Saturday, December 04, 2021

Bitcoin Plunges (Again)

Crypto craziness was on display again with the latest huge sell off in Bitcoin, which dropped around 17% over the last 24 hrs. Yet its proponents continue to tout it as a "safe haven" for currency volatility. Meanwhile in Turkey; the lira continues its rapid decline with inflation now running around 20%. Turks are rushing to convert their money... into dollars and gold.

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Roe v Wade is on life support

Arguments today before the Supreme Court strongly suggest a majority (probably 5) of the justices are ready to reverse Roe. Chief Justice Roberts hinted at the possibility of severely curbing Roe while in theory leaving some part of it intact. He was probably thinking about limiting abortion rights to the first trimester. But it didn't sound like the other five conservative justices were interested. Seeing the writing on the wall, the three progressive justices were basically left to mourn the imminent demise of murder on demand as a judicially invented constitutional right.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Notre-Dame interior faces woke 'Disney' wreckovation

Paris' fire-ravaged Notre-Dame cathedral risks resembling a "politically correct Disneyland" under controversial plans for its renovation seen by the Daily Telegraph.

Critics have warned that the world-famous cathedral will be turned into an "experimental showroom" under plans to dramatically change the inside of the medieval building.

Under the proposed changes, confessional boxes, altars and classical sculptures will be replaced with modern art murals, and new sound and light effects to create “emotional spaces”.

There will be themed chapels on a "discovery trail", with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, while quotes from the Bible will be projected onto chapel walls in various languages, including Mandarin.

The final chapel on the trail will have a strong environmental emphasis.

“It’s as if Disney were entering Notre-Dame," said Maurice Culot, a prize-winning Paris-based architect, urbanist, theorist and critic who has seen the plans.

"What they are proposing to do to Notre-Dame would never be done to Westminster Abbey or Saint Peter’s in Rome. It’s a kind of theme park and very childish and trivial given the grandeur of the place,” he told The Telegraph.

A senior source close to the renovation said the plans risked turning the global beacon of Christianity into an “experimental showroom” that would “mutilate” the work of Viollet-le-Duc, the celebrated architect who restored the cathedral following the ravishes of the French Revolution in an effort to recapture the spirit of Medieval Christianity.

“Can you imagine the administration of the Holy See allowing something like this in the Sistine Chapel?,” said the senior source with access to the latest plans. “It would be unimaginable. We are not in an empty space here.”

“This is political correctness gone mad,” said the senior source. “They want to turn Notre-Dame into an experimental liturgical showroom that exists nowhere else whereas it should be a landmark where the slightest change must be handled with great care."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Happy Thanksgiving

 

Wishing you and yours a blessed feast. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Ireland in 1902


Remarkable film footage of the people and city of Cork in Ireland taken in 1902.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Putin Moves to Suppress Memory of Communist Atrocities and Modern Rights Groups

MOSCOW — In the days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the upheaval and uncertainty that gripped Russia were accompanied by a liberating climate of openness, in which free expression, historical examination and political dissent could flourish.

But in the two decades since Vladimir V. Putin took power, the government has steadily rolled back those rights. Mr. Putin has tamed the oligarch class, muffled the media, jailed religious groups and dissidents and suppressed political opposition.

Now Mr. Putin has set his sights on rewriting the memory of one of the most painful times in Russia’s turbulent history: the era of the gulag, when millions of Russians toiled and died, mostly in the first half of the 20th century. Russian prosecutors are moving to liquidate the archive and human rights center of Memorial International, the country’s most prominent human rights organization, which is dedicated to the remembrance of those who were persecuted by the Soviet Union’s often-brutal regime.

Activists and dissidents consider the threat to Memorial a watershed moment for independent thinkers in Russia — a sobering example of the government’s determination to silence its critics and sanitize the narrative surrounding the Soviet Union, which Mr. Putin views as a heady era of Russian influence and power.

Mr. Putin is obsessed with “making Russia great again,” said Aleksandr Baunov, editor in chief of the Carnegie Moscow Center’s website. “Putin’s Russia builds itself on the denial” of the 1990s, with its reforms, self-criticism and social and economic upheaval, Mr. Baunov said, because to him it represents the time in recent history when Russia was its weakest.

Eliminating Memorial, Mr. Baunov said, would help Mr. Putin suppress a forensic examination of one of Russia’s most shameful periods, even as descendants of its victims continue to grapple with the consequences.

“You know this expression ‘power vertical,’” Mr. Baunov said, using a term that has come to define Mr. Putin’s autocratic governing style. “The state wants to build a ‘Memory Vertical,’ too. It does not deny victim status to victims, but it wants to control the repression narrative.”

Two court hearings this week may decide Memorial’s fate. On Tuesday, Moscow’s City Court will consider allegations that Memorial’s Human Rights center “justifies terrorist activities” because it included members of imprisoned religious groups on its list of political prisoners. Later in the week, the Supreme Court will take up charges that Memorial International, which houses the group’s archive, violated a draconian “foreign agent” law.

Read the rest here.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Met. Hilarion of the Russian Church Serves With Met. Tikhon of the OCA



His Eminence Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, visited St. Tikhon’s Monastery and Seminary in South Canaan, Pennsylvania over the weekend, after his visit to St. Vladimir’s Seminary.

During his visit, His Eminence had the opportunity to serve with His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon of Washington and All America and Canada in the monastery’s Church of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.

St. Tikhon’s is the oldest Orthodox monastery in America, founded by the future Patriarch St. Tikhon during his time serving in America. It has been connected to many of the great saints who served in America, and is home to the relics of St. Alexis Toth, as well as the miraculous She Who is Quick to Hear Icon of the mother of God and a miraculous icon of St. Anna.

Met. Tikhon, the primate of the autocephalous Orthodox Church in America, is a monk of St. Tikhon’s Monastery.

Following the service, Met. Tikhon greeted Met. Hilarion and briefly recounted for him the founding of St. Tikhon’s Monastery by St. Tikhon and the venerated Archbishop Arseny of Winnipeg, as well as the first Divine Liturgy at St. Tikhon’s celebrated St. Raphael of Brooklyn, St. Alexander Hotovitsky, and St. John Kochurov.

Met. Tikhon then gave Met. Hilarion an icon of St. Nikolai of Žiča, who was rector of and reposed at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, and relics of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk, St. Isaac of Syria, and St. Hilarion the Great.

In turn, Met. Hilarion noted that this was his first visit to St. Tikhon’s, but that he deeply venerates St. Tikhon as an apostle in America. He also noted that he especially venerates St. Nikolai as both a hierarch and theologian. Met. Hilarion then presented Met. Tikhon with an episcopal Panagia.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Inflation tops 6%

Consumer inflation surged in October as fuel costs picked up, supply chains remained under pressure and rents moved higher — bad news for economic policymakers at the Federal Reserve and for the Biden White House, which had been emphasizing a recent slowdown in price gains.

Inflation picked up to 0.9 percent last month from September, a Labor Department report showed, faster than the prior month’s increase of 0.4 percent and well above economists’ expectations. So-called core price gains, which strip out products like food and fuel, also accelerated.

Overall prices have climbed by 6.2 percent over the past 12 months, the fastest pace since 1990.

The fresh data scupper a White House talking point. Officials had regularly pointed out that while price gains were faster than usual, at least they were slowing down from rapid summertime readings.

But instead of cooling off toward the end of 2022 as many policymakers had expected, inflation rates remain far faster than the 2 percent annual gains the Federal Reserve aims for on average over time. While the Fed sets its goal using a separate measure of inflation — the Personal Consumption Expenditures index — that too has picked up sharply this year. The C.P.I. reports come out faster, and help to feed into the Fed’s favored gauge, so they are closely watched by economists and Wall Street investors.

Administration and Fed officials alike still expect rapid inflation to eventually fade. But they have had to revise how quickly that might happen: Supply chains remain badly snarled, and demand for goods is holding up and helping to fuel higher prices. As wages begin to rise in many sectors amid labor shortages, there are reasons to expect that some employers might charge their customers more to cover climbing worker costs.

“It is now clear that this process will take longer than initially expected, and the inflation overshoot will likely get worse before it gets better,” Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a research analysis this week.

Read the rest here.

Thursday, November 04, 2021

Patriarch Bartholomew is hospitalized again

The 81 year old patriarch was hospitalized in New York City on the last day of his scheduled visit to the United States. He is reported to have undergone a coronary procedure involving a stent at Mt. Sinai Hospital. The procedure is fairly routine for patients with heart conditions and Bartholomew is expected to be released later today.

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

Off Year Election Results Signal Warning to Democrats

Tuesday’s elections left the Democratic Party reeling after one Republican won the governor’s race in Virginia and another posed an unexpectedly strong challenge to New Jersey’s incumbent governor, with the race still too close to call.

The twin blows raised alarms about the Democratic Party’s fortunes heading into next year’s midterm elections, with President Biden’s approval ratings sagging and Republicans eager to wrest back control of Congress.

The most surprising unknown on Wednesday morning was the fate of the governor’s race in New Jersey, a state that Mr. Biden carried by 16 percentage points last year. Gov. Philip D. Murphy, a Democrat seeking a second term, was locked in a razor-thin contest with a little-known Republican challenger, Jack Ciattarelli, a former assemblyman.

Mr. Murphy pulled ahead of Mr. Ciattarelli on Wednesday morning, but by a small margin. With 88 percent of the expected vote counted, Mr. Murphy was ahead by 1,408 votes, according to The Associated Press.

The other governor’s race on Tuesday, in Virginia, offered foreboding signs of the political environment for Democrats more than nine months into Mr. Biden’s presidency.

A year after Mr. Biden won Virginia by 10 percentage points, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, failed in his quest to win back his old office, losing to the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin, in a contest that was closely watched for what it could signal about voters’ satisfaction or lack thereof with the incumbent president and his party. Mr. McAuliffe conceded to Mr. Youngkin on Wednesday morning.

The setback in Virginia was the latest in a series of stumbles for Mr. Biden, who came under sharp criticism for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and who has struggled to unite Democratic lawmakers behind his domestic legislative agenda.

A number of other notable races remained unresolved.

In Minneapolis, where residents rejected a bid to disband and replace the Police Department, the mayor’s race was still too close to call because of ranked-choice voting. Mayor Jacob Frey received nearly 43 percent of first-choice mayoral votes, far more than any challenger but short of the majority threshold needed to win outright. Election officials planned to tabulate ranked-choice selections on Wednesday.

The race for mayor of Atlanta was headed to a runoff. Felicia Moore, the City Council president, was the top vote-getter. But it remained unclear whom she would face in the runoff; Andre Dickens, a councilman, was vying with Kasim Reed, a former mayor trying to make a comeback, for the other spot in the runoff.

In Seattle, a Republican candidate for city attorney and a pro-police candidate for mayor each held large leads, as voters appeared to reject rivals who had sought more aggressive overhauls of policing and the criminal justice system.

If the results hold, Seattle would elect a Republican to citywide office for the first time in three decades, with a city attorney candidate, Ann Davison, who has vowed more prosecutions for low-level crimes in a traditionally liberal city grappling with homelessness.

The debate over policing also figured prominently in the race for mayor, with one candidate, Lorena González, endorsing steep cuts to the police budget last year and another, Bruce Harrell, advocating the hiring of more officers. Early results showed Mr. Harrell in the lead.

Read the rest here.

A call to fight wokery with your money

My friend Richard updated his will a couple of weeks ago. He asked for his bequest to an Oxford college to be removed. The solicitor was not surprised. “I’ve had a lot of clients doing the same thing lately,” he said. “Those universities are starting to lose serious money.”

When I asked Richard why he had cancelled the donation to his alma mater, he sighed: “General wokery. The environment is so different to the culture that we benefitted from when we were there – the link with the past, the hope for the future. Why would I want to support an organisation that has changed so markedly to something I do not recognise or understand? It’s gone, very quickly, from a place that I loved, and which loved me, to one where I now feel deeply uncomfortable and distinctly unwelcome.”

Whatever contortions they are obliged to perform by their professional bodies, workplaces and vigilantes on social media, I sense that a sizeable proportion of my generation has had enough. We are quietly voting with our chequebooks and our direct debits which, increasingly, we withhold from the National Trust and other formerly venerable bodies now idiotically abasing themselves before the monstrous ideological police. “Sir, I am running out of memberships to cancel,’’ complained Charlotte Mackay, wonderfully, in this paper’s Letters to the Editor. Trust me, Charlotte, you are not alone.

Where once we would have taken pleasure in giving something back to the institution that shaped us, now we look on appalled as that same institution capitulates to rabble-rousing brats almost entirely ignorant of the achievements of the historical figures whose statues they demand be torn down. (Or removes their great works from the curriculum, to be replaced by poets who cannot rhyme.) Not to mention the growing reluctance of certain universities to admit the highly qualified offspring of their own graduates. As one female barrister put it: “I got into Cambridge from a council house and a crap comp. I gave my kids a much better education than I had, and now my university doesn’t want them on account of their ‘white privilege’. Give me strength!”

Dozens of donors have cancelled financial gifts to the University of Edinburgh since it renamed the David Hume Tower over the philosopher’s comments on race more than 250 years ago. The presiding genius of the Scottish Enlightenment, Hume held views which now look either radical and laudably ahead of their time or discordantly ugly. An opponent of slavery, he helped his patron Lord Hertford buy a slave plantation. Guess what, human beings were as complicated and flawed back then as they are now. Edinburgh said it had to act to protect student “sensitivities”. Many alumni disagree. “Hume was cancelled in life by the Scottish universities for failing to fall in line with the religious tenets of his day,” wrote one, “so I admire him in death for having the same effect on the grandees of this new [woke] religion.”

I suspect that graduates of Imperial College London will have a similar reaction on hearing that a building named after Thomas Henry Huxley, the great biologist and anthropologist who determined that birds descended from dinosaurs, is set to be renamed. A report by the university’s chillingly named “independent history group” has recommended that the name Huxley be excised because of his beliefs about human intelligence. The group cites Huxley’s essay of 1865, “Emancipation — Black and White”, which it says “espouses a racial hierarchy of intelligence, a belief system of ‘scientific racism’, legacies of which are still felt today”.

You have to hand it to old Huxley. He cunningly hid his racism by being a leading voice in the movement for the abolition of slavery. Yes, some of his observations make us recoil today. But, yesterday, I looked up that self-same “offensive” essay, and here is a very different sort of paragraph: “We find girls naturally timid, prone to dependence, born conservatives; and we teach them that independence is unladylike; that blind faith is the right frame of mind; and that whatever we may be permitted, and indeed encouraged, to do to our brother, our sister is to be left to the tyranny of authority and tradition. With few insignificant exceptions, girls have been educated either to be drudges, or toys, beneath man, or a sort of angels above him... The possibility that the ideal of womanhood lies neither in the fair saint, nor in the fair sinner; that the female type of character is neither better nor worse than the male; that women are meant neither to be men’s guides nor their playthings, but their comrades, their fellows and their equals, so far as nature puts no bar to that equality, does not seem to have entered into the minds of those who have had the conduct of the education of girls.”

Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Has "Wokeism" Become a de-facto religion for the left?

Growing up in the 1990s, I was raised to be optimistic about American society. That society welcomed my parents from Pakistan with open arms; it produced the Georgia man who, in the days after 9/11, approached my family and told us that if anyone harassed us in any way because of our Muslim faith, he would come to our aid.

I knew the country still had problems. I decided to become a journalist so I could shed light on society’s imperfections. But I did so in a spirit of hopefulness.

In recent years, however, a much darker vision has emerged on the political left. America isn’t a land of opportunity. It’s barely changed since the days of Jim Crow. Whites, universally privileged, maintain an iron grip on American society, while nonwhites are little more than virtuous victims cast adrift on a plank in an ocean of white supremacy.

This worldview has swiftly implanted itself into major institutions, from our universities to our corporations. Why has it captivated so many people?

The Columbia University linguist John McWhorter attempts to answer that question in “Woke Racism,” which seeks to both explain and rebut this ideology. (McWhorter and I both sit on the board of advisers of the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism.)

McWhorter, who also writes a newsletter for The Times’s Opinion section, is a Black liberal who dissents from much of the left’s views on race issues. In 2000, he published “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America,” where he argued that counterproductive cultural beliefs and practices, not racial prejudice, were the main forces preventing more African Americans from succeeding. Some of his targets in that book were left-wing academics, who he worried were helping transform victimhood “from a problem to be solved into an identity in itself.”

Yet in the two decades since, those academics seem to have become more influential than ever. In his latest book, McWhorter suggests that’s because their ideology has been elevated into a religion.

“I do not mean that these people’s ideology is ‘like’ a religion. I seek no rhetorical snap in this comparison. I mean that it actually is a religion,” he writes. “An anthropologist would see no difference in type between Pentecostalism and this new form of antiracism.”

While praising earlier generations of civil rights work, he objects to what he calls “Third Wave Antiracism,” which preaches that “racism is baked into the structure of society, whites’ ‘complicity’ in living within it constitutes racism itself, while for Black people, grappling with the racism surrounding them is the totality of experience and must condition exquisite sensitivity toward them, including a suspension of standards of achievement and conduct.”

Borrowing a term from the author Joseph Bottum, McWhorter refers to the prophets of the Third Wave as “the Elect.” They see themselves as “bearers of a Good News that, if all people would simply open up and see it, would create a perfect world.”

McWhorter says that the Elect’s unshakable convictions have led them to persecute people with unfair accusations of racism. He cites cases like that of David Shor, a young white progressive analyst who was fired from his consulting firm for tweeting a study showing how violent protests can backfire. Many of these inquisitions have been led not by people from minority groups but from the white Elects themselves, who are described as carrying a sort of “self-flagellational guilt for things you did not do.”

Read the rest here.

This prompted me to see if there were any other reactions of a this sort and Google produced no shortage of links to similar reflections

Grand Lux

Accommodations at the Wisdom Hotel in Wisdom Montana, April 1942. You know you're in a classy establishment when they make that effort to reduce lines and wait time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Billionaires Tax

Unable to convince the moderate members of their party to raise taxes in the customary manner, the Democrats have decided to go back to the idea first floated by the left, i.e. a tax on unrealized appreciation in the value of assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, art and etc. Claims to the contrary notwithstanding, this is a wealth tax, which is laughably unconstitutional and dead on arrival at the Supreme Court, if it even gets that far. It is a direct tax (or there is no such thing) under Article I section 9 of the Constitution and cannot be done at the Federal level of government without triggering the apportionment clause. What the Democrats are trying to do is to redefine income to mean something never before accepted; and they are going into contortions to try and pretend that this is what the 16th amendment was intended for. I doubt this will even make it to the Supreme Court, unless the justices want to drive a stake through its heart so it never again rises from the grave. 

The cynic in me believes that almost everyone in DC understands this, even the Democrats. They know this is going down in legal flames, but they are going to vote for it anyway because it gives them political cover for the massive amount of debt they are about to add to our already crushing sea of red ink. Once they pass this they can throw up their hands and blame the debt on the right wing Supreme Court.