Monday, May 24, 2021


 I will be traveling for much of this week. Little or no posting for the time being and I may not be checking email or approving comments as quickly as usual. 

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Is Prince Harry a republican?

I'm not going to link to any of the numerous stories about Harry and how he is torching his family at every opportunity online, in the mass media and press. They are all over the place. A Google will get you scores of links. But I am starting to wonder if his bitterness has not reached the point where he just wants to burn the institution down? 

To be clear, I accept that Harry got dealt some really crappy hands at the card table of life. Fancy dinners, gilded furniture, and lots of servants can only compensate for so much. Everyone in that family lives in a very large and well appointed fish tank. And yes, the press/media pretty much killed his mother, for which he still, understandably, has a chip on his shoulder. I doubt he will ever forgive them. 

But since he threw the whole royal thing overboard and bolted from his own country, ultimately landing in California, he seems to have become an arsonist with a particular preference for bridges. Of course, Harry is hardly the first royal to feud with the family. The Duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) had a notoriously chilly relationship with his brother and successor, George VI, and the late Queen Mother who detested him. But for the most part the family was able to keep the more unpleasant aspects of that story under wraps until after the Duke's death. 

By contrast this little civil war is starting to get downright ugly. And if Harry has a deeply ingrained loathing for the press, he seems quite willing to use them for his own purposes. Which brings me to a couple of observations. If Harry is not out to bring down the monarchy, he certainly is not going out of his way to reassure those who suspect exactly that. 

Beyond which, there is something unseemly in a man who owes everything he is and will ever be to the accident of birth that put him in the British Royal Family, suddenly going all woke and bleating endlessly about privilege and racism. All the while cashing in on his titles to the tune of well over $100 million and the stardom that only Hollywood can confer on the deserving. And while we are on the topic of privilege, I would note that there are billions of people in the world who have issues with their family. Almost none of them have the 'privilege' of being able to trash their relations in the global press with a virtual guarantee of front page coverage by the very people loathed, if possible, even more than the offending relatives. 

Real men, in the real world, deal with family problems in private. They reach out and try to set things right without causing scandal. And mayhap that won't work out. In the real world not every movie is a Disney picture with a happy ending. If an honest effort has been made, but failed, sometimes you just need to man up and say, privately, 'it's not working and we need to go our ways in peace.'

But I'm not seeing anything like that. I am seeing a man who is consumed by bitterness directed at everybody but himself, and who appears to be staging one of the most spectacular tantrums in recent memory. The tabloid press and his woke Hollywood pals will indulge this for a while. But sooner or later the public is going to get tired of the endless carping and moral lectures from one of the most privileged men on God's Earth. And then I fear he is going to discover the loneliness of being a man without a family or country. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Bitcoin gets hammered as China issues warning to investors

Bitcoin fell below $37,000 for the first time in over three months on Wednesday, continuing a major sell-off that began a week ago.

The digital currency was down 20% in the last 24 hours, according to Coinbase. The cryptocurrency hit an intraday low of around $36,189 at 7:30 a.m. ET. It was the lowest level since early February. Bitcoin is down more than 30% in the last week, according to Coinbase.

That means bitcoin has now erased all its gains following Tesla’s announcement that it would purchase $1.5 billion worth of the cryptocurrency. It’s also down about 44% since hitting a record high of $64,829 in mid-April.

Negative news over the past week has dampened sentiment for bitcoin.

On May 12, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the electric carmaker had suspended vehicle purchases using bitcoin, citing environmental concerns over the so-called computational “mining” process. This is where high-powered computers are used to solve complex mathematical puzzles to enable transactions using bitcoin.

Musk’s comments caused over $300 billion to be wiped off the entire cryptocurrency market that day.

Read the rest here.

In related news; JP Morgan believes large institutional investors are losing confidence in crypto-currencies and are moving into gold as a hedge against inflation and other potential issues that could weaken the dollar. 

Details here. (Paywall) 

New York Widens Probe Into Trump's Finances

The Manhattan DA's criminal probe has a new ally. Last night the New York State Attorney General (a highly partisan Democrat) announced that their hitherto civil investigation into the Trump Organization and Trump family's taxes, has now become a criminal probe. It would have been better if the AG had appointed an independent prosecutor, but whatever. The former president is now the subject of at least three criminal investigations, that we know of. 


Monday, May 17, 2021

Supreme Court to Review Roe v Wade

With the current composition of the court, I figured this was coming. Fasten your seat belts folks. Things are about to get crazy. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Democrats Divide Over Israel

The left's support for a people who backed Hitler and who have refused to recognize the right of Israel to even exist is not exactly shocking, except within the ranks of the Democratic Party. They bleat about occupation and civilian casualties, but only one side is deliberately targeting civilians. And it's not the Israelis. 


Gay Cops Not Welcome in NYC Pride Parade

For years cops and firemen were forced to join this parade in uniform. Of course this was inevitable. 

Details here.

Friday, May 14, 2021

When Late Night Was Funny

Big companies are taking big hits in San Francisco real estate

Cloudera exited its downtown San Francisco office early last year with plans to sublease the space and move its employees south to the software company’s Silicon Valley headquarters.

But the pandemic left the company with nobody to take over the office, forcing it to take a substantial real estate write-down.

At DoorDash’s nearby former headquarters, a tenant defaulted on rent a month into lockdown, resulting in lost income for the food delivery company, which was doubling as a landlord.

Airbnb said in its earnings report on Thursday that it took a $113 million impairment in the first quarter “related to office space in San Francisco that we deemed no longer necessary.”

Combined, those three companies have recorded nearly $200 million in real estate impairments in the past year after Covid-19 turned the Bay Area office market into a dead zone. That dollar figure swells to almost $1 billion when adding in lease-related write-downs from large tech employers Salesforce, Dropbox, Uber, PayPal and Zendesk.

While software and internet companies continued their stratospheric ascent in 2020, the plush offices they call home sat dormant, leaving San Francisco’s commercial real estate market with an unfamiliar supply glut. Much of the financial fallout was borne by the very tech companies that led a decade-plus bull market and expansion spree, snapping up massive amounts of space at record prices and often subleasing out full floors to start-ups and out-of-town businesses that were seeking a Bay Area outpost.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Smartest Guys in the Room Call Bitcoin “Rat Poison Squared,” “a Colossal Pump-and-Dump Scheme” and “a Big Criminal Scam” but Federal Regulators Look the Other Way

Anne Goldgar wrote of the Dutch Tulip bubble in her 2007 book, Money, Honor, and Knowledge in the Dutch Golden Age, that “the f1000 one might pay in January 1637 for one hypothetical Admirael van der Eyck bulb,” could have bought “a modest house in Haarlem,” or “nearly three years’ wages” of a master carpenter. Comparing that to U.S. dollars in 2007, the year her book was released, Goldgar says it would be like one Tulip bulb selling for $12,000.

Goldgar notes that as historians have looked back at this episode, the tulip mania of the 1630s in Holland has become a “byword for idiocy.”

In his 1841 classic on market bubbles, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, the Scottish journalist Charles Mackay wrote this about the Tulip bubble: “The rage among the Dutch to possess them was so great that the ordinary industry of the country was neglected…”

Four centuries have apparently not cured the propensity toward idiocy when the lure of riches beckons. The market cap of Bitcoin is now in excess of $1 trillion, despite the fact that it is backed by absolutely nothing.

No amount of disdain toward Bitcoin by the smartest guys in the room can stop the creature’s incessant climb. Bitcoin has multiplied more than five-fold since September, trading yesterday at over $56,000.

Bitcoin has been thoroughly discredited by some of the smartest people in the investment community and global finance, but that hasn’t stopped the oldest futures exchange in the U.S., CME Group, from offering futures and options trading on Bitcoin. CME Group’s federal regulator, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), explains in this podcast that all that CME Group had to do to launch its Bitcoin futures was to “self-certify” its plan with its regulator, the CFTC. The self-certified plan may be just fine – it’s the underlying product based on nothing that the regulator seems to have ignored.

(We’re thinking of submitting a self-certified plan with the CFTC to trade futures on spinning straw into gold. We’re toying with calling it the RumpelstiltskinCoin.)

The CME Group has exchanges that provide for futures trading based on real things: like milk, wheat, soy beans, oil, gasoline, ethanol and so forth. These are real things that fuel economic growth in the United States and/or feed a nation of 331 million people.

To paraphrase Mackay in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds to sum up today’s Bitcoin craze in the U.S.: The rage among speculators to trade Bitcoin was so great that the harm this would do in the long-term to the reputation of integrity in U.S. markets was simply ignored by Congress and regulators.

One of the most respected investors in America, Warren Buffet, summed up Bitcoin like this in May 2018: Bitcoin is “probably rat poison squared.” In January of the same year, Buffet told CNBC in an interview that “In terms of cryptocurrencies, generally, I can say with almost certainty that they will come to a bad ending.”

Also in 2018, Bill Harris, the former CEO of Intuit and PayPal, wrote a detailed critique of Bitcoin for Vox, under the headline: “Bitcoin is the greatest scam in history.”

Read the rest here.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Germany's Catholic Church is Schismatic in All But Name

If the German Catholics possessed a shred of honesty they would just join the Anglican Communion or the Lutherans. But they don't, and the only man in Rome who can put a stop to this is pretty obviously in their corner. 

The crisis in the Roman Church is dangerously close to reaching a tipping point. The problem of course, is that Catholic ecclesiology has no contingency plan for when the church is overrun by heretics and the Pope is one of them. 


France: Soldiers are writing open letters warning of civil war

Serving members of the French military have fired a second salvo at Emmanuel Macron’s government in an open letter accusing it of “cowardice, deceit, perversion”, just weeks after a first letter said the country was heading for “civil war”.

Like the first letter, it appears in the rightwing magazine Valeurs Actuelles. It was reportedly signed anonymously “by active military personnel” and is appended with a petition on the magazine’s website for others to sign.

The letter’s signatories refer to the seventh verse of La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, that refers to the “avenging” slain elders or following them to “their coffins”.

It was published in support of the first letter, published on 21 April, the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’état against General Charles de Gaulle over his support for Algerian independence.

Signed by a number of retired generals as well as at least 18 serving soldiers including four officers, it warned of the “disintegration” of France evoking what it called the “perils” of Islamic extremist and “the hordes from the banlieue”.

It also accused anti-racism groups of creating “hatred between communities” and cautioned that “lax” government policies could spark chaos requiring military action to “protect our civilisational values”.

Afterwards, furious ministers accused the signatories, who were supported by the far-right Rassemblement National party leader, Marine Le Pen, of breaking military rules and threatened legal action against them. The armed forces minister, Florence Parly, said: “The armies are not there to campaign but to defend France”, while the interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, accused Le Pen of having her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s “taste” for the sound of marching boots.

The second letter, published late on Sunday evening, batted off threats of punishment and launched an all-out attack on the government, accusing it of “trampling” on veterans’ honour and “sullying” their reputation “when their only fault is to love their country and mourn its visible decline”.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, May 08, 2021

As Deficits and Money Printing Increase, So Do Fears of Inflation

The US Federal Reserve and Treasury are repeating one of the most disturbing episodes of the 1940s and risk stoking a destructive inflationary boom, a leading monetary watchdog has warned.

The Centre for Financial Stability (CFS) in New York says US money supply data is flashing a red alert and that excess reserves in the banking sector threaten to set off an “explosion of lending” as the recovery accelerates. The Fed is riding a tiger by the tail and may have great difficulty extricating itself from a torrid monetary experiment that is reaching its limits.

The CFS said its "divisia" measure of the broad M4 money supply rose 24pc in March from a year earlier, and narrow its M1 variant rose 36.9pc. “Those monetary growth rates are potentially alarming,” said Professor William Barnett, the institution’s director.

Barnett said de facto collusion between the Fed and the Treasury is much like the 1940s, when the Fed served as a fiscal agent for Democratic administrations and mopped up the vast bond issuance needed to pay for the Second World War and its aftermath. Inflation reached 17pc by mid-1947 and creditors were gradually expropriated in what amounted to a stealth default stretched over several years.

The US output gap has already closed and President Biden’s $6 trillion fiscal plan is expected to push economic growth above its pre-pandemic trajectory by next year. Five-year "breakevens" measuring inflation expectations have jumped to 2.71pc, the highest since the pre-Lehman boom. Yet the Fed is continuing to buy $120bn of bonds each month.

The situation is fundamentally different from waves of QE after the global financial crisis. Stimulus at that stage was needed to offset a contraction of the money supply as banks slashed lending and sought to beef up their capital ratios to meet tougher Basel rules. Today’s QE is monetisation of fiscal deficits and is leading to a surge in bank reserves. This money will catch fire if monetary velocity returns to normal as the economy recovers. 

The Bank for International Settlements - the venerable club of global central bankers in Basel - also fired a shot across the bows on Thursday, warning that it would be a grave error for policymakers to let rip on monetary growth in the hope that social inequalities could be cured with inflationary stimulus. 

The poor tend to suffer most when the consumer prices suddenly start to rise. Agustin Carstens, the managing director of the BIS, said: “We should not forget the long-lasting scars of uncontrolled inflation on inequality. History abounds with episodes of high and runaway inflation that increased poverty and inequality via sharp reductions in real wages.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 06, 2021

German Clergy Defy Vatican On Gay Blessings

Catholic clergy are preparing to bless gay couples across Germany in defiance of a recent Vatican ban on the practice, in the latest sign of how far liberal German Catholics are pushing the boundaries of the Vatican’s authority and teachings to forge a more progressive version of their church.

Priests and some lay ministers are planning coordinated ceremonies blessing gay relationships in about 100 Catholic churches and other venues in Germany, including Essen Cathedral, over the next few days, most of them on Monday. Almost 20 events will be live-streamed.

Such blessings have become common over the past decade in Germany and some other parts of Northern Europe, but they have usually taken place quietly, in places other than churches. Monday’s highly visible ceremonies will mark a protest against a Vatican declaration in March, approved by Pope Francis, prohibiting the blessing of same-sex relationships on the grounds that God “cannot bless sin.”

“It always has been a little bit kind of a secret,” said the Rev. Christian Olding, a Catholic priest in the northwestern town of Geldern, who says he has blessed about 10 same-sex couples in the past eight years. “This is the first time that we are going this way in society, to do it visibly for everyone.”

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has contended with deepening divisions in the global Catholic Church between conservatives, including in the U.S. and Africa—who are uncomfortable with his more liberal approach to matters including divorce and homosexuality—and progressives, with Germany in the vanguard, who are impatient with what they see as a reluctance to back substantive change.

The prohibition of gay blessings by the Vatican’s doctrinal office was seen in Germany as an example of that resistance to change. Vatican officials are anxious about a national synod of German Catholics, under way since last year, that is debating a number of overhauls, including the ordination of women, greater roles for laypeople in church governance, and the revision of church teaching on homosexuality.

Conservative bishops in Germany, the U.S. and elsewhere have warned that such changes could lead to a schism in the universal church. Pope Francis and Vatican officials have more than once admonished German church leaders not to go their own way.

The German synod “is an instrument to adapt the teaching of the Catholic Church to the demands of the Western world that has largely fallen away from God. It neither respects the apostolic tradition nor seems to care about the majority of faithful believers in the universal church,” said Gabriele Kuby, a German writer and sociologist.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Paris in '39

Color home movies of Paris in 1939. I'm guessing this was in the spring based on the absense of summer type attire.