Friday, September 17, 2021

France recalls its ambassador as anger with Biden grows

PARIS (AP) — France said late Friday it was immediately recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after Australia scrapped a big French conventional submarine purchase in favor of nuclear subs built with U.S. technology.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a written statement that the French decision, on request from President Emmanuel Macron, “is justified by the exceptional seriousness of the announcements” made by Australia and the United States.

He said Wednesday’s announcement of Australia’s submarine deal with the U.S. is “unacceptable behavior between allies and partners.”

Earlier Friday, a top French diplomat spoke of a “crisis” in relations with the U.S.

The diplomat, who spoke anonymously in line with customary government practice, said that for Paris “this is a strategic question concerning the very nature of the relationship between Europe and the United States about the Indo-Pacific strategy.”

He would not speculate on the effects the situation would have on France’s relationship with the U.S. “There’s a crisis,” he stressed.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

If Francis can abolish the ancient liturgical rites of the West; why can't (or wouldn't) he do the same to the East?

I am not going to excerpt this piece but rather encourage reading it in its entirety here. The implications of the pope's recent decree that comes dangerously close to the outright suppression of the Latin Church's 1500 year old liturgical patrimony, are breathtaking. Setting aside the obvious lack of prudence in Francis' decree, the suggestion that it is even within the legitimate powers of his office to do such a thing, should bring any talk of restoration of communion with Rome to a screeching halt. 

HT: Blog reader John L. 

P.S. This comment received via email... 

I'm surprised that Geoffrey Hull, the author of "The Banished Heart," hadn't gone full Byzantine - his entire thesis is that Rome had destroyed or mutilated every one of the liturgies of its non-Latin "sui iuris" churches long before Vatican II and the 1970 "reforms".

Monday, September 13, 2021

Noted Apostate John Shelby Spong has Died

Kyrie eleison.

Vigil for the Exaltation of the Precious Cross

The Coronation of Pope John XXIII

Rare film footage from RAI of the coronation of Pope John XXIII, the second to last pope to observe the thousand year old custom. Appx 2 hrs 45 mins with naration in Italian.

Didn't I see this in a movie?

Ten thousand years after woolly mammoths vanished from the face of the Earth, scientists are embarking on an ambitious project to bring the beasts back to the Arctic tundra.

The prospect of recreating mammoths and returning them to the wild has been discussed – seriously at times – for more than a decade, but on Monday researchers announced fresh funding they believe could make their dream a reality.

The boost comes in the form of $15m (£11m) raised by the bioscience and genetics company Colossal, co-founded by Ben Lamm, a tech and software entrepreneur, and George Church, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School who has pioneered new approaches to gene editing.

The scientists have set their initial sights on creating an elephant-mammoth hybrid by making embryos in the laboratory that carry mammoth DNA. The starting point for the project involves taking skin cells from Asian elephants, which are threatened with extinction, and reprogramming them into more versatile stem cells that carry mammoth DNA. The particular genes that are responsible for mammoth hair, insulating fat layers and other cold climate adaptions are identified by comparing mammoth genomes extracted from animals recovered from the permafrost with those from the related Asian elephants.

These embryos would then be carried to term in a surrogate mother or potentially in an artificial womb. If all goes to plan – and the hurdles are far from trivial – the researchers hope to have their first set of calves in six years.

“Our goal is to make a cold-resistant elephant, but it is going to look and behave like a mammoth. Not because we are trying to trick anybody, but because we want something that is functionally equivalent to the mammoth, that will enjoy its time at -40C, and do all the things that elephants and mammoths do, in particular knocking down trees,” Church told the Guardian.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Covid 19 has become a pandemic of the willing

They are the new 99 percenters — the vast majority of Americans who are getting serious cases of COVID-19 or dying are unvaccinated.

While COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the US, the overwhelming majority of deaths and hospitalizations from the virus continue to overwhelmingly be among unvaccinated Americans, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30, about 99 percent of hospital admissions were among those who hadn’t been fully inoculated, which is defined by the CDC as two weeks after the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna shot or two weeks after Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose jab.

As of Aug. 30, a little over 1.6 million Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 — but only about 0.65 percent of them, or 10,471 patients, were fully vaccinated, the CDC data show.

Read the rest here.

Sad news

Via Byzantine Texas word that the parish priest of St. Elizabeth Church, Chesterton IN died very suddenly this last Sunday. In your charity please keep Fr. Anastasy (Stacey) Richter and his family, now in deep mourning, in your prayers. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family here.

Memory eternal!

Bonds (more)

The GOP is once again threatening the US Government with default on its debt by refusing to authorize the routine increase in the debt limit. (One notes they only seem to rediscover their concerns about spiraling debt when Democrats are in power.)  It should go without saying that if they ever actually follow through with their threats, the consequences could be catastrophic

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Bonds? Just say 'no.'

Record low interest rates on riskier corporate bonds are prompting money managers to look far afield in a bid to boost returns.

Faced with yields once reserved for the safest types of government debt, some managers of speculative-grade bond funds are piling into debt with rock-bottom credit ratings. Others are buying smaller, more obscure securities that carry higher yields because they can be hard to sell.

No strategy is likely to be entirely satisfying because of the recent low-rate environment. The average speculative-grade U.S. corporate bond yield reached as low as 3.53% this summer, more than a percentage point lower than it had reached at any time before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Bloomberg Barclays data stretching back to 1995. The average extra yield, or spread, that investors demand to hold low-rated bonds instead of ultrasafe Treasurys is near a record low.

Low yields present challenges to all fixed-income investors, including those who buy higher-quality, investment-grade bonds. Low yields cause particular anxiety for high-yield-fund managers, given that buying the wrong bonds can mean dealing with defaults and drawn-out bankruptcies, not just lagging behind benchmark returns.

An informed client is “more tolerant and they understand that this is the kind of market you almost want your manager to underperform,” said David Knutson, head of credit research for the Americas at Schroders, the U.K. asset- management firm.

Still, he said, there are broad pressures on managers to outperform their benchmarks. Accordingly, for much of the year, many have been piling into the lowest-rated speculative-grade bonds—those rated triple-C or lower. This buying spree has driven yields down so far that purchasers have rarely been compensated less for taking risk.

At the start of the year, investors could obtain 2.79 percentage points of additional spread by buying triple-C bonds rather than those rated one tier higher. By July, that was down to 1.51 percentage points—the lowest over the past 20 years other than a brief period in 2007.

Read the rest here.

My response to all of this is "just say no." After years, arguably decades of aggressive government manipulation of interest rates to its own advantage, causing huge distortions in the broader financial markets, we have reached a point where we can make a few observations...
  • The Untied States Government is running levels of debt as a percentage of GDP that have no historical precedent.
  • The government is, and has been for years. forcing down interest rates in the bond market, thereby facilitating the government's unrelenting apatite for debt.
  • The government is printing money like water.
  • The government is spending hundreds of billions of that newly created money to buy its own bonds, at hugely depressed rates.
  • All of the newly created money, in combination with the largest ever peacetime expansion of government spending, is sparking a sharp uptick in inflation, to the point that...
  • Bonds now carry a de facto negative yield, no matter the credit quality or the duration of the bonds in question. This means that if you are buying a ten year US Government bond, currently yielding around 1.3%, with inflation at 5.4% as of July 2021, you are taking a 4% loss in the value of your investment right out the door as a consequence of currency debasement and lost purchasing power. Or, to put it in plain English, you are paying the Federal Government around 4% for the privilege of lending them money. In order to avoid a loss on that bond before it matures in ten years, inflation would have to drop to near zero or actually go negative for a prolonged period of time.
  • The technical term for what we are seeing is financial repression. In this economic environment savers and those investing in fixed income securities are all but guaranteed to lose money when adjusting for inflation. 
Broadly speaking; my view is that bonds have become exactly what they are not supposed to be, i.e. high risk and no return. That's not something I am interested in. 

(In the interest of full disclosure, I have almost no holding in bonds or any other fixed income securities.)

This raises a lot of questions, like where to invest or even just park money that you don't want to lose value? The stock market has been booming, the S&P 500 seems to be setting new records near daily, which makes me nervous. Valuations are also at all time highs as measured by the price to earnings multiple. A lot of this is likely investors looking for something with actual value that won't be crushed by all the money printing. Though some is also undoubtedly a response to the improvements in the economy after last year. But the stock market is fickle and what it gives it can take away with often breathtaking speed and brutality. 

For now I'd look at hard assets in preference to bonds. Real estate/land, commodities, and precious metals. Right now I'd take gold over a 30 year US bond any day of the week and twice on Sunday. 

But, unless you are anticipating a long term deflationary depression, in which case anyone buying bonds right now will look like a financial genius in five years; I don't see a realistic argument for owning securities that start losing value from day one, and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. If/when bond yields are allowed to rise a few percentage points above inflation I may reconsider. But until then buying bonds as an investment or to save money is a bit like buying a car, and hoping you will be able to resell it in ten years for what you paid for it today. 

Of course if inflation gets bad enough, that might be possible, on paper. 

Friday, September 03, 2021

Anglican Bishop Swims the Tiber

A Church of England bishop who opposed women priests has defected to the Roman Catholic church amid speculation it was not “spiritual” or “orthodox” enough for him. 

Bishop Jonathan Goodall, the Bishop of Ebbsfleet, has been a provincial episcopal visitor, known as a “flying bishop”, since 2013, supporting congregations in the Church of England that are unable to accept the ministry of women as priests or bishops.

However, on Friday afternoon he announced that “after a long period of prayer, which has been among the most testing periods of my life”, he was quitting to defect to Catholicism. 

The exact reasons for his departure remain unknown. However, a source close to the Bishop, who has been away on retreat until this week, claimed that he was unhappy with the direction of the Church regarding its spirituality, orthodoxy and allowing of same-sex unions. 

Read the rest here

Idaho's medical system is on the brink of collapse

The state has one of the lowest vaccination rates and hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are preparing to ration care based on the likelihood of survival.

Thursday, September 02, 2021

Travelogue: Europe to Dutch Colony in the 1920s

Absolutely stunning film footage shot in the mid to late1920s during a trip by sea from Holland to the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). Lots of stops along the way. This is part 1 which gets us as far as Singapore. The footage has been stabilized, speed corrected and colorized. 

In 5:4 Ruling The Supreme Court Signals Roe v Wade's End May be Near

It's shortly after midnight on the east coast and the Supreme Court just broke its silence on the Texas abortion law that prohibits almost all abortions after the first six weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions outside of a threat to the mother's life. In a 5/4 decision the court has declined to block enforcement of the new law. Given that the law flatly violates the 1973 decision Roe v Wade, by which the court amended the US Constitution to establish an unrestricted right to abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, it's hard not to see this as a strong signal that there are now five justices ready to reverse, or at least severely narrow Roe.

Deo volente.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

For History Enthusiasts

In general I eschew promotion or endorsements on the blog but I am going to make an exception here and respectfully call your attention to the TimeGhost history channel on YouTube. Among the various items they are producing is a weekly as it happened history of World War II. Currently we are entering September of 1942. There are several subseries covering various aspects of the war in greater detail. They also have produced a number of short series covering other topics such as the Indonesian War for Independence, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and their ongoing series covering the interwar decades. You can peruse their previous uploaded videos and subscribe to their channels at the links above. I have been consistently impressed by the quality and quantity of the material they put out, to the extent they are one of just a handful of YouTube channels I support via Patreon. 

I now return you to your normally scheduled, whatever it is you do at this time of the day. 

Monday, August 30, 2021

China Severely Restricts Video Game Play by Children

Kids and teens under 18 years old in China will only be allowed up to three hours per week to play online video games, according to new rules published by China’s National Press and Publication Administration Monday.

The move is a fresh blow to the country’s gaming giants from Tencent to NetEase which have dealt with an onslaught of regulation this year in areas from anti-monopoly to data protection. That has spooked investors and wiped billions of dollars of value off of Chinese tech stocks.

According to a translated notice about the new rules, people under 18 in China will be allowed one hour a day between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Fridays through Sundays and on legal holidays to play video games. The agency billed the rules as a way to safeguard children’s physical and mental health.

The rules will apply to companies providing online game services to minors, limiting their ability to serve those users outside of designated hours. The companies also will not be allowed to provide services to users who haven’t logged in with real-name registration, preventing them from simply remaining ignorant to their users’ backgrounds.

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Congressional Budget Office Forecasts Highest Debt:GDP Ratio Since World War II

The most recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast is projecting government debt levels in the U.S. not seen since World War II. According to a CBO report released on July 21:

“After all the government’s borrowing needs are accounted for, debt held by the public rises from $21.0 trillion at the end of 2020 to $35.8 trillion at the end of 2031 in CBO’s baseline projections. As a percentage of GDP, debt at the end of 2031 stands at 106 percent, about 6 percentage points higher than it was at the end of 2020 and nearly two and a half times its average over the past 50 years.”

As for the federal budget deficit as a share of GDP, things aren’t looking good there either according to CBO forecasts:

“CBO projects a federal budget deficit of $3.0 trillion in 2021 as the economic disruption caused by the 2020–2021 coronavirus pandemic and the legislation enacted in response continue to boost the deficit (which was large by historical standards even before the pandemic). At 13.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), the deficit in 2021 would be the second largest since 1945, exceeded only by the 14.9 percent shortfall recorded last year.”

Growing levels of national debt and deficits are never good news but they are particularly troublesome when the rosy forecasts for GDP growth this year have started to dim as a result of the economic hit coming from the upsurge in the Delta variant of COVID-19.

On August 19, Goldman Sachs reduced their GDP estimate for the third quarter from a robust 9 percent to 5.5 percent. Goldman Sachs cited Delta’s impact on reduced consumer spending on “dining, travel, and some other services” as the reason for their sharp cut of 3.5 points from their earlier GDP forecast.

Read the rest here.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Gundlach: We're running our economy 'like we're not interested in maintaining global reserve currency status'

Billionaire bond investor Jeffrey Gundlach, the founder and CEO of $137 billion DoubleLine Capital, says his number one conviction over several years is that the U.S. dollar will decline as a consequence of current economic policies, resulting in the U.S. losing its sole reserve currency status.

"My number one conviction looking forward a number of years — I'm not talking about the next few months at all, I'm talking about several years — is that the dollar is going to go down," Gundlach told Yahoo Finance Live in an exclusive interview on Monday afternoon.

It's Gundlach's view that the "places to be in the long-term" are emerging markets and "non-U.S entities." While Gundlach has already rotated into European equities, the investor expects to "aggressively rotate into emerging markets," but notes it's "too early for that right now."

"So the dollar is going down is another reason why ultimately — we touched on gold — I think ultimately gold is going to go a lot higher, but it's really in hibernation right now," he added.

The 61-year-old "Bond King" later highlighted that the United States' status of the global reserve currency is in jeopardy.

"[The] U.S. has enjoyed the status of sole reserve currency globally for decades, and it's an incredible benefit," Gundlach said.

Read the rest here.

The Power of Holy Relics

The mentally ill and those suspected of possible possession are blessed with the incorrupt relics of Saint Gerasimus of Kefalonia.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Black Ribbon Day

August 23 is the International Day of Commemoration for the Victims of Totalitarian Regimes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Palantir bought $50 million in gold bars in August

While some companies such as Tesla are diversifying into bitcoin, data analytics software company Palantir is betting on gold. Palantir bought $50 million in gold bars in August, the company disclosed in its latest earnings statement.

The move reflects a growing company stashing cash in an unconventional asset in response to economic uncertainty spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and governments’ response to it.

Read the rest here.

Court sides with religious health care workers

A federal judge has issued a permanent injunction on behalf of religious health care providers who feared the Biden administration would interpret the Affordable Care Act as requiring them to perform abortions or gender-transition treatment against their conscience.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had argued that it doesn't require religious providers to offer such procedures and has never brought or threatened any enforcement activity against a religious entity in such a case.

But U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor interpreted HHS regulations as forcing the plaintiffs — a Catholic hospital system in the Midwest and a Christian medical association — to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood, resulting in “irreparable injury.”

The decision underscores a continued dispute between conservative religious health care providers and HHS over an issue that has generated a patchwork of rulings that will likely have to be sorted out by appellate courts.

Read the rest here.