Creative Capital

Panic Is a Virus

“We are certainly right now in this country out of the pandemic phase.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, April 26, 2022 Whether or not the pandemic is really over, the acute phase of the disease is, I hope, largely behind us, and we can now, at last, enjoy a brief bit of perspective on COVID and our …

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Stefan Lorant, The Conclusion

Although disaster had been briefly averted, the key word was “briefly,” as we’ll see in the final episode of this series, which I’ll call: More Trouble in Lenox Previously in this series: Stefan Lorant Part VI, Of Charm and Disaster Lorant and I were passing through the kitchen on our way out the back door …

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Charm and Disaster

Following the fiasco of the “crystal palace,” I decided to take sterner measures with Lorant. I called him up and told him that unless we could resolve the problem of the purloined photographs, it was unlikely the fifth edition of the Pittsburgh book would ever see the light of day. I also told him I …

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Of Crypts and Art Thieves

My next story about Lorant is a short one, but memorable, at least to my wife and me. We’ll call it:   Tale from the Crypt Previously in this series: Stefan Lorant Part IV, Read All Over the World My wife, Simin, is half-Czech, and Stefan seemed to be deeply infatuated with her. Or maybe he …

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Read All Over the World

Pittsburgh: The Story of an American City was ubiquitous in Pittsburgh. It seemed as though everybody who was anybody had a copy, and some people had copies of every edition. Previously in this series: Stefan Lorant Part III, Charming and Impossible But what was remarkable was how well the book was known outside Pittsburgh. The first edition …

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Charming and Impossible

Stefan Lorant was a dashing, debonaire fellow when he was young, and even in his late old age he remained attractive to women. One 40-year-old divorcée recalls having an affair with Lorant when the latter was in his eighties. “He was impossibly romantic,” she told me. Previously in this series: Stefan Lorant Part II, The …

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The Book on Pittsburgh

Wherever Stefan Lorant went in his life – whatever job he held, whatever town he lived in, whatever nation – he had a remarkable knack for being in the right place and for sniffing out who the most important people were and meeting and befriending them. Previously in this series: Stefan Lorant, Part I In …

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Stefan Lorant

Stefan Lorant, the pioneering photojournalist, was born at the turn of the twentieth century and died 96 years later, at the century’s end. In between, everywhere Lorant went and everything he did ended up having momentous consequences. Some of those consequences were micro and personal – but memorable – while others were macro and geopolitical. …

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China’s Xi Is Having a Really Bad War

“Putin’s War Is Xi’s Worst Nightmare” — Headline above Craig Singleton’s article in Foreign Policy The term idée fixe refers to a monomania of the brain, a pathology of the mind, an erroneous notion that nonetheless powerfully resists almost any attempt to modify it. When an idée fixe establishes itself in the mind of an all-powerful autocrat, the consequences are always …

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U.S. Policy Blunders Helped Provoke Ukraine War

Whose Fault is the Ukraine War? “[Post-Cold War], many American elites embraced a vision of a U.S.-led ‘liberal international order’ which could theoretically integrate the entire world… into a single, globalized whole.” –  Stephen Kotkin, Princeton University Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part V, ESG Investors Need to Wake Up to Reality …

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ESG Investors Need to Wake Up to Reality

Will ESG Finally Grow Up? “ESG is a huge, gross gravy train for fund managers, consultants, and marzipan layer technocrats of various flavors. The whole thing is rotten.  If you work in the space, your choices are to be a useless idiot trolling in the trenches for what you think is a good cause, be …

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The Fed’s Failure – and There Goes Climate Change

The Fed Is Having a Bad War “The Fed’s odds [of achieving a soft landing] are now substantially below 50-50.” — Alan Blinder  “The Fed that Failed.” Title of an article in “The Economist” “I have been humbled.”  Fed Chair Jay Powell Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part IV, History’s Lessons and Historic …

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History’s Lessons and Historic Mistakes

Angela Merkel’s Reputation Is Trashed – But Is America at Fault? Merkel’s reign at the top of Germany’s political apparatus was remarkable, and she stepped down as something of a secular saint with a 77% approval rating. But it’s amazing what six months can do. Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part III, …

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Not Everyone Agrees with Us

Let’s Talk Nukes “If a third world war is such a crippling worry, how can the premise of NATO be credible? Its effectiveness has always depended on the belief that NATO is indeed prepared to run the risk of nuclear war.” — Martin Wolf in the Financial Times Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish Part …

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Posture of U.S. Weakness Encouraged Ukraine Invasion

What do Caesar’s Wife, Justice, and Military Deterrence Have in Common? “The lure of appeasement – in essence, a return to the policies pursued in many Western capitals for the past two decades – will be strong.” — Thomas de Maizière, former German defense minister Previously in this series: A Coat of Varnish “It is better …

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A Coat of Varnish

C. P. Snow titled his last book, written a few years before he died, A Coat of Varnish. What he meant, as he put it, was that “Civilization is hideously fragile…there’s not much between us and the horrors underneath. Just about a coat of varnish.”  Civilization, that is to say, is like a thin coat of …

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Timely Thoughts on a Free America

“The defense of agency is what individual human rights are meant for.”  James Griffin Previously in this series: On Agency, Part XII, The Complexities of Institutional Racism Last week I pointed out that controversial policies like DEI, microaggressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and so on shouldn’t be viewed with so much alarm for the simple …

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The Complexities of Institutional Racism

Last week we examined the introduction into American law of so-called “group rights” and the failure of that collective agency movement to improve the lives of African-Americans – America’s most disadvantaged group. Previously in this series: On Agency, Part XI, American Blacks and Agency For roughly 200 years the very high individual human agency of …

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American Blacks and Agency

In my discussion of the extraordinarily high individual human agency in America, I have deliberately omitted – until now – an important caveat: not everyone in the U.S. has historically been, or is today, vouchsafed the same degree of agency. Previously in this series: On Agency, Part X, The Sniping About America is Nothing New …

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The Sniping About America is Nothing New

“Going to America!” Arkady Svidrigailov’s dying words as he commits suicide in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment Previously in this series: On Agency, Part IX, It Turns Out, the U.S. Really is Exceptional Criticism of the extremely high human agency in America has been constant, starting even before the USA was officially born. For example, if you …

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It Turns Out, the U.S. Really is Exceptional

“America, you are better off than our continent, the old.” – Goethe Previously in this series: On Agency, Part VIII, America – Where Agency Flourishes Last week we observed that the vigorous human agency of the American colonists allowed them to defeat a powerful antagonist – the combined forces of France and numerous Native American …

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America – Where Agency Flourishes

“In the beginning all the world was America.” — John Locke Previously in this series: On Agency Part VII Turning from China to the West Last week we observed human agency as it collapsed in Rome but was championed by the Germanic tribes that would eventually defeat the Roman Empire. The “freedom of the German …

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