The Question of When…

The question of when to talk to your children, when you live in a repressive dictatorship was something I remember from reading James Michener’s essay into political reporting The Bridge at Andau; an account into the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 against the Soviet Union, published the following year. There came a time when parents of school-aged children, Michener wrote, had to open up to their children, if they were anti-Soviet dissidents, religious, or simply Hungary-first patriots. It was a fine line; either live a lie in front of your children regarding your own beliefs, and at worst, see them irretrievably buy into the whole Soviet system if you left it too late, or trusting that they were sufficiently mature, to be adept at concealing such dissident beliefs in front of their schoolfellows, Communist-indoctrinated teachers – and informers among them. How old did your children need to be, before they could dissemble in front of peers, teachers and spying informants among them? It was a matter of deep concern to Hungarian parents, as Michener related. (Parenthetically, as a teenager and young adult I had never been the least bit enchanted by the golden chimera of communism in any guise. Growing up, my parents knew too many people who had fled from Communist-dominated or threatened countries and had heart-rending stories to tell of their experiences in living in and fleeing Cuba, Russia, Eastern Europe, the far East. Reading Michener’s account of the Hungarian Revolt definitely drew a line under my antipathy towards all-powerful dictatorships of the so-called proletariat.)

So the Department of Homeland Security – a governmental entity which just by it’s very name, sends nasty chills down my back – has funded a program to train teachers, ostensibly in something called ‘media literacy’ but which in practice looks more like monitoring students and their families political and religious beliefs, directing them in the preferred set of progressive doctrines and encouraging kids to inform on their peers … or their families who dissent from such doctrines. (This linked post on Legal Insurrection goes into greater and unsettling detail.) I should think that parents of school-aged children would be looking at this so-called ‘media literacy’ with considerable alarm; it has even more dangerous implications than pushing gender-confusion and outright porn for the elementary-school set. Exactly how many other school systems are participating in this program?

This is all of a piece with authoritarian dictatorships across the political spectrum; get ahold of the youth through the education system, mold them into the new man/woman/whatever, encourage them to inform on their families and peers, and reward them with praise, honors, after the example of Pavlik Morozov, the Boy Hero of the Soviets. I wonder if membership in a new organized youth group is part of Homeland Security’s long-term plans for their properly-indoctrinated school-aged cadres. Perhaps the Department’s experts are considering cute uniforms for participating student participants; something with brown shirts and black shorts, or maybe a bright red neckerchief. Discuss as you wish – and is this program being utilized in your local school district?

24 thoughts on “The Question of When…”

  1. The fact that they are openly preparing to inaugurate a “Little Oktobrist” [октябрёнок] organization this far ahead of the election, in whatever form it does or not take, would tend to indicate that they are sure the game is rigged.

    And it may well be. Probably a start in the process of preserving operational security in what is to come would be to emphasize and normalize the idea that there are things that you only talk about with the parents. That, and working with the kids to consider people at school as not family. If you know any refugees from totalitarian systems, you might want to talk with them about how they survived.

    But these are skills we may well need.

    Subotai Bahadur

  2. “Governments use public education and public ownership of the media to control the information that their citizens receive. More totalitarian governments as well as those with larger wealth transfers make greater investments in publicly controlled information. This finding is borne out from cross-sectional time-series evidence across countries and is confirmed when the recent fall of communism is specifically examined. My results reject the standard public-good view linking education and democracy, and I find evidence that public educational expenditures vary in similar ways to government ownership of television stations. Country-level data on the organization of families as well as data on South African public schools are also examined.”

    – John R. Lott
    – Public Schooling, Indoctrination, and Totalitarianism

  3. Subotai Bahadur
    February 21, 2024 at 6:52 pm
    If you know any refugees from totalitarian systems, you might want to talk with them about how they survived.

    If you know any of those people you might want to have your kids listen to their horror stories, and tell how they fought back.

  4. I’ve noticed a new shoe dropping about every day now, about a new leftist policy to cement their hold. Incremental moves every day. More and more, I don’t think we’re going to make it to November.

  5. We need to start calling evil by its name.

    We’ve always known Big Brother was evil. Censorship, surveillance, evil. Forced medical experiments, news media as state propagandists, stolen elections, partisan intelligence thugs, Kafkaesque kangaroo courts, evil.


    Say the name. Evil.

    The left has always desired and worked toward a Big Brother world. Orwell tried to shine a light on it. We should, too.

  6. Take heart, fellow ChicagoBoyz! The DC Swamp UniParty is now in the same position as the Zelensky regime, or Germany after Stalingrad, or the Confederacy after Gettysburg — they have lost the war! Oh, the unpleasantness will continue, probably for years. But the outcome is no longer in doubt.

    What kills the DC Swamp UniParty is that they have casually destroyed the US’s former world-beating productive capacity. Something like 50% of the manufactured goods that Americans need — from Mercedes automobiles, to Airbus planes, to German kitchen appliances, to nuts & bolts — have to be imported. And all the DC Swamp Creatures have to offer in exchange is freshly-printed IOUs. Yes, the Swamp Creatures can (and will) make things miserable for US residents, but they can no longer avoid the economic collapse that their own stupidity has made inevitable.

    That collapse will be hell for all of us. But when the dust eventually settles, the North American continent will still be here, jam-packed with natural resources. DC will DIE, but future generations will rebuild on the same soil a nation (or nations) of which its citizens can be proud. This has all happened before elsewhere in the world — think of Russia in the 1990s after the collapse of Communism, or China in the 1980s after the end of Mao’s misrule; they both have recovered and grown to new heights.

    Recognizing the inevitability of the coming collapse of DC’s world, our task is to pass on useful information to children & grandchildren to give them the tools they will need to rebuild.

  7. Yes, Gavin, but the really difficult issue coming when the ‘unstuck’ happens is how to keep outside interlopers out. Because, you have to know that they’ll see a golden opportunity to snatch a few goodies in the confusion. Some may decide to take possestion of some ‘magic dirt’ during the fracas.
    On a parallel note, the mention of Hungary struck a chord. In the current unpleasantness in the Don Basin, some open source intel people are busily noting and cross checking every photo they get ahold of. One incidental seen in the fighting was a T-64 tank (a golden oldie) with the hull number painted on it of ‘0320’. Turns out 0320 is already in the records. It was in Prague in 1956.
    This tank is older than I am, and I’m retired. Evidently it is still working.

  8. Gavin, you do know that almost all of the Mercedes sold in this country are built here with certain models assembled in Mexico? Toyota pickups used to have more domestic content than Fords. Guess who’s number 2 in manufacturing in the world? If you guessed anything except USA, you got it wrong. China will be lucky to finish the year above #4.

  9. “… you do know that almost all of the Mercedes sold in this country are built here …”

    A purist would say “assembled here using largely foreign parts”. Henry Ford back in the early days realized it was cheaper to send Detroit-made parts to far-flung parts of the US and assemble them there close to the point of sale.

    Did you know that the door that blew off that “US-made” Boeing 737 recently was actually manufactured in Malaysia? Definitions in statistical tabulations are so easily manipulated that the best rough measure of the situation is the Balance of Trade Deficit — which tells a rather different story than the World Bank.

  10. It may be correct to say that the US manufactures a lot — but it is also correct to say that the US consumes a lot more manufactured goods than we produce.

    In 2023, the US exported an impressive $2.0 Trillion goods — but imported an even more impressive $3.1 Trillion goods. And the Bureau of Economic Affairs reports that the largest component of US exports was the Re-Export of previously-imported goods.

    The US in 2023 therefore had a net unfavorable Balance of Trade in goods of about $1.1 Trillion — that is a huge number of lost jobs and a huge amount of lost tax revenue. Even more troubling, the Balance of Trade in what the BEA classifies as “Advanced Technology Products” was a negative $(219) Billion. The US has become a net importer even of the high-tech goods which should be the kinds of products where the US ought to be a leading exporter, according to the (dubious) “Free Trade” economic model.

    The 2023 US deficit in manufactured goods was an incredible $1.3 Trillion — offset by Re-Exports and by a small trade surplus from the export of raw materials. In economic theory, Banana Republics are expected to run export surpluses in raw materials to pay for their imports of manufactured goods. For a sustainable advanced economy like the US pretends to be, the situation ought to be the reverse — but it is not.

    Again from the BEA, here are the principal countries with which the US ran trade deficits in 2023 — in $Billions to the detriment of the US:
    $(279) Billion China
    $(152) Billon Mexico
    $(105) Billion Vietnam
    $(83) Billion Germany
    $(71) Billion Japan
    $(68) Billion Canada
    $(65) Billion Ireland
    $(51) Billion South Korea

    It is embarrassing enough that the US in now so heavily dependent on Vietnam, of all places. But how do we end up running a huge trade deficit with … Ireland?

    There is no room for anyone to be satisfied with US economic performance, especially in the manufacturing sphere. The WWII Arsenal of Democracy has been destroyed. My guess is that the problem has not been high wages — are Germany & Japan low-wage economies? No, the problem has been excessive regulation, over-complicated taxation, Big Law, a poor educational system, poor management focusing on short term returns with no thought for the longer term, and a foolish commitment to an unsustainable Unilateral Free Trade model. Politics, in other words. Houston, we have a problem!

  11. Guess who’s number 2 in manufacturing in the world?

    I love this game. A brief perusal of David Foster’s link implies that the measurement of manufacturing is based upon the number of federal reserve quoted for the end result of production. I’ve seen this before, btw.

    So when an American 155mm artillery shell costs (say) $6000 US dollars to make and a Russian shell costs $600, we’re outproducing them ten times over. Forgive me if I find something suspect in this methodology of measuring manufacturing output.

    Value-added measurement subtracts the cost of acquired parts and materials.

    So if Boeing buys a 737 door with vastly overvalued US dollars made with foreign steel and foreign labor for many fewer federal reserve notes that would have been required to produce it domestically free traders count this as a win. Repeat this process a few million times and almost every manufactured item used in the United States is produced in a foreign country.

    Hence, the US government requires something like two trillion dollars of deficit spending this year to pretend nothing is wrong and Joe Xiden’s handlers deserve another four years controlling the incipient tyranny based upon the Potomac.

    I recall a long time ago I was almost the only person at a certain pay-to-comment website who objected to free trade dogma, until Trump appeared on the scene. Before that, I spent a lot of time interacting with and being mocked by free traders, to my great enjoyment. I walked away convinced that these people were short-sighted fools and nothing has changed my opinion since.

    Many of those folks eventually coalesced into the DC uniparty that came into being to fight against the Trumpian hordes threatening their endless sinecures- and apparently they’ve lately been busy setting up networks of schoolchild informers.

    Well. I see they’ve managed their usual level of competence, which gives life to the old saying about history- first tragedy, then farce. They missed a key step in imposing totalitarian rule allowing them to indoctrinate children- first, impose totalitarian rule.

    These retards haven’t even managed to disarm their enemies- can I say retards here? I guess I’ll find out. Anyway, I note that there is a woman I’ve seen on Twitter- I mean X- giving lectures about how her 18-year old son turned in his father for attending the January 6th event.

    I haven’t bothered to watch her video- I’m already not a fan of child informers- but if we had a true totalitarian regime I wouldn’t have seen any mention of it because she would have sent to the gulag before she could have made it.

  12. It would be interesting to track the flows among OpenAI (or similar company), Nvidia, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing.

    OpenAI buys AI chipset from Nvidia. Entirely domestic transaction.

    But, Nvidia doesn’t make the chips. It uses TSMC as a contract manufacturer; what NVDA adds is its proprietary designs and also software based on the chipset. I haven’t dug through NVDA financials to analyze margins in depth, but trailing 12 months for NVDA as a whole shows gross margin as 72.7%.

    TSM gross margins are ‘only’ 54.9%, its market capitalization is $568B as against nearly $2T for NVDA. Number of employees for TSM is about 73000, as against about 26000 for NVDA. But note that TSM is providing manufacturing services for many other companies in addition to NVDA, so the number of those TSM employees who are making products for NVDA is considerably less than the 73000.

    Not going anywhere in particular with this, just thought it was interesting to look at (I’m a NVDA investor and an indirect investor in TSM via a fund) It strikes me that TSM might be looking longingly at NVDA margins and thinking about how they can raise prices when contractually allowed to do so.

  13. “… trailing 12 months for NVDA as a whole shows gross margin as 72.7%.”

    12 months — a little more than 1% of a human lifetime. That right there is the heart of the problem — a focus on the short-term, with no regard for the long-term. Many now-forgotten companies were profitable … until they were not.

    Let’s ask ourselves — is it going to be easier for TSMC to build up its own chip design group or for Nvidia to build up its own chip manufacturing facility? The question answers itself.

    The US (and more generally the West) is now paying the price for this short-term focus. Sadly, that price is only going to climb in the future as the white collar companies (like NVDA) follow the now-lost blue collar companies into extinction.

  14. “Let’s ask ourselves — is it going to be easier for TSMC to build up its own chip design group or for Nvidia to build up its own chip manufacturing facility? The question answers itself.”

    Neither is the answer you’re looking for. As David points out, Nvidia is only one of TSMC’s customers. The moment TSMC goes from being a partner to a competitor, it’s days as a foundry would be numbered. No doubt, a major portion of any contract with TSMC is about IP protection. Both the customer’s and TSMC’s. The difference between avoiding disclosure to other customers is completely different from preventing disclosure within the company.

    At the same time, TSMC probably knows a few things about the fabrication of chips they haven’t publicized. Moreover, they have to relearn them every few years for each new generation along with all the new quirks that shrinking things down to sizes where relativistic side effects are no longer just theoretical considerations entail. By this time, there’s probably no one that understands that better than Nvidia. There is no way they can just design the logic of a chip and hand it off to be fabed. For it to be successful, they have to take into consideration all sorts of secondary effects and limitations from the fabrication process. Consider the number of near design failures from power consumption.

    In reality, both are locked into a classical symbiotic relationship. Nvidia can’t just decide to start sending their designs to a different fab. Not without taking years to optimize them for that different processes and very possibly failing. There’s a reason that TSMC makes such healthy margins, for their customers on the bleeding edge, there probably isn’t an alternative that doesn’t compromise performance, perhaps, fatally. And TSMC needs demanding customers like Nvidia because if it was easy, there would be much less profit and much more competition.

  15. “TSMC probably knows a few things about the fabrication of chips they haven’t publicized.”

    As the old saying used to go — design follows manufacturing. To get back to the real crux of the issue — Why does cutting edge manufacturing of chips (and much else) now take place outside the US? How did the US lose its former lead in manufacturing of all kinds of products?

    The failure of the US Political Class to promote & improve US manufacturing capabilities across the board has been a giant mistake — one that is already costing US residents, and that will cost future generations even more dearly.

  16. ” is it going to be easier for TSMC to build up its own chip design group or for Nvidia to build up its own chip manufacturing facility? The question answers itself.”

    It’s an interesting question, but the right answer isn’t so obvious. Vertical integration is sometimes but not always a good idea. AT&T tried to integrate forward by acquiring media assets, which would produce content to run on their network. Didn’t work out well for them. I don’t think Sony’s plan to get into the content business has been all that successful, either.

    Steel companies never integrated forward into car manufacturing, although some (Ford River Rouge) did it in the other direction.

    Intel has decided go provide foundry services for other companies, in addition to making its own chips. Don’t know how they plan to avoid the competing-with-your-customers problem.

    Sam Altman of OpenAI is talking about raising *trillions* to create capacity of the massive number of chips he expects to need for AI. Organizational structure of this effort is far from clear, but will surely involve a lot of government funding and hence government involvement.

    A big issue we have is that instead of addressing *general* problems that affect manufacturing, the Biden administration prefers to provide highly specific targeting…which comes with requirements such as pay levels and on-site day care.

  17. The story of haw chip manufacturing went from being invented in the USA, to being somewhat centered in Asia probably mirrors the way a lot of production moved east. However, if you look at this chart:

    You’ll see that the U.S. still accounts for 46% of the monetary value of semiconductors produced in the world. Something else that’s easy to lose track of is that while there are $1.000+ chips, there are a lot more chips that sell for pennies. The succession was that first, the labor intensive operations such as test and packaging moved to where labor costs were less, followed by commodity chips. The big change that I remember was when AMD decided they wanted off the production merry-go-round and sold off all their [production capacity. Trusting that if they designed it, somebody would build it. This has worked out somewhat unevenly over the years depending on just where their main rival, Intel, was in relation to their design and manufacturing . Booms and busts over the years, most recently parity or a little better depending on just how you measure.

    The short version is that it seemed easier and cheaper to move offshore where local governments were anxious for development and local people were anxious for jobs and willing to work cheap. In the interim, production has become hugely more capital intensive and automation has made it much less labor intensive. This would seem to make things like infrastructure, and political stability much more important. Yet it hasn’t seemed to matter until the last few years. Especially as China descends further into chaos, this may come into sharper focus.

    American jurisdictions got into the racket of encouraging “economic development” by bribing businesses to relocate. Some of this may be ending after various debacles where concessions amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars per “job” have produced nothing more than empty buildings. The saga of LG versus Wisconsin comes to mind.

    I have a reasonable faith for the great mass of American entrepreneurs to continue to figure out how to make money, coupled with the certainty that they will do much of this in spite of government “help” rather than because of it. Mostly government programs have served to enrich various con men at the expense of tax payers.

  18. “This would seem to make things like infrastructure, and political stability much more important. Yet it hasn’t seemed to matter until the last few years.”

    Sadly, by the time it matters, much of the necessary human skills which come from years of manufacturing have been lost. See, for example, TSMC’s problems trying to build a chip-manufacturing facility in Arizona.

    The missing factor in the analysis is the huge costs of regulation and the massive power of Big Law to crush or simply to delay development. Executives who decided to invest overseas and send technology overseas were not necessarily being evil — simply responding to the perverse incentives created by the political establishment.

    At the end of the day, this is a great example of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. Each company that moved manufacturing overseas was looking out for its own near-term interests. But the workers they laid off were also their consumers and the consumers of other companies’ products — and thus the entire US economy was undermined, leading to today’s unsustainable Trade Deficit.

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