Wednesday, November 30, 2022

A Brief History of King Charles’s Vendetta Against Modern Architecture

From Architectural Digest:

King Charles III has been a rather outspoken critic of modern architecture for most of his adult life. Perhaps his most damning insult—and what gave him the sobriquet of “the most prominent architecture critic in the world,” from The New York Times—was when he declared a proposed addition to London’s National Gallery as a “monstrous carbuncle” in 1984. Since then, he has not hesitated from offering his opinion on contemporary urban planning or architecture. A story in The Guardian notes that he once called Birmingham’s city center “a monstrous concrete maze,” with a library that resembled “a place where books are incinerated, not kept.” 

And even though not everyone in the city planning and architecture worlds shares his vituperative views of modern design, his opinion has carried weight over the years. The Guardian article lists several projects that were dismissed after the then prince refused to give his imprimatur, including an office tower by Mies van der Rohe and multiple projects by Pritzker Prize winner Richard Rogers.

Apart from critiquing modern design, he’s also tried his best to champion the classic form. As prince, Charles even went so far as to produce an architecture magazine called Perspectives in 1994 (it folded just a few years later), wrote a philosophic architectural book called A Vision of Britain, and created his own architectural institute that focused on his preferred style of classical design. Perhaps his most notable achievement is Poundbury, a housing development and town in southern England filled with neo-Georgian, Victorian, and castle-style homes—you won’t find anything Brutalist here. Architectural critics like The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright have referred to it as a “feudal Disneyland,” all show and no depth. But the monarch certainly rules over this miniature kingdom with carefully thought-out aesthetic edicts: As a September The New York Times article points out, “nobody is allowed to paint their home a new color ‘without the consent of His Royal Highness.’” You can forget about a visible satellite dish too. (Read more.)


COVID Deaths

 From The Reactionary:

The latest data shows that 58% of COVID-19 deaths in August 2022 were from people who were vaccinated or boosted. Based on past figures and the current trends, we can reasonably estimate that the number of vaccinated/boosted COVID-19 deaths will only rise. (In September 2021, the vaccinated accounted for 23% of COVID-19 deaths; in January/February 2022, the vaccinated were 42%.)

This is what happens when you rush ineffective and dangerous vaccines.

The FDA’s promises of efficacy – 91% for the Pfizer vaccine and 93% for the Moderna vaccine – were always based on hope, not data. So too were the promises of safety. At the time of the official approvals, both Pfizer and Moderna hadn’t submitted any type of long-term numbers on effectiveness. Their trials were polluted with the unblinding of participants and their safety studies are “ongoing.”

Now, we’re seeing efficacy numbers plummet within months of vaccination. The pandemic is of the vaccinated. The boosters? They’re to the benefit of the medical establishment and the pharmaceutical companies, as they mask the true problems with the two-shot vaccines. (Read more.)


Evidence vs plausibility. From The Brownstone Institute:

There is perhaps no bigger plausibility sham today than “evidence-based medicine” (EBM). This term was coined by Gordon Guyatt in 1990, after his first attempt, “Scientific Medicine,” failed to gain acceptance the previous year. As a university epidemiologist in 1991, I was insulted by the hubris and ignorance in the use of this term, EBM, as if medical evidence were somehow “unscientific” until proclaimed a new discipline with new rules for evidence. I was not alone in criticism of EBM (Sackett et al., 1996), though much of that negative response seems to have been based on loss of narrative control rather than on objective review of what medical research had actually accomplished without “EBM.”

Western medical knowledge has accreted for thousands of years. In the Hebrew Bible (Exodus 21:19), “When two parties quarrel and one strikes the other … the victim shall be made thoroughly healed” [my translation] which implies that individuals who had types of medical knowledge existed and that some degree of efficacy inhered. Hippocrates, in the fifth-fourth century BCE, suggested that disease development might not be random but related to exposures from the environment or to certain behaviors. In that era, there were plenty of what today we would consider counterexamples to good medical practice. Nevertheless, it was a start, to think about rational evidence for medical knowledge.

James Lind (1716-1794) advocated for scurvy protection through the eating of citrus. This treatment was known to the ancients, and in particular had been earlier recommended by the English military surgeon John Woodall (1570-1643)—but Woodall was ignored. Lind gets the credit because in 1747 he carried out a small but successful nonrandomized, controlled trial of oranges and lemons vs other substances among 12 scurvy patients.

During the 1800s, Edward Jenner’s use of cowpox as a smallpox vaccine was elaborated by culturing in other animals and put into general use in outbreaks, so that by the time of the 1905 Supreme Court case of Jacobson v. Massachusetts, the Chief Justice could assert that smallpox vaccination was agreed upon by medical authorities to be a commonly accepted procedure. Medical journals started regular publications also in the 1800s. For example, the Lancet began publishing in 1824. Accreting medical knowledge started to be shared and debated more generally and widely.

Fast-forward to the 1900s. In 1914-15, Joseph Goldberger (1915) carried out a nonrandomized dietary intervention trial that concluded that pellagra was caused by lack of dietary protein. In the 1920s, vaccines for diphtheria, pertussis, tuberculosis and tetanus were developed. Insulin was extracted. Vitamins, including Vitamin D for preventing rickets, were developed. In the 1930s, antibiotics began to be created and used effectively. In the 1940s, acetaminophen was developed, as were chemotherapies, and conjugated estrogen began to be used to treat menopausal hot flashes. Effective new medications, vaccines and medical devices grew exponentially in number in the 1950s and 1960s. All without EBM.

In 1996, responding to criticisms of EBM, David Sackett et al. (1996) attempted to explain its overall principles. Sackett asserted that EBM followed from “Good doctors use both individual clinical expertise and the best available external evidence.” This is an anodyne plausibility implication, but both components are basically wrong or at least misleading. By phrasing this definition in terms of what individual doctors should do, Sackett was implying that individual practitioners should use their own clinical observations and experience. However, the general evidential representativeness of one individual’s clinical experience is likely to be weak. Just like other forms of evidence, clinical evidence needs to be systematically collected, reviewed, and analyzed, to form a synthesis of clinical reasoning, which would then provide the clinical component of scientific medical evidence.

A bigger failure of evidential reasoning is Sackett’s statement that one should use “the best available external evidence” rather than all valid external evidence. Judgments about what constitutes “best” evidence are highly subjective and do not necessarily yield overall results that are quantitatively the most accurate and precise (Hartling et al., 2013; Bae, 2016). In formulating his now canonical “aspects” of evidential causal reasoning, Sir Austin Bradford Hill (1965) did not include an aspect of what would constitute “best” evidence, nor did he suggest that studies should be measured or categorized for “quality of study” nor even that some types of study designs might be intrinsically better than others. In the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Margaret Berger (2011) states explicitly, “… many of the most well-respected and prestigious scientific bodies (such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the Institute of Medicine, the National Research Council, and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences) consider all the relevant available scientific evidence, taken as a whole, to determine which conclusion or hypothesis regarding a causal claim is best supported by the body of evidence.” This is exactly Hill’s approach; his aspects of causal reasoning have been very widely used for more than 50 years to reason from observation to causation, both in science and in law. That EBM is premised on subjectively cherry-picking “best” evidence is a plausible method but not a scientific one.

Over time, the EBM approach to selectively considering “best” evidence seems to have been “dumbed down,” first by placing randomized controlled trials (RCTs) at the top of a pyramid of all study designs as the supposed “gold standard” design, and later, as the asserted only type of study that can be trusted to obtain unbiased estimates of effects. All other forms of empirical evidence are “potentially biased” and therefore unreliable. This is a plausibility conceit as I will show below.

But it is so plausible that it is routinely taught in modern medical education, so that most doctors only consider RCT evidence and dismiss all other forms of empirical evidence. It is so plausible that this author had an on-air verbal battle over it with a medically uneducated television commentator who provided no evidence other than plausibility (Whelan, 2020): Isn’t it “just obvious” that if you randomize subjects, any differences must be caused by the treatment, and no other types of studies can be trusted? Obvious, yes; true, no.

Who benefits from a sole, obsessive focus on RCT evidence? RCTs are very expensive to conduct if they are to be epidemiologically valid and statistically adequate. They can cost millions or tens of millions of dollars, which limit their appeal largely to companies promoting medical products likely to bring in profits substantially larger than those costs. Historically, pharma control and manipulation of RCT evidence in the regulation process provided an enormous boost in the ability to push products through regulatory approval into the marketplace, and the motivation to do this still continues today. (Read more.)


Joan Beaufort: a Medieval Matriarch

 From History...The Interesting Bits:

Joan Beaufort was the youngest child and only daughter of John of Gaunt and his mistress, Katherine Swynford. Her father, Gaunt, was the third surviving son of Edward III and his queen, Philippa of Hainault. He had married Blanche of Lancaster in 1359 – a marriage which eventually brought him the title of Duke of Lancaster. With Blanche he had 3 surviving legitimate children: Elizabeth, Philippa and Henry – the future king, Henry IV.

Joan’s mother, Katherine Swynford, was a member of Blanche’s household and had been married to a Lincolnshire knight, Sir Hugh Swynford, in 1367. They had 3 children together; Blanche, Thomas and Margaret. Sir Hugh was a tenant of John of Gaunt and served on the continent with him in 1366 and 1370. John of Gaunt was widowed in 1368, when Blanche died in childbirth. Katherine had been governess to the Lancaster children for a number of years when Hugh died in November 1371, leaving her a young widow with 3 children to feed.

John and Katherine may have begun their relationship shortly after Hugh’s death, despite John having married again, to Constance of Castile, in September 1371. John and Katherine’s first child, John, was probably born in 1372, with 3 more children, Henry, Thomas and Joan, born before 1379. They would be given the surname of Beaufort, though no one seems to know quite where the name came from. Although the children were illegitimate, the boys enjoyed successful careers during the reign of their half-brother, Henry IV; with John in politics, Henry rising to the rank of cardinal in the church and Thomas pursuing a military career.

Joan was the youngest of the Beaufort children, born sometime between 1377 and 1379. She was close to her family. She joined the household of her sister-in-law, Mary de Bohun, wife of her half-brother, the future Henry IV, in 1386. It seems that she was accompanied by her mum, Katherine Swynford, possibly because Katherine and John of Gaunt had separated and John was reconciled with his second wife, Constance of Castile. Joan was about 7-years-old and was continuing her education and being prepared for her first marriage – she had just been betrothed to 10-year-old Robert Ferrers of Oversley, Warwickshire. Robert would become one of her father’s retainers and, through his mother, heir to the estates of the Botelers of Wem, Shropshire. They were married in 1392, when Joan was 13 or 14 and 2 daughters were born in quick succession; Elizabeth in 1393 and Mary the following year. The marriage was cut short, however, when Robert died in 1395 or 1396, leaving Joan – still only in her mid-teens – a widow with young children. (Read more.)


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man: A Memoir


Paul Newman. From The Spectator:

He says he blocks out most of his childhood, which is why he finds it hard to access his emotions. The main problem was his mother, Tress, who fussed over him and wanted him to look pretty at all times but would also suddenly attack him with a hairbrush. She was insanely houseproud: a friend recalls that their home ‘seemed somehow sad’ because it had dustsheets covering all the furniture. ‘She would rather sacrifice people before sacrificing her house.’

 He escaped by joining the Navy and then studying drama at Kenyon College, Ohio. He was given lead roles in all the plays but says he never really enjoyed acting, which is probably why he drank so much. Nevertheless, he went to the Actors’ Studio in New York and started working in the theatre. His first film role was in a biblical toga effort called The Silver Chalice, which he describes as ‘the worst movie produced in the Fifties’. He thinks he was only ever cast because of his looks: ‘I always had that trust fund of appearance, and I could get by on that. But I realised that to survive I needed something else.’

He gradually became a more committed actor and, after ten nominations, finally won an Oscar for The Color of Money in 1986. But he always believed that his wife, Joanne Woodward, was the better actor and felt guilty that he became a film star and she didn’t. He also felt that she made him sexy, which he hadn’t been before. A girl at college told him: ‘I like going out with you because you’re so harmless!’

Joanne also gave him an excuse to dump his mother. Tress said she thought Joanne was having an affair with Gore Vidal (unlikely), so he threw her out of the car and didn’t speak to her again for l5 years:

It was such a relief to use that as an excuse to escape from her. She represented all my leaden luggage, the parts of myself that I didn’t like. That sense of subservience, uncertainty, not knowing where the next attack was coming from or what the reason for it might be.

Then one day his elder brother brought Tress, unannounced, to Newman’s house in Malibu. He said ‘Hi Mom, it’s been a long time’ and she replied: ‘What a wonderful house!’ But almost the next minute she asked if he was working and said: ‘How terrible it must be to be involved in a rotten industry that settles itself in violence and profanity and sex and gore.’ So that was the end of their brief rapprochement and he didn’t see her again until she was ill at the end of her life: ‘It was important for me to show up, though there was never any change of feelings…We never discussed our rift and she never apologised.’ (Read more.)


'Collusion' Corrections We Need Now

 From Real Clear Investigations:

Five years after the Hillary Clinton campaign-funded collection of Trump-Russia conspiracy theories known as the Steele dossier was published by BuzzFeed, news outlets that amplified its false allegations have suffered major losses of credibility. The recent indictment of the dossier's main source, Igor Danchenko, for allegedly lying to the FBI, has catalyzed a new reckoning.

In response to what the news site Axios has called "one of the most egregious journalistic errors in modern history," the Washington Post has re-edited at least a dozen stories related to Steele. For two of those, the Post removed entire sections, changed headlines, and added lengthy editor's notes. But the Post's response also exhibits the limits of the media's Steele-induced self-examination. First, the reporters bylined on those two articles, Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger, and their editors have declined to explain how and why they were so egregiously misled. Nor have they revealed the names of the anonymous sources responsible for deceiving them and the public over months and years.

Perhaps more important, the Post, like other publications, has so far limited its Russiagate reckoning to work directly involving Steele – and only after a federal indictment forced its hand. But the Steele dossier has been widely discredited since at least April 2019, when Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and his team of prosecutors and FBI agents were unable to find evidence in support of any of its claims.

The dossier was also only one aspect of the Trump-Russia misinformation fed to the public. Even when not advancing Steele's most lurid allegations, the nation's most prominent news outlets nonetheless furthered his underlying narrative of a Trump-Russia conspiracy and a Kremlin-compromised White House.

Along the way, some journalists won their profession's highest distinction for this flawed coverage. While co-bylining stories that the Post has all but retracted, Helderman and Hamburger also share a now increasingly awkward honor along with more than a dozen other colleagues at the Post and New York Times: a Pulitzer Prize. In 2018, the Pulitzer awards committee honored the two papers for 20 articles it described as "deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation's understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect's transition team and his eventual administration."(Read more.)

Generational Curses

 From Monsignor Charles Pope:

Generational curses are not formally taught by the Church, but neither are they denied. As you note, they are mentioned in the Bible, but also dismissed by other texts. For example, the Prophet Jeremiah says: “In those days they shall no longer say, ‘The parents ate unripe grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge,’ but all shall die because of their own iniquity: only the teeth of those who eat unripe grapes shall be set on edge” (Jer 31:29-30). So the Lord would seem to cancel whatever generational curses descended through families.

Jesus also seems to reject this idea in John’s Gospel: “As he passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him'” (Jn 9:1-3).

It is true, these texts deal primarily with punishments due to sin, not necessarily all maladies or tendencies. We all know by experience that certain tendencies, both behavioral and biological, do seem to pass down the generations, for better or worse; everything from height, weight and hair color to behavioral issues such as alcoholism, anger issues and so forth. Exorcists and others in deliverance ministry tend to avoid theological debates and accept that, to some degree, generational curses are experienced and reported by many. Hence, there are prayers and minor exorcisms devoted to breaking the power of curses.

There are dangers, however, in placing too much focus on curses. First, it can shift personal responsibility for negative things away from the self to the demonic world or previous generations. Yet, often, negative things are due to personal decisions or omissions, psychological factors and habit patterns. A second danger is that many have a kind of superstitious fear of the power of curses more than they believe in the power of Jesus Christ to break them. An exorcist or priest may pray repeatedly for any curses or weapons waged against a person to be broken and made null, only to have the individual return repeatedly, claiming the curse is still operative. What are we dealing with here? Is it really a curse or is it a compulsive fear? Is it a lack of faith? Since blessings and exorcistic prayers are sacramentals (not sacraments), the role of faith and trust are essential. Hence, those who receive prayers to break curses must make many acts of faith and trust that the power of the curse has been broken and refuse to be any further intimidated or overwhelmed by doubts that the curse is still operative. Perhaps focusing on virtuous living and refusing to be mastered by sin is the better solution if prayers against curses are not having the desired effects. (Read more.)


Monday, November 28, 2022

‘The Rings of Power:’ Forged in Controversy

 I never thought Tolkien's description of orcs to resemble anyone human. I think perhaps people project their own prejudices about various races onto Tolkien. From The Cornell Daily Sun:

At once praised for its stunning visuals and lambasted for its deviations from lore, Amazon’s Rings of Power has sparked debate among fans, inspired a new generation of Silmarillion readers and been the object of racist vitriol. It follows the radiant, vengeance-fueled quest of Galadriel (Morfydd Clark), from the spires of Elven cities to the island kingdom of Númenor, to confront ancient evil rising without and within. (Spoilers ahead!) 

Much of the emotional heart of the story in truth lies under the mountains, with Prince of the Dwarven kingdom, Durin IV (Owain Arthur), and Half-Elven herald Elrond (Robert Aramayo), whose friendship illuminates the magnificent darkness of Khazad-dûm. Durin’s wife and resonator of the deep earth, Disa (Sophia Nomvete), is also a beacon in her warm and queenly presence — and Lady Macbeth-ish monologues. Alas, the Khazad-dûm plot veers into ominous Mithril Mystery, and is left for later stories. 

Elsewhere amidst the artful visuals of orchards, wastelands and Sundering Seas, some especially standout moments are Adar’s (Joseph Mawle) quiet grief for his fellow Uruks, the feathery ships of Númenor sailing into the dawn, the eruption of Mount Doom and the finale’s mind-bending confrontation between Galadriel and Halbrand/Sauron (Charlie Vickers). In his gentle respect for green and growing things, Silvan Elf Arondir (Ismael Cruz Córdova) is also particularly grounding, and gets the best action scenes of the series in his defense of Bronwyn (Nazanin Boniadi), Theo (Tyroe Muhafidin) and the Southlander villagers. I confess I found the Harfoots and the Stranger, though intriguing at first, overwrought.

Bear McGreary’s incredible soundtrack is the golden thread that binds the series together — from the winding, processional grandeur of “Númenor,” to the proud march of “Khazad-dûm,” to the deftly twofold hope and sorrow of “Elrond Half-elven.” Faced with the daunting task of following in Howard Shore’s footsteps, McGreary resorts to pure musical alchemy, deploying character motifs with such skill that one might discern from them whispers of the plot. For example, the acoustically elegiac “Halbrand” is in fact a major key echo of “Sauron.” (It might have been an obvious twist, but I enjoyed it, along with Halbrand’s theatrics.)

Much ink has been spilled on the show’s shortcomings, but like the Elven Rings forged (rather too hastily) at the end of the season, I think we have been exerting an incendiary degree of pressure on the apparent alloying of the legendarium with new creations. The showrunners J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay are setting up a story that will span five seasons, which they have said will henceforth lean more heavily on canon. In the meantime, they have laid the groundwork by compressing time and creating (mostly) compelling characters to reacquaint us with Middle-earth. Adaptation is always in part creation, not wholly mimicry. 

For me, pacing is the main issue. Slow burn, exposition-driven elements are productive; it is rather that the writers seek a deeper narrative haste without taking much time to build the wheeling scale of epic. Númenor in particular falls victim to this, where we see only inklings of the all-consuming desire for eternal life that will eventually drown them. But where the Númenor storyline falters, it is rescued by the gravity of Elendil (Lloyd Owen) and Queen-regent Míriel (Cynthia Addai-Robinson), as well as their trials of faith.

As for Galadriel, I enjoyed her strength and vulnerability. At first I was worried that she was going to be consigned by poor writing to seem vaguely motivated by kicking ass. Then, at last, I got confirmation that this was a deliberate arc — she swears to Adar that she will eradicate orcs, but in the ashes muses bleakly on war’s poisoning of the heart. All at once, the writers’ vision of Galadriel began to materialize for me like dawn, the flickering reflection of a Queen that all might love and despair. We must first see the roots of her rage, and struggle with her desire for absolution, before we can see her rise to be Sauron’s great equal and enemy. 

Legally, the writers can only draw on the material of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and its appendices; one might wonder why tell a tale of the Second Age without rights to The Silmarillion. For the readers that have not encountered The Silmarillion, it is a mythic collection of stories recounting the origins of Middle-earth, the rise and fall of Morgoth (Sauron’s predecessor), the strife over jewels called the Silmarils and many other beautiful tales besides. (Read more.)


My thoughts on the series, HERE.


More Of A Disaster Than People Realize

 From The Federalist:

After it trained upwards of 50,000 poll watchers, poll workers, and other roles for ongoing citizen engagement in the election process over the year leading up to the 2022 midterms, the Election Integrity Network sent out a survey to its on-the-ground volunteers following Election Day to gauge how things went. The responses from election workers in key battleground districts and states around the country showed a mostly calm election cycle compared to 2020, with one massive and overwhelming exception. In Maricopa County, Arizona, election workers were appalled and aghast at how things had been run there.(Read more.)

From Just the News:

The inspector at another vote center that Sonnenklar visited "had a messy pile of spoiled ballots next to her chair, many of which had not been marked 'Spoiled,'" he recounted, adding that she periodically "left those unspoiled ballots unattended while she was working in other areas of the vote center."

Several voters asked the inspector to spoil their ballots. "Each time, the Inspector took the ballot and put it on top of her pile without actually spoiling it," Sonnenklar observed. He added that nearly all of those voters waited "awkwardly" for the inspector to spoil their ballots, "and it was only then that the Inspector would write 'Spoiled' on the ballot."

Sonnenklar noted that before leaving the vote center, he asked her "if she was going to spoil all of the ballots in her pile." She "got defensive," he reported, and said that "she hasn't spoiled the ballots yet only because she keeps getting pulled away by her staff." Another vote center Sonnenklar visited had 115 spoiled ballots and 116 misread ballots dropped into Box 3, to be counted later. (Read more.) 

Nicholaa de la Haye, England’s Forgotten Heroine

 From History...the Interesting Bits:

The eldest daughter and co-heiress of Richard de la Haye and his wife, Matilda de Venon, Nicholaa was probably born in the early 1150s. Her father, Richard de la Haye was Baron of Brattleby. His father was a Norman and his mother was a Lincolnshire heiress, the granddaughter of Colswein of Lincoln. In 1166 Richard he was recorded as owing 20 knights’ fees, which had been reduced to 16 by 1172. When he died in 1169, Nicholaa inherited her father’s land in Lincolnshire and his position as castellan of Lincoln Castle, a position she would hold for over 40 years.

Nicholaa was married twice, her first husband, William Fitz Erneis, died in 1178, leaving Nicholaa a young widow with one daughter, Matilda. Before 1185 she married Gerard de Camville, brother of Richard de Camville, admiral of Richard I’s crusading fleet during the Third Crusade. Nicholaa and Gerard had at least 2 children together; Richard and Thomas. Richard was heir to both Nicholaa and Gerard. Nothing is known of Thomas beyond his name.

Nicholaa’s husbands each claimed the position of castellan of Lincoln Castle by right of his wife; but Nicholaa seems to have been far from the normal subservient wife. When her husband was not in the castle, she was left in charge rather than an alternative, male deputy. (Read more.)

Sunday, November 27, 2022

School of Athens


From The Greek Reporter:
Several of the most influential Greek philosophers and thinkers are portrayed in Raphael’s masterpiece the School of Athens which adorns the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Painted between 1509 and 1511, it depicts a congregation of philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists from Ancient Greece, including Plato and Aristotle. But did you know that, in addition to the two philosophers in the center of the painting, there are six more “hiding”?

In his work, Raphael desired to pay his deepest tribute to the greatest philosophers in history, several of whom had tried throughout their lives to discover the prime mover, or cause, in the universe, a branch of thought called the “knowledge of the first causes.” It also shows sculptures of the Greek gods Athena (portrayed as the Roman goddess Minerva), representing Wisdom, and Apollo, representing Light and Music, in a direct nod to the greatness of Greek mythology and its contributions to the western world.

In short, Raphael’s painting is the Who is Who of ancient Greek culture. (Read more.)


Cartels Turn Los Angeles into Top Hub

 From New York Post:

Violent Mexican drug cartels that traffic fentanyl and counterfeit pills have turned Los Angeles into one of the top distribution hubs in the country, federal officials said. Los Angeles County has become ground zero in the trafficking pipeline as the Sinaloa and Jalisco New Generation cartels have increased their distribution of the cheaply manufactured pills that look like prescription drugs.

The fentanyl crisis hitting the country is “unprecedented,” US Attorney Martin Estrada said at a press conference about the drug crisis Monday.

“This drug has taken the lives of too many young people, many who are not addicts but took counterfeit pills not knowing they contain fentanyl,” Estrada said. “Many of these pills are sold using social media, targeting our young people.” (Read more.)

The Immense Beauty of the Very Small

 From The Marginalian:

Nothing shapes our experience of reality, and nothing limits it, more than our frames of reference. Every transcendent achievement of perspective is the product of a shift in the frame of reference, as is the hard-earned glory of maturity. Few artists have recognized this more clearly and made of that recognition a more enchanting plaything than M.C. Escher (June 17, 1898–March 17, 1972).


He questioned our “rigid faith in our senses” — the sense-perception we take for the ultimate proof of reality, yet which has so often mislead us: the flatness of the Earth, the geocentric universe, the myriad self-referential subjectivities that have blinded us to the real reality. In consonance with the Nobel-winning quantum theory founding father Niels Bohr’s reckoning with subjective vs. objective reality, Escher observed:
All of our senses reveal only a subjective world to us; all we can do is think and possibly mean that therefore we can conclude the existence of an objective world.
For Escher, deducing an objective world was a matter of training our senses to pay closer and closer attention — a way of grasping the largest mystery by attending ever more acutely to the very small. A century before the bryologist Robin Wall Kimmerer made her exquisite case for moss as a lens on attentiveness to wonder at all scales and years before the great nature writer Henry Beston (who inspired Rachel Carson, who inspired Escher) made his soulful case for the sacredness of smallness, the twenty-five-year-old Escher wrote in a letter:
I want to delight in the smallest of small things, a bit of moss 2 centimeters in diameter on a little piece of rock, and I want to try here what I have been wishing for so long, namely to copy these tiniest bits of nothing as accurately as possible just to realize how great they are. I’ve already started that but it is so dreadfully difficult. With your nose right on top of it, you see all of its beauty and all of its simplicity, but when you start drawing, only then do you realize how terribly complicated and shapeless that beauty really is. 

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Living With Morals: A Review of 'The Fall of Gondolin'

The Fall of Gondolin

Glorfiindel and the Balrog

Since watching The Rings of Power I have been reading up on Tolkien's legendarium and seeing where the creators of the new series found their ideas. The Fall of Gondolin is magnificent and tragic if repetitive, and by repetitive I mean that the same story is told over and over again, with slight variations, in the same volume. But for Middle-earth lovers there are loads of tidbits of details that add to the understanding of the lore. It is interesting that Tolkien originally referred to the Noldorian elves as "gnomes." From The Public Discourse:

J.R.R. Tolkien’s first tale of Middle-earth was of ruin, written “in hospital and on leave after surviving the Battle of the Somme.” His “first real story of this imaginary world” told of the destruction of the hidden city of Gondolin, greatest of Elven cities in mortal lands and the last stronghold against Morgoth, the Great Enemy. The story was never completed in mature form, but it was referenced in both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. This saga of disaster and hope underlies the tone and setting of Tolkien’s creation. His tales of monsters and heroes illuminate the moral condition of mankind better than the works of our current adolescent popular culture. The problem is less moral ambiguity than a lack of moral will.

The various fragments and versions of the story have now been published together. In The Fall of Gondolin, the venerable Christopher Tolkien has edited his father’s unfinished work for the last time. He had described his previous effort, Beren and Lúthien, as “presumably” the last; now he writes, “in my ninety-fourth year The Fall of Gondolin is (indubitably) the last.” Only the first iteration of the story presented the complete narrative in detail, but that version is rough, with Tolkien having not yet settled on the material or style. Over subsequent years he wrote condensed or partial versions of the story, and in the incomplete final version of the tale he approaches his mature best—writing in the high prose style that he had mastered.

This book also includes materials that place the tale in context of Tolkien’s larger creation. These additional fragments are worth reading, even for those already familiar with the history of the Elder Days contained in The Silmarillion, as The Fall of Gondolin contains bits of elven mythology, history, and even eschatology not found in that volume. Overall, the collected texts and commentary by Christopher Tolkien, plus the masterly illustrations by Alan Lee, make this book a worthy final addition to the Tolkien canon.

Publication of The Fall of Gondolin follows last year’s announcement that control of the Tolkien Estate has passed to a new generation, which seems more willing to exploit its lucrative licensing potential than Christopher and his father were. And the captains of the entertainment industry, who lack Tolkien’s moral vision and imagination, are unlikely to produce good adaptations.

But we will always have the books. (Read more.)


‘Republican’ Billionaires Tied to Chinese Communist Finance

 From The National Pulse:

Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that ruling class members with China links are lining up against a populist that says he wants to “launch an all-out campaign to eliminate America’s dependence on China.” Take the Murdochs, for example. Their New York Post mocked President Trump’s campaign roll-out with the headline: “Florida Man Makes Announcement.” Perhaps Trump should respond by highlighting a more shocking headline – this one from Crikey in Australia, “Murdoch empire borrows US$100m from state-owned Bank of China.” The article details how News Corp, the parent of the New York Post and Wall Street Journal, took a 9-figure loan from a Chinese Communist-owned bank. And that’s just the beginning of it. Perhaps Murdoch’s ex-wife, alleged Chinese Communist spy Wendi Deng, could shed more light on the matter.

Then there’s Ken Griffin. Two days before the midterms, the financier spoke to Politico about how he wants to spend his billions to get Gov. Ron DeSantis in the White House. Keen observers will note Trump’s first salvo against DeSantis came hours before this Politico puff piece which had been in the works for some time. It’s no stretch to connect the dots: Trump heard about the piece. Perhaps he was even asked for comment on the fact that a China-linked billionaire was now one of Ron DeSantis’s largest donors.

Surely, he gave one.

Griffin himself became massively wealthy – an estimated net worth of $22 billion – through his investment firm Citadel. A report this year revealed that in 2006, Citadel “loaned $110 million to China Security & Surveillance Technology. The company used the funds to acquire ‘10 of the 50 biggest surveillance companies in China.’” Citadel is also partly owned now by Sequoia Capital, which is the venture capital firm that “has produced more investment gains from China” than any other firm and has close ties to the CCP. Sequoia’s China division even employed a daughter of a politburo member.

Griffin and Murdoch are not alone. As Murdoch’s New York Post reported Wednesday, “GOP megadonors ditch Donald Trump’s 2024 White House run.” One of those megadonors is Stephen Schwarzman. The day after Trump’s announcement speech attacking Chinese dependence, Schwarzman let Axios know that he will back any other Republican than the former president in the 2024 primary. It shouldn’t surprise you that Schwarzman has deep ties to the Chinese Communist regime. Schwarzman is the chairman and CEO of Blackstone Group, that’s the company that was partly owned for over a decade by the Chinese sovereign wealth fund. Between 2013-2018, his firm did $32 billion of Chinese deals, according to the Financial Times. If you were the CEO of a company that’s done tens of billions of dollars worth of deals in China, would you want a populist that wants to punish Xi Jinping for the “China virus” in office? Probably not. (Read more.)


The Secret Origins of the Musical Conductor

 From Ted Gioia at The Honest Broker:

As soon as you put aside your books of ‘literature’ and listen to stories as a kind of music, everything starts to change. We all knew that back as kindergarten students, when we sang many of our stories and lessons, but somehow we lose touch with these mind-expanding musical experiences as we grow older.

That’s not true everywhere—in some societies, sung performances of epics and cultural lore have survived into modern times. And here we find irrefutable evidence of the bard or conductor’s rhythmical powers, which border on the supernatural. In such settings, the ground beat underpinning a quest story is entrancing and inescapable. It is the engine that drives the story forward. And—as we will learn in the next chapter—our brains are hardwired to embrace this kind of music.

For example, The Mwindo Epic, a great masterpiece of Bantu culture, is mostly read as a text nowadays. But when Kahombo Mateene and Daniel Biebuyck encountered it among the Nyanga more than a half century ago, the bard was accompanied by three percussionists—and their role was so important, that one of them would eventually get selected as the singer’s successor.

The bard, enlivened by their rhythms, actually dances and mimes parts of the tale. This is more than mere storytelling or narrative enhancement, but a ritualistic transformation built on rhythm. And the story itself is transformative. “In this dramatic representation,” the observers noted, “the bard takes the role of the hero.” Here as elsewhere, the quest is embodied, and moves to the beat. (Read more.)


Friday, November 25, 2022

Benghazi Terrorists Who Killed Americans Could Easily Enter the U.S.

 From Sara Carter:

Former CIA analyst Sarah Adams joins Sara to discuss her work in Pakistan, Libya, and elsewhere during the war on terrorism. Adams is also the co-author of “Benghazi: Know Thy Enemy,” and takes us inside the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. Adams offers new details on how U.S. forces were ordered to stand down while the attack was underway and how many of the terrorists responsible for killing four Americans are not only free but the U.S. government isn’t even trying to find them or putting them on any terror watch list. She also reveals how President Obama ignored the ISIS threat at the time and refused to read reports on the subject. Adams also fears terrorist networks are quickly reforming in Afghanistan and will soon be more dangerous than ever before. (Read more.)


Plague, Religion, and Medicine in Seventeenth-Century England

 From The Many-Headed Monster:

In 1348, the Black Death reached the shores of England, killing about a third of the country’s population. The plague became endemic, staying in the country for another three hundred years before dying out in the seventeenth century. Outbreaks became less and less common over time and by the seventeenth century, major outbreaks were relatively rare, yet for some unknown reason, particularly severe. There were major outbreaks in 1603, 1625, 1636, and finally, 1665. These instances of plague created circumstances with lasting effects and contributed to immense societal change. One of these changes had to do with the place of religion and medicine in society.

The seventeenth century was a transformative period for England. In addition to civil war, the country was dealing with the aftermath of the English Reformation and the beginnings of a medical revolution. Advancements in print also had significant impact. Texts in England had largely been printed in Latin up until the sixteenth century. The average person, however, could not read Latin and the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw an increase in texts published in English for a general audience.

These circumstances led to both the medical and religious sectors publishing an abundance of texts for the public concerning the plague. The Church of England, as well as various religious officials, published an array of sermons and prayers while the Royal College of Physicians, as well as various medical professionals, published medical tracts focussed on the causes, symptoms, and remedies of the plague. While the country had been dealing with plague for centuries, they had never had so many resources available to consult. It was the same disease as previous centuries, but under vastly different circumstances. (Read more.)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Thanksgiving in the Midst of the Fall

 From Beyond These Stone Walls:

Ten years ago this week, I wrote a post that was to become one of the most read and cited from behind these stone walls. It was the story of the real unsung hero behind the account of the first Thanksgiving that you thought you knew. It is a story that was kept hidden in plain sight for centuries while the story of the bravery and resourcefulness of the Mayflower Pilgrims of 1620 prevailed. Don't miss, "The True Story of Thanksgiving: Squanto, the Pi1grims, and the Pope."

This story became a Thanksgiving tradition for our readers over the last decade. It is a remarkable story of human crisis and redemption told in the odyssey of Squanto, a Native American who, like our friend, Pornchai, was stolen from his home, taken to a foreign land, rescued from slavery by a Catholic priest, and then, in the end, restored to his homeland only to find it nearly devastated from a global pandemic. He arrived just before the Mayflower pilgrims did 400 years ago this week. Squanto became one of history's great emissaries of Divine Mercy.

My version of the story has appeared in numerous sources including a pair of history books. One of them is 1620: The True Story of Thanksgiving by Rick Gregory (2015) and an essay, "A Eucharistic Thanksgiving" by Adam N. Crawford.

I hope you will read and share that story anew to mark Thanksgiving 400 years later as the Pilgrims did, in uncertain times and surrounded in darkness. And please pray for us as we do for you. There is cause for Thanksgiving here! (Read more.)

About Squanto. From the Cape Cod Times:

His is such a seminal backstory to Plimoth Colony that the lack of historical reference to it is conspicuous. While Squanto avoided the Great Dying — an epidemic from 1616 to 1619 that wiped out tens of thousands of Natives from Maine to Cape Cod — his life was nonetheless tragic. 

As a young man he was among 20 unfortunate men of Patuxet lured aboard the ship of Thomas Hunt in 1614 to be sold into slavery in Spain. He spent at least six weeks in the dank, dark belly of a ship, chained to his brothers, given just enough fresh water, raw fish and stale bread to keep them alive. 

In Malaga, Spain, Hunt attempted to unload his cargo of stunned and bewildered Wampanoag men in the slave market with little success, due to uninterested brokers and the intervention of a religious order of friars. Squanto ultimately made his way to London, where he found himself living with John Slaney, a man who had great potential to afford him passage home. He likely did all he could to appease Slaney, who was a merchant and shipbuilder and also a grantee of the land patent issued to the Newfoundland Company. Squanto bided his time, charming his host and earning celebrity as a novelty. The presence of a Native man fascinated Londoners. Not only were Native men set apart by their bronze skin, chiseled features and dark eyes, but they were virtual giants to the small-statured Englishmen. Squanto’s faithfulness paid off. Slaney allowed Squanto to travel as a guide to Newfoundland, where he met Thomas Dermer, an English explorer who brought him home in 1619.

Very few personal details of Squanto’s life are known, not even his age or if he had a wife or children, and with the exception of a brief remark in Dermer’s notes, nothing is said about his homecoming. However, as news of the Great Dying had reached England, he almost certainly had been forewarned. But could Squanto have possibly been prepared for the stark stillness to the hum of life overtaken by weeds, windswept by neglect, abandoned but for the bones and rotting flesh of the dead, his loved ones, left as they clung to their last breath in gruesome repose? This defining moment was described by Dermer in remarkably few words: “We arrived at my savage's native country (finding all dead).” 

If the reality of Patuxet was mortifying — and despite the lack of descriptive text on the occasion, there is little doubt of that — the welcome home, or lack thereof, must have been a crushing anticlimax after Squanto’s five-year absence. (Read more.)


The Shameful Role of RINOs and CINOs

 From TFP:

The Republicans have always been plagued by the so-called RINOs—Republicans In Name Only. These liberals in conservative clothing cast their votes with the other side, especially when moral issues are at stake. They take victory away from the pro-life and pro-family cause.

The Senate RINOs always include Sen. Susan Collins (Me.), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), and often Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah). Nine others can now be added to this list of shame: Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.); Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis (N.C.); Sen. Shelley Capito (W.V.); Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa); Sen. Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.); Sen. Dan Sullivan (Alaska); Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio); and Sen. Todd Young (Ind.). It is worthwhile noting that Senators Blunt, Burr and Portman are leaving office in January and had nothing to lose by voting against the measure in this lame-duck session.

The shameful appearance of so many RINOs is contrasted by nary a single DINO—Democrats In Name Only. Congressional Democrats voted obediently as a bloc to codify same-sex “marriage.” There was no debate or hesitation. Iron-fisted Nancy Pelosi ruthlessly made everyone in the House toe the party line. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made sure that even wannabe DINO senators, Sen. Joe Manchin (W.V.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.), voted in lockstep with the party.

No one is surprised that Democrats vote consistently with their lack of principles on important moral issues. On abortion, the Democrats have displayed a fanatical zeal to make sure the slaughter of innocents continues unabated even until birth.

Gone are the days of the blue-dog Democrats who defied their party on these vital issues. The control of elected Democratic officials is total in today’s polarized America. Favoring abortion and same-sex “marriage” is nonnegotiable for the left. (Read more.)


Deprivation and Corporal Punishment in Childhood

 From Neuroscience News:

Children who have experienced deprivation are more likely to make more impulsive choices than those who don’t and can lead to addictions in later life – research has shown.

‘Trait impulsivity’, the preference for immediate gratification, has been linked to spending more on food, especially unhealthy, highly calorific food. Studies have shown that children who experience poverty and food insecurity tend to have a higher body-mass index as adults than those who do not.

Researchers from the School of Psychology at Aston University found a link between deprivation in childhood and impulsive behavior – leading to addictions later in life. The findings, which are a culmination of six years of research, also found a further link between impulsivity, obesity and the cost of living crisis.

Professor Richard Tunney, head of the School of Psychology at Aston University, published a study in Scientific Reports earlier this year where he showed that children who experience deprivation make more impulsive choices than children who don’t. (Read more.)

Also from Neuroscience News:

Corporal punishment can be simply defined as the “intentional infliction of physical pain by any means for the purpose of punishment, correction, discipline, instruction, or any other reason.” This violence, particularly when inflicted by a parent, evokes a complex emotional experience.

The researchers, led by Kreshnik Burani, MS, and working with Greg Hajcak, Ph.D., at Florida State University, wanted to understand the neural underpinnings of that experience and its downstream consequences. The study appears in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

The researchers conducted a longitudinal study on 149 boys and girls ages 11 to 14 from the Tallahassee, FL, area. Participants performed a video game-like task and a monetary guessing game while undergoing continuously recorded electroencephalography, or EEG—a noninvasive technique to measure brain-wave activity from the scalp. (Read more.) 

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Guide to Table Setting Trends Through the Decades

 From Architectural Digest:

The ritual of table setting is something of a long lost art. So many of us, myself included, are ignorant to the nuances of cooking and plating, forgoing it for the convenience of food delivery. Even so, I’ve found myself noting that nothing satisfies like a well-plated, well-cooked meal—ideally, one I’ve made myself. To offset my food ordering ways, I’ve decided to research all that goes into the ideal tablescape. You read that right, tablescape.

In researching all the elements associated with table setting trends, I’ve uncovered different iterations of the perfect tablescape to figure out my own preferences. Though cheap cutlery certainly has its charm (especially when you’re on a budget), few things compare to a gracefully designed set, each piece of which sits ergonomically between your thumb and forefinger. And when you’ve finally cleared whatever home-cooked delicacies have awaited you, you’re greeted with another pleasant surprise: some beautifully crafted dishes, bone white or awash in playful motifs. Though the food has been great, the old adage “you eat with your eyes” seems to have proven itself, as the table settings have tied together another meal.(Read more.)



 From Jeffrey Lord:

On Tuesday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced that he will be invoking an “invasion” clause of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions to combat President Biden’s (D) illegal immigration crisis at the U.S. southern border. The announcement comes shortly after Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported that border officials had encountered more than 230,000 migrants attempting to illegally cross the southern border last month – an all-time record for October.

Additionally, CBP officials reportedly told Fox News that there were about 64,000 “gotaways” in October, meaning that more than 2,000 illegal immigrants managed to evade border patrols each day.

“I invoked the Invasion Clauses of the U.S. & Texas Constitutions to fully authorize Texas to take unprecedented measures to defend our state against an invasion,” Abbott announced on Tuesday.

“I’m using that constitutional authority, & other authorization & Executive Orders to keep our state & country safe,” he added. (Read more.)


The Tomb of Heqaib-ankh

 From Ancient Origins:

The tomb was built to catch the rays of the rising sun in such a fashion that the place where the statue of the governor was meant to be installed was flooded with light. This discovery was made by researchers from the University of Malaga (UMA) and the University of Jaen (UJA) and has been published in the journal Mediterranean Archaeology and Archaeometry . A UMA press release states that the tomb is assigned the number 33 in the necropolis of Qubbet el-Hawa and was possibly built by Governor Heqaib-ankh. Heritage Daily reports that Qubbet el-Hawa is located on the western bank of the Nile opposite the city of Aswan. Qubbet el-Hawa was used to inter dead nobles and priests from the Old and Middle Kingdoms of ancient Egypt. The XII dynasty is said to have constituted the pinnacle of the Middle Kingdom, a period stretching from roughly 2030 BC to 1650 BC, including the reigns of the XI, XII, and XIII Dynasties.

According to, the tomb was excavated by archaeologists from the UJA between 2008 and 2018. Since that time, it has been studied by researchers with different specializations. Professor of Architecture at the UMA, Lola Joyanes, has been associated with the project since 2015 and from 2019 she has pursued an independent line of research. She has closely studied the tomb’s architecture and landscaping, particularly by using drawing and photogrammetry. (Read more.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Crayke Manor

From Country Life:

Crayke Manor sits at the bottom of Castle Hill, immortalised by its appearance in one of our best-loved nursery rhymes. Penny Churchill takes a look at this beautiful period home. In the rolling landscape of North Yorkshire’s Howardian Hills you’ll find the historic village of Crayke, which stands on the southern slopes of Castle Hill — the hill where, back in the day, ‘the grand old Duke of York’ reputedly marched his 10,000 men up and then down again. Half a mile below the village is Grade II*-listed Crayke Manor, for sale through Savills at a guide price of £2.25m. Sympathetically renovated over the years, this charming 5,858sq ft house is set in 17½ acres of gardens, parkland, pasture and paddocks. Most recently it’s been in use as a successful wedding venue, but could easily be reconfigured as a private family home — one with truly breathtaking period interiors that really must be seen. (Read more.)


The Covid/Crypto Connection: The Grim Saga of FTX and Sam Bankman-Fried

 From Jeffrey Tucker at Brownstone Insitute:

A series of revealing texts and tweets by Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced CEO of FTX, the once high-flying but now belly-up crypto exchange, had the following to say about his image as a do-gooder: it is a “dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.” 

Very interesting. He had the whole game going: a vegan worried about climate change, supports every manner of justice (racial, social, environmental) except that which is coming for him, and shells out millions to worthy charities associated with the left. He also bought plenty of access and protection in D.C., enough to make his shady company the toast of the town. 

As part of the mix, there is this thing called pandemic planning. We should know what that is by now: it means you can’t be in charge of your life because there are bad viruses out there. As bizarre as it seems, and for reasons that are still not entirely clear, favoring lockdowns, masks, and vaccine passports became part of the woke ideological stew. 

This is particularly strange because covid restrictions have been proven, over and over, to harm all the groups about whom woke ideology claims to care so deeply. That includes even animal rights: who can forget the Danish mink slaughter of 2020?

Regardless, it’s just true. Masking became a symbol of being a good person, same as vaccinating, veganism, and flying into fits at the drop of a hat over climate change. None of this has much if anything to do with science or reality. It’s all tribal symbolism in the name of group political solidarity. And FTX was pretty good at it, throwing around hundreds of millions to prove the company’s loyalty to all the right causes. 

Among them included the pandemic-planning racket. That’s right: there were deep connections between FTX and Covid that have been cultivated for two years. Let’s have a look. 

Earlier this year, the New York Times trumpeted a study that showed no benefit at all to the use of Ivermectin. It was supposed to be definitive. The study was funded by FTX. Why? Why was a crypto exchange so interested in the debunking of repurposed drugs in order to drive governments and people into the use of patented pharmaceuticals, even those like Remdesivir that didn’t actually work? Inquiring minds would like to know. (Read more.)

 From The Wall Street Journal:

When FTX raised $420 million from an array of big-name investors in October last year, the cryptocurrency exchange said the money would help grow the business, improve user experience and allow it to engage more with regulators.

Left unmentioned was that nearly three-quarters of the money, $300 million, went instead to FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, who sold some of his personal stake in the company, according to FTX financial records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people familiar with the transaction.

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s cashout was large by startup-world standards, where such sales historically were taboo because they allow founders to reap profits before investors. Mr. Bankman-Fried told investors at the time it was a partial reimbursement of money he spent to buy out rival Binance’s stake in FTX a few months earlier, according to some of the people familiar with the transaction.

The deal offers a glimpse at the swirl of money between Mr. Bankman-Fried and multiple entities he controlled while his crypto business flourished, a funding stream that helped finance a burst of political donations, philanthropic commitments and a large purchase of Robinhood Markets Inc. stock in the past year.

That swirl is now under scrutiny in the sprawling bankruptcy of FTX and Alameda Research LLC, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s crypto hedge fund. FTX, which lent customer funds to Alameda, faces a funding gap of roughly $8 billion, Alameda and FTX executives have said.

John Ray, FTX’s new chief executive installed to oversee the bankruptcy, said in a court filing Thursday the process would involve the “comprehensive, transparent and deliberate investigation into claims against Mr. Samuel Bankman-Fried” and other cofounders of the entities.

The filing highlighted numerous failings, including “the concentration of control in the hands of a very small group of inexperienced, unsophisticated and potentially compromised individuals.”

Mr. Bankman-Fried’s sale of stock in October 2021 came in the midst of a six-month fundraising blitz that ultimately brought in roughly $2 billion from investors including Sequoia Capital, funds managed by BlackRock Inc. and the Singapore sovereign wealth fund Temasek.

The October 2021 fundraising valued the company at $25 billion. In a press release, Mr. Bankman-Fried said he was happy “to partner with investors that prioritize positioning FTX as the world’s most transparent and compliant cryptocurrency exchange.”

The amount raised contained numerical references to marijuana and oral sex: $420.69 million raised from 69 investors. An article published by one of FTX’s investors, Sequoia, called that fundraising a “meme round,” referring to the embedded jokes.

Three months earlier, in July 2021, Mr. Bankman-Fried bought out the roughly 15% stake owned by Binance, FTX’s first outside investor. Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao tweeted this month that the amount totaled $2.1 billion, paid in a combination of FTT, FTX’s in-house crypto currency, and BUSD, Binance’s stablecoin, whose value is pegged to the U.S. dollar.

It couldn’t be learned where Mr. Bankman-Fried came up with the money for the Binance stake. At the time, crypto was booming and Alameda was highly profitable, Mr. Bankman-Fried has said. Those finances came under question this week from Mr. Ray, who said prior numbers were unreliable and Alameda lacked audited financials.

After the July 2021 sale, the FTX shares Binance previously owned ended up in Paper Bird Inc., according to FTX documents. Paper Bird is an entity 100% owned by Mr. Bankman-Fried, according to documents on FTX filed with Miami-Dade County, in Florida. (Read more.)

From Breitbart:

The Wall Street Journal reviewed FTX financial records and spoke with people familiar with the transaction to learn that nearly three-quarters of the money raised, $300 million, went to Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of the exchange. According to people familiar with the matter, Mr. Bankman-Fried’s cashout was large even by Silicon Valley startup-world standards, where such sales were historically considered unacceptable as they allowed founders to profit before investors. According to Bankman-Fried, he bought out rival Binance’s stake in FTX a few months prior to the transaction and reimbursed investors part of the money he had spent. (Read more.) 

From The Guardian:

The collapse of FTX rocked the cryptocurrency industry and reduced the paper fortune of its 30-year-old founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, from more than $15bn to almost nothing in a matter of days. FTX and its affiliates filed for bankruptcy in Delaware on 11 November, leaving an estimated 1 million creditors, although the extent of the losses is not yet fully known because of alleged poor record-keeping. The company said on Saturday that at least 101 companies around the world were part of the bankruptcy proceedings.

The exchange was the second biggest in the world until concerns over its solvency sparked a surge in withdrawals, which exposed that it did not have assets notionally worth billions of dollars that it claimed.

The company, which has been taken over by bankruptcy experts, said on Saturday it had launched a strategic review of its global assets and was preparing for the sale or reorganisation of some businesses, with the investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners hired. A hearing on FTX’s first-day motions is set for Tuesday morning before a US bankruptcy judge, according to a separate court filing.

FTX on Sunday warned that cryptocurrency stolen in the final stages of its collapse was being transferred to other exchanges. The allegedly stolen cryptocurrency was worth $270m on Sunday, according to analysts tracking the transactions. FTX asked other exchanges to help to return the assets to the bankruptcy court. (Read more.

Nancy Lemann’s Shabby-Genteel

 From The Paris Review:

In the early years of the revived Vanity Fair, I happened to be in Tina Brown’s office when the conversation turned to a dispatch Nancy Lemann had just filed from the trial of Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards, which Nancy, a child of New Orleans, was covering for the magazine. Tina was dissatisfied, borderline exasperated: Nowhere in the article, she complained, did Nancy specify what the trial was about, what the actual charges were, and what the criminal penalties might be; it was all mood, séance atmosphere, and sketch artistry. This was not journalism as we knew it in the halls of Condé Nast. “I’ll talk to Nancy and get her to work all this in up front,” said Pat Towers, Nancy’s editor. In Towers’s comment, I caught an echo of something I once heard Nancy sigh aloud about: an editor’s suggestions regarding her latest novel manuscript, primarily its lack of story. “I guess I’ll have to go back and put in some plot,” Nancy had said—but of course you can’t retroactively implant a plot into a body of fiction as if installing a new transmission.

Starting with her first novel, Lives of the Saints, Nancy Lemann has spread her impressions across the page in a style that calls to mind smooth, panning camera shots. Lives of the Saints, Sportsman’s Paradise, The Fiery Pantheon, Malaise (what a title, so Françoise Sagan): they’re like pre-mumblecore movies with a more interesting ensemble of neurotics, a firmer point of view, and a shapelier sense of comedy. No Lemann scene is complete without several characters in various stages of disrepair or subtle agitation, in need of flotation devices to get through the day. Although Nancy was a protégé of Gordon Lish, Elizabeth Hardwick, and Walker Percy—a heady triad of influences and personality-pluses that might have easily overloaded her circuits—her literary voice from the outset was assuredly, distinctively hers. In temperament and sensibility, she seems to me closer to F. Scott Fitzgerald than any of her mentors—or perhaps she’s Scott and Zelda rolled into one, her work suffused with a longing for a lost glamour. And she has no imitators. (Read more.)


Monday, November 21, 2022

Ivana Trump’s NYC Townhouse

From New York Post:

The 17-room Lenox Hill compound that the late Trump called home from 1992 until her death this year has listed for sale, asking a cool $26.5 million. Adam Modlin of Modlin Group and Roger Erickson of Douglas Elliman hold the co-exclusive listing for the five-bedroom, 5½-bathroom, six-story home. Its apt grandeur is immediately visible in the listing’s marketing images. In July, the 73-year-old’s body was found at the bottom of its grand staircase.

Trump purchased the 8,725-square-foot historic limestone row house in 1992 for $2.5 million — some $5.4 million today — which was when her divorce from Donald Trump was finalized, according to the Wall Street Journal. The outlet added that the proceeds of the sale will go to the children she shared with the former president: Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka.

Highlights of the decadent interior include a leopard print-covered library — with leopard print in the wall paneling, along the carpet and even on the furniture’s upholstery, as well as a painting of two leopards playing over the sofa. That space comes complete with gold-tone moldings and window drapes.

Just off that room, there’s a pink fixture-filled bathroom where gold accents extend in the form of faucets, moldings and columns. Listing images also show a grand curved staircase, plus a Versailles-inspired dining room with gold-tone wall coverings, ornate gold moldings and a woodburning fireplace — all under a chandelier hanging from a ceiling dressed with more gilded moldings. That space also includes a smaller eat-in area fronting a floor-to-ceiling window overlooking a private interior courtyard.

On the same level as the dining room stands a living room, boldly decorated in shades of red and emerald, underneath a gold fabric ceiling from which another chandelier hangs. In her 2017 book, “Raising Trump,” Ivana described this room as “how Louis XVI would have lived if he had had money.” (Read more.)