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.

Tennessee: Man jailed for posting offensive image

A Tennessee man was arrested Friday for alleged harassment after authorities said he distributed a disrespectful photo of a law enforcement officer's grave on social media.

Joshua Andrew Garton, 28, was arrested on suspicion of harassment and jailed in Dickson County, Tennessee, on $76,000 bond, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said in a statement.

The bureau said Garton recently produced and distributed a doctored photo of two men urinating on the grave of Dickson County sheriff's Sgt. Daniel Baker, who was fatally shot in the line of duty in 2018.

"Just showing my respect to deputy Daniel Baker," text accompanying the image said.

State detectives visited the gravesite and determined the photo did not depict an actual desecration, according to the bureau.

Nashville lawyer Daniel Horwitz, who does not represent Garton, said by email that the arrest appeared to be a violation of the Constitution.

"The First Amendment clearly and unmistakably protects this man’s right to post an offensive photo about a police officer," he said. "The only people who broke the law here were the police officers and TBI agents who participated in this flagrantly unconstitutional arrest."

Read the rest here.

Being an obnoxious and ignorant cuss is not a crime in this country. If not already done, Mr. Garton needs to be released PDQ. And no matter how painful it may be, an apology is in order. Having a badge does not give one the right to jail somebody because they hurt your feelings. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

$1 billion

...It’s hard to fathom how unlikely it is to beat odds of one in 292.2 million for Powerball or one in 302.5 million for Mega Millions.

To get a sense of your chances, Steven Bleiler, a mathematics and statistics professor at Portland State University, said people should imagine a swimming pool 40 feet (12.2 meters) wide, 120 feet (36.6 meters) long and 5 feet (1.5 meters) deep, filled to the brim with M&Ms, only one of which is green. To win, all a player must do is jump in blindfolded and wade around until finding that single green candy.


Good luck everybody.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Roger Bootle: Long dormant inflation may be about to make a comeback

The chairman of Capital Economics, and a staunch Keynesian, believes the world may be about to see a resurgence of inflation which has been relatively tame for decades. Mr. Bootle argues that pent up demand for goods and services, coupled with unusually large household reserves of cash, thanks to Covid restrictions on the normal habits of human society and government stimulus along with hyper aggressive monetary policy (QE), could be setting the stage for an inflationary spike. 

Unfortunately it is behind a paywall. But for those with a subscription I recommend the article. Some of the comments are also quite good. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

For Sale: Packard

A Packard 12 Concept Car

No, that’s not a typo, it’s Packard that’s for sale, not “a Packard.”

Did you know that there are holding companies that specialize in reviving what are known as “distressed brands,” which is to say, brand names that due to either corporate error or neglect are no longer top-shelf goods? That’s because brand equity lasts forever. There are hundreds of millions of people born after 1966, when the nameplate was last attached to newly assembled automobiles (in either Canada or Israel, it’s a complicated story), who recognize the name Studebaker. Likewise, although the Beatles’ hairstyles may have made men’s hair products uncool for half a century, plenty of baby boomers remember Brylcreem and its slogan, “A little dab’ll do ya!” People also still remember the humorous Burma Shave roadside signs, which may mean there’s an opportunity to be had; that brand’s longtime competitor, Barbasol, has been rejuvenated and is now a market leader.

Read the rest here.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Poll: Nation is split on Trump impeachment

WASHINGTON — One day after the U.S. House of Representatives impeached outgoing President Donald Trump for inciting last week's insurrection at the Capitol, a new NBC News poll finds that American voters are divided on his impeachment and removal from office, with most Republicans standing firmly behind the president.

Overall, 50 percent of voters nationwide say Trump should be impeached and removed from office, while 48 percent are opposed.

By party, 89 percent of Democratic voters believe Trump should be impeached and removed from office, compared with just 8 percent of Republican voters. Independents are split, with 45 percent in support and 53 percent in opposition.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Opium Wars (Part I)

For those interested in some quality history on a topic rarely discussed in most history courses.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

On the brink

Barring his resignation, which being honest, nobody believes is going to happen; sometime tomorrow Donald Trump is going to become the first President of the United States to be impeached twice. The impeachment vote is not expected to be close, nor is it expected to be a party line vote. A handful of Republicans have already announced their intention to vote for the impeachment. Others may join. 

Multiple sources have been reporting for days that Republicans in both houses of Congress blame Trump for the attempted violent insurrection of January 6th. Those sources state that some members are "incandescent" in their fury with the president. This evening, in what is almost certainly a strategically timed leak, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is reported to believe the president committed impeachable offenses and that he is pleased by the prospect of Trump's impeachment, seeing it as an opportunity to purge Trump and his more nutty supporters from the party. McConnell is widely regarded as one of the craftiest Majority Leaders since LBJ. It is also generally understood that there is no love lost between him and Trump. Adding to the political calculation, Jonathan Martin, a New York Times reporter tweeted tonight that as many as twenty GOP senators were open to convicting the president before McConnell's timely leak. The leak from sources close to McConnell also showed up about an hour or so after Liz Cheney, the # 3 in the House GOP caucus announced she will vote to impeach Trump in a scathing statement. And lastly it appears that the leadership in the House has told the GOP caucus that members may vote their conscience. Between them, both Cheney and McConnell seem to be signaling their support for the president's impeachment. It now remains to be seen how many Republicans will risk the wrath of Trump's more die hard supporters in tomorrow's vote. 

Likely adding to the threat to his own presidency, Mr. Trump today denied any responsibility for inciting last Wednesday's insurrectionist riot. This, less than a day after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tried to calm the anger of GOP Congressmen/women by telling them he had personally talked to Trump and that the president had acknowledged he had some responsibility for last week's attack. Trump coupled his denial of culpability with some fairly menacing language hinting at more trouble if they pursue impeachment. 

Ross Douthat on the perilous future of the GOP

For a long time, people have predicted the crackup of American conservatism, the end of a Republican Party dominated by the conservative movement as one of the major powers in our politics. Demographic trends were supposed to permanently marginalize the right. Barack Obama’s 2008 victory was supposed to signal conservatism’s eclipse. The rise of Donald Trump was supposed to shatter Republican politics the way that slavery once broke the Whigs.

Conservatism survived all these prophecies, always clawing back to claim a share of power, maintaining unity and loyalty by offering a bulwark against liberal ambition even as its own agenda became more and more threadbare.

So it would be a foolhardy prophet indeed who looked at the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol and assumed that this time, under this pressure, the conservative coalition will finally break apart, sending the Republican Party deep into the wilderness and reshaping American ideological debates along new lines.

But breaking points do come, and the violent endgame of the Trump presidency has exposed a new divide in the conservative coalition — not a normal ideological division or an argument about strategy or tactics, but a split between reality and fantasy that may be uniquely hard for either self-interest or statesmanship to bridge.

Read the rest here

Monday, January 11, 2021

UK Investment Watchdog: Crypto investors may lose all of their money

LONDON — Thinking of investing in a cryptocurrency? Be prepared to lose all your money.

That’s the message from the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, which on Monday warned investments and lending products related to crypto come with “very high risks.”

“The FCA is aware that some firms are offering investments in cryptoassets, or lending or investments linked to cryptoassets, that promise high returns,” the financial services regulator said.

“If consumers invest in these types of product, they should be prepared to lose all their money.

Read the rest here.

Bitcoin plunged in overnight trading. As of this post, about $200 billion in value has been wiped out. 

Saturday, January 09, 2021

The Real Winner of the 2020 Election Crisis


James Buchannan, the 15th President of the United States, has been trapped at the very bottom of the rankings of American presidents almost from the day he left office 160 years ago this coming March. His release from the historian's dungeon now appears imminent with a new occupant about to move in on January 20th. 

Comment moderation is on

Over the last couple of days some of my posts have attracted a handful of trolls who attempted to post unacceptable comments. As much as I dislike having to moderate comments, in this situation I think it is necessary. The regulars here are almost never a problem. While I try to approve comments as quickly as I can I am not online continuously and I do occasionally need to sleep. I apologize for any delay. 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Impeachment II

The latest is that Speaker Pelosi has threatened Trump with the appalling distinction of becoming the only president to be impeached twice unless he immediately resigns. And making matters worse (for Trump) is that the impeachment may not be a purely symbolic act. It is possible that Trump could be impeached and tried even after leaving office. It has actually happened before. In 1876 William Belknap, President Grant's Secretary of War was impeached and tried AFTER he had resigned for corruption. 

RIP Tommy Lasorda

A man sometimes referred to as Mr. Baseball, Tommy Lasorda has died at 93. It was said that he bled Dodgers blue. I had the honor of meeting him back in the 1980s and can say he was a marvelous gentleman with a great sense of humor. One story he told was about the time he was in Chicago for a day game against the Cubs. It being Sunday and Tommy being a devout Catholic he went to Mass that morning. During the service he saw the Cub's manager, apparently also a Catholic, lighting candles in the front near the altar. Later in the game when the other manager was making a pitching change he sent a note to the opposing dugout 

"It won't work. I blew out your candles." 

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Trump Concedes

With thirteen days left in his presidency, growing calls for his impeachment, and top members of his own cabinet discussing the possibility of invoking the 25th amendment, Donald Trump just released a video that amounts to a de-facto concession that he lost the election. In the course of the address Trump also denounced his own supporters whom a day earlier he had incited to attack the nation's capitol in an effort to prevent the certification of the election and threatened them with criminal prosecution. All of which said, he also called for national unity and said he would devote what remains of his time in office to ensuring an orderly transition. 

Meanwhile a Capitol Police officer has died from injuries sustained during Mr. Trump's attack on the Congress.

Note: The above report appears to have been premature. The Capitol Police have issued a statement denying the report's accuracy and the media outlet has retracted it. Sadly, multiple sources are reporting that an officer is on life support and is not expected to survive. 


Update II: The officer on life support has died. See the comments. President Trump, to no ones surprise, has confirmed that he will not attend the inauguration. Vice-President Pence is thought to be favoring attending. The AP is claiming Trump will be the first president since Andrew Johnson not to attend his successor's swearing in. They are wrong. Presidents Wilson was too ill to go to Mr. Harding's inauguration in 1921 and Mr. Nixon left the White House about an hour before Mr. Ford was sworn in. 

Quote of the day...

"Today's violent assault on our Capitol, an effort to subjugate American democracy by mob rule, was fomented by Mr. Trump. His use of the Presidency to destroy trust in our election and to poison respect for our fellow citizens has been enabled by pseudo political leaders whose names will live in infamy as profiles in cowardice. Our Constitution and Our Republic will overcome this stain and We the People will come together again in our never ending effort to form a more perfect Union, while Mr. Trump will deservedly be left a man without a country." 

-James N. Mattis 26th Secretary of Defense. 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Impeach Him Again (updated)

The president should be impeached and removed from office. If at all possible this should be done tomorrow. Normal procedures, for hearings in the House and a lengthy trial in the Senate should be set aside. Only a single article is needed. The charge should be sedition. It can be drafted tonight, debated in the morning and voted out of the House by lunchtime. The Senate can suspend its rules and move to summary judgement. Allow for four hours of debate and then call the vote. 

I don't know if he has become mentally unhinged as some of his close supporters are privately saying, and I don't care. He has violated his oath of office in a manner so brazen that if he is not removed, I am not sure the country can survive the precedent.

Update: The likelihood of removing Trump before the end of his term appears to be going downhill very rapidly. The Democratic majority leader has announced that the House will not sit again until after the inauguration. And with the resignation of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao it seems unlikely the cabinet will act to invoke the 25th amendment. 

Update II: Maybe Stenny Hoyer spoke too soon. Speaker Pelosi has now threatened swift impeachment if Trump is not removed via the 25th amendment. 


It took 159 years for Confederate flag waving insurrectionists to take over the US Capitol, but Donald Trump pulled it off. 

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

The loony left and religion

Good article from Rod Dreher here.

HT: Dr. Tighe

Swedish Rearmament is Accelerating

Wooden targets hide among the pine trees at the Gotland island army firing range, silhouettes depicting foreign invaders, their faces twisted with malice.

They bear no unit insignia, no flag patches. But the Swedish army recruits peppering the targets with machine-gun fire this fall knew exactly who the enemy was: Russia’s 76th Guards Air Assault Division.

With Russia’s foreign policy growing more assertive over the past decade under President Vladimir Putin, the Swedes are bulking up defenses on Gotland. Its army expects that in the opening moments of a Russian invasion, airborne soldiers from the 76th Guards, based across the Baltic Sea, would likely parachute onto Gotland. Both sides know that whoever controls the island controls naval traffic through the southern Baltic.

“We will never surrender,” said Daniel Martell, sergeant major of Sweden’s Gotland Regiment. “That’s the message we’re sending.”

The Cold War is back on in the frigid North.

Russia’s expansive military and political appetites are alarming countries along the former frontiers of the Soviet Union, from Finland to Romania. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has deployed four battle groups—nearly 5,000 troops—to Poland and the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. In 2018, Norway hosted NATO’s largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Sweden’s response is especially dramatic, overturning decades of its own defense and foreign policy. While the country maintained a careful neutrality between the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War, this time around Stockholm is tightening ties with Washington. This fall, the Swedes rubbed that partnership in Moscow’s face by spotlighting joint U.S.-Swedish commando exercises previously kept secret.

“We no longer can rule out a military attack on Sweden,” said Karin Olofsdotter, Sweden’s ambassador in Washington. “It’s not likely in any way, but it can’t be ruled out.”

Last month, Sweden’s parliament authorized the biggest increase in military spending in 70 years, including a 50% expansion of the country’s armed forces, to 90,000 troops in 2025 from 60,000 today. In 2018, the army resurrected its Cold War-era Gotland Regiment, which had been deactivated in 2005, and now the troops regularly train to repel Russian invaders. The army plans to add another battalion, artillery units and logistical capabilities to its forces on the island.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 02, 2021