Substack CEO Defends Free Speech

(p. B5) Substack Inc. co-founder and CEO Chris Best said he wouldn’t have removed a post or delisted Dave Chappelle if the comedian had published something on the platform that echoed his recent stand-up special on Netflix Inc.

. . .

“We don’t think the answer to speech you disagree with or that you find offensive or challenging is to shut it down,” he said, adding that people should be able to speak freely and discuss ideas.

For the full story, see:

Talal Ansari. “Substack Chief Says Dave Chappelle Is Welcome.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, October 20, 2021): B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 19, 2021, and has the title “‘Dave Chappelle Is Welcome on Substack,’ CEO Says.”)

To Survive a Disaster You Need “Basic Skills and Self-Reliance” in Time Before First-Responders Respond

(p. C17) The coronavirus has challenged us in ways that our society hadn’t been challenged for decades.

. . .

. . . being stressed and anxious doesn’t mean you can’t be resilient. Actively working to mitigate the damage from a disaster can help to reduce stress, because it makes you feel more empowered and less like a helpless bystander.

. . .

Experience and preparation paid off for me in September 2017, as Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 storm, approached Key West, Fla., where my husband and I had spent two years building our home together. We didn’t freak out: We knew about the risk of hurricanes when we moved there. I had studied the maps to see which areas of Key West were prone to flooding, and we prepared our property accordingly.

. . .

My long experience has taught me that when a disaster strikes, you can’t wait for someone else to bail you out. You have to have some basic skills and self-reliance initially. If a grease fire breaks out in my kitchen and I have a fire extinguisher, I can probably put it out. But if I call the fire department and wait for them to arrive, my grease fire could turn into a house fire. I will still call the fire department, in case I can’t control the fire, but the first response has to be mine.

For the full essay, see:

Robert Jensen. “Staying Resilient When Disaster Strikes.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021): C17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date September 30, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

The essay quoted above is adapted from Jensen’s book:

Jensen, Robert A. Personal Effects: What Recovering the Dead Teaches Me About Caring for the Living. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2021.

Shifting to Small Ports Requires Also Finding Containers, Trucks, and Storage at Small Ports

(p. B1) When Flexport Inc. learned in the past month that an ocean carrier planned to shift cargo from the congested operations at the Port of Los Angeles to little Port Hueneme some 80 miles up the California coast, the freight forwarder found that trucking companies weren’t ready to go along with the changing direction of the imports.

“We talked to trucking carriers throughout the market in L.A. and Oakland and the sense was that they could not support the volume if it moved through Port Hueneme,” said Jason Parker, the company’s head of trucking.

The San Francisco-based company shifted gears, pulling 200 containers from the ocean booking and instead routing many of them to Los Angeles despite a likely longer wait there to offload goods.

“The two-week delay coming to Los Angeles versus the Hueneme routing was going to cause less headache for the customers,” Mr. Parker said.

. . .

(p. B2) Sailing to alternative ports can add weeks to the time it takes to get goods from Asia to the U.S., however, and can pile on new costs and complications.

Rachel Rowell, a spokeswoman for freight middleman C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., said shifting the flow of goods requires container availability, space on a vessel, truck capacity and equipment including the chassis that attaches to trucks to allow them to carry containers. All of those may be in short supply.

“Shifting entire chains is a more challenging ordeal than a cab shifting which street it takes, which is why shifting ports is not often a preferred option and why it is difficult to do last-minute,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Paul Berger. “Smaller Ports Handicap Shippers.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, October 25, 2021): B1-B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 24, 2021, and has the title “Shippers Find New Supply-Chain Hurdles at Alternate Ports.”)

M.I.T. Tries to Silence Abbot for Defending Hiring and Promotion Based on Merit

(p. A1) CHICAGO — The Massachusetts Institute of Technology invited the geophysicist Dorian Abbot to give a prestigious public lecture this autumn. He seemed a natural choice, a scientific star who studies climate change and whether planets in distant solar systems might harbor atmospheres conducive to life.

Then a swell of angry resistance arose. Some faculty members and graduate students argued that Dr. Abbot, a professor at the University of Chicago, had created harm by speaking out against aspects of affirmative action and diversity programs. In videos and opinion pieces, Dr. Abbot, who is white, has asserted that such programs treat “people as members of a group rather than as individuals, repeating the mistake that made possible the atrocities of the 20th century.” He said that he favored a diverse pool of applicants selected on merit.

He said that his planned lecture at M.I.T. would have made no mention of his views on affirmative action. But his opponents in the sciences argued he represented an “infuriating,” “inappropriate” and oppressive choice.

. . .

(p. A14) This fight did not surprise Dr. Abbot, who described his own politics as centrist. A Maine native, he went to Harvard and came to the University of Chicago for a fellowship and became a tenured professor. He said he found in Chicago a university that remained a leader in upholding the values of free speech, even as he noticed that colleagues and students often fell silent when certain issues arose.

Dr. Abbot said his department had spoken of restricting a faculty search to female applicants and “underrepresented minorities” — except for Asians. He opposed it.

“Asians are a group that is not privileged,” he said. “It reminded me of the quotas used to restrict Jewish students decades ago.”

He spoke, too, of a lack of ideological diversity, noting that a conservative Christian student was hectored and made to feel out of place in an unyielding ideological climate. Last year he laid out his thoughts in videos and posted them on YouTube.

Loud complaints followed: About 150 graduate students, most of whom were from the University of Chicago, and a few professors from elsewhere signed a letter to the geophysical faculty at the University of Chicago. They wrote that Dr. Abbot’s “videos threaten the safety and the belonging of all underrepresented groups within the department.” The letter said the university should make clear that his videos were “inappropriate and harmful to the department members and climate.”

Dr. Abbot has since taken the videos down.

Robert Zimmer, then the president of the University of Chicago, issued a statement strongly reaffirming the university’s commitment to freedom of expression. Dr. Abbot’s popular climate change class remains fully subscribed. The tempest subsided.

. . .

WDr. Abbot, for his part, said he had tenure at a grand university that valued free speech and, with luck, 30 years of teaching and research ahead of him. And yet the canceled speech carries a sting.

“There is no question that these controversies will have a negative impact on my scientific career,” he said. “But I don’t want to live in a country where instead of discussing something difficult we go and silence debate.”

For the full story, see:

Michael Powell. “Science, Ideology and Politics Jostle in the Halls of Academia.” The New York Times (Thursday, October 21, 2021): A1 & A14.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 20, 2021, and has the title “M.I.T.’s Choice of Lecturer Ignited Criticism. So Did Its Decision to Cancel.”)

Higher Stock Market and Unemployment Benefits Allow Many Workers to “Be More Picky About the Jobs They Take”

(p. A1) Fall was meant to mark the beginning of the end of the labor shortage that has held back the nation’s economic recovery. Expanded unemployment benefits were ending. Schools were reopening, freeing up many caregivers. Surely, economists and business owners reasoned, a flood of workers would follow.

Instead, the labor force shrank in September. There are five million fewer people working than before the pandemic began, and three million fewer even looking for work.

The slow return of workers is causing headaches for the Biden administration, which was counting on a strong economic rebound to give momentum to its political agenda. Forecasters were largely blindsided by the problem and don’t know how long it will last.

. . .

(p. A13) Ms. Eager, who is vaccinated, said that she had always been careful with money and that she built savings this year by staying home and socking away unemployment benefits and other aid. “My financial situation is OK, and I think that is 99 percent of the reason that I can be choosy about my job prospects,” she said.

Americans have saved trillions of dollars since the pandemic began. Much of that wealth is concentrated among high earners, who mostly kept their jobs, reduced spending on dining and vacations, and benefited from a soaring stock market. But many lower-income Americans, too, were able to set aside money thanks to the government’s multitrillion-dollar response to the pandemic, which included not only direct cash assistance but also increased food aid, forbearance on mortgages and student loans and an eviction moratorium.

Economists said the extra savings alone aren’t necessarily keeping people out of the labor force. But the cushion is letting people be more picky about the jobs they take, when many have good reasons to be picky.

In addition to health concerns, child care issues remain a factor. Most schools have resumed in-person classes, but parents in many districts have had to grapple with quarantines or temporary returns to remote learning. And many parents of younger children are struggling to find day care, in part because that industry is dealing with its own staffing crisis.

. . .

When Danielle Miess, 30, lost her job at a Philadelphia-area travel agency at the start of the pandemic, it was in some ways a blessing. Some time away helped her realize how bad the job had been for her mental health, and for her finances — her bank balance was negative on the day she was laid off. With federally supplemented unemployment benefits providing more than she made on the job, she said, she gained a measure of financial stability.

Ms. Miess’s unemployment benefits ran out in September, but she isn’t looking for another office job. Instead, she is cobbling together a living from a variety of gigs. She is trying to build a business as an independent travel agent, while also doing house sitting, dog sitting and selling clothes online. She estimates she is earning somewhat more than the roughly $36,000 a year she made before the pandemic, and although she is working as many hours as ever, she enjoys the flexibility.

“The thought of going to an office job 40 hours a week and clocking in at the exact time, it sounds incredibly difficult,” she said. “The rigidity of doing that job, feeling like I’m being watched like a hawk, it just doesn’t sound fun. I really don’t want to go back to that.”

For the full story, see:

Ben Casselman. “Economic Gains Hobbled As Labor Market Shrinks.” The New York Times (Wednesday, October 20, 2021): A1 & A13.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 19, 2021, and has the title “The Economic Rebound Is Still Waiting for Workers.”)

Michael Dell Is a Project Entrepreneur

(p. C18) A decade ago, the rise of smartphones and tablets seemed to spell doom for the Dell computer company, which had tried to enter both markets without success. (Does anyone remember the “phablet”?) By 2012 Dell’s market share for PCs had eroded to just over 10%, and its share price had sunk below $9, from around $30 in 2007.

“I felt abandoned by the public shareholders,” admits Michael Dell, the company’s founder and CEO, in his new autobiography, “Play Nice But Win,” published next week. But Dell’s historically low stock price also offered a silver lining. With help from Silver Lake, a private-equity firm, in 2013 Mr. Dell paid $24.9 billion to take his company private. This rare maneuver freed him to transform his company “without the tyranny, the ever-ticking shot clock, of a quarterly earnings report,” he writes.

Today the company rebranded as Dell Technologies is worth around $80 billion, more than four times its value before going private.

. . .

In his efforts to take the company private in 2013 and then take it public again in 2018, Mr. Dell locked horns with Carl Icahn, an activist investor, who publicly compared Mr. Dell to Machiavelli and threatened to purchase the company himself and install a new CEO. In his book and in conversation, Mr. Dell is unsparing about Mr. Icahn, calling him a “circus clown” with “zero moral compass” and “no idea what Dell does.” Mr. Icahn, in turn, calls Mr. Dell a “bamboozler” who tried to “swindle” shareholders.

. . .

A range of supply-chain problems have meant that demand for PCs has been outstripping supply. But Dell has done a better job than its rivals of getting the relevant parts, and the company has moved more quickly than Hewlett-Packard Inc. and others in anticipating a shift in PC sales from consumers to businesses as offices open back up. Mr. Dell explains that the company’s approach to manufacturing has shifted in recent years from “just in time to just in case,” with supply chains that are geographically diverse enough to handle disruptions. He adds that the company’s longstanding approach of selling directly to customers has meant Dell’s “signal quality is higher” than its competitors when it comes to registering what people and companies actually want.

. . .

Mr. Dell is the last computer pioneer who is still running his own company. Although he acknowledges it is harder at his age to cultivate the “beginner’s mind” capable of generating radical new ideas, he says he has no plans to step aside any time soon. The work feels too interesting and too important, he explains, and he’s having too much fun: “I love what I do.”

For the full essay, see:

Emily Bobrow, interviewer(?). “WEEKEND CONFIDENTIAL; Michael Dell.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Oct. 02, 2021): C18.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date October 1, 2021, and has the title “WEEKEND CONFIDENTIAL; Tech Founder Michael Dell Is Navigating a Changing Industry.” The article does not indicate whether the quotes from Michael Dell are from his book or from an interview. I am guessing that except for a quote explicitly identified as from the book, the quotes are from an interview.)

The book by Dell mentioned in the essay is:

Dell, Michael. Play Nice but Win: A CEO’s Journey from Founder to Leader. New York: Portfolio, 2021.

Chinese Communists Know How to Replicate and Mimic But Not How to Create

(p. A21) Taiwan is an austere rock in a typhoon-laden sea with 24 million people. But this little island has — by universal acclaim — the most sophisticated microchip manufacturer in the world, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, or TSMC.

About 100 miles away, across the straits, is mainland China, with 1.4 billion people. Most are the same ethnicity, speak the same language and eat the same food as the people of Taiwan. But they have never been able to master the manufacture of the most advanced logic chips that TSMC makes.

. . .

TSMC is a semiconductor foundry, meaning it builds the chips that lots of different companies design — particularly Apple, Qualcomm, Nvidia, AMD and even Intel. Over the years, TSMC has built an amazing ecosystem of trusted partners that share their intellectual property with TSMC to build their proprietary chips. At the same time, leading tool companies — like America’s Applied Materials and the Netherlands’ ASML — are happy to sell their best chip-making tools to TSMC. This ensures that the company is always on the cutting edge of the material science and lithography that go into building and etching the base of every semiconductor.

I used to worry that Xi’s big idea — “Made in China 2025,” his plan to dominate all the new 21st-century technologies — would leave the West in the dust. But I worry a little less now.

. . .

And everything that Xi is doing — from Australia to Taiwan to Jack Ma — is driving them away. As one U.S. chip executive said to me of Xi, “The Chinese have replicated and mimicked,” but they have never created the kind of ecosystem like TSMC’s, “because there is no trust.”

For the full commentary, see:

Thomas L. Friedman. “China Is Becoming a Real Danger.” The New York Times (Wednesday, October 20, 2021): A21.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date October 19, 2021, and has the title “China’s Bullying Is Becoming a Danger to the World and Itself.” The passages quoted above are in both the online and print versions. The ellipses are appropriate for the print version, but would be slightly different for the online version because it has some additional passages that are not quoted above.)

Malnutrition of Poor Is Reduced More by Economic Growth Than by Ending Climate Change

Source of graph: online version of WSJ commentary quoted below.

(p. A17) The Paris climate agreement is projected to keep 11 million more people in poverty come 2030 than otherwise would be. If the Glasgow climate conference in November leads to the adoption of much stronger climate measures, policy makers will raise that total to 80 million additional people in poverty by 2030, which will inevitably cause even more malnutrition deaths.

Climate change deserves our attention, but policy makers need to be realistic. What really protects the world’s poor from malnutrition is getting out of poverty. It’s not expensive climate regulations.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “Climate Change Barely Affects Poverty.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, October 7, 2021): A17.

(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated October 7, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)