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  • Archive for the 'China' Category

    Positive Stores about Covid-19

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Amid all of the doom and gloom that the press is all too eager to peddle upon you for eyeballs and clicks, I present a few promising stories about the latest Chinese virus to infect our shores.

    Approximate timelines on medications/vaccines to combat the virus.
    Canadian scientists have successfully isolated the virus, an essential step in getting a vaccine ready for testing.
    A welcome side effect of the virus is that as people have sheltered, pollution has plummeted.
    A University of Minnesota doctor has gone MacGyver in creating a ventilator.
    The total number of people recovered has recently surpassed one hundred thousand.
    Projections of death totals could be orders of magnitude too high.
    Apple may start re-opening stores in China soon.

    There are many, many more good stories about the event if you care to test out your Google-fu.

    Also, some anecdotal items. It appears that people in general are helping one another, remaining calm for the most part, and doing the right things. If there were hospitals with people stranded in hallways or on floors we would have seen those photos/video by now so I am assuming that **at this point** they are handling the influx of patients just fine. My stores locally are fully stocked with all items, save some canned foods like tomato sauce, and of course paper products. I assume those will be available sooner rather than later.

    Discuss as you wish.

    Posted in China, COVID-19, Health Care, Human Behavior | 12 Comments »

    China Virus

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Seriously, I do wonder if there isn’t a strong antipathy against all things Official-Mainland-Chinese/ Chinese Communist Party and all its works building among Americans, in the wake of the almost-universal infection by the Wuhan Corona-virus epidemic. I mean – the damn plague started there, despite what all the official CCP agencies and bodies, and their sympathizers and hired media can and will insist. Bungling containment, concealing practically everything about the epidemic (the third devastating epidemic originating in China, by the way, the swine flu and the H1N1 virus being the first two) and then having the unmitigated gall to blame it on the United states – that takes the absolute cake, as far as I am concerned. It reminds me of the books I absorbed, growing up; most by English and American authors of the mildly popular sort (some fiction, some non) and dating anywhere in the first half of the 20th century whose detestation of Germany and Germans hung in the atmosphere of those books like a particularly dank fog. It was an almost visceral dislike, for all that we generally had been inclined favorably towards Germany before the turn of the previous century. Martin Luther, Johan Sebastian Bach, the Brothers Grimm, Schumann, Beethoven, Goethe, scientific, technological and medical advances all flowed to the rest of Europe and to the Americas, making us all the richer for it – but German ‘frightfulness’ in World War I, and the horrors inflicted by Nazi Germany burned through that enormous fund of respect and favorable opinion, leaving a very bad taste in the mouths of those old enough to have been exposed to them, either directly or at first and second remove. That bad taste may only now be fading with regard to Germany, but I wonder if it isn’t now about to be replaced with burning resentment of China, or at the very least, the Chinese Communist Party. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, China, COVID-19, Current Events, Germany, History, Society | 33 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-10 Update 3-5-2020 — “As long as you remember to keep breathing and don’t fall asleep, it’s basically just like the flu.”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 5th March 2020 (All posts by )

    Issues covered will be on COVID-19 spread, World Headlines, the 3-4-2020 Seattle Public Health Press conference, World Headlind Summary, Corruption at the WHO, Bad and good news COVID-19 medical developments. the Political/Demographic Implications of COVID-19 for the Gov’t Elites, and the social media and videos COVID-19 tracking source section.

    Top line, There are currently 97,138 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 3,351 fatalities as of the March 5, 2020, at he 4:48pm ET time hack on the BNO News corona virus tracking site (https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/02/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/) There are 80(+) and growing umber of nations including China plus three “Chinese special administrative regions” (Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan) that have reported COVID-19 infections. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Iran, Germany, R.O.K. and the USA all appear to have local, or endemic, spread of the disease. Russia, Egypt, and Columbia appear to have joined the endemic spread list as well due to airports in the UAE and elsewhere picking up air travelers originating from those nations as sick with COVID-19.

    WORLD HEADLINE SUMMARY (3/5/2020)

    o New Jersey confirms first presumptive case
    o NY state cases double to 22
    o Seattle closes 26 schools
    o Pentagon tracking 12 possible COVID-19 cases
    o Illinois reports 5 more cases
    o NYC reports 2 more cases, raising total to 4
    o Italy postpones referendum vote; death toll hits 148
    o WHO’s Tedros: “Now’s the time to pull out the stops”
    o Tennessee confirms case
    o Nevada confirms first case
    o New Delhi closes primary schools
    o EU officials weigh pushing retired health-care workers back into service to combat virus
    o Italy to ask EU for permission to raise budget deficit as lawmakers approve €7.5 billion euros
    o Beijing tells residents not to share food
    o 30-year-old Chinese man dies in Wuhan 5 days after hospital discharge
    o Cali authorities tell ‘Grand Princess’ cruise ship not to return to port until everyone is tested
    o Global case total passes 95k
    o Lebanon sees cases double to 31
    o France deaths climb to 7, cases up 138 to 423
    o EY sends 1,500 Madrid employees home after staffer catches virus
    o Trump says he has a “hunch” true virus mortality rate is closer to 1%
    o Switzerland reports 1st death
    o South Africa confirms 1st case
    o UK chief medical officer confirms ‘human-to-human’ infections are happening in UK
    o UK case total hits 115
    o Google, Apple, Netflix cancel events
    o HSBC sends research department and part of London trading floor home
    o Facebook contract infected in Seattle
    o Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Netflix cancel events and/or ask employees to work from home
    o Netherlands cases double to 82
    o Spain cases climb 40, 1 new death
    o Belgium reports 27 new cases bringing total to 50
    o Germany adds 87 cases bringing total to 349

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, China, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Culture, Current Events, Dogs, Ebola, Economics & Finance, Iran, Medicine, Middle East, Miscellaneous, USA | 125 Comments »

    Co-Vid -19 and Supply Chain

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 4th March 2020 (All posts by )

    As I mentioned on these pages a few days ago, I am attending a national conference in DC for my company and around 300 of our vendors. As a reminder, I am involved in industrial distribution (actually HVAC distribution, which is a subset of industrial distribution).

    I asked the same question of dozens of my top vendors, and it was basically “what issues are you seeing with regards to the production slowdowns in China?”. I left the question open intentionally as I didn’t want to funnel responses.

    Almost all of them, as if they rehearsed their responses together, said the following:

    We have enough safety stock to get us through the Spring orders and a few months afterward.
    We are in constant contact with our Chinese vendors (as if this means anything) and are looking at alternate sources (prices will increase).
    There may be shortages on certain items in the future.

    I distilled these responses down a bit and thought about it and I think that there will be some supply chain issues, and there may be some opportunities. One vendor remarked that once Chinese production is fully back on line that there is a container logjam anticipated that might put some orders back several months. The vendors could be giving us the “remain calm” routine to try to keep runs on product to a minimum, but the demand in HVAC just isn’t there right now, as we are firmly in “shoulder” season. Shoulder season is Spring and Fall, where there aren’t too many emergencies, unless you live in the commercial world, where everything is an emergency.

    Not much more outside of these comments was related to me and I think they are for the most part telling the truth. I guess we will know in a few months. If we start out Spring with some hot weather like in 2018, we could start to see some relationships tested.

    Posted in China, COVID-19, Current Events | 2 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update 29 Feb 2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 29th February 2020 (All posts by )

    The themes of this update will be on issues of

    – COVID-19 spread,
    – World Headlines,
    – US Good News,
    – US Mixed News,
    – A sample of US Relevant Coronavirus Stories,
    – Medical Information of the Day,
    – The SARS-CoV2 Virus and it’s COVID-19 infection ARE NOT THE FLU
    – The On-Going Just-in-time, Sole Source in China Supply -Chain Crisis, and
    – The social media and videos COVID-19 tracking source section.

    Top line, There are currently 85,996 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,942 fatalities as of the 29 February 2020 at 2:46 p.m. ET time hack on the BNO News corona virus tracking site (https://bnonews.com/index.p…/…/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/) There are 59 and growing nations including China plus three “Chinese special administrative regions” (Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan) that have reported COVID-19 infections. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Iran, Germany and R.O.K. all appear to have local, or endemic, spread of the disease.

    The US may currently have endemic spread as the CDC has confirmed 62 cases of coronavirus in the US (and there late breaking news of a COVID-19 death in Washington State and the slimming of a senior care facility in Kirkland). These include 44 people who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, three people repatriated from China and 15 US cases.

    Spread inside the US cases include:
    California: 9
    Massachusetts: 1
    Washington state: 1
    Arizona : 1
    Illinois: 2
    Wisconsin: 1

    World Headline Summary:

    o Health authorities in Texas and Oregon report 12 new coronavirus cases in US
    o US coronavirus case total hits 63, 2nd case ‘of unknown origin’ confirmed
    o US issues travel advisory for Italy
    o Italy says first case discovered in Lazio
    o China, SK release nightly figures
    o Google says employee who visited Zurich office has coronavirus
    o France confirms 57 cases
    o Italy reports 3 deaths in Lombardy; nat’l toll now 21; total cases 821
    o Google employee tests positive for coronavirus after visiting Zurich office
    o British man becomes 6th ‘Diamond Princess’ passenger to die
    o Two Japanese dogs tested positive for coronavirus
    o Mulvaney says school closures, transit disruptions may happen in US
    o Dr. Tedros said Friday that there’s no evidence of ‘community outbreak’
    o Mexico confirms 1st virus case [More below]
    o Fauci warns virus could take ‘two years’ to develop
    o Kudlow says “no higher priority” than the “health of the American people
    o Toronto confirms another case
    o WHO says 20 vaccines in development
    o St. Louis Fed’s Bullard pours cold water on market hopes
    o Netherlands confirms 2 more
    o United cuts flights to Japan
    o Advisor to CDC says shortage of tests in US creating a “bottleneck”
    o Nigeria confirms first case in sub-saharan africa
    o South Korea reports more than 1,000 new cases in under 48 hours
    o Italy cases surpass 700
    o WHO says virus will ‘soon be in all countries’

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Business, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Ebola, Health Care, History, Miscellaneous, USA | 44 Comments »

    Co-Vid 19 and Supply Chain

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 26th February 2020 (All posts by )

    As I mentioned on these pages a few days ago, there will be supply chain issues with the Co-Vid 19 event, whether you think it is the next Black Plague, or just another version of the flu (from reading the comments on Trent’s post on the subject, we appear to have both reading here). As a reminder, I deal in HVAC distribution, which is a subset of industrial distribution. Most equipment for my market is made close to the USA or in the USA itself, but the component parts are many times made in China.

    Today I got the first letter from a vendor talking about the possible issues. They are saying that they are preparing to see product shortages due to component supply problems and are actively trying to source from other places, but the information is very general in nature. It seemed more CYA than anything and almost could be a force majeure setup, recommended by their attorneys to get ahead of contracted jobs. I have no proof of that but have seen enough legal documents in my day to know that a lawyer or ten helped write their CoVid-19 letter rather than a bunch of HVAC dorks like me.

    But let’s be real for a minute. The supply chain (in my industry) is long so we aren’t likely to see any problems for the Summer, as most of those orders for inventory are already in the tank and on their way to our warehouses. Fall/Winter is my estimate for issues in industrial distribution if the problem continues. And that could be a BIG problem for you if you have a house where a furnace breaks down and it is -20 outside. Critical infrastructure will get priority I am assuming (blood banks, etc) but you don’t know when that stuff will break, do you?

    As I receive more communications from my vendors I will put up an occasional post here. I have a meeting next week in DC and will personally speak with many of my vendor contacts and may get more/better information at the cocktail parties when my contacts get loosened up from the booze. It’s going to be an interesting year in industrial distribution and I imagine that the Chinese are going to lose some business over this when it is all said and done, never to come back (the main reason I don’t think this whole episode is fiction/blown out of proportion – incentives).

    Posted in Business, China, COVID-19 | 14 Comments »

    SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Evening Update 2-25-2020: The Pandemic Hide the Name & Blame Games

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 25th February 2020 (All posts by )

    The themes of this update will be on issues of COVID-19 spread, World Headlines, border closings, the CDC news conference, developments with fomite spread, how American Public Health institutions build a liablity law suit proof diagnostic test and how that limits tests for community spread and a new recommended COVID-19 sites, social media and videos section.
     
    Top line, There are currently 80,420 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,710 fatalities as of the 24 February 2020 at 5:24 p.m. ET time hack on the BNO News corona virus tracking site (https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/02/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/) There are 39 nations including China plus three “Chinese special administrative regions” (Macao, Hong Kong and Taiwan) that have reported COVID-19 infections. China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, Italy, Iran and R.O.K. all appear to have local, or endemic, spread of the disease. Italy has spawned further spread in Spain proper, it’s Canary Islands possession, Austria, Germany, and possibly Croatia. And now Brazil in South America and Algeria reporting a case signals North West Africa have added two new regions to the Pandemic spread list. The virus has spread from Asia to Europe, North America, Australia and Africa.
     
    All of the above meets the pre-COVID-19 WHO standard for a “Pandemic” that requiring endemic spread in multiple nations in multiple WHO regions. However, the WHO just decided that it was time to retire the term “Pandemic” because…something…[insert reasons here]. The WHO statement for doing so was a master piece of unintelligible double talk that boils down to “Lets not scare the “Normies” and set off more “Run, Hide & Hoard” panics like seized Italy, ROK and Singapore in the last few days. Meanwhile the WHO is cheering-on China’s “Hospice-Prison system for the infected” Quarantine as a “Model” in aiding China’s restarting the World economy.
    ITALY COVID-19 Confirmed Cases and Deaths 25 Feb 2020

    ITALY COVID-19 Confirmed Cases and Deaths 25 Feb 2020

     
    World Headline Summary
    o WHO warns the rest of the world “is not ready for the virus to spread…”
    o CDC warns Americans “should prepare for possible community spread” of virus.
    o San Francisco Mayor declares state of emergency
    o Later, CDC says pandemic not a question of it, but when
    o Brazil may have South America’s first coronavirus case
    o Germany confirms 2nd case on Tuesday, brings total to 17
    o Italy cases spike to 322; deaths hit 10
    o Japan’s Shiseido tells 8k employees to work from home
    o Trump Economic Advisor Kudlow tries to jawbone stock markets higher
    o HHS Sec. Azar warns US lacks stockpiles of masks
    o Italy Hotel in Lockdown After First Coronavirus Case in Liguria
    o Algeria confirms 1st case
    o First case in Switzerland
    o Kuwait halts all flights to Singapore and Japan
    o Iran confirms 95 cases, 15 deaths
    o First case in Austria
    o Spain reports 7 cases in under 24 hours, including in Madrid, Canary Islands, Barcelona
    o Iran Deputy Health Minister infected with Covid-19
    Pandemic Border Closures
    Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Georgia, Armenia, and UAE blocked border crossings by Iranians.
    Russia, North Korea and Vietnam are blocking border crossings from China
    Austria and Switzerlan are blocking border crossings from Italy.
    El Salvador on Tuesday announced it would prevent entry of people from Italy and South Korea.
     

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Bioethics, China, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Health Care, Iran, Medicine, Middle East, Miscellaneous, National Security, North America, Politics, USA | 28 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-19-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 19th February 2020 (All posts by )

    This update is going to be a horror show of numbers involving “super spreaders” and public health incompetence in and around the Diamond Princess cruise ship. As of this mornings’s writing time hack, there are currently 75,129 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 2,007 fatalities. China: TOTAL 74,130 2,002 12,017 serious 13,818 recovered 6,242 suspected. (No one believed these numbers except the Who and CDC) Everywhere else: 999 cases, 5 deaths, 39 serious/critical

    Next — the COVID-19 infection numbers from the Diamond Princess are horrific.

    See:

    Tracking coronavirus: Map, data and timeline

    “Japan: The 542 people from the “Diamond Princess” cruise ship are listed separately and they are not included in the Japanese government’s official count. Fourteen of them are Americans whose test results came in while they were being evacuated from the ship. 246 were _asymptomatic_.”

    Given 246 of 542 infected are asymptomatic…we are looking at a 45% of no-symptom super-spreader rate.

    Note: the following additional “Diamond Princess” information culled from four US newspapers over at the Free Republic forum’s “Corona Virus Live—mostly Thread. 2/18-2/19”

    https://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-chat/3817559/posts?q=1&;page=151

    In one flight of the Diamond Princess returnees. “…the original 14 tested have become 19 due to inflight testing, or 18 pending and 1 CDC confirmed.

    .

    The flight to Travis, CA had 7, and picked up 3 inflight – all asymptomatic

    .

    The Flight to Lackland, TX had 7, and picked up 2 inflight – all but one asymptomatic

    .

    So that’s 14+3+2

    .

    It was reported that Texas sent 6 to Omaha; however Omaha said they received 13. One requiring hospitalization but stable, and the rest asymptomatic. All are awaiting final CDC confirmation.

    .

    Of the 7 in Calif, 2 were transferred to QotV – one asymptomatic received CDC confirmation of positive today; one with mild symptoms is still awaiting CDC.

    Third — More super spreader evidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Returning Travelers from Wuhan, China

    “In this effort to evacuate 126 people from Wuhan to Frankfurt, a symptom-based screening process was ineffective in detecting SARS-CoV-2 infection in 2 persons who later were found to have evidence of SARS-CoV-2 in a throat swab. We discovered that shedding of potentially infectious virus may occur in persons who have no fever and no signs or only minor signs of infection.”

    https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc2001899

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, Japan, Miscellaneous, USA | 20 Comments »

    COVID-19 From a Business Perspective

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 18th February 2020 (All posts by )

    I live in the world of HVAC distribution, which is basically a subset of industrial distribution. The information flow concerning COVID-19 is interesting. There are some of my vendors who are in full freak out mode, as they are already getting short on items imported from China. Some of these items are part of a larger item being put together either in Mexico or here in the States. Other items are things that my vendors simply repackage and resell. I have also heard a rumor that certain chemicals and finished copper products are going to have issues in the near future. There are some vendors that are just “shoulder shrugging” the whole thing off at this point. The reactions are all over the board from my vendors.

    I imagine that we will know a lot more when the Spring AC calls start coming as most vendors typically have a 30-60 day safety supply stateside.

    This could end up quite profitable for other regions of the world vs. China, and it may be business that China will never get back. Time will tell.

    Posted in Business, China, COVID-19 | 4 Comments »

    COVID-19 Update Morning 2-14-2020

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 14th February 2020 (All posts by )

    There are currently 65,213 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, including 1,486 fatalities. Of which 4,823 new cases and 116 new deaths were reported in Hubei province, China.
    .
    There are several trends in this update, as well as the headline summary. First Community spreading of COVID-19 is now established in Hong Kong (attached graphic), Japan and Singapore.
    COVID-19 in Hong Kong

    COVID-19 in Hong Kong

    .
    Second, the shut down of China as an economic power seems near complete. See the JP Morgan coal for electricity usage and the Goldman Sachs economic projection charts attached to this post. The JP Morgan chart shows that while traditionally daily coal consumption – the primary commodity used to keep China electrified – rebounds in the days following the Lunar New Year collapse when China hibernates for one week. This is not the case this now. There hasn’t been even a modest increase, indicating that so far there hasn’t been a return to work.
    .
    2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption

    2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption

    .
    Short Form — Lack of Chinese coal use/electric power generation indicates the scale of Chinese industries that are shut down…AKA near total.
    .
    And the “Just-In-Time/Sole-Source in China” world-wide, Multi-national corporation, economic shut down virus is gathering a huge economic momentum. Nissan has shut down auto production in addition to South Korea’s Hyundai for lack of Chinese parts. Rumor has it that Ford has the same issue — as their heater coils in their autos are sole sourced in China — and will soon shut down auto production.  Anything cheap or disposable in the world economy is sourced in China, and the Chinese economy is now off-line for the foreseeable future.
    Near Term Economic Projections for China

    Near Term Economic Projections for China

    .
    Third, China is again playing games with COVID-19 numbers and particularly the announced deaths to keep the death rate at 2.1%, saying deaths were “double counted”?!? (See JP Morgan graphic).
    .
    Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers

    Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers

    .
     This has been ‘officially noticed’ by the White House.
    .
    See:
    White House does not have ‘high confidence’ in China’s coronavirus information, official says
    .
    .
    Fourth, American COVID-19 are now officially 15 with a case in San Antonio, Texas from a Wuhan evacuation flight and no deaths. I say “officially” as there possible COVID-19 death in Boise, ID. See:
    .
    .
    The possible COVID-19 victim was a 71-year-old man found dead on Feb 9 in an advanced state of decomposition. He returned from China Feb 5. The initial testing came up negative, but additional tests are being run. The cause of death has not been released.
    .
    An idea of what “Community spreading” in Singapore means can be seen in the following report:
    .
    “Singapore Casino employee confirmed with COVID-19; symptomatic Feb 5, hospitalized Feb 9
    On February 13, 2020, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) pointed out that the confirmed case of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Singapore announced on February 11 is an employee at the casino in Resorts World Sentosa Casino. The employee developed symptoms on February 5 and was hospitalized in isolation on February 9. Travelers who visited the casino during the communicable period (February 4-9) are advised to call 1922, put on a face mask and seek immediate medical attention as instructed if suspected symptoms develop within 2 weeks. Moreover, such travelers should inform the physician of any relevant travel history when seeking medical attention.”
    .

    .

    World Headline Summary:
    .
    o China says 1,716 medical workers have been infected
    o Singapore reports largest daily jump in cases amid increased human-to-human transmission
    o Hong Kong reports 3 new cases
    o Hubei’s new party boss orders quarantine tightened
    o President Xi touts new “biosecurity law”
    o Hong Kong Disney land offers space for quarantine
    o Chinese company says blood plasma of recovered patients useful in combating the virus
    o US mulling new travel restrictions

    -end-

    Posted in China, Civil Society, COVID-19, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Health Care, Medicine, Politics, Urban Issues, USA | 59 Comments »

    How to Think About 2019-nCov

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 8th February 2020 (All posts by )

    In the wake of Ebola, NVD-68, and Zika, we should have all learned our lesson by now. We haven’t. This is 2020—Iowans took a week to count the votes of 5% of their population, and an elderly white Northeastern president is principally opposed by a gaggle of downright ancient white Northeasterners. There aren’t any quick fixes for emergent idiocies like those, but a few simple heuristics will go a long way toward avoiding panic over coronavirus.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation, Business, China, COVID-19, Current Events, Health Care, International Affairs, Markets and Trading, Predictions, Society, Transportation, USA | 45 Comments »

    The Old Navy, by Daniel Pratt Mannix III

    Posted by David Foster on 16th December 2019 (All posts by )

    Admiral Mannix served in the Spanish-American War, the conflicts in Cuba and the Philippines, and the First World War.  His career spanned the years of America’s emergence as a major player on the world stage, and this book offers memorable portraits of the Navy and of America…and of much of the world…during this period.

    After spending his childhood in China (his father was a torpedo expert working for the Chinese government), Mannix entered the US Naval Academy in 1885. When the battleship Maine blew up in Havana harbor and the Spanish-American war erupted in 1898, he requested permission to leave the Academy early, and joined the battleship USS Indianapolis.

    The war resulted in a rapid American victory, despite some serious deficiencies in the American conduct of operations (such as the failure to use smokeless powder), and Mannix observed the sad passage of the Spanish admiral into American captivity, in an open boat, wearing civilian clothes loaned to him by an American captain and with his head lowered in deep dejection: “I was never so sorry for anyone in my life.”  He was impressed by the exquisite courtesy of a badly-wounded Spanish officer who had lost a leg:

    As though making his adieux after an enjoyable evening, he thanked us for our “hospitality” (no, he wasn’t being sarcastic) and expressed his profound regret for the annoyance that his unfortunate arrival had caused…I have met men of all nationalities during my years in the Navy; in “good breeding” none of them could equal the upper-class Spaniards.

    After returning to Annapolis, Mannix graduated in 1900, and he sketches what life was like in America at the turn of the last century: some of the popular songs and comedy acts, the Gibson Girl (“the loveliest of all feminine ideas”, in his view), but also the fear of riots and attempted revolution when President McKinley was assassinated in 1901…New York’s ‘streetcar rowdies’, who molested women and beat up any man who tried to stop them…and a riot in Pensacola’s red-light district which involved civilians, soldiers, and sailors (“a far rougher lot than today’s bluejackets”) and which Mannix led a landing party to suppress.

    In 1903, Mannix was assigned to a “friendly mission” of four warships to German ports, as ordered by Theodore Roosevelt.  “These ‘friendship tours’ were quite common in those days and paradoxically served a dual purpose:  they reminded the foreign power that we had a powerful Navy that could reach their home waters while at the same time allowed the people to meet Americans and learn that we were not all strange, uncivilized barbarians.”

    Assigned as an aide on the Admiral’s staff, aboard the battleship Kearsage, he met many German officers and found them mostly friendly.  The Kaiser also visited Kearsage, and Mannix was impressed that he chatted with the enlisted men as well the officers.  “Much to my surprise, he showed a sense of humor.”

    One potentially-disastrous incident involved a collision between a German (or at least Prussian) custom:  civilians on the street were supposed to give way to any uniform-wearing officer…and an American naval custom:  officers generally did not wear their uniforms when ashore.  This collision of customs lead to a physical collision, followed by the use of fists by the American officer, and a challenge to a duel.  The situation could have led to a serious diplomatic incident had it not been defused.

    Throughout his travels, Mannix enjoyed meeting people from other countries…a view that he says was far from universal.  Speaking of a luncheon given by the Lord Mayor of London, he says, “To my astonishment, most of the junior officers were reluctant to attend the luncheon and would far  rather have spent their time playing cards together or chatting in the wardroom mess.”

    Some of the officers he met at the luncheon were members of the First Life Guards, an “elite” regiment that was open only to the wealthy and titled…”Kipling referred to them contemptuously as the “fatted flunkies of the Army.”  But:

    Twenty years later I was in Constantinople and the Household Brigade of the British Army was stationed there.  I looked over the list to see if I could recognize any old acquaintances.  Among all those names there were only two or three who had titles…Where were all those young earls and baronets and honorables?  They were dead.  Most of them had died in August 1914 during the terrible retreat from Mons when the old British Regular Army virtually ceased to exist.  They were not “fatted flunkies” there.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Britain, China, Europe, Germany, History, Middle East, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 22 Comments »

    Chinese Chequers and Other Spectator Games

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th October 2019 (All posts by )

    The irony of very well-recompensed nominally-American basketball players of color reacting with wild indignation to American criticism of China with regard to heavy-handed treatment of citizens of Tibet and residents of Hong Kong is of a density so thick and heavy that it threatens to drop through the core of the earth and come out the other side. This of course, after months of rather public displays by professional athletes of color making a big thing of knee-taking and demonstrations of disapproval during the playing of the American national anthem at the start of various games. This cheap display of woke-virtue sporting world division may already have sunk the National Football League, in the minds and hearts of those fans of football in Flyoverlandia-America. I suppose now we can look forward to seeing the same fatal holed-below-the-waterline-and-sinking-fast pattern in the round-bouncy-ball franchise; honestly, it’s as if the NBA is basically saying, “Hold my beer and watch this!” Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Business, China, Current Events, Customer Service, Film, Media | 16 Comments »

    “The Katakombe Stood Upright”

    Posted by David Foster on 11th October 2019 (All posts by )

    …as did South Park

    In 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor, Sebastian Haffner was working as a junior lawyer (refendar) in the Prussian High Court, the Kammergericht. He was comforted by the continuity of the legal process:

    The newspapers might report that the constitution was in ruins. Here every paragraph of the Civil Code was still valid and was mulled over and analyzed as carefully as ever…The Chancellor could daily utter the vilest abuse against the Jews; there was nonetheless still a Jewish Kammergerichtsrat (high court judge) and member of our senate who continued to give his astute and careful judgments, and these judgments had the full weight of the law and could set the entire apparatus of the state in motion for their enforcement–even if the highest office-holder of that state daily called their author a ‘parasite’, a ‘subhuman’ or a ‘plague’.

    But on March 31st, the Nazis came to the Kammergericht. Haffner was in the library, reading some document on which he had to give an opinion. There was a clatter of footsteps in the corridor, shouts, and doors banging. Brown uniforms surged in, and the leader announced that all “non-Aryans” must leave immediately. One brown shirt approached Haffner and asked “Are you Aryan?”

    Before I had a chance to think, I had said, ‘Yes.’ He took a close look at my nose–and retired. The blood shot to my face. A moment too late I felt the shame, the defeat….I had failed my very first test.

    As I left the Kammergericht it stood there, grey, cool and calm as ever, set back from the street in its distinguished setting. There was nothing to show that, as an institution, it had just collapsed.

    Haffner tells us that even during Germany’s previous eras of autocracy, there had been at least some tradition of judicial independence, represented by the Kammergericht. He relates the story of Frederick the Great and the miller of Potsdam: The king wanted a windmill removed because it interfered with the view from his palace, and offered to buy it. The miller refused, and the king threatened to dispossess him. Challenging this royal version of eminent domain, the miller said, “Just so, your majesty, but there’s still the Kammergericht in Berlin.” (When Haffner wrote, the mill was still there) All that was over, now.

    It was strange to sit in the Kammergericht again, the same courtroom, the same seats, acting as if nothing had happened. The same ushers stood at the doors and ensured, as ever, that the dignity of the court was not disturbed. Even the judges were for the most part the same people. Of course, the Jewish judge was no longer there. He had not even been dismissed. He was an old gentleman and had served under the Kaiser, so he had been moved to an administrative position at some Amtsgericht (lower court). His position on the senate was taken by an open-faced, blond young Amtsgerichtsrat, with glowing cheeks, who did not seem to belong among the grave Kammergerichtsrats…It was whispered that in private the newcomer was something high up in the SS.

    The new judge didn’t seem to know much about law, but asserted his points in a “fresh, confident voice.”

    We Refendars, who had just passed our exams, exchanged looks while he expounded. At last the president of the senate remarked with perfect politeness, ‘Colleague, could it be that you have overlooked paragraph 816 of the Civil Code?’ At which the new high court judge looked embarrassed…leafed through his copy of the code and then admitted lightly, ‘Oh, yes. Well, then it’s just the other way around.’ Those were the triumphs of the older law.

    There were, however, other cases–cases in which the newcomer did not back down…stating that here the paragraph of the law must yield precedence; he would instruct his co-judges that the meaning was more important than the letter of the law…Then, with the gesture of a romantic stage hero, he would insist on some untenable decision. It was piteous to observe the faces of the older Kammergerichtsrats as this went on. They looked at their notes with an expression of indescribable dejection, while their fingers nervously twisted a paper-clip or a piece of blotting paper. They were used to failing candidates for the Assessor examination for spouting the kind of nonsense that was now being presented as the pinnacle of wisdom; but now this nonsense was backed by the full power of the state, by the threat of dismissal for lack of national reliability, loss of livelihood, the concentration camp…They begged for a little understanding for the Civil Code and tried to save what they could.

    A few people dared to speak up against the regime, but not many…and they were not always the people that one would have predicted. On the evening of the day when Jews were evicted from the Kammergericht, Haffner went with his girlfriend to a nightclub called the Katacombe. The master of ceremonies was a comic actor and satirical cabaret performer named Werner Fink:

    His act remained full of harmless amiability in a country where these qualities were on the liquidation list. This harmless amiability hid a kernel of real, indomitable courage. He dared to speak openly about the reality of the Nazis, and that in the middle of Germany. His patter contained references to concentration camps, the raids on people’s homes, the general fear and general lies. He spoke of these things with infinitely quiet mockery, melancholy, and sadness. Listening to him was extraordinarily comforting.

    In the morning, the Prussian Kammergericht, with its tradition of hundreds of years, had ignobly capitulated before the Nazis. In the same evening, a small troop of artistes, with no tradition to back them up, demonstrated the courage to speak forbidden thoughts. “The Kammergericht had fallen but the Katakombe stood upright.”

    As, in 2019, did South Park.

    Posted in China, Germany, History, USA | 10 Comments »

    So, Really Want to Talk About Foreign Intervention? (updated)

    Posted by David Foster on 7th October 2019 (All posts by )

    Much ink and many photons have been spent discussing Russia’s attempts to influence (or at least disrupt) the American 2016 Presidential campaign.  Meanwhile…

    Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, sent out a tweet which said “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.”  Tencent, the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, reacted by suspending business relations with the Rockets, and is offering fans who purchased a year-long pass to watch Rockets games the chance to switch it to a different team. A number of other Chinese companies have pulled sponsorship deals with the Rockets as well.  Morey issued an apology which said in part ” was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”

    And from last year:  here’s an appalling story about how anger from the Chinese government led Marriott Corporation to fire an employee who had ‘liked’ a tweet which congratulated the company for listing Tibet as a country, along with Hong Kong and Taiwan….of course, the Chinese regime considers Tibet to be a part of China, not a separate country.

    China forced Marriott to suspend all online booking for a week at its nearly 300 Chinese hotels. A Chinese leader also demanded the company publicly apologize and “seriously deal with the people responsible,” the Journal reported.

    And boy, did Marriott ever apologize. Craig Smith, president of the hotel chain’s Asian division, told the China Daily that Marriott had committed two significant mistakes — presumably the survey listing Tibet and the liked tweet — that “appeared to undermine Marriott’s long-held respect for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

    He announced an “eight-point rectification plan” that included education for hotel employees across the globe and stricter supervision.

    And the Marriott executive said this to China’s most-read English-language newspaper: “This is a huge mistake, probably one of the biggest in my career.”

    (More here…according to this article, the Chinese suppression of Marriott bookings was in response to the initial listing of Tibet as a country rather than to the tweet approving of this listing)

    The Chinese economy is, shall we say, a little more dynamic than that of Russia, so the government of China has much more ability to strong-arm American corporations (in general) than does the Putin regime.

    Turning now from the hotel industry to the movie industry, Richard Gere says that Chinese pressure due to his stand on Tibetan independence has led to his being dropped from big Hollywood movies.  Also:

    Gere’s activities have not just made Hollywood apparently reluctant to cast him in big films, he says they once resulted in him being banished from an independently financed, non-studio film which was not even intended for a Chinese release.

    “There was something I was going to do with a Chinese director, and two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it,’” Gere recalled. “We had a secret phone call on a protected line. If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work.”

    See also How China’s Censors Influence Hollywood.  Because the Chinese market is so large…(Fast and Furious 7 pulled in $388 million in China, more than it made in the US)…the influence of the Chinese regime on US film production and distribution has become immense.

    In recent years, foreign filmmakers have also gone out of their way not to provoke the Communist Party. For instance, the 2012 remake of the Cold War action movie, Red Dawn, originally featured Chinese soldiers invading an American town. After filming was complete, though, the moviemakers went back and turned the attacking army into North Koreans, which seemed a safer target, at least until last year’s hack of Sony Pictures.

    and

    Ying Zhu, a professor of media culture at the College of Staten Island at the City University of New York, worries China’s growing market power is giving the Communist Party too much leverage over Hollywood.

    “The Chinese censors can act as world film police on how China can be depicted, how China’s government can be depicted, in Hollywood films,” she says. “Therefore, films critical of the Chinese government will be absolutely taboo.”

    In the late 1990s, when China’s box office was still small, Hollywood did make movies that angered the Communist Party, such as Seven Years In Tibet, about the life of the Dalai Lama, and Red Corner, a Richard Gere thriller that criticized China’s legal system. Given the importance of the China market now, Zhu says those movies wouldn’t get financing today.

    Plus, Chinese companies have snapped up Hollywood studios, theaters and production companies.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Business, China, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Environment, Film, Media, Science, Tech, USA | 28 Comments »

    China and Hong Kong are coming to some sort of decision.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 29th August 2019 (All posts by )

    The Hong Kong demonstrations are still going on.

    Now, The CCP has been sending troops into the city, saying it is just a troop “rotation” but no photos of troops leaving have been seen.

    Michael Yon, who covered Iraq and Afghanistan, is onscene.

    He is also watching both Koreas. He considers neither trustworthy.

    The proximate cause of the Korea-Japan “dispute” is Korean cultural weakness that magnifies, amplifies, fertilizes any paper cut into gangrene. The USA and Japan must be prepared to amputate South Korea. The day is coming.

    Korea has an unstable mind and culture. Korean Lives Matter: they create drama from thin air. Drama Queen, meet Drama Korea.

    Korea (North and South) is the proximate cause of the disputes between Koreans, Americans, Japanese. The proximate cause is a volatile and primitive Korean culture.

    The ultimate cause of the disputes is China. Core China culture runs Korea as a barnyard animal.

    As for Hong Kong, Strategic Elegance: “Home Depot says suppliers are moving manufacturing out of China to avoid tariffs”

    Some of the jobs probably moving to countries like Taiwan and Vietnam.

    Think about this for a moment:

    1) China loses jobs, and thus economic clout and expansion money. Some Chinese workers likely become unemployed…while China is having some food supply problems (true extent unknown to me).

    2) Chinese jobs move to other countries that we can get along great with, such as Taiwan. Taiwan grows economy, becomes tighter with USA, and buys US goods (including weapons) as economy increases. US weapons can be used to blunt China’s false claims in Taiwan.

    3) Taiwan and others buying more US goods (including weapons) increases American jobs and economy, which helps fund “the wall.”

    Win win win for the good guys and gals. Lose lose lose for CCP.

    Hold strong Hong Kong! Hong Kong does not have to beat CCP — only outlive.

    We are entering very dangerous times and the media sees only the politics of 2020.

    Watch that Steve Bannon video at SDA. He thinks that if the CCP goes into Hong Kong to do another Tiananmen Square, the CCP will collapse.

    Posted in China, Current Events, National Security | 29 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2019 (All posts by )

    Haven’t posted one of these for while, so here are a few links I found interesting…

    Tom Wolfe on the space race as a combat of individual champions in the ancient style.

    Zoning rules as an enemy of shade.

    Sarah Hoyt on the human tendency to assume that the conditions of the past still apply.  (Even the purely imagined and stereotypical conditions of the past, in some cases, I’d add)

    Interesting ‘blog’ by Holly (Maths Geek).  (Actually a Twitter feed…people who are on Twitter would IMO do well to mirror all content onto a traditional blog unless they are willing to have their work at the mercy of Jack Dorsey and his minions)

    Despite all the concern and hype about Russian hacking, China’s spying and influence within our borders are rising.  See also this case of a former GE engineer and a businessman charged with stealing turbine technology, with the “financial and other support” of the Chinese government.  Additionally, see my post So, really want to talk about foreign intervention?

    Posted in Big Government, Blogging, China, Deep Thoughts, Feminism, History, Human Behavior, Science, Space, Tech | 8 Comments »

    Perception and…

    Posted by David Foster on 14th July 2019 (All posts by )

    Culture?  Language?  Genetics?

    Alison Gopnik, writing in the WSJ, discusses an interesting experiment on problem solving in very young children which was run by two researchers at UC San Diego, following on to research in which Gopnik was herself involved.  Children of various ages were shown a machine that lights up when you put a block of a certain color or shape on it.  “Even toddlers can easily figure out that a green block makes the machine go while a blue block doesn’t.”

    The researchers wondered:  what if the test was of the relationship between objects..say, two square blocks of the same color made the machine light up, but not two blocks of different colors?

    For American children, 18-month-old children had no trouble figuring out that the relationship between the objects was the key thing.  But older American children, 3-year-olds, did worse at the relationship test than did their younger counterparts.  For Chinese children, however, the fall-off in relationship-assessing performance between 18 months and 3 years old did not happen.

    Here’s a reasonably decent summary of the paper’s main points, and here’s the paper itself.

    Why the fall-off for American kids?  (A temporary fall-off, it seems…the researchers say that the American kids recover their relationship-assessing skills between the ages of  4-6 years.)  One hypothesis is language….possibly the “noun spurt” that is said to characterize early-English learning has something to do with it.  Or perhaps there are broader cultural factors:  “In particular, there are well-documented differ- ences in holistic and analytic processing (and relatedly, collectivist and individualist cognitive styles) across cultures, which may simi- larly result in an emphasis on relationships between entities or on characteristics of individual entities. More broadly, environmental variation across these learning contexts (e.g., socioeconomic status, number of siblings, and pedagogical and child- rearing practices) may differentially affect general cognitive skills that are known to influence relational reasoning, like executive function.”  (quoted from the paper)

    Or, perhaps, could there be a genetic explanation?…Would children of Chinese ancestry, raised in the US in English-speaking homes, show more often the Chinese  pattern or the American pattern in these experiments?  While a genetic explanation seems unlikely to me, I would think it should at least be considered.

    Most likely, to me, seems the language explanation.  The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, which has also been dubbed ‘linguistic relativity’, holds that the language we speak has a major impact on how we perceive the world…it fell into some disrepute after WWII because of its appropriation by the Nazis to make claims of cultural superiority and also because of some apparent errors in Whorf’s reporting, concerning for example the Inuit words for ‘snow’…it does make sense, however, that language has a significant impact on what thoughts can be most easily expressed and hence on what thoughts are most likely to be conceived.

    Posted in Academia, China, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, USA | 10 Comments »

    The Compleat Spy Requires AI

    Posted by David Foster on 18th June 2019 (All posts by )

    China’s intelligence services appear to be using LinkedIn, with profile pictures generated artificially, for the recruitment of agents.

    Chinese intrusion into US affairs has not generally gotten anywhere near the attention that Russian intrusion…real, attempted, or imagined…has gotten, but it needs more visibility.  See my related post So, Really Want to Talk About Foreign Intervention?

    Posted in Business, China, Internet, Russia, Tech | 3 Comments »

    The Trade War and Agriculture.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th May 2019 (All posts by )

    We are entering a period when the tariff controversy with China is getting serious.

    The Wall Street Journal is worried.

    A failure to break an impasse in talks in Washington on Friday opened a new phase in the trade fight after more than five months of back-and-forth negotiations. This time, some economists and analysts said, Beijing is taking stock of potential economic damage from higher tariffs.

    The U.S. raised punitive tariffs to 25%, from 10%, for $200 billion in goods leaving China on Friday and thereafter. President Trump also ordered staff to begin the paperwork to impose levies on the more than $300 billion worth of everything else China sells to the U.S.

    While Beijing has met previous volleys of tariffs from the U.S. by raising duties on American goods—and the government has promised to retaliate—it held its fire. Though China has more limited tariff options, since it imports fewer products from the U.S. than the other way around, the Chinese leadership is also constrained by an economy that is in a shaky recovery from a sharp slowdown.

    There is talk of China boycotting US farm products. They tried it a year ago.

    The world’s biggest oilseed processor just confirmed one of the soybean market’s biggest fears: China has essentially stopped buying U.S. supplies amid the brewing trade war.

    “Whatever they’re buying is non-U.S.,” Bunge Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Soren Schroder said in a telephone interview Wednesday. “They’re buying beans in Canada, in Brazil, mostly Brazil, but very deliberately not buying anything from the U.S.”

    In a move that caught many in U.S. agriculture by surprise, China last month announced planned tariffs on American shipments of soybeans.

    The boycott failed.

    “China has to resume purchases of U.S. soybeans,” Oil World said in its latest newsletter. “The South American supply shortage will make it necessary for China, in our opinion, to import 15 million tonnes of U.S. soybeans in October 2018/March 2019, even if the current trade war is not resolved.”

    China may not be in good shape to handle a trade war.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China, Current Events, Economics & Finance, Politics, Trump | 58 Comments »

    A Robot of the Week, Revisited

    Posted by David Foster on 20th February 2019 (All posts by )

    In a robots of the week post a while back, I mentioned two companies that are attempting to automate the apparel-production process. Recently, one of these companies, Softwear Automation, announced that its Sewbot product is now also available on a rental basis under the banner Sewbot as a Service.  (SaaS, playing off the acronym for the currently-hot field of Software as a Service.)  From the SaaS announcement:

    From 1994 to 2005, the United States lost more than 900,000 textile and apparel jobs to offshoring.

    Fast-forward to 2018. The pendulum is swinging back and textiles are returning as lean, highly automated, environmentally conscious production facilities. Within the last six years, there have been significant announcements by foreign-owned textile companies investing in the United States, with site selection choices clustered in the Southeast including the first Chinese owned Cut Make Trim factory in Arkansas.

    Despite this industry reversal, the seamstresses are not returning. While the knowledge can be shared to upskill workers, people don’t have the  desire to work in a traditional textile factory.

    To solve this and accelerate the growth of US based textile manufacturing, Softwear Automation is announcing SEWBOTS-as-a-Service, a rental lease service to allow manufacturers, brands, and retailers to source and manufacture here in the US at a lower cost than outsourcing and with greater predictability and quality. While we understand the benefits of “Made in America”, the focus of this program is to offer US textile manufacturing more control, greater margin, faster turn times and less inventory.

    The rental rate for Sewbot is quoted as starting at $5000/month, which comes to $55/shift for a three-shift operation.Softwear is also now offering production-rate estimates for various kinds of textile products. For microfiber towels, a single operator supervising 6 robots can make 2880 towels in an 8-hour shift, compared with 223 towels for a single operator performing traditional manual activities.   Other product types which the company sees as suitable for Sewbot automation include mattress covers, pillows, automotive floormats, t-shirts, and shoes (uppers).

    Most aspects of the apparel supply chain have long been highly automated: indeed, the mechanization of spinning and weaving was the hallmark of the Industrial Revolution.  The sewing process, however, has remained stubbornly labor-intensive, largely because the flexible nature of fabric makes it hard to handle mechanically.  Softwear Automation’s solution involves the use of machine vision for precise fabric positioning.  This article at IEEE Spectrum explains a little bit about how it works.

    Depending on how well these systems turn out to work in practice, and how the technology evolves, they may turn out to be not only the robots of the week, but the robots of the year or even the decade.  Apparel-making is a vast industry, concentrated in nations which are not-so-well-off economically, and employs a large number of people. A high level of automation would likely result in much of this production being relocated closer to the markets, thus saving transportation costs and shortening supply cycles.  The consequences for countries like China, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka could be pretty unpleasant.  For the US, the onshoring of the work would seem clearly to be beneficial.

    I don’t know enough about the industry to analyze the economics of Sewbot vs low-wage-country production in any depth, but back-of-the envelope for one product type (the towels) suggests that on a pure direct labor cost per unit basis, a US-based Sewbot can still be undercut by human labor rates below about $4/hour.  (Calculated using the rental rate:  for many companies, purchase may offer better economics.)  But production isn’t the only factor in the product cost equation, of course, and in many situations proximity to end markets will be of considerable value: especially simpler inventory control and faster response to style changes. And a Made in the USA label is surely worth at least something.  Also, the economics may be different for some of the other product types…for the t-shirts, the company is citing a unit cost of $.33 for US-based production using  Sewbot…this compares with something around $.22 for a country such as Bangladesh, and is probably cheaper than China at the current wage rates.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, China, India, International Affairs, Tech, USA, Vietnam | 6 Comments »

    Even Smart People Get It Wrong Sometimes

    Posted by David Foster on 7th February 2019 (All posts by )

    Economist Art Laffer:

    “China is a huge plus to the U.S. because without China there is no Walmart, and without Walmart there is no middle class or lower class prosperity in America.”

    Actually, the US was known for broad-based prosperity long before either Walmart or China was a significant factor.  It was really only in the 1980s that Walmart’s expansion really took off…and it was then by no means as China-dependent as it has more recently become.  Indeed, starting in 1984 and extending at least through the early 1990s, Walmart was a strong supporter of the Crafted with Pride in the USA campaign, which was launched by textile entrepreneur Roger Milliken, among others.

    China’s presence in the global marketplace was greatly expanded by the Permanent Normal Trade Relations bill, which was signed by President Clinton in October 2000, as well as by China’s own economic-liberalization policies.  (Some data on the growth of Chinese exports over time, here)

    Real mean US household income, which is effectively a measure of price levels as well as wages/salaries, grew from $71773 in 1985 to $93887 in 2000.  Fifteen years later, in 2015, it had risen to only $95887.  (2017 dollars)

    Real median household income  grew from $51455 in 1985 to $59938 in fifteen years later, in 2000. In 2015, this indicator had actually declined to $58476.  (It grew to $61372 by 2017)

    There are a lot of factors that affect an economy, of course, and it would be unfair to conclude that the slowdown in American household income growth was caused by the vast expansion of trade with China.  Maybe it would have been even worse without Chinese imports and exports?

    National Review writer Robet VerBruggen cites “research” suggesting that “consumers save hundreds of billions of dollars per year thanks to expanded trade with China, and six-figure sums for every manufacturing job lost.  (Tucker) Carlson may be right that cheap junk from China doesn’t make us happy in any fundamental way, but it would put serious strains on family budgets if all that junk got expensive again.”

    Maybe. But I doubt if the strains would really be all that serious over time. If manufacturers did not have vast reservoirs of low-wage labor available for production of a particular product, then the incentives to improve productivity when making that product with high-wage labor would be greatly increased. Capital investment that makes no sense when you are paying workers $1.50/hour may make great sense when you have to pay $15/hour.  Furthermore, product designs themselves can often be changed in minor ways to make them more manufacturable; again, this would help reduce the cost impact of domestic or other high-wage-country manufacturing.

    I doubt if the strains on family budgets resulting from such changes in production-labor costs would have anywhere near the impact that has resulted from dysfunctional public schools (resulting in a need to pay for private schooling or move to a pricier neighborhood), unreasonable constraints on home-building, and out-of-control administrative and facilities spending by universities, coupled with irresponsible marketing of degree programs and student loans by same.

    One thing that has definitely been beneficial about China’s export trade is the drastic reduction in poverty in that country; this reduction is indeed something that we should all celebrate.  I suspect, however, that given economic liberalization, China could probably be doing just as well or almost as well with an economic approach that is not so extreme in its trade orientation but more focused on satisfying domestic demand…and this would probably be much more sustainable for them in the long run.

    Also, here are some additional links on US wage trends for anyone who’s interested:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, China, Economics & Finance, Tech, USA | 29 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 27th January 2019 (All posts by )

    Why do journalists love twitter and hate blogging?

    The legacy of China’s Confucian bureaucracy.  Related:  my previous post on the costs of formalism and credentialism.

    Stroking egos does nothing for students — raising expectation does.

    Magic and Politics.

    Related to the above:  Witches: the new woke heroines.

    Legos, marketing, and gender.  “In 1981,” says a woman who as a child was pictured in a Legos ad back then, “LEGOs were ‘Universal Building Sets’ and that’s exactly what they were…for boys and girls. Toys are supposed to foster creativity. But nowadays, it seems that a lot more toys already have messages built into them before a child even opens the pink or blue package.”

    What will be the economic impact of China’s increasing emphasis on economic control and preferential treatment for state-run enterprises?

    What is the fastest the US economy can grow?

    Midnight at the Gemba. Kevin Meyer visits the night shift at the medical-device molding plant he was running.

    Posted in Blogging, Business, Capitalism, China, Culture, Economics & Finance, Management, Media, Religion | 12 Comments »

    The Costs of Formalism and Credentialism

    Posted by David Foster on 16th December 2018 (All posts by )

    Via Grim, an interesting post at the Federalist:  Our Culture War Is Between People Who Get Results And Empty Suits With Pristine Credentials.

    Subtitle:  Donald Trump declines the authority of the cultural sectors that most assertively claim it. That’s the real conflict going on.

    I’m reminded of an interchange that took place between Picasso and Monet as the German Army advanced through France in 1940.  Monet was shocked to learn that the enemy had already reached Reims.  “But what about our generals?” asked Monet. “What are they doing.”

    Picasso’s response: “Well, there you have it, my friend. It’s the Ecole des Beaux-Arts”

    …ie, formalists who had learned one set of rules and were not interested in considering deviations from same.

    It was an astute remark, and it fits very well with the observations of Andre Beaufre, who before the invasion had been a young captain on the French General Staff. Although he had initially been thrilled to be placed among this elevated circle…

    I saw very quickly that our seniors were primarily concerned with forms of drafting. Every memorandum had to be perfect, written in a concise, impersonal style, and conforming to a logical and faultless plan–but so abstract that it had to be read several times before one could find out what it was about…”I have the honour to inform you that I have decided…I envisage…I attach some importance to the fact that…” Actually no one decided more than the barest minimum, and what indeed was decided was pretty trivial.

    The consequences of that approach became clear in May 1940.

    In addition to the formalism that Picasso hypothesized (and Beaufre observed) on the French General Staff, the civilian side of the French government was highly credential-oriented.  From the linked article:

    In the first days of July, 1940, the American diplomat Robert Murphy took up his duties as the chargé d’affaires at the new U.S. embassy in Vichy, France. Coming from his recent post in Paris, he was as impressed as he expected to be by the quality of the Vichy mandarinate, a highly credentialed class of sophisticated officials who were “products of the most rigorous education and curricula in any public administration in the world.”

    As the historian Robert Paxton would write, French officials were “the elite of the elite, selected through a daunting series of relentless examinations for which one prepared at expensive private schools.” In July 1940, the elite of the elite governed the remains of their broken nation, a few days after Adolf Hitler toured Paris as its conqueror. Credentials were the key to holding public office, but not the key to success at the country’s business.

    It certainly appears that the current protests and riots in France are at least in part due to long-simmering resentment at that country’s credentialed class, whose performance has not matched their pretensions.  An interesting anecdote about Macron, in the Sunday Express:

    This is a man who chastised a teenager at an official event for calling him “Manu” (the friendly diminutive of Emmanuel), saying that he should not express a view until he has acquired a degree and a job.

    and

    Macron is a graduate of the Ecole Normale d’administration (ENA), an elite Grande Ecole created by General De Gaulle in 1945 to break the upper class control of top Civil Service positions. 

    In reality, only nine percent of ENA the graduates that fill the corridors of power in industry and government have a working class background.  The top 12 or 15 students will move to L’Inspection générale des finances (IGF), and then into a career in politics, or finance, Macron’s chosen route since he became a partner with Rothschild and Cie bank.

    Americans should not feel smug about our relatively-lesser obsession with credentials.  I’ve previously quoted  something Peter Drucker wrote in 1969:

    One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…

    and

    It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers. It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the engineer with a degree from North Idaho A. and M. is an engineer and not a draftsman.

    We as a country are a lot closer to accepting Grande Ecole status for Harvard Law School and similar institutions than we were when Drucker wrote the above.  We haven’t gone as far as France and other European nations, but the trend has clearly been in the wrong direction.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, China, Deep Thoughts, Education, Europe, France, History, Society, Trump, USA | 15 Comments »

    China is our enemy.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th October 2018 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: Richard Fernandez has has a new column that bears on this issue.

    He describes a new article about what was called “The Third Way,” a political movement that was to replace the Democrats after 1988.

    The Third Way, the political movement that crested at the end of the 20thcentury and the beginning of the 21st, represented the most recent effort to reimagine the centre-left in the face of massive economic and social changes.

    At its apogee, when it dominated the politics of United States, the UK, and Germany, it was thought to provide a stable template for governance well into the new century. Confidence ran high that the business cycle had been tamed and that the forces of globalisation and technology could be managed for the good of average citizens as well as meritocratic elites.

    You could almost call it “The Deep State” and it has lost its way.

    China, in the meantime, has moved into a lead.

    As events proved, the unipolar world did not remain the only game in town. “Russia regressed to autocracy; radical Islamism went to war against the West; China became far more prosperous without becoming a whit more democratic, confuting decades of modernization theories,” Galston wrote. Entrepreneurship declined, middle class incomes stagnated and a revolt against unlimited immigration began. Most of all new decentralized technological possibilities arose within the West. In a word, the power of the elites at the center was challenged as never before. All this came to an unexpected head in 2016.

    Now all enemies are near enemies, as the supply chain problem and the “collusion” allegations in every Western country illustrate. We are engulfed in a civil war because in a globalized world that’s the only kind there is. Yet in retrospect Brexit and the election of Donald Trump should not have been the shocks they were. They were only surprises because the media refused to see the growing storm.

    There has been quite a bit lately about the China trade deficit. Trump has proposed tariffs on Chinese imports until China treats US products fairly. The recent trade talks with Mexico and Canada are based on the knowledge that much of this NAFTA trade is really with China that send products like steel to Mexico and Canada, which is then incorporated into products imported by the US as north American manufactures.

    Now we have evidence that China is more than a trade rival.

    But that’s just what U.S. investigators found: The chips had been inserted during the manufacturing process, two officials say, by operatives from a unit of the People’s Liberation Army. In Supermicro, China’s spies appear to have found a perfect conduit for what U.S. officials now describe as the most significant supply chain attack known to have been carried out against American companies.
    One official says investigators found that it eventually affected almost 30 companies, including a major bank, government contractors, and the world’s most valuable company, Apple Inc. Apple was an important Supermicro customer and had planned to order more than 30,000 of its servers in two years for a new global network of data centers. Three senior insiders at Apple say that in the summer of 2015, it, too, found malicious chips on Supermicro motherboards.

    This was an espionage act that infiltrated US Defense computer systems.

    I have been convinced for some time that Russia is a stalking horse form Democrat politicians, like the Clintons, who have been bought and paid for by China.

    One government official says China’s goal was long-term access to high-value corporate secrets and sensitive government networks. No consumer data is known to have been stolen.
    The ramifications of the attack continue to play out. The Trump administration has made computer and networking hardware, including motherboards, a focus of its latest round of trade sanctions against China, and White House officials have made it clear they think companies will begin shifting their supply chains to other countries as a result. Such a shift might assuage officials who have been warning for years about the security of the supply chain—even though they’ve never disclosed a major reason for their concerns.

    I do sometimes wonder at the violent opposition to the Trump China initiatives.

    America’s leading business lobbies, which represent every sector of our economy, have declared all out war against President Trump’s trade tariffs.
    Manufacturers, corporations of every size and shape, retail businesses, agricultural industries, and consumer groups — 45 associations in all — have joined forces to defeat the president’s plans to impose higher trade taxes on our long-standing trading partners and most loyal allies.
    The largest of these organizations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents more than 3 million businesses nationwide, is launching an unprecedented campaign against the tariffs.

    Is this ignorance or what ?

    Posted in China | 30 Comments »