Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Crypto’s gold standard claims are fading fast

The US-focused shakeout in financial markets has at least given us clarity on one point: bitcoin is not “digital gold” or a “store of value”, to mention two grand claims made about the cryptocurrency when its price was going up.

At $37,000, the late-afternoon level on Tuesday, bitcoin has fallen by 22% since the start of January and by 45% since recording an all-time high in early November. The crypto crew may have convoluted explanations for this setback, but the simplest one is best: bitcoin has always primarily been an instrument for pure speculation; when high-risk assets are out of favour, it will be clobbered.

If anything, bitcoin is behaving like a souped-up proxy for the technology-heavy Nasdaq index in the US, down 14% since the start of 2022. So the parallel claim about “uncorrelated returns” doesn’t stack up either.

Meanwhile actual gold, a real store of value on the evidence of a few thousand years, has been doing roughly what it is supposed to do during an inflation scare: it has fluttered sideways to gently upwards over the past few months.

None of which precludes the possibility that bitcoin will rally when risk-taking appetites recover. But, if that happens, please let’s not hear a reheated version of the thesis (pushed by a Goldman Sachs strategist, bizarrely, only a few weeks ago) that bitcoin is competing with gold in “the store of value market” and thus could hit $100,000 if it grabs a 50% share.

Come on, cryptocurrencies are not playing on the same pitch, asset-wise, as gold – and one doubts they ever will.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Quote of the day...

Important “the West needs to remember that our bishops do not derive their authority from the pope. They are not the Vatican’s regional managers. They are Successors to the Apostles in their own right. They have their own teaching authority. They are the shepherds of their sheep”

See also this.

Friday, January 21, 2022

Crypto Crash

The latest (as of posting time) in the seemingly endless chain of crashes, punctuated by suckers rallies in the crypto markets. Bitcoin down -14%, Etherium -18%, Ripple -15%, Litecoin -17% since midnight.  

Friday, January 14, 2022

Russia reportedly preparing false flag operations in Ukraine

The US has information that indicates Russia has prepositioned a group of operatives to conduct a false-flag operation in eastern Ukraine, a US official told CNN on Friday, in an attempt to create a pretext for an invasion.

The official said the US has evidence that the operatives are trained in urban warfare and in using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against Russia's own proxy forces.

The allegation echoes a statement released by Ukraine's Ministry of Defense on Friday, which said that Russian special services are preparing provocations against Russian forces in an attempt to frame Ukraine. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hinted at the intelligence during a briefing with reporters on Thursday.

"Our intelligence community has developed information, which has now been downgraded, that Russia is laying the groundwork to have the option of fabricating the pretext for an invasion," Sullivan said on Thursday. "We saw this playbook in 2014. They are preparing this playbook again and we will have, the administration will have, further details on what we see as this potential laying of the pretext to share with the press over the course of the next 24 hours."

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement on Friday that "the military units of the aggressor country and its satellites receive orders to prepare for such provocations."

The US intelligence finding comes after a week's worth of diplomatic meetings between Russian and Western officials over Russia's amassing of tens of thousands of troops along Ukraine's border. But the talks failed to achieve any breakthroughs, as Russia would not commit to de-escalating and American and NATO officials said Moscow's demands -- including that NATO never admit Ukraine into the alliance -- were non-starters.

A number of Ukraine's governmental websites were hit by a cyberattack on Friday, a development European officials warned would ratchet up tensions over Ukraine even further.

The US official said that the Biden administration believes Russia could be preparing for an invasion into Ukraine "that may result in widespread human rights violations and war crimes should diplomacy fail to meet their objectives."

"The Russian military plans to begin these activities several weeks before a military invasion, which could begin between mid-January and mid-February," the official said. "We saw this playbook in 2014 with Crimea."

Read the rest here.

See also this related story analyzing possible military scenarios if Russia invades Ukraine. (Paywalled)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Prince Andrew is stripped of military honours and patronages

HM The Queen has stripped Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, of all his honorary military titles and royal patronages. Additionally, he is no longer permitted to use his HRH, according to an announcement from the Palace. The announcement stated that the Duke will defend himself in his current court case as a private citizen. 

I have up to now refrained from commenting on this sordid business, but I think this worth noting. My only response is that this is as welcome as it is overdue. 


Thursday, January 06, 2022

Manhattan's new DA will seek jail sentences only for 'most serious crimes'

Manhattan’s new district attorney began this week to adopt the lenient policies he campaigned on, setting the stage for potential conflict inside and outside his office as he tries to change the way criminal justice is administered in the borough.

The district attorney, Alvin Bragg, told prosecutors in his office in a memo that they should ask judges for jail or prison time only for the most serious offenses — including murder, sexual assault and economic crimes involving vast sums of money — unless the law requires them to do otherwise.

The crimes he instructed prosecutors to avoid seeking jail time for include certain robberies and assaults, as well as gun possession. He also directed that they no longer request prison sentences of more than 20 years absent “exceptional circumstances.”

Mr. Bragg’s goal is to reduce the harm the criminal justice system does to defendants, an aim he seeks to balance with the need to keep the public safe.

Although the new policies had long been expected — Mr. Bragg released a draft version during the campaign — their immediate adoption caused some confusion within his office. About 500 prosecutors must now decipher a complicated legal memo and figure out how to apply it to their active cases. Adding to the confusion is the fact that much of the office is working remotely.

The policies, which prompted an immediate backlash among conservative critics and in some law enforcement circles, may prove difficult to champion politically with New York City continuing to experience a sharp increase in murders and shootings.

In a statement, the Detective’s Endowment Association, which represents 5,000 active police detectives in the city, said the changes would “undermine the ability of the police to make arrests that lead to reduction of crime.”

James McGuire, who worked as a prosecutor in Manhattan and was chief counsel to Gov. George E. Pataki, a three-term Republican, said Mr. Bragg’s policies might bring him into conflict with other elected leaders, including Mayor Eric Adams, who ran, in part, on a law-and-order platform.

“These policies may be a challenge to the mayor and what he’s campaigned on,” Mr. McGuire said.

Asked about the district attorney on Wednesday in an interview with CBS, Mr. Adams said he knew and respected him, calling him “a great prosecutor.”

Mr. Bragg defended his plan in a Twitter thread on Wednesday.

“These policy changes not only will, in and of themselves, make us safer; they also will free up prosecutorial resources to focus on violent crime and bigger cases that make us safer,” he wrote.

In an interview before he took office, he said he had used the transition period since the election to “stress-test” the policies.

“There will be gaps and gray areas and people who don’t agree,” he said, adding that he was happy to discuss the new guidelines with members of his staff but that he would be less tolerant of “recalcitrance” on the part of prosecutors who are not interested in adhering to the underlying principles.

Mr. Bragg has also said he does not plan to prosecute some misdemeanors, including prostitution and fare evasion, that his predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had already stopped charging as crimes.

But he is adding several misdemeanors to the list, including the stand-alone charge for resisting arrest. Those who resist arrest by attacking police officers will still be charged.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, January 01, 2022

Happy New Year

So; happy new year everybody. If the blog looks a little off, or it looked really weird earlier, it's because I had a massive brain fade this morning. While tinkering a bit with the layout in preparation for adding a few links, I accidentally deleted a large chunk of the side bar. If you think you faintly heard someone from the far side of the country screaming words and phrases typically associated with angry and or drunken sailors, it was probably me. I have since discovered that blogspot does NOT cache or save earlier versions of your blog. So, I spent a good deal of my day going through the waybackmachine that, thank G-- does preserve, and manually rebuilding my sidebar one link at a time. 

Here's hoping this is not an omen for how 2022 is going to go.