Fixing Something

David Foster put up a post linking a site that tracks global ocean freight (and other boats). The ensuing comments were interesting and far ranging. I had started to type this as a comment but it got too long.

The comments for the most part brought up issues with supply chain, a world I am intimately familiar with. We are struggling right now with a massive surplus of inventory at my industrial distribution business. While that sounds like a simple problem to fix (sell it down, duh) it isn’t that easy. Everyone in my industry is hoarding inventory right now – its the new model. Pre Covid, we had patterns that were as old as time. In Spring, we do “this”, in Summer we need to order “these” and so on. Of course manufacturers do the same, and up the supply chain.

With Covid, those patterns are completely blasted out into space, and rather than a nice sine wave looking thing for our inventory, we have severe spikes where we see nothing, or a years worth of product showing up at a time. We don’t dare cancel orders for fear of going to the back of the line. Companies are full now of more and more inept and incompetent people, and good information is very hard to find. When you find a person who is in the know, that in itself is a super valuable thing to have.

Back to the comments of David Foster’s post. Most of them dealt with a part of the supply chain. Last weeks super stupid pronouncements by the Biden administration proved how little thinking and forethought they have. The supply chain problem didn’t happen overnight and their solutions seem to portray that it will be fixed overnight, and we all laugh, of course. I saw something about opening the ports 24/7, having Walmart and Target do something and some more blah blah. Laughable. As if Mayor Pete knows the first thing about transportation. I digress a bit.

When faced with a big problem in my business, or my life for that matter, I break it down into parts and try to tackle the different parts to eventually solve the problem as a whole. You simply can’t take an issue like “Supply Chain”, and make a few pronouncements and make it all better. With an enormous, multi-faceted problem such as the one we are in right now, the solution needs to be comprehensive and flexible. We currently have none of the above and I expect more of that for the future.

131 thoughts on “Fixing Something”

  1. A fundamental problem we have with ‘Biden’..with the political classes in general, but this crew takes it to a new extreme…is that they are not interested in *operations*. They like to make sweeping pronouncements, to tell people what to do, to demand ‘compliance’…but they are not interested in figuring out how something (any problem, any opportunity, any situation) actually works and how it can be improved.

    And the more involved in the details of the economy the government becomes, the more serious and harmful the impact of this orientation becomes.

  2. The best that the government could do right now is roll back the more onerous regulations and otherwise get out of the way. But this is a horrible poisonous inconceivable Orange Man Bad idea to the Biden regime and to the Left in general. They have a deep and abiding faith in the competence and benevolence of Government Almighty and the concept of government intervention making things worse is unthinkable heresy – at least when the government is controlled by them, the Good People. Governments can only do evil when they’re anti-governments under the control of evil right-wing anti-government types.

  3. David Foster, exactly. Yet one of this weeks more astounding comments from this “administration” included words to the effect that “unfortunately, many of transportation issues surrounding the ports are in the hands of private businesses”. So our ever so competent Government (peace be upon it) really is starting at a handicap to Make Things Better. Their mode of thought is another example of how our higher education system has been undermined over the years that such thoughts are considered to be reasonable and acceptable, much less efficacious in the circumstances.

  4. Dan: “We are struggling right now with a massive surplus of inventory at my industrial distribution business.”

    If prices keep rising — as expected — profit on inventory may become a welcome source of revenue. Keep smiling!

    It is also interesting how ill-considered Political Class interventions in the market (like unnecessary Lock Downs) end up creating the very Boom & Bust conditions that they set out to eliminate years ago.

    But the biggest issue which the Best & Brightest miss is timing. Building trucks, training drivers, etc all takes time — let alone considering the long time it takes to build a new factory (even without the excessive delays introduced by overly-complex regulations). During World War II Stalin repeatedly complained that the Allies were not moving fast enough to open the Western Front. But realistically, organizing the logistics of something huge like D-Day takes years. Biden* and his handlers don’t have the capacity to plan & implement anything that takes longer than getting him his next ice-cream.

  5. @Gavin – price increases do provide some built in margin improvements but that isn’t outweighing the stifled cash flow. Yet.

    Well put on the timing and that is what I was trying to allude to in the post. The solution isn’t a “magic wand” deal. If a person was serious about trying to really solve supply chain it would take a really good team a few months to put a comprehensive plan together (and then how long for buy in?). But we all know that they aren’t serious and are just after headlines, and want that huge line of ships sitting off of LA to go away so those photos aren’t all over the eyeball machines.

  6. This crisis might have one small silver lining in that this is a huge incentive to bring back manufacturing. That, of course, does us no good for the near future. A few years ago, there was a long strike at POLA and POLB. The Mexican port of Ensenada took on a significant load of shipping. The self destructive policies of California, like AB 5’s ban on owner driven trucks, would not apply. Florida is a long way from China with the Panama Canal a factor. Seattle may not be a good option as the politicians there are just as crazy. I see no rapid solution, especially with this crew in office.

  7. The first rule is: Government sucks at EVERYTHING. It always has. That there are functions like national defense and law enforcement where it seems the only alternative doesn’t alter that reality. This is something I expect Trump learned from his father at a very young age. He would have known that the most government could do was to get out of the way.

    One problem is that ports have been sinks of graft and corruption as long as they’ve existed. That hasn’t changed either.

    One of the things that successful crime bosses, corrupt unions and corrupt politicians used to know was the the corruption had to stay off the front page. Things had to function at a tolerable level for the grift to continue.

    If you look at the container ships that service places like Africa, you’ll se they look different than the ones that ply between Asia and the U.S. or Europe. Besides being much smaller, they have cranes that allow them to load and unload themselves. The trend in the ships that service the developed world has been to be ever larger, now at around 12,000, 40 foot containers and still growing. These largest ships can only call at a very select few ports, those that have the cranes tall and long enough to make it even possible for them to load and unload. It goes without saying that all the ships that could be accommodated outside of Long Beach and Los Angeles have already overwhelmed those ports as well.

    I’ll repost this link here:
    The thumbnail is that Amazon chartered a ship and had special containers manufactured so that they could bypass the congestion at the container terminals and unload directly from the quay side, in this case in the Port of Houston. As I said, this will work for shippers large enough to foot the bill and for cargoes valuable enough to justify it.

    So we see how the great innovation of containerization has evolved into an all but impassable bottleneck. As it is, you wonder how much of the junk floating around, waiting to be unloaded is worth the $20,000 that the interminable voyage now costs.

  8. I don’t know if we need a Tom Wolfe for these times, or a Dickens/Zola.
    Mayor Pete on months long “paternity” leave.
    Bill Gates (Epstein’s pal) throws a massive party marrying his daughter to a Muslim.
    Holidays are “cancelled” again, according to our masters.
    Restaurants require a “vaccine pass” to get in.
    Cops, nurses, pilots, striking/fired over getting jabbed.
    The entire cabinet jetting off to party/negotiate a climate treaty, while China refuses to attend.
    Etc., etc.
    Our residents of American Versailles are sleepwalking to the guillotines.

  9. So California bans owner operators and all but the most recent trucks from their roads helping to lead to shipping problems across the country.

    How isn’t this a violation of the much abused interstate commerce clause?

  10. yes wolfe would never be allowed in new york magazine now, heck even zola would not be sufficiently prog, you see the kind of trouble houllebecq gets into in france, yes they planned out which nodes to attack, energy transport, security, (with the mandates) health, like a terrorist kingpin, is it soros schwab, some other wizard behind the curtain,

  11. The fundamental problem here is encapsulated in that odd little statement made by “administration officials” to the effect of “unfortunately, many of transportation issues surrounding the ports are in the hands of private businesses”.

    See, the problem here is really that these idiots think that such things are amenable to control and management, preferably by bright lights such as themselves. Reality is, however, that it’s an essentially chaotic system that isn’t amenable to traditional ideas of command-and-control by human beings or any of the cybernetic systems we’ve developed so far.

    The hubris of these creatures is incredible. They actually think that they could do better, and that the whole industry that has been doing this for years isn’t smart enough to manage things, all the while being totally oblivious to the things that they themselves have broken.

    This is why the Communists broke the food supply system in both Russia and China; they think that things are simple enough that they can “fix” them, and because they’re a bunch of dolts, they wind up breaking them.

    Repeat after me: The more control you strive for over a chaotic process, the less you’ll actually have. This is how the Soviet planners turned the breadbasket of Europe into a food sink that required multiple interventions from outside to even keep the Soviet system fed properly.

    The problem begins with the fact that the idiot class is immune to reality; they think that what they say is what creates reality around them. They are completely immune to observations of failure; they simply cannot see the problems they create so blithely, because to acknowledge those problems would be to admit that the things they say don’t actually create reality. Also, they’d have to admit that their ideas are wrong, which is another anathema to their egos.

    What we have here is a discernable mental illness, an inability to recognize and function within a reality that includes a feedback loop. Their feedback loops are non-existent; they cannot recognize failure or even sub-optimal performance. I would speculate that this is because they’ve invested so much of their substandard intelligence and egos into their ideas. The only way you fix these people is to either remove them from power, banning them from ever having it again, or killing them. They simply cannot function within the framework of reality as it actually is.

  12. Where were all these problems a year ago, when the Covid problem was much more severe? I would suggest an experiment. Bring back President Trump and lets see if working together with the private sector this couldn’t be rapidly fixed. Oh, I forgot. This would interfere with the election rigging which is likely to become a permanent fixture in American life.

  13. the lockdown affected the traffic, then these intermediate steps, largely in california complicated matters,

  14. Kirk…”The more control you strive for over a chaotic process, the less you’ll actually have”

    Gennady Andreev-Khomiakov served as deputy manager of a Stalin-era Soviet factory. The plant was a lumber mill, was being strangled by problems with the supply of raw lumber. Gennady, whose father had been in the lumber trade before the revolution, was contemptuous of the chaos into which the industry had been reduced by the Soviets:

    “The free and “unplanned” and therefore ostensibly chaotic character of lumber production before the revolution in reality possessed a definite order. As the season approached, hundreds of thousands of forest workers gathered in small artels of loggers, rafters, and floaters, hired themselves out to entrepreneurs through their foremen, and got all the work done. The Bolsheviks, concerned with “putting order” into life and organizing it according to their single scheme, destroyed that order and introduced their own–and arrived at complete chaos in lumbering.”

    As Gennady says:

    “Such in the immutable law. The forceful subordination of life’s variety into a single mold will be avenged by that variety’s becoming nothing but chaos and disorder.”

    That last paragraph should be printed in large letters and posted over the desks of all politicians and bureaucrats.

  15. Supply chain management is something beneath the status of our supposed ruling elite. They will no more worry about it, work in that field, or understand it anymore than they will work on an assembly line or in a fast food restaurant.

    It is a job for minions. If the minions are having difficulty, they can be punished or replaced. But in no way ever should the supposed elite suffer any consequences or deviate from their precious routine. Note how the regime transportation secretary has remained on paternity leave for months while the crisis continued and escalated.

    Not only that, since these fine folks hate normal Americans and want us dead, I have no reason to believe that they actually care about any of the problems this situation is causing for the country. I’d bet that behind closed doors they’re yukking it up about how the Jesus-freaks are going to have a lousy Christmas thanks to the lack of toys.

    In short, Kirk is correct about the solution.

  16. Repeat after me: The more control you strive for over a chaotic process, the less you’ll actually have.

    Tell it to climate scientists.

  17. There’s a fundamental flaw in our “paradigm of how to get things done” across our culture and the civilization expressed by it. That flaw is that we’ve somehow managed to institutionalize a certain blindness to how things actually work within our system of systems among the people who putatively run everything.

    To a degree, I have to blame academia, and the centuries-long drive to reduce everything to a course of formal studies accomplished only within the ivory towers of our educational institutions.

    Here’s a reality: Nearly everyone we have “running things” does not understand how it all works, or what specific things happen when they move the levers of power they’re entrusted in. They’re all blinded by that academic’s vice, that of the diktat: They think that reality is formed by their words and thoughts, flowing effortlessly from their tongues and pens. They speak, and the world orders itself thus.

    That’s the model they all work off of. That’s how they are selected, trained, and supervised. Words effectuate change.

    This is not how the world actually works, though. The world should be conceived as a series of Skinner Boxes, where the cues for behavior come not from the incessant bleatings of the higher-ups in the various hierarchies, but as a specific set of environmental cues and stimuli that the individual receives from the reality they experience. Too many of our “thought leaders” think that all they need do is expound on something, and that everyone will fall into line with their words. The facts are that the things they’re trying to influence are cued up by other factors that they’re totally unaware of, because they’re not swimming in the same waters as the lowly ones they seek authority over.

    You can tell people not to cross the carefully-mown grass of the quadrangle, but they’re going to keep right on doing it so long as the other things you’ve done in their environment continue to demand that they do so, like only giving them so much time to get from place to place in their daily schedules. It’s all about incentives, and you have to be aware of what incentives you’ve got to work against within your environment. Don’t want people crossing the quad? How about examining why they do that, and changing things in the environment that encourage them to do it?

    We don’t look for people who do this sort of holistic thinking, and we don’t train anyone to do it, either–It’s all the world of diktat, reality created by the glib words flowing off their tongues.

    This is why academics are so dangerous, and why they generally screw things up, out in the real world. They were selected for success in an environment where words do create reality, where glib pronouncements can convincingly mimic actual success, and where there is never any actual feedback encountered via failure. Indeed, failure is rewarded, so long as the words that caused it are convincing enough.

    If you think a well-worded memo can effectuate change, or that your words can make reality bend, you might be one of the people running the country, these days. The sad fact is that our system of systems has put these people to the forefront, given them power, and nobody is holding them accountable for even acknowledging their manifest failures. Instead, they ignore the signs of failure, double-down on the causative policies, and will not change course until they run us onto the rocks.

    This is the “expert class” in action; a self-selected delusional lot of narcissists and sycophants that we’ve enabled by failing to observe what they were doing in government, and allowing them to continue on. You wonder how the FBI and CIA got the way they are? It’s because nobody ever held them accountable for their failures, just like the military. Have you heard one word, ever, of anyone being held accountable for the failures of Iraq and Afghanistan? It’s not like either one of those campaigns were failure-free and perfect; the fact that we had the long ramp-up of failure preceding the successful deployment of mine-proof vehicles and route-clearance equipment is one signal point of failure; yet… Has anyone been held accountable? It’s not like they weren’t told about the potential for an IED campaign; it was that they consciously made the decision not to prepare for it. And, instead of throwing those incompetents out on their ears, pension-less and beggared, we instead ignored their failures, promoting them and giving them even more responsibilities.

    We’re living in a world of the Emperor’s New Clothes, only what’s worse is that even the incompetents claiming to clothe him don’t know what they’re doing, and are entirely unable to recognize the fact that they’re parading the Emperor around buck-ass naked.

    None of these idiots understand how anything really works, I’m afraid. They all live in delusional dream-worlds of their own creation, thinking that reality is created by the lovely words they mouth, and that if they keep on mouthing them, then reality will soon enough correspond. They are in such violent disagreement with the rest of us because we call into question the very validity of their world-views and all that they think they’ve accomplished by scrambling to the top of the midden-heap that they’ve built up out of nothingness, which exists only in the fevered dreams of their imaginations.

    Reality is going to bite, and bite hard. When it does, accountability needs to follow, and a fundamental re-thinking of how we go about these things. This isn’t just a failure of “them”, it’s a failure of “us”, for not holding them accountable and keeping them grounded by doing so. They’ve been getting away with murder for so long that they literally cannot conceive of a situation where they would ever be held responsible for the actual results of their ideas and policies–And, that’s purely on “the rest of us”, not them. They’re like little autistic freaks, tools–They’re really not entirely human, and we need to bear that in mind. Like a lot of the not-quite-human, they’re incapable of morality or understanding; they have to be thought of as tools to be used, kept in line, and never actually entrusted with any real authority.

  18. None of these idiots understand how anything really works, I’m afraid. They all live in delusional dream-worlds of their own creation, thinking that reality is created by the lovely words they mouth, and that if they keep on mouthing them, then reality will soon enough correspond.

    This, of course, is the very definition of a command economy. Marxism in other words. We are having a chance to see how well it works in real life. The present regime is a demonstration of that reality.

  19. “None of these idiots understand how anything really works, I’m afraid”
    I’m afraid that you’re making an incorrect assumption. They couldn’t care less how “the economy” “works” as a general phenomenon–Joe Biden and his entire family have made themselves filthy rich. Things are “working” just perfect as far as they’re concerned. He and our entire governing class are parasites who are using the system to enrich themselves and their friends. Not just Democrats, but both parties. They’ve got things “working” amazingly well. Shuttered factories, abandoned downtowns, backed-up supply chains, are side issues that they couldn’t care less about.

  20. See, Brian… It’s not just the “economy” they don’t understand. They don’t understand basic human behavior, or how to get anything done at all. Look at the whole paradigm where Joe Biden says, from on high, “Everyone get vaccinated”.

    How’s that working out, by the way? Is there a Presidential power to do such a thing? Has there been enabling legislation? Did OSHA make the regulations to do it, whether or not that’s even a legal possibility?

    Then, there’s the meta-issue of “How do I get people to do what I want them to do…?”. They’re not even going about doing that very well, and are actually getting people’s backs up and causing more of the vaccine refusal phenomenon than they would have had if they’d proceeded differently.

    End of the day, they don’t understand how it all works, nor do they understand how to get the things they want done, done. The disconnect is going to become increasingly clear, and fewer people are going to be on their side when the crunch comes. This is not the path of wisdom–Even Hitler was smart enough to manage things such that the Germans followed him off the cliff, right up until the end. The way the Biden Crime Crew is going, they aren’t going to have anyone listening to them at all, let alone following their diktat.

    I don’t think it’s that they don’t care; I think it is, instead, that they simply don’t grasp the fact that their model of how things work, how to get things done, is not how things actually work. Biden and his puppet-masters think that all they need to do is write a memo, pass some legislation, and it will all shape itself in accordance with their desires. Meanwhile, there are a thousand and one things out there that militate against that ever happening, and they have no idea what the actual second- and third-order effects are going to be.

    Watch what happens with this deal down at the Port of Los Angeles–They’re mandating that they run 24/7. Meanwhile, they’re running out of room to stack the containers in the port, and are soon going to be doing things like lining the streets outside the port with them, which will lead to immense security problems and God alone knows what knock-on effects. They literally do not comprehend that it’s not as simple as writing a new policy or regulation; the reality of “ten thousand containers backed up because of no trucks” hasn’t penetrated their thick skulls into their mentally deficient brains. Yet. It will, and then watch the panic-induced additional “guidance” that creates still more of a problem, making the original problem even worse, instead of solving it.

    These people have an exquisitely bad understanding of the world around them, dysfunctional past the boundaries of belief for the average person. You think, as a layman, “Oh, he’s been to college… He’s got a degree; he must be smarter than I am…”, but the unfortunate fact is that our academic echo chambers have been producing ever more refined and carefully circumscribed thinkers for decades now, and while they may be narrowly-educated subject-matter experts on some specific esoteric subject, they’re also convinced that their expertise on that one issue makes them experts on everything else, and they’re completely unable to recognize when they’re not experts, or when the ideas they’re expounding on and enacting don’t actually work.

    Academia has a lot to answer for, I’m afraid. The unfortunate fact is, everything that it has touched in the last century and a half has turned to shit, to include scholarship itself. The idea that you can somehow substitute actual experience and expertise at something with a course of academic studies is, on its face, ridiculous. Yet, that’s exactly what we’ve done, requiring more and more rarefied and isolated from reality courses of study for entry into career fields that really don’t need such bullshit. And, those career fields are failing, because most of the people in them are educated idiots who’re entirely incapable of recognizing their own incapacity for the jobs they’re in.

  21. I think that a large percentage of container ships are now beyond PANAMAX, and would have to go around Cape Horn.

    There’s actually some good news on that front. Panama, driven by the filthy greed of the profit motive, recently enlarged the canal to accommodate larger ships. There’s now what’s called post-panamax ships. For container ships, that works out to a little larger than half the largest size and there are a reasonable number built and more on order. They are dependent on the available terminals as well.

    So maybe Carter “giving” the canal away wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I doubt we would have gotten around to doing anything.

  23. }}} MCS: The thumbnail is that Amazon chartered a ship and had special containers manufactured so that they could bypass the congestion at the container terminals and unload directly from the quay side, in this case in the Port of Houston. As I said, this will work for shippers large enough to foot the bill and for cargoes valuable enough to justify it.

    Heh. This is Amazon. They’re not stupid. They’ll get into the shipping business to solve the problem, too, for others, for &lt kaching! &gt … Increase the number of cargo containers, and offer shipping service not troubled by this logjam…

  24. }}} So we see how the great innovation of containerization has evolved into an all but impassable bottleneck. As it is, you wonder how much of the junk floating around, waiting to be unloaded is worth the $20,000 that the interminable voyage now costs.

    I don’t think the issue is “containerization”, as much as it is allowing single sources of supply — be it a factory in china OR a transport system that all piles through a single port susceptible to any kind of issues.

    My own suspicion, without any research, is that everything has gone through POLA or POLB because it made customs a lot simpler to have a single major port of entry to the USA from Pacific overseas.

  25. “End of the day, they don’t understand how it all works, nor do they understand how to get the things they want done, done”
    The “things they want done” is for their bank accounts to grow larger, so I’d say they have a pretty good understanding of the way things are. If we put you in charge, you’d probably try to get stuff done for the larger economy and the country as a whole, rather than enrich yourself and your friend and family and cronies, so who is it again who doesn’t understand “how it all works”?

  26. Brian, you see self-interest where I see incompetence. You break it all, nobody benefits. Competent parasites make themselves useful to the organism they parasitize–They don’t kill it. Which is precisely what the idiot class is doing as we watch.

    End of the day, whether it’s deliberate crashing the system or stupidity, the results are the same. I don’t think they’re competent parasites; from the signs, they’re mostly incompetent narcissists that have arrogated the power they have, and are engaged in feeding their egos more than they are actually accomplishing anything.

    As I said–They don’t really understand how anything works. If they did, they’d go about their little programs and so forth a lot more circumspectly and subtly. As it is, they’re openly pissing in everyone’s cheerios and telling them it’s Jersey milk. That cannot last, and the end-state is going to be them out of power and outright revolution in the streets if they don’t go when the elections don’t go their way.

    I include the recumbent incumbent GOPe enablers in this, as well. They think they’re on the winning side, with the Demonklatura, against the people of these formerly mostly united states. We’ll see how that plays out–I’ve got a lot of faith in the ability of Americans to route around incompetence and revolt against the system. What happens after all of the BS shakes out, I won’t venture to predict, but you only govern with the consent of the governed. These fools seem to think that that is unnecessary, and will soon learn otherwise.

  27. I think there’s a massive divide between the old Democrats and the new. The old fogeys, the Bidens, Pelosis, etc., are “competent parasites” who want to enrich themselves while letting things mostly work as they should. Whatever it is that George Soros and his bought and paid for lackies think they’re doing, it sure ain’t that. Looks to me like pure accelerationism. I *think* they’re wrong about which side of the gun vs wall issue they’ll come out on, but there’s really no way to be completely sure…

  28. Nearly everyone we have “running things” does not understand how it all works, or what specific things happen when they move the levers of power they’re entrusted in.

    I agree and part of this is the “financialization” of everything. Remember the stories of how the CEO of Toyota would walk through the factory floor every day ? Nobody does that any more. Ford turned the company over to accountants in the 1950s and nearly killed the company. The movie “Ford vs Ferrari” was a fictionalized version of how this corrected with Iacocca. The days when the boss worked his way up from operations are over. Look at what happened to Boeing.

  29. Kirk, I see self-interest and incompetence. They go to Harvard to make connections, and then one hand washes the other as they work their way up the ladder. Their reality is circumscribed by the halls of power in Washington. Should the economy collapse they will make laws to compensate themselves for any losses. I recently read a book titled “Trading with the Enemy” and learned that multinational corporations were compensated with American dollars for war damage inflicted by America to their German plants, so this is not new. American companies were supplying the Nazis with essential war materials all during the war. Globalism is not new.
    I too hope they have gone too far and all this will shake out. Dare I say MAGA.

  30. @Mike K,

    I blame a lot of it on the computer and the MBA programs. Time was, at least in the Army, you lived in fear of looking over your shoulder and discovering that you’d had one of your General Officers join your training. I had that happen several times in my early days, during the early and mid-1980s, and it was highly motivating as well as instructing to have someone of that pay grade show up and actually give a fsck about what you were doing.

    That ceased to be a “thing” in the Army around about the 1990s and the Clinton interregnum. Beginning with the wholesale uptake of computers and networking technology, management-by-email replaced management-by-walking-around, which was the earlier paradigm we lived.

    I think the MBA mentality, which has come to permeate everything, is part of the same problem, or one of its primary causative factors. While there are a lot of skills and “knowledges” that apply generally across a lot of fields, there is no real substitute for really knowing the specific field or industry you’re set in charge of. For one thing, a key and critical skill for any manager is to be able to identify when a subordinate or hireling is feeding you a line of BS. If you don’t know the trade, you can’t distinguish the con artist yes-men from the truly skilled who’re telling you the ground truth about something.

    I don’t think we do any of this right. The idea that you’re going to laterally move in at a middle-grade supervisory position due to an academic background in something…? Ludicrous. Most academic teaching these days is entirely disconnected from the reality out on the ground, and when you look at the process of selection, training, and promotion, it’s absolutely nuts. My sister has been doing logistics and purchasing sans a college degree for decades, now–And, the level of absolute dumbassery and incompetence she’s had to put up with from most of the “new hire” college-educated types is insane. What’s really amazing is how many of them are barely literate, unable to compose even the most basic correspondence.

    And, yet, nearly all of them are outraged to discover that their supervisor isn’t credentialed by anything other than experience, oftentimes trying to supplant her with the idea that they’re more “qualified” for the job than she is.

    I think that there are significant issues with how we do all of this; you should not even be able to get into a professional academic program without at least some pertinent experience in the field you’re trying to study in. Engineers and architects should at least spend some significant apprenticeship doing actual construction work out in the real world, before ever stepping into a classroom that ought to be run entirely by people who’ve actually, y’know… Done things in engineering and architecture. Rarefied and isolated ivory-tower types ought to be pontificating on those things that they know only in theory in positions far away from practitioners.

    On the whole, I really have to blame academia for most of this BS. Somewhere along the line, they sold the rest of us on the idea that they knew what they were doing, and that they should be the gatekeepers into the management levels of the workforce. We’re living out the end-state of that proposition, and what it represents. It manifestly does not work, over the long haul.

    I swear to God, if I see one more $50,000.00 set of plans that don’t include the requisite provisions for the mechanical systems necessary to meet the specifications laid out elsewhere in the plans…? I’m not going to be responsible for my actions. We’ve seen that happen more than a few times, of late–Specify forced-air HVAC, and then failing to provide for a means of air return anywhere in the plans. When you have to spend hours with the HVAC subs trying to puzzle out what the hell the designer wanted you to do in regards to that “minor” issue, it’s more than maddening, especially when you find out that the homeowner paid tens of thousands of dollars for a custom home design.

  31. I’m surprised that my modest efforts at scholarship have attracted any attention at all, and disappointed that they weren’t up to snuff. Oh well, too late for a replay.

  32. @Cousin Eddie,

    I dunno… In my experience, there’s what passes for “scholarship” in all too much of modern academia, and then there’s actual, y’know… Scholarship.

    If you’re coming up with tendentious crap like “Critical Race Theory”, you’re a part of the problem I’m decrying. If you’re someone who spent a career teaching others productive skills, and researching things in the depths of the stacks of an actual academic library? Sure; that’s a totally different thing than what I’m talking about, which is the way that significant fractions of your peer academics have gone about supplanting traditional ways of gaining knowledge and expertise.

    Case in point–Local community college wanted to re-establish their trades program. How’d they decide to go about doing it? Why, of course they had to have the proper academically-certified sort of person to run the thing, and they advertised for this wonder-worker by stating they were looking for someone with extensive experience in the trades involved and a master’s degree in education. I don’t think there’s anyone in the state, let alone county, who meets that particular set of criteria, and I’d imagine that there are vanishingly few of them nation-wide.

    But, you see, there’s just no way that anyone could possibly teach anyone anything, without that oh-so-sacrosanct degree in education.

    You want to know why academia is so thoroughly disliked and disparaged? Look around you–I come from a family of educated people, with my maternal Grandmother and Great-aunt both being Phi Beta Kappa educators. I know what pedagogy is supposed to look like, having experienced it at a tag-team level as a child. What’s going on today, and the products coming out of the pipeline? Those aren’t things to be proud of. We used to have standards; today? We’ve got what ever it is that some ignorant twit comes up with. If you want people to respect your work and your accomplishments, then someone should have been policing the ranks for those idiots that have taken over, like the genius over at the University of Washington Tacoma campus who has decreed that there’s no need for grammar or much of any other standard with regards to the English language.

    The mental gymnastics that must take, not to notice that he’s basically said he shouldn’t have a job in the first place, and then working to make his entire career path irrelevant for “reasons”? No idea, but when you’ve got assclowns like that running things in academia, you’re going to get tainted. You’re going to have to deal with it as much as I have to deal with the fact that we set idiots like Milley and Mattis at the head of our military…

  33. Kirk…”I think that there are significant issues with how we do all of this; you should not even be able to get into a professional academic program without at least some pertinent experience in the field you’re trying to study in. Engineers and architects should at least spend some significant apprenticeship doing actual construction work out in the real world, before ever stepping into a classroom that ought to be run entirely by people who’ve actually, y’know… Done things in engineering and architecture.”

    Gerhard Neumann, who played a leading role in creating GE’s jet engine business and ran that business for many years, grew up in Germany, where he was required to work as an apprentice before attending engineering school. He described his experiences in a great memoir, which I reviewed here:

    My understanding is that most ‘top-school’ MBA programs now do require at least some work experience before entering the program.

  34. This came across my Facebook group the other day – and knowing the Stupid that is going on in my state, totally believable.

    The NEWS says the California port situation is caused by a driver shortage.

    Not so fast: It is in part caused by a California Truck Ban which says all trucks must be 2011 or newer and a law called AB 5 which prohibits Owner Operators.

    Traditionally the ports have been served by Owner Operators (non union). California has now banned Owner Operators.

    Long term, truckers in California are not investing in new trucks because California has a law that makes them illegal in 2035. The requirement is to purchase electric trucks which do not exist.

    And in the words of Paul Harvey, “Now you know the rest of the story”

    CARB to begin blocking certain trucks’ DMV registrations in 2020

    Carriers domiciled in California with trucks older than 2011 model, or using engines manufactured before 2010, will need to meet the Board’s new Truck and Bus Regulation beginning in 2020 or their vehicles will be blocked from registration with the state’s DMV, the state has said.

    The new “health-based requirements” will need to be met before a driver is allowed to register his or her truck through the Department of Motor Vehicles, CARB says. A new enforcement tool used by the DMV beginning in 2020 will automatically block 2010 and older trucks from registration

  35. David, you beat me to it with the Neumann book.

    Long ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I worked as an engineer while in school majoring in Mech Eng. Many guys I knew were doing the same thing. You could work your way through college in those days. UCLA was free. USC tuition was $16 a unit. Less than $300 per semester.

  36. Kirk, I don’t have any reason to defend the academic system as it exists today–except that there still is scholarship going on. You can easily decry CRT and credentialism, but your critique would be more sound if you could detail the flaws in, say, Andrew Roberts’ bio of Napoleon, Nolan’s “Allure of Battle”, or Lieven’s “Russia Against Napoleon.” (I just use those as examples of good and rewarding academic products of recent vintage–it’s no part of my job anymore to hand out reading lists, but if you like good books etc. . . )

    You are fair minded enough to call out the leadership of your profession; you are fair minded enough to realize that the vast majority of people trying to preserve and teach about traditionally important subjects are the same as you enlisted and lower officers–pawns in a game.

    Finally, it wasn’t academics clamoring for land wars in Asia, exporting American jobs, and filling our streets with drugs in the last many decades–that’s on political and economic leaders.

    Corrupting the academic nest with dumbed-down credentialitis and athletes uber alles–OK, that’s on the people that ran the joint. I complained as much as I could.

  37. Cousin Eddie…”Finally, it wasn’t academics clamoring for land wars in Asia, exporting American jobs, and filling our streets with drugs in the last many decades–that’s on political and economic leaders.”

    I do think academics…especially those in b-school and econ departments…who share some of the responsibility for the offshoring of American jobs. They helped to generate a pervasive feeling that manufacturing wasn’t really all that important for either advanced people or an advanced eonomy.

  38. Finally, it wasn’t academics clamoring for land wars in Asia, exporting American jobs, and filling our streets with drugs in the last many decades–that’s on political and economic leaders.

    You sure about that?

    It seems to me that the academics and our political and economic leaders comprise essentially the same group. Just about every one of our so-called leaders has been treated to a heaping helping of the anti-American globalism that is the primary product of our educational system- even general officers in military.

    And as globalists who simply don’t identify with America, Americans, or American history and culture, I don’t see why they would care if America falls into ruin- nor would they attempt to make their students care, either.

    I’m not willing to give academics any sort of pass for the incipient collapse we face, and I obviously don’t think anyone else should either. True, there’s a lot of blame to go around, but a great deal of it belongs squarely to them.

  39. “It seems to me that the academics and our political and economic leaders comprise essentially the same group. Just about every one of our so-called leaders has been treated to a heaping helping of the anti-American globalism that is the primary product of our educational system- even general officers in military.”
    Yup. Ike warned about the military-industrial complex AND the government-academia complex. He told us, and “conservatives” spent decades ignoring it and saying that “liberals” were mischaracterizing what he had said in order to badmouth America.

  40. MCS: “There’s actually some good news on that front. Panama, driven by the filthy greed of the profit motive, recently enlarged the canal to accommodate larger ships.”

    More than Panama involved in that smart move. China paid for the expansion, as far as I understand.

    Back in the day, it was the French who first tried to build the Panama Canal … and failed. Americans took over, and recognized the main problem was the workers being decimated by mosquito-borne disease. Research showed the mosquitos would not fly far from the jungle. Solution — first clear a broad path through the jungle, and then build the canal.

    Our ancestors were smart people who paid attention to the real world. How did we come to let the Chinese Communist Party run rings round us? I suspect Brian is right — the CCP realized they could buy the US Political Class; as long as the Beautiful Peoples’ individual bank balances were going up, they could rationalize away all the damage they were doing to the bulk of the American people.

  41. “You sure about that?” Yeah, pretty sure.

    I never had any respect for academic opinions outside any relevant specialty; if the people with money and power (which, to spell it out, doesn’t include your average humanities prof by a long shot, and never has) pay for bad advice that’s on them.

    You want to blame, don’t look at me and my kind, whose lives and activities are apparently as opaque to most commenters as those of the Jesuits, and probably more sinister.

    Even you people should understand “follow the money.” That trail runs very cold very fast in history departments and libraries.

    Or maybe y’all are jealous of our sexual prowess. Would make more sense.

  42. A fundamental problem we have with ‘Biden’..with the political classes in general, but this crew takes it to a new extreme…is that they are not interested in *operations*. They like to make sweeping pronouncements, to tell people what to do, to demand ‘compliance’…but they are not interested in figuring out how something (any problem, any opportunity, any situation) actually works and how it can be improved.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences is demonstrated every day.

  43. “More than Panama involved in that smart move. China paid for the expansion, as far as I understand.”
    In the 90s the fear was Japan was going to swoop in and take over the canal. How things change. (If China doesn’t support them the canal will probably decay into collapse within a decade. Panama can’t maintain anything.)

    “it was the French who first tried to build the Panama Canal … and failed. Americans took over, and recognized the main problem was the workers being decimated by mosquito-borne disease.”
    The two breakthroughs were Gorgas implementing mosquito suppression methods, and the engineering recognition that a sea-level canal was never going to work. The French had already done most of the work on the hardest cut that had to be done…

  44. One of the three history classes I taught (3*, as an adjunct, in the span of about 12 years) was in the early 90s–the height of the Great Japan Fear. The news was full of dire speculation, and warnings of the impending enslavement of Americans to the new Co-Prosperity Sphere.

    That sort of thing, from left right and center. It only took a little historical knowledge to know it was all nonsense, of course, and it fell to me to ‘splain it for all the future lawyers and corporate execs–even some premeds.

    Now that’s power! Good times.

    *Counting preptime and the grading of tests, I figure I was making as much as $12-15/hour. And I wasn’t given any release from the day job, either.

  45. Doc K responded to my comment about land wars in Asia with Jeffery Sachs?

    That’s bizarre. I know that there’s a whole narrative of the all-powerful, malevolent foreign advisor who sets an entire country on the road to ruin, but what the hell does that have to do with land wars in Asia?

    Here’s a real life experience I had with a urologist–a very highly credentialed, well-regarded, and well-compensated surgeon who had been a good doctor to me. In the summer of 2017, as my wife and I anticipated our first trip to France, he advised me that I needed to 1) arrange with his staff for him to cut out a hydrocell from a private part, and 2)
    arrange with some other good doctor to have my hernia fixed.

    It took a while, but within a few months I had had both procedures, with apparently good results. Then one day at the pool, weeks after I had been pronounced whole, I was bleeding from that private part. Leaving aside the medicratic miseries that even professors can’t avoid at the ER, when esteemed urologist finally took a look about 48 hours later he remarked that that wasn’t supposed to happen. I had not closed up completely and nothing I had done had triggered a tear–he had simply failed to notice something.

    Now if I was the litigious type, I could have had HIS balls in a vise, and we both knew it. He had to treat me, for the foreseeable future, as his new and bestest pal. We had several
    near-daily meetups, where he and his lovely assistants administered, in the truest and most literal sense, a trial of testicular fortitude.

    After about ten days he brought my wife in, to act as home nurse. He supplied us with plenty of the stuff needed for the daily treatment and gradual healing of the affected area.

    Now, it was obvious from the start that he wasn’t reporting his own booboo, and I don’t blame him. I just wanted the problem fixed, and eventually it was.

    Our trip went well.

    I got a letter from him this summer, announcing his retirement.

    My point being, Sachs and Yeltsin were dealing with much more intractable and complex issues than anything we’ll ever face. Even if I thought there were solutions to the problems they thought they faced, I’d be careful blaming either or both for nor being genius statesmen. Academia was the least of it.

  46. And another thing, about those who advised against land wars in Asia, specifically Iraq.

    One of the big issues roiling academe in 2003 was the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq. I recall distinctly that the big associations of historians–OAH and AHA–issued statements decrying the lies and manipulations being perpetrated by the neocon chickenhawks who were so shamelessly using Colin Powell’s credibility for their own ambitions, the ignorance of the history and culture of the land we were going to conquer, and the unlikelihood of anything like a clear victory.

    I’d wager that 90% of the sneerers-at-eggheads here were hot and heavy for some crusading and avenging and wife-beating infidel smiting back in those ass-kickin’ days. At least, as long as they didn’t have to go.

    It feels good to be right because you bothered to read some history. That it angers people is a sort of back-handed compliment.

  47. OBloodyHell,
    The stuff goes through POLA and POLB because that’s where the facilities are that can handle the big ships. Unless you have the newest, biggest cranes, made in China, you can’t service those ships. All the ships that can go anywhere else have done so. The ships are piling up on the East Coast as well.

    Gavin Longmuir,
    No Chinese involvement that I know of in the new canal. The contractors were mostly Spanish. The Panamanians seem to be managing just fine.

  48. Yeah, pretty sure.

    Nope, still disagree. The average history professor may not have any more culpability for our present circumstances than the average army NCO does but on the whole academia has done a h3ll of lot to put us here.

    American colleges are stuffed to gills with people who hate America and twist and warp every bit of American history to put the US in the worst possible light. They delight in teaching Americans to hate America, as you should know. Orwell wrote that some things are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them and our putative intellectuals prove that.

    Yet they still get to teach children evil lies. I can’t count how many stories I’ve seen over the years about that sort of thing- Rachel Corrie (Evergreen College) burning an American flag because of the sacred Palestinians, Lori Berenson (MIT) aiding the Peruvian Shining Path guerillas, that freak who went into some Ivy League school a normal young woman and emerged as an “artist” who made “art” from her aborted fetuses. I’ve had quite enough of that, thank you.

    Even you people should understand “follow the money.”

    You people? Should I be offended? Is this a demonstration of the superiority academics feel when they have to lower themselves to interact with the lesser lights of Merica?

    The news was full of dire speculation, and warnings of the impending enslavement of Americans to the new Co-Prosperity Sphere.

    You know why that was? Because there were vast numbers of Americans who had suffered because of Japanese mercantilism, including myself. The electorate wanted something to be done, quite appropriately. That’s supposedly one big honkin’ reason why we have a government- to deal with the endless swarms of foreigners who place their own interests above ours. Instead we got lectures about the awesomeness of free trade, endlessly repeated, followed up by NAFTA, then Chinese admittance into the WTO. Hence, later, Trump.

    I’d wager that 90% of the sneerers-at-eggheads here…

    So are you the Speaker-to-Animals here, devoted to egghead-splaining how the world works to us? Really?

    I recall distinctly that the big associations of historians–OAH and AHA–issued statements decrying the lies and manipulations being perpetrated by the neocon chickenhawks who were so shamelessly using Colin Powell’s credibility for their own ambitions, the ignorance of the history and culture of the land we were going to conquer, and the unlikelihood of anything like a clear victory.

    I don’t recall hearing anything from these associations of historians at the time, which is perhaps why I hold historians in higher regard than other academics.

    Maybe I shouldn’t. I have high regard for historians such as Victor Davis Hanson, Peter Green, Moses Finley- despite his Marxist faith- Edith Hamilton, the Durants, Lucio Russo, and many others. But they’re either deceased or elderly, alas.

    I don’t have high regard for the usual suspects of academia today, who by your description demonstrated no comprehension of why we had an interest in invading Iraq at all. Colin Powell had agency, and he could have objected to the proposed invasion of Iraq if he had wanted to do so. I think that would have mattered. In any case, the whole reason we were inclined to invade Iraq had nothing to do with the culture or history of the region. We were worried that the murderous dictator of that pumpernickel principality was going to obtain nuclear weapons and use them against us. Bluntly, I don’t give a rat’s anus about the history or culture of any land if they or their government are intent upon nuking myself and my family. In that case, a clear victory would be making a desert and calling it peace.

    Not a fan of that, either. And for the record, I went into the USN when I was 17, and for the first couple years I expected to die because of a Soviet antiship missile, before my 21st birthday.

    So yeah, I did go, as you put it. But the better-governed America of my youth was capable of resolving problems without catastrophes, unlike today.

  49. “No Chinese involvement that I know of in the new canal.”
    Not yet, not overtly at least. The question is can they actually pay the debt they’ve taken on to pay for it, and if not, where will they go.

    “The Panamanians seem to be managing just fine.”
    In 1979 there was a great, modern, well-functioning railroad system along the length of the canal. By 1989 it was so derelict it looked like it had been abandoned for decades. Perhaps they’ve gotten their act together in the meantime. The canal is of course much more important to them than that railroad was, so maybe they’ll care about it more, and/or be able to bring in people who do.

  50. There are quite a few good people in academia who do solid work and show considerable courage. The overall characteristic and trend of these institutions is overwhelmingly Left and intolerant, which means that those who stand against these winds are deserving of a lot of credit.

  51. I don’t think it’s too bloody smart for any of us to recriminate and attack anyone else over the things that have gone on. It’s enough to observe the problems, highlight them, and perhaps, present explanations and solutions for the current mess. Cousin Eddie wants to defend the field where he spent much of his career and where he has invested much of his identity. I can’t blame him for that–I, too, would like to do the same thing, but… I’ve also got enough self-awareness to look at the field where I invested a lot more of my life and identity, and recognize that it is filled with rampant idiocy and incompetence. Which is probably why I’m such a cynical bastard, and so critical when I observe the same syndromes and issues elsewhere.

    After all, I not only entrusted my life to this group of assholes we’re decrying, I also worked for them as a Judas Goat, guiding others along the Soldier’s Path. Looking back, I wish I’d done my initial term, gotten out, made my loot, and then dug a deep hole somewhere in the backcountry from whence to observe the rampant failures, rather than participating in a lot of them. If I could speak to 17 year-old me, oh, the things I would have to say.

    What we’ve got here is a turning of the age, a historical cusp-moment akin to that of the fall of empires. What empire is falling? That of the “expert class”, the technocrats, the anointed “philosopher kings”.

    I’m afraid that that paradigm, just like the one immediately preceding it, that of the hereditary aristocracy…? It, too, has proven to be “the god that failed”.

    What we need is a regime of enlightened pragmatism, run by people who’re held accountable for their work-product, one way or another. The one we have only enables failure upwards, and is never able to connect actual performance with “brilliant idea”.

    I think a lot of it has to do with the zeitgeist of the times; much of that stems from the educational process and academia, which is why I’m so down on that component of the problem. I’ve gone most of my life with a profound suspicion of the sort of people who inhabit that sector, mostly through observation of their effect on my peers. How is it, I ask, that you take a normal, well-balanced child, run them through a university program, and produce someone who hates their own culture and is embarrassed by it? I don’t mean “someone who is aware of their home culture’s failures and issues”, but who actually hates who they are, their culture, and their very own people? I’ve seen this syndrome over and over again, producing destructive people who hate themselves, because that is what they were taught in the sanctified atmospheres of the schools they trustingly went to in order to “learn”.

    There’s a rot in academia, I’m afraid. It’s expressed in things like CRT and all that other bunkum, that is so popular in the hallowed halls. When you send a young woman to school, and she chooses to go into “Women’s Studies”, then odds are excellent that she’s going to come out of that program brainwashed, unhappy, and entirely useless to society. Same with any of the other “-Studies” programs. And, you don’t see any internal policing of any of it. Academia is just as bad as the police forces, insofar as there’s a “Thin Blue Line” that refuses to discipline its own, or even criticize them for their inimical effects on the body politic. In this, I find a lot of similarity between some of my “good cop” acquaintances and Cousin Eddie–They all deny that what is going on is going on in their field, but the raw facts observable by “the rest of us” are that the entire career field is contaminated. The “good cop” types all deny that they’d ever let anything like what happens in all the varied and sundried cases of abuse take place locally, yet… I don’t see them stepping up and decrying even the least little bit of that crap starting up around here, either. We had a Sheriff’s Deputy panic in the middle of downtown here, and empty his pistol into the surrounding area–Some 26 fired shots, none of which hit his target, and when it was all said and done…? They had to acquit the guy he was shooting at, because he’d done nothing wrong. That deputy is still on the job, and got promoted. He’s not only an idiot, but a demonstrated coward who emptied and reloaded his pistol, to empty it again. You watch the video of it, and you’re aghast that this ass-clown had a badge and a gun; the fact that he still does…?

    Oh, yeah… The local cops sure police their own. They do. ‘Cos, they tell us they do…

    This is symptomatic of where the real problem lies for us: An utter lack of accountability and an inability to identify and maintain standards. Anywhere across our society. You have bankrupt companies paying the executives who bankrupted them millions, ‘cos that’s what is in the contract, never mind that what they did was so inimical to the actual functioning of the business.

    Top to bottom, side-to-side, the whole structure needs extensive remodeling. The roots of it aren’t necessarily in academia, but that’s where a lot of it passes through, when you get down to it.

    End of the day, while it’s not the fault of the good officers and NCOs when you lose a war, the fact remains: The war is lost. Fixing it requires a clear identification of what went wrong, why it went wrong, and then actually taking effective action to solve the problems. Guys like Cousin Eddie aren’t responsible for the problems we’re decrying with regards to academia, but they’re part of the corporate whole, and just have to cope with the whole “getting blamed for the bad cops” syndrome. Same as I have to accept that I spent way too much of my life trustingly following men like Mattis and Milley…

  52. Well, it’s more “courageous” than 99% of academics are capable of being nowadays.
    But, it’s not like he’s resigning from the faculty. It’s possible, even extremely likely, that he just didn’t want to do whatever bureaucratic nonsense came with that position anymore, and by resigning he’s freeing himself of that so he can do his preferred work.

  53. I used the kind of blunt language about academics that academics encounter all the time, within and outside the groves.

    The ‘you people’ was a sardonic description–others have used it here, and I objected. Nobody is Yu Peepul unless they think they are.

    I agree with something AVI posted–you wouldn’t be here if you weren’t smart. But smart people can also be ignorant–I’ll be the first to stipulate that I’m ignorant of many things, and on them I try to remain silent.

    Is academia full of freaks? Sure. Do they define it? Is America full of freaks?

    When I went to the state u a few miles away in ’71, I didn’t plan to stay there until 2015 (with a two-year hiatus). I went with some thought of teaching, but a few weeks of courses in the Ed School put paid to that. Those people are wankers.

    I took a lot of history and polisci. I got a job in the library. I got married, I did a history masters course but left the degree on the table. I sold some houses, and we had a kid.
    Back to the library, and a library degree in ’93. Tenure track. Granted tenure the week of 9/11, after completion of a history masters program (totally different courses, and for that matter a near totally different faculty).

    My job included collecting, preserving, organizing, and making available to the public the records of our local and regional past. I went far and wide, into many dank and dusty places, and dealt with people across the social spectrum whose personal and family and organizational papers and photos and memories would otherwise be lost.

    I gave talks and show-and-tells on and off campus, dozens of times a year. I spoke to church groups, veterans organizations, Montessori and public-school kids, and at formal academic conferences here and overseas.

    I worked with the most distinguished scholars and writers around, on topics like Elvis, the Civil War, the Civil Rights Movement and Non-Violence, African-American and Southern History, and with feature and documentary filmmakers from around the world.

    Provided the same services to the most confused undergrad. Often.

    I was good at it, because I had a lot of book-learning and subject understanding, and work well with diverse people. IOW I’m not an elitist except in those things that I think are important–like everyone posting here.

    This getting long, so I’ll break.

  54. Iraq and 2003 are an excellent example of the value of understanding history and culture, even Muslim history and culture.

    General Shinseki, IIRC, had called for about twice the number of troops as were eventually deployed–I assume on the basis of analysis of occupations past. Maybe not, too eggheady.

    But the panicky rubes wouldn’t listen to the uniformed expert, oh no. And certainly not to a bunch of bookworms. (Which is kind of ironic, given the stories about how he and the chickenhawk competed to read the most history books.)

    The fact remains that there was little or no credible intelligence that Saddam had WMD that posed a threat to us. (I don’t care what he did to his own people–not my responsibility.)

    The fact remains that once the professional soldiers had won their war, the amateur statesmen had no clue how to proceed. Because they disdained any understanding of the people they had made themselves responsible for.

    Not smart, and learning on the job was costly, and served mostly to advance the careers of the most ambitious and connected.

    No, the disasters abroad of recent decades can not plausibly be laid at the feet of the professors. Look to the lawyers and business tycoons and lifelong parasites like Biden for those responsible for the now irreversible slide.

  55. No, the disasters abroad of recent decades can not plausibly be laid at the feet of the professors.

    Cousin Eddie, you are still swinging after the bell. Professors have been behind most of the disasters of Progressivism, going back to Woodrow Wilson and his mentors. Then we have the Frankfurt School. It was not noticeable when I was an English major in the 1950s but it got much worse during Vietnam. Then, leftist students avoided the draft by serial draft deferments and became the PhDs of the 70s and 80s. It has been downhill since then. STEM avoided it for a while as most Humanities types avoid Math but even that is changing. Stanford now has a Physics course for POCs.

  56. Doc K, nobody knows the differences between the U of today and the ones the GG built and manned better than I do. I assure you.

    And nobody has worked harder to keep the core missions of the U alive than I have in my limited sphere.

    Every bad example offered for the baneful and baleful influence of the educated and credentialed is a critique of the common human weakness for authority, and you won’t find me defending anyone because of their degrees. I’ve studied Wilson and Herbert Croly and all those guys; Mencken, with his hoity-toity fancy-schmancy public high school education was worth a dozen of them.

    I would wager that almost everyone who posts here had parents better off than mine, had better grades, went to more prestigious schools than I did, and have had more lucrative careers. I know without a doubt that scumbags and shitheads like Bush and Cheney did, so who is the elitist here? Who here will repudiate their own professional credentials, and who has stopped giving money to their alma mater? (Assuming you do.)

    As for the left wingers avoiding the draft, GMAFB. Cheney was only one of vast numbers of righty chickenhawks who “had other priorities” when the shooting was going in SEA, and I went to school and grad school with plenty of others. They went to law school and b-school and have changed their coloration to climb the greasy pole. Don’t get me wrong, if they saw Vietnam as a fool’s errand, as so many who came back on the GI Bill said it was, so what? It was common sense.

    But academics are like libertarians in a lot of ways–they get accused of exerting some magical power while Big Tech and Big Brother and Big Big Money run roughshod over every tradition.

    If I thought academics had any power or influence where things get decided, I would have advised my son and heir, apple of my eye, to stick it out. But I didn’t. In fact I told him that being a pretend college student wasn’t really viable, and he should make up his mind.

    Used the few thou left from what we had set aside for his education on ourselves, though he could have used it for a trade school.

  57. Thanks, Doc K– I can get touchy about broad-brushing of my peeps. I have read about you and your father and always follow your comments. Haven’t read your “War Stories” but believe me I have enormous respect for your accomplishments and hard work. I’ll credit even those who started out better than I did, unlike you, for hard work too.

    You probably don’t recall, but your first comment to me at Althouse was pretty dismissive, but e-bruises don’t last long and though we often disagree about topics of mutual interest I consider you one of the better regulars.

    The rest of you peo– just kidding. I expect and respect honest pushback, and I try to learn from everyone, even my harshest critics.

  58. Someone in my extended family was an Ivy League professor in the 60s. She’s said quite openly that students would do zero work and then come to her crying that they couldn’t fail otherwise they’d get sent to Vietnam, so of course they wouldn’t be failed. It’s quite open what happened. Draft deferments led to all those who could going to college and led to grade inflation and the destruction of the previous standards of what a university education meant, and absolute scum like the weathermen and their ilk getting embedded into faculty positions and then Democrats doing everything they could to require credentialization of every job field, which meant the funneling of everyone through their perverted system–look at the fancy college credentials of our current military leaders, for goodness sakes, and you won’t be surprised at their trash behavior and miserable results.
    But, as for academics, well, I’m sure some of them are nice people…lol.
    (Actually I have a PhD, in a real science, from the last few decades, and yes most of the people I met there were nice people, but yes their political views are moronic and yes they are overtly bigoted towards Christians, Southerners, Republicans, etc.)

  59. You probably don’t recall, but your first comment to me at Althouse was pretty dismissive, but e-bruises don’t last long

    I have been know for a long time for my tact, or rather lack of it. My wife has lectured me at length but stuff still slips out.

  60. @Cousin Eddie,

    Coupla points to be made, in refutation of what you’re saying.

    One, WMD absolutely WERE in Iraq. They existed. I know the men who found them, read the classified and unclassified reports about them, and I know the guys who cleaned up after them. There are still entire swathes of Iraqi desert that are off-limits for contamination due to those “nonexistent” WMD, areas we simply couldn’t clean up.

    Hell, the New York Times flat-out admitted that there were WMD in Iraq, not that long ago, when they went after the Army for “concealing chemical weapons effects” on soldiers and civilians over there. Which was rather odd, because according to New York Times reporting from 2003 onwards, those weapons didn’t exist… Still not quite sure how they squared that particular circle. They did, however–And, not least, because folks like you refuse to read past the lede and the first paragraph and then do some critical thinking.

    Additionally, the continuous goalpost-moving? What’s up with that? The UN sanctions specifically defined the term “WMD” so as to include any rockets or cruise missiles over a specified range. The ones launched during the invasion at Kuwait, and which hit civilian targets within Kuwait, exceeded that range.

    So, the specious idea that “there were no WMD found in Iraq” is BS. We found plenty, just like we found literal tons of munitions and other war material whose documentation proved that there had been extensive sanctions-busting going on by our “allies” in Europe and elsewhere.

    The protestations that the invasion of Iraq wasn’t justified are outright revisionist lies. The invasion pretty much had to happen, and it had to happen precisely because the various parties who were supposed to be preventing Saddam from building up military capacity were not doing what they promised to, and were indeed, doing their best to undermine the entire idea. When included with the corruption of the oil-for-food programs, there was really no damn choice–And, the people who made that necessary weren’t in Washington DC or Baghdad, either. They resided in the various European capitols and New York City, where they made mint by helping bust sanctions, while also subverting the various programs meant to help the people of Iraq rather than assist Saddam in building up his military empire.

    It wasn’t done well, but it did need to be done, and was entirely justified by letter of UN sanction. The fact that the Bush administration was so maladroit as to be unable to justify or explain itself? I’ve got no damn clue when it comes to that. Those years immediately after the invasion were pure frustration for many of us who knew better, but there was no damn way you were going to be able to change the propaganda efforts put forth by the hypocritical likes of the New York Times.

    Hell, I was in Iraq on my second tour when we CENTCOM held a press conference in Baghdad’s Green Zone for the media, where they outlined over 500 separate incidents and site-finds where there were WMD present, which we’d found. Care to guess how many of our presstitutes bothered to show up for that event? Zero.

    If you like your humor dark and hypocritical, the “secret” spreadsheet that the ‘Slimes used to harangue the Army about “concealed exposure of troops to chemical agents” circa 2018 was recognizably the same one I remember them having in the press kit for the above-mentioned press conference.

    So, don’t try telling me that “WMD were never found…”. I know better, and anyone who tells you differently is either a total moron who has fallen for one of the biggest lies in press history, or lying out their ass with the rest of them.

    To this day, I have no idea why the hell they did such a poor job of defending themselves about the invasion. The ineptitude was so massive and epic that it almost had to be intentional, but then there was no way in hell that Bush or his administration was ever going to get a fair hearing in the media bubble, so maybe they just gave up on it as a bad job. Hard to say, but the facts were there on the ground, if you were in country and paying attention to what was going on around you. If you were PFC Snuffy, maybe not so much, but anyone with access to the tactical networks and who was keeping themselves informed? You could not miss it, unless you were willfully looking the other way.

  61. To this day, I have no idea why the hell they did such a poor job of defending themselves about the invasion.

    The Germans and French were up to their eyebrows in WMD technology and evading sanctions in Iraq. WEB Griffin (Butterworth), who always had insider details in his novels, did a whole series (Presidential Agent) on Putin and the Germans in the Oil for Food business. He knew all sorts of retired guys in south Alabama. Bush could not insult his buddies by making a good case.

  62. A couple of thoughts about the removal of Saddam Hussein:

    1. The problem of lawyers — which ties in to Kirk’s view of the highly credentialed. When a lawyer goes after someone, she files charges on every single thing she can think of. So Bush gave a speech with a long catalog of charges against Saddam– something like 16 different reasons for removing him. But what passes for “good” lawyering is damn poor politics & statecraft. The Far Left Media ignored all of those reasons except for the WMD charge, which they proclaimed to be false. It would have been far better for Bush to have fired his credentialed staffers and given the world a single reason for removing Saddam.

    2. The single reason for removing Saddam — probably the real reason in the President’s mind — was that Saddam led an expansionist military regime in an area critical to global energy supplies. He had already invaded 3 countries. Now, how often have we heard people bemoan that the “global community” did nothing when Hitler went into the Sudetenland, and nothing when he invaded Czechoslovakia? If only Hitler had been stopped then, they say. Who knows what the consequences would have been if Saddam had been left to continue pursuing his expansionist plans? The reason for invading Iraq was that Saddam had to be stopped before he triggered a global war. Unfortunately, Bush’s credentialed staff were not up to the challenge of being straightforward with the American people.

  63. “Bush could not insult his buddies by making a good case.” I’m not sure what this means, Doc K. I’m genuinely interested in it.

    Kirk, your very own fact-filled narrative both proves me wrong on detail and right on the overall threat. They found masses of stuff scattered around. How much was deployable? In the event, the big bad moustache guy and his junk arsenal folded like a house of marked cards. At that point the Iragi people got involved. We should have left then.

    Of course the Eurocreeps and the NY Masters of the Universe were making mint on evading the sanctions and selling toxic waste to the chump. I recall breathless reporting about the high-tech palaces and the ultra high-security fuhrerbunkers he had all over the country, built by the West Germans don’t you know. Hmmm, thought I, no chance that the Krauts (not to mention others) would have the backdoor to those places, right?

    And where did we find the guy that the UN– the UN FFS! I piss on the UN!–thought was an enormous threat? In a little hole in the ground, by himself.

    That’s a fable for our foreign policy military crusading on behalf of Muslims in the Greater Middle East.

    Oh yeah. All that money that was being made by helping Saddam was soon dwarfed by the money made, especially in the counties around DC, by replacing him with chaos.

    We could have vaporized the guy, or let the Mossad do it, for a lot less in money and lives.

    You can criticize me for a lot of flaws, but globalist humanitarianism isn’t one of them.

  64. It’s always been my suspicion that there was a quid pro quo thing going on, where the US did not bring up the literal tons of evidence it gathered up about sanctions-busting efforts by our “allies”, and they got behind reconstruction in Iraq… Some of the stuff going on down in Kuwait, that you heard via rumor in the souk where we were buying stuff was… Educational. The Kuwaitis were not really appreciative of the fact that they’d bankrolled a lot of Iraq’s war against Iran, only to have them turn around and stab them in the back (from Kuwaiti perspective… From the Iraqi side, it was “We’re the Arabs fighting the Persians, they owe us…”), and they really did not like the Europeans for backing the Iraqis and so forth.

    The warehouses of dead Kuwaiti citizens found, and all that? Yeah, there’s still a lot of hatred, and I expect some payback is still due. Memories in the Middle East are long, like the grudges held. I know for a fact that some of those Kuwaiti remains were used as blackmail material by Saddam, and that the families were ecstatic to have them returned, gratis. The whole thing was ugly, and the Europeans were entirely on-board with keeping Saddam in business and buying their stuff. Kuwait, after what happened? Not so much…

    Looking back, though… I really cannot come up with a truly rock-solid explanation for how inept the Bush crew was at the propaganda war. It was like they just ceded the whole thing to their enemies, making Obama almost inevitable. If the real truth about who was getting paid off by who ever came out…? I’m pretty sure that what was going on with Burisma was going on with the oil-for-food BS with our Congress, and I would not be one little bit surprised to find out that there was cross-linked blackmail going on–Bushco telling the Euros that they’d let the cat out of the bag about sanctions, and the Euros coming back with “Well, if you tell that, we’ll blow up your sweetheart deals for all your families…”, and since both the Dems and the Repubs were in on it up to their necks, well… Yeah.

    I gotta tell you–The chicanery that was going on in Iraq before the invasion was pretty much an open secret. To this day, we don’t have a solid handle on what the Russian embassy crew was escorting to the Syrian border, and all we do know for a fact is that one of the broken-down trucks on that convoy had a fairly capable SSM on-board when we dug the bastard up, one whose warhead tested positive for chemical fill.

    Any fool that says there wasn’t WMD is either uninformed, or a liar. It was there, it was even released open-source. It was simply ignored by the media and lied about incessantly. By the letter of the UN sanctions, new missile or other delivery systems capable of over a certain range qualified as WMD; we most assuredly saw those fired at Kuwait from outside the range limit they were supposed to be holding to. And, the media kept moving the goal-posts; by the end of 2004, I doubt that they’d have accepted as “real WMD” if we’d walked in on Saddam putting a plutonium core into a warhead on top of an ICBM.

    The real standard was a lot lower, and it was met so many times it ain’t even funny. He was supposed to account for everything he’d had on hand at the end of Desert Storm, and turn it over for sequestration. We were finding that crap all over the damn place, and there’s an entire installation out in the desert to the west of Baghdad that we never went into because of the level of contamination found on the outskirts–We simply didn’t have the time or money to demilitarize it, so it was fenced off and guarded.

    But, as Cousin Eddie assures us, there were no WMD in Iraq. Of course, he wasn’t there, the way I was, and he’s trusting the word of proven liars who told him differently. I’m not sure why anyone would take their word for anything, given the track record that those sources have… But, there ya are: I’m obviously delusional, as are all the other veterans who were there, on-scene, many of whom also got MEDEVAC’d to Landstuhl for chemical weapon injuries… None of that happened. Until it did, and the wunnerful, wunnerful folks at the NY Slimes revealed to all how the Army was concealing these terrible things from soldiers and the public…

    Only concealment came from the media. Every single EOD team and route clearance team in Iraq got briefed on that crap, and they all carried NBC gear with them every time they went out. But, there were no WMD in Iraq, so all that musta been sheer paranoia and fear.

    Start to see why I’m so contemptuous of our fine institutions?

  65. I’ve already deferred to your real-life experience, Kirk. I do that.

    And I’ve answered with the observation that what was found was so dangerous–according to you–that it’s essentially not removable. So how usable was it, and if it was so usable, why wasn’t it used?

    Gavin mentions that Saddam had invaded three countries. Iran–his vaunted capabilities got him six miles–six miles–into that big theocratic shithole. You can call Kuwait a country but it’s really a small theocratic shithole, and one of the more hilarious aspects of the war-drum-banging was the Gallant Little Kuwait tearjerkers that came on every afternoon at soap-opera time. I don’t know about warehouses of dead Kuwaitis–and again, not my responsibility. I recall the incubator legends well enough.

    Saudi Arabia, which Saddam invaded with a whole mech brigade — oohh!– had more to do with 9/11 than Saddam ever dreamed of having; and far more to do with spreading the sick ideology of Islam around the world, and corrupting our educational and financial institutions, too.

    So anyway, we have Kirk’s personal experiences and his very true and correct observation that the NYT lies–all historians knew that already, but no matter–and his informed speculation that the Bushites and other swampcritters were up to their ears in backroom corruption. That gives me pause, but Saddam was so uniquely powerful and capable of harm that the world had to be mobilized against him apparently.

    It’s ironic to me that some of the same people who speculate that if only we had been nicer to Herr Hitler and the Japs, the world could have been a happy place, also want to paint a substandard Arab dictator as a Hitler who must be removed at any cost.

    Doesn’t add up, but then I’m no STEM whiz.

  66. I think I specified that Saddam’s WMDs were of little danger to US. That could have been clearer.

    On Hitler, I’m agnostic that there was some sort of clean solution to his first violations and aggressions, though it’s one of the most discussed what-ifs around. Or maybe because it’s one of the most discussed what-ifs around.

    At any rate, Saddam proved himself no conqueror and in the long run his removal has led to to strengthened Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    One of the most beloved ideas of many commenters here is that we should have let the Nazis and Soviets pummel each other. I would argue that in the circumstances that’s exactly what we did do, for about as long as made sense, and by putting all our weight on the Red side we helped them fight the modern war that ensured massive losses on both sides. Too many people make the perfect the enemy of the good IMO.

    To me, the good approach to the sand-dune loons and Koran-quoting hicks of Islamia is non-intervention verging on non-intercourse. And wait for the oil money to run out, when they’ll turn on themselves, inshallah.

  67. @Cousin Eddie,

    I’m not going to argue that the Iraqi intervention in 2003 was well-run, but you’re ignoring a bunch of salient facts about the whole issue. For one thing, the amount of money that Saddam was funneling into destabilizing his neighbors while starving his own people was ridiculous, and highly dangerous in terms of second- and third-order effects. That was a factor, along with the fact that the “allies” were losing enthusiasm for the whole sanctions regime and the no-fly zones we’d established, which were eating the Air Force alive in terms of flight hours. The situation in that regard was untenable–Either we abandoned it all, let Saddam do as he pleased, and withdrew, or we did what we did.

    The “What-if” factor will never be known. Myself, I think that both Iraq and Afghanistan should have been strictly punitive expeditions, go in, break a bunch of stuff, kill a bunch of people, and then withdraw after having made our point. Although, to be honest, were it I, I’d have left both Afghanistan and Iraq the hell alone, and gone after the actual responsible parties, namely Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The evidence for their effective involvement and collusion with al Qaeda was pretty damn convincing, even just the stuff that got out to open-source. Why they were never brought to the bar, I’ll never understand–But, I speculate that Bushco, Inc. wanted to pull some pain-free ju-jitsu move off by taking away Pakistan’s toy, and putting an actual Arab democracy on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia. Problem with those ideas was that it was signing the US up for a multi-generational effort, and that was never clearly brought out to the public.

    The whole time during 2003-4 when the media was talking it up like we were going to be out of there in a year or two, the professional military was going “Yeah, this is gonna be a place our grandkids do their overseas assignments…”. I sat in on what amounted to a seminar run by one of our better field-grade officers, and he laid out the timeline for what he thought was going to happen over the next three-four years in Iraq. Other than him projecting that Explosively-Formed Fragment warheads would show up in IEDs about six months before they actually did, he was dead-on with everything he said about what was going to happen. Unlike a lot of the optimists, he even got the whole “Ain’t no here, here…” thing correct, in regards to turning things over to the Iraqis. After Saddam, there wasn’t any local governance in existence to turn things over to, which was what the initial plans had relied on heavily.

    Something had to be done, after 9/11. It should have been something short, sharp, and damaging enough to the Islamic world that the next time some bright light got up the idea of going after the US, his left and right flankers would have cut his throat, but the problem was, Bushco, Inc. didn’t want to be the “bad guys” and actually do the necessary. As a result, we’re weaker, they’re stronger, and they think they’re capable of defeating us, ‘cos they did. So, we’re in for more and more of the same, only it’s going to escalate until there’s no choice, and it’s war to the knife. Given the Islamic inability to actually organize themselves or their societies at all well, it’s likely going to end in us either capitulating to them or committing genocide. I’m gonna guess it’ll be genocide, likely performed by or with the Chinese. The whole thing is bloody stupid, but that’s the way it is when you let idiots run things.

    I’ll point out that the various plans for Iraq were all vetted by the “proper people”, as well. It was all “culturally sensitive” and approved. Thing is, none of those idiots actually understand the culture, the same way the Israelis don’t “get” why they can’t seem to actually win any wars once the shooting stops. Thing is, the Arab mindset is pretty simple: They think they’ve lost when you’ve done to them what they’d do to you, which includes rapine, pillage, slaughter, and enslavement. When the Israelis magnanimously come in and rebuild the cities they destroyed, this confuses the shit out of the Arab mind, because they’re going “Well, we lost… Wait… What? They’re giving us tribute…? We musta won!!!!! Yay, us…”. The Arabs literally do not “get” the fact that they lost all these wars with the Israelis, because the Israelis didn’t come in and rape the shit out of their women and sheep, then kill all the men. That’s what the Arabs would do, if they’d won, so they think that if that wasn’t done to them…? They didn’t lose the war.

    Which is why the Palestinians keep fighting. They think they’re winning–And, right up until they finally provoke the Israelis into snapping and having them kill all the Palestinians, they have won. For a certain given value of “won”, that is… It mostly exists only in their minds.

    Most of this crap is down to a failure to communicate, across the vast gulf of culture. I see a lot of this same failure to comprehend reality coming out of academia, TBH, especially in relation to all this.

    You want to know why we haven’t won any wars since WWII? It’s pretty simple: Look at the damage we’ve done to our enemies. See any of them since WWII that we’ve left as devastated as Germany and Japan were? There aren’t any, and that’s why we’ve failed to win. Had we slaughtered a similar number of Iraqis as we did German, they’d have known they’d lost the war, and that they needed to admit it and fix their shiite. Because we let so many of them live, they haven’t had that “Come to Jesus” moment with reality, and that’s mostly our fault. If you’re not willing to inflict a similar level of damage to someone that we did to Germany and Japan, then we’re really not serious enough about winning to start a war. You want to calibrate things, you can look at Germany post-WWI and say “Yeah, not enough damage…”, while post-WWII Germany got enough to keep them from starting trouble for a good fifty-sixty years or so.

    Those are the brute facts. You want to have a war, you’d better be prepared to do what they did back then, or it’s not really anything much more than a punitive expedition that’s gonna have to be redone in a few years, at best.

    Frankly, after 9/11? We should have demanded that they turned over bin Laden and every involved government official from Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and then when they didn’t…? Both Peshawar, Abbottabad and Riyadh should still be burning, the government of Pakistan ought to be in chain gangs quarrying rock for a monument in New York, and the Saudi Royal family ought to be back to fscking sheep and camels in a desert of their own making while we pump their oilfields dry feeding the Third World. Unfortunately, we’re run by idiots who can’t see past the next payoff from some foreign government, and who completely fail to understand how breaking down the Westphalian system is a Really Bad Idea(tm).

  68. Cousin Eddie: “Saudi Arabia, which Saddam invaded with a whole mech brigade — oohh!”

    Eddie, you are so much better informed than I am — please remind me how many Divisions Hitler sent in to reclaim the Sudetenland?

    Sometimes it is difficult to see what point you are trying to make, Eddie. None of us can ever know for sure what would have been the consequences of the ‘path not taken’. If Hitler had been slapped and had withdrawn from the Sudetenland, would there still have been a World War II? Would history have followed a path where Stalin eventually invaded Poland (as he did in 1939) and Germany, and the Allies had rallied to the support of noble Nazis fighting to hold back the Slavic Communists? No-one knows.

    What we do know is that Saddam was an expansionist with a large military. He went through Kuwait and launched an attack into eastern Saudi Arabia — that is the part where the planet’s major oil fields are located, and also the part where the majority of the population is Shia Muslim who might be happy to join Saddam in kicking out their Sunni overlords. Is it likely that if Saddam had held the world’s oil supply in his hands, everything would have ended well? We do know what Saddam did to the oil wells when he was kicked out of Kuwait. In short, it is foolish to mock the size of Saddam’s initial force entering Saudi Arabia. Surely a historian should recognize that?

  69. this is why I think the first gulf war was a pyrhic victory, bin laden offered his horde to fight the Iraqis, they would have been slaughtered, maybe some of the refineries and pumping stations might have been damaged, this cold peace, afterwards led to the salafization of much of their military and security forces, as baathist society was essentially hollow, yes the 28 pages shows how much infrastructure ubl’s cells were working with, it renders most of the rest of the 9/11 commission report moot, awlaki was certainly part of that network,

    ISI not only sowed the dragon’s teeth of the Taliban, but selected which groups that would receive the bulk of the funding, they were also instrumental in creating the infrastructure for the chechen terrorist network, (boddansky fills in the blanks) of course had someone iced aq khan, years ago, he wouldn’t have become the quartermaster of not only the pakistani nuclear program, but godfather to the libyan and north korean programs,

  70. One of the very real effects of the whole “invade Iraq” question that many of an academical bent seem to ignore is that of “Why, precisely, did Libyan strongman Omar Khadafy shut down his WMD programs and go clean-sheet with the West…?”.

    Can’t read a dead man’s mind any more than I can someone still living, but I strongly infer that he had a look at what happened in Iraq, post-9/11, and decided that was a game for fools that he wasn’t going to play. So, he went, hat in hand, and told everyone that he’d gone clean on the WMD deal.

    Didn’t help him a bit when the Obama administration decided it needed to buff Hillary’s creds a little, but there you are: Positive effect from Bushco’s efforts.

    Totally blown up by Obama, but then, he did that with everything. Watch and see if there’s another WMD-seeking tin-pot dictator that turns his toys over, after the precedent established by what we did in Libya.

    Sheerly brilliant, I’m telling you. All approved by the academics, or politely ignored. People should have been screaming from the ivory towers about that one, pointing out how it set back non-proliferation by decades. I mean, there was a fairly clear quid pro quo, there–Turn over your stuff, and you get to live. What’d we do? Why, of course, we made damn sure that Khadafy died with a bayonet shoved up his anal sphincter.

    I’m not even that smart, but I do know when something is counter-productive, and that was pretty clearly counter-productive. What’s the incentive, now, for someone to do what Khadafy did? Where’s the faith anyone could have in the US and other Western powers for letting you live, after giving up The Bomb?

    Epic, galactic-scale dumbassery. By all the “best people”, who are all products of our refined educational establishments in the Ivy League. Where’d Samantha Power teach, again…? Was it Yale? Harvard? Somewhere like that…

  71. “Didn’t help him a bit when the Obama administration decided it needed to buff Hillary’s creds a little”
    The obvious reason for toppling him was the lie that people told about our invasion of Iraq–to take their oil, which our “friends” in France/Italy are highly dependent on.

  72. @Kirk– you make legitimate arguments for a military resolution of the situation, something that I agree was necessary and I strongly agree that we ignored the real perps in favor of some neocon (our rightwing Trotskyites) nation-making fantasies.

    We all know the stats of ordnance loosed on Germany, Japan, Vietnam, etc. North Korea usually gets left out, but my understanding is that the FEAF basically obliterated every conurbation in the country, at tremendous cost in Nork lives. The drenching of much of Vietnam with Agent Orange ought not be forgotten either–near ecocide and deformed children for generations.

    I’ve argued for years that Versailles may have been, not too harsh, but not harsh enough.
    The object lesson of massive destruction was something the Germans had dealt out, and they had a lot to answer for by 1945. As Lukacs put it, “They had it coming.” Ditto the Japanese.

    On the other hand, American firepower is not always the best tool for fine work. When you say that the brass knew it would be a longterm commitment, do you know if they were telling the civilians the same thing? I really don’t know.

    A bloody showdown between civilization and Islam is almost certain, but whether it happens this year or in 2041 is anyone’s guess. And I know damn well which side I’m on.

    @Gavin– the whole point of the mech brigade story is that it was a feeble thing, easily stopped IIRC by a company of Marines and some air. And the rest of the stuff was on the same theme–Saddam’s armies couldn’t fight themselves out of a paper bag. His arsenal was mostly Soviet export junk, his troops barely trained to Soviet standards, and with some exceptions fell apart at first shock. Not the Neo-Wehrmacht by a long shot.

    But the Iraqis of all stripes showed they were willing to fight hard for their own tribes and clans, and we weren’t prepared to deal with that. I remember the controversy in academe over cultural anthropologists and sociologists being recruited by the military to help them understand Iraqi society and win hearts and minds. As if.

    One reason there was a breakdown of Iraqi society was that the elite genius Bremer dissolved one of the few functioning institutions, the army. As a Turd World force its only real value was internal control, and unlike the US and Brits in 1945, we didn’t take advantage of their limited abilities for our purposes. (Some German army engineering, signals, and logistics units were kept in service, and some Feldgendarmerie didn’t turn in their small arms and gorgets until 1946.)

    Some historical knowledge and understanding might have helped. That’s all I suggest.

    These pages are a funny thing. Sometimes what I think might be the most inflammatory of my comments gets at most a raised eyebrow, and the most anodyne raises the most hackles.

    I’ve spent my life what-iffing stuff as I learn, and I just haven’t much energy to attempt to “prove” anything with them. IMO they can help isolate the salient features of a situation for better understanding.

    Appreciate the comments, and aren’t we being nice?

  73. It’s a point of the Conventional Wisdom that it was a mistake to disband the Iraqi Army. I would suggest, as a counterpoint, that failing to disband the Iraqi Army would have been a greater mistake.

    As constituted, the then-extant Iraqi Army was a regime protection force engaged primarily in keeping the Sunni Arabs in power. They were a minority, run by a minority, and based on abusing and exploiting the Shiia majority. Had we kept the regime forces “in being” in the barracks, they’d have been seen as a potential tool to keep the Sunni in power, and they’d have become a major bone of contention so long as they remained centralized and consolidated.

    Given what I know about the Iraqi Army of Saddam’s time, I don’t think it was possible to reform that force. At. All. Doing what we did was the “least worst” option. It had the benefit of signaling the Shiia that we weren’t going to be doing the British thing, and co-opting the abusive minority as show-runners for a puppet regime. That surprised a bunch of them, pleasantly. They expected Empire, and got an inept attempt to help them stand on their own two feet as a nation. Which, of course, failed because we didn’t isolate them from Iran effectively, and consciously ignored the Iranian and Syrian meddling that was going on under our noses.

    I don’t think that Bremmer was necessarily the smartest guy in the room, but his dismantling of the regime armed forces was not the “colossal mistake” that everyone makes it out to be. It was always going to be a mess, and by dismantling it and sending it home, we eliminated one threat to things, as well as signaled that we weren’t the same-old, same-old that the majority of Iraqis expected.

    I’ll wager this much: Find me an alternate universe where we kept the Iraqi Army intact, and I’ll show you the alternate universe where that choice is blamed for everything going south…

    There were no “good choices”. Period. It was always going to be a mess, and you just have to deal with messes by cleaning them up.

    About the only thing I’d criticize anyone for was the naive assumption that Iraq would be just like Germany or Japan, and that there were intact local governances to hand things over to running. We should have expected a far more chaotic situation than we’d projected.

    And, I’d point out that Shinseki’s insistence on “more troops” was pretty much of a piece with the idea that the military should not be used–Most of his generation of senior officers were pure obstructionists, much like the ones who prevented Trump from pulling out of the Middle East on his own terms. One rather wonders whether Shinseki would have made those same recommendations, had it been some Democrat in the White House.

    Interestingly enough, despite the various issues that Rumsfeld created through his lack of knowledge, he was right about two things: You didn’t need all the forces that the Pentagon said it needed to topple either Afghanistan or Iraq. The post-conflict “occupation” and nation-building were both things that Rumsfeld didn’t support doing, and would have likely not gotten us involved in, had he been the only decision-maker. Blaming him for inadequate troop levels is asinine; he was never on-board for the BS that they tried to do.

    If we had to do Iraq and Afghanistan, which I doubt were worth the trouble in the long run, it should have been “Go in, break it all, get out”, delivering a sharp lesson to all involved. I’d have gone so far as to destroy everything, leaving a desert behind the way the Mongols did. The Arabs still remember Ghengis, and that’s a reason they don’t mess with the Chinese, to this day.

    Sometimes, you have to use savagery to deliver a lasting lesson.

  74. I’ve seen similar analysis and opinion, Kirk. I don’t dismiss it. I don’t know about Rumsfeld’s particular role–I didn’t think his “unknown unknowns” comment was the scandal that a lot of people wanted to pretend that it was, though. As a side note, and IIRC before 2003 Rumsfeld’s plan was to re-equip the army to fight the kind of conventional war that the brass envisioned–and that did not include Humvees and MRAPs etc. I don’t know what happened to the pre-war ideas.

    I still think that if you invade a place and need a big force to take over government functions, you should use a big force. IIRC in international law– bear with me–we were obligated not to let the place devolve into chaos. A larger force might have helped; maybe not.

    As to scorching the earth, I don’t think generals who were reluctant to get involved in the first place would have been happy to carry that sort of policy out. Not in the open, anyway. And the American peeps would definitely squawk.

    It’s ironic that the threat from Saddam had to be made into Hitlerian proportions, when everyone knew that the methods used against his regime and henchmen were not going to be used against Saddam’s.

    You are probably right that retaining the Iraqi Army would be blamed now for any bad outcomes; at the same time it reinforces my opinion and description of it as a turd world
    parade and internal security force, and no mighty conquering host.

    I get realpolitik, and if we had to off Saddam so be it. I think we all agree that our elites were not the best and brightest. Again.

  75. I didn’t see the comments about the ghoul Samantha Power earlier, Kirk. I’ve never had a high opinion of her. I keep telling you, I’m not impressed by credentialed apparatchiks and world savers.

    As for Gaddafi, he too was capable of little more than tormenting his own–at least that’s all he managed to do for most of his career. (I recall a friend of mine, a guy who had been to North Africa and knew some Arabic, actually thought that Western intervention was justified because otherwise Gaddafi would massacre everyone in Benghazi. I said, so what? We stopped hanging out after that. Liberal wimp.)

    I think it’s clear that the anti-Gaddafi crusade–the French, for crying out loud?–had the aims of keeping the oil flowing and the people in place. I guess one out of two isn’t bad.
    (For the French.)

    And on the topic of WMD of the B&C types, if so much stuff went to Syria, why was Assad reduced to kludged barrel bombs? And when he was obliterating Aleppo, why didn’t that trigger some righteous outrage?

    And Doc K, you’re preaching to the choir.

    I’m having fun and learning a lot in my old age; it’s just sad that our culture and civilization is eating away at its roots in the Enlightenments in favor of the old categories of race, religion, class, etc. Back to blood indeed.

  76. Iraq looks to be doing “fine” right now, as far as Middle Eastern states go. I don’t see any reason to think they’d be doing any differently if we had left in 2004 after removing Saddam.
    I don’t see why the Kurds/Shiites/Sunni in Iraq are required to share a state any more than the Czechs and Slovaks, the various Yugoslavia factions, etc., were. (Ditto for most of the Middle East, and much of Africa, etc., of course). Let them sort it out themselves.

  77. Ya wanna get back to root causes, blame the Brits and French for their post-WWI “reordering” of the Middle East. I think that the biggest problems we have in that region stem from the psychotic and selfish way they drew the lines, after the war. Many of the region’s conflicts today stem from that idiocy, which the demonstrably did not learn from when it came time to do the post-colonial thing in Africa.

    When you get down to it, colonialism was one of the stupid things the Euros got up to during and after the Age of Exploration; it did none of them any good, and indeed, when you look at Spain before and after, it was actually pretty damn destructive. Easy money kills, over the long run.

    The US should have simply stayed out of it all, after WWII. However, the idiot class thought it could do better as the world’s reserve currency and political power than the Brits did, forgetting how much sheer hatred and resentment they got for it all. The amount of grief we’ve gotten for trying to maintain the “international system” is instructive, and I would very much like to let the various yapping dogs of the world bite someone else’s ankles and see how that goes; China is going to be a much less congenial “leading nation” than we’ve been, and people are going to find out what real hegemony looks like. Assuming they manage to attain such, before internal contradictions catch up to them.

    In the end, I don’t think that there’s going to be anything other than continued chaos and confusion, with isolated patches of order and stability. Most of the human race simply isn’t amenable to those conditions, and we’re going to see that clearly in the next few years.

    What I suspect is going to happen here in the US is that the bleating hordes of dysfunctionals are going to find that they and their ideas are largely discredited by everyone else in the country, and they’re going to be put out of power, either peacefully or forcibly. Then, the common-sense types are going to wind up taking charge of it all, either legitimately or illegitimately, and you’re going to see a merciless application of normie-value enforcement. That Congolese illegal alien they just popped for raping a woman on a Philadelphia train? He and his ilk are likely to discover that it would be in their best interest to unass the coming USA, because I suspect that the new regime is simply going to deal with people like him expeditiously. They may decide to simply drop him at sea, or put a bullet into his skull. End of the day, I think there’s going to be a lot less tolerance and mercy across the board. Lawlessness will be answered with lawlessness, and that’s something that our theorist class might want to remember–They were granted the power they have on the assumption that they’d make things better than they were, and what they’re delivering today simply isn’t. When enough of the public figures that out, well… Genes will tell, and there are a lot of rebels back along our family trees. You may be able to wrest the controls of civilization away from the normies for a generation or two, but if and when you fail to provide what those normal people want, then you’re going to pay the price. The US ain’t going the way of Venezuela; the population is not used to being cowed, it isn’t compliant, and you’re going to see more and more of this “Let’s Go, Brandon…” Irish Democracy, likely culminating in Romanian Democracy, wherein the various wannabe Ceaucescu types discover that their words don’t manifest as reality.

    I really don’t like the path we’re on, but then again, nobody asked me about the advisability of it all in the first place. I coulda told ’em it was a horrible idea, but they wouldn’t have listened to me.

    I do, however, hold hope for the usual American genius for routing around idiot authority figures and coming back to its senses. So much of what’s been going on has been “The Emperor’s New Clothes” writ large, and I suspect that the majority are soon going to realize just how buck-ass naked the Imperial Authority types really are.

  78. Brian, one of the most pernicious legacies of Europerialism was that the lines they drew in London and Paris bore no relation in most cases to any geographic, economic, cultural, or other logic.

    They broke apart traditional allies and yoked together traditional enemies, and as already noted carefully chose a favored group among the natives by which to exercise indirect rule and absorb most of the flak.

    It was conventional wisdom in polisci in the 60s and 70s that one reason these pseudo-countries needed modern armed forces was so that a sense of national identity would be encouraged, and in places it looked like it could work. The Baathists in particular were big proponents of using their shiny new toys like old farmers used to use spare lengths of 2X4–
    to bash the head of the stupid mule to get his attention, but that was the common pattern all over Africa and elsewhere.

    The only flaw was that we are so accustomed to Western-style good citizenship and being true to our schools and all that jazz that we couldn’t imagine how seriously and deeply others take deeper and older loyalties– to cult and clan, tribe and chieftain, real identities and not dress-up. The uniforms and flags are imports and cultural appropriations that have a definite lifespan and will probably go the way of all those silly national airlines that used to exist.

    A lot of academics don’t like this kind of talk ;-)

  79. The idea that colonialism by Europeans has anything to do with the Middle East’s problems is absurd. Other than maybe if you stretch the term Egypt in the 19th century, the Middle East was never “colonized” by anyone from Europe. It was a part of the Ottoman Empire, so blame the Turks, if you want to blame anyone. Yeah, the Brits and French drew some of the current borders, and those are a major problem, like I said, but that’s a totally separate issue from “colonialism.”

  80. Brian, your ignorance is… Interesting. What was the French deal in Syria and Lebanon, if not colonialism? Complete with exploitation as captive markets? Same with the Brits in Iraq, Iran, and Egypt.

    They weren’t treating those states the way they did Canada and Australia, I’ll grant you, but it was pretty much “colonial exploitation” from day one, and right up until the end of the era. All that changed from the Arab perspective was that the money no longer went to Istanbul, but to Paris and London.

    I’m not sure you could find much effective difference between how the Turks treated their colonies in Arab lands from the way the Europeans treated the Indians and others. After all, who’d they take the lessons from, in the early days…?

    In the end, it didn’t get them much beyond massive expenses trying to thanklessly modernize the places, defend them, and somehow eke out a profit. End of the day, despite the treasures taken out of all the Euro colonies, I’d wager that the costs were a lot higher–Particularly once you factor in all the former colonials now conducting reverse colonization of their erstwhile “masters”. Looked at from the perspective of centuries, I’m pretty sure that most of the famous colonialists would probably say “Yeah… Bad idea, looking at it long-term… Let’s not…”.

    I’m highly dubious of the entire proposition, to be honest. It’s one thing to do what they did in Australia and Canada, but India? How was that ever a good idea? I remember seeing an accounting, somewhere, where it was all totted up, and the expense of taking, keeping, and then upgrading India was far higher than what they got out of it, over the long haul. It made individual Britons wealthy, along with individual Indians, but it cost them heavily on the national scale, losing all that human capital and wealth. You have to wonder what the counterfactual history would look like, had Britain stayed home, minded it’s own damn business, and invested all that wealth spent to take and keep India into its own industries and people, using them to compete on the world stage vice locking themselves into a thankless mission of maintaining the international commons and eradicating slavery, which is still a thing to this day.

    Color me in as dubious of the entire proposition. The moneys spent on all those glittering regiments of foot and cavalry to maintain India as a British possession could have gone towards building up the British Isles instead, and then where would we be? It’s just like the endless feckless stupidity of the Germans… What the hell does it matter that your navy is inferior to the British one? Are the Brits going to ram their navy up the Rhine or the Danube to crush your Central European mercantile efforts?

    Whole enterprise was nuts, and ego-boo for a bunch of dysfunctional aristo twats that got a lot of decent people killed, just so they could feel like proper aristocrats. Not a fan, TBH.

  81. Kirk: Please enlighten me with your brilliant exposition on how the Brits ever colonized Iran.

    If you were one tenth as smart as you think you are, you’d be 10 times smarter than anyone who’s ever lived. Your arrogance and condescension does fill up the hole quite well, though.

  82. Brian, what, pray tell me, do you call the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, other than colonialism? Sure, they didn’t have a satrap in Tehran, but they had pretty complete control over the exploitation of those resources.

    Colonialism was a spectrum; the common thread through it all was expropriation of local resources for the home country, and the forced economic engagement with that economy. Iran was locked into the British mercantile world for decades, enforced by the British Navy.

    You wonder why Mossadegh was so popular? Or, why the Iranians still dislike the Brits more than they dislike the US?

    You’ve a narrow view of things, I’m afraid, one that is sadly ill-informed. Iran was as effectively colonized by the British as any of the other varied satrapies they established, just like Kuwait and Iraq were. Just because they allowed the Iranians some greater degree of “freedom” in terms of who got to put their name on the government doesn’t mean that it wasn’t the British deciding who traded with who and for what. One of the big reasons the US went after the British colonialist pretensions after WWII the way it did was specifically because American industry was tired of being locked out of huge sections of the world–Like, oh, say… Iran. Getting GM, Ford, and other big American manufacturers the export rights into those countries was a huge reason we insisted on the British shutting down their little mercantile empire, the one that locked those nations into trade relations with Mother England instead of whoever could deliver.

    There may not have been a British viceroy in Tehran, but the effect was the same: You couldn’t get access to the markets there any more than you could in India. At least, in reality–On paper, that wasn’t the case, but as we know from the automotive trade deficit with Japan, what’s legal on paper often doesn’t work out in the real world of actual transactions.

  83. …locking themselves into a thankless mission of maintaining the international commons and eradicating slavery, which is still a thing to this day.

    You could say the same about the US, except the present regime has no particular issues about slavery. It does however really believe its task is to maintain globalism, no matter what the cost to the country. E.g., the Iraq War, clumsily justified by the Bush idiocracy by appeals to globalism- building democracy blah blah- instead of nationalism- we stopped the Hussein regime from using the WMD we found. FAIL.

    How was that ever a good idea?

    From my hazy recollection a great deal of the cost of conquering India was paid by the British East India company, which was quite a profitable enterprise. Later, maybe not, but the British seemed to think it was worth the cost.

    …losing all that human capital and wealth.

    A lot of that human capital ended up in the US, along with a lot of German human capital. Obviously, history would be very different if that hadn’t happened.

  84. I don’t want to pile on to Brian, but no crap, please learn some basics.

    I won’t add much to Kirk’s outline, except to suggest Yergin’s The Prize–old but still pretty good–and even Ferguson’s Empire for some help. I forget the historian, but he wrote a book about the British Empire called “Ornamentalism” — a clever twist on Said’s sophomoric “Orientalism.”

    There’s a famous story about a British diplomat writing home for guidance on how to treat a certain local notable. He tells the guys in London to make up their minds whether “Chief Mooba” [not his real name] is a n***** or a king, and he didn’t care which just as long as they were clear. (It’s amazing how few colonial officials it took to run India–because most of India was run by the natives day-to-day, under supervision.)

    The Brits switched from coal to oil for their fleet and had to have secure supplies, which they found in Iraq and Iran. Both countries, like for instance oilless Egypt, were allowed a veneer of formal independence but all the major decisions were in European hands. The Turks were big enough, tough enough, and together enough to smack the Westerners’ snouts when they got too greedy, but they were the exception.

    Iran/Persia was treated a tad more respectfully usually, than Iraq and Egypt. All had their own armed forces but none were very modern or very good, by design. Nasser and Sadat, for instance, were professional soldiers in the Royal Egyptian Army . . . and must have been very interested observers when Rommel got close to the Delta.

    In WWI the Germans tried hard but with scant success to turn the masses–especially the Muslim masses–against the Brits and French. It says something that in both cases the masses gave jihad a pass, and many many non-white colonials served their imperial masters very bravely and loyally–in both wars.

    In 1941 the Brits had to take and secure Syria and Iraq from pro-Axis factions in the region,
    and it involved fighting. DeGaulle comes in for a lot of flack nowadays for deliberately downplaying his dependence on colonial (especially North African) soldiers. He made sure not to be photographed with them if he could help it, apparently.

    Ferguson argues that the Brits had learned a lesson in America–that they were better off letting (W/white) colonies develop their self-government as partners rather than forcing them into revolution. Thus Canada and Australia and New Zealand; but that logic didn’t apply in less advanced places.

  85. There may not have been a British viceroy in Tehran, but the effect was the same: You couldn’t get access to the markets there any more than you could in India

    I’m not sure that Iran was much of a market for anything but stolen copper wire. We got involved because a lot of Lend Lease went to the Soviet Union via Iran in WWII. At the request of the Shah, we entered into a three way agreement to leave Iran at the end of the war. The Shah senior was deposed by the Brits because, like most of the Arabs, he was pro-Nazi.

  86. I should add that I am also disagreeing with Brian on middle east colonialism. All in all, colonialism was a beneficial force with the exception of Belgium and the Congo. We should have seen that when Labour took Britain out of India after the war. Not 100% beneficial but on net it was.

  87. One thing that was true the last time I looked is that former British colonies tend to be the least fubared overall–across all the usual lines: race, place, pre-colonial status etc.

    And the largest all volunteer army in world history was India’s in WWII. Sure, a lot of them were desperate men, but several million who didn’t have to be drafted? Who wouldn’t want them, and doesn’t it say something good about the Raj?

    For that matter, the Raj was a unifier in spite of Brit intentions perhaps–like Napoleon was at least the godfather of united Germany.

  88. the first world war, certainly was not helpful for the fate of the region, the brits lured the hashemites to rebel against the turks, result they lost their control of the shrines and the sauds took over, transjordan was a consolation prize, the invasion of mesopotamia was not as desastrous as the 1st Afghan war, then that wasn’t a goal was it, in the subcontinent the tale ends up wagging the dog in certain respects,

  89. I wonder if there’s a professor left in any U.S. university capable of explaining to his students why colonialism happened in the first place, especially in its heyday in the 19th century. I doubt it, given the pressure to conform to the currently fashionable ideological dogmas. Any student with an inquiring mind and still capable of independent thought would have to consult the source material. Consider, for example, the following excerpts from the January, 1850 issue of the “Edinburgh Review.”

    “The progress recently made by Colonization, as a question of public interest, cannot have escaped the least attentive observer. That progress has been rapid as well as steady; and may be measured from month to month as well as from year to year.”

    “But it is not only when we contemplate English or Irish pauperism, that we are reminded of the dangers arising from the pressure of population on the means of subsistence. Those dangers are illustrated by the condition of half Europe at the present day. We are far indeed from asserting that the recent wars of nation against nation and of class against class, have been produced by that cause alone. Other agencies we know have been at work; But all other evil influences assuredly were aggravated by that chronic discontent which gives plausibility even to such agitators as the Red Republicans of Paris, and to such philosophers as her Socialists. Each of the three French Revolutions affected all Europe; but the disastrous infection of the last spread over the Continent as flame spreads over the dry grass of the prairie. For so terrible an excitement there must have been predisposing causes; and the chief, we may assume among those causes, was the galling uneasiness which frets a population too closely packed to find an easy subsistence.”

    “But we must be allowed to say a word on those moral relations at the very centre of our being, on which all others rest. In a nation vitiated and enfeebled by permanent pauperism, the domestic ties, if they can be said truly to exist, are too often reversed from their natural offices.”

    In short, greed and exploitation were not the only motivations for colonialism. Especially after the revolution of 1848, which, as the author notes, spread from France across Europe like wildfire, the British and other Europeans imagined they were facing an existential threat that would end in the destruction of the prevailing moral order. Colonialism was seen as a potential solution.

  90. Colonialism certainly did result in near-term profits, and created markets for the colonial powers’ domestic industries. European individuals got rich, and European industries advanced. Long term, Kirk is probably right — there were costs which probably outweighed the earlier benefits. But, as Keynes noted, in the long run we are all dead. The cycle was long enough to separate the generations of the winners & losers.

    Sort of like the US offshoring industries to China and elsewhere. Short-term benefits of “Free Trade” for those who did not lose their jobs in the departing industries versus the longer-term costs typified by the foreign ships waiting to unload foreign goods and return empty to their native lands. (Back to the original post!)

    An economist would say “we” (our maybe our ruling class?) apply a very high discount rate to future revenues.

  91. In the unlikely event anyone is interested in the original post. Out of 351 ports, POLA ranks 328 and POLB ranks 333. So it;s sort of unfair to blame Biden for not instantly fixing something that’s been broken for a long time. Didn’t expect to say that ever.

    The US ended up with some of the least efficient ports for roughly the same reason it ended up with the world’s least competent leader- the American political class has no particular interest in the US as it sees itself leading the world and not merely misruling America into oblivion.

    If I recall one of the schemes of our regime that apparently fell through was to build a giant port in Mexico that would have simply bypassed the feeble American infrastructure. This got far enough for the Bush-era Texas government to start condemning land along the proposed highway to be built for all this. Plus, one key reason why LA ports are so inefficient is because the longshoreman’s union won’t allow anything better. So we have a government that’s somehow too feeble to fix US ports because it would upset a few union grifters but also wants to force everyone to take an experimental vaccine, and thinks a good solution for problems with American infrastructure is to invest billions to build a port in Mexico.

    So of course Biden looked like a good solution to the regime’s Trump problem, because these people are idiots.

  92. shambling man, barely thinks, ron klain the arquilian driver* might have a little more awareness, but not much susan rice is another one of the gang of four, theres probably another hack that comes to mind, perhaps bishop rooker, the pentagon political officer,
    a lawyer for facebook is running justice legal policy
    * the tiny aliens in men in black,

  93. Things seem to have got a bit contentious here, but I take great comfort (in the interest of my own intellectual integrity at least) in noting that we are not in any way just an echo chamber!

  94. Of port / berth scheduling; does anyone here know offhand whether the Port of Los Angeles is taking ships on a (1) “First Come, First Served” basis; or (2) auctioning off berths to the high bidder, or (3) pretending to allocate berths by some system like 1, or 2, while really taking bribes, extorting cooperation, and calling in “favors” ?

    Seems like an auction would be best but for all I know, they’re doing it already.

  95. It’s like I’ve been saying, for years… The people who are in charge of things really don’t understand how all of it works, nor do they comprehend how to get things done within existing totality of the environment we dwell in.

    I think that it’s due to a framing issue, when you get down to it all.

    We do not select, train, assess, or promote leadership and management personnel with any eye towards accountability for success or failure; we don’t even set them metrics anywhere along the way.

    Compare and contrast: You have a plumbing issue, one that has left raw sewage backed up into your finished basement. You engage a plumber to fix that issue, and what you find upon him completing the job and presenting you with the bill is that the basement is still filled with raw sewage, and the problem isn’t fixed. You have established a pretty clear metric: Fix my damn problem, and you can clearly assess that the plumber hasn’t done his job. Do you pay him, and accept the job as properly performed? No, you do not–You’ve got raw sewage in your home.

    By comparison, let us examine the lackwits we’ve got in governance across the nation: Do we ever establish a clear metric? No, we do not–As an example, here in the Puget Sound metro area, we’ve had a problem with homeless vagrants gravitating towards the public spaces and making them unfit for use by decent taxpaying citizens. What should have happened is that someone should have laid it out: “There are 20,000 homeless in the greater Seattle area. We counted them…”, and then told the persons seeking power over that that was the problem, stated: Reduce the numbers. Instead, what we have is a situation where we’ve given these benighted fools a billion dollars a year and the number of homeless vagrants has gone up exponentially.

    A rational person would say “This is failure…”, and then try something else. Instead, our highly educated and credentialed betters tell us that it’s all our fault, and ask for more money. They should be treated with the same expeditiousness you’d treat the aforementioned plumber who has left your home awash in feces–Throw them out, and get another plumber.

    If you keep getting the same or worse results from the same set of “solutions”, maybe what’s on offer isn’t actually a “solution”, but is instead a scam? Just sayin’…

    I think the paradigm that we’ve been working under encourages people in authority to operate as though all they have to do is mouth the right words, say the right things, write the proper words, and then everything will conform to their words.

    In real terms, however, there are a lot more things going on than someone’s verbiage. There are actual behavioral cues in the environment out there that are encouraging the diametric opposite to what the authority figures are saying, and they’re operating as though those cues simply don’t exist. The question is, why are the people in charge of it all blind to these things?

    I would hold that the basic problem stems from the fact that we do not pay attention to these things, because we are like fish swimming in water, unaware that we do so. The mindset we need to have is rarely acquired by anyone in charge because the vast majority of them are not selected, trained, or evaluated on the basis of their ability to observe and orient on those environmental cues. Which goes back to the “fish in water” issue, because it’s never taught. There’s no course in the MBA tracks that tells executives to evaluate the corporate environment that their subordinates swim in, mostly because none of them are aware of it themselves. It’s all just “bad luck” because they wrote a memo that went ignored…

    You have to have a holistic view of it all. You have, as an executive, a lot of theoretical power to sway things, but the reality is, you have to address it properly. You may write a memo forbidding something, but unless you take into account the underlying cues and features of your corporate environment that encourages that thing to be done, you’re going to meet with abject failure.

    It’s like with the homeless issue: Nobody has bothered to really look at the environmental cues that have been sent out and set up by the current regime of failure: If the Puget Sound region weren’t so bloody inviting and enabling to the hordes of homeless vagrants we have, they wouldn’t be here. But, because we insist on saying one thing, then signaling another with the things we actually do and set up out in the environment those homeless vagrants live in, we get more and more of them, and the problem gets worse and worse.

    Of course, the perverse incentive we’ve also set up is that you get more and more money, personnel, and power as a “social worker” for the homeless the more you have of them, so… Why should any of the people running the homeless vagrant misery industry do anything to actually reduce the problem?

    We don’t teach anyone to look at this stuff. Anywhere. It should be a standard thing taught in schools, teaching people to be aware of their environment and to observe the cues so that they can be more self-aware and understanding of why they’re doing the things they are, themselves. But, we don’t do that. At. All. I suspect it’s because so few of us are really aware of these things, and even fewer make use of them to modify their environment. It’s like we’re mostly pre-sapient in this regard, and it’s so damn simple I can’t quite understand how it was I myself went for so many years in a state of obliviousness to it.

    All of experience the world around us as a sequence of successive Skinnerian behavioral modification “boxes”. You go down to the supermarket, park your car, and go inside. You come out, and discover that some thoughtful bastard has run a cart into your car; from that cue, you observe and react, the next time you go down there you park further away or you take the beater you drive in wintertime… But, you never think of that situation as being an experience in behavioral modification, do you? Despite the fact that you, as an organism, have just had a conversation with your environment, and have experienced “learning”. Next time that happens, you’ll have a reinforcement, until it becomes habit.

    We never think of things in these terms, despite the fact that we have these conversations with our environment every waking moment of every day of our lives. It permeates our existences, yet we’re mostly unaware of the whole thing happening.

    The fact that we’re unaware of it is why we persist in this completely unsuccessful model of “diktat” in management and leadership; we really don’t understand a lot of the reasons we do things, or why others around us do what they do. Many of us observe the rules, like “Don’t walk on the grass…”, and when someone else choses to ignore that rule, cutting across the quad because they’re late to some appointment, we’re outraged–Never stopping to wonder at why we think walking on the grass is a bad thing, or considering that there may be a valid reason to do it. Meanwhile, the guy who made that rule in the first place is sitting there, watching that one or two people who’re ignoring his words, outraged and seething: How dare they?!?!

    Reality is, you want real compliance, you have to look at the environment you created. What encouraged those guys to break the rules and walk on that grass? Perhaps, it was another one of your competing diktats, one saying “Don’t be late for your appointment, or else…”.

    Nobody is taught to look at these things in this manner, and because if it, we have nothing but failure when the diktat runs up against necessity. Enough of that, and you wind up with the idiocy we have in the LA basin, right now…

  96. Kirk — What you are saying in essence is that people respond to incentives. I think almost all of us understand that, even the Political Class. Sometimes the incentive is a stick, sometimes a carrot — either way, we look at the incentive and adjust our behavior.

    What the over-credentialed idiots fail to understand is that people may not respond to the incentives they create in the way they expected. The entire tax code can be seen as the Political Class setting up incentives to make us act the way they want, and then writing in complication after complication when they find out that we responded to the incentive differently from their expectations.

    Looking through the other end of the telescope, the Political Class knows there will be no negative consequences from us for any of their actions, especially if they are Democrat Establishment insiders. Walk away from a drowning woman — and spend the rest of your life in the Senate. Weaponize the IRS to squash the TEA Party — retire on full pension. Exploit Ukrainians to get 10% for the big guy — have your next art show be a sell-out.

    Unfortunately, we need to look in the mirror. We are the ones who have made sure that the Democrat Insiders suffer no consequences for their misdeeds. The credentialed Best & Brightest are merely fallible human beings responding to that perverse incentive.

  97. If you keep getting the same or worse results from the same set of “solutions”, maybe what’s on offer isn’t actually a “solution”, but is instead a scam? Just sayin’…

    Kirk, the people spending that billion dollars are doing fine. That has been the case with welfare since LBJ. Way way back, there were “settlement houses” and private charities that people donated to. Charities are now big business. Check the salary of the CEO of United Way or the Red Cross. “Homeless” are big business for the “nonprofits” that spend welfare.

    I used to take my medical students to the downtown homeless shelters in LA every year, It was an education. The directors told us that 60% were psychotic and 60% were addicts. Half of each group was both. “Homeless children” were a myth. The agencies got children and parents with children into shelters within hours of being found. The big missions in LA would feed “homeless” 12 meals a day if they wanted them. That was 20 years ago and it is much worse now and I suspect 80% are now addicts.

  98. Gavin, what I’m getting at isn’t necessarily the “incentive structure”. That’s one of the more overt tools the idiot class tries to use, but it’s a blunt instrument in their hands because they only ever think in terms of what amounts to bribery in order to motivate people.

    There are a lot of layered cues in the environment that the idiot class never seems to take into account, and they fail to comprehend that those cues are going to have way, way more force and power than their “incentives”.

    Examine the whole proposition and paradigm of urban mass transit; how many things go into people’s choices about that? Sure, you can “incentivize” them by subsidies and penalties for using cars vs. light rail, but when you examine the other cues in the environment, like that rape that just took place in Philadelphia…? What are you actually telling the proposed urban transit user, when they’re given a choice between riding the rails with rapists and people who’ll stand by and film the attack while not even calling the cops? Do you think that perhaps, instead of taxing the hell out of cars and subsidizing rail, maybe it might be more effective to ensure that using urban mass transit is actually a safe option?

    This is the kind of thing I’m getting at: The idiot class never thinks past the very first layer of the onion, never goes after the second- and third-order effects or even looks for them. They wind up caught in a never-ending loop of reaction and unexpected result, which is why we have all the cruft built up in our civil commons. Yeah, sure… On the surface, it looks all well and good to decriminalize low-level crime, but the long-term deep effects are that you’re going to effectively create urban retail “deserts” that nobody is going to venture into, turning those urban areas into blighted regions with a speed you’ll find stunning. You drive out retail, what’s next? If Target and Walgreens don’t think they can do business in that space, do you think that any of the other companies are going to stick around?

    As I said, what we’re lacking is an entire school of holistic thought about these issues. We don’t train low-level managers to think in these terms, to consider the signals and cues in the environment that they have control over, that would improve quality of life and ensure organizational success. Because of that, the mid-level guys don’t think in these terms, and the real big-wig types never, ever consider that there are things outside their span of diktat.

    This whole thing is a failure of comprehension on the part of nearly everyone. If you really thought that Communism could work, you’d soon lose your faith in your belief, were you to actually observe human nature in action through its response to the environment you create for it through your attempted micro-management. The Soviet state authorities of the 1920s would have been appalled to observe the utter disinterest displayed by their successors and the people they thought they were turning into the New Soviet Man by the 1970s; the contradictions had caught up, and nobody believed in the system enough anymore to make the altruistic sacrifices necessary for it to work. Even the finest Soviet managers never quite realized what they were doing, when they said one thing, and then demonstrated another entirely with their actions and environment.

    It’s not so bad, under our system, but the more you try to “manage” things, the worse it gets. Life is essentially a chaotic system, and when you start munging around with everyone’s perception of their various Skinner behavioral conditioning boxes, the results you get are pretty skewed. Most of the homeless we have? If the environment was actually signaling reality to them, they’d either be dead or their behavior would be modified such that they’d fit in better. That’s the nasty reality of it all, and the more we try to ameliorate things because we don’t like the ugly reality of the environment, the more problems we’re going to have. Especially when we’re entirely unaware and ignorant of the effect our changes on that environment have…

  99. Mike K,

    Yeah, I’m aware of what you’re saying. Completely. Issue is, when you discuss it? You can’t flatly state the idea that it’s all a pernicious scam on the part of the do-gooders, because the average “right-thinking” person will immediately reject that idea out of hand. You have to live the reality of having one of those do-gooder feeding stations next door to your house before you start to re-think your fundamental ideas on the issue…

    Most people haven’t had that experience, so when you state things in bald fact, they shut off discussion. At least, until they suffer an epiphany, usually caused by sad experience in personal life…

  100. If you look at POLA and POLB, you’ll find lots of incentives at work, just not any that include moving cargo efficiently. All of them channeling the money patronage and power to the pols that have been running the state into the ground for the last 50-60 years.

  101. [sigh]

    The point I’m trying to get at is that those incentives? They’re mostly there because the idiots that put them in place didn’t understand what they were doing when they did it. The current political class loves “incentivizing” things, and then acts all surprised when the incentives fail to actually serve as such.

    I doubt that any of the involved parties ever sat down and said “Yeah, we’re gonna shut down the flow of cargo through the two biggest ports on the West coast with this…”, but because they think that their work functions independently in a vacuum, here we are.

    It’s an interlocking thing; nobody considers that the way they handled drivers for the trucks would inevitably run them out of people willing to put up with the abuse, so they maximized the system to benefit the shippers. Now they can’t find drivers–Who are the losers, now? They’ve provided enough environmental cues to those potential and former drivers that they’ll sooner live under a bridge than take up employment driving trucks at a loss for 20 hours a day…

    Anyone who looked at the whole situation back when they were starting that sort of thing should have been able to predict where it would end, but they didn’t stop to take the time, nor did they have the foresight. The MBA types who no doubt set that whole thing in motion were never taught to look at the larger picture outside the strictures of their profit-and-loss spreadsheets, because it’s not something we ever value in our executives or managers.

    It’s not just a short-term vs. long-term thinking issue, it’s one where the people setting these things up, the controllers, aren’t even aware of the perverse incentives they’re putting into place as they do these things. Case in point–Costco does not link store inventory with anything visible to customers on the Internet. You cannot, for example, “see” what is in stock at your local warehouse, nor can you find any information about what models are available there. You have to actually call the store, and get an employee to take a look before you drive the forty miles round trip to buy something. How much time does that waste for all involved? How many Costco employee hours are spent answering minor questions from customers…? Then, there’s the incessant reorganization of the stores, the constant movement of product. Sure, that keeps the customer wandering around so they might impulse-purchase more things, but for anyone who is using the place as what it was originally supposed to be, a business supply source…? It’s ‘effing maddening. I need something; where is it? They moved it, again… You have to find an employee, ask where it’s at, go back to it, and on and on and on…

    Half the time, you wind up going to Amazon and having it delivered for the slight premium involved. Does anyone at Costco ever stop and think about any of that, the environment they create for the customer and the employee? Nope; they say they do, and they let their marketing droids do their thing, but the overall big picture of “Is Costco a value proposition for people trying to get things done…?” just isn’t there, anymore. They’ve gone from “supply depot” halfway to “manipulative retailer not far removed from casino”, in terms of value proposition. It’s irritating to watch and participate in; the employees are just as frustrated when you have to buttonhole them, and half the time, they aren’t even sure where things are…

    The lack of this sort of thinking permeates just about everything we do. Ask the average politician about the things they come up with, and they’ll have never thought about all the environmental elements going into whatever it is they’re doing. We don’t teach people to go out into those environments and look around for the actual cues that are driving what people do; because of that, the idiot class is blind to them, and never includes them in their thinking, so that their programs and policies are doomed to ineffectuality and failure before they’re ever implemented.

    Swear to God, I think I must have spent the majority of my military career watching these idiots do things and asking myself “What the hell were they thinking…?”. I’ve now realized that they simply weren’t, because they were never taught to look for those things in the first place.

    Case study–Once upon a time, there was an incident involving a lost weapon at Fort Lewis. The antecedents aren’t really important, but the response was–The idiot class running things decided that the reason the weapon was lost was because the units weren’t actually doing their jobs when it came to accountability of small arms. So, they layered on more stringent and onerous requirements over those they’d already had in place, which were ignored because they got in the way of doing daily business in the first damn place…. For a little while, everyone tried following the new rules, but they literally made daily operations nearly impossible–Where the issue process for a practice alert usually took maybe a couple of minutes out of everyone’s timeline for getting out the gate, all of a sudden, you had lines at the Arms Room that took literal hours to get through, which meant everything else was slowed down.

    Couple of things, there: Nobody looked at the alert requirements timeline and said “Oh, we’ve drastically lengthened the weapons issue process, so we need to change the timeline standards…”. This had the effect of incentivizing everyone to break the new rules, ignoring their requirements. Then, they started sending around IG inspectors to observe whether or not they were doing what they were supposed to do during weapons issue, sooo… People started back-dooring the process entirely, putting on little set-piece show-and-tell sessions for the inspectors to observe–You’d literally have guys detailed to be doing the sign-out process for them, and there’d be racks of weapons going out the back doors of the Arms Room to be issued in mass, in complete disregard of any of the regulations. ‘Cos, you had the demand to meet the alert standards…

    In the end, what actually happened with all the increased “Small Arms Security and Accountability Policies”? They more accurately decreased security and accountability. Plus, they taught people to lie and circumvent the “system”, in order to get things done and meet the standards.

    The whole thing was a morass of perverse incentives, and I don’t think any one of the responsible parties realized what they were doing–But, those of us down at the worms-eye view damn sure saw the effects.

    It’s only years later that I can see clearly what was going on; at the time, I was participating in it all, and unable to see the forest for the trees. Frankly, I kinda thought, at the time, that they were deliberately trying to train in disobedience and subornation of the system with all that BS, maybe on the theory that we’d be better able to adapt to the chaos and confusion of real-world combat.

    Now? I’m pretty sure that they were just ‘effing idiots with no real idea about what they were putting in place. Just like most of our management and leadership types, who operate in a state of utter oblivious fantasy about the effect of their works…

  102. Kirk — I am in complete agreement with the issue you have identified. The practical question for us peons is — How do we change the incentives for the Political Class and their managerial hangers-on so that they start to respond to the real world?

    For example — With Costco, the response to their managerial idiocy is for us to switch to some other retailer. Gradually, lots of us are doing that on an individual level, but it is a very slow process. Costco managers will not change, they will simply ride the formerly profitable company down into extinction. See Sears.

    Where we have to give Far Lefties credit is that they are willing to organize. If a large group of customers organized a sudden boycott of Costco, there would likely be significant changes made in the company.

    The conundrum is that we are not organized to create those kinds of incentives for our rulers; and when we do get organized — say, start a Republican Party — it soon gets taken over by the same self-serving greasy-pole climbers as are destroying the rest of our society.

    Personally, I am coming round to the point of view that we need “Collapse”. There is no easy way out of the perverse mess of incentives we have created. When the patient’s heart is stopping, it is time to bring out the defibrillator and watch the body jump.

  103. Even the finest Soviet managers never quite realized what they were doing, when they said one thing, and then demonstrated another entirely with their actions and environment.

    The Soviet system eventually became a joke with no one doing anything but looking out for #1. The free market begins with that concept. Adam Smith told people that self interest by everyone resulted in the most efficient system. “Capitalism” is what Marxists called the free market. “Socialism” is a system that ignores human nature and the instinct on the part of everyone to take care of themselves and their family first. Kids, like a couple of mine, think Socialism sounds good because they have been part of a family that took care of them. The problem is that Socialism does not work with real humans. The best free marketers are those who had little or no support from the family. I left home at 18 and never went back. Had little to no help from family. That is an education.

  104. Kirk….”Where the issue process for a practice alert usually took maybe a couple of minutes out of everyone’s timeline for getting out the gate, all of a sudden, you had lines at the Arms Room that took literal hours to get through, which meant everything else was slowed down.”

    During the German invasion of France in 1940, one French unit was refused ammunition at a supply depot because they didn’t have the proper requisition form. (Can’t remember, but I *think* that threats made to the supply officer finally did the trick)

    Also during 1940, a French warship was assigned to transport France’s gold supply to Canada for safekeeping. The gold was delivered to the seaport by a special train, personally escorted by the Minister of Exchange Control. The following colloquy took place:

    Customs Officer: You can’t take gold out of France without the approval of the Minister of Exchange Control.

    Minister: I *am* the Minister of Exchange Control.

    Customs Officer: How am I supposed to know that?

    Minister (pulls out a document): This is my letter of nomination.

    Customs Officer: This just proves you were nominated to the job, it doesn’t prove you are still the incumbent.

    Pointing out that the shipment was escorted by French Navy sailors and was going on board a French warship had no effect. Finally the Minister, who had evidently expected some kind of bureaucratic roadblock, signaled to a group of sailors, who grabbed the customs guys and tied them up. He then called the Head of Customs:

    “We have some of your clowns tied up here, you can come untie them if you want. Meanwhile, we’re taking the gold to Canada.”

    One way to deal with bureaucrats!

  105. This, right here… This is why I’m gradually coming over to anarchism. A well-organized anarchism, but one just the same. Build a permanent power structure, and what you get are the coprolitic power seekers taking over inside a generation or two.

    “The conundrum is that we are not organized to create those kinds of incentives for our rulers; and when we do get organized — say, start a Republican Party — it soon gets taken over by the same self-serving greasy-pole climbers as are destroying the rest of our society.”

    This is the central problem of our civilization. We all know these types, we can damn near identify them at a glance. They’re everywhere, and we let them live on and fester, instead of ridding ourselves of them when they’re still our peers. Instead, they keep rising to the top of the organization charts like the scum they are. I can think of dozens of examples I knew during my military career, and they all went on to make higher rank than I ever did, mostly because they were proficient at kissing ass and concealing their failures. Then, too, there was the minor problem that a lot of their ilk were already ensconced in the power structure, and gladly helped pull them upwards because like knows like, and trusts it better than they do the competent.

    You see it everywhere, and so long as these types are kept away from the levers of power in government, you can survive having them around. Where we’ve gone wrong is in letting them take over, and then not doing anything about it. Pelosi, Schumer, Schwiff… They’re the very expression of this syndrome, and they’re running Congress. And, a lot of the unelected bureaucracy. DC needs an enema, followed by an auto-de-fe.

  106. We are the ones who have made sure that the Democrat Insiders suffer no consequences for their misdeeds.

    OK. What do you propose I do differently to make them suffer consequences?

    I note I already have spent my life voting against them, I have spoken out against them, and I used to even send money to be used against them.

    I note the party I voted for- reportedly the opposition- has won complete control of the government several times over my voting life, and yet has not managed to make them suffer consequences. At this point, I’m pretty sure it never will, because it’s in on the scam.

    Hmmm. Hence my votes for Trump, with results well known.

    This is why I have occasionally predicted this situation would end in civil war.

    The people with the power to change things won’t, because the status quo is how they make their money. They have no interest in punishing themselves, and they have twisted and warped every American law and custom to retain their power and thus their ill-gotten wealth.

    Eventually, I think the situation will deteriorate enough for the public to openly disobey the regime- assuming we have crossed that threshold already- and the regime will either fold and disintegrate or respond with force and start a war.

    What should I have done to avoid this?

  107. Throw all the bastards out, and try them for corruption, malfeasance, and whatever else is appropriate. Won’t happen, just like you say, but it is what we should be doing.

    As you note, the fact that the “opposition” has won several times and never managed to undo any of the BS is a telling point. They’re not really the opposition, are they? They’re the matador’s cape, the diversion, the one hand catching your eyes while the other performs the legerdemain. Crooks, all of them, and all working together in an unholy cabal of corruption.

    Time comes, the so-called “Republicans” need to be up against the wall right next to the Democrats they’ve spent decades enabling. I can remember all the so-called “fiscal conservatives” from my youth who somehow morphed into spendaholics once we’d given them the House and Senate.

    Here’s what I think: The fact that they sit in DC is a part of the problem. The Congress ought to sit physically in session only for a relatively tiny set part of the year, and the rest of the year they need to be back in their constituencies dealing with the reality their constituents face. I’d suggest that Congressional salaries ought to be capped at whatever the median income is, for their district. Audit the bastards going in, audit them coming out, and if they can’t explain any wealth accrued…? They go to jail. I’d spread that audit trail good and wide, going over the books of all their immediate families, as well–Ten years, twenty years, whatever it takes before and after.

    Alternatively, we could just make the corruption institutionalized, and set things up so that the laws really are up for sale. Comcast wants a monopoly? Fine; let them pay for it, direct into the Treasury. Whatever Congresscritter negotiates for it gets a cut.

    You either have to have everything as incorruptible as possible, or you could go the opposite way, and make a virtue of corruption. What you can’t have is this hypocritical half-way house where everyone says they’re honest and they’re actually selling us out behind the scenes.

    If it were me, I’d make damn sure that Congress was a road to personal financial ruin. Or, alternatively, I’d figure out how to get the most vicious, venal, and corrupt bastard I could, and set things up so he has to work for my benefit, out in the open so I can watch his ass.

  108. Xennady: OK. What do you propose I do differently to make them suffer consequences?

    I feel your pain. Short answer is: A man alone does not stand a chance. Collectively, we had the tools to hold the Political Class accountable, but loyal Democrats in MA kept on voting for Woman Killer Kennedy even though they could easily have replaced him in a Democrat primary election. There are many other examples.

    There are lots of good ideas out there about how to structure a government where no-one can spend a lifetime as a politician and bureaucrats are kept on a very short lease. Kirk mentions some of them — albeit with less public floggings than I would recommend. But those ideas will never get put into effect by the beneficiaries of the current system. Hence we first need “Collapse”.

    However, Collapse is a necessary but insufficient condition. We would have to organize ourselves in the chaos of collapse and act collectively. It happened in 1776; it could happen again — but there are no guarantees.

  109. Actually, Dan form Madison and his ilk (no offense) are fixing it as we speak and have been since before anyone knew there was a problem. Merchants make their living by selling things that people’s needs, no merchandise, no living. They’ve been doing it for a long time. Do you think it was easier when the supply chain was a succession of camel caravans across the Steppes of Central Asia with very poor cell coverage?

    Is the fact that POLA and POLB, both government entities, are clueless and unable to react in a time frame less than decades a surprise? The difference between the Soviet consumer experience and ours isn’t that their government was so much more inept than ours, it was that there was no alternative.

    Anybody sitting, waiting for the government to save them deserves to freeze to death in the dark without even the solace of Polish toilet paper that some merchant rounded up when he couldn’t get Charmin.

    One could wish for a government that wasn’t working so hard to drive us over the cliff but elections have consequences.

  110. MCS: “Do you think it was easier when the supply chain was a succession of camel caravans across the Steppes of Central Asia …”

    One of the major differences is that back in the days of the Silk Road, and even in the 1600s Trans-Atlantic shipping, the goods that were shipped tended mostly to be luxury goods or very high value goods such as forged metals. A supply chain interruption, such as a shipwreck, tended to affect the upper classes rather than the masses.

    Since the introduction of fossil-fueled ships, containerization, etc, a lot of very basic goods are being shipped long distances instead of being produced closer to market. We have spent decades in which many of us in the masses (but not all) have enjoyed the benefits of this long-distance trade. It looks like now we are going to have to start paying the price.

  111. Thanks for the responses.

    @Kirk I think if we could actually enact any of the reforms you propose or I could propose we wouldn’t having the problems we’re having. The government seems utterly incapable of reforming itself in any positive way. Hence, collapse.

    Collectively, we had the tools to hold the Political Class accountable, but loyal Democrats in MA kept on voting for Woman Killer Kennedy even though they could easily have replaced him in a Democrat primary election.

    I agree- but how much actual evidence is there that Democrats think anything is wrong today, or were ever concerned about Ted Kennedy’s drunken murder?

    I would submit that there isn’t. The people at the top of the heap think everything is going swimmingly, because for them, it is. The people who aren’t at the top but who make their living from the government are also doing just fine. That includes people of the Geee Ohhh Peeeee establishment. I’m starting to repeat myself, so, yes, collapse.

  112. “… Collapse is a necessary but insufficient condition.”

    Nach Hilter Uns

    Be careful what you wish for.

    Me, I’m wishing for a soft landing and predicting surprises.

  113. Be careful what you wish for.

    Others should be careful what they wish for as well.

    I will note that my side did not spend vast sums on “fortifying” an election and didn’t create an armed mass of paramilitaries and set them to burning cities. We haven’t been striving to chase them out of the public sphere and shut them up everywhere they may gather, both in real life and on the internet.

    We have attempted to use the traditional American means of obtaining redress of grievances and we have been rewarded by lawlessness and betrayal- and lately, by open violence as well.

    I wish they’d stop this, because I know how it turned out the last time they attempted to turn the United States into a continent-sized slave pen.

    Poorly, for everyone involved.

  114. Jonathan: “Me, I’m wishing for a soft landing and predicting surprises.”

    Hope & wishes are not an action plan — sadly. Yes, a soft landing would be nice. But this is the real world, where we would have to earn that soft landing through hard work.

    Yes there will be surprises. Predicting which of the infinite possibilities will surprise us is the tough part. It would be a surprise if a meteor struck DC and liberated America from corruption & incompetence. On the other hand, it will be no surprise when the exchange rate for the Dollar collapses to the level at which the value of the (much lower) level of US imports is balanced by the level of US exports.

  115. I’m not expecting a soft landing but I am hoping it waits a few years so I don’t have to put up with it. I hope it isn’t hyperinflation a la Weimar as I am on a pretty fixed income after educating a bunch of kids. A recession might be OK but it will be hard to keep it from getting to a depression. Whatever it is, it won’t be pleasant.

  116. I’ve said for decades that we’ll look back at some point and see what came before as a Golden Age, and eventually I’ll be proven right. I’m surprised sometimes that it hasn’t all imploded already.

    Enjoy what you can, while you can.

  117. Back to the OP for a minute. POLA and POLB are going to start charging shippers $100 a day for containers left at the port after being unloaded:

    I have also heard that the shippers have refused to take return containers so that they can get back to China faster. The ports should probably incentivize that as well.

    The last time I bought a container (just the box for storage), it cost around $2700. Now that the shipping companies are getting $20,000 for a trip, the containers may have become disposable, like cardboard boxes. The problem is that production is too low to support that for long. I’ve also heard that there are shortages of containers in China.

  118. 2 years ago, before the China crud hit, I was getting pricing on 2 20′ Conex one-way
    containers. $3,200 each, delivered, plus tax. Then the virus attacked, and my plans went on hold. This past July, I bought 1 20′ one-way box. $6,400 delivered, plus tax. In Sept. I bought another from the same vendor for $6,200 delivered. As a repeat customer, he knocked the price down by $200. A one-way box has made only one trip, as new, from China, then sold. They weigh ~5,000# A ton of hot rolled coil steel in the US runs about $1,900. These one-way boxes are rolled out, sheared, formed, punched, welded, painted and 1 1/8″ coated plywood floors bolted down. They are a work of mechanical art.

    Back in June or so, I read an article on the Chinese Conex Box Industry. There are 3 major Chinese manufacturers for them. In the first half of 2021, they had banged out 2 1/2 million of the 40′ equivalent boxes. They planned on 4 1/2 million for the whole year. China has an unimaginable manufacturing capacity. Be very wary of a country with 1.5 billon hungry subjects.

  119. If you guess that the 112 ships waiting outside of LA/LB average 8,000 each, that’s 896,000, add similar or bigger log jams in Europe and outside the ports in China and those 4.5 million won’t go very far if they only make one trip.

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