Courageous, Eloquent, Disturbing

A teacher’s letter of resignation.

Of course, not all students are true believers. Many pretend to agree because of pressure to conform. I’ve heard from students who want to ask a question but stop for fear of offending someone. I have heard from students who don’t participate in discussions for fear of being ostracized. One student did not want to develop her personal essay — about an experience she had in another country — for fear that it might mean that she was, without even realizing it, racist. In her fear, she actually stopped herself from thinking. This is the very definition of self-censorship. 

Read the whole thing.

Kids who develop under an environment such as the one described will tend to become either cowards or bullies.  (Of course, they may also become both cowards and bullies)

What happens to a business or other organization that employs a high % of people who came of age in such an environment?  What happens to an entire society when many of its citizens–especially citizens in leadership organizations–grew up in atmospheres of conformity and bullying?

See also the comments of a Virginia woman who grew up in Maoist China and sees very disturbing parallels with what is going on at her son’s former high school in Virginia.

Xi and Me

It turns out that Xi Jinping and I have something in common: we are both fans of Goethe’s Faust. Indeed, Xi is said to even know the work by heart.

I wonder what aspects of Faust have been particularly meaningful to Xi, both personally and as relates to his current job as Dictator.  Here’s the passage that immediately came to my mind on learning of Xi’s Faust-affinity…

As a reward for services rendered, the Emperor grants Faust a narrow strip of land on the edge of the sea, which Faust intends to turn into a new and enlightened society by reclaiming land from the sea…along the lines of the way that Holland was created, but in a much more intensive manner. Faust’s land-reclamation project goes forward on a very large scale, and is strictly organized on what we would now call Taylorist principles:

Up, workmen, man for man, arise anew!
Let blithely savor what I boldly drew
Seize spade and shovel, each take up his tool!
Fulfill at once what was marked off by rule
Attendance prompt to orders wise
Achieves the most alluring prize
To bring to fruit the most exalted plans
One mind is ample for a thousand hands

Faust’s great plan, though, is spoiled (as he sees it) by an old couple, Philemon and Baucis, who have lived there from time out of mind. “They have a little cottage on the dunes, a chapel with a little bell, a garden full of linden trees. They offer aid and hospitality to shipwrecked sailors and wanderers. Over the years they have become beloved as the one source of life and joy in this wretched land.”

And they will not sell their property, no matter what they are offered. This infuriates Faust…maybe there are practical reasons why he needs this tiny piece of land, but more likely, he simply cannot stand having the development take shape in any form other than precisely the one he has envisaged. Critic Marshall Berman suggests that there is another reason why Faust so badly wants Philemon and Baucis gone: “a collective, impersonal drive that seems to be endemic to modernization: the drive to create a homogeneous environment, a totally modernized space, in which the look and feel of the old world have disappeared without a trace…”

Faust directs Mephisto to solve the problem of the old couple, which task Mephisto assigns to the Three Mighty Men… who resolve the issue by the simple expedient of murdering the pair and burning down their house.

Faust is horrified, or at least says that he is:

So you have turned deaf ears to me
I meant exchange, not robbery
This thoughtless, violent affair
My curse on it, for you to share!

To which the Chorus replies:

That ancient truth we will recite
Give way to force, for might is right
And would you boldly offer strife?
The risk your house, estate–and life.

Xi seems resolved to ensure that the ancient pattern recited by the Chorus will be the one that rules in China.  And there are plenty of influential people in America who reject progress we made in evolving beyond this ancient and brutal pattern..by building a wall consisting of free speech, due process of law, separation of powers, and a written constitution, and fighting to defend that wall.  Such people evidently want to demolish the wall and let the ancient pattern be firmly emplaced here as well…apparently under the assumption that they will be the ones who ultimately direct the Mighty Men.

See Claudia Rosett’s related post: Xi Jinping’s Tianamen Vision is Coming for Us All.

My review of Faust is here.

Tiananmen OSINT

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” — Benjamin Franklin

[Readers are directed to the end of this post for an explanation of my timing and motivation.

UPDATE 6/5, 11 AM CDT: videos embedded!]

I. Anniversary Reconnoiter

At around nine in the morning local time on the thirtieth anniversary of the “June Fourth Incident,” I began a reconnoiter of Tiananmen Square in central Beijing to observe security measures and, if possible, witness any attempt at commemorating the massacre. I accompanied Dr. Andrew R. Cline, professor of media, journalism, and film at Missouri State University in Springfield. We were part of group of eleven people—four students, two faculty, and five others including me—comprising a “Study Away” program from MSU which had spent the previous twelve days in China, flying into Beijing and taking high-speed trains to Xi’an and Xining, then on via the Qinghai–Tibet railway to Lhasa before flying back to Beijing. Of all days, Tuesday 4 June 2019 was designated a free day for the group: no itinerary—and no guide. The remaining nine group members, as it turned out, had other ideas about what to do that day.

Andy’s motivation was broadly journalistic, garnished with a specific interest in whether any actual Marxists would show up. I went along out of a feeling that I had something of a reputation to uphold, and quickly decided during our approach that I would evaluate the security measures and write up a more quantitative report, although I will also pass along some thoughts about the organizational behaviors involved.

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“Green” Energy: Materials-Intensive–And It Matters

There is now considerable momentum behind wind and solar power generation.  In addition to the governments pushing these technologies, there are many companies intending to profit by manufacturing and implementing these systems–also companies intending to get “sustainability” points for using them–and a nontrivial part of the financing industry licking their chops at the prospect of raising the necessary capital.

While wind and solar systems do not directly consume fuels, they do consume capital, that capital representing the labor and materials (and also the energy, in various forms) necessary to manufacture and install them.  Some of these materials are relatively scarce at present, and are sourced from problematic locations under questionable conditions.

Here is an interesting and quite detailed study on “green” materials and sourcing options, from the International Energy Agency.  Worth careful reading for anyone interested in energy issues, technologies, and politics.  Note that in addition to China’s development of its internal resources of the relevant materials, that country is developing strong trade and financing relationships…which may evolve to neo-colonial or even full-colonial relationships…with other countries possessing such resources.

And here are a pair of articles arguing that the only way for the US to acquire the requisite materials for a “green” energy transition will require close collaboration with China…that if the two greatest greenhouse-gas emitters on this planet can’t work together, we’re all going to be living in a more or less literal hell. The authors of these pieces don’t seem to be very concerned about the risks of US dependence on China for our energy supply; they seem more concerned about the risks of a cold war (anti-China) mentality.  (It is also interesting that the word ‘nuclear’ doesn’t appear in either article.)

Comes now a Reuters article, which asserts that: The Biden administration is considering a plan to import the bulk of the materials needed to build electric vehicles and the batteries that power them instead of mining them domestically — a nod to environmental groups that make up a key part of the Democratic constituency, according to a report.  The article goes on to quote an administration source as saying, referring to mining, that “it’s not that hard to dig a hole”…a comment which interestingly echoes Michael Bloomberg’s assertions about farming–“I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer…You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.”  (Bloomberg also made similarly dismissive remarks about manufacturing jobs)

On the other hand, a post at the Seeking Alpha investment blog asserts that Contrary to Rumors, the Biden Administration is Not Abandoning Lithium–that on the contrary, they want to expand both domestic and international supply of this material.  (The author of this piece also notes critically that the Reuters article did not reference a single named source.)

But even if the Biden administration does throw some money at domestic mining and processing, environmental objections and litigation are likely to slow things down considerably…a Trump-style president might be willing and able to blow past such constraints, but Biden/Harris, given their dependence on their party’s extreme Left, will likely find it easier to placate environmentalists by combining a US emphasis on vehicle electrification and “green” energy with a de facto sourcing policy of acquiring most of the relevant materials from outside the United States–including China–which allowing most US mining and bulk processing initiatives to bog down in red tape.

Here’s a follow-up article from Reuters.

As the IEA article notes, “green” energy represents a shift from a fuel-intensive to a materials-intensive energy system.  Few of the prominent/influential advocates of such a shift seem to have given much thought to where those required materials might actually come from.

Wind and solar are more capital-intensive than are fossil-fuel power sources, and mining requires considerable capital as well.  It seems likely to me that the worldwide push for “green” energy and electric vehicles will drive enough capital demands–whether via government or private financing–to have a material upward impact on interest rates.

Better Explanations?

We might be forgiven for thinking that China does not have our best interests in mind, given their halt of all national movement from Wuhan and encouragement of all international travel from Wuhan in the pandemic’s early months, given the secrecy that surrounds the Wuhan Institute and the belated admission of and tight controls on the WHO inspectors, etc. etc.

The tragedy at our border is huge and this seems almost a small part of it, but some acts seem to parallel China’s: Why are Americans expected to isolate themselves from useful pursuits (such as work and education and church), while Covid-infected illegal immigrants are sent on planes and buses to the interior (not that I’m all that crazy about how their policies are also refreshing the epidemic in Texas).

Stirring division, encouraging wokeness and discouraging economic recovery in Atlanta, ignoring the vulnerability of the border to human trafficking and terrorist entry, encouraging defunding the police and justice systems that show little (in some cases any) respect for property or the victims of violent crime: the quantity of “ironies” might be more easily explained as expected consequences to Biden/Harris policies. And so we might be forgiven for thinking that they, too, do not have our best interests in mind.

With Trump I’d turn to Instapundit and notice every day little and big things that seemed to free us or make the future more attractive, one of the values was that doing and speaking seemed aligned and Orwellian obfuscation was not omnipresent; it is, now, as opposite patterns can be easily discerned. Both seemed to be “busy” presidents – though that this seems to be coming from Biden seems hard to believe, it certainly is coming from “his” White House. And one’s busyness leads to productivity and the other’s to stasis – the position of a sitting duck.

Have we ever seen anything like the Biden administration and China?

The Roosevelt administration was significantly infiltrated with Soviet spies. Harry Dexter White was assistant Secretary of the Treasury and played an important role in the Bretton Woods Conference.

After the war, White was closely involved with setting up what were called the Bretton Woods institutions—the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. These institutions were intended to prevent some of the economic problems that had occurred after World War I. As late as November 1945, White continued to argue for improved relations with the Soviet Union.[21] White later became a director and U.S. representative of the IMF. On June 19, 1947, White abruptly resigned from the International Monetary Fund, vacating his office the same day.

The Wikipedia article is quite defensive about White’s role vis a vis the Soviet Union.

This codename was confirmed by the notes of KGB archivist Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin, in which six key Soviet agents are named. Harry Dexter White is listed as being first “KASSIR” and later “JURIST”.[65]

Another example of White acting as an agent of influence for the Soviet Union was his obstruction of a proposed $200 million loan to Nationalist China in 1943, which he had been officially instructed to execute,[66] at a time when inflation was spiraling out of control.[67]

Other Venona decrypts revealed further damaging evidence against White, including White’s suggestions on how to meet and pass information on to his Soviet handler. Venona Document #71 contains decryptions of White’s discussions on being paid for his work for the Soviet Union

The Venona transcripts make it clear that White was a Soviet asset.

What of Biden? We have the Hunter Biden laptop revelations, which have been largely suppressed. Hunter was paid millions by China, even though he is an addict and weak link to his father. Other Biden family members are deeply corrupt in other areas.

Biden appointees are pro China if anything. and a significant matter.

Biden’s appointees won’t be weak on China, they will be pro-China. The geopolitical implications of Biden coming to office are going to have long-term repercussions. Even before the election China was threatening the US military, crossing the sea boundary into Taiwan’s territory with invasion forces 2-3 times each week, threatening other neighbors, attacking diplomats of other countries, and attempting to destroy Australia’s economy. Given Pres. Trump’s opposition to Chinese communist bullying of other countries vs. Biden’s pro-China stance, it was understandable that China has supported Biden from the beginning. Having worked in several countries neighbors to China, I can say that many people overseas are not happy with the idea of Biden as president.

China is not shy about asserting its opinion

February 2021 reprises a red-line drama, not yet as tragedy and not as farce but definitely as a threat to world peace. The repetition tests the will of President Joe Biden’s administration to defend American security and a common-sense understanding of human freedom.

On Feb. 1, communist China’s top foreign policy guru, Yang Jiechi, gave a speech to a virtual audience hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.

Yang reportedly told his audience, “The United States should stop interfering in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjiang” — western China where Uighurs live — “and other issues.” Yang said these three regions are Chinese “internal affairs.”

Then Yang added the most nuanced phrase: “They” — the so-called internal affairs — “constitute a red line that must not be crossed. Any trespassing would end up undermining China-U.S. relations, and the United States’ own interests.”

“Red line” meaning China’s rules.

What is behind this ?

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Covid-19 Transmission Data

…an interesting study from China.  There is a discussion thread at Grim’s Hall.

The study indicates that the transmission rate to household members where there is an infected member was 10.3%, while the transmission rate to healthcare workers was 1.0%..and the transmission rate on public transportation was only 0.1%.  However, I think there is some ambiguity in how these numbers should be interpreted.

If you’re so inclined, read the paper, dig into the numbers and their meaning, and comment with your thoughts.

What is going on with China right now ?

China was admitted into the World Trade Organization in 2001 with the understanding that they would participate in free trade and to international norms.

Until the 1970s, China’s economy was managed by the communist government and was kept closed from other economies. Together with political reforms, China in the early 1980s began to open its economy and signed a number of regional trade agreements. China gained observer status with GATT and from 1986, began working towards joining that organization. China aimed to be included as a WTO founding member (which would validate it as a world economic power) but this attempt was thwarted because the United States, European countries, and Japan requested that China first reform various tariff policies, including tariff reductions, open markets and industrial policies.

That has not happened. China has followed a mercantilist trade policy, stealing intellectual property, requiring companies selling to the Chinese to share ownership with often corrupt entities owned by the Peoples Liberation Army and relatives of regime principals.

Mercantilism is a policy that is designed to maximize the exports and minimize the imports for an economy. It promotes imperialism, tariffs and subsidies on traded goods to achieve that goal. These policies aim to reduce a possible current account deficit or reach a current account surplus. Mercantilism includes an economic policy aimed at accumulating monetary reserves through a positive balance of trade, especially of finished goods. Historically, such policies frequently led to war and also motivated colonial expansion.[1] Mercantilist theory varies in sophistication from one writer to another and has evolved over time.

America has been largely passive in tolerating this behavior until Donald Trump became president. Some of this passivity may reflect Chinese influence with US politicians.

While it may seem politics as usual in Washington today, some are alarmed.

“Nobody in the 1980s would have represented the Russian government. And now you find so many lobbying for the Chinese government,” said Frank Wolf, a retired U.S. representative from Virginia who long served as the co-chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. “I served in Congress for 34 years. I find it shocking.”

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Risk Register

There are, of course, many items that could be placed in a risk register for our ongoing management of COVID-19. I find myself drawn to those categorizable as, or perhaps triggered by, human perception and behavior. By way of limiting the scope of this post to reasonable attention spans, here are my current top 3:

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SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update, Easter 2020 edition

There are lots of hopeful reports — despite the USA COVID-19 infections being over 1/2 million and the total deaths of over 20,000 people — that the pandemic will soon be “Over.”

This is fantasy thinking at best.  SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 won’t be over, until it is over, for YEARS.

“Over” being defined as world wide mass vaccinations to the tune of 70% of humanity or human herd immunity.  Assuming such a thing is possible, which it may not be, given this recent report from the UK Daily Mail on post SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 infection immunity —

Blow to Britain’s hopes for coronavirus antibody testing as study finds a THIRD of recovered patients have barely-detectable evidence they have had the virus already

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– Nearly third of patients have very low levels of antibodies, Chinese study found
– Antibodies not detected at all in 10 people, raising fears they could be reinfected
– Explains why UK Government repeatedly delayed rolling them out to the public

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https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8203725/Antibodies-prove-difficult-detect-Chinese-coronavirus-survivors.html

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Related studies:
Wu F et al. Neutralizing antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in a COVID-19 recovered patient cohort and their implications. medRxiv 2020.03.30.20047365; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.03.30.20047365

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and

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Zhao J et al. Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in patients of novel coronavirus disease 2019, Clinical Infectious Diseases, , ciaa344, https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa344
total by July 1st 51,197

Or this South Korean story on coronavirus “reactivation” —

South Korea reports recovered coronavirus patients testing positive again
APRIL 10, 2020
Josh Smith, Sangmi Cha

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-southkorea-idUSKCN21S15X?utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook

The issue with most COVID-19 tests, like the ones mentioned in South Korea, is they detect SARS-CoV2 RNA. They do not detect whether the viral particles are active or not. The issue here is whether these people are shedding active viral particles that can re-infect people.  We don’t know if that is the case here from the story text.  Given how infectious it is.  This coronavirus will tell us in due course.

There are some viral diseases like Herpes that hide inside your body and reactivate to make you infectious. We do not know enough about the SARs-CoV2 virus to say whether that is the case here.

If the SARS-CoV2 virus is like Herpes in that once contracted, it never goes away and flares infectious several times a year.

And there is no herd immunity for some people no matter how often they are infected.

Then we will need multiple, cheap,  out-patient style “cure-treatments” as well as multiple vaccines, based on co-morbidities, and possibly to account for racial differences like sickle cell blood mutations, as SARS-CoV2 may well be more a blood disease than a respiratory infection in terms of it’s killing mechanism.

See:

COVID-19: Attacks the 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin and Captures the Porphyrin to Inhibit Human Heme Metabolism

https://chemrxiv.org/articles/COVID-19_Disease_ORF8_and_Surface_Glycoprotein_Inhibit_Heme_Metabolism_by_Binding_to_Porphyrin/11938173

There is not enough reliable data, d*mn it!

Until we get to “Over,” our old economic world of Just-In-Time, Sole Source anywhere, but especially in China, is dead without replacement.

The world is in the same position as Germany was from August 1944 – April 1945 or  Japan from August 1944 until August 1945 versus the Allied strategic bombing campaign.  We have entered the world of  End Run Production as world wide supply chains grind to a halt from various fiddly bits of intermediate parts running out without replacement.  The on-and-off hotspots world wide of COVID-19 at different times and places in the world economy is no different than WW2 strategic bombing in terms of causing random damage to the economic life support.

See also  “End Run Production” here from this one volume WW2 history book The Great Crusade:

https://books.google.com/books?id=5L-bwPZK7PQC&pg=PA420&lpg=PA420&dq=%22End+Run+Production%22&source=bl&ots=kc30FQflCj&sig=ACfU3U2kmF-kTPo0Tgr2A9_ESPKpEQAEOg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjfpurOnOPoAhUKA6wKHemwBMcQ6AEwAHoECC4QKQ#v=onepage&q=%22End%20Run%20Production%22&f=false

Be it automobiles, self propelled construction equipment, jets, power plants or the latest electronic gadget, anything that has thousands of parts sourced world wide with lots of Chinese cheap/disposable sub-component content anywhere in the supply chain simply won’t be produced for the next 18 months to three years.

This “random damage to the economic life support” effect is amplified by the unwillingness of Western private industry to invest in building the capitol equipment to produced those intermediate parts.  Because of the threat of China coming back with predatory pricing — using bought politicians to cover for them — means those parts won’t be built without massive cost plus contract government buy out of the investment risk like happened in the USA in the 1942 WW2 mobilization.

The story of  one American n95 mask manufacturer’s experience with the Obama Administration in 2009 with the Swine flu is a case in point.  The n95 mask is a 50 cent item where China pays 2 cents a mask for labor versus 10 cents a mask for American labor.  When the American manufacturer geared up to replace Chinese mask production.  China came back on-line and the Obama Administration refused to keep buying the American mask producer’s 8 cents more expensive mask when the Chinese masks were available.

Unlike almost 80 years ago, current Western and particularly American politicians are too corrupt to go too massive cost plus contract government buy out this private investment risk.  Mainly because these political elites  can’t be bothered to figure out their 10% cut.  Instead we are getting more “fiscal stimulus” AKA boondoggles that the elites will saddle the rest of us with high interest payments on huge public debts.

It will take local small to mid-sized business to get the American economy going during the COVID-19 pandemic via making products and services that don’t use the intermediate products China threatens with when the pandemic ends.

My read on what comes next economically is local/distributed production with limited capitol investment that is multi-product capable.  The name for that is additive manufacturing, AKA 3D Printing. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. The idea of 3D Printed Sand Casting Molds For Automobile Production

voxeljet enters alliance to industrialize core tooling production using 3D printing

2. And the replacement of physical inventory with 3D printers, print media and electronic drawings:
Such “Make or buy” decisions have always been the key decision of any business.  The issue here is that middle men wholesalers and in-house warehousing holding cheap Chinese-sourced  intermediate parts are both set to go the way of the Doe-Doe Bird in a 3D/AM manufacturing dominated world.
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Distributed production in multiple localities with 3D/AM vendors for limited runs of existing intermediate products to keep production lines going.  Or the re-engineering intermediate products so one 3D/AM print replaces multiple intermediate products for the same reason, will be the stuff of future Masters of Business Administration (MBA) papers describing this imminent change over.

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But, like developing SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 vaccines, this new locally distributed manufacturing economy will take time.  The possible opening of the American economy in May 2020 will not bring the old economy of December 2019 back.

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That economy is dead.  It cannot, will not, come back.

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We will have to dance with both the sickness from SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 and the widening End Run Production product shortages that the death of the globalist  just-in-time, sole source in China economic model causes for years.

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And this is a hard reality, not a fantasy, we must all face.

In Medias Res

What I’ve got so far:

  1. Everything’s on the table. The likelihood that your preexisting ideology or priorities are an entirely adequate match to what this situation truly requires of us is close to nil. “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” ― Eric Hoffer
  2. That said, your life experience will give you insights. Privilege your experience over your ideology and nominal priorities.
  3. All disasters are local. Concentrate on your meaningfully immediate environment, which in this case will be the local market for medical resources. For most of the US, that will be our MSA. For those outside an MSA (metropolitan or micropolitan) that will be their county; and for some it will be the group of counties that feed into the one hospital in the region.
  4. Deprioritize pandemic news from outside your local area. There are people in the massive NY/NJ/MA outbreak that I worry about, but what happens there will only modestly resemble what happens in the KC MSA, not least because of the difference in population density, which can approach 20x.
  5. Mitigate or avoid your own risk (including the risk you pose to others) by both following the hygiene advice we’ve all heard and minimizing your physical interaction with anyone outside your immediate household. Internalize R₀ = b × k × d, where R₀ is the reproduction number of the virus, b is the probability of infection given contact with an infectious person, k is the contact rate, and d is the infectious duration. While the nominal R₀ of COVID-19 is ~3, your personal R₀ can be driven to < 1 by your own behavior.
  6. The general form of the challenge confronting us is abrupt wide variation in formerly relatively constant phenomena. In Talebian terms, we have migrated from “mediocristan” to “extremistan.” The multiplicative nature of a novel viral pandemic, especially by comparison to the relatively predictable seasonality of influenza viruses, has a thick-tailed (power law) probability structure and complex payoffs (notoriously ranging from large numbers of nearly asymptomatic cases to abruptly life-threatening “cytokine storm” reactions). For detail, see The Fourth Quadrant: A Map of the Limits of Statistics.
  7. So we find ourselves at serious risk of running out of ventilators, ICU beds, and even hospital beds generally, to say nothing of supplies (but see “all disasters are local,” above), raising the prospect of significant second-order mortality among those unable to obtain adequate care for entirely unrelated illnesses and injuries.
  8. In this connection, many prior customs, techniques, tools, and materials are being revealed as highly dysfunctional and, if all goes sufficiently well, will be swept into the dustbin of history. The bad news for me is that my earlier fears about easily-bottlenecked processes have been realized. But we may look forward to significant adaptation, including deregulation of medical services.
  9. Similarly, a large number of purported fixes and remedies will fail. Folk remedies, in particular, seem likely to be disastrous, and this blog’s audience needs no persuasion that attempts at central planning will fail thanks to the Hayekian local knowledge problem. In that connection, and to quote something I wrote a few years back: “John Gilmore famously said that ‘the Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.’ The future adaptation of representative democracies will depend on our capability, as individuals, to interpret endemic institutional dysfunctionality as damage and route around it.”
  10. The relatively vulnerable are closer to the center of the network: affluent, living in high-density major cities, well-traveled, extroverted, socially active, with large numbers of regular contacts (even if mostly in a “bubble” as per Murray’s notorious quiz). But some are the alienated and defiant who reject risk avoidance or even risk mitigation tactics (or attempt folk remedies instead), ordinarily associated with …
  11. The relatively invulnerable, who are at or near the edge of the network: impoverished, living in rural or low-density metro areas, untraveled, introverted, socially isolated, rarely in face-to-face contact with others. Many of these people have mental health issues and associated substance abuse problems. But the relatively invulnerable are also the intelligent and conscientious who promptly adopt appropriate risk management strategies.
  12. The post-pandemic preferences of the relatively invulnerable will have massive economic and cultural effects. I expect a reasonably quick partial recovery from the economic shutdown, but full recovery may take several years. Many of the “third places” which have done well over the last few decades will not regain their patronage, and as of early April 2020, we can only guess which ones. Fond hopes of some of my co-religionists aside for a sudden revival, I believe church attendance and involvement will be well down in the aftermath, and will not significantly grow until the next “Awakening,” which per Strauss and Howe should occur at mid-century. Until then, believers will be culturally marginalized and congregations will be smaller—but comprised of relatively fervent, active members.
  13. Geopolitical risks are heightened, especially US-China tensions, and if Xenakis’ “58-year hypothesis” holds, this very year will see an echo of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
  14. The most important output of this process—and it is a process, with inputs, providers, outputs, recipients, etc—will be a collective lessons-learned database, comprised of both tacit and explicit knowledge, and somehow transmitted to future generations.

A Corona Virus Timeline.

It is now becoming a theme on the left that Trump was not quick enough to recognize the coming epidemic.

For that reason, I think it valuable to keep a record of the time line.

Here is the January 12, 2020 WHO report on the virus epidemic in China.

The evidence is highly suggestive that the outbreak is associated with exposures in one seafood market in Wuhan. The market was closed on 1 January 2020. At this stage, there is no infection among healthcare workers, and no clear evidence of human to human transmission. The Chinese authorities continue their work of intensive surveillance and follow up measures, as well as further epidemiological investigations.

Here is the January 30, 2020 report by WHO on the epidemic in China.

The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk. It is important to note that as the situation continues to evolve, so will the strategic goals and measures to prevent and reduce spread of the infection. The Committee agreed that the outbreak now meets the criteria for a Public Health Emergency of International Concern and proposed the following advice to be issued as Temporary Recommendations.

The Committee emphasized that the declaration of a PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontlines of this outbreak, with transparency, and, it is to be hoped, with success.

Trump stopped incoming flights from China on January 31, 2020.

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Positive Stores about Covid-19

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.

China Virus

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.

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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.”

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

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Co-Vid -19 and Supply Chain

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.

SARS-CoV2/COVID-19 Update 29 Feb 2020

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’

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Co-Vid 19 and Supply Chain

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).

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

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.
 

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COVID-19 Update, Morning 2-19-2020

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:
https://bnonews.com/index.php/2020/02/the-latest-coronavirus-cases/

“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.

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

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

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So that’s 14+3+2

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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.

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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

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COVID-19 From a Business Perspective

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.

COVID-19 Update Morning 2-14-2020

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.
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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
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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.
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2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption
2020 Chinese Coal/Electrical Consumption
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Short Form — Lack of Chinese coal use/electric power generation indicates the scale of Chinese industries that are shut down…AKA near total.
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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
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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).
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Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers
Dodgy Chinese COVID-19 Infection Numbers
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 This has been ‘officially noticed’ by the White House.
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See:
White House does not have ‘high confidence’ in China’s coronavirus information, official says
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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:
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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.
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An idea of what “Community spreading” in Singapore means can be seen in the following report:
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“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.”
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World Headline Summary:
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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-

How to Think About 2019-nCov

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.

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The Old Navy, by Daniel Pratt Mannix III

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.”

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