July 20, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:53 PM


Tom Barrack charged with illegally lobbying then-President Trump on behalf of UAE (Dan Mangan, Christina Wilkie, Kevin Breuninger, 7/21/21, CNBC)

Thomas Barrack, a private equity investor who is a close friend of former President Donald Trump, was arrested Tuesday morning in Los Angeles on federal charges of illegally lobbying Trump on behalf of the United Arab Emirates.

Posted by orrinj at 12:17 PM


To Free Cuba, Make Guantanamo the New Ellis Island (IRA STOLL, July 19, 2021, NY Sun)

The drowning risk for incoming Cuban refugees could be entirely eliminated by inviting the Cubans seeking freedom and democracy to make their way by land to Guantanamo. At the navy base, their applications could be processed, they could be vaccinated against Covid-19, and they could eventually be transported safely to America by airplane or in seaworthy vessels.

The images of this exodus would help advance what Mr. Biden professes to be a core foreign policy objective. In his July 15 "Washington Declaration" with Chancellor Merkel, Mr. Biden said, "We must act now to demonstrate that democracy delivers for our people at home and that democratic leadership delivers for the world."

There's no better demonstration to the world that freedom and democracy beat the so-called socialist paradise of Cuba than hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily picking up and leaving.

A little confused here about how the Ellis Island model works.  Put them everywhere and process then transport our new fellow citizens. 
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Russian Tanks Move to Afghan Border Ahead of Drills (AFP, 7/20/21)

Russian tanks stationed at Moscow's base in Tajikistan have arrived at training grounds near the border with Afghanistan ahead of army drills next month, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

Getting Vlad, Xi and Pakistan bogged down in Afghanistan would be genius.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Henry Adams & The Force (Mark Tooley, July 19, 2021, Providence)

When Adams shared his unpublished memoir and its search for an imagined religious ideal with close friends, John Hay's widow admonished him: "But it seemed to me that you have studied too much to find that 'Force' you are still seeking. Why, instead of all those other books, you have gone to, to find it--did you not go back to your Bible?... I have wanted, for so long to tell you this, but have not had the courage."

Adams seems not to have heeded her counsel, preferring to idealize a past that never existed instead of finding God at work in the present. He aloofly condemned the supposed decadence of modern capitalist democracy, taking for granted his own extensive hereditary riches, comforts and privileges, while ignoring the unprecedented economic empowerment of millions who benefitted from industry and technology. His religious ideal was aesthetic and abstractly moral but largely indifferent to people outside his social class, whether arriving waves of immigrants or disenfranchised black people in the South after Reconstruction. He lamented the decline of religion but ignored the resurgent popular piety that infused his time, which he barely noticed and no doubt disdained.  After all, where were its great cathedrals and artworks?

A British diplomat described Adams in 1887 after his wife's death as "queer to the last degree; cynical, vindictive, but with a constant interest in people, faithful to his friends and passionately fond of his mother.... He has no cards and never goes out."

Adams was the archetype of a certain kind of American observer who revels in supposedly constant societal decline from the perspective of snobby reserve while disdaining improvements for and the popular piety of common, less erudite people. He was an ungrateful heir to the old New England Unitarian establishment. He rejected orthodox Christianity and even Unitarianism but wanted morality and a robust religious aesthetic.  

As Mrs. Hay discerned, Henry Adams was looking for "The Force" in all the wrong places.  So many are, in every age.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life (Christianity & Crisis Magazine on July 20, 2021, Providence)

"The Motives of the Men Who Sought Hitler's Life," by W. Von Eckardt
May 13, 1946

"Deo--Patriae--Humanitati," for God, country, and humanity, was the motto of the Germans who attempted to overthrow the regime which made their country the most hated nation in the world. The integrity and motives of the conspirators of the July 20th attempt to do away with Hitler are still doubted by many. The fact that the same group made any number of previous attempts since the first serious one was foiled by Mr. Chamberlain's fatal arrival in Munich on September 29, 1938, does not seem to clear it of the suspicion of having acted only in order to avoid total defeat. Defeatism was, of course, the motive of a few hard-boiled, calculating generals, who had refused for years to participate, playing both sides of the fence, and who were executed only for their last minute consent to support the putsch if it should succeed. The men, however, who had for years tried to move the army into action against the regime were motivated by even more than earnest patriotism. Throughout the utterances and convictions of all the real conspirators one finds a sincere spiritual premise, which seems sadly lacking in most of the victorious "anti-fascist" forces today.

Their basic conviction seems to me perfectly expressed in a passage of Peter Yorck von Wartenburg's testimony before the Nazi tribunal. We found the minutes of the People's Court trials of eight of the principal participants of the July 20th putsch when we came to Berlin. The trial was presided over by the notorious, sardonic Nazi "judge" Roland Freisler, who met his fate in an air-raid on Berlin early in 1945. Yorck von Wartenburg was one of the defendants charged with the attempted assassination of the F├╝hrer and conspiracy against the State.

Yorck von Wartenburg: "Mr. President, I have already stated during my interrogation, that the national-socialist ideology developed thus, that I..."

The President, Dr. Freisler: (interrupting) "...could not agree! To say it in concrete terms, you declared: In the Jewish question you disagreed with the extermination of Jews, you disagreed with the national-socialist conception of justice."

Yorck von Wartenburg: "The decisive factor, which connects all these questions are the totalitarian demands of the State towards the citizen, which force him to cast aside his religious and moral obligations to God."

It was the struggle against the totalitarian demands of the State which united the German opposition from the political left to the right. This strong anti-totalitarian feeling, based on a simple return to Christian ethics, dominated the thoughts and the, obviously rare, writings of all participants of the attempted putsch, in which almost all efforts of the German opposition culminated. Time and again we find this conscious return to Christian morality on which all was to be based, and which has nothing in common with church-politics, dogma, or ultramontane separatism.

Hellmuth von Moltke writes to his wife in his last letter, which was smuggled out of prison, that the Nazis could not prove his or his friends' active participation (he was, of course, most active). "But one thought remained: How can Christianity be an anker of salvation in times of chaos? This lone thought demands five heads tomorrow, and later those of Steltzer and Haubach."

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


A Persistent Productivity Pickup (Goldman Sachs,12 July 2021)

Stronger productivity growth has been one of the silver linings of the pandemic, with 3.1% annualized growth in output per hour since the start of the crisis (vs. +1.4% in the previous business cycle). Higher-frequency measures indicate further gains in the middle of the year. In this Analyst, we explore the composition of the productivity acceleration to better understand its drivers and sustainability.

We find that productivity gains since 4Q19 are most pronounced in industries where virtual meetings are feasible and in-person expenses like travel & entertainment have scope to decline, for example information technology services, professional services, and product development/wholesale trade. These efficiency improvements from digitization continued in Q1 despite the reopening of the in-person economy and the partial return to corporate office buildings.

The retail sector ranks fourth across industries in terms of pandemic productivity performance, consistent with a boost from ecommerce and from evolving brick-and-mortar business models (expanding curb-side pickup, "Buy Online Pickup In Store"). Timely data indicate these gains persisted in Q2 even as malls reopened and the stimulus boost faded. The composition of retail employment is also consistent with efficiency gains from digitization, with four fewer cashiers and salespeople for every hundred workers (June 2021 vs. 2019).

The end of work is the rise or productivity. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Global investors pump hundreds of billions into renewables in shift from fossil fuels (Joshua S Hill, 20 July 2021, Renew Economy)

A total of $US501 billion ($A683 billion) was invested in the clean energy sector in the last financial year, an increase of 9% over the previous year and a new record level of clean energy investment.

Unsurprisingly, the renewable energy segment of the clean energy sector led the way with $US303 billion ($A413 billion), accounting for 60% of total investment committed towards the global low carbon energy transition.

These are the headline findings from a new report published on Monday by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) entitled Global Investors Move into Renewable Infrastructure.

The report highlights not only the record level of investment attracted by the low carbon energy transition, but also demonstrates the insistent move away from investing in fossil fuel projects caused by the threat of exposure to climate-related risks and the volatility in fossil fuel pricing and demand.

Hating environmentalists isn't actually good economics?  Who knew?
Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Using plastic waste to help solve sand shortages (Bernd Debusmann Jr, 7/20/21, BBC)

To try to reduce the need for sand, a small but growing number of researchers are turning to technology and innovation in the hunt for alternatives.

These include Dr John Orr, a lecturer in concrete structures at Cambridge University. His research has found that plastic waste can be sorted, cleaned, shredded and crushed into a sand alternative for use in concrete.

He has looked specifically at the potential impact of the solution in India. Here the cost of sand has skyrocketed - while at the same time estimates suggest that 15,000 tonnes of plastic waste is dumped every day in the country.

"We found that you can replace up to 10% of the sand in concrete with the plastic, and it has the same strength and the same longevity," says Dr Orr.

Unlike sand, plastic won't stick to the cement paste around it, so it can only replace 10% of the raw material, he says. "But that still saves the need for a huge amount of sand, and helps to reduce the vast amount of plastic waste on India's streets.

"From a cost perspective, using the plastic can be cheaper, broadly speaking, especially as sand goes up in price as it becomes more scarce. For countries like the UK this isn't really an issue, as we don't build much, but in nations with a construction boom, using plastic in concrete could grow in popularity."

Dr Orr reckons that if using plastic in making concrete were adopted across India it could save 820m tonnes of sand a year.

At the same time, other research is being done into using other waste materials in concrete in place of sand, such as shredded old car tyres or ground-down glass.

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Biden Just Explained Why His Version of Capitalism Is Better Than the GOP's
(WILLIAM SALETAN, JULY 19, 2021, Slate)

On Monday, the president spoke about the economic recovery and the threat of inflation. He poked fun at the GOP's warnings "that if I got elected, I'd bring the end to capitalism." "Six months into my administration, the U.S. economy has experienced the highest economic growth rate in nearly 40 years," he observed. "It turns out capitalism is alive and very well. We're making serious progress to ensure that it works the way it's supposed to work: for the good of the American people."

That last line is central to Biden's worldview. Capitalism is a means, not an end. It excels at producing wealth, not distributing it. 

That is the whole magilla. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Police arrested a heavily-armed Los Gatos man had a handwritten manifesto saying he wanted to wipe out Jews (Ryan Torok, Jul. 19th, 2021, Forward)

A Los Gatos, California man, found with a cache of weapons along with a manifesto containing antisemitic language, was arrested earlier this month, according to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.

Authorities are not revealing the exact language from the manifesto -which also featured writing targeting Blacks and Hispanics - but will put it into evidence during a bail hearing scheduled for July 21 in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said Sean Webby, public communications officer for the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office.


Posted by orrinj at 12:00 AM


Who Killed Essentialism?On the forbidden but unavoidable concept. (Charlie Riggs, 7/19/21, Hedgehog Review)

As recently as a few years ago, when I was in graduate school, anyone making an "essentialist" argument was generally thought to be committing an intellectual and moral error. Essentialism most often functioned as a pejorative term in left-leaning, academic parlance, naming the retrograde belief that groups, people, or identities were defined by immutable "essences"--ontological or biological substrates that determine action and behavior.

How strange, then, to find "essentialism" being flung as an accusation in the culture war du jour, the recent controversy over critical race theory--but now as an epithet against the Left. Florida governor Ron DeSantis says that "critical race theory is basically race essentialism." Pundit Ben Shapiro calls the pushback against CRT "a rejection of racial essentialism in favor of individualism." Christopher Rufo, the conservative activist who more than anyone else invented the campaign against CRT (on the cynical, though not incorrect, understanding that "strung together, the phrase 'critical race theory' connotes hostile, academic, divisive, race-obsessed, poisonous, elitist, anti-American"), accuses CRT-influenced pedagogues of "explicitly endorsing principles of segregationism, group-based guilt, and race essentialism--ugly concepts that should have been left behind a century ago."

The merits of these arguments--about the nature of critical race theory, and of the larger left-wing cultural politics for which it has lately become a symbol--are less interesting to me than the universal disrepute of "essentialism." No one in academia wants to be accused of essentialism, and conservatives seem to have selected the term partly because they know where to slip the knife in. It is a classic example of what Kenneth Burke called the "stealing back and forth of symbols."

But how did essentialism acquire its bad reputation, now on both sides of the ideological spectrum? And is that reputation deserved? As Rufo's comment suggests, at least part of the backlash against essentialism--or racial essentialism, at any rate--originated in the early-twentieth-century collapse of racial/biological deterministic thinking in the social sciences. The story of how Franz Boas and his merry band of cultural anthropologists debunked the scientific racism of the Madison Grant school, toppling rigid biological race categories with a careful attention to culture as a human artifice or "social construction," is a familiar tale. Charles King's recent book Gods of the Upper Air tells it as well as anyone, adorned with ample, colorful details on the lives of Boas, Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, Zora Neale Hurston, and others.

But anti-essentialism has other histories, too, some more recent. As Daniel T. Rodgers showed in Age of Fracture, his masterful intellectual history of the last quarter of the twentieth century, the radical politics of the 1960s and '70s produced notions of "essential" blackness--as well as "essential" womanhood--that came in for increasing skepticism from both Left and Right during the 1980s when the range of black and female experiences became more visible and the terrain of racial and gender politics shifted. The "post-essentialist" black writers of that time who sought to destabilize the concept of race--among whom the much-maligned critical race theorists can, ironically, be counted--were sometimes discomfited to find their ideas being mirrored or taken up by conservatives pressing a "color-blind" agenda against Affirmative Action, reparations, and other policies aimed at rectifying historical injustice. The more things change...

The irony, of course, is that it is CRT that holds race to be an artificial construct, while the critics on the Right are Identitarian.