Biden’s “Infrastructure” Central Planners Aim to Tear Up Earlier Central Planners’ Highways

(p. A10) As midcentury highways reach the end of their life spans, cities across the country are having to choose whether to rebuild or reconsider them. And a growing number, like Rochester, are choosing to take them down.

. . .

Nearly 30 cities nationwide are currently discussing some form of removal.

. . .

The growing movement has been energized by support from the Biden administration, which has made addressing racial justice and climate change, major themes in the debate over highway removal, central to its agenda.

. . .

Congress is still haggling over Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, but experts say the proposed funding for highway removal represents a shift in the way the government approaches transportation projects.

“As recently as a decade ago,” said Peter D. Norton, a transportation historian at the University of Virginia, “every transportation problem was a problem to be solved with new roads.” Now, the impacts of those roads are beginning to enter the equation.

For the full story, see:

Nadja Popovich, and Denise Lu. “Can Removing Highways Fix America’s Cities?” The New York Times (Saturday, May 29, 2021): A10-A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 27, 2021, and has the same title as the print version. The online version, but not the print version, lists Josh Williams as the second co-author.)

India’s Tata “Paid a Harsh Price” for Keeping Distance from Government

(p. A15) Mr. Raianu, a historian at the University of Maryland, is guilty of no hype when he titles his book “Tata: The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism.”

. . .

No other company has dominated the history of its national commerce and industry quite as much as the house of Tata in India, where it is one of the few major businesses still regarded as unstained by overt corruption. Although family-run for most of its existence—the stubborn Indian norm for merchants—the Tata company was from an early date “unusual” among India’s corporate groups (Mr. Raianu says) in employing professional executives and “talented nonrelatives.” The company also “kept its distance from the state” in both colonial and postcolonial times. It gave only lukewarm support to the Indian National Congress, which meant that the Tatas had few political chips to cash when the Congress party came to govern a free India. It paid a harsh price for this aloofness when Air India—the Tatas’ thriving aviation arm—was nationalized by Prime Minister Nehru in 1953.

. . .

The Parsi character of the company has, in many ways, helped it to transcend the mud pit of Indian business. The Parsis are a minuscule community, numbering around 57,000 Indians today. Practitioners of Zoroastrianism, they fled to India in the eighth century when Persia came under the sway of Islam. They embraced Western ways more readily than other Indians and, as a result, thrived under the British. Parsis, writes Mr. Raianu, “typified the religious minority exempt from ritual restrictions of caste and guild systems, much like European Jews.” And so they were more ready to look outward—to foreign opportunities—than the hidebound Indian business castes.

For the full review, see:

Tunku Varadarajan. “BOOKSHELF; From Homestead to Hegemony.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, July 14, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date July 13, 2021, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Tata’ Review: From Homestead to Hegemony.”)

The book under review is:

Raianu, Mircea. Tata: The Global Corporation That Built Indian Capitalism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2021.

California Regulators Banned Angela Marsden’s Customers from Eating Outside, but Allowed Next Door “Essential” TV Comedy Workers to Eat Outside


The news report above was posted to YouTube by ABC channel 7 in Los Angeles on Dec. 5, 2020.

(p. 4) For more than a week, tensions have flared between Los Angeles restaurant owners and politicians over the county’s ban on outdoor dining, which health officials say is necessary to slow the surging pandemic — and restaurateurs say is destroying their livelihoods.

The controversy came to a head on Saturday when a restaurant owner shared a video on social media showing tents, tables and chairs set up as a catering station for a film crew — just feet away from her eatery’s similar outdoor dining space, which has sat empty since the restriction went into effect late last month.

“Tell me that this is dangerous, but right next to me — as a slap in my face — that’s safe?” Angela Marsden, who owns the restaurant, Pineapple Hill Saloon & Grill, said as the video panned from her outdoor dining space to the film crew’s catering site.

Ms. Marsden had already organized a protest against the outdoor dining ban before discovering the film tents. On Saturday, she and others gathered outside County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s house, saying the government’s uneven application of the rules was crushing small businesses.

. . .

The catering site was for a crew filming “Good Girls,” a comedy television show that airs on NBC, according to Philip Sokoloski, a spokesman for FilmLA, which helps Los Angeles manage film permits. Mr. Sokoloski said the catering site and the film location nearby were both authorized under a permit issued by the city.

. . .

California has declared entertainment industry workers essential, and in Los Angeles County they must follow strict guidelines such as eating in staggered shifts or in an area large enough to stay six feet apart.

Ms. Marsden said in an interview that she saw two people eating without masks at the tables when she went to her restaurant on Friday to pick up paychecks for her employees and supplies for the protest.

. . .

She said she had worked hard to make her outdoor patio compliant with the previous guidelines for outdoor dining before it, too, was banned.

“You name it, we did it,” she said.

For the full story, see:

Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs. “Restaurant Owners See Cruel Disparity in Los Angeles’s Outdoor Dining Ban.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, December 6, 2020): 4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated June 4, 2021 [sic], and has the title “She Couldn’t Open for Outdoor Dining. The Film Crew Next Door Could.”)

Harvard Democrat Larry Summers Says Trillion Dollar Stimulus Was “Least Responsible” Policy of Past 40 Years

(p. 1) Larry Summers has split his pandemic time between houses in Massachusetts and Arizona. He also seems to live inside the collective mind of the Washington economic establishment.

. . .

Mr. Summers spent his last White House stint as a top economic adviser, when the administration settled for a smaller Great Recession stimulus package out of political practicality, and has since disputed criticism by saying he favored more spending then. He has spent 2021 protesting that the $1.9 trillion spending package the Biden administration passed in March was too large for reasons both political and economic, while fretting that the Federal Reserve will be too slow to sop up the mess. The result, he has warned, could be an overheating economy and runaway inflation.

Other respected academics were repeating variations on the same theme, though most economists argued that a 2021 price pop was more likely to be short-lived. But it was Mr. Summers, a longtime Harvard pro-(p. 6)fessor, whose brash declarations worked a sort of nerd magic, drawing the boundaries of the debate and forcing the White House — one he largely supports — on the offensive.

Mr. Summers had combined the swagger of a former Treasury secretary with the gravitas of a respected academic and punchy lines — the stimulus wasn’t just a bad idea, according to him, it was the “least responsible” policy in four decades — to set off a national conversation that was hard to ignore.

. . .

. . . Mr. Summers has said he takes issue not with the idea of spending aggressively to break the economy out of a malaise, but with the magnitude and style — the trillions spent to combat the pandemic downturn exceeded the size of the hole it blew in the economy, basically. He seemed to worry that if he didn’t speak out, there would be too little discussion of the risks.

. . .

Whether or not Mr. Summers turns out to be the sage of Scottsdale and Brookline, his staying power is perhaps best understood as a statement about what he represents: the belief that government spending has real if hard-to-know boundaries, and that trying to measure and work within economic and practical limits can lead to better policymaking.

For the full story, see:

Jeanna Smialek. “Larry Summers: Yelling From the Sidelines.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, June 27, 2021): 1 & 6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated June 26, 2021, and has the title “Why Washington Can’t Quit Listening to Larry Summers.”)

Many People Hope “to Achieve Some Wealth”

The “Mr. Doggett” who is quoted below is “Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, a senior Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee.”

(p. A12) Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, pressed Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen last week on Ms. Warren’s proposed wealth tax, which would impose a 2 percent surtax on the value of assets owned by people worth more than $50 million — and raise at least $3 trillion.

. . .

Other Democrats, even liberals, are not so sure.

“The whole term of a wealth tax scares an awful lot of people who are hoping to achieve some wealth,” Mr. Doggett said. “We don’t want to discourage economic success. We just want to level the playing field.”

For the full story, see:

Jonathan Weisman. “Bipartisan Infrastructure Talks Collide With Democrats’ Goal to Tax Rich.” The New York Times (Mon., June 21, 2021): A12.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 20, 2020, and has the title “Bipartisan Infrastructure Talks Collide With Democrats’ Goal to Tax the Rich.”)

Plethora of Creative Chip Startups Face: More Stable Demand, More Tools for Quick Design, More VC Funding

(p. B1) OAKLAND, Calif. — A global shortage of semiconductors has cast a cloud over the plans of carmakers and other companies. But there’s a silver lining for Silicon Valley executives like Aart de Geus.

He is chairman and co-chief executive of Synopsys, the biggest supplier of software that engineers use to design chips. That position gives Mr. de Geus an intimate perspective on a 60-year-old industry that until recently was showing its age.

Everyone now seems to want his opinion, as shown by the dozens of emails, calls and comments he received after addressing a recent online gathering for customers. Synopsys says people tuned in from 408 companies — more than double the number for an in-person event last held in 2019 — and many weren’t conventional chip makers.

. . .

(p. B3) Their overriding question: How do you develop chips more quickly?

Even as a chip shortage is causing trouble for all sorts of industries, the semiconductor field is entering a surprising new era of creativity, from industry giants to innovative start-ups seeing a spike in funding from venture capitalists that traditionally avoided chip makers.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company and Samsung Electronics, for example, have managed the increasingly difficult feat of packing more transistors on each slice of silicon. IBM on Thursday announced another leap in miniaturization, a sign of continued U.S. prowess in the technology race.

Perhaps most striking, what was a trickle of new chip companies is now approaching a flood. Equity investors for years viewed semiconductor companies as too costly to set up, but in 2020 plowed more than $12 billion into 407 chip-related companies, according to CB Insights.

Though a tiny fraction of all venture capital investments, that was more than double what the industry received in 2019 and eight times the total for 2016. Synopsys is tracking more than 200 start-ups designing chips for artificial intelligence, the ultrahot technology powering everything from smart speakers to self-driving cars.

. . .

The industry has historically been notorious for booms and busts, usually driven by purchasing swings for particular products like PCs and smartphones. Global chip revenue slumped 12 percent in 2019 before bouncing back with 10 percent growth last year, according to estimates from Gartner, a research firm.

But there is widening optimism that the cycles should moderate because chips are now used in so many things. Philip Gallagher, chief executive of the big electronics distributor Avnet, cited examples like sensors to track dairy cows, the flow of beer taps and utility pipes, and the temperature of produce. And the number of chips in mainstay products like cars and smartphones keeps rising, he and other executives say.

. . .

Chip design software gained popularity in the 1980s to streamline tasks that engineers once carried out with pencils and drafting tables, painstakingly drawing clusters of transistors and other components on chips.

. . .

Mr. de Geus said new growth was coming from what seemed like a problem: a slowdown in Moore’s Law, industry shorthand for the perennial race to shrink chip circuitry so chips do more with less silicon. In response, he said, some companies are using Synopsys tools to design entire systems and bundles of smaller chips that work like a single processor.

During his recent speech to users, Mr. de Geus demonstrated how artificial-intelligence enhancements could allow Synopsys tools to automatically decide how best to situate and connect blocks of circuitry on a chip. A system managed by a single engineer did the work two to five times faster than a team of designers, Mr. de Geus said, while its design used up to 13 percent less energy.

For the full story, see:

Don Clark. “No Shortage Of New Ideas About Chips.” The New York Times (Saturday, May 8, 2021): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 7, 2020, and has the title “Despite Chip Shortage, Chip Innovation Is Booming.”)

Communists Imprisoned Lu Yuyu for Four Years for Posting Online Data on Protests in China

(p. A1) On a summer day in 2016, a posse of men surrounded Lu Yuyu on a street in China’s southwestern city of Dali. He said they wrestled him into a black sedan and slid a shroud over his head. His girlfriend was pushed into a second car, screaming his name.

Mr. Lu had for years posted a running online tally of protests and demonstrations in China that was closely read by activists and academics around the world, as well as by government censors. That made him a target.

While China’s Communist Party has long punished people seen as threats to its rule, government authorities under Chinese leader Xi Jinping have engaged in the most relentless pursuit of dissenters since the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, according to academics and activists.

“Over the past eight years under Xi, authorities have become hypersensitive to the publicizing of protests, social movements and mass resistance,” said Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

“Lu’s data provided a window into social trends in China,” Mr. Wu said, and that made him a threat to the party. China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based group that promotes worker rights, used Mr. Lu’s posts as the primary source for its “Strike Map,” an interactive online graphic tallying worker unrest.

Mr. Xi’s crackdown has snared women planning protests against sexual harassment, human-rights lawyers once given leeway and Marxist students advocating workers’ rights. Many have endured lengthy detentions and various forms of psychological pressure.

“Their goal is to make you feel helpless, hopeless, devoid of any support, and break you down so you begin to see activism as something foolish that doesn’t benefit anyone, and gives pain to everyone around you,” said Yaxue Cao, a Washington-based activist who runs China Change, a news and commentary website advocating for human rights. “In so many cases, they are successful.”

After Mr. Lu was snatched off the street, he spent four years in custody, his girlfriend left him, and, since his release in June [2020], he said he has been kept under close watch by police. He struggles to find steady work, he said, and suffers from depression. His landlord recently asked him to move, he said, citing pressure from authorities.

The experience keeps him far from his past documentation work. “If you’re lucky, they’d detain you within a month, or if you’re unlucky, within a week,” said Mr. Lu, 43 years old. “There’s no point.”

For the full story, see:

Chun Han Wong. “In Xi’s China, There Is Little Room Left for Dissent.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020): A1 & A10.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 24, 2021, and has the title “‘Their Goal Is to Make You Feel Helpless’: In Xi’s China, Little Room for Dissent.” The online version says that the print version had the title “Xi’s China Ramps Up Drive to Squelch Dissent.” My Central Edition of the print version had the title “In Xi’s China, There Is Little Room Left for Dissent.”)

Subsidies for Black Farmers Fuel Claims of “Reverse Racism” and “All Farmers Matter”

(p. 1) LaGRANGE, Mo. — Shade Lewis had just come in from feeding his cows one sunny spring afternoon when he opened a letter that could change his life: The government was offering to pay off his $200,000 farm loan, part of a new debt relief program created by Democrats to help farmers who have endured generations of racial discrimination.

It was a windfall for a 29-year-old who has spent the past decade scratching out a living as the only Black farmer in his corner of northeastern Missouri, where signposts quoting Genesis line the soybean fields and traffic signals warn drivers to go slow because it is planting season.

But the $4 billion fund has angered conservative white farmers who say they are being unfairly excluded because of their race. And it has plunged Mr. Lewis and other farmers of color into a new culture war over race, money and power in American farming.

. . .

(p. 19) The plans have drawn thousands of enraged comments on farm forums and are being fought by banks worried about losing interest income. And some rural residents have rallied around a new slogan, cribbed from the conservative response to the Black Lives Matter movement: All Farmers Matter.

. . .

“It’s a bunch of crap,” said Jeffrey Lay, who grows corn and soybeans on 2,000 acres and is president of the county farm bureau. “They talk about they want to get rid of discrimination. But they’re not even thinking about the fact that they’re discriminating against us.”

. . .

. . . rural residents upset with the repayments call them reverse racism.

White conservative farmers and ranchers from Florida, Texas and the Midwest quickly sued to block the program, arguing that the promised money amounts to illegal discrimination. America First Legal, a group run by the former Trump aide Stephen Miller, is backing the Texas lawsuit, whose plaintiff is the state’s agriculture commissioner.

“It’s anti-white,” said Jon Stevens, one of five Midwestern farmers who filed a lawsuit through the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, a conservative legal group. “Since when does Agriculture get into this kind of race politics?”

. . .

One recent afternoon, a friend, Brad Klauser, who runs his family’s large cattle and grain farm, swung by Mr. Lewis’s barn to catch up. As they talked bills, rising fuel costs and sky-high land prices, the conversation turned to the debt relief that only one of them was eligible to receive.

“Everybody should have the same option,” said Mr. Klauser, who is white, leaning on the flatbed of Mr. Lewis’s pickup. “Do you think you’re disadvantaged?”

“There’s definitely disadvantages,” Mr. Lewis replied, saying that officials scoffed when he first tried to get a federal farm loan. “They didn’t take me serious.”

After Mr. Klauser headed home, Mr. Lewis thought about how the two friends were both trying to reap a profit from the land. “Everyone should have a chance at farming,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Jack Healy. “Windfall for Black Farmers Roils Rural America.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, May 23, 2021): 1 & 19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated May 24, 2021, and has the title “‘You Can Feel the Tension’: A Windfall for Minority Farmers Divides Rural America.”)

Government Cover Ups

(p. 230) It’s hard enough to find out about the things the universe prefers to keep hidden without our government, which somebody you know must have voted for, covering up what has already been found. Sometimes, of course, it hides things to save its own neck and sometimes seemingly just for the hell of it.

Norman Maclean’s musings, quoted above, are from his wonderful prize-winning account of the Mann Gulch fire in which Wag Dodge spontaneously invented a way to save his life from the wall of fire speeding toward him:

Maclean, Norman. Young Men and Fire. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017 [first edition 1992].

Can the Methods of ACT UP Bring Quicker Cures for Other Maladies?

Amar Bhidé has a thought-provoking article in which he asks the public choice question of how to overcome government regulators who slow the development of breakthrough drugs. He holds up, as a main example to ponder, the AIDs ACT UP movement that is often given credit for winning concessions from the FDA that spurred the availability of a drug cocktail that greatly extended and improved the lives of AIDs patients. The passages quoted below are from a review of a book that may be a promising source for learning more about what ACT UP did and how they did it.

(p. C3) In her 2012 book, “The Gentrification of the Mind,” Sarah Schulman delved into the silence still surrounding AIDS in America.

. . .

Schulman has gone from witness to a sort of living archive. She is a former member of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, the influential direct-action group committed to ending AIDS. Her new book, “Let the Record Show,” is based on 17 years of interviews she conducted with nearly 200 members of the organization.

. . .

The effect is rather like standing in the middle of that large room, where anyone could speak up and share an idea. Everyone is talking; small stories branch off, coalesce pages later. Speakers shade in one another’s stories, offer another angle, disagree passionately. You turn a page, and the same people have their arms linked together at a protest. Shadows start to fall; in squares of gray text, deaths are marked, moments for remembrance. So many people leave the room.

. . .

This is not reverent, definitive history. This is a tactician’s bible.

The organizational brilliance of ACT UP emerged out of necessity. The group was founded in 1987, incited by Larry Kramer’s famous call to action. The members were infected, their lovers were sick and dying. There wasn’t time to obsess over process, to contest every comma in a letter. The anarchistic framework asked only that members be “committed to direct action to end the AIDS crisis.”

. . .

When Schulman herself returns to the individual, it is to think again about the figure of the bystander. Why did these particular people rise to the moment and not others?

What thread connected an H.I.V.-positive stockbroker, a retired chemist from Queens, addicts, art students, lifelong activists, people who just happened to be in the next room at the center and wandered in, What was going on in there? For some it was their first experience of gay community; for others it was where they went when the community began to vanish. All of them became autodidacts in drug research, policy, media relations.

For the full review, see:

Parul Sehgal. “Remembering Those Who Stood Up.” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 5, 2021): C3.

(Note: ellipses added. In the original, the words NOT italicized above, were the only words that WERE italicized.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date May 4, 2021, and has the title “A New Testament to the Fury and Beauty of Activism During the AIDS Crisis.”)

The book under review is:

Schulman, Sarah. Let the Record Show: A Political History of ACT UP New York, 1987-1993. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021.

The article mentioned above by Bhidé is:

Bhidé, Amar. “Constraining Knowledge: Traditions and Rules That Limit Medical Innovation.” Critical Review 29, no. 1 (Jan. 2017): 1-33.

“Legions of Good People” Are Willing to Pay a Price “to Speak the Truth”

(p. A9) . . . in February 1986 . . . a presidential commission was investigating the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, which killed all seven crew members a few weeks earlier.

Mr. McDonald was an engineer for the maker of the solid-fuel booster rockets. During a hearing, he believed an official of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was glossing over a prelaunch debate on whether to proceed despite unusually cold temperatures in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Seated in the background, Mr. McDonald waved his hands for attention and then stood up. He told the commission that he and other engineers had warned that low temperatures might cause a failure of synthetic rubber O-ring seals in the rocket’s joints. The commission later found that such a failure was responsible for the explosion and that NASA had brushed aside a warning that could have saved the astronauts.

. . .

Mr. McDonald’s uninvited testimony was a shock to the commission appointed by President Ronald Reagan. In his memoir, “Truth, Lies and O-Rings,” the engineer recalled the reaction from William P. Rogers, chairman of the commission:

“Who in the hell are you?”

. . .

Mr. Rogers thanked Mr. McDonald and other engineers for giving their side of the story.

. . .

At work, however, Mr. McDonald was at times ostracized by colleagues who accused him of undermining the company’s aerospace business. Morton Thiokol moved him out of his space shuttle duties in what he considered a demotion.

. . .

“I never considered myself a hero for doing my job in the best manner that I knew how and telling the truth about it,” he wrote, adding that “there are legions of good people out there every day defending their professional opinions and willing to speak the truth at some risk to their own job security. They just haven’t been involved in such a high-profile news making event like me.”

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Engineer Exposed Space Shuttle Risks.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, April 3, 2021): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date March 30, 2021, and has the title “Rocket Engineer Blew the Whistle on NASA After the Challenger Disaster.”)

The McDonald memoir mentioned above is:

McDonald, Allan J., and James R. Hansen. Truth, Lies, and O-Rings: Inside the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2018..