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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Across the Great Divide

Peter Watson, The Great Divide: Nature and Human Nature in the Old World and the New (New York: Harper Perennial, 2013)

As my reviews tend to do, this one will highlight some negatives, but which I will get out of the way early on. Peter Watson is a highly successful author and journalist who has rather more than dabbled in archaeology along the way. I am … somewhat less of an authority. Nonetheless, The Great Divide is kind of a mess, but one that ends up being sufficiently thought-provoking to be worth the effort.

Fun stuff first—shout-out to Jim Bennett for recommending the book; and here are my ideas for relevant musical interludes while reading the following:

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“Root Causes”

The Biden administration wants to find and solve the ‘root causes’ driving the flood of refugees to the US from the south, and has assigned that task to VP Kamela Harris.  More generally, liberals and ‘progressives’ like to talk about ‘root causes’ for all kinds of things: crime, for example: instead of arresting criminals, just solve the Root Causes of crime!

Someone needs to explain to these people the concept of ask why five times, and how that concept is properly implemented.  Example:

PROBLEM: There is oil on factory floor.  Why?

Looks like it’s coming from that machine over there.

ACTION: Clean up the oil. But then ask…
WHY is there oil leaking from that machine.

The machine has a bad gasket.

ACTION: Replace the gasket. But then ask..
WHY was the gasket bad?

Check out the condition of the gaskets on some other machines.
Looks like we’ve been buying inferior gaskets.

ACTION: Change the specifications so we don’t get any more of these. But also ask..
WHY did we decide to buy the gaskets that we did?

Uhh…they were cheap? Turns out the purchasing policy for supplies like this says “always buy the low bid.”

ACTION: Change the policy to give more weight to quality as well as price. But also ask…
WHY did the head of Purchasing ever approve a policy like this in the first place?

Maybe because his *incentive program* includes a big component for year-over-year reductions in supplies cost, with no measurement for downtime impact of bad items?

ACTION: Change the incentive program.
WHY did a one-sided incentive program like this get created and approved?

And so on. (There is nothing magic about the number Five)

But importantly, you don’t wait until you run all the way up and down the chain of causation before you clean up the oil on the floor before someone slips on it and hurts himself. You don’t go through analysis of why inferior gaskets are being purchased before replacing the gaskets before the machine loses oil again and shuts down or destroys itself.

Democrat politicians often act like they don’t understand these points, even informally and intuitively. Many of them really don’t, I think…but also, many of them just don’t care; accumulation of political power for themselves and their faction is all that matters.  Among their voters/supporters, though, there may be some who can be brought to understand the fallacies of root-causes-only thinking.

And, very importantly, if you pursue the chain of causation upward to enough levels, you are likely to find causes which are either beyond your ability to influence, or for which such influence has a very long time constant.  In the manufacturing example, for instance, you may be a factory manager in a large company with very little influence on the incentive policies that drive Purchasing to acquire inferior gaskets.  That still doesn’t mean you don’t need to clean up the oil and replace the failed gaskets, anyway.  In the Biden/Harris policy case, serious thought would show that the ability of American leaders to influence the policies, economic systems, and cultures of our southern neighbors is strictly limited, and what influence we can exert is likely to have a very long time constant. That doesn’t mean we don’t need to do anything about the border crisis.

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.

A (partially successful) attempt at a reasoned response

to Harris/Biden in Atlanta on Friday. Or an exercise explaining Why I swear at the tv. Mid-way to rational thought, it is at least better than ***!!!###. Aside: Posting here is a great gift. Writing – like speech with others – forces us to use words. Our founders would use the word deliberate, to move from gut response to reason. Let’s begin with them for perspective:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . . “

“Hate crimes” violate not only our laws but our core belief that in each (and all) is a divine spark, that is one way we are truly equal. However, “hate” for an individual or a random act of pointless violence is also hate. Inchoate anger is hardly virtuous. Haters choose the weak, the dependent, the isolated, the outlier; they want neither consequences nor pricks of conscience. “Knock out” punches throw the weak, the elderly, the unprepared to the ground and are often too random to easily assign blame; knowing society identifies less with such victims makes quick punishment less likely; an important distance comes from convincing one’s self such a victim is not “equal”, is not human – that stills the conscience.

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