessed feast to all those celebrating today.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Rhine Meadows "Death Camps" Hoax

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

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Birthrate decline in the West is accelerating

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

Marine Insurance Firms Brace for a Wave of Claims

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the rest here.

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

Friday, March 26, 2021

In Scotland- A whiff of scandal

“It’s very clear that Nicola Sturgeon is damaged goods and her days are numbered. She is by no means off the hook.”

The sort of verdict you might expect from a flag-waving Unionist at the end of a tempestuous week for the Scottish National Party. Except that those words were spoken by a former deputy leader of the SNP itself, even before Alex Salmond’s extraordinary return to politics yesterday.

The jubilation among the First Minister’s supporters after she survived two inquiries into her role in the Alex Salmond affair lasted all of three days before Mr Salmond pulled back the tarpaulin on his ultimate vengeance weapon, the Alba Party, which threatens to blow up the SNP’s chances of a Holyrood majority in the May 6 elections.

If the SNP – currently a minority government – achieves an overall majority, the party’s plans to force a second independence referendum will be rapidly accelerated.

There is a growing belief within the SNP, however, that the party will fall short of the mark, and that if “IndyRef2” does happen, it might not be with Ms Sturgeon at the helm.

The SNP’s poll rating peaked at 58 per cent last autumn, and stayed above 50 per cent for the whole of last year, putting the party on course for a majority, but that figure is now 46 per cent, according to a recent Opinium poll, suggesting the controversy has taken its toll.

The twin inquiries into the SNP’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations made against former leader Mr Salmond have exposed to public view the toxic civil war between the Sturgeonites and the Salmondites, like a manhole cover being lifted off a sewer. Mr Salmond now intends to go another round with Ms Sturgeon in a fresh court case that could reveal damaging details suppressed in the inquiries.

Then, at 2pm on Friday, came the unexpected announcement that Mr Salmond is to lead a new party into the elections. Its aim, he claims, is to achieve a “supermajority” for independence in the Scottish parliament, but its effect is more likely to be splitting the vote between the SNP and Alba (the Scottish Gaelic name for Scotland).

Mr Salmond said on Friday that Alba was “planting our saltire on a hill” and that “in the next few weeks we shall see how many will rally to our standard”.

In truth, he is parking his tanks on Ms Sturgeon’s lawn, driving a wedge into the split that already exists in the SNP, and calling on its members, MPs and MSPs to defect to his side.

If he is elected to Holyrood, it will be the start of an all-out war between Ms Sturgeon and Mr Salmond for the leadership, and the future, of Scotland.

Jim Sillars, the former deputy leader of the SNP, said: “I was a long-term critic of Alex Salmond when he led the SNP, and he of me. I take back not a word, and I expect him to be the same.

“But Brexit, the pandemic, the failures of the SNP, the embarrassing stark lack of quality in its ranks in Holyrood, means we are in a new situation when old grievances need to be set aside. I welcome his return to frontline politics.”

He added: “People have seen a face of the Scottish government that is unacceptable. People are not stupid. They know the government has misbehaved and engaged in a gross misuse of power.

“This government is politically corrupt and the tentacles of political corruption have spread to institutions in civic society.”

One serving SNP MP admitted: “Nicola’s brand has been tarnished. I think this will have an impact at the polls because people have seen the in-fighting and the rage.”

Read the rest here.

Pope Francis rejects title of "co-redemptrix" for the Virgin Mary

Vatican City, Mar 24, 2021 / 05:00 am MT (CNA).- Pope Francis on Wednesday said that Jesus entrusted the Virgin Mary to us as a Mother, “not as co-redeemer.”

Speaking at his general audience on March 24, the pope said that while Christians had always given Mary beautiful titles, it was important to remember that Christ is the only redeemer.

He was addressing a theological debate about whether the Church should issue a dogmatic definition declaring Mary “Co-Redemptrix,” in honor of her role in humanity’s salvation.

“Jesus extended Mary’s maternity to the entire Church when He entrusted her to his beloved disciple shortly before dying on the cross,” the pope noted.

“From that moment on, we have all been gathered under her mantle, as depicted in certain medieval frescoes or paintings. Even the first Latin antiphon -- sub tuum praesidium confugimus, sancta Dei Genitrix: the Madonna who ‘covers,’ like a Mother, to whom Jesus entrusted us, all of us; but as a Mother, not as a goddess, not as co-redeemer: as Mother.”

He continued: “It is true that Christian piety has always given her beautiful titles, as a child gives his or her mamma: how many beautiful things children say about their mamma whom they love so much! How many beautiful things.”

“But we need to be careful: the things the Church, the saints, say about her, beautiful things, about Mary, subtract nothing from Christ’s sole Redemption. He is the only Redeemer. They are expressions of love like a child for his or her mamma -- some are exaggerated. But love, as we know, always makes us exaggerate things, but out of love.”

Read the rest here.

Thursday, March 25, 2021


A beautiful church temple with an interesting history.


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Bill Maher on China

I am not the world's biggest fan of Bill Maher, but he hit this one out of the park. (I shouldn't have to say this, but for the benefit of anyone who doesn't know who Bill Maher is, yes; there is some salty language in here.)

Monday, March 22, 2021

On this date in 1638

Anne Hutchinson was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony as part of the resolution of the Antinomian Controversy

Thursday, March 18, 2021

A E PRITCHARD- Europe is a train-wreck and capital is fleeing

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.

St. Tikhon's Monastery: The Great Canon of Repentance

Tech stocks fall as the bond rout continues

U.S. stocks fell on Thursday led by technology shares as a spike in bond yields fueled fears of equity valuations and caused investors to sell growth-focused high flyers.

The S&P 500 slid 0.4%, falling from a record closing high reached in the previous session. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.4% as Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft and Facebook all fell at least 1%. Tesla slipped more than 3%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average traded 150 points higher, supported by bank shares.

The move came as the 10-year Treasury yield jumped 11 basis points to 1.75%, its highest level since January 2020. The 30-year rate also climbed 6 basis points and breached the 2.5% level for the first time since August 2019. Rising bond yields can have an outsized impact on growth stocks as they make their future returns less valuable today.

“Risk of rates rising too fast remains a key concern,” said Craig Johnson, technical market strategist at Piper Sandler. “Buying pressure has not been equal over the last several weeks as growth stocks lag behind due to headwinds from higher interest rates.”

Investors digested a mixed bag of economic data Thursday. Weekly initial jobless claims totaled 770,000 for the week ended March 13, worse than an estimate of 700,000, according to economist polled by Dow Jones.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

On the Eve of the Great Fast

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 Won’t Sell Books Framing LGBTQ+ Identities as Mental Illnesses 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.

Prayers please

In your charity please pray for the daughter of God Dianne, a close friend, whose son Bud just died following a long illness. She is Catholic, I am unsure if her son was religious. 

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.

I am not opposed to conversations with the leaders of other faith groups. After all you can't convert someone you won't talk with. And if conversion is not on the table then a certain level of mutual respect and tolerance aimed at peaceful coexistence is desirable. But "dialogue," the favorite word of the left, should never be at the expense of religious indifferentism or a watering down of the Faith. 

Sunday, March 07, 2021

When we remember Zion

Remember William Sulzer?

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 to begin historic Iraq visit despite virus and security risks

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

100 years ago

Harding Is made President in Simple Ceremony; No League, Ample Tariff and Prosperity His Creed

  • 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


Traveling in Europe in the 1930s

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

Miami's new plan for climate change and rising sea levels

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. 

Here's Miami's plan

Israeli Says Converts to Non-Orthodox Judaism Can Claim Citizenship

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

Parish church discovers its painting of Last Supper linked to Titian

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

WSJ: The Achilles Heel of the Electric Car Revolution- Poor Charging Infrastructure

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

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: The Fed has lost control of bond markets

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.

Bond Markets Take a Hit on Inflation Worries

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

America's Lost Classical Architecture

Rod Dreher has been on a tear

Four pieces, all recent, are well worth a read... 

The Queering Of Young America

Smith College Hates The Working Class

No Escaping The Eyes Of God

Rand Paul Blasts Levine’s Trans Radicalism

The Southern Baptists Sever Ties with Four Churches

The Southern Baptist Convention’s executive committee voted on Tuesday to expel four of its member churches, ousting two for policies that “affirm homosexual behavior” and the others for employing pastors who are convicted sex offenders.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Charlie Munger doesn’t know what’s worse: Tesla at $1 trillion or bitcoin at $50,000

I do. It's Bitcoin. 

Tesla is probably the most overpriced stock out there. But Tesla is real. Tesla is an actual company with assets, employees and manufactured products. They make electric cars and other interesting things. Tesla has intrinsic value. Its stock may go down in value. It probably should. But it's not going to zero. 

Bitcoin is a fantasy, a shadow, a technological myth. It's not real. It has no intrinsic value or pragmatic function. You cannot build anything with a Bitcoin. It does not conduct electricity. You can't cook with it. You can't make jewelry or dental work with it. You cannot put a Bitcoin in my hand. I cannot take possession of a bag full of Bitcoin and lock it in my safe deposit box at the bank or bury it in my backyard. It pays no dividend or yield. As a currency it is not backed or recognized by any government and is incredibly volatile. Its brief history is full of shady characters and contains lots of unpleasant words and phrases, like money laundering, gangsters, drug trafficking, tax evasion and so on.

Bitcoin is a racket.

It reminds me of some clever fellow back in the 1970s who made a fortune by selling... pet rocks. The difference between Bitcoin and the pet rocks, is that back in the day if you sent this man a check or money order, you actually got a rock in return.

Anyway, here is the story

NRA sues New York attorney general, alleging politically motivated abuse of power

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.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

200 Years Ago

A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness -John Keats

He knew he was dying for at least a year before the end came. The first time he coughed up blood he told a friend that it was his death warrant. He suffered repeated hemorrhages in his lungs as the consumption took hold. In response his doctors bled him. In September of 1820 he took leave of his fiancé Fanny Brawne and on the advice of his doctor left England for the more hospitable climate of Italy. His health continued to decline and he was in great misery during the voyage. Joseph Severn, his friend and traveling companion, tended to him as best he could. After a brief stay in Naples, which Keats did not find congenial, they moved to Rome and took up residence in a villa next to the Spanish Steps. It still stands today. There his condition deteriorated as he was placed on a diet of a single anchovy and piece of bread per day in the hopes of stopping the flow of blood to his stomach. The doctor also continued to bleed him. Fearing he might commit suicide, Keats was denied laudanum, the only thing which had eased his pain. Towards the end he slipped in and out of consciousness and was often gripped by fever and delirium. Severn wrote that the agony was so great that when Keats would wake he often broke down and wept with the realization that he was still alive. At length John Keats died on February 23, 1821. He was buried in the Protestant cemetery in Rome.

When word of his death reached Fanny Brawne she was inconsolable and remained in deep mourning for six years. In the end she did marry, twelve years after Keats death, and she outlived him by forty years. Dying at just 25, Keats joined many of the other tragic figures of the English Romantics who also died young. 

Monday, February 22, 2021

The Ecumenical Patriarchate: Holy cow!

 Words fail.

T- Secretary Yellen Takes a Shot at Bitcoin

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

The Boulevard on a Rainy Day

Upper Broadway 1899. Click here for full size.

From Beyond the Gilded Age

Cardinal Sarah- One of the Last Conservatives in the Vatican- is Retired

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

New York's Governor is in Trouble

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

Fox News vs Wikipedia

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. 


 Serbians have a new patriarch. 

US Life Expectancy Sees Sharpest Decline Since WWII

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.

Trump's grip on GOP grows as exodus continues

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

Pope Francis Calls 21 Coptic Martyrs "Saints for All Christians"

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

The AP take a look at the history of Covid Conspiracy Theories

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

Lent & Pascha (Easter)

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 Queen Mary

Serbian Synod Sets Plans for Election of Next Patriarch

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.


Instagram Bans Robert Kennedy Jr

The old lefty is a longtime anti-vaxxer and promoter of debunked pseudoscientific theories and dangerous medical quackery. 


Mexico: Evangelical Protestants are gaining ground

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 in talks to form anti-Trump third party

(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

Romanian Orthodox Church faces criticism after tragic baptism

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. 

And now for something different

I know next to nothing of pre-modern Japanese history but found this fascinating.

Friday, February 05, 2021

Virginia is close to abolishing capital punishment

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. 

A Papal Jubilee

Some interesting details from the jubilee honoring the 50th anniversary of Leo XIII's episcopal consecration. (page 17 right column)

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Against (re)Baptizing Converts

A cogent argument against the practice of receiving Roman Catholic and Trinitarian Protestant converts by baptism. I have been and remain ambivalent on this subject and am happy to defer to whatever my bishop says. 

P.S. See also this

Lunatic Conspiracy Theories

Are not just a problem on the right. That said, arresting kooks is not the answer. 

How to Win at the Stock Market by Being Lazy

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

Beware of Amazon Product Reviews

A huge percentage of reviews are fake. That applies to both the positive and negative reviews.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Wall Street: Silver jumps as retail investors pile in (Updated)

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: Some Prominent Republicans Are Leaving the GOP

(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

Dear Comrades!

This film has been getting rave reviews. I'm going to have to get a copy or rent it online.

India mulling ban on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies

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. 

Robinhood attempts to explain trading limits

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.


Quote of the day...

Me: GM says they are only going to make electric cars by 2035. When do you think you will consider buying an EV?

My friend Ben: Can you get one with a clutch and stick shift?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

GameStop: Wall Street's bloody battle of the shorts

Something is happening on Wall Street that is almost unheard of. A war has broken out between large institutional investors (banks, hedge funds etc.) and small investors. And as of this post, the small investors are crushing the big boys of the financial world. 

Read the story here.

If you don't understand how short selling works, you can read a plain English explanation here

Disclaimer: I do not own or speculatively trade any individual stocks or other financial securities which is very risky. Nor do I encourage speculative investing unless you fully understand what you are doing, the risks involved, and are prepared to lose some or all of the money you are playing with. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Bond yields have risen sharply, despite aggressive Fed intervention

Since August 6 of last year, the Fed has purchased $400 billion of U.S. Treasury notes and bonds. Despite that massive amount of propping up the market, the yield on the 10-year Treasury has more than doubled, from half of one percent to a yield of 1.05 percent at 7:30 a.m. this morning. That means that all of those billions of dollars in Treasuries that the Fed bought at lower yields are now trading at losses.

Read the rest here.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Orthodox Priest Suspended for Attending Jan 6 Trump Rally


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

Population decline and its consequences

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.