Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Former Pope Benedict XVI is seriously ill

Pope Francis has asked for prayers for his 95 year old predecessor, stating that he is "very sick." The Vatican has acknowledged the former Pope's health has deteriorated sharply in recent hours.

Update- A statement from the Vatican Thursday morning reported that Benedict rested well last night and that he is both conscious and lucid. His condition is described as grave, but stable at the present time. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Is 2022 the Year We All Finally Got Tired of Narcissists?

It’s been a good run for the narcissists.

Over the past decade or so, a mix of shameless self-aggrandizement and self-confident charm has served certain people extraordinarily well, turning them into venture-capital darlings, licensed-merchandise magnates, Forbes cover models, social media superstars, Oprah confessors, business-conference keynoters, new-money plutocrats and, in one case, president. Elon Musk, Sam Bankman-Fried, Ye (né Kanye West), Elizabeth Holmes, Meghan Markle, Donald Trump: All of them used attention as currency and ego as fuel, and were rewarded, for a time, with what they craved. We’re drawn to people who love themselves.

But somewhere between the fifth and sixth hour of “Harry and Meghan,” the new Netflix documentary series produced by the former Duke and Duchess of Sussex and filmed at their California mansion — which suggests that there is no one more in love, no one more socially conscious, no one more aggrieved — my natural sympathy for the couple started turning to irritation, and it occurred to me that ego has its limits. And it struck me that the overreach that led to the Sussexes’ critically panned mega-series is the same impulse that turned Elon Musk into a terror on Twitter, that prompted Ye to up the ante of outrageous behavior until he crossed the line into blatant antisemitism, that sent Bankman-Fried from the top of the world to a Bahamian jail.

Some of these turns of fate are more dramatic and complete than others. But once we tally up the losses, it could be that 2022 marks the year our love affair with narcissists started to falter. Many of them met this year with declines in fortunes, falls from grace or newfound public skepticism. Many seemed to overstay their welcome in the public glare. And if this is the moment when we started to crave boring public figures for a change — well, to a large degree, the egotists did it to themselves. Maybe they couldn’t help it.

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Sad News

I have received belated news via email of the passing of Christopher Johnson, formerly of the Midwest Conservative Journal. Johnson's blog covered political and social topics of the day with the Anglican Communion's embrace of modernist apostasy being a particular target for his well-known and biting wit. Some years ago, Johnson lost his job as a librarian, and I heard rumors that this was connected to his openly conservative views. Following which he admitted to having fallen into difficult times and a mutual acquaintance reported that he was living in reduced circumstances. It was during this period that his blog faded and eventually went silent. Over the years we corresponded occasionally, and I always enjoyed his blog posts. Chris died in November of 2021, aged 66. Though this news is late in coming and I had not communicated with him in several years, it is none the less very sad and he will be missed.

Memory eternal. 

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Divine Liturgy for Christmas

Wishing each of you a blessed feast. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

North Carolina Methodist Churches Sue to Disaffiliate from Parent Body

Suit was filed last month in a North Carolina state trial court by 38 United Methodist Churches in North Carolina which are seeking to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church and retain their buildings and property.  The complaint (full text) in Mount Carmel United Methodist Church v. Western North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church, (NC Super. Ct., filed 11/10/2022), alleges in part:
Plaintiff Churches wish to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church ("UMC") to pursue their deeply held religious beliefs. Defendants want to force Plaintiff Churches to stay affiliated with the UMC, and violate those beliefs by holding their church buildings and property hostage. Defendants claim Plaintiffs' Churches property is encumbered by an irrevocable trust for the benefit of the UMC and the only way for Plaintiff Churches to disaffiliate without surrendering the buildings and property that are central to their congregations is by the permission of the UMC and payment of a financial ransom.


Read the rest here.

Monday, December 05, 2022

Texas: More than 500 Methodist churches have left the UMC

Hundreds of Texas churches have voted to split from the United Methodist Church denomination this year for deviating from scripture on abortion, homosexuality and other issues.

On Saturday, representatives of the Northwest Texas Annual Conference of United Methodist Churches voted to allow 145 churches to disaffiliate from the UMC in a special session in Lubbock.

Because the conference represents 200 congregations, about 75 percent of which are leaving, the conference likely will dissolve next year, The Texas Tribune reports. The vote was 261-24.

Additionally, 294 churches also voted to leave the denomination on Saturday at the Central Texas Annual Conference in Houston, according to the report.

In total, 546 Methodist churches in Texas (about 45 percent) voted to disaffiliate this year, The Week reports. UMC churches in other states also are leaving.

Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

"The Earth is round – discovery made by Galileo. Astronomy was not studied in Kremlin, giving preference to court astrologers. If it was, they would know: if something is launched into other countries’ airspace, sooner or later unknown flying objects will return to departure point." 

-Mykhailo Podolyak, advisor to Ukrainian President V. Zelenskyy

The Duke and Duchess of Woke are at it again

Playing the same broken record

Aren't these the same people who wanted to live private lives unconnected to the Firm, a corrupt institution based on hierarchy and racism? And yet they complained bitterly at the prospect that their children might not be titled as prince and princess? Complained about being "cut off" while raking in an income well into the nine-figure range off their titles and by transforming themselves into professional victims? An income on which they don't have to pay UK tax because they are living abroad. If they really want to be credible, they should renounce their titles and declare themselves to be republicans and socialists. They could then give away all their money to the real victims of oppression and at the same time spare the King and William from having to smile and invite them to the coronation.

Speaking of which; I thank God that William was born first.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

ROSS DOUTHAT: What Euthanasia Has Done to Canada

La Maison Simons, commonly known as Simons, is a prominent Canadian fashion retailer. In late October it released a three-minute film: a moody, watery, mystical tribute. Its subject was the suicide of a 37-year-old British Columbia woman, Jennyfer Hatch, who was approved for what Canadian law calls “Medical Assistance in Dying” amid suffering associated with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect the body’s connective tissues.

In an interview quoted in Canada’s National Post, the chief merchant of Simons stated that the film was “obviously not a commercial campaign.” Instead it was a signifier of a public-spirited desire to “build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow, and leave to our children.”

For those communities and children, the video’s message is clear: They should believe in the holiness of euthanasia.

In recent years, Canada has established some of the world’s most permissive euthanasia laws, allowing adults to seek either physician-assisted suicide or direct euthanasia for many different forms of serious suffering, not just terminal disease. In 2021, over 10,000 people ended their lives this way, just over 3 percent of all deaths in Canada. A further expansion, allowing euthanasia for mental-health conditions, will go into effect in March 2023; permitting euthanasia for “mature” minors is also being considered.

In the era of populism there is a lively debate about when a democracy ceases to be liberal. But the advance of euthanasia presents a different question: What if a society remains liberal but ceases to be civilized?

The rules of civilization necessarily include gray areas. It is not barbaric for the law to acknowledge hard choices in end-of-life care, about when to withdraw life support or how aggressively to manage agonizing pain.

It is barbaric, however, to establish a bureaucratic system that offers death as a reliable treatment for suffering and enlists the healing profession in delivering this “cure.” And while there may be worse evils ahead, this isn’t a slippery slope argument: When 10,000 people are availing themselves of your euthanasia system every year, you have already entered the dystopia.

Read the rest here.

Women's Ordination & the Creep of Liberal Protestantism

The public embrace of this heresy is rampant in the Roman Catholic Church. But although not as widespread, its advocates are becoming more and more open in the Orthodox Church with almost no correction from our bishops. 

Friday, December 02, 2022

Ukraine moves against Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP)

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Thursday a coming major crackdown on the operation of Moscow-affiliated Orthodox churches in Ukraine. The move came after weeks of raids on Orthodox rectories and chanceries have reportedly uncovered stocks of Russian propaganda, which denies the right to Ukrainian independence.

“The National Security and Defense Council has instructed the government to propose to (parliament) a bill to prevent the activities in Ukraine of religious organizations affiliated with the centers of influence in the Russian Federation, in accordance with international law in the field of freedom of conscience and Ukraine's obligations in connection with accession to the Council of Europe.”

“National security officials should intensify measures to identify and counteract the subversive activities of the Russian special services in the religious environment of Ukraine,” the president added, highlighting the Ukrainian government's view that some Orthodox churches have become distribution centers for propaganda, and intelligence sources for Russian spies and collaborators.

Zelensky’s decree obliges Ukrainian cabinet ministers to submit within two months a bill to the country’s legislature that would could see Ukrainians face “personal, economic, and restrictive sanctions,” for continued religious activity overseen by Moscow.

The plan takes aim squarely at the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate (UOC-MP), which exists under the leadership of Orthodox Patriarch Kiril of Moscow.

The president's announcement came hours after Ukraine’s Security Service, an intelligence and counterintelligence service, raided a monastery of Orthodox nuns in Transcarpathia, a far-Western region of Ukraine.

According to a government briefing after the raid, agents “found a large number of propaganda materials. Most of the literature is authored by Russian figures and published by Russian printers.”

“The law enforcement officers discovered books of xenophobic content with offensive fictions about other nationalities and religions. The pamphlets found deny Ukraine's right to independence and emphasize that Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus ‘cannot be divided.’”

Read the rest here.

Hardly surprising in the circumstances. There is a good likelihood that Putin will be remembered as the John Ireland of Ukrainian Orthodoxy. 

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Russian Orthodox Church Spokesperson: “Ukraine Cannot Be Independent”

Russian media are giving considerable prominence to a statement by Father Alexander Volkov, a prominent representative of the Russian Orthodox Church, who stated that Ukraine is a “phenomenon” (явление) rather than a country, and cannot be independent.

Father Volkov is the executive editor of the “Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate,” which is the official organ of the Russian Orthodox Church, and on November 26 he spoke in the TV program “The Church and the World” on “Russia 24,” which in turn regularly conveys the opinions of the Patriarchate.

It seems to be a new step, or a new low, in the anti-Ukrainian and pro-Putin propaganda campaign of the Moscow Patriarchate, whose excesses are widely regarded internationally as both ridiculous and tragic.

“You have to understand, Volkov said, that Ukraine in itself is a phenomenon that cannot be independent, it should be attached to something else.” Ukraine was a “positive” phenomenon, according to Volkov, when it was attached to the Czarist and then the Soviet Empire. “When Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, it was great: great culture, great economy, great people. Because they had something to be attached to.”

Read the rest here

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

European Central Bank says bitcoin is on the ‘road to irrelevance’

The European Central Bank gave a strong critique of bitcoin on Wednesday, saying the cryptocurrency is on a “road to irrelevance.”

In a blogpost titled “Bitcoin’s last stand,” ECB Director General Ulrich Bindseil and Analyst Jürgen Schaff said that, for bitcoin’s proponents, the apparent stabilization in its price this week “signals a breather on the way to new heights.”

“More likely, however, it is an artificially induced last gasp before the road to irrelevance — and this was already foreseeable before FTX went bust and sent the bitcoin price to well below USD16,000,” they wrote.

Bitcoin topped $17,000 Wednesday, marking a two-week high for the world’s largest digital coin. However, it struggled to maintain that level, falling slightly to $16,875. Vijay Ayyar, vice president of corporate development and international at crypto exchange Luno, warned that the bounce is likely just a bear market rally and would not be sustained. “This is just a bearish retest,” he told CNBC.

The remarks from the ECB officials are timely, with the crypto industry reeling from one of its most catastrophic failures in recent history — the downfall of FTX, an exchange once valued at $32 billion. And the market has been largely down in the dumps this year amid higher interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

Bindseil and Schaff said that bitcoin didn’t fit the mold of an investment and wasn’t suitable as a means of payment, either.

“Bitcoin’s conceptual design and technological shortcomings make it questionable as a means of payment: real Bitcoin transactions are cumbersome, slow and expensive,” they wrote. “Bitcoin has never been used to any significant extent for legal real-world transactions.”

“Bitcoin is also not suitable as an investment. It does not generate cash flow (like real estate) or dividends (like equities), cannot be used productively (like commodities) or provide social benefits (like gold). The market valuation of Bitcoin is therefore based purely on speculation,” they added.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

UK: Labour leader vows to abolish House of Lords

Keir Starmer will abolish the House of Lords and replace it with a new elected chamber as part of plans to “restore trust in politics”, the Observer understands.

In a sweeping constitutional overhaul, the Labour leader has told the party’s peers that he wants to strip politicians of the power to make appointments to the Lords as part of the first-term programme of a Labour government. Starmer said that the public’s faith in the political system had been undermined by successive Tory leaders handing peerages to “lackeys and donors”.

It is understood that Labour will hold a consultation on the composition and size of a new chamber as well as immediate reforms to the current appointments process. Final proposals will be included in the party’s next election manifesto.

Read the rest here.

Interesting that there was none of this bleating when Tony Blair was packing the Lords with Labour peers during his long tenure. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022


To paraphrase Voltaire after he attended an orgy, once was an experiment, twice would be perverse.

A bruised Donald Trump announced a new presidential bid on Tuesday night, an invitation to double down on the outrages and failures of the last several years that Republicans should reject without hesitation or doubt.

To his credit, Trump killed off the Clinton dynasty in 2016, nominated and got confirmed three constitutionalist justices, reformed taxes, pushed deregulation, got control of the border, significantly degraded ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and cinched normalization deals between Israel and the Gulf states, among other things. These are achievements that even his conservative doubters and critics — including NR — can acknowledge and applaud.

That said, the Trump administration was chaotic even on its best days because of his erratic nature and lack of seriousness. He often acted as if he were a commentator on his own presidency, and issued orders on Twitter and in other off-the-cuff statements that were ignored. He repeatedly had to be talked out of disastrous ideas by his advisers and Republican elected officials. He turned on cabinet officials and aides on a dime. Trump had a limited understanding of our constitutional system, and at the end of the day, little respect for it. His inability to approximate the conduct that the public expects of a president undermined him from beginning to end.

The latter factor played an outsized role in his narrow defeat to a feeble Joe Biden in 2020 in what was a winnable race. Of course, unable to cope with the humiliation of the loss, he pursued a shameful attempt to overturn the result of the election. He didn’t come close to succeeding, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The episode ended with Trump, in a grotesque abuse of his powers, trying to bully Vice President Pence into unilaterally delaying or changing the count of electoral votes on January 6 and with an inflamed pro-Trump mob storming the Capitol while the president gave no indication that he particularly minded.

In the midst of this, he threw away two Georgia Senate seats in a fit of pique over Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger refusing to bend to his will. The resulting loss of Senate control allowed Biden to get trillions of dollars in spending that he wouldn’t have gotten otherwise and confirm large numbers of progressive judges.

Read the rest here.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Peggy Noonan on the recent election's implication for the GOP

...On the outcome as we know it: The MAGA movement and Donald Trump took it right in the face. Normal conservatives and Republicans fared well. Trump-endorsed candidates went down. Everyone knows the famous examples—Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Don Bolduc in New Hampshire, Tudor Dixon, who lost by 10 points in Michigan. All embraced Mr. Trump, some sincerely, many opportunistically, all consistently. A Hollywood director once said of pragmatic choices, and we paraphrase, that it’s one thing to temporarily reside up someone’s organ of elimination but it’s wrong to build a condo up there, people will notice and get a poor impression. That’s sort of what happened.

Less noticed so far: In Michigan, Democrats flipped both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans lost the state Senate for the first time in almost 40 years. Trump-backed candidates lost big races. The nonpartisan Bridge Michigan said the election should be “a wake-up call for the GOP to move on from Donald Trump’s obsessive quest to re-litigate his 2020 loss.” Jason Roe, a former head of the state party, said the GOP can continue to tilt at windmills or win elections, and if it does the former, “it’s gonna be a rough decade ahead of us.”

Ronna McDaniel, head of the Republican National Committee, lives in Michigan. Think she noticed?

On the other hand Team Normie pretty much flourished east to west. Gov. Chris Sununu in New Hampshire won by 15 points, Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia by more than 7, and of course Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida by nearly 20.

The weirdness of the Trump candidates—their inexperience and fixations, their air of constant yet meaningless conflict, their sheer abnormality—asked too much of voters, who said no.

On Mr. Trump himself, everything has been said, including in this space for a long time. An esteemed Tory political figure summed it up succinctly in London in August: “Donald Trump ruined the Republican Party’s brand.”

It will now stick with him or not. It will live free or die.

If, in 2024, Republicans aren’t serious about policy—about what they claim to stand for—they will pick him as their nominee. And warm themselves in the glow of the fire as he goes down in flames. If they’re serious about the things they claim to care about—crime, wokeness, etc.—they’ll choose someone else and likely win.

Read the rest here.

A few issues I see going forward. Trump is going to run. Period. His ego won't allow him not to. And with Trump, it's always about him. If he is denied the nomination, he will almost certainly reject the results and divide the party. He would rather burn the GOP to the ground than concede defeat. And yes, he can do that. He still retains a very sizeable number of supporters whose loyalty can only be described as quasi-religious. 

If he wins the nomination, he is all but certain to go down in flames. Again.

Beyond all of this, the Democrats now have a boogey man that may help them win elections for who knows how long. Trump has become their new Herbert Hoover. After his defeat in 1932, the Democrats ran against Hoover for the next 30 years, with a great deal of success. Every GOP candidate going forward is likely to be tarred as a Trumpist, irrespective of how true it is. And if they try to deny it, then they will risk the wrath of the MAGA wing of the party. 

Lastly, there is the "what if" question surrounding Trump's legal problems. By my count there are at least four criminal investigations and countless civil suits where he is either a target or a person of interest. Of the four criminal cases, one, the Manhattan DA's fraud case appears to have stalled with the DA signaling that he is not ready to pull the trigger on an indictment. The DOJ's January 6 investigation is cloaked in secrecy, and nobody seems to really know where that is going. The Fulton County DA in Georgia has indicated that she is hoping to wrap up the special grand jury by the year's end. So, if indictments are coming, that could be fairly soon. 

But Trump's greatest peril appears to lie in what is being dubbed document-gate. Even some of the most solidly trumpian commentators and legal experts are acknowledging that if the DOJ really wants to nail him, the evidence that Trump effectively stole large numbers of US government documents, including state secrets of the highest level, and repeatedly lied about it to the Feds, is overwhelming. 

And his response has not helped. The usual barrage of lies, accusations of witch-hunts (his favorite term), and official misconduct without evidence are not having much effect beyond seeming to put a chip on his shoulder and daring the DOJ to indict him. 

I think the next six months are going to be very interesting times, in the sense of the Chinese proverb. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

A short reflection on bad bishops

One Year Ago, the Crypto-Con Peaked: Since then, $2 trillion has been wiped out.

A year ago this week, investors were describing bitcoin as the future of money and ethereum as the world’s most important developer tool. Non-fungible tokens were exploding, Coinbase
 was trading at a record and the NBA’s Miami Heat was just into its first full season in the newly renamed FTX Arena.

As it turns out, that was peak crypto.

In the 12 months since bitcoin topped out at over $68,000, the two largest digital currencies have lost three-quarters of their value, collapsing alongside the riskiest tech stocks. The industry, once valued at roughly $3 trillion, now sits at around $900 billion.

Rather than acting as a hedge against inflation, which is near a 40-year high, bitcoin has proven to be another speculative asset that bubbles up when the evangelists are behind it and plunges when enthusiasm melts and investors get scared.

And the $135 million that FTX spent last year for a 19-year deal with the Heat? The crypto exchange with the naming rights is poised to land in the history books alongside another brand that once had its logo on a sports facility: Enron.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Quote of the day...

“I don’t watch Game of Thrones. I certainly don’t want to play it at work.”

-Marianne Fogarty former Chief Compliance Officer at Twitter who resigned today

Monday, November 07, 2022

The Big One is Coming and the US Military Isn't Ready

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine revealed the fading power of America’s military deterrent, a fact that too few of our leaders seem willing to admit in public. So it is encouraging to hear a senior flag officer acknowledge the danger in a way that we hope is the start of a campaign to educate the American public.

“This Ukraine crisis that we’re in right now, this is just the warmup,” Navy Admiral Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said this week at a conference. “The big one is coming. And it isn’t going to be very long before we’re going to get tested in ways that we haven’t been tested” for “a long time.”

How bad is it? Well, the admiral said, “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking. It is sinking slowly, but it is sinking, as fundamentally they are putting capability in the field faster than we are.” Sinking slowly is hardly a consolation. As “those curves keep going,” it won’t matter “how good our commanders are, or how good our horses are—we’re not going to have enough of them. And that is a very near-term problem.”

Note that modifier “near-term.” This is a more urgent vulnerability than most of the political class cares to recognize.

Adm. Richard noted that America retains an advantage in submarines—“maybe the only true asymmetric advantage we still have”—but even that may erode unless America picks up the pace “getting our maintenance problems fixed, getting new construction going.” Building three Virginia-class fast-attack submarines a year would be a good place to start.

The news last year that China tested a hypersonic missile that flew around the world and landed at home should have raised more alarms than it did. It means China can put any U.S. city or facility at risk and perhaps without being detected. The fact that the test took the U.S. by surprise and that it surpassed America’s hypersonic capabilities makes it worse. How we lost the hypersonic race to China and Russia deserves hearings in Congress.

Read the rest here

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Man of God

Well worth watching and highly recommended. Unfortunately, I can't embed the video. But you can watch it here.

Friday, November 04, 2022

A Royal Zinger

‘With its raw, unflinching honesty, Spare is a landmark publication full of insight, revelation, self-examination and hard-won wisdom about the eternal power of love over grief.’ This prepublication blurb for Prince Harry’s forthcoming memoir – a friend thinks that Entitled would have been a better title than Spare – could hardly promise more.

Yet while it’s likely to be better than many celebrity memoirs – Penguin have employed JR Moehringer, who ghosted Andre Agassi’s excellent Open, to do the writing – it’s hard to know why the rest of the royal family are reportedly so nervous about its contents. Unless he’s going to spill the beans on their various sexual preferences. Because everything else Harry is likely to say we already know. That his father was a bit emotionally remote, he was deeply affected by the death of his mother, he lost his way in his 20s, he deeply regrets dressing up in Nazi uniform, Meghan taught him how to love again, various members of the royal family are a bit racist, Prince William has turned against him, he loves his rescue battery hens and he was very hurt not to be allowed to wear military uniform at the Queen’s funeral comes as no surprise.

Unless I’m missing something, what really would be a revelation would be for Harry to admit that, all things considered, he’s led a rather cushy, privileged life and if one of the worst things that happened to him was that he was born only second in line to the throne, then he might have done better not to have taken a reported £20m for a four-book deal – does anyone want to read Harry on leadership and wellness? – and to have sucked it up and not made such a fuss.

FWIW: My views on the royal brat can be found here.

You Can Thank the Fed for Boosting the Powerball Jackpot

The Federal Reserve is boosting the Powerball jackpot without even buying a ticket.

Since there was no winner in Wednesday night’s drawing, the Powerball prize rose to $1.5 billion, the third-largest lottery jackpot in U.S. history. It is a substantially bigger prize than a year ago, before the Fed began raising interest rates this year to tame inflation. That is because the advertised jackpot is the future value of the prize after being invested in government bonds over 30 years.

Higher interest rates mean bigger lottery jackpots. Larger prizes tend to entice more people to buy tickets, said J. Bret Toyne, executive director of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which runs Powerball.

“While some businesses might suffer from rising interest rates, for lottery games that have annuity for the prizes, it is more of a tailwind,” he said.

Here is how it works: 34% of Powerball ticket sales fund the big jackpot, said Mr. Toyne, with another 16% going to the lower-tier prizes. (The other 50% goes to various state programs, operating costs, and retailer commissions.) If a winner chooses a lump sum payout, the person gets that 34%. If instead the person takes the jackpot in annual payments over 30 years, the prize money is invested in a portfolio of bonds.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday lifted interest rates by another 0.75 percentage point in Chairman Jerome Powell’s quest to tamp down inflation. The central bank’s benchmark federal-funds rate now sits in a range between 3.75% and 4%.

For the next drawing Saturday, the cash set to be available in the jackpot is more than $745 million, according to Powerball. That would be the lump-sum prize. But lottery officials advertised the total jackpot as $1.5 billion, the estimated value of the bond investments.

No winner has chosen the annuity since 2014, according to lottery records.

Economists say it is better for winners to take the lump sum so they can invest it with the intention of earning a better return on the cash. The potential downside of choosing the lump sum over annual payments is the greater risk of losing the money.

“The advertised jackpot is kind of a deception,” said Victor Matheson, an economics professor at College of the Holy Cross.

Still, the allure of a 10-figure jackpot has drawn in more bettors.

Economists who have researched lotteries say that once jackpots reach around $500 million, non-regular lottery players are more likely to jump into the game. That figure is also the value that tends to draw increased media attention.

Read the rest here.

The lottery is of course, a racket. But it can be amusing. For a couple bucks you can daydream about what you would do with an unimaginable amount of money. That said, the annuity is an advertising gimmick. The true value of the lottery is always the current cash value (before taxes). 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Seasonal entertainment

In case anyone is in the mood for a good chiller, I can reccomend this classic from 1977. The BBC adaptation starring the late Louis Jourdan is widely regarded as the most faithful to the original work by Bram Stoker.

Monday, October 24, 2022

UK: Most children who think they’re transgender are just going through a ‘phase’

Most children who believe that they are transgender are just going through a “phase”, the NHS has said, as it warns that doctors should not encourage them to change their names and pronouns.

NHS England has announced plans for tightening controls on the treatment of under 18s questioning their gender, including a ban on prescribing puberty blockers outside of strict clinical trials.

The services, which will replace the controversial Tavistock clinic, will be led by medical doctors rather than therapists and will consider the impact of other conditions such as autism and mental health issues.

The plans, which are currently under public consultation, are for an interim service for young people with gender dysphoria whilst Dr Hilary Cass continues her review into the treatment offered by the NHS.

They note that there is a need to change the services because there is currently “scarce and inconclusive evidence to support clinical decision-making”.

NHS England says that the interim Cass Report has advised that even social transition, such as changing a young person’s name and pronouns or the way that they dress, is not a “neutral act” that could have “significant effects” in terms of “psychological functioning”.

Parent groups and professionals have long raised concerns that NHS medics have taken an “affirmative” approach to treating children, including using their preferred names and pronouns.

The proposals say that the new clinical approach will for younger children “reflect evidence that in most cases gender incongruence does not persist into adolescence” and doctors should be mindful this might be a “transient phase”.

Instead of encouraging transition, medics should take “a watchful approach” to see how a young person’s conditions develop, the plans state.

Read the rest here. (paywalled)

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Rishi Sunak Likely to be the Next Prime Minister of the UK

It appears that he has all but locked it up and will be the fifth PM in the last six years (if you're keeping track). On which note; the Conservatives better get their act together. When people are making unfavorable comparisons between your party's track record of governance and Italy, that's not a great look. A general election must be called not later than two years from now. And according to current polls, if that election were being held in the here and now, the Tories would be in for a severe thumping. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Trump Signed Sworn Statement After Lawyers Warned It Was False

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the release of emails from John Eastman, a former Donald Trump attorney, to House investigators, saying the communications were made in furtherance of a crime related to Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election.

“The emails show that President Trump knew that the specific numbers of voter fraud were wrong but continued to tout those numbers, both in court and to the public,” Judge David O. Carter wrote.

“The Court finds that these emails are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the United States,” he added.

Carter, who sits on the federal district court in central California, already released many of Eastman’s emails from around January 2021 to the House select committee investigating the US Capitol attack, but the two sides were still arguing over 562 additional documents from Eastman’s Chapman University email account.

For eight of the 500-plus Eastman documents the judge was examining, the judge said that the materials could be released because they fit in the so-called crime-fraud exception, which allows disclosure of otherwise privileged materials if the communications were related to or in furtherance of illegal or fraudulent conduct.

Four of the documents were from email threads discussing prospective election litigation. In them, Carter wrote, “Dr. Eastman and other attorneys suggest that – irrespective of the merits – the primary goal of filing is to delay or otherwise disrupt the January 6 vote.”

Carter’s new order cited one email where Trump’s attorneys state that “merely having this case pending in the Supreme Court, and not ruled on, may be enough to delay consideration of Georgia.”

“This email, read in context with other documents in this review, make clear that President Trump filed certain lawsuits not to obtain legal relief, but to disrupt or delay the January 6 congressional proceedings through the courts,” the ruling stated.

“The Court finds that these four documents are sufficiently related to and in furtherance of the obstruction crime,” it adds.

Read the rest here.
(I was going to link this news item at Fox News, but as of this posting Fox does not appear to be covering the story.)

Monday, October 17, 2022

Supreme Court Leaves Controversial "Insular Cases" Intact

The Supreme Court on Monday declined to consider whether American Samoans have full U.S. citizenship at birth, a dispute that would have given the justices the opportunity to repudiate past rulings suffused with racist language that helped determine that those in U.S. territories would not have the same rights as other Americans.

A group of American Samoans challenging the current law, in which people from the group of islands in the Pacific Ocean are considered U.S. “nationals” at birth but not citizens, say it is a vestige of racist policies toward territories. They say that the Justice Department, in defending the law, and an appeals court, in upholding it, relied upon the so-called “Insular Cases,” a series of long-criticized early 20th century Supreme Court rulings. The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case means the lower court ruling remains in place.

The challenge was brought by three American Samoans who live in Utah: John Fitisemanu, Pale Tuli, and Rosavita Tuli, as well as the Southern Utah Pacific Island Coalition, an advocacy group based in Utah.

“The subordinate, inferior non-citizen National status relegates American Samoans to second-class participation in the Republic," the challengers’ lawyers say in court papers. They note for example, that U.S. nationals cannot run for president or serve in Congress. If living in a state, they cannot vote and are barred from certain occupations.

U.S. nationals can live and work anywhere within the United States and can travel under a U.S. passport, although the challengers’ lawyers note that their passports include a statement saying “NOT A UNITED STATES CITIZEN,” which they say carries a stigma. U.S. nationals can apply for full U.S. citizenship via an expedited process.

American Samoa, with a population of around 50,000, is one of five U.S. territories, the others being Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and the Norther Mariana Islands. Puerto Rico, with about 3 million residents, is by the far the largest by population.

American Samoa is the only territory to which Congress has not extended birthright citizenship. No residents of territories can vote in presidential elections or elect voting members to Congress.

The Insular Cases were a series of rulings issued in the 1900s soon after the United States had acquired Puerto Rico and other territories in which the court said people in those jurisdictions did not have all the same constitutional rights as those living in the mainland.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

"It was as if time stood still."

(CNN) — For years, several vintage Orient Express train carriages lay, forgotten, at a small railway station on the border between Poland and Belarus called Malaszwewicze.

One day in 2015, French railway fan Arthur Mettetal spotted the distinctive blue carriages in a YouTube video, kickstarting a journey across Europe to track down the lost trains.

Hospitality group Accor purchased the rediscovered carriages and enlisted Parisian architect Maxime d'Angeac to meticulously restore them, ready for operation on a Paris to Istanbul rail route that's set to operate from 2025.

The first glimpse of the renovated interiors suggest a glamorous travel experience combining Art Deco glamor with modern luxury.

Read the rest here with images

Sunday, October 09, 2022

Orwellian Synodality

Been a while since I've posted anything touching on Rome. The main reason being that the news from that quarter is almost invariably depressing. That said, I think this is worth a read. 

HT: Fr. Z

Industrial-scale destruction of Ukrainian culture

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The exquisite golden tiara, inlaid with precious stones by master craftsmen some 1,500 years ago, was one of the world’s most valuable artifacts from the blood-letting rule of Attila the Hun, who rampaged with horseback warriors deep into Europe in the 5th century.

The Hun diadem is now vanished from the museum in Ukraine that housed it — perhaps, historians fear, forever. Russian troops carted away the priceless crown and a hoard of other treasures after capturing the Ukrainian city of Melitopol in February, museum authorities say.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine, now in its eighth month, is being accompanied by the destruction and pillaging of historical sites and treasures on an industrial scale, Ukrainian authorities say.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukraine’s culture minister alleged that Russian soldiers helped themselves to artifacts in almost 40 Ukrainian museums. The looting and destruction of cultural sites has caused losses estimated in the hundreds of millions of euros (dollars), the minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, added.

“The attitude of Russians toward Ukrainian culture heritage is a war crime,” he said.

For the moment, Ukraine’s government and its Western backers supplying weapons are mostly focused on defeating Russia on the battlefield. But if and when peace returns, the preservation of Ukrainian collections of art, history and culture also will be vital, so survivors of the war can begin the next fight: rebuilding their lives.

“These are museums, historical buildings, churches. Everything that was built and created by generations of Ukrainians,” Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, said in September when she visited a Ukrainian museum in New York. “This is a war against our identity.”

Workers at the Museum of Local History in Melitopol first tried hiding the Hun diadem and hundreds of other treasures when Russian troops stormed the southern city. But after weeks of repeated searches, Russian soldiers finally discovered the building’s secret basement where staff had squirrelled away the museum’s most precious objects — including the Hun diadem, according to a museum worker.

The worker, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, fearing Russian punishment for even discussing the events, said the Ukrainians don’t know where Russian troops took the haul, which included the tiara and some 1,700 other artifacts.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 08, 2022

Charles plans drastically slimmed down coronation

For those hoping for a long day of pomp and pageantry, you are likely to be greatly disappointed.

  • The service is to be slimmed down from four hours to roughly one.
  • The guest list is being reduced from around 8000 to 2000.
  • Numerous ancient rituals are being given the axe.
  • The dress code is to be greatly relaxed. Gone are the elaborate ermine coronation robes, full court dress with knee britches and knickers for men and tiaras for the ladies. It's not going to be jeans and T shirts. But lounge suits are expected to be the order of the day.
  • No specially commissioned furniture for the affair. Simple chairs and benches will do.
  • Less Anglican ritual and a more ecumenical and culturally diverse service is in the planning.
  • The language of the ceremony is being radically updated into modern English in order to be more accessible to the people. Why does that sound painfully familiar?
Some of the core parts of the ceremony are being preserved. 
  • The King will still be anointed and receive the symbols of the throne, i.e., orb and sceptre and Charles will still be crowned along with the Queen Consort.
  • Charles will still vow to serve as defender of the faith (not faiths as has been rumored).
  • The gold state coach commissioned for the coronation of George II will be brought out for the occasion. 
All in all, if these reports are proven true, I will be deeply disappointed. 

Final Update

Neighbors reported that power came back on late this afternoon. Lots of debris and long lines. But the clean-up is progressing. I am visiting family for a few weeks and won't be returning to Florida before November, circumstances depending. 

Friday, September 30, 2022

IAN: Update #3 or 4

I am still in Pensacola but am planning to leave tomorrow. I have gotten word that, miraculously, the house is still there with only very limited damage. The yard and roof are covered in debris and tree branches. The back of the house has a pine tree on it, but the roof held and there is no evidence of water damage or leakage. Part of the handrail by the front door is missing. Unfortunately, the surrounding area did not fare so well. I am sure everyone reading this has seen the devastation on the news. My community is tucked just north of Ft Myers and east of Cape Coral. And the entirety of the county looks like a war zone. The barrier islands look like Hiroshima after the bomb. I am told that huge numbers of people refused to evacuate. I expect that as they begin clearing the piles of debris that were once multi-story beach houses and businesses that they are going to start finding bodies. In some cases, the bodies will not be found as they were likely swept into the Gulf of Mexico. There is almost no power in Lee County not being supplied by emergency generators. Many roads are impassable due to debris and or flood waters. Gas is scarce to non-existent in the area and along much of the I 75 corridor. Given the current situation my plan is to head north and stay with family until it is safe to head back, which could be weeks. That said, I and all of my relatives are safe and nobody is homeless. Deo Gratias. I wish I could say the same for everybody else. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Direct Hit

The eye of the hurricane just passed over where my house is (was?). Won't know the extent of the damage for a few days at the least. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Ian update 2

I am holed up in a hotel in Pensacola awaiting developments. My home is near Ft Myers, so yeah. Hoping for the best but bracing for bad news. Maybe very bad news. 

Saturday, September 24, 2022

IAN (Updated)

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.

UPDATE: Sunday 23:46 Eastern

It's looking pretty bad. I am bugging out tomorrow (Monday).

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


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. 


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.
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?


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. 


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.