‘Senator, I’m Singaporean’: TikTok CEO Faces Off Against Tom Cotton (Oscar Gonzalez, 1/31/23, Gizmodo)

Wednesday’s hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee got a little spicy as senators took turns bashing the CEOs of the biggest social media platforms. While well-deserved for the most part, it was Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, who decided to go down a weird path with TikTok CEO Shou Chew.

“Have you ever been a member of the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Cotton asked Chew after taking a dramatic pause from asking the CEO multiple questions about what country he was a citizen of.

“Senator, I’m Singaporean. No,” Chew replied with a smirk as if maybe this was a joke told by the gentlemen from Arkansas.

“Have you ever been associated or affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party,” Cotton asked seriously, clearly showing he was not joking.

“No, Senator. Again, I’m Singaporean,” Chew answered giving a quick glance forward as if to say, “Oh, he was serious about this.”


THE BLACK SONGWRITER WHO TOOK NASHVILLE BY STORM (Robert M. Marovich, 1/30/24, Zocalo Public Square)

Theodore Roosevelt “Ted” Jarrett Jr. was born in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 17, 1925, just more than a month before Nashville station WSM launched the “Grand Ole Opry,” the radio broadcast that turned Nashville into the country music capital. Jarrett’s upbringing was a riches-to-rags story. His father, Theodore Roosevelt Jarrett Sr., earned enough money working for a bootlegging enterprise to enable his family to employ a housekeeper, a cook, and a nurse. But after Ted Sr. was shot and killed, Jarrett’s mother, unable to maintain the family’s standard of living, sent 7-year-old Ted Jr. and his sister, Dorothy, to live with their grandmother and step-grandfather on their Antioch, Tennessee farm. When they were old enough, Ted and Dorothy joined their grandparents in picking cotton and doing other farm work.

Ted always had an imaginative mind, and from knee pants, he spent what little free time he had writing poems. In his pre-teen years, Jarrett was intrigued by newspaper ads that shouted about the “thousands of dollars” to be made by submitting song poems, or lyrics, for publication. Ignoring his step-grandfather’s dismissive retort that “Black boys don’t write songs,” and with surreptitious support from his grandmother, Ted eagerly sent samples of his song-poems to the advertisers. To his dismay, the so-called publishers turned out to be nothing more than “song sharks” who preyed on the hopes of amateur lyricists, only to defraud them in the end.

Disappointed but not daunted, Jarrett made music throughout high school, and enrolled in the music program at Fisk University after graduation. He had to delay his studies when he was drafted during World War II, and again later, when his GI Bill money ran out. To pay the bills, he dove full-time into Nashville’s postwar music scene, fitting in a class or two at Fisk whenever he had extra money.

Jarrett wrote songs and pitched them to Music City publishers. He also worked as a disc jockey on pioneering African American radio station WSOK, as a pianist in the city’s then-booming R&B club circuit, as a talent scout for the R&B and country label Tennessee Records and, briefly, as tour manager for Nashville’s Radio Four gospel quartet. In 1955, his song “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)” became an R&B hit for local unit Louis Brooks and His Hi-Toppers, and for bigger stars like Ruth Brown, and the vocal group the Midnighters.

Jarrett wrote his first No. 1 Country hit, “Love, Love, Love,” that same year. The song, an exuberant pledge of eternal affection, caught the attention of Webb Pierce, a white singer, guitarist, songwriter, and Opry star known for wearing elaborately decorated “Nudie Suits.” Pierce’s version of “Love, Love, Love,” which gave Jarrett’s song a pedal-steel-drenched reading that sounded like a long-lost Hank Williams piece, spent 32 weeks on the U.S. country chart, eight at number No. 1. In November 1955, Billboard presented the song with a Triple Crown Award for being the most played country record on radio and jukeboxes, and the best-selling country record in stores. The December 10, 1955 issue of the trade magazine the Cash Box featured a smiling Jarrett holding 78 rpm singles of three versions of the song: one by Pierce, one by pop crooner Johnny Ray on Columbia, and his own recording for Nashville imprint Excello.

From there, Jarrett grabbed the music industry with both hands. Music, regardless of genre or marketing category, was his passion. He championed Black artists who crossed over from R&B to pop, managed acts, and founded record labels such as Calvert, Champion, Ref-O-Ree, and T-Jaye. In total, Jarrett wrote approximately 300 songs, several of them portending the rise of southern soul music. The Rolling Stones covered “You Can Make It If You Try,” arguably Jarrett’s best known composition, on their eponymous 1964 debut album. All the while, Jarrett never gave up on his dream of a college degree, receiving a bachelor’s in music from Fisk University in 1974, when he was in his late 40s.



According to reporting from Electrek, the IONIQ 2 is intended to rival Volkswagen’s upcoming ID 2all, which is expected to start at around $27,000.

Although no official price has been announced, the IONIQ 2 may be even less expensive than that, as Hyundai Europe’s VP of marketing, Andreas-Christoph Hofmann, told Automotive News, “Everybody in the industry knows the target of this kind of vehicle is 20,000 euros [around $21,700].”

Hyundai’s EVs have gotten consistently rave reviews, especially relative to their price points. The IONIQ 5 recently became the first fully electric vehicle to win MotorTrend’s SUV of the Year, and the IONIQ 6 topped the list of the most efficient cars available in the United States alongside the Lucid Air.


There’s More Proof That Return to Office Is Pointless (Maxwell Zeff, 1/30/24, Gizmodo)

“Using a sample of S&P 500 firms, we examine determinants and consequences of U.S. firms’ return-to-office (RTO) mandates,” said researchers from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh. The study found that managers use RTO mandates “to reassert control over employees and blame employees as a scapegoat,” and concluded that “we do not find significant changes in firm performance in terms of profitability and stock market valuation after the RTO mandates.”


Shocking Yet Normal? China’s 2023 GDP Growth Is -4.9% or -9.5% (Jennifer Zeng, 1/30/24, Japan Today)

From 2008 to 2012, the actual figures were lower than the official figures, but the differences weren’t too big, from 5 trillion to 0.1 trillion.

From 2013 to 2017, the actual GDP figures calculated using the expenditure method were even greater than the official numbers.

This shows that the GDP calculated using the expenditure method is not always smaller than the official figures. In 2014, it was even more than ¥17 trillion RMB ($2.37 billion USD) higher than the official figure.

Therefore, the expenditure method does not have a so-called “systematic bias” that will underestimate GDP.

In the six years from 2018 to 2023, the gap between the actual figures and the official figures grew wider and wider. Then in 2023, it was more than ¥33 trillion RMB, or about $4.79 trillion USD.

What does this indicate?

It shows that the actual economic situation in China is rapidly declining. Therefore, the scale of fraud also has to be rapidly increased to maintain the so-called 5% growth target.

By the way, the decline in China’s GDP in 2023, if it is denominated in US dollars, is minus 9.5%, not minus 4.9%. That is due to the changes in the ratio of the renminbi to the US dollar.

Lastly, the United States’ GDP in 2023 is estimated to be around $26.85 trillion USD. So if China’s actual GDP is $13.09 trillion, then China’s GDP is only about 49% of the United States, which makes it lower than anything anyone has ever talked about before.


Historians support voters against Trump in Colorado ballot case: The GOP-majority court claims to care about history when interpreting the Constitution. If it does so here, that’s a problem for Trump’s eligibility. (Jordan Rubin, 1/29/24, MSNBC)

The historians recalled that an influential backer of the amendment noted that the section incorporated the president, replying: “Let me call the Senator’s attention to the words ‘or hold any office civil or military under the United States.’” The initial senator “admitted his error” and no other senator “questioned whether Section 3 covered the President,” the historians wrote.


Eva Brann, National Treasure (Shaun Rieley, January 20th, 2024, Imaginative Conservatism)

In a moment when ideological certainties have usurped both ends of the political spectrum, Ms. Brann takes a more tentative, and, yes, more philosophical tack.

It is important to point out that her conservatism is not, in the first place, political. Rather, it consists in what she calls a “temperamental disposition,” a way of imaginatively addressing oneself to the structure of things. Political positions flow from prudential application of this disposition, but political applications are secondary to a larger appreciation of what is.

This disposition is further clarified in her distinction between “questioning” and “question-asking”: whereas “questioning” is “secular inquisition, sneakily hostile inquiry” whose “intention is to skewer an object and barbecue it,” its contrary “question-asking” is “the central non-technique of reflection,” which “affirms, at least as a starting point, the matter asked after.”

Question-asking, then, begins with the givenness of reality, and an appreciation of its complexity. It is rooted in a humility, yet possessed with a confidence in the ability of human reason to ascertain the nature of things. “The conservative is always in the middle of things,” she says, “betwixt and between, interestedly engaged in the world’s paradoxes and oppositions.” This is the very opposite of ideology, which, wholly uninterested in paradox, begins with outrage at the world as given, and presumes that remaking reality is a simple task involving nothing more than the application of abstract principles.

The Book of Proverbs tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). In other words, wisdom begins in humility, the recognition that one is not the source of one’s own being.

Through her many books and essays, Ms. Brann ably demonstrates this principle in action, thoughtfully engaging great books, questioning various aspects of reality, and always seeking to understand with humility.


Biden-era economic growth leaves Republicans literally speechless (Steve Benen, 1/26/24, MSNBC)

Americans learned this week that economic growth in the final three months of 2023 easily outpaced modest expectations, and GDP growth across the entire year was quite good — despite overwhelming chatter a year ago about a looming recession.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman, taking stock of the data, concluded that President Joe Biden “couldn’t have asked for better numbers.” Diane Swonk, chief economist at KPMG, told the Times the economic news was “stunning and spectacular.”

Naturally, I was curious how Republicans would respond to the news. A few options came to mind.

Maybe leading GOP officials would make the case that the robust economic recovery is nice, but President Joe Biden doesn’t deserve any credit. Perhaps they’d argue that it’s too soon to applaud good news since there’s still plenty of economic work to do. Maybe they’d argue that the United States economy is a massive beast, and it’s unrealistic to think a White House agenda is uniquely responsible for year-to-year shifts.

But as it turns out, Republicans went with the same approach they use in response to robust job growth: They simply ignored the good news, as if it hadn’t happened.



There’s a couple of musicians, one of whom you just mentioned, that I’ve noticed, you know, appear frequently in both the books and in the Amazon series as well. And it seems like there’s even some dialogue surrounding Art Pepper. I was wondering if you could talk about these two individuals Art Pepper and and Frank Morgan, and the way that you’ve experienced them and why you chose their music.

CONNELLY: Yeah, somewhere along the line, a publisher, a small press publisher, who did some, like limited editions on my books, and was a jazz guy said to me, probably the best book he had ever written (sic) (read) about jazz was Art Pepper and Laurie Pepper’s book, Straight Life. And so I got that book and I read it. And this goes back to what I already said. It’s so hard for me to describe it. I think it’s hard for any writer to describe music. But these were – that book was basically recordings Laurie Pepper made of of her husband Art Pepper, talking about the music he makes on the saxophone. And I just found that book to be, you know, a real head turner. And then it took me down in the rabbit hole into Art Pepper’s work and his connection to Los Angeles and he was this handsome guy who pretty much got destroyed by drugs, spent a lot of time in prison. And that worked for me on on two different levels because I had created this character Harry Bosch who didn’t know who his father was, and so he as a little kid, he built up this fantasy. His mother liked jazz and his – Harry Bosch’s joy from jazz is inherited from his mother, who also had a struggle in life. So I came up with this idea that Harry Bosch is white, Art Pepper’s white, Harry Bosch had this fantasy that that was my dad. I don’t know who my dad was. So he created a replacement. And it was this very cool cat named Art Pepper. And, you know, in the stories about him, you know, Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section is a fantastic album, and the story behind it about how he was junk-sick, and had a broken reed, and all these things he overcame to make music that was so gorgeous, so beautiful, was important.

You know, like, it takes me about a year, back then it took me even longer – to write books. You know, you got to find things that plug you in. It’s a long haul, it’s climbing a mountain, and you got to find things that mean something to you that keep you plugged in. They might totally escape the reader. But you need to be able to climb that mountain and get up every day and all that, but you need something to keep you in. And so the music was a lot of what kept me in. And so that’s where the, you know, the Art Pepper connection, came into play. And later on, I got to meet Laurie Pepper and spend time with her and talk to her about Art. And, you know, it was all part of the research, but also part of my growing reacquaintance and love with jazz.

The other thing is, you know, I’ve been married a long time and my wife – (I’ll) say, Hey, I’m gonna write a book – you know, (she’s) like, good luck. You know, I had a daytime job where I had to spend a lot of hours. You know, being a newspaper reporter on the crime beat is not necessarily a nine to five thing. And so I was already spending a lot of time making a living as a journalist. And I had to make a deal. Luckily, I didn’t – we didn’t – have any kids at that time. But I made a deal with my wife that I need four nights a week to write (for) me to go to disappear. And we had a walk-in closet that I use as a writing room to disappear in there at night, and I went one of the weekend days. And I promise I’ll give this up if I don’t get published in X amount of time. And I blew that deadline, but she put up with me. But she was very much part of the team and aware of what I was doing and aware that I was this guy who you know, like going to see the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton is now going to the Catalina Bar and Grill, which is a jazz club in LA and Hollywood. So she she knew what I was doing. And so one day she came into the closet with a copy of Newsweek magazine. And, and it was folded open to a full-page story on a guy named Frank Morgan. And the headline was something along the lines of “The Return of Frank Morgan” and it was about this guy and LA musician. At the time based I know he has a big connection to Minneapolis, he had his second album or first album in something like 27 years. Basically, it was almost three decades between his first and second album. And that was because a life of crime and drugs had landed him repeatedly in prison. And as at different times unreliable as a session guy. So it was a long time between the promise of this first album and the second album.

There wasn’t really the internet back then. This is probably in like ‘89 or ‘90. But I I went to the alternative newspaper that came out in LA and listed most of the jazz performances and coincidentally or lo and behold, he was playing three nights at the Catalina that week. And so I went to that I went to hear him play twice. He just became my guy. Yeah, something about his his sound really touched me beyond the guy doing research. Something about his music, and he spoke a lot between sets are between songs and he would talk about his life and the the path not taken or, the wrong path taken. And it just kind of struck me. And he played this one song and he was playing with George Cables, a pianist. They did a lot of work together and George wrote a song called Lullaby- it’s only a minute long, and it’s on Frank Morgan – well I think he recorded it three different times on albums. That song just kind of pierced my heart. There’s something that was sad about it, but also resolute like, you know, I’m gonna persevere basically.

We’re getting into how hard is to write about music. This is a song obviously without lyrics. It’s basically a piano and saxophone that’s it. And it’s just a beautiful song. And that kind of became my writing anthem. And I got the record and I would play that every morning, or every night or more realistically, every night before I started working on my Harry Bosch novel. Those two musicians were pretty much the most influential in the kind of forming of the character of Harry Bosch.


Is Inflation Dead? (Cullen Roche|January 26th, 2024, Discipline Funds)

What really happened here is that plane was flying too fast in 2021. Then we hit a rough patch of air and the Fed kept flying us right through it. When they finally recognized the danger in 2022 they lifted the nose (interest rates) which caused the plane to slow and avert some of the turbulence. As of today the turbulence has moderated quite a lot, but the Fed still has the nose pitched at a suboptimal angle. They would like to bring the nose back down so we can continue along at the altitude and rate of speed we were traveling before this mess started.

This analogy is better because it highlights what success will actually entail here. Avoiding the turbulence isn’t “mission accomplished”. We want to bring the plane back to a more sustainable altitude and speed. And the only way we’ll know that that’s been accomplished is when the Fed brings the nose back down to its normal position. For the Fed that would mean bringing interest rates back down to a more sustainable level. I’ve been saying that a sustainable overnight rate is probably something in the 3-4% range. So, with the rate at 5.5% we’re still quite a ways from being able to say that the mission has been accomplished.

Don’t get me wrong. The pilots here are doing a good job. Better than I expected them to do. But we don’t want to be complacent here and declare victory when we’re still flying low and slow through a turbulent environment.