April 30, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 4:12 PM


Authenticity is a sham (Alexander Stern, 4/30/21, Aeon)

Despite its ubiquity, there's nothing necessary about authenticity. First of all, it's a luxury: only those comfortable enough to take the necessities of life for granted can turn their attention to authenticity. Secondly, authenticity has a history. Other cultures and times haven't given the self nearly so much weight, nor have they frowned so much upon conformity. Self-actualisation is often subordinated, if not completely subsumed, by service to the family, to tradition, or to God. Thinking about the history and contingency of authenticity - as with any concept - can help us understand how best to approach it.

Authenticity seems, at least initially, to have had a religious component. Indeed, Western authenticity can't be understood without reference to that peculiar Christian God who decided to become a man. One way to understand authenticity is as the inheritance we're left with after God passes away. In personalising God, Christianity foregrounded the inward struggle of the believer. In the form of Jesus Christ, whom Wilde called 'the first individualist in history', God wasn't just a lord to serve, but 'one of us', a human being with a personal narrative that holds lessons for his humble servants. Jesus' struggle with temptation, his rejection of hypocritical dogma, and his willing self-sacrifice parallels every Christian's own struggle: 'What would Jesus do?'

...in favor of conforming to God's/Christ's command to love each other. Abnegation, not authenticity. 

Posted by orrinj at 3:26 PM


Europe's Recession Contrasts Economic Fortunes of U.S. Expansion (Peter S. Goodman, April 30, 2021, NY Times)

Economic reports released on both sides of the Atlantic this week painted very different pictures of how the United States and Europe are recovering from the pandemic. The lesson: Along with vaccines, it pays to unleash enormous amounts of public money in the face of a livelihood-destroying health crisis.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Teargas, flashbangs: the devastating toll of police tactics on Minnesota children (Lois Beckett, 30 Apr 2021, The Guardian)

Children can be especially vulnerable to teargas, because they have smaller lungs, tend to breathe more rapidly and are closer to the ground, where the irritating particles in teargas eventually settle, medical experts said.

"Teargas should absolutely not be used anywhere near children for any reason," said Irwin Redlener, the director of Columbia University's Pandemic Resource and Response Initiative, and a longtime children's health advocate. "It's completely inappropriate."

A wide range of doctors have condemned the US's use of teargas on children and families, including at the US-Mexico border in 2018. New research from Portland found that hundreds of people people reported serious, lasting health effects from being teargassed, including disruptions to their menstrual cycles, from intense cramps to abnormal bleeding. Because teargas was initially tested on young men in military settings, experts said, the full effects of the chemicals on a more diverse population are unknown. There is also little research on the long-term effects of teargas on children, Redlener said.

Several international treaties have banned the use of teargas during war.

The Minnesota governor, Tim Walz, a Democrat, initially defended the use of teargas in Brooklyn Center, saying it was important to prevent property damage, and that he trusted police to use it appropriately.

Residents of the Sterling Square Apartments, a complex across from the police department, said the reaction of law enforcement and national guard troops to the protests after Wright's death had traumatized their children and left kids and adults coughing and feeling sick from the exposure to teargas.

Ebonie McMillan, 36, who lives with her eight-year-old daughter and two-year old twins in an apartment directly facing the Brooklyn Center police station, said she had seen rubber bullets bouncing off her balcony.

The police think they are an occupying force in enemy territory. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


COVID-19 has prompted a boom in retirement savings (Howard Gold, 4/29/21, Market Watch)

According to Fidelity Investments, the average balance in IRA accounts at the firm rose from $115,400 in the fourth quarter of 2019 to $128,100 in the fourth quarter of 2020, an increase of 11%. With dividends reinvested, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.68% gained nearly 18% during that time, but remember, most IRAs are invested in a mixture of stocks, bonds and cash and few are 100% in equities.

Last year, the number of Fidelity IRA accounts that received a contribution increased by 35% and the average contribution per account rose by 5%. That doesn't sound like much, but it suggests that many people who kept their jobs (about eight million jobs lost last year still haven't returned) decided to step up their retirement savings during the pandemic, along with buying Pelotons PTON, -4.19% and subscribing to Netflix NFLX, +0.49%, HBO Max T, +1.23% and Disney+ DIS, +1.06%.

Furthermore, Fidelity reported, the number of new, traditional, Roth and Roth for Minor IRA accounts increased by 56% from 2019 to 2020. That's in line with data from Charles Schwab SCHW, +2.65%, which reported a 50% increase in IRA openings during the first two months of 2021 over the first two months of 2020, a slightly different time period.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Abu Mazen's epic elections blunder is a gift to Hamas: East Jerusalem riots were just an excuse to cancel voting when it became crystal clear the terror organization would have a giant win (Kobi Michael, APR 30, 2021, Times of Israel)

With Abu Mazen's announcement indefinitely delaying the Palestinian legislative elections, it appears the best days are behind the PA President along with the rest of the veteran Fatah Palestinian national leadership and even the Fatah movement itself. Abu Mazen's irresponsible and predictable decision to call the elections and his decision to cancel them on the pretext that attributes to Israel an inability to hold free elections in East Jerusalem are liable to emerge as one strategic fumble too many, in the wake of which the processes for changing the Palestinian national leadership will accelerate.

The Jerusalem riots resulted from a mix of factors: the Muslim holy month of Ramadan along with shortfalls in Israel Police professionalism and sensitivity surrounding recent events in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah, all further clouded by "TikTok Terrorism" and the Lehava organization's displays of hatred and violence. But none of these cut to the heart of the matter.

East Jerusalem was the ladder that enabled a desperate Abu Mazen to climb down from the elections he called, by presidential decree, after reaching understandings with Hamas. In deciding on the elections, Abu Mazen acted with preening irresponsibility, maneuvering himself into a honey trap set for him by Hamas, which agreed -- to his surprise, and contrary to its original position -- to accept all of his terms for holding the elections. Hamas, which had prepared impressively for the elections and anticipated significant gains and perhaps even victory, was unwilling to provide Abu Mazen with the ladder.

Participating in the denial of self-determination to the Palestinian people is an ongoing blight on our own ideals.