Thursday, April 27, 2023

Patriarch of Moscow: Those who do not serve the country are “internal enemies”

The head of the powerful Russian Orthodox Church today described Russians who stopped serving their homeland as “internal enemies” and patriotism as one of the “greatest virtues,” state news agency Ria reported.

Patriarch Kirill is a close ally of President Vladimir Putin and has strongly supported the war in Ukraine, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions have fled their homes.

“Today our prayers are directed to our homeland, which the Lord can protect from all external and internal enemies, from all those who do not associate their lives with Russia, who are ready to make money in Russia, but were never ready to serve the homeland,” Kirill said in his sermon.

“We must instill in the world, and through the ecclesiastical sermon, love for the homeland, which is the greatest virtue,” he said in his sermon from the Archangel’s Cathedral inside the Kremlin compound in central Moscow.

Read the rest here.

Kyrill's support for Russia's war of aggression against its neighbor, and willingly turning a blind eye to the dreadful atrocities being perpetrated by the Russian government is simply scandalous. But here he is flirting with heresy through his persistent attempts to link ethno-nationalism to the Orthodox Faith. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

New England Knavery

Bat $&!# crazy idiocy from Vermont. Calvin Coolidge must be turning in his grave.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

No Posting Before Pascha

Absent something extremely serious/major there will be no blogging for the remainder of the week. I wish all of you a blessed remainder of the fast and a holy Pascha.

Paris 1900

Monday, April 10, 2023

Macron, France, and the long shadow of Édouard Daladier

French President Emmanuel Macron once again is impetuously chasing national and personal glory in the capitals of autocracies. First, he repeatedly tried appeasing Vladimir Putin at Kyiv’s territorial expense, before and after the start of the Russian president’s “special military operation” in Ukraine. Now, having failed to persuade Putin, Macron appears to be attempting to do the same by cozying up to Chinese President Xi Jinping to the detriment of Kyiv and its Western allies, including the national security of the United States.

As former U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) caustically posted on his Twitter feed on Sunday, “Why is this always the French?” Why indeed? And, why now, in the face of Moscow and Beijing’s assault on the international order, as it has existed since the end of World War II, is Macron willing to play into Russia and China’s autocratic “multipolar world” designs at the expense of global democracy?

Macron’s pursuit of his vision of European “strategic autonomy” is nothing new. Neither are his repeated failures to pull it off. For all his ambition, he keeps misreading the room, particularly when it involves Ukraine. “New NATO,” Poland especially, wants nothing to do with his grandiose concept of a France-led European “strategic autonomy.” Warsaw painfully still remembers Paris’s failed pre-World War II security guarantees.

When war broke out on Sept. 1, 1939, after Nazi Germany invaded Poland, France — despite its guarantee to march on Germany — “merely advanced five miles into the German Saarland,” where it “stopped and stayed stopped.” Poland, after the war’s end, found itself on the inside looking out at the West. Warsaw’s reward for believing in France? Decades of brutal Soviet domination.

Yet, despite repeated rejection by NATO, Macron persists. On Sunday, while aboard Cotam Unité — France’s Airbus A330 version of Air Force One — returning to Paris from a three-day state visit to China, Macron’s never-ending machinations to establish France as a “third superpower” at Europe’s expense, took a far darker and divisive turn. The French president acerbically called for Europe to cease being “America’s followers,” lest the continent get “caught up in crises that are not ours.”

Recklessly, Macron also asserted that “Europe should not follow U.S. policy over Taiwan,”  despite Taipei being increasingly under the threat of a Chinese invasion. Macron’s comments came on the heels of Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen’s visit to the U.S., where she met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and received the Hudson Institute’s Global Leadership Award. Beijing, in response, sanctioned the hosts of both events.

Macron’s self-defeating journey into the darkness of Xi’s world and oft-repeated attempts of autocratic appeasement for vainglory is evocative of James Tyrone, the lead character in Eugene O’Neill’s 1956 play, “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” Macron, like Tyrone, is a “vain actor,” seeking ever-elusive success and international standing at the expense of his NATO family. Like Tyrone ignoring his wife Mary’s drug addiction, Macron remains oblivious to that which he wishes not to see, including Putin and Xi’s addiction to autocracy on a global scale.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, April 08, 2023

Happy Easter

Wishing a blessed feast to all those celebrating the Resurection this Sunday.

The Guardian: Why don’t whales get cancer?

Read it here.

I am by no means an expert on aquatic mammals and am therefore open to correction from anyone more knowledgeable. However, I believe the rate of tobacco use among whales is low to nonexistent compared overall to humans. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Catholics brace for draconian restrictions on Traditional Latin Mass

Multiple sources, that are typically well informed about these things, are all reporting the existence of a document that if/when published by the Holy See would crush the Catholic religious orders previously blessed to the use of the old rites and might well go as far as a near total ban on the pre-Vatican II mass. 

Latest details.
HT: Dr. Tighe

New York: Good cause eviction?

...There’s no more worrisome sign of how far New York has drifted—or been steered—toward official socialism than the possibility that “Good Cause Eviction” is on the table in Albany and possibly headed toward passage. Named in the venerable progressive tradition of calling things by what they aren’t, Good Cause Eviction has nothing to do either with “good causes” or “eviction.” The legislation—the most radical version by far of similar laws in a few other jurisdictions—would give all tenants statewide perpetual rights of residence at their current rent, with increases capped at a minimal level.

What the proponents of the bill call “eviction” is an abuse of ordinary language. Eviction normally means that a tenant is forced to vacate, justly or not, a property he rents, typically for reasons of nonpayment of rent or an egregious violation of the conditions of the lease. The Good Cause Eviction law radically expands the definition of eviction to cover an increase in the rent that the tenant prefers not to pay. A tenant in an unregulated, market-rate apartment who decides to move rather than accept a 5 percent or 10 percent rent increase is, in the logic of the bill’s supporters, a victim of eviction.

Good Cause Eviction would cap rent increases at 3 percent, or 150 percent of the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is higher, in all rental units except those in small, owner-occupied buildings. Landlords would be obligated to offer tenants a renewal lease every year unless they can demonstrate that they need the unit to house themselves or a close relative.

But the costs associated with the maintenance of housing stock that is often 100 years old can be unpredictable and wildly outstrip CPI. The cost of property taxes, variable mortgage interest, insurance, heating oil, repairs, and renovations will force property owners seeking a higher rent adjustment to enter housing court to fight for an exemption from the rent-increase cap. Tenants, it may be noted, now enjoy a right to counsel in housing court, and can get a free state-funded attorney to represent them; property owners must cover the cost of their representation. The backlog in housing court is now measured in years, so landlords must be prepared to swallow costs for an extraordinary period before even getting a chance at recouping their losses.

Critics of the proposal have called it “universal rent control,” which advocates insist is not reflective of the bill’s intents or purposes. In fact, it would be more accurate to describe Good Cause Eviction as a massive power grab. If passed, the law would bring 4 million privately owned rental units across New York State under an extraordinary regulatory regime that would effectively amount to seizing ownership. It would become nearly impossible to sell these properties, at least at current valuation, because potential buyers would be constrained in their use of the buildings. Purchasing properties in undervalued neighborhoods with the intention of renovating and rehabilitating them would become an uneconomic proposition. Development would grind to a halt, as new units would immediately fall under the law.

The key sponsor of Good Cause Eviction legislation is Democratic Socialist state senator Julia Salazar, who openly champions the socialization of the housing market, even by force. Explaining the difference between a “progressive” and a “democratic socialist,” Salazar told Jacobin in 2018 that “a progressive might advocate for forcing landlords to do necessary repairs on buildings. But unless you advocate for universal rent control and frankly, eventually, the abolition of private property . . . what you’re actually doing is just kicking the can down the road.”

More recently, addressing a report that the 2019 reforms strengthening rent regulations in New York City—eliminating a “vacancy bump” allowance that let landlords rehab newly-vacant apartments and pass on part of the cost to new tenants—have resulted in as many as 60,000 apartments sitting idle because it would be uneconomic to renovate them, Salazar tweeted: “Expropriate them and allow community land trusts to acquire the properties to actually house people.”

Read the rest here.

Quote of the day...

"Steal a man's wallet and he will be poor for a week. Teach a man to day-trade and he will be poor for life." 

-A popular saying on Wall Street

Sunday, April 02, 2023

Cancelling the hecklers

Now an emeritus professor at George Washington University Law School, Banzhaf, 82, is among the most accomplished and aggressive public interest lawyers in the United States. His first legal jihad, waged in the 1960s against Big Tobacco, resulted in strict advertising restrictions on cigarettes as well as a ban on smoking in airplanes. Since then, Banzhaf has led litigious crusades against fast food chains, religious universities, and private clubs, using legal action—or the mere threat of it—to effect social change.

He’s hardly a right-wing zealot. It was Banzhaf who proposed and popularized the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate former president Richard Nixon, setting in motion the legal drama that would ultimately end his presidency. A half century later, he filed a complaint with Georgia election officials over former president Donald Trump’s 2021 call to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger—in which the former president pressured Raffensperger to overturn the state’s election results—leading to a multi-year investigation and several subpoenas.

Now, though, this self-proclaimed "legal terrorist" has set his sights on an unlikely target: the Stanford Law School students who shouted down Fifth Circuit appellate judge Kyle Duncan.

Banzhaf told Stanford earlier this month that he will file a character and fitness complaint against the students with the California state bar.

"It appears that you have not taken any steps to discipline or otherwise sanction the student violators," Banzhaf said in a letter to Jenny Martinez, the law school’s dean, who has since ruled out punishing the hecklers. As such, the complaint "will have links to video recordings of the disruption so that bar officials can judge the students’ conduct for themselves."

The California bar requires applicants to demonstrate "respect for the rights of others and for the judicial process." That means the students who disrupted Duncan—in part by telling him "we hope your daughters get raped"—could be in for a rude awakening if Banzhaf makes good on his threat.

This incident "seriously calls into question whether these students have proper temperament to practice law," Banzhaf told the Washington Free Beacon. "It is completely unacceptable to shout down any speaker—much less a federal judge—and then face no consequences."

Such statements have made Banzhaf the strange bedfellow of Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who this month urged the Texas bar to "take particular care" with graduates of Stanford Law School. The horseshoe suggests that outrage about Duncan’s treatment crosses partisan divides—and offers a blueprint to fill the disciplinary void left by other elite law schools, which have refused to punish blatant violations of their free speech policies.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

The Devastating Consequences of Russia's Miscalculations

Last June – on the day the UN gave a Ukrainian civilian casualty count of 9,931 so far in Russia’s war – I sat at the UN Human Rights Council as the Russian ambassador excoriated Israel over its latest defensive operations in Gaza. Such unjust condemnation of Israel is common fare at the Human Rights Council and we are all used to the Kremlin’s hypocrisy, but how could the Russian Federation use the council as an international platform for its anti-Western bile, despite being suspended in April last year?

In the parody of international order that is the UN, that is no more surprising than Russia’s assumption yesterday of chair of the Security Council, despite its president being indicted for war crimes. It epitomises the failure of the UN, formed to bring world powers together to maintain international peace and security. There have been more wars in the 78 years since its founding than in the equivalent period beforehand. The Security Council has failed to put any kind of brake on nuclear proliferation, with Russia’s accomplice Iran now on the cusp of becoming a nuclear state. Its impact on the war in Ukraine, the most deadly in Europe since 1945, has been zero.

The danger of the Russian Security Council presidency is more in optics than reality. Foreign Minister Lavrov can use his temporary platform to grandstand, but the inbuilt impotence of the Security Council means he can do nothing to advance Russia’s cause. With the exception of China, the other permanent members are likely to show their contempt by downgrading diplomatic representation while Russia is in the chair. Lavrov’s lack of authority in the council reflects his country’s marginalisation. The successor to a superpower – albeit a malign one – is no longer even a great power.

Its economy is flatlining and its leader, through incompetence, is systematically dismantling an army that was once so powerful that half a million US troops were permanently stationed in Europe to counter it. Russia’s demographic turmoil has long been a nightmare for Putin and all he has done is exacerbate it, as thousands of young Russians are slaughtered in Bakhmut and, according to Moscow’s media, upwards of 700,000 young men have fled the country to avoid mobilisation.

To many countries Russia is a pariah, with even its status as an armed gas station in ruins. It will probably never be able to recover from any of this and will struggle to be taken seriously – except by other rogue states who scent the opportunity to buy oil and gas at a discount, or perhaps a few fighter jets.

Yes, Moscow has nuclear weapons, and Putin never misses an opportunity to threaten to bring them into play, but he knows that China is unlikely to allow their use. That encapsulates the parlous depths that Putin has dragged his country down to. For the foreseeable future, Russia will be nothing more than a Chinese vassal. During his recent visit to Moscow, Xi Jinping’s barely-concealed disdain contrasted humiliatingly with his host’s lavish hospitality and knee-bending aggrandisement.

Read the rest here. (paywalled)