Sunday, April 25, 2021

Holy Week

Wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week. Little or no blogging is likely until Pascha. 

Friday, April 23, 2021

‘Black Swan’ author calls bitcoin a ‘gimmick’ and a ‘game,’ says it resembles a Ponzi scheme

“Black Swan” author Nassim Taleb on Friday criticized bitcoin as a “gimmick,” telling CNBC he believes it’s too volatile to be an effective currency and it’s not a safe hedge against inflation.

“Basically, there’s no connection between inflation and bitcoin. None. I mean, you can have hyperinflation and bitcoin going to zero. There’s no link between them,” Taleb said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

“It’s a beautifully set up cryptographic system. It’s well made but there’s absolutely no reason it should be linked to anything economic,” added Taleb, whose bestselling 2007 book examined highly improbable events and their potential to cause severe consequences. He said bitcoin has characteristics of what he calls a Ponzi scheme that’s right out in the open.

A Ponzi scheme is a type of fraud whereby crooks steal money from investors and mask the theft by funneling returns to clients from funds contributed by newer investors.

Taleb had once held favorable views toward bitcoin, which was created in 2009 and is the world’s largest cryptocurrency by market value. However, he told CNBC he was “fooled by it initially” because he thought it could develop into a currency used in transactions.

“Something that moves 5% a day, 20% in a month — up or down — cannot be a currency. It’s something else,” said Taleb, a former derivatives trader who serves as scientific advisor to hedge fund Universa Investments.

“I bought into it ... not willing to have capital appreciation, so much as wanting to have an alternative to the fiat currency issued by central banks: A currency without a government,” Taleb said. “I realized it was not a currency without a government. It was just pure speculation. It’s just like a game ... I mean, you can create another game and call it a currency.”

Read the rest here.

I think this guy has been reading my blog. Also in today's newsfeed...

$200 billion wiped off crypto market overnight. Bitcoin down over 20% since April 14 (ironically the day I last posted on this subject). 

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.