The Unfortunate Balance

This story – concerning the justifiable resentment of working class residents in a highly-popular and extraordinarily beautiful place where the main industry is tourism – brought to my mind again a peculiar kind of divide. That would be the tension between those with long roots in the area, and those (usually wealthier) newcomers who come to take full advantage of gorgeous scenery, lovely weather, quaint architecture, fascinating culture, interesting history … or just plain old small-town country quiet. And eventually, the regular folks, the working class or even just middle-class homeowners find themselves unable to live in that place, at a price they can afford. The houses that their grandparents built, the gardens and fields that their parents and grandparents wrested a living from, the businesses that used to line main street, the parks and open fields that they played, or hunted, skied and hiked in, the beaches that they surfed are all taken over by newcomers, usually considerably wealthier.

Grand new construction projects swamp the humble and ordinary dwellings and businesses – or else they are gentrified all to heck and gone. It’s happened to certain small towns in the Texas Hill Country just over the years that I have lived in San Antonio, so I can sympathize and understand the resentment of Hawaiians over the perceived ruination of their islands. The post linked earlier today in Instapundit touched on this – what happens when people can no longer afford to live in a place with a reasonable degree of comfort and security?

What then, oh, wolves?

It’s so much worse when tourism is the one and only driver of an economy, especially when the wealthy swoop in and essentially take over – as it seems many well-to-do and famous have done in Hawaii. It’s been happening all across the US (also in scene parts of the British Isles, where so many scenic villages have devolved into colonies of infrequently used holiday homes). It wasn’t long ago that I read about how people employed in such playgrounds of the wealthy in the intermountain west (Jackson Hole, Telluride, Boulder) were having to move far from the town where they worked in order to afford a place to live. And these were comfortably employed workers like teachers, police officers, and those in skilled trades. Even here in San Antonio, which does have a draw for tourists, people who work in downtown can’t afford to live there, as my daughter has discovered as a working real estate agent.

But the wildfire on Maui which destroyed Lahaina town and most likely killed hundreds … that added a whole new aspect to the tension between the wealthy residents of a place, and the regular working class. There have already been comments on various stories regarding this disaster – suggesting that the destruction of Lahaina was a deliberate property grab. Kill off the local small-property owners (as well as their kin), goes the usual suggestion … now that their homes and businesses are burned down to the ground, pick up the land for a pittance, rebuild something more elegant, more in tune with the tastes of the rich and grasping.

One has to wonder, looking at the various news reports; no brush trucks among the fire engines, so as to readily go off-road and fight brush fires; recommendations made to ameliorate the threat of runaway brush fires ignored for years, no alarms sent, everyone trying to get out of town too late, on a single road, a request for additional water drawn from a public source refused by a bureaucrat an island away, until too late, no public alarm sounded – or confusing and contradictory … One has to wonder, reading the various stories, and seeing the rows of burned cars along the main roads in Lahaina town, where does crashing political and bureaucratic incompetence cross over into mass murder, mass murder by incompetence and dereliction of duty? Discuss as you will, and while we still can.

69 thoughts on “The Unfortunate Balance”

  1. “… where does crashing political and bureaucratic incompetence cross over into mass murder, mass murder by incompetence and dereliction of duty?”

    Well, the people of Hawaii regularly turned out to vote for their Ruling Democrats — so where did the incompetence start? We the People are getting what we collectively choose to vote for, good & hard. Can we eventually learn that keeping on virtue signaling voting for the same little clique that despises us can have fatal consequences? Maui may be the canary in the coal mine.

  2. *Disobeying* a bureaucrat apparently wasn’t conceivable, even in a matter of life or death, which is a sad sign.

  3. I noticed the lack of brush trucks, too. Did they have Cats? Cats can cut fire breaks like nobodies business.

  4. Human incompetence is an astonishing thing. Awe inspiring if you can remain detached from the horrible costs. It even makes Evil Plots implausible. Or do you think the generational failure of our education system and the progressive (and Progressive) strangulation of our society by regulation somehow exempts Henchmen? See also Henchwymen, and many other variants.

  5. The failures are probably unforgivable, but they’re understandable. “We’ve never needed X before, so we probably won’t need it next year, but we know we’ll get kudos for doing Y.” And so we drift along without forethought.

    Unfortunately the opposite attitude is also entrenched–“The weather might change, so turn society upside-down.”

    Disaster planning takes work.

  6. The failure on so many levels is absolutely mind-boggling to me. It does look as if some people, local residents were eyeballing the progress of the fire, and took their own initiative in getting the hell out, or taking precautions like wetting down their roofs and plantings – but not so many.
    I think it’s going to turn out that hundreds of locals died in their homes, or cars, with no warning, or confusing warnings. And the authorities on Maui and Hawaii can’t even find a Republican to blame it all on, like Blanco and whatziz-fern in New Orleans did with the Katrina disaster. So, I think they are going to try and hide the casualty-count as much as possible.

  7. So we have a new group of people, of superior means, moving into an area and if not fully driving out the indigenous population then supplanting the local social system with an enlightened one more to their tastes. I dunno, but it sounds very imperialistic, even colonial to me.

    Of course the people who are responsible for this phenomena will not only vehemently deny this is was they are doing, but are the ones most likely (politically) to come up with things like stolen land acknowledgments and indigenous people celebrations. The difference is that these people have never met the indigenous folks they celebrate (being buried in the idyllic past) while they despise as deplorable the ones they have. It’s not they would particularly like the 19th Century Lakota Sioux if theyactually met them, but being that they (the Sioux of that era) are safely dead in the past they can be dug out from their graves and like puppets be made to do what fits the political narrative while the indigenous deplorables are very much here in the present and in the way.

    I think the phenomena goes beyond some tourist spots or places where you can get a private jet in. We have seen mass migrations over the past 30 years from California and the Middle Atlantic to the Mountain Time Zone and the Carolinas to completely transform those local social systems. The Carolina are rapidly transforming from the South to the Mid-Atlantic as are cities such as Atlanta and Nashville. I saw the effects of the first wave of California migrations in the 1990s after the LA riots where towns in northern Arizona were transformed so that as you have observed the locals who worked there could no long reside. Socially and politically Colorado has changed because of these blue state locusts and Arizona is in the process of doing the same.

    Note we like to laugh about the exodus from the blue states to the red but I would imagine (I’m looking for survey data to back this up) is what we are getting are not so much true conservative refugees but rather those who are just less liberal than the state they left. As I have said many times Arizona doesn’t just have a southern border problem but a western one as well.

    I am a bit agnostic about these migrations as they are, historically speaking, not just the way of the world but the way of America. Is there an European or Asian equivalent to U-Haul? What I don’t care for is the hypocrisy, being lectured to by people about colonial imperialistic supremacy (or whatever) and then proceed to practice exactly that when it benefits them and affects people they despise. We play the part of the unenlightened savages who must be dispossessed and indoctrinated and they the part of our imperial betters.

    Given I’m from Arizona and that we have been fighting being pulled into California’s orbit since well, forever and sometimes literally fighting (, Insty’s idea of a Welcome Wagon for migrants appeals to me. My statement to them is that if you don’t like open carry, big pickups, and want to indoctrinate school kids with LGBT+ why did you move here in the first place?

  8. Some of the commentary about Maui is a bit overblown. Apparently the guy who was talking about “equity” in water use was recorded months ago and not at the time of the fire. I haven’t been to Lahaina in years but remember that there were plans to build an all Japanese hotel and resort on the coast not far from there. That may have died in the Japanese real estate collapse. I wonder if something similar could happen to the Chinese investments in US territory ?

  9. Curiouser in the recent NR news reports on the aftermath of the fire itself, that one big reason they are not letting residents back is because of the “toxicity” of the ash and smoke with “lead, arsenic, chlorine, hydrochloric and hydrocyanic acids et al et al. Now burning PVC and some other plastics does do this, but never have I heard it as an excuse to keep residents out. There was talk of Haz mat declarations, scooping dirt and debris and shipping it off…. too where?? How is Lahaina different from any other conflagration in this matter, and why so long after the end of the blaze? Compounding bureaucratic stupidity seems the best explanation.

  10. When I came to North Carolina at the age of seven, there was a country road full of relatives to meet. That side of the family has lived there since before the Revolution, and a lot of land had been parceled off, but there was still the Old Place deep in the woods. No running water; no hydrants. The defense against wildfire was a large clearing – just dirt.

    Twenty-twenty hindsight and all that, but goats might have kept the non-native grasses down on Maui and saved lives. That and less ideological stupidity in high places.

  11. I do not know if this will annoy people or not, but even with noting the tragedy, there seems to be a certain societal inevitability to this. Our country is splitting, with the split becoming more apparent and rapid. For lack of a better term, The Left which runs part of the country has poor reality testing. They value ideology over reality and believe in their hearts of hearts that there never will be real life consequences to what they do so long as it is appropriately “woke” at some level.

    Thus we see the cited examples of lack of preparedness or lack of proper reactions to emergencies and the suppression of news of what is happening . . . . the suppression being largely for ideological reasons because those in power can never be allowed to be thought of as “wrong”.

    There is still part of the country that is more tied to reality and they fare better [granting that even this fraction does not understand how fragile our society is] because they prepare and react better. For which they are hated by the Left who tries even harder to restrict them from preparing.

    If you are in an area run by The Left, the only solution is to move to a place that is not. They will not ever be convinced that they are wrong. The only thing that can be done is to remove yourself and yours from hostile territory.

    Subotai Bahadur

  12. Mike…”It’s not they would particularly like the 19th Century Lakota Sioux if they actually met them”…nor, I suspect, would the Sioux particularly like them. There’s an interesting time-travel novel along those lines waiting to be written.

  13. I’m betting that most of what we “know” about these fires is wrong and hoping that some of the truth eventually comes out, I’ll make a few observations in general.

    The resistance of electric lines to wind comes down to design, maintenance, and workmanship. Design comes down to things like pole spacing and sometimes cross arm length, less flopping and more clearance equals fewer outages from phases coming together. It also costs more, this from conversations with my dad about running power lines across Rocky Flats in Colorado when it was a high profile nuclear weapons site and subject to winds well in excess of 100MPH on a regular basis. Maintenance of both the lines themselves and of the right of way which I imagine is challenging in Hawaii from the climate that both rots wood and creates florid growth of underbrush. Those rights of way that many people object to from the comfort of their air conditioned homes as eyesores that also form often vital, fire breaks. Workmanship comes down to any loose or poorly installed part, any pole top constructed without proper concern for clearances is just that much more likely to fail when stressed.

    Then there’s geography. The Hawaiian Islands are the tops of mountains. If you look at a map, you’ll see all of the islands have a main road circling above high water connecting most of the major settlements on the coast. Many settlements in the interior are at the end of a single road or maybe one stop away, making it easy to get cut off. If you look in the mountains of Colorado, you’ll find a similar pattern. Building roads through mountains is expensive. Here again, the rights of way, if they’re wide enough and properly maintained will provide a means of escape and a fire break.

    It’s possible that given the high winds and abundant fuel, a fire storm formed that made fire breaks and escape corridors irrelevant. In any event, a fire of this size isn’t fought with water, it’s fought with bulldozers and shovels, as pointed out above.

  14. MCS: “In any event, a fire of this size isn’t fought with water, it’s fought with bulldozers and shovels, as pointed out above.”

    Very true — but tough to do when winds are howling and the fire is moving at 60+ miles per hour. The best way to fight the kind of fire seen in Maui is before it starts — proper management of forests & undergrowth, buried power lines, cleared zones around critical areas, wide deliberate fire breaks. But that means first squashing Big Law and Big NGO, and having people in charge who look ahead and anticipate problems — not the kind of individuals that We the People have been electing these last four or five decades.

  15. MCS,

    That’s a great point about there being so much that we “know” is wrong. I think this goes for most events. Put of jumping to these conclusions is the active attempt to create narratives, but a lot of it is well, you have media outlets that have to talk about something and you don’t get eyeballs or readers if you admit that we all need to take a breath and not jump to conclusions.

    In reading about what you wrote about power lines and Gavin about forest management, these are items that have been well-known for many years, but as to why they haven’t been implemented yet may I suggest in the broadest sense it comes down to politics, especially California. There are always competing interests for everything and easier to balance them (or succumb to the stronger interest) than to take a strong stand for something that will probably not happen in my political lifetime. Politics is not necessarily a dirty word, we want government to be responsive but we also need it to promote the general welfare,

    You can take the interest model to extremes such a Katrina and New Orleans. The levee system was substandard because while everyone knew it was important given the geography of the area, it was more important to addressing the immediate pressing need of the local political equilibrium (corruption). While we are talking Hawaii, California has many of the same problems that both you and Gavin mentioned. California’s forests are a mess, something I never tire of pointing out when I’m back home comparing them to the ones in Arizona, California doesn’t perform either t controlled burns or timber harvests necessary to lower the fuel load. Why? Because of environmentalists who don’t want the necessary activity of not only collecting wood but the support infrastructure of roads and equipment to enable it and are very effective at getting their voices heard.

    Steve Hayward at Powerline pointed out that issues with power lines on Maui have been known for years but the local utility did little to address it because they were focused on the clean energy transition ( It goes without saying that if you are more focused on one thing (clean energy, appeasing special interests) you are less focused on others. Public policy is not a light beer commercial, you cannot have it all.

    After Katrina, I tried using it as a teaching moment by comparing the poor levee system to the one in Netherlands and asked why the difference? Of course everyone laughed and said it was because of the differences in political culture with “”laissez le bon temps rouler” vs. the Dutch Calvinist mentality. While I don’t think there has been monetary corruption with California, I do think it reflects a problem with our political culture and how it deals with special interests. I think most of what ails California is because of that.

    I am not against organized interests (it is important part of democracy) but rather than appeasing them as a matter of course it would be more helpful if we demanded of them how their preferred policies would address larger issues and deal with the trade-offs involved. It’s one thing for an environmental group to work against proper forest management, but then we should be asking them how do they plan on preventing catastrophic forest fires. It’s sharp politics for interests to frame the debate in a way so it only deals with what they want, but shame on us for not asking them how it addresses larger issues.

    Btw… this short-sighted thinking is also very relevant in the present to other issues. We see with the war in Ukraine that we neither have a proper stockpile of artillery shells or the ability to rapidly produce more. Why? The kindest explanation was that back in the 1990s the bean counters didn’t see the need for paying the money for a contingency that was the equivalent of a 100-Year Flood. That’s the thing about emergencies whether they be fires, floods, or wars. You don’t need it until you really need it.

  16. ” It’s one thing for an environmental group to work against proper forest management, but then we should be asking them how do they plan on preventing catastrophic forest fires.”

    Quite frequently those “environmental groups” do not live in, or near, the areas they express such reverent interest in. I suspect the number of Professional Tree Huggers and NGO bureaucrats who lost a house, or more, on Maui is zero, or so close to it as to be indistinguishable.

    What seems to happen is the financial intermediaries – developers, builders, realtors, government bureaucrats – eagerly welcome the New Money because it means Growth & Income for them. Everyone else suffers. And, when there is more than sufficient money at the individual level, the holder of that money winds up focused more on his or her personal situation than that of the community, which is always proclaimed as A Good Thing Because It Means Jobs.

    “Jobs” is perhaps the Left’s favorite four-letter word because it has magical properties. “Jobs” means “work” which means “money” and “growth,” all in a cascading wave of benevolence to which no one in their right mind would object. “Just what kind of jobs, exactly, and for how long” is rarely asked, and even more rarely answered truthfully. “High paying technical jobs moving in means more money which will add growth to the local economy” is the rallying cry of the Elected and Appointed because the downstream effects are glossed over, or sometimes, deliberately hidden.Yes, the New Affluent Residents will buy things in local stores, hire locals for various projects and tasks, but the acrsoo-the-board upward cost ratchet that activity drives never gets addressed, because “Jobs Are Good.”

    I mention the Elected and Appointed, because Growth means Money which means Expanding Services and its fraternal twin, Regulation and Control, and this all comes from The Elected who deign to expand the ranks of the Appointed in the name of Maintaining Good Order.

    Right behind the Elected and Appointed will be the Professional Environmentalists because Growth means Building and Building means Digging and nothing activates the religious fervor of the Professional Environmentalist like the sight of Bare Dirt because Bare Dirt means the grass, trees and flowers where birds and little fluffy creatures used to live Has Been Disturbed.

    And, Presto ! the unholy alliance of the Elected, the Appointed and the priests of the Religion of Environmentalism, all nurtured by the hope of accessing, or controlling, the New Money, reaches critical mass, and just as the Oppenheimer movie portrays, Nothing Will Be The Same Again.

    I see no solution to the problem, other than, perhaps, a Constitutional amendment stipulating a minimum period of established permanent residence confirmed by home ownership and verified payment of local taxes before one is allowed to vote in local elections or express any opinion on local conditions; 10 years seems about right because those on the constant quest for The Best Place to Live probably won’t stay that long, and if they do they’re probably invested, at least to some degree, in the community.

    In the meantime, the incompetence and malfeasance of government, at every level, is daily becoming more obvious, and the issue becomes “how do we fix it?.” Sorry, but I don’t have a perfect solution, but severe term limits for both the Elected and the Appointed seems like a good place to start, if it can be accompanied by sufficient social and economic restructuring to improve citizen involvement. Maui residents, like all Americans, conducted their daily lives and paid taxes to “The Experts” to manage things (which, very unfortunately, has metastasized to include “educating the children”) because That Is The Way It Is Done Now, not because ‘that’s the best way.” When both adult family members are working full time, or nearly so, to afford the basics of living, there’s not much spare time to educate oneself about activities of The Elected and Appointed, much less become involved in directing them. We have forgotten that We The People hire The Elected and Appointed to work for us, and allowed them to become a too powerful, and largely unaccountable, self propagating entity that has accrued powers not granted by The People.

    “Non-native grasses were introduced to make more money raising cattle; why? Was permitting required for that? Was a bond required, and posted, to cover the cost of removal if the cattle operation ceased? Why not? Who in government was responsible for overseeing this?”

    “What is the plan for maintaining electric power distribution in such a manner that it does not create a fire hazard? What is the timetable for implementing the plan? Who has responsibility for creating, maintaining and implementing this plan? Where is this plan kept so I can read it? What other plan exists for adequate fire control, and prevention, while the power distribution maintenance plan i sbeing implemented?”

    The list goes on; these questions, and more, may have been asked by Maui residents, but somehow, I doubt that, and I certainly doubt were they asked any answer was provided.

    And, as goes Maui, so goes America.

  17. Mike…”we neither have a proper stockpile of artillery shells or the ability to rapidly produce more. Why? The kindest explanation was that back in the 1990s the bean counters didn’t see the need for paying the money for a contingency that was the equivalent of a 100-Year Flood.”

    But Britain in 1914 didn’t have a proper stockpile of shells for the artillery war that was about the happen, nor the ability to produce more. But very intensive..and successful..efforts to overcome the problem were made, with some rather draconian legislation and the appointment of David Llloyd George as Minister of Munitions.

  18. David F: “But very intensive..and successful..efforts to overcome the problem were made …”

    The efforts were successful because, in 1914, England still had a globally-significant industrial base which could be organized & converted to manufacturing war materials. The English then still had a production-based economy, with mines, factories, and a trained workforce.

    The contrast with the US in Our Betters’ proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine is that we have offshored our manufacturing base. Instead, we have a huge infrastructure of lawyers, bureaucrats, and academics — not of factories and skilled workers who have the expertise to make real things. That is why the US today cannot match what Lloyd George could do over a century ago.

  19. WADR, Sgt. Mom, they’ll find a Republican to blame it on. Trump is always a convenient bogeyman. They’ll try climate change as well.

  20. the appointment of David Llloyd George as Minister of Munitions.

    Lloyd George told French and Haig that the munitions shortage precluded any offensive action until late 1916. Then came the Somme offensive on July 1. Haig blamed Lloyd George which resulted in enmity between them and denial of more troops to Haig.

  21. Newcomer population displacement has been occurring in Montana as well. The locals are pissed. Especially since the newcomers tend to cluster in the few cities (Bozeman, Helena, Billings) and they tend to vote liberal, swinging elections that used to be safely Republican.

  22. Mike
    August 19, 2023 at 3:00 am

    We see with the war in Ukraine that we neither have a proper stockpile of artillery shells or the ability to rapidly produce more. Why? The kindest explanation was that back in the 1990s the bean counters didn’t see the need for paying the money for a contingency that was the equivalent of a 100-Year Flood. That’s the thing about emergencies whether they be fires, floods, or wars. You don’t need it until you really need it.

    If I may suggest, there is likely another set of factors that bear on the shortages, both in munitions and other items. The Nomenklatura that rules us [word chosen deliberately] both in office and supposed opposition really do not have the ties to country and people that the Brits had to theirs in WW-I.

    1) Both political “sides” above precinct level and maybe in a few cases county level really have nothing but contempt for their own party bases and are far more concerned with power politics . . . and yes corruption.

    2) Both “sides” have little or no experience with the mechanics of actually getting things done. No, I don’t mean payoffs, I mean actually doing the job. And their contempt extends to those who actually have the on the job knowledge and experience. Fashionable ideology of the moment trumps [not a reference to Donald] reality testing regardless of “side”.

    3) Since members of the Nomenklatura have long had the entire structure of politics and government protecting them from the actual, real-life consequences of their decisions, they believe such is the natural order of things. Several generations have known nothing else.

    4) And since reality does not affect them now, they assume that a rabbit can always be pulled from a hat or Olivander’s Wand Shoppe can be visited if the impossible happens and things become critical. But as you say, emergencies happen, and events care very little for how prepared you are.

    Along that line, multiple emergencies are coming up just in our armed forces not connected with supplies of artillery shells. What was Fort Hood, and has now been renamed something politically correct as a priority, is the largest US military post in the country and the home of our Armored forces. They are having trouble FEEDING the troops there. Of the 11 or 12 “Consolidated Messes” for feeding the troops, only two are fully open as of a few days ago. A quick online search will pull that out, from reputable sources.

    The LHA [Helicopter Assault Carrier] USS Boxer is tied to a dock non-operational because after a major overhaul costing hundreds of millions of dollars, it does not work. We have the largest nuclear submarine fleet in the world. And about 1/3 of our nuclear attack subs [SSN’s] are out of service lacking parts, repairs, or personnel. Things are getting real close to the breaking point and you hear abso-bloody-lutely nothing about it from anyone governing us or the captive media.

    I watch these things because my sideline job long ago while wearing a badge was as a freelance writer for military and naval journals. I also watch law enforcement. I don’t have room to go into all the details, but allow me to say that I am glad I am not in the field anymore. In any large, urban environment it is politicians who decide policy and appoint those in command with no more than pro forma approval from the city council/etc.

    Looking at those cities, their policies, those appointed in charge, and the general lack of equal enforcement of the law; I see the good cops bailing out, and those few coming into the field being unqualified and too few.

    A government that maintains the Social Contract, an armed forces that is focused on defending the country, and law enforcement trying to achieve equal justice under the law [as made under the Social Contract] are some of the pillars that hold a society together. They are cracking, and their failure is getting more and more obvious. There are no magic wands when the organic waste meets the rotating airfoil.

    I apologize if this seems like a rant.

    Subotai Bahadur

  23. James the lesser

    The failures are probably unforgivable, but they’re understandable. “We’ve never needed X before, so we probably won’t need it next year, but we know we’ll get kudos for doing Y.” And so we drift along without forethought.

    I am reminded of the Big Freeze of February 2021, where substantial parts of Texas- my part included- went without electricity and heat for 4-5 days. I was a little more forgiving than my Northeast liberal relatives because neighbors told me that they had never experienced such a cold spell in 50-60 years. Not to mention that I recalled similar numbers of days without electrical power as a result of winter ice storms in the Northeast.

    My condo complex didn’t link to just one transformer. One part of the complex went without power for two days. My part of the complex went without power for 4 1/2 days because our transformer got damaged in the storm.

    Disaster planning takes work.

    A childhood friend worked for the Post Office in a management capacity. His work took him to New Orleans, where he asked Post Office management about their plans for a flood. “We’ll deal with that when it comes.” As the events of 2005 showed, dealing with a flood without having made plans for it didn’t work out too well.

  24. While I don’t know what the planned readiness rate is for the submarine fleet, SSN or SSBN, I do know the carrier fleet is designed (and has been for my entire life) to have a third of its number out of commission at all times, for repairs, refit, and refueling. So when I see a similar number for the other nuclear-powered vessels, my impression isn’t “Oh, what a horrible state our navy is in!” it’s “Sounds about right.”

    You want to convince me the sub fleet is in bad shape, you need to compare readiness goals to actual readiness.

  25. At least they haven’t managed to destroy the USS Boxer, unlike the USS Bon Homme Richard:

    About Fort Hood- or whatever they’re calling it now- I found this terribly hilarious article from 2021:

    A lack of healthier food designed more for vegetarian or vegan diets has been sending many soldiers to outside sources for their meals, said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Heidi Ann Wallace, the 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command food advisor.

    I think the author is claiming that soldiers are eating at civilian restaurants because they can’t get vegan meals. This is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever read.

    Anyway, more on the USS Boxer:

    Since entering a San Diego dry dock in June 2020 the amphibious assault ship Boxer has spent just seven days at sea and hasn’t left San Diego for 13 months, a Navy spokesperson told KPBS in a statement Wednesday.

    The Navy won’t say what issues plague the Boxer or how many times over the last year it’s tried and failed to get to sea. Cmdr. Arlo Abrahamson, a Naval Surface Force spokesperson in San Diego, said the Boxer’s crew has identified “additional maintenance requirements” before getting underway.

    “We don’t discuss specific instances of maintenance casualties due to operational security,” Abrahamson said. “However, I can note that the Boxer’s preparation for sea trials identified additional maintenance requirements before the ship could get underway.”

    This is not how a serious country behaves. Serious countries punish people for failure, up to and including by killing them. Certainly a serious country would send the USS Boxer back to the yard to get fixed, and at the yard’s expense.

    Instead, we live in a country where the routine activities of a functional civilization- maintaining power lines, repairing navy ships, feeding soldiers at an army base- have become tasks beyond the capabilities of the present regime.

    From anecdotes I’m reading elsewhere, there are likely 1000+ dead from the Maui fire and possibly many more. One site suggested up to 5000 dead. That seems unlikely to me, but I have no way to check and no trust of anything the regime’s pet media will claim. I’m not surprised that there is plenty of talk about this being a deliberate event intended to clear the land so our wealthy betters can buy it and build back better mansions.

    I obviously can’t predict the future, but I do remember the past. Our present circumstances remind me very much of the last days of the Soviet Union. I’ve read that there would be crashes of airliners, killing 100+ people- and they would simply never be spoken about by the regime. The families would never know what happened.

    And then came Chernobyl.

    I don’t think the Maui fire reaches that level- but time marches on. Sooner or later, the boundless incompetence of the regime will give us a disaster of the magnitude of Chernobyl, such that they can’t cover it up or ignore.

    Enough rambling.

  26. You want to convince me the sub fleet is in bad shape, you need to compare readiness goals to actual readiness.

    You asked, I answer:

    Delays at naval shipyards mean that nearly 40% of US attack submarines are out of commission for repairs, about double the rate the Navy would like, according to new data released by the service.

    As of this year, 18 of the US Navy’s 49 attack submarines — 37% — were out of commission, according to previously undisclosed Navy data published by the Congressional Research Service. That leaves the US at a critical disadvantage against China’s numerically superior fleet.

  27. Xennady:

    Thanks. You beat me in getting back with those figures. Here is more about the lack of food for soldiers at Fort Hood/Cavazos:

    In 1943 when we Chinese became legally human beings under American law, even though he was 30 [old to start being a soldier] and not a US citizen and in a draft deferred job; he immediately enlisted in the Army. And yes, like every soldier then he did his share of KP, “kitchen police” helping cook for his unit. I know that the Pentagon refuses to consider that because it works.

    Incidentally, he got citizenship for his service as a combat infantry squad leader in Patton’s 3rd Army. I got mine the easy way by being born here.

    Subotai Bahadur

  28. Sgt. Mom:

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again in this instance:

    “Never attribute to conspiracy what can be accounted for by stupidity.”

    I’d have to guess that (what used to be called political correctness, and is now) “woke” thinking is the major contributor to the utter incompetence in the causes of the fire (lack of clearance of flammable materials, poor maintenance of lines and support), the response to the initial fire, and the lack of proper evacuation. They (probably) aren’t evil, they’re just dumb.

  29. With regard to people moving from “blue” to “red” areas, I’ll repost something I put up at Liberty’s Torch:

    “When we moved to our small town in NW Wyoming, we were often asked where we came from. We found that the best explanation was, “We’re political and economic refugees from the Soviet Socialist State of Minnesota”, which is usually good for a laugh. It also helps explain that we have a less-than-zero interest in changing the culture (cowboy), economics (laissez faire capitalist) and political climate (staunchly conservative) here.

    Bear in mind that there are basically two types of people moving in from liberal shit-head states: The first are colonizers for the collectivist/statist/authoritarians, and the second are refugees like ourselves.

    The colonizers want to bring their collectivist BS here, and ignore that their “best of intentions” have always and invariably led to utter disaster. Having (if you’ll pardon the phrase) shit the bed where they lived, they now want to have a new bed to shit in.
    Refugees want to preserve what made the new place better. We lived in the Heart of the Hive™ for 27 years watching left-wing policies destroy the city. We have the experience of having watched the camel’s nose in the tent turn into the entire stinking beast to take over everything, and are here to warn the relatively innocent people of how the lefties insidiously work. As Rand said (paraphrasing), “…with so much evidence we can no longer believe that they are either blind or innocent”, and we no longer grant them the grace of having good intentions.

    They’re just plain evil.”

  30. Likely the lack of cooks is an extension of the recruiting crisis that has left the Army about 25% short of replacing attrition. This has also meant that recruit quality standards have been reduced. Thus, lower qualified recruits are having to be assigned to jobs they wouldn’t have been. This, combined with the shortage probably means some jobs are not being filled at all.

    Amazing just how quickly changing the military’s emphasis from the mission of protecting the country to social justice has gutted it.

  31. The older I get, the more interested I have become in the development and maintenance of organizational culture. I think that change on my part is because with the passage of time I have noticed change in that culture, for better or worse and I would like to know the mechanism for that.

    Xennady cited the burning of the Bonhomme Richard and the link he provided neatly summarized the failure of the Navy to deal with fire prevention and control. To that I would add the 2017 collissions involved the destroyers McCain and Fitzgerald that killed 17 sailors, a topic that CDR Salamander has been all over on This isn’t about wartime readiness in a time of peacetime lethargy or problems with weapon mixes or shipbuilding, these are problems with ship handling and fire control, Navy 101.

    Alot of this malfeasance of course predates Biden but has its roots in the Obama-era purge of flag officers. It doesn’t take long for an organization’s leaders to understand which way the wind is blowing and how to hack the system if they want to get ahead. That’s why in large part we have a defense leadership team that is more focused on promoting abortion access and DEI as part of military readiness than you know, actually getting the military ready to fight.

    If a culture isn’t actively promoted, then the forces of entropy grow too strong and energies are diverted into a multitude of side projects and fetishes. Part of the reason is simply turnover, in some organizations a large part of the manpower base changes every 3 to 4 years and the new “recruits” are not properly socialized. A large part of it is an organizational form of Gresham’s Law or if you would, a doom loop. The bad people drive out the good because the latter have little patience for a poor work environment. They then leave, the organization gets worse, and then the cycle repeats with the level of employee quality. How many of your better warfighters are going to hang around an organization that not only promotes DEI struggle sessions, but cannot even adequately feed the ranks?

    An organization’s culture, in order to maintain any integrity, must be tied to its ultimate purpose.

    I’ll give you another example of organizational break-down, one on a personal level that infuriates me as ane lectoral equivalent of the Bonhomme Richard Remember the problems with the 2022 Election in Maricopa County? When voters were unable to get their ballots cast in about ¼ of polling places because they couldn’t be read by tabulators? Well there were a lot of accusations of electoral fraud, especially by Kari Lake. So the County commissioned former AZ Supreme Court Chief Justice Ruth McGregor to investigate the matter.

    Ther problem was that McGregor was commissioned to only look at what technical problems caused the polling place problems,. She concluded that the issue lay in large part with the wrong printing technology, especially one of the various printers What was left unaddressed was why these mistakes were allowed to happen in the first place. After the report came out in April, I spent a good hour on the phone with an old friend, who is a county commissioner, and listened to this explanation, the technical details involved, and echoing what Gates said at the link that the County is committed to continuous improvement.

    I became apoplectic because what I was hearing was an excuse someone would use to roll out, say, a new software package, and not ensuring trust in one of our democratic institutions. The technical problems McGregor outlined were the symptom of a larger problem which was the inability of the County Elections department to run a glitch-free election My question to him was how the department moved away from that mission? What changed in the culture? After all the problems and distrust generated by the 2020 Election why is not the goal 5-9 reliability (99.999% – I’m an old telecom guy)?
    I asked who is doing the investigation on the culture of the department? Who is taking the fall for catastrophic mistakes that rightfully had people call into a question an election?

    His answer to all of my questions basically boiled down to the conclusions of the McGregor Report… things could have gone better but people tried and “we’ll do better next time.” Note the media ran with the story that the Report concluded that there was no malfeasance, but she was in fact only charged with outlining the technical issues involved and not laying any blame for why things happened the way they did. As a political trick, the Report is a masterpiece because it provides a cover story that people can accept as a conclusive answer, but that never actually addresses the key questions.

    So forget about the very sick feeling in my stomach about the condition of Arizona politics, the smaller question remains. What the heck happened to the Maricopa County Board of Elections so that it could no longer effectively run an election? As I read the Report I couldn’t help but thinking does anybody at Elections have any experience in Ops?

    I told my friend, I think we’re still friends, that they better get the lead out by 2024 because going forward anything short of a problem-free election will be seen, ipso facto, as fraud

    As far as firing people, I’m reminded of the old dictum…. “We hang horse thieves not because they steal horses, but so that horses may not be stolen.” Apply that to Maui

  32. The U.S. Navy has long embraced a policy that insures that officers don’t know nuthin. They do this (with the notable exception of submarines and aviation) by rotating officers every 2-3 years and making no distinction between engineering and deck officers. This makes the officers completely dependent on NCO’s for detailed knowledge of ship’s systems. Guess where that leaves them when enlisted retirements accelerate and reenlistments decline along with the quality of incoming recruits. Those two exceptions above are because when they tried this system there, it ended very badly, they’re also who gets dibs on the best incoming recruits.

    The only good news is that our only plausible near peer adversary (China) seems to be accelerating directly toward a brick wall.

  33. “our only plausible near peer adversary (China) seems to be accelerating directly toward a brick wall.”

    Maybe, maybe not. There is an interesting recent article about China’s financial problems by David P. Goldman:

    ‘…China’s central government could cover the interest payments on defaulted local government debt with a bit over 1% of tax revenues. …”

    “… The simple fact is that countries with enormous trade surpluses and very high savings rates don’t have financial crises. The Chinese government has the resources to cover the debt service of dodgy local government debt if it so chooses, and the banking system has vast resources to issue new loans. Whether Beijing will do so is a political, not a financial choice.”

    Of course, China also has the problems of a low birth rate and of high youth unemployment — except that maybe a low birth rate is not such a bad thing when there are problems finding jobs for young people due to increasing automation. Time will tell.

    Bottom line is that we in the US need to fix our own very real problems, the ones that our Political Class have created. We cannot rely on the hope that other countries have stupider elites than the ones we suffer under.

  34. ‘…China’s central government could cover the interest payments on defaulted local government debt with a bit over 1% of tax revenues. …”
    Yet, they don’t, why? Could it be that that defaulted debt is just the tinniest, tippiest top of the huge underlying debt of the local governments? These are the entities that underwrote all those miles of whizbang high speed rail and tens of thousands of other projects to provide the miraculous GDP growth so often cited, not the central government.

    Many of those high speed rail lines have such low ridership that they can’t pay the electric bills, let alone carrying costs. Now they look to be on the way to a famine as well.

  35. Maui learned nothing from the 1871 Great Chicago Fire which burned 17,000 structures. This disaster changed building codes forever…except in Maui. I expect to see new building codes requiring building setbacks…fireproof building materials…firewalls between connected buildings…and other things.

  36. MCS and Gavin,

    I think you guys are hitting bulls-eyes on China.

    Goldman has been the anti-Gorman Chang in that he focuses as he says not on what China has done wrong, but what it is doing right. Not only do we look at China from a western perspective (which is wrong) but the very structure of our media which tends to focus on events instead of trends and analysis. China has problems (as we all do) but it also has strengths

    As far as debts and infrastructure go, I was never in on such things as are alot of fan boys who look at shiny build-outs and wonder why we cannot do the same here. In my years of observing such projects I never saw anyone use the term “white Elephant” though that’s what alot of them are.

    If anyone knows of a place where I can get a comprehensive list of BRI projects and their financing data please let me know.

    It is going to be very… well what…. interesting to see what happens and who is right. I like alot of what Goldman says but that’s because compared to the rest of the media he stands 10-feet tall. In situations like this I’m with MCS and I start looking for things that don’t seem right as indications of things I don’t know. Nobody knows China’s books as well as the Chinese, why are they not doing the obvious play here? What else are they seeing?

  37. Annnnd it looks like the Maui fires have fallen off the news cycle entirely. Imagine that …
    I guess they couldn’t find a Republican to hang all the failure on, so local government in Hawaii is doing as I expected they would … pretend that nothing happened … and hey! Squirrel!

  38. Sgt. Mom,
    The governor has announced that he is naming someone to investigate and formally assign blame to global climate change. The media is respectfully stepping back to allow room for the deliberative process to assign blame to global climate change. Plus, they have a new toy in Hillary, a giant mass of hot air going in a circle, never a more appropriate name for a storm. This too will be assigned to global climate change, especially if Newsome botches the response.

    I have heard that a lot of BRI has been written off by China. It’s hard to know exactly how many, the Chinese are especially opaque when it comes to their failures. I’ve also heard of a few assets that have been foreclosed, most famously, a completely unnecessary port in Sri Lanka. Amusingly, it seems that a long list of 3rd world kleptocrats are as good at stealing money from China as they’ve been at stealing from a long list of Western institutions. Estimates I’ve encountered put the write offs north of 300 billion U.S.

    Here’s something, though I’m not sure how good it is.

  39. So which is more dumb? China-as-an-international-lender-of-last-resort using some of the fiat they earn from the US to build real infrastructure in the Third World, or the US as global-policeman printing fiat to pay for hundreds of military bases around the world?

    Certainly China, like everywhere else, has challenges. China also has things which San Franciscans could hardly imagine — such as clean streets, safe streets. We in the US are facing many problems, with even more building up. The Maui fires are merely one of many pigeons which will be coming home to roost. It would behoove us to focus on fixing our own shop rather than spend our time fantasizing about how China is going to collapse.

  40. The WSJ has had some interesting articles on this. And never confuse a sinister “master plan” with bureaucratic incompetence. The Hawaiian utility had been putting too much money into green programs (mandated?) and not enough in rejuvenating their power lines, which they had known about for years.

    Reminds me of the town of Paradise, also burned down, and PG & E.

    As far as resentment, perfectly justified.

    I understand the resentment of those usually in the west, much rural like Montana, towards Californians fleeing their oppressive and unsustainable climate only to vote for the same kind of politicians in their new home. Sorta like an invasive boll weevil.

    A friend and I had been taking day trips to SF and the Bay Area, and she wanted last Dec to go to Union Square to see it as she remembered it all those years ago.

    Well, amazingly it was, but it took 2 squad cars at each side of the square to keep the transients out – the ice rink was there, people skating, we went into the St Francis Hotel, which is just as elegant as ever.

    We talked to the cops and I forget where they lived but it certainly wasn’t SF.

    The problem with SF is the voters, continuing to put the same people in. If you go there, you will find it almost bizarre. We were strolling down the Embarcadero – their blvd that has all the now-empty shipping terminals and piers, and I saw something that I couldn’t believe.

    A naked old man just strolling on the sidewalk without a care in the world. All apparently legal in SF.

    Ever notice the people who always flaunt their nudity are such that nobody else wants to see them? No Venuses or Adonises on display.

    And then the art gallery owner, wanting to get rid of the woman defecating in front of his store, finally hoses her with water and is excoriated by the locals. I have to say they are getting what they deserve. I could offer more observations there.

    I think of the rents and cost of doing business and it isn’t sustainable.

    Even storied 166 year old Gumps has said, with all of that and the shoplifting (approved by the statewide voters with Prop 47), they are on the verge of folding up their tent.

    I don’t know if the Lahaina fire was avoidable but they certainly could have been more prepared and saved some.

  41. @MCS

    Just from a few first-person accounts I have read, the banyan is a beloved and vitally important symbol of Lahaina, so its survival would likely be the first thing locals would think of after their own (and family/neighbors) survival. So actually relevant.

    (Also: likely an emotional break from thinking about all the destruction.)


  42. It seems that the fields where people on Maui used to farm are now allowed to grow an imported grass. This being Hawaii, that grass grows more than six feet high during the rainy season and then dies and drys out during the dry season. I’d be willing to bet that none of this land is abandoned, it’s all owned by someone waiting for Oprah or some billionaire to buy it for millions and put a new megamansion on it. Managing the vegetation would be expensive and they probably don’t live there anyway. Also expensive would be the taxes on its true worth, so I’ll also bet that it’s all classified as “agricultural” land and taxed at some small fraction of its true value.

  43. MCS,

    Thanks for the info, it certainly added some nuance to my understanding.

    I found Parks’ assertion that China’s impetus for BRI interesting in that he states the primary motivation is internal economic issues rather than power projection.

    The recent debt problems in China have got me thinking about how much exposure it has to BRI loans or whether it considers that type of risk even meaningful. Infrastructure investment is a notoriously bad deal here in the US, let alone in countries with much higher levels of corruption and longer shots of paying off . I mean seriously, you’re going to take a multi-billion dollar pop on a container port in Sri Lanka?

    Parks stated that we mistakenly look at the sovereign debt part of it while the debt owed by state-owned corporations is much higher ($300 billion+) That kind of exposure pales compared to the real estate market in China but still…

    Question that came to mind in reading through the spreadsheet data… but perhaps a perennial one. If your family was one of the Hindu ones that fled Pakistan got India after Partition to escape the massacres, knowing now what you do about what a hellhole (economic, political, social) that country has become, would you now consider a blessing that your family was forced to leave? Pakistan never fails to shock me…

  44. “Parks stated that we mistakenly look at the sovereign debt part of it while the debt owed by state-owned corporations is much higher ($300 billion+)”

    Just to put that $300 Billion into perspective, according to Goldman China’s positive trade balance in 2022 alone was nearly $600 Billion — almost twice that debt. What is China to do with all those Dollars they are earning year after year? China can afford a flutter on the Belt & Road Initiative. That is what a country can buy when it has a strong economy producing Real Goods which the world wants — sort of like the US until we went off the rails in the 1970s.

    Maybe China will lose some or all of its BRI investments. But what is the alternative? Be like Russia and put their earnings into US Government “securities” and then have it all stolen from them by the DC Swamp Creatures?

  45. China was never under a compulsion to accept dollars or any other currency in exchange for their goods. They could and still can insist on bullion, other commodities or even gold-pressed lanthanum. I strongly suspect that they don’t because that would greatly limit their market. They have, in a few places, laid claim to things like mines which were pledged as collateral for BRI boondoggles but it seem that most will be simply written of and few have been completed. The port in Sri Lanka might have become a Chinese Naval base except that India (one of the BRICS, by the way) has said flatly that they won’t allow it. Even using Chinese companies and labor to build something in Pakistan is proving to be a Sisyphean task.

    A 600 billion trade surplus represents a Chinese gift to the rest of the world and doesn’t seem sustainable to me, but it’s a much bigger problem to the Chinese society, having the product of their hard work flushed down the drain. Their motivation for doing this escapes me.

    The problem with all currencies is that none of them have any intrinsic value beyond what material goods they can be exchanged for. Gold has almost no intrinsic worth either. It’s basically up to China to get value from its trade, not ours. The easiest way to do so would be a more balanced trade between us. The Chinese have chosen to put themselves into an adversary relationship to the U.S. which is now limiting their options.

    Ultimately, all these dollars washing through the world will erode their value which will be pain we will feel. That pain will also be felt by all the other counties that have become dependent on the dollar. Maybe the denouement will end with the displacement of the dollar, all you need to do is find a currency that’s better.

  46. A 600 billion trade surplus represents a Chinese gift to the rest of the world…

    They send us goods, we send them pieces of green paper. If the Chinese govt wants to subsidize our imports we should let them. (There may be national-security or other non-economic justifications for restricting some kinds of trade, but that’s a different issue.)

  47. “The problem with all currencies is that none of them have any intrinsic value beyond what material goods they can be exchanged for”…doesn’t have to be *material* goods, though….people use their US currency to buy lots of intangible things: Hollywood movies, US sports coverage, software products, ads on television and various platforms, cloud services (which also have have a physical component), and the intellectual property represented in chips, of which Nvidea for example sold enough to put their market cap at $1 trillion…even if this represents overly-enthusiastic animal spirits, the reasonable valuation is probably at least $750 billion.

    Also foreigners attending US universities, many of them apparently paying full-price tuition or close to it.

  48. Probably should have said; “goods and services”. But that brings up the fact that trade figures do a particularly bad job of capturing intangibles like IP and professional services or basically anything that doesn’t pass through a customs house. Then, a lot of those dollars will be spent purchasing things like oil from third counties who will, in turn, purchase things like F-16’s from us.

    I’ve been hearing about our trade deficit problem since the mid ’60’s with all the dire consequences impending as well. Yet it hasn’t come to pass. By now, there are so many dollars sloshing around the world that some sort of dollar collapse would have an incalculably damaging effect world wide. Just think of all the tons of $100 bills in the possession of drug dealers and corruptokrats the world over. Not least in China where the weight of currency is seriously endangering the structural integrity of of the abodes of many officials. All anyone that wants to supplant the dollar as a reserve currency has to do is come up with an plausible alternative and then wait for all the inertia built up in the system to wind down,

  49. They send us goods, we send them pieces of green paper.

    In other words, the country that has been fundamentally transformed from a globally irrelevant collection of poverty stricken villages and wretched cities fifty years ago into a country that today can waste vast sums subsidizing insolvent foreigners while building the world’s largest navy and creating cities routinely used as settings for Hollywood blockbusters is ruled by people too stupid to realize they’re getting ripped off.

    Are you sure you want to make this argument?

    (There may be national-security or other non-economic justifications for restricting some kinds of trade, but that’s a different issue.)

    No, I don’t think you are.

    It has always struck me that when it is noted that the US has had certain negative developments courtesy of the so-called free trade policies demanded by our so-called elites the US dollar is always described as merely a piece of fancy paper. We are cheating those dumb foreign rubes, so let’s keep quiet about it, tee-hee.

    Meanwhile, whole industries have departed the United States, vastly enriching various foreign countries who have received American investment, funded by those mere pieces of paper, or the rather wealth they actually represent. For now.

    Shipbuilding is one of them. I think I still have my copy of the US Naval Proceedings issue from the 1980s with a picture on the cover of the last cargo ship built by some East Coast yard. The Reagan Administration ended subsidies, which also effectively ended the viability of the US shipbuilding industry. We now have a handful of shipyards building only military ships, and often doing so very badly. Considering the many billions wasted by incompetence in what remains of the US shipbuilding industry, I think we would have been better served by maintaining the subsidies, back in the 80s.

    Too late now. Maybe someday someone with an extra special Ivy League degree will figure out what needs to be done to get the USS Boxer back to sea.

    But as the cliche goes, I won’t be holding my breath.

  50. But that brings up the fact that trade figures do a particularly bad job of capturing intangibles like IP and professional services or basically anything that doesn’t pass through a customs house.

    Numbers don’t matter, tee-hee.

    Then, a lot of those dollars will be spent purchasing things like oil from third counties who will, in turn, purchase things like F-16’s from us.

    Or, alternately, they’ll be used to buy up the intellectual property involved in building F-16s or perhaps simply purchase the various corporations that make the parts involved in said task.

    Dollars. They’re both green intrinsically worthless pieces of paper and simultaneously magical things you can exchange to get fighter planes and learn how to make them. Or navy ships. Or much else, like everything that used to made in the US and now isn’t.

    I’ve been hearing about our trade deficit problem since the mid ’60’s with all the dire consequences impending as well. Yet it hasn’t come to pass.

    What exactly has to happen before you notice something has gone wrong?

    All anyone that wants to supplant the dollar as a reserve currency has to do is come up with an plausible alternative and then wait for all the inertia built up in the system to wind down,

    No one wants to supplant the dollar as reserve currency because better governed nations have noticed the grim fate suffered by countries with money that becomes a reserve currency.

    Triffin’s Dilemma, etc.

  51. I want to go back to what Sgt. Mom commented on the the other day about the Maui fires falling off the news cycle, dropping of

    What happened less than 2 weeks ago is already the deadliest wildfire in the US in more than a century and the death toll is going to get much higher. The stories, the images are horrific. An entire town burned to the ground, lines of cars on the streets abandoned by motorists fleeing for their lives, people running into the ocean to escape the flames. Emergency sirens that never went off, warnings about unsafe electrical lines ignored, water not available to fight fires. If you pitched this as a script for a disaster movie, you would get laughed out of town as being too over the top

    Yet as SGM pointed out, in little over a week the story has largely been pushed off if not completely off the news cycle then the front page, even with hundreds of people still missing and all of the unanswered questions waiting to be followed-up. You know what did dominate the news cycle for the past 4 to 5 days? Trump and California storms, there have been more images of flooding in Palm Springs than of the devastation in Maui. I understand that Maui is a bit out of the way, but the media can always find their way to s story if they want. Even Biden’s trip to Maui yesterday, with all of the media riding on Air Force One, failed to get top billing.

    Never forget the power of the legacy media. We have been talking for decades about the media’s lack of credibility and now outright lying, but they still remain oh powerful. Why? Because they can decide which stories get covered and which ones don’t, which get Oxygen and thrive, and those which will wither and die after a day or two. See Audrey Hale. The stories about Maui will eventually come out but by then the impact will be neutered.

    What was Iowahawk’s quip? “Journalism is about covering important stories. With a pillow, until they stop moving.”

  52. MCS: “A 600 billion trade surplus represents a Chinese gift to the rest of the world and doesn’t seem sustainable to me, but it’s a much bigger problem to the Chinese society, having the product of their hard work flushed down the drain. Their motivation for doing this escapes me.”

    That is an astute point about what motivation China may have for subsidizing the rest of the world. You are undoubtedly right about it not being sustainable, with huge implications for Western countries which have made themselves so heavily dependent on China for Real Goods. But how did we get into this situation? Here is a hypothesis:

    When the Mao-era ended, China was a basket case. Their big immediate need was for employment, and all China had to offer the world was cheap labor … lots & lots of cheap labor. In 1980, poor backward China got the US to give it Most Favored Nation trading status. Short-term thinking US executives took advantage of that low-cost labor and started moving jobs to Chinese citizens (i.e. destroying jobs for US citizens). For China, at that point, their trade surplus was merely a by-product of creating jobs for Chinese citizens.

    China then found that along with the jobs came technology. And they could use some of that trade surplus to send Chinese students to Western universities — to study STEM subjects, mainly. Some of those students remained in the West after graduation, but many returned to China and its technological capabilities grew. As a by-product, many Western universities came to depend on that large cohort of fee-paying Chinese graduate students.

    By the 2000s, China was using its technologically-trained workforce and part of those trade surpluses to build the most advanced steel plants in the world. The growing economy of China was becoming globally significant, such that China could use its large growing market to quietly implement a “Build It In China” policy. Instead of importing automobiles and high speed trains from the West, China could encourage Western manufacturers to compete for Chinese business by shifting more production & technology to China. This led to the current situation where Volkswagen builds more cars in China than in Germany, and the US Navy reports that China has 200 times (!) the shipbuilding capacity of the US.

    In addition, those “by-product” trade surpluses have resulted in China now holding an economic Sword of Damocles over what is left of the US economy. An analogy might be President Eisenhower’s hold over the UK & France during the Suez Crisis in 1956. Ike got the Euros to abandon their military adventure merely by threatening to sell off their currencies. China has not used that power yet … but the day will undoubtedly come.

    So it may be that China’s huge trade surpluses and foreign exchange holdings are simply an almost-accidental by-product of China pursuing its goals over the last half-century of creating jobs for Chinese citizens and catching up in technology.

    Now those goals have been achieved, does China still have any incentive to subsidize the West by trading Real Goods for IOUs? It would be very unwise for us in the de-industrialized West to assume that the Chinese subsidy will continue for much longer.

  53. Gavin…”Short-term thinking US executives took advantage of that low-cost labor and started moving jobs to Chinese citizens (i.e. destroying jobs for US citizens).”

    They didn’t always have the choice, though. Not all the world’s corporations are American, there are plenty of other companies that could take advantage of low-cost labor and sell into the US market. Even if all American manufacturing companies had patriotically refused to offshore any of their product, there would still have been a wave of low-cost imports made in Asia or with substantial content from Asia.

    Now, in some cases, serious concentration on automation and other productivity improvements would been enough to keep US production viable. And cost analysis of offshoring decisions wasn’t aways brilliantly done. (Unlamented former GE CEO Jeff Immelt said something along the lines of “I’ve been looking in my desk drawers and under the chairs for those nickels & dimes I was supposed to save with offshoring, couldn’t find them”) But the combination of low tariffs with improved transportation and communications…and a public policy regime not particularly friendly to the ‘goods’ sector of the economy…pretty much guaranteed a lot of offshoring.

  54. Sometime about 1965, my dad was talking to a friend that was in the business of low volume custom electronics manufacturing. He was back from exploring Japan and reported that the cost of having anything made there was uncompetitive compared to Denver. By the ’80’s, all the dire prognostications about balance of trade were in connection with Japanese imports. We all know how that ended.

    By the way, do you know who’s the second biggest in manufacturing output in the world? It’s us who Gavin claims doesn’t make anything anymore and by a pretty big margin.

  55. In 1943 when we Chinese became legally human beings under American law, even though he was 30 [old to start being a soldier] and not a US citizen and in a draft deferred job; he immediately enlisted in the Army. And yes, like every soldier then he did his share of KP, “kitchen police” helping cook for his unit. I know that the Pentagon refuses to consider that because it works.

    I hesitate to comment lest I be inadvertently rude- but the treatment of your father strikes me as both terribly wrong and incomprehensibly bizarre.

    It strikes me how often I’ve read of people in the past who were treated poorly in America yet worked hard to be accepted as American. I suspect that many of the people in America today who are bitterly resentful when someone suggests they pay for their own groceries or actually work for a living would fare very poorly back then- and would receive sympathy from approximately no one.

    Another thing that strikes me as incomprehensibly bizarre is the closure of eight out of ten mess halls at Fort Hood. I recall that when I was a junior enlisted in Uncle Sugar’s canoe club I had to spend time working in that sort of job, even though it had nothing to do with my actual rating. If the Pentagon won’t consider that sort of thing to solve this problem, then it is yet another example of what a shambling miserable failure today’s American leadership has managed to become.

    Not that another example was needed, of course.

  56. Hello.
    Xennady commented:
    Meanwhile, whole industries have departed the United States, vastly enriching various foreign countries who have received American investment, funded by those mere pieces of paper, or the rather wealth they actually represent. For now.

    Shipbuilding is one of them. […] We now have a handful of shipyards building only military ships, and often doing so very badly.
    Domestic shipbuilding is not quite dead and buried yet; the Mark W. Barker, built in Wisconsin, is a new addition lately, for example. See this summary.


    I love this. Who am I going to believe? My lying eyes, or a report from one the ubiquitous think tanks that infest Washington, DC.

    My general evaluation of these think tanks is that they exist to provide justification for the policies the Deep State has already decided upon as well as excuses for the disasters they inevitably bring. But let me discuss this particular example more specifically.

    They start out with this:

    Manufacturing is enjoying a resurgence in the United States. After years of falling output and a diminishing percentage of the labor force, the last few years have seen renewed growth.

    Oh yeah? This piece was apparently from 2018, so I’ll give them a pat on the head for noticing that Trump was doing a good job with the economy. But I’ll also note that it is no long 2018 and Trump is no longer president. And I’ll further note that I’ve been seeing these sort of claims for decades now. Aside from Trump, who briefly changed policy enough to matter slightly, I bet they’ve never actually been true.

    For the analysis, we compiled data on 20 indicators and scored 19 leading nations on a 100-point scale.

    In other words, they made something up to support the conclusion they had already made.

    At the low end of our scale [of our made-up manufacturing environment index] were Brazil (a score of 51), Indonesia, (53), Mexico (56), Russia, (56), and India (57). These countries lagged the other examined nations on a number of different dimensions.

    I have problems with their evaluations. Focusing on Mexico, I note it has done very well attracting US investment- which I think is very well known- resulting in a rather significant number of factories being built there and not in the US, or moved from the US to there. Somehow the higher US score- 77 hasn’t stopped that. Hmmm…. Oh, I already said that this was all made-up to support a preconceived conclusion.

    But don’t worry, they have recommendations.

    Pursue a governance strategy that emphasizes political and economic predictability, and open trade policies. Developing policies that provide access to global markets and facilitate technology diffusion will help the manufacturing sector.

    In other words keep policies exactly the same, along with moar moar moar free trade.

    Provide the proper financial incentives to promote innovation, education, and workforce development. (snip) Additionally, providing grants and loans to domestic manufacturers can aid in the growth of businesses and their technology innovation.

    I’d think the idea of making a profit would be enough incentive, but no, they need handouts too.

    Unlock 21st century tools such as Big Data, automation, and artificial intelligence.

    Of course. Make Orwell spin in his grave, and also keep tabs on people who don’t like giving you free money.

    Help small firms through technology research and workforce development.

    I think I’m sensing a platitude- who doesn’t opposes technology research and workforce development?- but I think what they actually want is more free money to pay their R&D and worker training costs.

    Rules that encourage transparency of business practice help to alleviate corruption and its damaging ripple effects. Whistleblower protection and investing in detection capabilities can aid in weakening the roots of corruption.

    Someone please tell Brookings about Joe Biden and his entire career.

    Finance the necessary physical and digital infrastructure to support business development. Physical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, dams, and ports are necessary to connect supply chains as is the deployment of digital infrastructure such as high-speed broadband and mobile technology.

    The US government has lately been demolishing dams and roads, American ports are an embarrassment, and broadband should be viable enough to not need free money.

    But free money it gets. Enough rambling, but this report is nothing more than yet another attempt at justifying the idiotic status quo that has put the United States on to a glidepath to oblivion.

    Hence, Trump. And, post-Trump, someone much less aligned with the present establishment and its infestation of think-tanks, I suspect.

  58. Domestic shipbuilding is not quite dead and buried yet; the Mark W. Barker, built in Wisconsin, is a new addition lately, for example. See this summary.

    Thank you for the link- I’m glad to learn about this new ship built in the US- but I have to note that it was built by an Italian firm operating here.

    I’ll take it- they’re building ships in the US, after all- but it isn’t quite the same as the robust domestic industry that used to exist.

  59. Xennady quoting the usual Suspects from the DC Swamp: “Unlock 21st century tools such as Big Data, automation, and artificial intelligence.”

    The problem with that recommendation is that most of the world has equal access to such 21st Century tools. It is easy to find You Tube videos showing ultra-automated factories in China today. So for a US employer, using those tools is simply a necessity for staying in the race — it does not give the US any advantage, especially when we would have to import the necessary hardware from China, Taiwan, Japan.

    The fundamental problem facing employment/industry in the US has not been high wages — it has been internationally-uncompetitive excessive regulation & legislation and the depredations of greedy Big Law. As long as our UniParty is mainly staffed by attorneys and funded by Big Law, productive industry will stay overseas. The crunch will come when those foreign exporters lose interest in collecting any more US IOUs.

  60. Xennady
    August 22, 2023 at 7:19 pm

    Don’t worry about being considered rude. At least in this forum we are adults and try to speak the truth as we see it.

    The treatment of my father and later myself was the way things were. It just was. Denver had a Chinatown. It was near where Rockies Stadium is today. On October 31, 1880 the KKK attacked it and those who did not flee, died. It wasn’t till the late 1950’s and early 1960’s that Chinese started returning to Denver. My dad and I were among the first to return. Something I remember from childhood was my age compatriots yelling racially based insults and literally throwing rocks at me. When I finish going bald, there will be scars. But that is the way it was. The key is that the Chinese who came here as legally as we could depending on the law and Constitution as we could, worked to excel and now we are successful enough to be defined as enemies of the Woke POC proletariat.

    My grandfather was a middle class peasant in south China. Owned some land, sharecropped other. He counted sons and counted land and figured that he did not have enough so that every son could try to raise a family. So my dad, being the youngest [and most expendable I have to assume] in the 1920’s was sent alone from Hong Kong to New York City steerage on a freighter, only speaking/reading/writing the “5th County” variant of Cantonese.

    He was met and taken to a Chinese restaurant in New York City. He lived in the restaurant, sleeping on a mat under some shelves. He learned the restaurant business with some success becoming a chef. And he learned English, written and spoken, fluently which was key to success here. I know some of his history here, but this is not the place. One key thing [and this factor probably is common to a lot of Chinese here from those days] was that WW-II started in China long before America got involved. Parts of it from China deeply affected the family future here. However the thing to know is that of my family, with the exception of a couple of my dad’s sisters who ended up in Canada . . . my immediate family there all died in the war and aftermath. That affects attitudes.

    As I said above, when we became people he enlisted. And was a combat infantry squad leader in Patton’s 3rd Army. He never talked about his time in the Army once he left the US, but I have researched it. His company liberated the last concentration camp in Nazi hands; the Gunzkirchen sub-camp of Matthausen. When Germany surrendered, his division was slated to come home, re-equip, and take part in the invasion of Japan. I am grateful for Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he was given citizenship for his service . . . and went back to Chinese restaurants, which I later grew up in.

    Now, given my hardcore attitude about the current invasion of our country through our non-existent borders I probably could be called a hypocrite by some. If I may, I’d like to offer my rationale. Until 1943, Chinese were literally not people here. They had no access to the law or the Constitution both for protection or for status. Any Chinese could, and many were especially here in the West, be killed by anyone [black or white] with no consequences. There was physically no immigration law that they could use.

    AFTER 1943, we could use the law. And we did. Once again, there is a complex [I’m writing a book about it for my kids] family history, but we brought some relatives over from Hong Kong. And did it 100% according to current American immigration law, meeting every requirement and clearance. I am not anti-immigrant. I am extremely pro-legal immigrant where the immigrants are proved to obey the law, where they have citizen sponsors who are responsible for them, and if they leave the pooch walking bowlegged, they go back where they came from.

    Subotai Bahadur

  61. Mr. Bahadur:

    Literally everyone in this country is an immigrant. For some you have to go back 10,000 or 12,000 years when a bunch of hunters followed a mammoth a little too far, but they still came here from somewhere else. There is no one who can throw (figurative, not the literal ones you had to deal with) stones at immigrants and not hit themselves.

    My father’s side of the family came here in the early 1900’s while my mother’s side came in the middle 1800’s. They established themselves, and their g-g-g-great grandchildren and grandchildren and their families are the result.

    I have never met a legal immigrant who isn’t appalled at what our government is doing to this country through open borders. Today’s legal immigrants have to pass extensive civics tests which make the “graduates” of our government propaganda-center/indoctrination-center/”schools” look like the abject failures that they are.

    Even if you have to self-publish it I’d be fascinated to read your account of your family’s history. Please be sure to post a link to it when completed on some of the blogs on which you comment.

    Just as a postscript, my father served in the Navy during WWII with his ship as a low-priority target for the kamikazes, all of which missed or were shot down. But he’d have played a minuscule role in the invasion of Japan, and despite being a hard-core liberal, never said a bad word about the use of the A-bombs since it probably saved his life along with millions of others, Japanese as well as American.

  62. Now, given my hardcore attitude about the current invasion of our country through our non-existent borders I probably could be called a hypocrite by some.

    First, my proverbial hat is off to your dad. I think a big reason why your stories about the treatment of Chinese people seem so bizarre to me is that American culture was changed because so many people like your father still stepped up to defend the country, even though they hadn’t been treated well.

    Anyway, no one should ever be worried about being called a hypocrite by any leftist. By now everyone should know that the left ignores the law whenever it might benefit them and demands the next second that every law be rigidly enforced against their opponents.

    I still recall years ago reading about how our leftist-dominated government spent years attempting to deport a woman from Albania who was married to an American citizen with two kids, while it ignores millions of foreigners who walk across the border. I’ve read accounts of American serviceman who marry foreigners but somehow can’t bring their wives into the country, while the .gov infamously let a woman from Pakistan come here even though there were a swarm of red flags surrounding her. She was later involved in a mass shooting.

    Thus, I think the most appropriate answer to any leftist who complains about hypocrisy is to invite them to go have conjugal relations with themselves.

  63. I’m not normally one to proclaim the cause of Native Americans very strongly, but when they arrived, there was literally no other humans here. Not just no state or even society to receive them. No people. I’m willing to give them 100% New Settler points for that. It’s not normally what we mean when we say “immigrant” in any other context. They’d be entitled to get their backs up at anyone who calls them immigrants. Pioneering an empty hemisphere with stone age tech is the ultimate pioneering.

    Polynesians in [part of] the Pacific get the same bonus. First In. The Maori in New Zealand were the last, at the almost absurdly late date of 1300s or so.

    Further back, every place had its First People, but apart from the above and the much much longer than both Aboriginals in Australia, they are lost to history. SO the Aboriginals, Native Americans, and Polynesians are about the only title holders that can be confirmed. Maybe some of the Indian tribals who can still be identified as distinct peoples.

    Then there’s the bulk of Eurasia and Africa, in which peoples moved around and churned for millennia, replacing and replacing and also merging with one another over and over again.

    Sometimes it could qualify as immigration, insofar as it involved people being admitted to the territory of a people already there and willing to accept them, and sometimes even through some kind of state being the decider. But more often involving the collapse or just lack of any such authority, and the new people bringing their own. Or causing the collapse of the existing authority. [I’m still torn on whether the Romans or the Goths are the villains of their shared story… The Gutians I’m not on board with.] That’s not quite immigration in the usual sense either.

    Then there’s more recent stuff like colonization- the earliest Europeans in the Americas came in their own ships under their own forms of organization which they set up in new territories as colonists. They didn’t arrive according to the law of some existing state, to be members of that society. They brought their own and had the tools to back it up, if with challenges. That’s not “immigration” either.

    After that it’s tricky. For my part, if you came to, in this case, America in the colonial period, from the UK, you moved from one English or British place to another. You were a settler or, if too late to be part of a new settlement somewhere, you were just travelling in your own state despite crossing the Atlantic. If you came from somewhere else in Europe, then you were an immigrant to Britain’s colonies. [If you had come to the Dutch or Swedish holdings under Dutch or Swedish rule, then you were a settler for them, becoming British with annexation.]

    Anyone who came after independence was an immigrant in the more modern sense of that term. Coming to an existing society with some kind of political organization able to manage the process, including deciding who to admit or reject and why, under its own legislation, solely for its own reasons whatever they might be, and with the control of territory and organizational potential to actually make its decisions stick and the assumption on the applicants’ part that they indeed had that authority. A scenario in which the arrival of one or more ships representing a foreign state, king, or religious faction, aiming to set up their own community under its own laws on appropriated soil within the national territory, would have been sooner or later observed, identified, actually mentally conceived of as “foreign” and an “invasion” on the national “territory”, and dealt with in those terms. As I said, not without precedent in the more ancient history of the migrations of peoples across the borders of old empires, and being admitted in some cases, but the way we conceive of it now is reliant on very modern concepts.

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