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Daily Archives: February 25, 2022

Charts: U.S. Inflation Up in January 2022

Source : Bloomberg

Chuckles of the Day




Walk On Water


Bubba had long heard the stories of an amazing family tradition. It seems that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather had all been able to walk on water on their 21st birthday.

On that special day, they’d each walked across the lake to the bar on the far side for their first legal drink.

So when Bubba’s 21st birthday came around, he and his pal Jim Bob took a boat out to the middle of the lake, Bubba stepped out of the boat… and nearly drowned! Jim Bob just barely managed to pull him to safety.

Furious and confused, Bubba went to see his grandmother.

‘Grandma,’ he asked, ‘it’s my 21st birthday, so why can’t I walk ‘cross the lake like my pappy, his father, and his father before him?

‘Granny looked deeply into Bubba’s troubled eyes and said, ‘Because your father, your grandfather and your great grandfather were born in January, when the lake is frozen, and you were born in July, you frickin’ idiot.’

* * * * * * *

Movie Theater Pervert

An old farmer went to town to see a movie.

The Ticket Agent asked, ‘Sir, What’s that on your shoulder?’

The old farmer said, ‘That’s my pet rooster Chuck. Wherever I go, Chuck goes.’

‘I’m sorry Sir, ‘ said the Ticket Agent. ‘We can’t allow animals in the theater.’

The old farmer went around the corner and stuffed the bird down his overalls. Then he returned to the booth, bought a ticket, and entered the theater. He sat down next to two old widows named Mildred and Marge.

The movie started and the rooster began to squirm. The old farmer unbuttoned his fly so Chuck could stick his head out and watch the movie.

‘Marge,’ whispered Mildred.

‘What?’ said Marge.

‘I think the guy next to me is a pervert.’

‘What makes you think so?’ asked Marge.

‘He undid his pants and he has his thing out.’ whispered Mildred.

‘Well, don’t worry about it,’ said Marge. ‘Hell, at our age we’ve seen them all’.

‘I thought so too,’ said Mildred, ‘but this one’s eating my popcorn.’




Ukraine Crisis Tests China-Russia Partnership

Russia’s military buildup along its border with Ukraine is testing the possibility of a Moscow-Beijing axis lining up against the U.S. and its allies.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s meeting with Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Beijing this month fed speculation that a new alliance could form between the two great powers as they face off with the U.S. over a range of issues.

Russia and China have backed each other’s positions on opposing a NATO expansion in former Soviet republics and buttressing China’s claim to the self-governing island of Taiwan.

But the relationship remains lopsided. China’s confident rise as an economic and political force contrasts with Russia’s growing isolation and reversion to Cold War tactics of intimidation and bullying.

China also remains opposed to actions that could damage its territorial ambitions, from the South China Sea and Taiwan to the Indian border.

Here are some of the main factors driving, and blocking Russo-Chinese relations:

WHERE DOES CHINA STAND ON THE UKRAINE CRISIS?

China has not criticized Russia over its moves against Ukraine, and has joined in verbal attacks on Washington and its allies. Addressing the Munich Security Conference over the weekend, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi lashed out against the U.S., accusing “a certain power” of “stirring-up antagonism.”

However, in response to a question from conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger, Wang said the “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of any country should be respected and safeguarded, because this is a basic norm of international relations.”

“Ukraine is no exception,” Wang added.

He also stated that major powers should act in defense of global peace and no country should “repeat the past mistake of forging rival alliances.”

That chimes with China’s longstanding opposition to military alliances and often invoked — but often breached in practice — policy of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs.

The comments were also in keeping with Beijing’s quest to replace a global order underpinned by alliances it considers threatening to its own development. Those include NATO and newer groupings joining the U.S. with Japan, India, Australia and other states with which China has substantial foreign policy disputes.

WHAT DID THE XI-PUTIN SUMMIT ACHIEVE?

Xi and Putin met ahead of the opening ceremony of the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Beijing, after which they issued a lengthy joint communique seen as announcing a new and closer relationship.

The two sides said they “strongly support each other” in confronting what Xi called “regional security threats” and “international strategic stability,” without directly naming the U.S.

The meeting between the leaders marked their 38th contact in person and by phone, a number touted by Beijing as a sign of closeness between the countries that had been rivals for leadership in the Cold War’s socialist bloc.

The fall of the Soviet Union remains an obsession among Chinese Communist leaders, along with Putin, a former officer in the Soviet KGB who shares Xi’s authoritarian leanings and has aligned his foreign policies with those of Beijing while courting China’s market for Russian energy resources and military hardware.

In its own readout of the Xi-Putin meeting, however, China held back on making a full-throated endorsement of Russia’s strategy of attacking alleged Western threats to its security.

IS THERE A LINK BETWEEN UKRAINE AND TAIWAN?

China’s Communist Party leadership is believed to be watching the U.S. response to Russia’s actions closely for signs of how Washington would behave if Beijing were to move against Taiwan.

China has been dispatching military aircraft and holding threatening war games in hopes of undermining support in Taiwan for the self-governing island’s de facto independence.

Washington provides Taiwan with fighter jets, warships and other arms and is legally required to consider threats to the island as matters of “grave concern.” That doesn’t obligate the U.S. to intervene militarily on Taiwan’s behalf, but the possibility has not been ruled out, with allies such as Australia and Japan potentially joining in a conflict.

WHERE IS AMERICA LEFT IN THE DEBATE?

China is not putting its weight behind Russia’s foreign policy gambits, but the frostiness in relations with Washington shows no sign of thawing, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations and director of the Center on American Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University of China.

“I believe that the Chinese government will continue to take care of China itself in the first place rather than take care of Russia,” Shi said. In the meantime, relations with Washington will remain fraught, particularly over the issue of Taiwan.

Beijing blames heightened tensions with the U.S. on what it calls a false depiction of China as a strategic rival.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Richard Nixon’s visit to China that led to the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in 1979 and a new era of trade and economic relations. No joint celebrations have been announced.


Source : AP

Infographic: The Companies that Defined 2021

See large image . . . . . .

Source : Visual Capitalist

Will Xi Jinping’s ‘End of Days’ Plunge China and the World into War?

Gordon G. Chang wrote . . . . . . . . .

When truckers took over Canada’s capital, Ottawa, and shut down border entry points to America, some called it a “nationwide insurrection.” Mass demonstrations have occurred across the democratic world. People have had enough of two years of mandates and other disease-control measures.

Not so in the world’s most populous state, which maintains the world’s strictest COVID-19 controls. There are no known popular protests in the People’s Republic of China against anti-coronavirus efforts.

Yet China is not stable, and Xi Jinping is facing his “End of Days,” as a recent essay by opposition figures (see below) puts it. The revolt is not in society at large but at the top of the Communist Party. As Gregory Copley, president of the International Strategic Studies Association, told Gatestone, Xi Jinping, China’s mighty-looking leader, has an “enormous array of domestic enemies.”

Xi created that opposition. After becoming China’s ruler at the end of 2012, he grabbed power from everyone else and then jailed tens of thousands of opponents in purges, which he styled as “anti-corruption” campaigns.

Xi also used the disease to great advantage. As Copley, also the editor-in-chief of Defense & Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy, points out, “Xi’s ‘zero COVID’ policy is, indeed, less about stopping the spread of COVID and more about suppressing his internal enemies, both in the public and in the Party.”

The “enormous array” is now starting to strike back. Xi is most vulnerable on his handling of the country’s stagnating economy. For one thing, the draconian campaign against COVID—massive testing, meticulous contact-tracing, strict lockdowns—have of course undermined consumption, which Beijing has touted as the core of the economy.

Beijing is panicking, adding nearly a trillion dollars in total new credit last month, a record increase. Chinese technocrats have also become sneaky, embarking on what the widely followed Andrew Collier of Global Source Partners terms “shadow stimulus”—stimulus provided by local governments and their entities in order to allow the central government to avoid reporting spending.

China needs a vibrant economy to service enormous debts, largely run up as Beijing overstimulated the economy, especially beginning in 2008. When the so-called “hidden debt” is included, total debt in the country amounts to somewhere in the vicinity of 350% of gross domestic product.

Not surprisingly, Chinese companies are now defaulting. The debt crisis is so serious it can bring down China’s economy—and the country’s financial and political systems with it.

For three decades, a Chinese leader was essentially immune to criticism because all decisions of consequence were shared by top figures in the Communist Party. Xi Jinping, however, as he took power also ended up with accountability—in other words, with no one else to blame. With things not going China’s way in recent years, Xi, often called the “Chairman of Everything,” is taking heat.

There are signs of intensifying discord among senior leaders. In the most recent hint of distress, “Fang Zhou and China”— “Fang Zhou” is a pseudonym meaning “ark”—wrote a 42,000-character essay titled “An Objective Evaluation of Xi Jinping.” The anti-Xi screed, posted on January 19 on the China-sponsored 6park site, appears to be the work of several members of the Communist Party’s Shanghai Gang faction, headed by former leader Jiang Zemin. Jiang’s faction has been continually sniping at Xi and now is leading the charge against him.

Fang’s piece incorporates previously voiced criticisms but does so in a comprehensive fashion. Fang blames Xi for, among other things, ruining the economy.

“Xi will be the architect of his own defeat,” writes Fang at the end of the rant, in a section titled “Xi Jinping’s Denouement” or “End of Days.” “His style of governance is simply unsustainable; it will generate even newer and greater policy missteps.”

Fang notes that Xi was able to take advantage of a feeble opposition but has not been able to accomplish much. “Xi’s policies have been retrogressive and derivative, his successes minor and his blunders numerous,” writes the Asia Society’s Geremie Barme, who translated the essay, summarizing Fang’s thoughts. Fang believes Xi “deserves a score of less than zero.”

Xi is not one to let a decade of zero scores get in the way of his continued rule. Communist Party norms require him to step down at the 20th National Congress, to be held sometime this fall if tradition holds. He obviously wants a precedent-breaking third term as general secretary so that he can become, as outsiders say, “Dictator for Life.” Most observers expect he will get that new term.

Maybe. Fang Zhou’s essay shows Communist Party leaders are risking stability by airing disagreements in public. Xi Jinping therefore, now realizes he is in the fight of his life.

Xi’s problems, unfortunately, can become our problems. He has, for various internal political reasons, a low threshold of risk and many reasons to pick on some other country to deflect elite criticism and popular discontent.

In 1966, Mao Zedong, Communist China’s first ruler, started the decade-long Cultural Revolution to vanquish political enemies in Beijing. Xi is doing much the same thing now, especially with his “common prosperity” program, which could return China to the 1950s.

Unlike Mao, however, Xi has the power to plunge the world into war, and he has reason to lash out soon.

Xi is targeting the United States. On August 29 of last year, People’s Daily, China’s most authoritative publication, accused America of launching “barbaric” attacks on the Chinese nation. On the 21st of that month, Global Times, a tabloid controlled by People’s Daily, insinuated the U.S. was working with China’s “enemies.”

The Communist Party of China has always believed its struggle with the United States is existential—in May 2019 the official People’s Daily declared a “people’s war” on America—but the hostility has become far more evident in the past year.

Virulent anti-Americanism suggests Xi Jinping is establishing a justification to strike America. The Chinese regime often uses its media to first warn and then signal its actions.

America has now been warned.


Source : Gatestone Institute

‘I Hate Everybody Including You’ – The Art of Saying No

Shaun Usher wrote . . . . . . . . .

Admittedly it’s thin, but there is definitely a silver lining to the pandemic: for the best part of a year we have all been granted a bulletproof excuse to turn down pretty much any invitation, and I, for one, am grateful. Before long, however, we will need to restart the excuse generator and begin declining things awkwardly again. For that reason I want to revisit a subject I’ve touched on before, and have gathered together a list of knock-backs pulled from the letters of others. Some are tactful and eloquent; others are entirely free of both. All are admirable.


Thank you for your invitation to host a fundraising dinner in the private room of a top London restaurant.

I would rather die.

Harold Pinter | Letter to Tom Stoppard, 2001

* * * * * * *

I am sorry, but I do not wish to accept the honorary degree you have offered me. I already have one degree, honestly earned, from Princeton. At the commencement when I received it, I remember watching the honorary degrees being conferred and feeling that an “honorary” degree was a debasement of the idea of a degree that confirms that certain work has been accomplished.

Richard Feynman | Letter to Robert Boheen, 1967 | The Letters of Richard P. Feynman

* * * * * * *

A dinner! How horrible! I am to be made the pretext for killing all those wretched animals! Thank you for nothing. Blood sacrifices are not in my line.

George Bernard Shaw | Letter to Archibald Henderson, 1930 | Selections from Bernard Shaw’s Postbag

* * * * * * *

I can imagine myself blurbing a book in which Brian Aldiss, predictably, sneers at my work, because then I could preen myself on my magnanimity. But I cannot imagine myself blurbing a book, the first of the series, which not only contains no writing by women, but the tone of which is so self-contentedly, exclusively male, like a club, or a locker room. That would not be magnanimity, but foolishness. Gentlemen, I just don’t belong here.

Ursula Le Guin | Letter to John Radziewicz, 1987 | More Letters of Note

* * * * * * *

Thanks for your letter inviting me to join the committee of the Arts and Sciences for Eisenhower.

I must decline, for secret reasons.

E. B. White | Letter to J. Donald Adams, 1956

* * * * * * *

I cannot be of any use to you and your students nowadays, alas, since, at 84, I resemble nothing so much as an iguana, hate travel, and have nothing to say. I might as well send a spent Roman candle in my stead.

Kurt Vonnegut | Letter to Professor Alice Fulton, 2007 | Kurt Vonnegut: Letters

* * * * * * *

I have declined to go to Mrs Fosters and to Miss Martineau – and now I decline to go to you. But – listen! Do not think that I throw your kindness away or that it fails of doing the good you desire. On the contrary – the feeling expressed in your letter – proved by your invitation goes right home where you would wish it to go and heals as you would wish it to heal.

Charlotte Brontë | Letter to Mrs Gaskell, 1851

* * * * * * *

Thank you for your letter of 10th January. I would be useless at this debate primarily because I have been dead for 24 years now. Apart from that, I hate scientists and I hate artists. In fact, I hate everybody including you, do tell them that is why I’m not at the debate.

Spike Milligan | Letter to Cameron Robson, 1990 | Spike Milligan: Man of Letters

* * * * * * *

Thank you for offering me this honour: I am very pleased. But for some time now I have been wondering, “But where is this British Empire?” Surely, there isn’t one. And now I see that I am not the only one saying the same.

There is something ruritannical about honours given in the name of a non-existent Empire.

And there is another thing. When young I did my best to undo that bit of the British Empire I found myself in: that is, old Southern Rhodesia.

And surely there is something unlikeable about a person, when old, accepting honours from a institution she attacked when young?

And yet, how pleasant to be a dame! I would adore it. Dame of what?

Dame of Britain? Dame of the British Islands? Dame of the British Commonwealth? Dame of ….? Never mind.

Please forgive my churlishness. I am sorry, I really am.

Doris Lessing | Letter to the Prime Minister’s Private Secretary, Alex Allan, 1992

* * * * * * *

Your letter to me is based on the assumption that there exists some reason or need for you to interview or write about me. I do, as you rightly suppose, occasionally eat something and (as a result) go to the dentist but that is some way from agreeing to be shat on by a stranger.

Lucian Freud | Letter to Lynn Barber, 1993

* * * * * * *

After five years, you have again been kind enough to ask me to luncheon. The reason for this is that I have just published a successful book: the reason I have had a successful book is that I do not go out and waste my time and energy, but work hard, morning and afternoon. If I accept your kind invitation, I shall have to leave off earlier in the morning, and shall be too tired to work in the afternoon. Then my next book will not be such a success, and you will not ask me to luncheon; or, at best, less often. So that, under these circumstances, I am sure you will agree it is wiser for me not to accept your present kind invitation.

Edith Sitwell | Letter to Mrs. Almer, 1931 | Edith Sitwell: Avant garde poet, English genius

* * * * * * *

Dear Michael,

Certainly you can say No to the David Frost Show! If you could make the No a bit insulting so much the better. Perhaps you could put it that Mr Greene wouldn’t dream of appearing on a David Frost Show!

Affectionately,

Graham

Graham Greene | Letter to Michael Korda, 13 May 1978 | A Life in Letters


Source : Letters of Note