The good old days

March 8th, 2019

VDH version:

the trial of the so-called Chicago Seven, involving the supposed organizers of the riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, roiled the nation. The courtroom drama involving radical defendants such as Tom Hayden, Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin descended into a national circus, as the battle between leftists and the establishment went from the streets to the courtroom.

It was also the year of the Woodstock music festival. More than 400,000 thrill-seekers showed up on a small farm in the Catskill Mountains in August 1969 to celebrate three days of “peace and music.” Footage of free love and free drugs at Woodstock shocked half the country but resonated with the other half, which viewed the festival as much-needed liberation for an uptight nation.

Newly inaugurated President Richard Nixon characterized the national divide as the “silent majority” of traditional Americans fighting back against radical changes in culture and politics.

Under the strain of constant protests, the cultural and moral fabric of the country seemed to be tearing apart. Alternative lifestyle choices sometimes led to violence or death.

When a West Coast version of Woodstock was tried a few months later in Altamont, Calif., the concert ended up an orgy of murder, drug overdoses, random violence and destruction of property.

In July of 1969, liberal icon Teddy Kennedy ran his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., and his young passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, was left to drown. Sen. Kennedy did not report the accident to authorities until 10 hours later.

The next month, members of hippie psychopath Charles Manson’s “family” butchered seven innocents in Los Angeles, among them actress Sharon Tate. The Manson family apparently had hoped that the sensationalized murders would ignite some sort of racial civil war, thereby unraveling the United States.

We have a picture of ourselves at the Dike Bridge, and heard “I dove into the icy waters three times,” or something like that. Now the Noonan version:

In “Mao’s Last Revolution,” Roderick MacFarquhar and Michael Schoenhals tell of a Ministry of Higher Education official brought up on charges of enjoying a “bourgeois lifestyle.” He’d been seen playing mah-jongg.

Mao unleashed university and high school students to weed out enemies and hold them to account. The students became the paramilitary Red Guards. They were instructed by the party to “clear away the evil habits of the old society” and extinguish what came to be known as “the four olds”—old ideas and customs, old habits and culture. “Sweep Away All Monsters and Demons,” the state newspaper instructed them. With a vengeance they did.

In the struggle sessions the accused, often teachers suspected of lacking proletarian feeling, were paraded through streets and campuses, sometimes stadiums. It was important always to have a jeering crowd; it was important that the electric feeling that comes with the possibility of murder be present. Dunce caps, sometimes wastebaskets, were placed on the victims’ heads, and placards stipulating their crimes hung from their necks. The victims were accused, berated, assaulted. Many falsely confessed in the vain hope of mercy.

Were any “guilty”? It hardly mattered. Fear and terror were the point. A destroyed society is more easily dominated.

The Chinese Catholic Margaret Chu, a medical-lab assistant, was dragged into the office of her labor camp in 1968 and made to answer invented charges. “Their real motive was once and again to force me to admit all my alleged crimes,” she wrote decades later. “ ‘I did not commit any crimes,’ I asserted.” She was accused again, roughed up. She denied her guilt again. “Immediately two people jumped on me and cut off half my hair.” She was tortured, left in handcuffs for 100 days, and imprisoned for years. While being tortured she sometimes prayed for death so her suffering would stop.

The Cultural Revolution lasted roughly a dozen years and died with Mao in September 1976. In time a party congress denounced it as what it was: ruinous. So I ask you to entertain an idea that has been on my mind. I don’t want to be overdramatic, but the spirit of the struggle session has returned and is here, in part because of the internet, in part because of the extremity of our politics, in part because more people are lonely. “Contention is better than loneliness,” as my people, the Irish, say, and they would know.

The air is full of accusation and humiliation. We have seen this spirit most famously on the campuses, where students protest harshly, sometimes violently, views they wish to suppress. Social media is full of swarming political and ideological mobs. In an interesting departure from democratic tradition, they don’t try to win the other side over. They only condemn and attempt to silence.

The spirit of the struggle session is all over Twitter . On literary Twitter social-justice warriors get advance copies of new books and denounce them for deviationism—as insensitive, racist, appropriative, anti-LGBTQ. Books on the eve of publication have been pulled, sometimes withdrawn by authors who apologize profusely. Everyone’s scared. And the tormentors are not satisfied by an apology. They’re excited by it and prowl for more prey.

A few weeks ago a young woman on Twitter thought aloud: “What if public libraries were open late every night and we could engage in public life there instead of having to choose between drinking at the bar and domestic isolation.” This might get people off their screens and help them feel “included and nourished.”

A nice idea. Maybe some local official would pick it up. Instead there was a small onslaught of negative reaction. “Libraries are already significantly underfunded and they struggle to make do with what they’ve got.” “Before you suggest this understand that librarians are maxed out—our facilities are understaffed, we’re underpaid.” The idea would only work in “mainly affluent urban & suburban communities with already well-funded libraries whose wealth insulates them.” A woman soon to marry a librarian warned of “what this would do to the lives of the people who work there.”

After being batted about, the young woman apologized: “I made insensitive tweets abt public libraries & the individuals that staff them. I apologize for those tweets. I have much to learn about the difficult challenges public librarians face, the services they provide, & how much they strive to meet the needs of communities they serve.”

Bonus fun. What do Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and others all have in common? This brilliant thing. HT: this AT piece.

A little history

March 7th, 2019

VDH

Imperial Spain’s El Escorial outside Madrid, the courts of Renaissance Venice, and Byzantium’s Constantinople, or the thousands who lived at 18th-century Versailles, were all thronged with court functionaries. They were the embryos of nonstop dramas of intrigue and coups, and often immune to periodic changes even in autocratic heads of state.

The Byzantine emperor Justinian savagely curbed the influence of his bureaucratic opponents only through the infamous slaughter of the Nika riots of AD 532. The key for the deep-state careerist was always survival, even more than public service. The ubiquitous fifth-century B.C. Athenian Alcibiades was variously an Athenian democratic imperialist, a suspected oligarchic sympathizer, a wanted outlaw of the Athenian state, a turncoat working for Sparta, a returning Athenian democrat, and an aristocratic exile under the protection of Persia — the common denominator being a manipulative skilled survivor of the politics of the Greek city-state.

Similar was the much later example of the “versatile” French minister Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord. Talleyrand for more than 40 years was a fixture of the permanent Paris court and thus in succession an advocate and betrayer of the Ancien Régime, the French Revolution, Napoleon, and the restored monarchy. His loyalty was to the career of Monsieur Talleyrand rather than to France, much less to monarchy, the revolution, republican government, or dictatorship.

Since the U.S. post-war era, the yearly growth of American state and federal government has been exponential. By 2017, there were nearly 3 million civilian federal workers and another 1.3 million Americans in the uniformed military. Over 22 million local, state, and federal workers had made government the largest employment sector. The three largest American unions were respectively the National Education Association (mostly teachers and public-education staff ), Service Employees International Union, and the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees.

The reach of the deep state ultimately is based on two premises. One, improper government-worker behavior is difficult to audit or at least to be held to account, given that it is protected both by union contracts and civil-service law. And, two, a government appointee or bureaucrat has the unlimited resources of the state behind him, while the targeted private citizen in a federal indictment, tax audit, or regulation violation not only does not, but is assumed also not to have the means even to provide an adequate legal defense.

But the winners and losers change, right Mr. Constantinople? VDH previously commented on the utter stupidity — no, it’s insanity — of making Navratilova a persona non grata.

If there have to be permanent bullies, it would be nicer if they were not crazy lunatics.

Plus and Minus

March 6th, 2019

FA, plus:

Xi’s accomplishments to date are undeniable. His efforts to consolidate institutional power paid off in March 2018, when he successfully maneuvered to eliminate the two-term limit on the presidency, ensuring that he could continue to hold three of the country’s most powerful positions — CCP general secretary, chairman of the Central Military Commission, and president — through at least 2027, if not beyond. His anticorruption campaign also continued to gain steam:

in 2018, 621,000 officials were punished, a marked increase over the 527,000 detained in 2017. And dozens of universities have raced to establish new institutes and departments devoted to the study of Xi Jinping thought, a 14-point manifesto that includes the inviolability of CCP leadership, the rule of law, enhanced national security, and socialism with Chinese characteristics, among other broad commitments.

Under Xi’s leadership, the party now has eyes everywhere — literally. As many as 200 million surveillance cameras have already been installed in an effort to reduce crime and control social unrest. The surveillance technology will also play an essential role in the 2020 national rollout of the country’s social credit system, which will evaluate people’s political and economic trustworthiness and reward and punish them accordingly.

The CCP has now established party committees within nearly 70% of all private enterprises and joint ventures, in order to ensure that the businesses advance the interests of the state. Beijing has also succeeded in constraining outside influences: thanks to a law passed two years ago, for example, the number of foreign nongovernmental organizations operating in China has fallen from more than 7,000 to just over 400. And “Made in China 2025” — China’s plan to protect its domestic firms from foreign competition in ten areas of critical cutting-edge technology — is well under way. The Sichuan provincial government, for example, has stipulated that for 15 types of medical devices, hospitals will be reimbursed only for procedures that use Chinese-manufactured devices.

Xi’s efforts to establish greater control at home have been matched by equally dramatic moves to assert control over areas China considers its sovereign territory. Xi has militarized seven artificial features in the South China Sea, and in January 2019, a Chinese naval official suggested that China might “further fortify” the islets if it feels threatened. As Beijing negotiates a South China Sea code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, it seeks to exclude non-ASEAN or Chinese multinationals from oil exploration and to bar foreign powers from conducting military drills, unless agreed to by all signatories.

Meanwhile, Xi has increased the mainland’s political and economic control over Hong Kong, banning a pro-independence political party, calling on the Hong Kong media to resist pressure from “external forces” to criticize or challenge Beijing, and constructing a rail terminal on Hong Kong territory, which includes a customs check by China for travel to the mainland. Xi has also adopted a range of coercive economic and political policies toward Taiwan, including reducing the number of mainland tourists to the island, successfully persuading multinationals not to recognize Taiwan as a separate entity, and convincing five countries to switch their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to the mainland, to try to advance his sovereignty claims.

The Belt and Road Initiative — Xi’s grand-scale connectivity plan — now extends beyond Asia, Europe, and Africa to include Latin America. A little more than a year ago, the People’s Liberation Army set up a logistics base in Djibouti, and in private conversations, Chinese military officials acknowledge that scores more could follow.

Even as China expands its hard infrastructure — ports, railroads, highways, and pipelines — it has become an increasingly essential player in the technology sphere. Brands such as Alibaba, Lenovo, and Huawei have gone global, and more are on the horizon.

A book by the Chinese tech guru Kai-Fu Lee proclaims that China will inevitably dominate in artificial intelligence — unsurprisingly, the book has become an international bestseller. Although Lee’s prediction may yet fall short, China is laying the foundation for AI leadership: two-thirds of the world’s investment in AI is in China, and China already boasts a commanding presence in areas such as drone and facial recognition technologies.

All these successes have made China attractive to smaller countries not only as an economic partner but as an ideological standard-bearer. Xi has admonished that the so-called China model offers countries disenchanted with Western-style market democracy a different path to development. In countries such as Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda, the message resonates

Minus:

The constant stream of often competing directives from Beijing has produced paralysis at the local level. In August 2018, China’s Finance Ministry reinforced an earlier directive calling on local governments to issue more bonds to support infrastructure projects to help boost the slowing economy; many local governments had been resisting the government’s call because the projects have low returns. That same month, however, Beijing announced that officials who failed to implement Beijing’s policies could lose their jobs or be expelled from the party.

Xi’s predilection for state control in the economy has also starved the more efficient private sector of capital. His desire for enhanced party control within firms led one state-owned enterprise head to quit; he commented privately that the party committees wanted to make decisions but wouldn’t take responsibility when they failed. Evidence of economic distress abounds. The government is deleting statistics from the public record, a sure sign that things are not moving in the right direction.

One economist has suggested that growth in 2018 fell to 1.7%, and the Shanghai stock market turned in the worst performance of any stock market in the world. Birthrates, which correlate closely with economic growth and optimism, fell to their lowest rate since 1961. Beijing has pulled back on its air pollution reduction targets—after some noteworthy initial success — out of concern that pollution control measures might further slow the economy.

The economic downturn has also stoked social discontent. Multiprovince strikes have galvanized crane operators as well as workers in food delivery and van delivery. A nationwide trucker strike erupted in the summer of 2018, as the online platform Manbang established a competitive bidding system that exerted downward pressure on haulage fees, highlighting the potentially disruptive effect of the gig economy on the Chinese work force.

Most troubling to Xi, however, was likely the news that university Marxist groups were converging on Shenzhen’s Jasic Technology plant to stand beside workers and retired party cadres in support of efforts to organize independent labor unions. The protest was quickly shut down, but the moral legitimacy of its demands remains to be addressed. At the same time, broad social movements that cross age, gender, and class, such as those advocating women’s and LGBTQ rights, have arisen alongside the traditional protests around the environment, wages, and pensions.

Xi’s consolidation of power has not only cost China’s economy but raised suspicions around its enterprises abroad. The deepening penetration of the party into Chinese business has caused all Chinese companies to be viewed as extended arms of the CCP. Foreign firms and governments no longer have confidence that a Chinese company — private or not — can resist a CCP directive. Because of this assessment, they are cautious about drawing technology made by the Chinese national champion Huawei into their critical infrastructure.

Even the Belt and Road project risks bending under the weight of its ambitions. Some countries, including Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone, among others, have reconsidered the deals they’ve made with China as their debts have mounted and/or environmental, labor, and governance concerns go unaddressed. Some experts within China now question the wisdom of the country’s foreign investments as many of the large state-owned enterprises driving the Belt and Road projects dramatically increase their debt-to-asset ratios — well beyond those incurred by other countries’ firms.

Amid all this turmoil, Xi’s efforts to project Chinese soft power have fallen flat. Beijing’s draconian treatment of its Uighur Muslim population in Xinjiang and its abduction of foreign citizens in China, such as the Swedish citizen Gui Minhai or the Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, undermine its efforts to shape a positive narrative of international engagement and leadership. In addition,

Beijing’s mobilization of its overseas students globally for political and economic purposes, such as informing on other students who do not follow the Communist Party line, has led to a backlash in a number of countries. Moreover, Xi’s regulations have created a difficult operating environment for foreign nongovernmental organizations and businesses, the two constituencies most supportive of deeper engagement with China.

the negative consequences of Xi’s approach — local government paralysis, a declining birthrate, and international opposition, among others — have begun to hold China back from the finish line.

CNBC: “Growth in China could plummet to 2% over the next decade — from the expected 6.0-6.5% target this year, predicted Capital’s Chief Asia Economist.”

Xi does not appear to be the kind of guy who will put up with the many problems caused by 2% growth. Stay tuned, it could get really nasty out there…

This and that

March 5th, 2019

Another funny piece by Conrad Black on the idiocy we can’t bear to say much about ourselves. Another good VDH piece. And Bright College Years has become Bright Cottage Cheese, for all that’s worth. But the Grand Prize goes to Mark Steyn for an immensely enjoyable appreciation of the great Stanley Donen.

Silly fun update: yeah, CPAC!

The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

March 4th, 2019

In the first categories, expect some really awful theater 24/7/365 from the usual suspects. It has gotten so tiresome. As for the good, how about energy? – with apologies to AOC of course. Finally, VDH discusses the Left becoming ouroboros; it can’t happen fast enough.

Brief miscellany

March 3rd, 2019

We agree with the PL folks that the 2 hour speech was a heck of a thing. Hilarious. Check it out if you haven’t done so yet. Also, a long piece on AGW that we’ll read one of these days. That’s it for now, thanks.

Another genius

March 2nd, 2019

BBC:

Washington State’s Democratic Governor Jay Inslee has announced his 2020 bid for the US presidential nomination, joining a lengthy list of contenders.

Mr Inslee, 68, will make climate change his number one issue, calling it “the most urgent challenge of our time” in his first campaign video.

He is the first governor to throw his hat into the ring, joining 12 other Democrats, including six senators.

The two-term governor has been a fierce critic of President Donald Trump.

“I’m running for president because I am the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority,” Mr Inslee says in the video, released on Friday.

We’re quite serious about calling these folks idiots at every opportunity. You can’t win if you don’t deride this dangerous nonsense.

Excellent and fun read

March 2nd, 2019

An AG piece by Conrad Black – not American, but seems to know more US history than most professors teaching the stuff.

New month, old questions

March 2nd, 2019

Suppose you’re the creator of 2 trillion galaxies. Hey, creating a universe out of nothing is better than most day jobs. If you’re that powerful, why not make the conscious beings in line with your values? Mao, Stalin and Hitler, just to name a few, would seem to make the concept of an all powerful good God problematic. Even an excellent afterlife doesn’t seem to make adequate amends for the horrors done to over a hundred million people. Maybe we’re wrong. We’ll see.

Intense versus silly, and other stuff

March 1st, 2019

Arthur Koestler, intense; read to the end of the piece. Attorney client non-privilege clown show, absurdly silly, yes silly.

Very odd

February 28th, 2019

BI:

China’s slowing economy has led to companies in the country defaulting on their debt. But state-owned companies, with their sturdy shield of government ownership, haven’t followed suit.

That was until Friday, when, for the first time in two decades, a China-owned company failed to make a payment on its debt burden.

Qinghai Provincial Investment Group, which was downgraded by S&P Global Ratings to junk status, failed to pay an $11 million interest payment on an offshore $300 million bond last week, the agency said.

QIPG then missed a separate principal and interest payment on a 20 million yuan ($3 million) onshore renminbi bond that matured on Monday, the Financial Times said, citing Caixin. Qinghai Provincial is the largest aluminum producer in Qinghai and majority-owned by the provincial government

We’ll comment when we learn more about this. Meanwhile mfg continues down.

Danger Will Robinson

February 27th, 2019

AOC is on the loose. Shockingly, the Robot, a Class M-3, Model B9, General Utility Non-Theorizing Environmental Robot (G.U.N.T.E.R.), won a track meet.

Today’s bonus is we link to the hilarious and edifying piece about Ramis.

A modest proposal

February 26th, 2019

Bernie says AGW is an existential crisis. Kamala is SHOCKED by potential denial. Booker backs the Green New Deal. Imagine how much fun it would be if they and others were laughingly called ‘Idiot’ time after time after time on the so-called news channels by opponent after opponent. Of course their anti-green opponents in turn would be called idiots, but that’s where the fun would begin – who’s selling Miami property or giving up private jet travel, etc.? Fun.

Thank goodness for AOC

February 25th, 2019

AOC: “Millennials and people, you know, Gen Z and all these folks that will come after us, are looking up, and we’re like: “The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change.”

She apparently got her 12 years nonsense from the IPCC. What a great opportunity to expose both idiocy and corruption, as in “you’re an idiot for believing this nonsense, and the IPCC are scam artists, as are the tenured fools that teach such crap from K to PhD.” No backing down. Go ask Lindzen. And of course there’s our favorite question. This idiocy must end NOW. Hey, we’re talking to you, DiFi.

UPDATE: You’ve got to give AOC credit for weird humor.

So much for winning WWII

February 24th, 2019

WSJ:

you may want to consider what happened to Bob Garthwait, an alumnus of and major donor to Pennsylvania’s Gettysburg College — and until this week a college trustee. Mr. Garthwait resigned from the board Tuesday after a photo emerged of him as a Gettysburg undergraduate in 1980. He was at a theme party based on the classic sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, and Mr. Garthwait was dressed as a guard at a German prisoner-of-war camp, complete with swastika armband. A student found the image in the college yearbook and took it to a professor, Stephen Stern. The professor took it to the school newspaper and the administration. The administration almost certainly pressured Mr. Garthwait — who had endowed a “leadership center” on campus — to resign.

Pathetic. We always considered that TV show emblematic of something strong and good. If a country can make a comedy of a POW camp a mere 20 years after the war, that country is a very confident place. Oh, BTW LeBeau and Sergeant Shultz were both Jewish, and LeBeau actually was a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp.

More on lending up, up, up

February 23rd, 2019

Barrons:

“Aggregate financing to the real economy” rose by 4.64 trillion yuan ($685 billion) in January. According to analysts at CreditSights, January 2019 was the “fastest single-month growth since records began in 1992.” The boomlet was led by the big state-run banks, which boosted their lending by 3.57 trillion yuan over the month.

While lending always tends to jump in January as banks rush to fill their new quotas and lock in customers before Chinese New Year, last month’s move was extraordinary. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, Chinese banks originated about 2.5 trillion yuan worth of loans each January. Last month’s figure represents an increase of more than 40%.

Chinese want to move their savings out of the country and many foreign investors are skeptical of Chinese assets. So far, the PBOC has reconciled these competing priorities by progressively lowering the amount of reserves it requires lenders to hold at the central bank. Since 2015, the ratio of reserves to deposits has dropped from 20% to 13.5%, with 3.5 percentage points of that decline occurring within the past 12 months.

The figures in this piece seem a little different, but the magnitude of the changes is yuuuge.

Appropriate for today

February 22nd, 2019

Happy Birthday, and a good piece by Conrad Black, who made the “Emoluments Clause, the 25th Amendment to deal with mental incompetence, and the Logan Act of 1799″ worth reading about.

Hey, it’s only half a trillion dollar increase in loans in a month

February 21st, 2019

SCMP

Premier Li Keqiang has warned of the “new potential risks” that China’s record level of new loans in January could bring to the financial system. The People’s Bank of China (PBOC), China’s central bank, confirmed that new yuan loans surged to 3.23 trillion yuan ($476.97 billion) last month, almost triple the 1.08 trillion yuan ($160.8 billion) of loans in December and beating the 3.06 trillion yuan from the same period last year

The PBOC cut the amount of cash banks must hold in reserve at the central bank by 100 basis points last month, stepping up its efforts to bolster bank lending. In 2018, it cut the reserve ratio four times, releasing more than 2 trillion yuan ($297 billion) worth of liquidity into the banking system.

It’s only a little bit worse (2-3x) than 2008.

Set the controls for the heart of the sun, etc.

February 20th, 2019

Too much drug use. Want proof? Here it is. How much dope did this guy smoke, by the way? Hilarious! Speaking of dope, can NYC spend that $3 billion on new signs in Times Square?

REGNAD KCIN

February 20th, 2019

Can’t deal with writing about the scandal, coup, crime, and whatever. VDH and others already do a great job. Take a few minutes off and listen to Nick Danger, Third Eye. Ancient history. Everyone knew her as Nancy.

So much calmer than our current situation — uh, except for the Vietnam War of course.