Dear Diary 2020 Edition (from a younger person)

In January, Australia caught on fire. I don’t even know if that fire was put out, because we straight up almost went to war with Iran. We might actually still be almost at war with them. I don’t know, because Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt spoke to one another at an awards show and everyone flipped the fuck out, but then Netflix released Cheer and everyone fell in love with Jerry, but then there was a thing happening in China, then Prince Harry and Megan peaced out of the Royal family, and there was the whole impeachment trial, and then corona virus showed up in the US “officially,” but then Kobe died and UK peaced out of the European Union
In February, Iowa crapped itself with the caucus results and the president was acquitted and the Speaker of the House took ten years to rip up a speech, but then WHO decided to give this virus a name COVID-19, which confused some really important people in charge of, like, our lives, into thinking there were 18 other versions before it, but then Harvey Weinstein was found guilty, and Americans started asking if Corona beer was safe to drink, and everyone on Facebook became a doctor who just knew the flu like killed way more people than COVID 1 through 18.
In March, shit hit the fan. Warren dropped out of the presidential race and Sanders was like Bernie or bust, but then Italy shut its whole ass down, and then COVID Not 1 through 18 officially become what everyone already realized, a pandemic and then a nationwide state of emergency was declared in US, but it didn’t really change anything, so everyone was confused or thought it was still just a flu, but then COVID Not 18 was like ya’ll not taking me seriously? I’m gonna infect the one celebrity everyone loves and totally infected Tom Hanks, but then the DOW took a shit on itself, and most of us still don’t understand why the stock market is so important or even a thing(I still don’t), but then we were all introduced to Tiger King. (Carol totally killed her husband), and Netflix was like you’re welcome, and we all realized there was no way we were washing our hands enough in the first place because all of our hands are now dry and gross.
In April, Bernie finally busted himself out of the presidential race, but then NYC became the set of The Walking Dead and we learn that no one has face masks, ventilators, or toilet paper, or THE GOD DAMN SWIFTER WET JET LIQUID, but then Kim Jong-Un died, but then he came back to life… or did he? Who knows, because then the Pentagon released videos of UFOs, and we were like man, it’s only April….
In May, the biblical end times kicked off historical locust swarms and then we learned of murder hornets and realized that 2020 was the start of the Hunger Games but people forgot to let us know, but then people legit protested lockdown measures with AR-15s, and then sports events were cancelled everywhere, But then people all over America finally reached a breaking point with race issues and violence. There were protests in every city, but then people totes forgot about the pandemic called COVID Not One Through 18. Media struggled with how to focus on two important things at once, but then people in general struggle to focus on more than one important thing, and a dead whale was found in the middle of the Amazon rain forest after monkeys stole COVID 1 Through 19 from a lab and ran off with them, and either in May or April (no one is keeping track of time now) a giant asteroid narrowly missed earth.
In June, science and common sense just got thrown straight out the window and somehow wearing masks became a political thing, but then a whole lot of people realized the South was actually the most unpatriotic thing ever and actually lost the civil war, and there is a large amount of people who feel that statues they don’t even know the name of are needed for … history reasons, but then everyone sort of remembered there was a pandemic, but then decided that not wearing a mask was somehow a god given right (still haven’t found that part in the bible or even in the constitution), but then scientists announced they found a mysterious undiscovered mass at the center of the earth, and everyone was like DON’T YOU DARE TOUCH IT, but then everyone took a pause to realize that people actually believed Gone With The Wind was like non-fiction, but then it was also announced that there is a strange radio signal coming from somewhere in the universe that repeats itself every so many days, and everyone was like DON’T YOU DARE ATTEMPT TO COMMUNICATE WITH. IT, but then America reopened from the shut down that actually wasn’t even a shut down, and so far, things have gone spectacularly not that great, but everyone is on Facebook arguing that masks kill because no one knows how breathing works, but then Florida was like hold my beer and let me show you how we’re number one in all things, including new Not Corona Beer Corona Virus, Trump decides now is a good time to ask the Supreme Court to shut down Obama Care because what better time to do so than in the middle of a pandemic, but then we learned there was a massive dust cloud coming straight at us from the Sahara Desert, which is totally normal, but this is 2020, so the ghost mummy thing is most likely in that dust cloud, but then I learned of meth-gators, and I’m like that is so not on my fucking 2020 Bingo card, but then we learned that the Congo’s worse ever Ebola outbreak is over, and we were all like, there was an Ebola outbreak that was the worse ever?
In July…. Aliens? Zeus? Asteroids? Artificial Intelligence becomes self aware?

How has the US/Commie Bastards relationship been more beneficial to the Commie Bastards under Trump?

 

H/T TO GEORGE.

For the most part I think it has not been.

BHO did not take Russia seriously until 2014 [Crimea].  But after DJT was elected, at least in 2017-18, his Admin continued to take Russia seriously and I can list stuff it did:

Authorized lethal military aid to Ukraine.

Shuttered two Russian consulates, multiple diplomatic annexes, and expelled 60 diplomats – Seattle and SF.

Sanctioned Russian oligarchs and officials. 40 or so of them.

Expanded the Magnitsky sanctions list. This I had forgotten.  Had to look it up because I thought he did the opposite.

Made RT and Sputnik register as foreign agents.

I think there were additional sanctions of Russki businesses who aided NK and Iran.

Publicly blamed Russia for a cyberattack on the Ukraine, not a biggie, but I am being fair.

On the other hand, he publicly treats Putin with deference [I don’t need examples here, do I?] and has denied the findings of our own national security establishment regarding Russian meddling in our election process.  Personally, I think the Admin responses have become more erratic since his first group of professional advisors chosen from the military have been replaced by political appointees.

I get that he wants out of AFG.  I get that he wants out of the ME.  These are not stupid goals.  I don’t get screwing around insulting NATO and pulling troops out of Germany.  I do think that invites more bullying in eastern Europe from Russia.

Hydrogen for Energy? Splitting Water Molecule on the Cheap

FYI

Water-splitting module a source of perpetual energy

by Mike Williams,  
Water-splitting module a source of perpetual energy
A schematic and electron microscope cross-section show the structure of an integrated, solar-powered catalyst to split water into hydrogen fuel and oxygen. The module developed at Rice University can be immersed into water directly to produce fuel when exposed to sunlight. Credit: Jia Liang/Rice University

Rice University researchers have created an efficient, low-cost device that splits water to produce hydrogen fuel.

The platform developed by the Brown School of Engineering lab of Rice materials scientist Jun Lou integrates catalytic electrodes and perovskite solar cells that, when triggered by sunlight, produce electricity. The current flows to the catalysts that turn water into hydrogen and oxygen, with a sunlight-to-hydrogen efficiency as high as 6.7%.

This sort of catalysis isn’t new, but the lab packaged a perovskite layer and the electrodes into a single module that, when dropped into water and placed in sunlight, produces hydrogen with no further input.

The platform introduced by Lou, lead author and Rice postdoctoral fellow Jia Liang and their colleagues in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano is a self-sustaining producer of fuel that, they say, should be simple to produce in bulk.

“The concept is broadly similar to an artificial leaf,” Lou said. “What we have is an integrated module that turns sunlight into electricity that drives an electrochemical reaction. It utilizes water and sunlight to get chemical fuels.”

Perovskites are crystals with cubelike lattices that are known to harvest light. The most efficient perovskite solar cells produced so far achieve an efficiency above 25%, but the materials are expensive and tend to be stressed by light, humidity and heat.

“Jia has replaced the more expensive components, like platinum, in perovskite solar cells with alternatives like carbon,” Lou said. “That lowers the entry barrier for commercial adoption. Integrated devices like this are promising because they create a system that is sustainable. This does not require any external power to keep the module running.”

Liang said the key component may not be the perovskite but the polymer that encapsulates it, protecting the module and allowing to be immersed for long periods. “Others have developed catalytic systems that connect the solar cell outside the water to immersed electrodes with a wire,” he said. “We simplify the system by encapsulating the perovskite layer with a Surlyn (polymer) film.”

The patterned film allows sunlight to reach the solar cell while protecting it and serves as an insulator between the cells and the electrodes, Liang said.

“With a clever system design, you can potentially make a self-sustaining loop,” Lou said. “Even when there’s no sunlight, you can use stored energy in the form of chemical fuel. You can put the hydrogen and oxygen products in separate tanks and incorporate another module like a fuel cell to turn those fuels back into electricity.”

The researchers said they will continue to improve the encapsulation technique as well as the solar cells themselves to raise the efficiency of the modules.

Good Friday Report

Because markets are closed I assumed Brent would be on sabbatical for one day.  So here is some financial news of the day, in capsules.

From the NYT:

Owners were supposed to be able to get up to $2 million. Now they’re being told the cap is $15,000 — if they can get any answers at all.

From the WSJ, a Q&A session at noon EDT:

https://www.wsj.com/live-qa/ask-wsj-what-to-know-about-small-business-relief-and-unemployment/4AD53F8C-85FC-4125-9494-A29B8F561CBF?mod=article_inline

Also from the WSJ:

Saudis, Russians Bury Differences, but Mexico Threatens Oil Deal

Mexico exits talks, putting oil truce at risk; negotiations to continue Friday

From The Economist, an article explaining a Russian “dump” of Venezuela enriching a Putin ally at the expense of the Russian people:

ROSNEFT is responsible for 40% of Russia’s oil output, but it is much more than just another oil firm. A large chunk of its shares are owned by the Russian state. Its boss, Igor Sechin, is one of Vladimir Putin’s closest henchmen. …

Bear this in mind when trying to make sense of the announcement, on March 28th, that it has sold all its Venezuelan assets to an unnamed Russian government entity.

Thanks to a low oil price, sanctions and the Maduro regime’s spectacular corruption and ineptitude, Venezuela is in no position to repay all its debts. But this is not too much of a problem for Rosneft, since it can dump its Venezuelan assets on to Russian taxpayers. They will no doubt be delighted to hear that they have paid for this with 9.6% of Rosneft’s own shares (worth more than $4bn), thus reducing their stake to just over 40%. The deal gives Mr Sechin ever tighter control of the firm.

The main aim of the deal, it seems, is to help Rosneft escape the consequences of doing business with a pariah. Over the past two months America has penalised the company’s trading arms for handling Venezuelan oil. These sanctions are global in scope and affect its customers, too. Sinochem International, the trading arm of a Chinese state-owned refinery, has rejected Rosneft’s oil. The Kremlin’s solution is to distance Rosneft from Venezuela while reassuring the Venezuelan kleptocracy that it still has Russia’s backing. “I received a message from brother president Vladimir Putin who ratified his comprehensive strategic support for all areas of our [relationship],” tweeted Mr Maduro.

 The Kremlin would like cheap oil to drive American shale producers, whose costs are higher, out of business. This is a risky game. Russia has alienated the Saudis, who might draw closer to America as a result. Rosneft can survive oil at $25 a barrel. But under Russian law the royalties it pays to the Russian state fall sharply as the oil price slides. As covid-19 spreads in Russia, Mr Putin will have to draw on the country’s reserves to help ordinary people cope. Mr Sechin’s sleight of hand has solved a problem for Rosneft, but not for Russia. ■

 

[copied right, 2020]

 

 

Posting This Because I Thought no one Would See It – Quoting Somin

Volokh Conspiracy readers may be interested to see videos of two panels I participated in at this year’s recently concluded Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention: “The Wisdom and Legality of Sanctuary Cities” and “Originalism and Constitutional Property Rights.”

In the sanctuary cities panel, I crossed swords with former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others, and explained why the Trump administration’s attacks on sanctuary cities violate constitutional limits on federal power, and have—fortunately—led to a long series of defeats in court, at the hands of both liberal and conservative judges. I also described why sanctuary jurisdictions have good policy and moral reasons for refusing to cooperate with some aspects of federal immigration enforcement, including the fact that involving local police in immigration enforcement undercuts ordinary law enforcement. Sanctuary jurisdictions are also justified in rejecting cooperation with federal deportation efforts, given the horrific abuses in its immigration detention facilities, and the government’s history of wrongfully detaining and deporting even US citizens.

At the property rights panel, I discussed and debated the original meaning of constitutional protections for property rights with distinguished takings scholars Tom Merrill (Columbia), Richard Lazarus (Harvard), and my George Mason University colleague Eric Claeys.  I argued that the original meaning of the Takings Clause requires judicial enforcement of tight limits on government power to take property for “public use,” a concept which should be given a narrow construction encompassing only publicly owned projects, while excluding most condemnations that transfer property to private parties. My talk was in large part based on my book The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London and the Limits of Eminent Domain.

On the property rights panel, I advocated what might be seen as a right-wing position (defending strong constitutional protection for property rights). On the sanctuary cities panel, I defended what is usually considered a  “left-wing” perspective on sanctuary cities. But, despite the seeming contradiction, I think there is actually an underlying coherence between the two positions: both advocate strong judicial enforcement of constitutional limits on government power, and both protect poor and vulnerable populations against the sometimes overwhelming power of the state.

Of course this year’s Federalist Society Convention will probably be best remembered for Attorney General William Barr’s seriously flawed speech extolling an extraordinarily broad theory of executive power. Among other things, he ignores the many ways in which executive power has grown far beyond the Founders’ design and argues for near-total judicial (and often also congressional) deference to the president on anything involving “foreign relations” and “exigent circumstances.” This is a misreading of the Constitution, and such deference has historically led to grave abuses of power. If time permits, I may have more to say on Barr’s speech later.

That Sinking Feeling – copied right [from The Economist]

Making do: American manufacturers have it tough
Data published today may offer comfort to those frightened by August’s Institute for Supply Management survey of manufacturers. That survey suggested that new orders, production and employment were all contracting. Businesses were concerned about the Sino-American trade war, but said that falling trade in general was their most significant concern. It is possible that the numbers will improve this time. The Federal Reserve’s most recent data on manufacturing production suggest that output has not sagged as much as the survey data suggest. Economists at Deutsche Bank expect the ISM measure to improve slightly relative to the previous month. But this says more about the volatility of the indicator than the underlying health of the sector. Because the trade war shows few signs of abating, the dollar is strong and global demand remains weak, the environment for American manufacturers looks likely to remain difficult for a while yet.

Timing when you die and the Will to Live for a Special Moment

Last night in my Monday night group Dave Heath, who is 80, reported on his weekend in Houston for NASA’s 50th fete for Apollo 11.  Dave was a control room guy back then; a re-entry engineering specialist.  One of his remarks was about how Chris Kraft, at 95, was eagerly greeting everyone and having a great time.  Only about a third of that control room crew live, but there was Chris, their leader, hearty if not hale.
Chris died Monday.  News broke this morning.
Spell ck H/T to JNC!

Open Thread 6/14

I have added this thread in lieu of a recent Morning Report.

The Currency of Last Resort and Free Trade

Lately I have been following The Peterson Institute for International Economics.

See:  https://piie.com/

It can be characterized as pro free trade, and market oriented [right, Brent?].  It was founded by a guy named Fred Bergsten, a man with a long career in and close to government, as opposed to either business, finance, or academe.  The Institute got the Peterson brand because Pete Peterson gave it a bunch of money.  The place is considered one of the big time think tanks.

As it happens, Bergsten is a leading proponent of the strong dollar as the main cause of any trade imbalances.

His thinking goes like this: a strong dollar is the reserve currency, and thus the “price” of the dollar is relatively the highest price for any currency.

The high priced dollar means that America can buy overseas at a relatively low price for goods, while foreigners have to pay a relative premium for American goods.

Bergsten thinks this is a mixed blessing but balances on the gold/shit scale in favor of gold.  As an aside, I think most economists would say that.

But it has me wondering how much of the trade imbalance is related to the strength of the dollar, and whether there are empirical studies from either the IMF or the central banks or the leading graduate schools of finance?

Assuming there is a relationship, of course, how could a double blind study be managed?  I suspect any study would be entirely computer modeled and be dependent on inputs.

Brent, do you have any insights?

An Interesting Amicus Brief

Were states correct when they forced electors to vote according to the popular vote in those states?  Here are the arguments for elector discretion.

 

http://reason.com/volokh/2018/07/02/presidential-electors-can-vote-with-disc

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