Saturday, September 24, 2022

IAN

As of posting, I am well within the dreaded cone. The two gas stations closest to me were sold out when I stopped. I was able to gas up at a station a couple miles down the road after waiting about 15-20 minutes. All three of the ATMs I went to were empty. Will see where things are tomorrow morning, but if it doesn't look good by noon, I will be bugging out. I have no interest in waiting until Monday when I 75 will be a parking lot with no gas along the route. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Ukraine: Potential endgame scenarios

MUNICH — Last week was an interesting week to be in Europe talking to national security experts, officials and business executives about Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies had just forced Russian invaders into a chaotic retreat from a big chunk of territory, while the leaders of China and India had seemed to make clear to Vladimir Putin that the food and energy inflation his war has stoked was hurting their 2.7 billion people. On top of all that, one of Russia’s iconic pop stars told her 3.4 million followers on Instagram that the war was “turning our country into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens.”

In short, it was Putin’s worst week since he invaded Ukraine — without wisdom, justice, mercy or a Plan B.

And yet … maybe I was just hanging around the wrong people, but I detected a certain undertow of anxiety in many of my conversations with Ukraine’s European allies.

I learned long ago as a foreign correspondent that sometimes the news is in the noise, in what is being said and shouted, and sometimes the news is in the silence, in what isn’t being said at all. And my interpretation of what wasn’t being said last week went like this: Yes, it is great that Ukraine is pushing the Russians back some, but can you answer me the question that has been hanging out there since the fighting started: How does this war end with a stable result?

We still don’t know. As I probed that question in my conversations, I discerned three possible outcomes, some totally new, some familiar, but all coming with complicated and unpredictable side effects:

Outcome 1 is a total Ukrainian victory, which risks Putin doing something crazy as defeat and humiliation stare him in the face.

Outcome 2 is a dirty deal with Putin that secures a cease-fire and stops the destruction, but it risks splintering the Western allies and enraging many Ukrainians.

Outcome 3 is a less dirty deal — we go back to the lines where everyone was before Putin invaded in February. Ukraine might be ready to live with that, and maybe even the Russian people would, too, but Putin would have to be ousted first, because he would never abide the undeniable implication that his war was completely for naught.

The variance among these outcomes is profound, and few of us will not be affected by which way it goes. You may not be interested in the Ukraine war, but the Ukraine war will be interested in you, in your energy and food prices, and, most important, in your humanity, as even the “neutrals” — China and India — have discovered.

So let’s go under the hood of all three possible endings.

Read the rest here.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Technical Difficulties (updated)

As some of you may have noticed, not all of the links in the sidebar are currently functioning. This is not helped by my level of technical skills which likely peaked with the advent of the electric typewriter. At present I can't even get the layout page to load which suggests that there may be an issue with the HTML code or whatever is now running the internet. In any event, my frustration level has reached my maximum tolerance for the time being and I am going to go watch some cute puppy videos while I have a stiff drink in an effort lower my blood pressure. 


Update: I think I have managed to fix everything. Don't ask me how. 

Saturday, September 17, 2022

EU calls for war crimes tribunal for Ukrainian War

The EU presidency has called for the establishment of an international tribunal for war crimes after new mass graves were found in Ukraine.

“In the 21st century, such attacks against the civilian population are unthinkable and abhorrent,” said Jan Lipavský, foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency.

Ukraine depends on morale and Russia on mercenaries. It could decide the war
Read more
“We must not overlook it. We stand for the punishment of all war criminals,” he added in a message on Twitter. “I call for the speedy establishment of a special international tribunal that will prosecute the crime of aggression.”

The appeal follows the discovery by Ukrainian authorities of about 450 graves outside the formerly Russian-occupied city of Izium, with most of the exhumed bodies showing signs of torture.

“Among the bodies that were exhumed today, 99% showed signs of violent death,” Oleg Synegubov, head of Kharkiv’s regional administration, said on social media.

“There are several bodies with their hands tied behind their backs, and one person is buried with a rope around his neck,” he added.

“Russia leaves only death and suffering. Murderers. Torturers,” said Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Some of the remains exhumed included children and people who were likely tortured before dying, he added.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Ouch


Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Schools are lagging in basic subjects

The Hasidic Jewish community has long operated one of New York’s largest private schools on its own terms, resisting any outside scrutiny of how its students are faring.

But in 2019, the school, the Central United Talmudical Academy, agreed to give state standardized tests in reading and math to more than 1,000 students.

Every one of them failed.

Students at nearly a dozen other schools run by the Hasidic community recorded similarly dismal outcomes that year, a pattern that under ordinary circumstances would signal an education system in crisis. But where other schools might be struggling because of underfunding or mismanagement, these schools are different. They are failing by design.

The leaders of New York’s Hasidic community have built scores of private schools to educate children in Jewish law, prayer and tradition — and to wall them off from the secular world. Offering little English and math, and virtually no science or history, they drill students relentlessly, sometimes brutally, during hours of religious lessons conducted in Yiddish.

The result, a New York Times investigation has found, is that generations of children have been systematically denied a basic education, trapping many of them in a cycle of joblessness and dependency.

Segregated by gender, the Hasidic system fails most starkly in its more than 100 schools for boys. Spread across Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley, the schools turn out thousands of students each year who are unprepared to navigate the outside world, helping to push poverty rates in Hasidic neighborhoods to some of the highest in New York.

The schools appear to be operating in violation of state laws that guarantee children an adequate education. Even so, The Times found, the Hasidic boys’ schools have found ways of tapping into enormous sums of government money, collecting more than $1 billion in the past four years alone.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Florida in the Roaring Twenties


Home movies likely shot in 1926 right before the Great Hurricane devastated Miami and South Florida ending the land boom and plunging the state into depression three years before the rest of the country. Florida had a reputation in the roaring 20s as a playground and winter paradise for the well off. Some of the great landmarks shown in the film sadly do not survive. Happily however, the famed Venetian pool does.

Sunday, September 04, 2022

Chile Says 'No' to New Leftist Constitution

The hard left constitution was rejected in what is looking like a landslide. With around 72% of the vote in, the margin is currently running roughly 60:40 against.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Memory Eternal: Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware)

Word is spreading that the noted bishop has reposed. May his memory be eternal.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

A Good Presentation on the 5th Amendment


Longtime readers of this blog will know my opinions of Donald Trump. But the one thing you won't read on here is an attack on him for taking the 5th. The 5th amendment exists to protect the innocent. That it ocassionaly also protects the guilty is an unfortunate, but IMO, acceptable trade-off.

Thursday, August 04, 2022

L'Affaire Wikipedia

Recession or no?

Some people will have heard the shocking report that a cabal of lefty activists on Wikipedia changed the definition of a recession in their article to conform to the preferred verion of the Biden Administration and then locked the article to ensure no one would be able to change it back. 

Here is what really happened.

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Rod Dreher: Filicide Of The Catholic Faith

Late last week, I made a trip to Krakow, and then to Czestochowa, to visit the Jasna Gora shrine, the spiritual heart of Polish Catholicism. Though I am no longer a Catholic, it was deeply moving to see so many Poles so openly devoted to Christ in the Catholic faith. Though Polish Catholicism faces tremendous challenges -- multiple Poles have told me that they fear Poland will go the way of Ireland within a decade or two -- for the moment, it is admirable and, for visitors like me from the post-Christian West, moving to see so much open devotion.

The comfort I took from being among Polish Catholics, and the admiration I have for how their faith brought them through so much suffering, only exacerbates the incomprehension I have over how Pope Francis and the bishops seem so dead-set on destroying the Catholic faith -- or if not destroying it, per se, then on turning it into something it never has been.

The maniacal crusade Francis has against the traditional Latin mass is simply bizarre. Relatively few Catholics today attend the Latin mass, but those parishes where it is offered are almost always vibrant and full. It is certainly true that you can find some bitter, cranky people around Latin mass communities, but you can find pushy, obnoxious people everywhere in the Catholic Church, and indeed in all churches. During the thirteen years I was a Catholic, I visited the Latin mass a few times. I never became a regular attendee, but it was easy to see the appeal, and I was glad that Catholics who found depth and beauty there had it as an option. I was no longer a Catholic when Pope Benedict XVI gave universal permission for the Tridentine mass ("Latin mass") to be said everywhere. Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Benedict XVI) once said...

Read the rest here.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Pope Francis Hints at Retirement

Pope Francis has said that he can no longer travel like he used to because of his strained knee ligaments, saying his week-long Canadian pilgrimage was “a bit of a test” that showed he needed to slow down and one day possibly retire.

Speaking to reporters while traveling home from northern Nunavut, Francis, 85, stressed that he had not thought about resigning but said “the door is open” and there was nothing wrong with a pope stepping down.

“It’s not strange. It’s not a catastrophe. You can change the pope,” he said.

“I think at my age and with these limitations, I have to save[my energy] to be able to serve the church, or on the contrary, think about the possibility of stepping aside,” he said.

It was not the first time Francis has said that – should his health require it – he could follow his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who made history in 2013 by stepping down due to declining physical and mental health.

Francis used a wheelchair, walker and cane to get around during his trip.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Non-Profits Are Seeking IRS Classification As "Churches"

From Religion Clause

Both Baptist News Global and ProPublica have recently published lengthy investigative articles on the growing number of non-profit entities that have sought classification by the IRS as a "church" or "association of churches" or an "integrated auxiliary of a church." this exempts them from filing the annual Form 990 required of other non-profits. Form 990 disclose income, expenditures and compensation of officers, directors and key employees.

Europe Moves Towards Fuel Rationing

For the first time since the aftermath of World War II, much of Europe is preparing to impose fuel rationing in response to the serious threat of a Russian cut off of natural gas. 

Details

Friday, July 15, 2022

The latest on the Greek Baptism scandal & etc.

I'm not covering it. But for those interested, Byzantine Texas has been keeping up with the latest on this and the proposed and highly controversial consecration of a certain monk to the episcopacy. Just scroll through their recent posts.

The latest issue for Israel's ultra-orthodox Jews? Smartphones

Smartphones have become a volatile issue in the Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, community since April, when Israel’s communications minister made it easier for Haredi to use smartphones without the knowledge of their rabbis, raising tensions within the Haredi community and between them and the rest of Israeli society.

Haredi Jews make up 12.6% of Israel’s population, or 16% of Israeli Jews, and are one of the country’s fastest-growing communities. And though the term actually refers to several diverse sects and denominations, all Haredim are united in their adherence to Jewish law in all aspects of their lives and their utter rejection of Western sensibilities. Rabbis learned in the law provide rulings on everything from modesty requirements for women to personal health to marital relations.

The Haredim regard themselves as upholding authentic Judaism, and most live in tightly knit communities — a lifestyle some refer to as a “ghetto by choice.” Surrounded by “walls of holiness,” they avoid the contaminating modern influences. Haredi schools focus on religious studies, and most skip core subjects such as English, science or math, leaving their graduates with few options in the job market. Encouraged to continue their religious studies, few Haredi men are wage-earners; those that are tend to work within the community.

Having created Haredi newspapers and magazines, their rabbis forbid neighborhood stores from selling secular newspapers. When television was introduced into Israel in 1965, the rabbis banned the “evil box” from adherents’ homes. Today, data shows, fewer than half of Haredi households own a television.

But digital communications, a greater threat to the cultural walls, are of more concern to the rabbis. Not only do digital tools offer access to inappropriate content, they open the way to chat groups and apps such as WhatsApp where Haredi can criticize the rabbis and even turn to lay sources of authority.
a
Rabbinical bans on the computer and the internet have been less successful than the ban against television or secular press. Initially the rabbis completely banned the internet, but as the need for it in daily living and livelihoods increased, they allowed for filtered internet for home computers.

But the rabbis drew the line at smartphones. They organized the Rabbinical Committee for Communications, which, together with Israel’s three major cellular providers, created the “kosher” telephone — a stripped-down phone that blocks messaging, video, radio and internet.

The committee and the cellphone providers also created a dedicated set of numbers with their own area code, making it immediately obvious if a call is coming from an unsupervised device.

The committee blocked phone sex services — but also government welfare agencies, support centers for sexual and domestic violence (which the rabbis prefer to handle within the community) and secular organizations that assist people trying to leave the community.

When a change to telecommunications law in 2007 required Israeli cellphone providers to allow their customers to move between the companies while retaining the same personal phone number, further agreements exempted the kosher phone numbers.

The rabbis found other ways to support their bans. Posters on the walls of Haredi neighborhoods warn about the heavy spiritual price that comes with a nonkosher phone. Haredi media are not permitted to advertise products or services that direct consumers to secular phone numbers, and parents without an approved phone number cannot enroll their children in school. A man using an outside phone can’t be counted for a minyan — one of the 10 men needed for public worship. The children of families using smartphones are shunned for a shidduch (arranged marriage).

Officially, the campaign worked, and most Haredim use kosher phones, although specific data is not available. But others avoided the social pressure by simply holding two phones — one for use within the community, one for everything else.

Read the rest here.

Inflation is red hot but bonds are doing well. What gives?

So, inflation is smoking hot and the Fed is hiking interest rates by numbers not seen in decades. Normally this would be like the kiss of death for bonds. Yet after a sharp spike earlier in the year, bond yields have stabilized and even declined somewhat recently. And despite multiple warning signs of an impending recession, stocks have likewise found their footing and seem to be recovering a bit after the worst first six months of a trading year since 1970. Concurrently the US dollar is soaring against other currencies and gold, a traditional hedge against inflation, has gotten the snot pounded out of it over the last several weeks. 

What the heck is going on?

The answer is in two parts. First, a lot of traders think the inflation is peaking, and thanks to aggressive rate hikes, will start falling next year. Some of them are placing bets on that scenario. 

Secondly, and IMO probably more significantly, as bad as things are here, they are significantly worse elsewhere. Europe is an economic disaster area thanks to severe shortages of just about everything compounded by Russia's war in Ukraine. Add to this are the highly justified fears that Russia might cut off oil and gas exports to Europe and you have something resembling a controlled state of panic over there. There is serious discussion of gas and fuel rationing for the first time since the aftermath of World War II. 

Further is the slow reaction of foreign central banks to combat inflation which is worse in much of the rest of the world. Thus far it looks like in Europe the decision has been made that inflation is the lesser of evils and will need to be tolerated until the Ukrainian situation calms down and some normalcy returns to the broader economy. And it is even more pronounced in some less developed economies where inflation is so severe that it is threatening the stability of the country. Think Turkey, Argentina (a country with defaulting on their debt rivaling soccer for the national pastime) and Venezuela which, thanks to decades of socialism, was an economic basket case long before the pandemic. 

All of this is making the US dollar highly attractive. A lot of foreign money is pouring into US securities which is driving down bond yields, despite the high inflation, and shoring up stock prices. In short, the dollar is looking like the safest house in a crappy neighborhood right now. 

So, is there any upside to all of this for the average American? Not a lot, unless you are planning a trip abroad. In which case you will find your dollar delivering the best return in recent memory with all major currencies at multi-decade lows relative to the USD. If this continues it could prove injurious to the American economy as our goods and services will become more expensive to export and foreign goods and services will become cheaper. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Inflation Hits 9%

Paging Mr. Volcker. Mr. Paul Volcker please pick up the white courtesy phone.

Monday, July 11, 2022

India Set to Become World's Most Populous Country

India is on track to overtake China as the planet’s most populous country next year, according to a U.N. report published on Monday.

The report, from the population division of the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said China and India were each home to over 1.4 billion people in 2022.

“India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country during 2023,” the U.N. said. The Indian government’s census for 2011 put the country’s population at more than 1.2 billion.

“The global human population will reach 8.0 billion in mid-November 2022 from an estimated 2.5 billion people in 1950,” according to the U.N.’s report.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

UK: Boris Johnson Faces Massive Tory Revolt [It's Over]

Defying parliamentary convention he is refusing to resign, for now. But the writing is on the wall. 

Live coverage here.

Update: It's over and it ended the only way it could have. Although he is dragging his feet, Johnson has agreed to go. 

Friday, July 01, 2022

New York's New Gun Laws

New York is preparing legislation to regulate private ownership and possession of firearms following the Supreme Court's decision that invalidated their "may issue" scheme for concealed carry permits. From the sound of it, the new legislation will be even more restrictive than before. So called "sensitive places" that will be off limits for armed citizens are expected to include, "government buildings, parks, mass transit, health and medical facilities, places where children gather, daycare centers, schools, zoos, playgrounds, polling places and educational institutions." In addition, the new law is expected to declare all privately owned businesses as presumptively invoking their owner's property rights to not allow firearms on the premises unless they post a sign clearly stating that armed persons are welcome. In short, it sounds like a concealed carry permit will be good for your car and some public sidewalks. And that's about it. The rest of the state is about to become a "sensitive place." Beyond that there are expected to be significant new requirements for getting a concealed carry permit including a requirement for a heavy-duty insurance policy. (The 2nd amendment equivalent to a poll tax?) Also in the proposed legislation is a requirement for a special license to buy ammunition. It sounds like the state is trying to stick its finger in the eye of the SCOTUS. I am skeptical as to how well that's going to work out. 

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Huzzah for Ukraine!

They have retaken Snake Island. Tactically a modest victory, but strategically an important one. This war is likely to be long and bloody with lots ups and downs. No matter the cost or inconvenience of high prices, Russia must not win. Ukraine is the front line of the latest war against fascist dictatorship and military imperialism. If Russia wins, I don't think the credibility of the West or NATO will survive. Every tyrant and would be strongman in the world is watching to see if there is still any real will to defend freedom. 

So we must gird ourselves for the long struggle and be prepared to endure whatever comes. When I fill my car with gas at $5.00 a gallon, I remind myself that my home has not been bombed. My church has not been burned. My family has not been abducted and carried into a foreign land to God knows what fate. We, are not on the frontline. But if Ukraine falls, who will be next? Where does it stop?

RUSSIA MUST BE DEFEATED.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Russian Orthodox Church Revokes Ukranian Church's Independence

So, the Russian Orthodox Church has declared the claimed independence of the canonical Ukranian Orthodox Church (MP) illegal. No surprise there. But they then went on to revoke their status as a self governing church and place them under the direct control of the Moscow Patriarchate. The sound you hear, is the roughly 6 million members of the UOC (MP) laughing hysterically. 

Details

Friday, June 24, 2022

Roe v Wade Reversed

Though not unexpected, it is still the most significant SCOTUS decision in a generation. The vote was 5:3 with Justice Roberts concurring in part. 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

SCOTUS Strikes Down Restrictive New York Gun Law

Private citizens have a constitutional right to carry firearms outside their home for personal protection and states may not refuse permission to do so without good cause. The ruling was 6-3.

Read the decision here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Debt and Credit

A City journal, advocating the passage of some sort of Loan or Treasury-Note Extension bill, naively remarks that it is "imperative that both parties in Congress should appreciate the importance of maintaining the Public Credit." Trite as this remark may seem, the course which our contemporary recommends does not appear to us to touch the root of the matter. The true way to maintain Public Credit is to evince a constant alacrity in extinguishing Public Debt. The Federal Finances are certainly this day in a worse plight by Forty Millions of Dollars than they were on the day of Mr. Buchannan's inauguration. That is, the Public Debt, on the 4th of March 1857, exceeded the cash in the Treasury by considerably less than Twenty Millions of Dollars; while the Public Debt of all sorts- including claims honestly due and payable- is now at least Seventy Millions, while the cash on hand is less than Ten Millions, and is likely to be nothing at all or thereabout at the close of the current month, or whenever the immediate payments under the new annual Appropriation bills shall have been made. In other words, the Tarriff and Mr. Buchannan's Administration have run the country in Debt at the rate of fully Ten Millions per annum. And the party unhappily in power insist that nothing shall be done, no step taken, toward the reduction of that debt. They give us no reason for believing that we shall do any better in the immediate future than in the immediate past, though they make a vague guess that we may, if the present Tarriff is maintained, begin to pay off our Debt some three or four years hence. That guess is directly in the teeth of all the facts bearing on the case.

We know there are time wherein Public Debt cannot be paid off- times of war, of pestilence, of general disaster by fire, frost, flood, or drouth, & etc. The rule, then, would seem imperative, that a Nation in debt should never allow a year of peace and thrift to pass without paying off some portion of that debt, or at least devising and adopting measures whereby a surplus of revenue to be devoted to such payment shall be speedily secured. And this is the only policy which can give to Public Credit the fullest moral support. Dexterity in manipulating public debt- skill in shifting debt from one shoulder to the other, so that it shall scarcely be felt- readiness to renew debts as they fall due- and all manner of ingenious devices of like nature- pale their ineffectual fires before the simple and solid method of increasing income or reducing outgoes so as to have a liberal surplus of revenue each year to be faithfully applied to paying off successive installments of the Public Debt. And this is the policy which the Republicans now urge and the Democrats persistently defeat.

Source (pg4 columns 3-4)

Sadly, today we no longer have a conservative political party.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Crypto Crashes (again)

* Bitcoin drops below $24k. 
* $200 Billion lost over the weekend.
* Tech executives label crypto "a con." 

Update: As of 9:40 pm (EDST) Bitcoin is down 23%.

Wednesday, June 08, 2022

How San Francisco Became a Failed City

I'm not even going to try and excerpt this one. Rarely have I read such a damning indictment of the lunatic left, and coming from someone who is certainly left of center in their own right. Read it in its entirety here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2022

Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) Sacked by Kyrill

By decision of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, which met in Moscow today under the chairmanship of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill, His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokolamsk no longer heads the Synodal Department for External Church Relations.

His Eminence will also no longer serve as a permanent member of the Holy Synod or as rector of the Church’s Sts. Cyril and Methodius Postgraduate and Doctoral Studies program.

He has served as head of the DECR and permanent Synod member since 2009.

According to the Synodal resolutions, Met. Hilarion is being sent to administer the Diocese of Budapest and Hungary, a position he previously held from May 2003 to March 2009.

Met. Hilarion is replaced in the DECR and on the Holy Synod by His Eminence Metropolitan Anthony of Korsun, the Patriarchal Exarch of Western Europe. Archpriest Maxim Kozlov, Chairman of the Church’s Educational Committee, is appointed rector of the Sts. Cyril and Methodius program.


I had heard a few rumors that Hilarion was somewhat less than full throated in his support for the ROC's policy of acting as Putin's clerical bootlickers. But I honestly didn't see this coming. 

HT: Dr. Tighe.

UK cinema chain cancels screenings of ‘blasphemous’ film after protests

A UK cinema chain has cancelled all screenings of a “blasphemous” film about the daughter of the prophet Muhammad after branches were picketed by Muslim activists.

Cineworld said it took the decision to cancel all showings of The Lady of Heaven to “ensure the safety of our staff and customers”.

The cancellation was criticised by a House of Lords peer as being “disastrous for the arts, dangerous for free speech”.

The film’s producer defended the rights of the protesters to express their displeasure but said it was “silly” and against British values for the film to be pulled completely.

A video circulating online showed the manager of Sheffield Cineworld telling protesters that Sunday night’s screening had been cancelled, to cries of “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

5Pillars, a Muslim news site, tweeted a photo of what it said was “200 Muslims protesting against sectarian hate film Lady of Heaven outside Cineworld in Broad Street, Birmingham” on Sunday.

Lady of Heaven, released last Friday in the UK, claims to be the first film to put the “face” of the prophet Muhammad on screen.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

Report: Vladimir Putin is seriously ill

Citing multiple sources, Newsweek is reporting that the US intelligence services are satisfied that long running rumors of ill health on the part of Russian President V. V. Putin are almost certainly true. The report also indicates that Putin may have survived a recent attempt on his life.

Read the story here.

Trooping the Colour


The traditional military parade begins the celebration of the Queen's 70th anniversary on the throne.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

THE ORTHODOX CHURCH IN UKRAINE: WAR AND “ANOTHER AUTOCEPHALY”

War changes many things, primarily people’s minds, but also the usual flow of time. What takes years or even decades in peacetime takes a few months, or sometimes even days, during war. 

On May 27, the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), the highest governing body of the church, after much debate, expressed its disagreement with Patriarch Kirill’s support for the war in Ukraine and adopted amendments to the Statute of the UOC, “Testifying to the full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

It is beyond the scope of this report to analyze in detail the decisions of the UOC Council—not all of the documents have been published, nor have there been official statements from the hierarchy. My aim is to explain the logic of Metropolitan Onufry’s actions, because I hope that this will allow me to put the decisions of the Council of the UOC into the appropriate context.

It is not surprising that, confronted with a lack of information, commentators are divided into two antagonistic camps. Some believe that the UOC is simply salvaging its reputation, that the distancing from Moscow is insincere and coordinated with the Moscow Patriarchate. Others believe that this is an important step towards the autocephaly of the Church and true independence from Moscow.

From the first days of the war, a number of UOC dioceses refused to commemorate Patriarch Kirill in protest of his anti-Ukrainian stance, and this decision received the tacit support of Metropolitan Onufry. A little later, there were efforts to hold a council to make a decision “about the future of the Church,” which many understood to be the groundwork for a complete separation from the Moscow Patriarchate. Metropolitan Onufry was slow to convene the council, and his inner circle, Metropolitan Anthony (Pakanich) and the oligarch deacon Vadim Novinsky, took an openly pro-Moscow position. It is hard to assess how well Metropolitan Onufry understood the mood of the Ukrainian flock in the initial months of the war. Yet Onufry understood Patriarch Kirill’s position: while during the pandemic the Patriarch called him almost every week, he did not call him even once during the three months of the war. For Onufry, Kirill’s silence spoke volumes.

The situation changed dramatically on May 12. On that day there was a meeting of the Holy Synod of the UOC, whose documents were prepared as usual by Metropolitan Anthony, the Chancellor. There was not a single word about holding a council in these documents. Until that point, Moscow had made every effort to maintain the current status quo and did not approve the gathering of any council. The first surprise occurred during the gathering of bishops. Metropolitan Onufry demanded that the Synod’s decisions include a response to the calls of the clergy and that a meeting with clergy and laity be held. Thus, the Synod declared...

Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader John L.

Note: The author of this piece is Fr. Sergei Chapnin. This piece is published by Public Orthodoxy, a website of which in the past, I and many others have been critical for their open promotion of heterodox beliefs. That said, I have no reason to doubt the factual details of this essay. 

Sacrilegious theft

A more than century-old church artifact worth $2 million was stolen from its New York City sanctuary, authorities said, in a brazen break-in that local Catholic leaders called a crime of "disrespect and hate."

A tabernacle made of 18-carat gold and decorated with jewels had been housed at St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn before someone stole it at some point between Thursday night and Saturday afternoon, officials said.

Police are "investigating a brazen crime of disrespect and hate," according to statement by the Brooklyn Diocese.

To remove the tabernacle, thieves had to cut through a metal protective casing. Statues of angels were left decapitated and destroyed from the heist.

St. Augustine was closed for construction at the time of the theft and camera recordings from the security system were also stolen, the church said. The stolen tabernacle dates back to the church’s opening in the 1890s.

There had been no arrests or other significant developments by Tuesday morning, an NYPD spokesperson said.

Erin Thompson, who teaches art crime at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, fears jewels from the stolen tabernacle have already been removed for sale and the rest of the artifact has been melted down for its gold.

"I would be very surprised if we ever see the tabernacle again," Thompson said Tuesday.

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 27, 2022

Ukraine: The jurisdictional mess deepens

The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) has taken steps towards ending its ties to the Russian Church. 

Details

Friday, May 20, 2022

Archbishop Cordileone (SF) bars Nancy Pelosi from Communion

The Roman Catholic archbishop of San Francisco has ordered priests in the archdiocese to deny House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the sacrament of communion because of the California Democrat’s support for abortion rights.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone’s move to bar Pelosi from receiving the Eucharist in churches in her home district comes as the Supreme Court is expected within weeks to overturn the constitutional right to abortion embodied in the 49-year-old court decision Roe v. Wade.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes abortion, considering it a “grave sin.”

“After numerous attempts to speak with Speaker Pelosi to help her understand the grave evil she is perpetrating, the scandal she is causing, and the danger to her own soul she is risking, I have determined that she is not to be admitted to Holy Communion,” Cordileone wrote in a tweet.

Most Catholic bishops have been loathe to deny communion to politicians who support abortion rights.

Cordileone’s order applies only to priests in his diocese, not to priests elsewhere. Pelosi could still receive communion in a church outside San Francisco.

Read the rest here.

Did Rome Accept the Canons of Trullo?

This may be considered a myopic debate, but it pertains to the question whether or not the Church of Rome accepted the Canons of the Council of Trullo (i.e. the Quinisext Council). The ramifications of whether they did, or did not, will not be discussed in detail here. Rather, the history of whether they at one time were accepted will be.

Arguments In Favor of the Acceptance of Trullo’s Canons. The historical evidence that Rome accepted the Council of Trullo is extremely strong. Rome had one (questionable) legate (Basil of Gortyna, who also acted as a legate during Constantinople III; Price, The Canons of the Qunisext Council, p. 35) and 11 additional bishops in their jurisdiction attending (Sissius of Dyrrachion, Ibid., and 10 from East Illyricum, Ibid., p. 11). These aformentioned attendees signed onto the council. The preceding demonstrates that Rome had some element of participation in the council through representatives, even if it was relatively minimal.

The Liber Pontificalis (a source which was updated during the 8th century) notes that Pope Saint Gregory II appears to have accepted the Council. He went to Constantinople and questioned Emperor Justinian II (who had convened the Trullo) about the Council. After receiving “an excellent reply” from Justinian II, his earlier opposition to Trullo had vanished as the emperor “resolved every question.” (Ibid., p. 43; passage in question is dated to the 740s) This is corroborated by a letter between Gregory II and Patriarch Germanos I quoted during Nicea II. It explicitly quotes Canon 82 of Trullo as from “the assembly of the holy [fathers].” (Price, The Acts of the Second Council of Nicea, p. 330) It should be noted that Canon 82 forbade the depiction of Christ as a lamb (opting for the depiction of His incarnate hypostasis–i.e. as a human). Interestingly, this Canon was anti-Roman, as the Church of Rome had followed this practice. (cf Price, The Canons of the Qunisext Council, p. 23) The fact that Rome had actually ceased conducting this practice immediately after the Trullan Council, as evidenced by a fresco commissioned by Pope John VII (approx 706-707 AD) which deliberately avoided the lamb depiction in conformance with the aforementioned canon, additionally implies the acceptance of Trullo. (Ibid., p. 42)

The preceding may imply full acceptance of Trullo, but it is not explicit evidence of such. However, such explicit evidence soon makes itself apparent. During the Council of Nicea 2, Canon 1 explicitly accepts all “the divine canons…those composed by the holy apostles, the celebrated trumpets of the Spirit, those published by the six holy ecumenical councils and by the councils convened locally to issue such injunctions, and those of our holy fathers.” (Price, Nicea 2, p. 610) This canon of Nicea 2, accepted by the West, clearly affirms Trullo. First, the fifth and sixth councils did not have canons and so by invoking the canons of “the six holy ecumenical councils,” it would have to be referencing the introduction to the Trullan canons. In this introduction, it asserts it is providing the canons the fifth and sixth canons lacked. (Price, The Canons of the Quinisext Council, p. 73) Second, the criteria of Canon 1 of Nicea 2, in its affirmation of both local councils and “those of our fathers,” is clearly is a citation of Canon 2 of Trullo. Canon 2 explicitly lists exactly which local councils and fathers are at issue.

Why this canon alone does not solve the dispute of whether the West accepted the Trullan canons is a question that there is no good answer to. It is on the basis of this canon that Nedungatt (2010) observes, “Recent scholarship, however, has rescued it [Trullo] and placed it back in the canon of the ecumenical councils.” (“The Council in Trullo Revisited,” p. 661) He calls this a “scholarly consensus.” (Ibid., p. 662)

There is a good reason for this consensus on the basis of corroborating evidence surrounding Nicea 2. Pope Adrian I in two separate occasions had accepted the Trullan canons. In his Letter to Taurisius (JE 2449) it is stated that , “I also accept the work of the same holy sixth council with all the canons,” a statement found intact in both the Greek and Latin manuscripts. (cf Price, The Acts of the Second Council of Nicea, p. 176) On top of this, Adrian I in a letter directed to Charlemagne cites Canon 82 of Trullo and attributes it to the “holy sixth council.” (Price, The Canons of the Qunisext Council, p. 50)

The Latin tradition since Nicea 2 has affirmed that the Trullan canons were accepted by Rome. In so doing, this tradition in time reconciled its anti-Roman canons as disciplinary and only applicable to the local context in the East. While this is a questionable reconciliation, it is a plausible (re-)interpretation of the “excellent reply” given by Justinian II which was accepted by Gregory II. How so? Justinian II probably put forward a compromise that allowed both sides to save face by employing economia. This worked due to the Trullan canons having great leeway in their application, thanks to the 102nd canon. In effect, Rome would be able to canonically not apply canons they found objectionable. The Trullan canons, such as Canon 30, had already explicitly applied economia in contexts which would otherwise forbid Roman practices. (Ibid., p. 38-39)

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

'The New York Times' can't shake the cloud over a 90-year-old Pulitzer Prize

The New York Times is looking to add to its list of 132 Pulitzer Prizes — by far the most of any news organization — when the 2022 recipients for journalism are announced on Monday.

Yet the war in Ukraine has renewed questions of whether the Times should return a Pulitzer awarded 90 years ago for work by Walter Duranty, its charismatic chief correspondent in the Soviet Union.

"He is the personification of evil in journalism," says Oksana Piaseckyj, a Ukrainian-American activist who came to the U.S. as a child refugee in 1950. She is among the advocates for the return of the award. "We think he was like the originator of fake news."

A new voice now adds himself to the cause: former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller — himself a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1989 for his own reporting for the Times on the Soviet Union.

In the 1930s, as now, an autocrat's decrees led to mass deaths of Ukrainian civilians and relied on misinformation to try to cover it up. Reporters, including Duranty, were censored and threatened. (A U.S. diplomat once wrote that Duranty told him his reports had to reflect "the official opinion of the Soviet regime.") Yet in a time before social media and the internet, foreign journalists were among the only ones who could get news out to the rest of the world.

Duranty was The New York Times' man in Moscow, as the line went, with a cushy apartment in which to entertain expatriates and a reputation as a leading authority on the Soviet Union. Duranty had staked his name on the idea that Josef Stalin was the strong leader the communist country needed. He is often credited with coining the term "Stalinism."

Read the rest here.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Texas Opens a Constitutional Can of Worms

Texas residents can now sue Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for allegedly censoring their content after a federal appeals court sided Wednesday with the state's law restricting how social media sites can moderate their platforms.

The 15-word ruling allowing the law, which had been blocked last year, to take effect has significant potential consequences. Most immediately, it creates new legal risks for the tech giants, and opens them up to a possible wave of litigation that legal experts say would be costly and difficult to defend.

Texas's law makes it illegal for any social media platform with 50 million or more US monthly users to "block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression."

The law creates enormous uncertainty about how social media will actually function in Texas, according to legal experts, and raises questions about what users' online spaces may look like and what content they may find there, if the companies are even able to run their services at all.

The ruling also sets the stage for what could be a Supreme Court showdown over First Amendment rights and, possibly, a dramatic reinterpretation of those rights that affects not just the tech industry but all Americans — and decades of established precedent.

In short, the decision has allowed Texas to declare open season on tech platforms, with huge ramifications for everyone in the country. It could reshape the rights and obligations of all websites; our relationship to technology and the internet; and even our basic, fundamental understanding of the First Amendment.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Crypto currencies hammered by heavy selling

Bitcoin fell below $26,000 for the first time in 16 months, amid a broader sell-off in cryptocurrencies that erased more than $200 billion from the entire market in a single day.

The price of bitcoin plunged as low as $25,401.29 on Thursday, according to Coin Metrics. That marks the first time the cryptocurrency has sunk below the $27,000 level since Dec. 26, 2020.

Bitcoin has since pared its losses and was last trading at $28,569.25, down 2.9%.

Ether, the second-biggest digital currency, tanked to as low as $1,704.05 per coin. It’s the first time the token has fallen beneath the $2,000 mark since June 2021. Ether was last down 8.8% at a price of $1,937.88.

Investors are fleeing from cryptocurrencies at a time when stock markets have plunged from the highs of the coronavirus pandemic on fears over soaring prices and a deteriorating economic outlook. U.S. inflation data out Wednesday showed prices for goods and services jumping 8.3% in April, higher than expected by analysts and close to the highest level in 40 years.

Also weighing on traders’ minds is the downfall of embattled stablecoin protocol Terra. TerraUSD, or UST, is supposed to mirror the value of the dollar. But it plummeted to less than 30 cents Wednesday, shaking investors’ confidence in the so-called decentralized finance space.

Stablecoins are like the bank accounts of the barely regulated crypto world. Digital currency investors often turn to them for safety in times of volatility in the markets. But UST, an “algorithmic” stablecoin that’s underpinned by code rather than cash held in a reserve, has struggled to maintain a stable value as holders bolted for the exits en masse.

On Thursday, UST was trading at about 41 cents, still well below its intended $1 peg. Luna, another Terra token that has a floating price and is meant to absorb UST price shocks, erased 99% of its value and was last worth just 4 cents.

Investors are scared about the implications for bitcoin. Luna Foundation Guard — a fund set up by Terra creator Do Kwon — had amassed a multibillion-dollar pile of bitcoin to help support UST in times of crisis. The fear is that Luna Foundation Guard sells a large portion of its bitcoin holdings to shore up its ailing stablecoin. That’s a risky gamble — not least because bitcoin is itself an incredibly volatile asset.

The fallout from Terra’s collapse led to fears of a market contagion. Tether, the world’s biggest stablecoin, also dropped below its $1 peg Thursday, at one point sinking to 95 cents. Economists have long feared that tether may not have the required amount of reserves to bolster its dollar peg in the event of mass withdrawals.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Financial Markets Take a Hit

April's southward drift has continued in May as all three major stock indices fell yesterday by more than 3%. The tech heavy NASDAQ was down by 5% following the Fed's decision to raise their fund rates by a half percentage. The Fed Rate remain below 1% with inflation officially clocking in at 8.5%. Bond yields continue to rise which means currently held bonds are losing value. The yield on the ten year US bond is now slightly over 3%. In 2020 the yield fell below .5%. Oil remains firmly over $100/barrel and metals have been sluggish amid expectations of further interest rate hikes. Bitcoin fell sharply and as of this post is trading under $36k. Broadly speaking Wall Street seems to be less than impressed by the Fed's actions to curb inflation and the expectation is that even if inflation peaks, it is likely to remain high in the near to intermediate term. Some observers have noted that according to the Taylor Rule, interest rates should be near 10%. But a move that high would almost certainly plunge the country into a severe recession.  It now appears that with the inflation genie out of its bottle, getting it back in is going to be both challenging and painful. 

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Bank of England raises interest rates amid warnings of recession and 10% inflation

The government is facing calls to launch a fresh package of emergency financial support for households after the Bank of England warned Britain’s economy could plunge into recession before the end of the year.

As the nation went to the polls in the local elections, the Bank raised interest rates from 0.75% to 1% to tackle spiralling inflation made worse by Russia’s war in Ukraine. With a fresh jump in home energy bills expected in October, it forecast inflation would rise above 10% this year, the highest level since 1982.

The rate rise brings borrowing costs to levels unseen since the recession caused by the 2008 financial crisis, but the Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) said action was warranted despite the gathering economic storm clouds.

Andrew Bailey, the Bank’s governor, said there was a “narrow path” the central bank had to navigate between the dual risks of inflation and recession facing the British economy. He said the inflation shock had been made worse by the impact on supply chains from Covid lockdowns in China and the rise in energy costs since Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Read the rest here

Monday, May 02, 2022

Leaked Draft Indicates Roe v Wade Will be Reversed

The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to an initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito circulated inside the court and obtained by POLITICO.

The draft opinion is a full-throated, unflinching repudiation of the 1973 decision which guaranteed federal constitutional protections of abortion rights and a subsequent 1992 decision – Planned Parenthood v. Casey – that largely maintained the right. “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito writes.

“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”

Deliberations on controversial cases have in the past been fluid. Justices can and sometimes do change their votes as draft opinions circulate and major decisions can be subject to multiple drafts and vote-trading, sometimes until just days before a decision is unveiled. The court’s holding will not be final until it is published, likely in the next two months.

The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. It’s unclear if there have been subsequent changes to the draft.

No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. The unprecedented revelation is bound to intensify the debate over what was already the most controversial case on the docket this term.

The draft opinion offers an extraordinary window into the justices’ deliberations in one of the most consequential cases before the court in the last five decades. Some court-watchers predicted that the conservative majority would slice away at abortion rights without flatly overturning a 49-year-old precedent. The draft shows that the court is looking to reject Roe’s logic and legal protections.

Read the rest here.

Obviously this is not a final opinion. But I have no reason to believe it is not authentic. POLITICO is a highly reputable news site and this must be acknowledged as one of the great "scoops" in the history of journalism.

Glory to God!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Quote of the day...

“If you said… for a 1% interest in all the farmland in the United States, pay our group $25 billion, I’ll write you a check this afternoon,” Buffett said. ”[For] $25 billion I now own 1% of the farmland. [If] you offer me 1% of all the apartment houses in the country and you want another $25 billion, I’ll write you a check, it’s very simple. Now if you told me you own all of the bitcoin in the world and you offered it to me for $25 I wouldn’t take it because what would I do with it? I’d have to sell it back to you one way or another. It isn’t going to do anything. The apartments are going to produce rent and the farms are going to produce food.”

 -Warren Buffet (from here)

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Elon Musk

Is he really that bad? I confess that I have some decidedly mixed feeling about him. On the one hand I think he is a genius and his electric cars are probably making the world a better place. On the other hand I think he can be a flake and those electric cars always left me feeling like I was trapped in somebody's Play Station. On which note, I wonder how many of these woke scolds that are decrying Musk as the living incarnation of Old Scratch, are also driving one of his cars.

And then there is this. Sometimes the jokes write themselves. 

HT:Brian

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Summer is coming

One of the best investments of the last 12 years

"I recommend the S&P 500 index fund and have for a long, long time to people," billionaire investor Warren Buffett said at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholders meeting last May.‌

That’s been pretty good advice, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he repeated it again at the upcoming shareholder meeting on Saturday.

In a report published last month, S&P Dow Jones Indices (SPDJI) analysts found that 85.1% of U.S. large-cap equity fund managers underperformed the S&P 500 in 2021. It was the 12th straight year that more than half of the managers in this category lagged the index.

In other words, investors following Buffett’s advice have outperformed most professional money managers every year for more than a decade.‌

Sure, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) has been having a rough go lately, falling about 13% from its Jan. 4 high of 4,818.‌

But as SPDJI’s data suggests, it’s incredibly difficult to overweight and underweight stocks in a way where you beat the market.‌

Indeed, many of the most popular stocks in the market have been doing terribly. On Tuesday, Mike Zaccardi tweeted stats showing how Microsoft (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL), Tesla (TSLA), Nvidia (NVDA), and Facebook parent Meta (FB) are all down between 20% and 53% from their highs.‌

Following last Tuesday’s disastrous earnings announcement, Netflix (NFLX) shares are now down by 70% from their recent high.‌

According to a different report, SPDJI analysts found that only 22% of the stocks in the S&P 500 outperformed the index from 2000 to 2020.‌

No one’s saying that investors should outright avoid trying to pick winners for their stock portfolio. However, investors should understand that stock-picking is incredibly hard, and there’s a pretty good chance that you will ultimately underperform the market.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Ukraine: The latest news

  • The European Union is reportedly giving serious consideration to a full embargo of Russian oil, an act hitherto considered politically untenable because of the severe effects it could have on Europe's economy.  
  • The Russian cruiser Moskva, flagship of the Black Sea Fleet, has been severely damaged and at least temporarily abandoned. Ukraine claimed last night to have struck the vessel with missiles while Russia has since acknowledged severe damage but claimed it was the result of an accidental fire that set off ordinance. (Setting aside the Kremlin's credibility gap, as a former sailor in the USN I am highly skeptical that this was an accident,) It is unclear if the ship is still afloat.
  • Rumors are flying of a Kremlin purge within the senior ranks of the armed forces and intelligence services. For obvious reasons, hard and verifiable details are not easy to come by. 
  • The US and NATO allies are believed to be shipping much heavier weapons to Ukraine, including artillery, armored vehicles, and some battlefield missiles.
  • Evidence of mass atrocities committed by the Russian army and security services in areas under their occupation continue to mount. 
  • It has been reported that as many as 15 dioceses of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church have ceased commemorating Patriarch Kyril of Moscow. The damage done to the reputation and position of the Russian Orthodox Church as a result of its endorsement of Russia's invasion, both in Ukraine and globally, is difficult to overstate.  
  • The UN is reporting severe disruptions to global food supplies that could have catastrophic consequences in underdeveloped parts of the world due to untenable levels of food inflation. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

US Inflation Rate is 8.5%- Highest since 1981

Prices that consumers pay for everyday items surged in March to their highest levels since the early days of the Reagan administration, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday.

The consumer price index, which measures a wide-ranging basket of goods and services, jumped 8.5% from a year ago on an unadjusted basis, above even the already elevated Dow Jones estimate for 8.4%.

Excluding food and energy, the CPI increased 6.5%, in line with the expectation.

The data reflected price rises not seen in the U.S. since the stagflation days of the late 1970s and early ’80s. March’s headline reading in fact was the highest since December 1981. Core inflation was the hottest since August 1982.

However, core inflation appeared to be ebbing, rising 0.3% for the month, less than the 0.5% estimate.

Despite the increases, markets reacted positively to the report. Stock market futures rose and government bond yields declined.

“The big news in the March report was that core price pressures finally appear to be moderating,” wrote Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. Hunter said he thinks the March increase will “mark the peak” for inflation as year-over-year comparisons drive the numbers lower and energy prices subside.

Still, due to the surge in inflation, real earnings, despite rising 5.6% from a year ago, weren’t keeping pace with the cost of living. Real average hourly earnings posted a seasonally adjusted 0.8% decline for the month, according to a separate Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

The inability of wages to keep up with costs could add to inflation pressures.

The Atlanta Federal Reserve wage tracker for March indicated gains of another 6% which is “symptomatic of inflation pressures continuing to broaden,” said Brian Coulton, chief economist at Fitch Ratings. Coulton pointed out that the core inflation deceleration was due largely to a drop in auto prices, while other prices continued to show increases.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2022

World may be on cusp of new inflationary era, says central bank chief

The world economy may be on the cusp of a new inflationary era with persistently higher growth in consumer prices due to the retreat of globalisation, a leading central bank chief has said.

Agustín Carstens, head of the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements – which is known as the central bank of central banks – said there was a strong risk that prices would rise uncontrollably without a sharp rise in interest rates above existing plans.

In a speech setting out risks for persistently higher rates of inflation, Carstens said higher borrowing costs could be required for several years to curb the risk of spiralling prices wreaking long-term damage on the economies of the industrialised world.

However, his comments are disputed as other experts warn that high inflation will probably choke consumer spending and economic growth – reducing the urgency for significantly higher interest rates.

Data has shown inflation heading towards 10% in several countries, mostly in response to rising gas and oil prices after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. In February, the consumer prices index hit 6.2% in the UK – the highest level since the 1990s. In March, the CPI in Germany and Spain hit 7.3% and 9.8% respectively.

The Bank of England is on course to raise its base rate to 2% next year according to City investors, up from the current level of 0.75% after Threadneedle Street began hiking rates from a record low of 0.1% in December last year.

Last month the US Federal Reserve approved a 0.25 percentage point hike from near zero, the first increase since December 2018, with a signal it plans several more rate rises this year.

Read the rest here.

Friday, April 01, 2022

More News from Rome (and none good)

Here, here and here.

HT: Dr. Tighe

Oberlin College Loses Defamation Appeal

An Ohio appeals court has upheld a ruling that awarded more than $30 million to a bakery that accused Oberlin College of damaging its business and libeling it with false accusations of racism.

A three-judge panel on the Ninth District Court of Appeals issued a unanimous decision to uphold a 2019 ruling by Lorain County Judge John Miraldi, who initially awarded the bakery more than $40 million in punitive and compensatory damages, Cleveland.com reported. However, the sum was later reduced to $25 million, though the bakery was awarded more than $6 million for lawyers’ fees.

Gibson’s Bakery sued the college in 2017, accusing the school and one of its administrators of hurting its business and libeling it over an incident in which the son of the bakery owner stopped three black Oberlin College students, one of whom was stealing wine bottles from the store, in November 2016.

Students from the school protested the bakery after the arrest, handing out fliers outside the shop telling patrons to shop elsewhere. The fliers also accused the Gibsons of having a long history of racial profiling, citing the November 2016 incident, according to Legal Insurrection. Witnesses who testified at the trial said Oberlin College Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo participated in the protests, handing out stacks of fliers for others to distribute.

Oberlin College regularly purchased baked goods from the bakery for its student dining service but suspended its purchasing for a month after the incident.

The Gibsons denied any wrongdoing and asked for a public apology from the college to repair the reputational damage done to the bakery, though it has never received one, according to the report.

The students pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2017 and said Allyn Gibson’s actions were not racially motivated.

Oberlin College and Raimando appealed Miraldi’s 2019 ruling, seeking to overturn the compensatory and punitive damage awards, while Gibson’s Bakery challenged the ruling, looking to restore the initial $33 million punitive damages award. The bakery argued the Ohio tort reform reduction was unconstitutional.

Read the rest here.

This is good news. Oberlin's actions were outrageous. The damages are believed to be the largest ever awarded for defamation in the state's history.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Russia's Brain Drain

VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Russia’s tech workers are looking for safer and more secure professional pastures.

By one estimate, up to 70,000 computer specialists, spooked by a sudden frost in the business and political climate, have bolted the country since Russia invaded Ukraine five weeks ago. Many more are expected to follow.

For some countries, Russia’s loss is being seen as their potential gain and an opportunity to bring fresh expertise to their own high-tech industries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has noticed the brain drain even in the throes of a war that, according to the U.N. refugee agency, has caused more than 4 million people to flee Ukraine and displaced millions more within the country.

This week, Putin reacted to the exodus of tech professionals by approving legislation to eliminate income taxes between now and 2024 for individuals who work for information technology companies.

Some people in the vast new pool of high-tech exiles say they are in no rush to return home. An elite crowd furnished with European Union visas has relocated to Poland or the Baltic nations of Latvia and Lithuania.

A larger contingent has fallen back on countries where Russians do not need visas: Armenia, Georgia and the former Soviet republics in Central Asia. In normal times, millions of less-skilled laborers emigrate from those economically shaky countries to comparatively more prosperous Russia.

Anastasia, a 24-year-old freelance computer systems analyst from the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, chose Kyrgyzstan, where her husband has family.

“When we heard about the war on (Feb. 24), we thought it was probably time to leave, but that we might wait and see. On February 25, we bought our tickets and left,” Anastasia said. “There wasn’t much thinking to do.”

Like all the Russian workers contacted for this story, Anastasia asked to remain anonymous. Moscow was cracking down on dissent even before the invasion of Ukraine, and people living outside Russia still fear reprisals.

“As long as I can remember, there has always been fear around expressing one’s own views in Russia,” Anastasia said, adding that the war and “the background noise of patriotism” made the environment even more forbidding. “I left one day before they began searching and interrogating people at the border.”

The scale of the apparent brain drain was laid bare last week by Sergei Plugotarenko, the head of the Russian Association for Electronic Communications, an industry lobbying group.

“The first wave – 50,000-70,000 people – has already left,” Plugotarenko told a parliamentary committee.

Only the high cost of flights out of the country prevented an even larger mass exit. Another 100,000 tech workers nevertheless might leave Russia in April, Plugotarenko predicted.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Russia Asserts Right to Use Nuclear Weapons

The Kremlin again raised the spectre of the use of nuclear weapons in the war with Ukraine as Russian forces struggled to hold a key city in the south of the country.

Dmitry Medvedev, a former Russian president who is deputy chairman of the country’s security council, said Moscow could strike against an enemy that only used conventional weapons while Vladimir Putin’s defence minster claimed nuclear “readiness” was a priority.

The comments on Saturday prompted Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in an appearance by video link at Qatar’s Doha Forum to warn that Moscow was a direct threat to the world.

“Russia is deliberating bragging they can destroy with nuclear weapons, not only a certain country but the entire planet,” Zelenskiy said.

Putin established the nuclear threat at the start of the war, warning that western intervention would reap “consequences you have never seen”.

Western officials have said the threats may be simply an attempt to divert attention from the failure of Putin’s forces to secure a swift occupation of the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and to make advances in other key areas of the country.

An adviser to Ukraine’s defence ministry, Markian Lubkivskyi, claimed on Saturday that Russia would soon lose control of the southern city of Kherson, the first major centre to fall to the Kremlin since the war began on 24 February.

He said: “I believe that today the city will be fully under the control of Ukrainian armed forces. We have finished in the last two days the operation in the Kyiv region so other armed forces are now focused on the southern part trying to get free Kherson and some other Ukrainian cities.”

Russia has approximately 6,000 nuclear warheads – the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world. In an interview on Saturday, Medvedev said Russia’s nuclear doctrine did not require an enemy state to use such weapons first.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

The latest war news

  • US military sources are reporting that the Russian Army has suffered severe degradation in Ukraine. Intelligence believe that conservatively 10% of the initial invasion force has been killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Losses in equipment, including tanks and armored personal carriers are even higher as a percentage. 
  • Fears that Russia may be considering use of poison gas remain high. However, there is no evidence that such an attack is imminent.
  • The US Government claims that more than 2,000 Ukranian children in the Russian occupied areas of eastern Ukraine have been abducted and forcibly transported to various parts of Russia.
  • A source within the Russian Security Service (FSB) has released documents which, if legitimate, indicate that the Russians are planning a campaign of ethnic cleansing within areas occupied by the Russian military. This would include mass forced deportations of civilians to Russia and the summary execution of anyone connected to pro-Ukranian groups or demonstrations.
  • The Ukrainian Army has launched a counter offensive which has driven back the Russian Army in a number of locations. The Ukrainians claim to have liberated the city of Mykolaiv near the capitol city of Kyiv. Meanwhile US sources report that the Russians have pressed into the city of Mariupol which has been devastated in a weeks long siege. Much of the city has been destroyed and there are reports of hundreds or more corpses littering the wreckage unburied. Many of them civilians. 
  • The supply and logistics situation within the Russian Army operating in Ukraine continues to deteriorate. In some units, food and ammunition are at critically short levels.
  • Russian opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny has been convicted of additional charges of fraud and contempt of court and sentenced to a further nine years in prison. The proceedings have been more or less universally described as a kangaroo court. 
  • At least one in five Ukrainians have been displaced by the war. More than three million have fled the country. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Ukrainians are being kidnapped

Multiple sources are reporting that the Russian Army is forcibly deporting thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia. 

Monday, March 14, 2022

Lloyds and DNV withdraw Certification from all Russian Ships

These are two of the world's largest entities that certify ocean going vessels, including super yachts, for insurance purposes. What this means, is that any Russian ships certified by either of these entities may now be operating without insurance. This is a bit complicated as there are other certifiers, but these are the two used by the vast majority of ships and luxury yachts. In order to enter ports and refuel, most ships are required to show evidence of insurance. I'm not certain if this applies to all vessels owned by Russian entities or just Russian flagged ships. But this has the potential to be highly disruptive.

Update: At least one source is suggesting this is primarily being done to vessels owned by sanctioned persons, which would mostly limit it to luxury super yachts owned by Putin's cronies. More than a few of which have suddenly left their ports and turned off their satellite tracking beacons, which is against maritime law.

Saturday, March 12, 2022

The Economic Consequences of Putin's War

The big western brands showed Vladimir Putin how to do it. While the Kremlin’s army was getting bogged down in Ukraine, Coca-Cola and Starbucks lost no time in closing their doors to Russian customers.

But the most emblematic move of all came from McDonald’s, which has shut all 850 of its outlets in Russia. The availability of Big Macs in the Soviet Union was seen in 1990 as evidence that the west’s old cold war foe was turning its back on communism, but the past fortnight has rekindled memories of the bad old days. There were queues outside McDonald’s when it first opened in Moscow. Last week, Russians queued for one last burger before the pull-out began.

One of Putin’s predecessors in the Kremlin – Lenin – once said there were decades when nothing happens and weeks when decades happen, and that’s true of the period since Russian troops moved across the border into Ukraine on 24 February.

It is not just that Russia faces a brutal recession. It is the shattering of the idea of a seamless post-cold-war global economy. It is the return to days of higher defence spending in the west. It is the possibility that governments may backpedal on their net zero carbon pledges.

“Putin has created his own worst nightmare,” says Mohamed El-Erian, chief economist at Allianz and president of Queens’ College, Cambridge. “He has united the west in a way it hasn’t been for a long time; he has been the catalyst for arms to Ukraine on a large scale; he has changed Germany’s approach to military spending; and he has brought the Russian economy to its knees. It is incredible.”

Freezing the bulk of Russia’s reserves has meant the central bank has struggled to shore up the rouble, which has plummeted by a third on the currency markets. Capital controls have been introduced, interest rates have more than doubled, and annual inflation is heading for 20%. The stock market has been closed and financial markets fear Moscow may default on a sovereign debt repayment later this week.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, March 06, 2022

On the eve of the Great Fast



I beg forgiveness for any injury I may have caused, especially through this blog. No blogging until after Clean Wednesday.

Oil Surges

In overnight trading as of this posting...

Oil futures are at $126/barrel of West Texas Crude. That's the highest level since 2008.

The yield on the 10yr US Bond has fallen to 1.7%.

Gold has risen to 1,992/oz. Silver is at 26.15/oz

Bitcoin, after briefly rising to $43,000 as Russians were buying anything where they thought they could stash cash not subject to sanction or crippling inflation has retreated to a little over $38,000. 

US stock futures are currently down about 1.2%.


Saturday, March 05, 2022

Finally something amusing from Ukraine

From Rod Dreher. (Adult language)

I don't think the civilized world has cheered this loudly for a country under attack by a powerful predatory neighbor since Belgium in 1914. 

Thursday, March 03, 2022

Russia Prepares Law Against "Fake" News on War in Ukraine

The law, expected to be voted on tomorrow, makes it a criminal offense punishable by 15 years in prison to spread false news or reports on the war in Ukraine. The last two independent media outlets in Russia have both announced they are suspending operations. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

METROPOLITAN ONUPHRY APPEALS FOR PENITENTIAL PRAYER AND AN END TO THE “FRATRICIDAL WAR”

Dear brothers and sisters! The faithful of our Ukrainian Orthodox Church!

As the primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, I appeal to you and to all citizens of Ukraine. A disaster has occurred. Unfortunately, Russia has launched military actions against Ukraine, and at this fateful time I urge you not to panic, to be courageous, and to show love for your homeland and for each other. I call you, above all, to intensified penitential prayer for Ukraine, for our army, and our people, and I entreat you to lay aside mutual strife and misunderstandings and unite in love for God and our motherland.

At this tragic time, we express our fervent love and support to our soldiers standing guard and protecting and defending our land and our people. May God bless and keep them!

Defending the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we appeal to the President of Russia and ask him to immediately stop the fratricidal war. The Ukrainian and Russian peoples came out of the Dnieper Baptismal font, and the war between these peoples is a repetition of the sin of Cain, who killed his own brother out of envy. Such a war has no justification either from God or from people.

I call everyone to common sense, which teaches us to solve our earthly problems in mutual dialogue and mutual understanding, and I sincerely hope that God will forgive us our sins and that God’s peace will reign on our land and throughout the world!

The Russian Economy Has Been Nuked

Over the weekend Vladimir Putin rattled Russia's nuclear sabre. Meanwhile, the west pushed the button. The sanctions are the most rigorous I can remember against any country in my lifetime. Iran, South Africa during apartheid, even North Korea; they all look relatively ok compared to what is going on in Russia. Putin is now radioactive and that is extending to the entire country. This is likely to last a long time. Most of the industrialized world has moved to cut Russia off. The Ruble is one step from being used for toilet paper. The stock market has been closed by the Russian Central Bank to prevent a meltdown. There are reports of near panic buying of necessary comodities in order to unload their money while it still has any value at all. The massive amounts of foreign currency reserves stockpiled for years as a hedge against possible western sanctions are now mostly frozen. Putin does have some gold, which he has also been buying for the last decade or longer. But it's not clear where that is. And even Switzerland has joined the economic blockade. But even if the gold is in Russia, it won't be enough to keep the lights on for long. I feel badly for the Russian people. They can be added to the long list of Putin's victims.