What Do They Know, and When Do They Know it?

Someone yesterday, in comments, expressed confusion that we “refused to accept” that China could do things perfectly with 40 year old technology. Leaving aside the fact that this wasn’t the claim that started the whole thing: that claim was that China had got the capacity to deliver a missile (or infinite missiles) anywhere in the world at will, while the US was stumbling about in pronoun land, there’s tons of reasons to doubt anything China says it’s doing or has accomplished. Some of them are cultural, some of them are — more importantly, because this will happen again in the future, just as a dog returns to his vomit — the problem of information inherent in all despotism.

Before I get started though, let’s talk about people who run around with their heads on fire screaming that China — or Russia, or Northern Elbowstan at the right hand of the devil — are so much more advanced than us, and all is lost, give up now.

There is a name for this, boys and girls.

I don’t know what anyone else is seeing, but I am, sure as shooting, seeing a war with China and possibly Russia. In fact, the soft coup that took place last year was orchestrated by China, for the purpose of just such a war. And it will bite them in the fleshy part of the butt, because America is not a top-down country, even if all the people the Chinese talk to also think we are (Never mind, they’re finding out differently) and if we get hit, even Zhou Bi-den, the serene Emperor Xi’s vice-roi will be forced to attack them. Because if he doesn’t, his survival will be measured in seconds. Sure, Obama survived the destruction of our embassy, but it was an embassy far away, in a troubled land, and the mass media still had more power than it does now (Or Obama would never have been reelected without fraud that everyone could see. Yes, he was elected by fraud, but it was hidden fraud. And a lot of people who should know better actually bought his image as a healer, even the second time around. Now those masks are well and truly off, probably forever.)

Anyway, in the event of a war with either China or Russia, the softening of the population by convincing us that all is lost, and we can’t catch up, and we’re decadent and soft compared to these stalwarts of military accomplishment — snort, giggle. It amounts to armed forces composed of little emperors, and armed forces composed of stumbling drunks, but okay — is doing the enemies work. It’s called “spreading fear and despondency” and frankly? I’ve had it Up To Here with it. Anyone who does that is not and has probably never been an America patriot. Or at least values their carping, whining and assumption of superiority over their country and their country’s safety. For the love of heaven, at least THINK before you open your big gob and do the totalitarians work for them, okay?

But Sarah, you’ll say, Heinlein compared us unfavorably with Russia (wrongly, as we found out, though he never did) and talked about how much more work we needed to do.

Yeah, he did. And that was different. It was different because we were in a long cold war. Yes, he was buying into enemy propaganda, part of it being because he was a man of his time, and he didn’t see the problems inherent in central control (of anything, really) and part of it was that he desperately wanted us to do more to defend ourselves. So he circulated, with his alarmist statements, a petition which the reader was supposed to sign, saying we’d bear any cost and do any work to supplant the Soviets. That last is a big difference from “We might as well surrender to the amazing might of China and Russia” and if you don’t see the difference, you need to go and think about it a good long while, and stop being open-mouthed gabies whose only use is getting us depressed and to give up. Unless, of course, you are actively being paid by the other side to make us so. In that case, I hope you get what you richly deserve, and a bit more on the side.

Now, why the heck do I have a problem with a rumor of a rumor about the amazing Chinese might and their laser focus on creating super-powerful missiles, and–


Btw the one of you who said their scientific papers are “workman like” except for the ones that are crap, and that’s the same proportion as everyone else…. How many of the workman like are papers stolen from other people, and possibly other times? No, seriously.

Look, China has the same problem with its science it has with its literature, and frankly with its commerce, its economy and its …. modernity.

My friend Dave Freer something like 20 years ago — feels like 300, which I almost typed — told me that the problem with China is that it’s a beautiful lacquered vase, hiding cracks all over, underneath. He was, as usual, right. (Depressing habit of his.)

What he didn’t say, possibly because it was obvious to him, just like mathematical answers are to younger son, who then struggles to explain how he got there, is that the lacquer is modernity. The cracks are China as China has always been: the China where Emperors pursued immortality, where all books got burned repeatedly, where they tried to ban grandmothers from telling stories, and where the individual counts for very little, and oppression lasts forever.

Look, this is not a racial thing. There might — or might not, who the heck knows. As a friend told me recently, genetic coding for personality traits does exist, but we are so far from figuring out how it’s done, that we might as well be kids playing with cans and string and trying to understand cell phones — be a higher quotient of agreeableness in the personalities of the many subraces that make up “Chinese”. Agreeableness in humans is that thing that makes it easier to go along to get along, and that makes a person a better employee, marriage partner, but also a more likely subject to totalitarianism. And it seems to be one of the traits that is coded for genetically, (Yes, that’s why you tend to have entire families of “only if you drag me” stubbornness and why parental curses of “you’ll have one just like you” tend to come true.) But again, how the heck would we know?

Because humans aren’t creatures just of genetics. They’re also creatures of culture. No, I don’t mean environment. Yes, that goes into the pot, too, but the strong part of the environment for any human is “culture.” We are each born and raised in a culture. And cultures behave much like a “collective unconscious” in that they implant in us all sorts of cultural and subconscious detritus, which we would realize are nonsense in the full light of day. But we never take it out in the full light of day, since most of these things were implanted before we could even talk. It’s what allows us to function in our birth culture after we learn to talk. Even those of us who are less people oriented do know to run from a certain tone of voice, etc. And there’s a much deeper programming. Even after you immigrate and acculturate and become super conscious about everything that went into coding your reactions, there are things you’ll not be aware are weird in what you do. If you’re lucky they’ll be small enough people in your culture won’t reject you based on them. (America is much less likely to reject anyone on minor things, simply because our regional variance is so large, and we move around so much. So, there’s a broad tolerance for “weird.” Which as it happens has other advantages, like allowing the really creative, who rarely fit in well, to create.)

BUT the operational thing is: China is a very very old culture, overlaid on others very very old cultures which were repressed and suppressed but probably not completely.

And until recently they were stuck. And might still be. “Attain a certain level/destroy it all and rebuild” seemed to be their thing.

They might or might not have invented most trappings of modernity (so what, the Romans invented the computer. There’s more to invention than merely a single act of “I made this.” To pull humans into modernity there must be tolerance (yes, you heard that) even if no reward for the maker, and also a way to propagate the invention) but it never took.

It never took, because over the millenia of struggle and stomping down, China found some answers to “what is life? what is human?” and more importantly “what works.”

Part of this is that they utterly rejected individualism (as a culture, not people) in favor of collectivism. And part of it is that what they come up with that works is …. adjacent enough to science to totally f*ck it up.

This might be a human characteristic, as our own science is evolving towards it. It’s a “the most important thing is to LOOK like science.” And “feels like” and “sounds like” is more important than results and experimentation.

As a friend mentioned, “harmony” is more important than truth. (So, you know, science by consensus.)

And all of these bits are very old. So old that its almost impossible to uproot them. Because even people who learned and worked in the west carry these undigested bits inside them, and to break them is like dying.

One obvious one is what a young man found in the Peace Corps: medicines that need refrigeration and are sent from the west will go bad, because to inject something cold into the body violates things the Chinese KNOW from their culture they should never do. (This wasn’t China, btw, but an adjacent culture, but yeah.)

We see this “if it looks like” it’s the same in a ton of things. Almost every case of chemical contamination of products like the one that killed cats and dogs, is because the substance substituted had enough characteristics of the right one that for Chinese culture they were the same. It’s not just trickery. It’s a very old way of thinking. If it were trickery and chicanery it could be extirpated from the process, and arguably they wouldn’t do it to themselves. But it’s not. It’s part of things learned so young that you can’t get them out of your brain. So it will happen again and again and again. It will happen in shipments to us (which is why it’s bloody stupid to have anything technological or medicinal made there) and it will happen in vitally important things they want to do.

Now layer upon that the information problem of all totalitarianism. ALL OF IT.

You can measure how badly the chain of command of a country is informed by how much freedom there is. It is also why the freer country will always win. No, it doesn’t matter the relative power. The war can turn into a centuries-long morass with a much less powerful country trying to win, but in the end freedom wins. (If they resist corruption by totalitarianism) because in the end freedom has better information.

This btw was never taken in account by the progressives of the middle 20th century who were enthralled by the idea of “efficiency” and thought centralized was always better. This led to a lot of assumptions, like thinking the Nazis were way better than they were. And the Russians too. And almost cost us the survival of the free world. We haven’t cleaned up that back brain assumption yet, though I wish it would die already.

The problem of totalitarianism is that it reduces the individual to an isolated unit standing before the state, trying to survive.

In survival mode, humans kill, steal, and definitely lie to survive.

If you add on top of that that the totalitarians of the twentieth century have and had a fairy tale view of what humans individually can accomplish if they try hard enough, well…

When your local komissar tells you that you must build an entire city overnight, you’re going to do cardboard cut outs, and tell him you did. And he is going to pass that along and not look too closely, because he too has a boss he must answer to, and there’s no forgiveness in the system. And he wants to survive.

It is said — ah — that Krushev knew that the Soviet Union had “nothing” when it came to missiles or space program (in terms of comparing to the US. We’re only now kind of finding out how many losses and ridiculous failures their space program hid. They only got as far as they did by not giving a heck how many humans they killed, but that only takes you so far.) I wonder if it was true, or if he was one of the duped. Because almost every time the one at the top of the pile is living in a fantasy land.

Even our current bastards, with the level of control they have, and the absolutely refusal to listen to or consider bad news, have created an entire parallel world in their heads, where things work, but only if they never come in contact with reality. (Which is why they’re so panicked. Because nothing is turning out the way they thought it would.)

How parallel and fairytale? Consider that she of the Occasional Cortex, fully steeped in their fantasy land, but not smart enough to realize how bizarre that sounds, made it part of the Green New Deal that “native americans” would be asked to help us learn to live in harmony with nature. I mean, forget that Amerindians were genetically overwhelmed and what remains now is something like 10% Amerindian and the rest European. Even if this knowledge of how to live in harmony with nature (snort giggle) were transmitted through genetics (snort, really giggle) the chances of anyone who claims a blood connection to Amerindian tribes having it would be …. very low. On top of that, there is no proof any of their ancestors ever lived “in harmony with nature” and there’s plenty of proof that like all other barbarian humans they were very bad for the environment. Then take in account she’s talking about fully grown, modern human beings, who grew up in the late 20th century. It’s mind-blowing and brought to mind Good Omens, and the Tibetans digging tunnels and popping up to tell us to live in harmony with nature. But if you scratch most of the Leftist would be elite, in their hearts of hearts they believe this utter bilge, and it’s part of their vision for the world.

Now, as I said, we all have fossilized bits of things learned too young to realize they were crazy cakes, but most of the time we are called on them.

The left here hasn’t been. Not for almost 100 years, because they controlled the media, the education and everything that could break that bubble. So it’s bad.

It’s far, far worse in China, where that repression had more teeth than social posturing and blacklisting if you stepped out of line.

Now am I saying that China is not dangerous? Uh. No. Just like I’m not saying that the left is dangerous. They are both particularly dangerous because in many ways they’re both involved in a desperate struggle for survival, one they’re terrified they’ve already lost. (Population in China’s case. Possibly the left’s too, but in a different way.) So they’re going to fight crazily and do very bizarre things which in the end will hurt them but will incidentally also hurt us. And since we have a vested interest in civilization going on (Barbarism sucks for humans) we have to fight much harder.

But if the last two years have shown us anything is that whatever they can achieve with science, even with the help of western researchers, is not that impressive. Yes, we would totally be all dead, if they could have managed it. But their bio weapon was a dud.

What wasn’t a dud was their psychological warfare.

And they’re counting on that. They’re counting on the custard heads of the west carrying word of their amazing might and power, to make us preemptively surrender. (And btw, if they managed to win this — they can’t — their attempts at empire would last negative amounts of time. It’s not going well in Africa. They are such an old culture, they can’t unbend enough to understand the rest of the world, which they culturally don’t consider human, anyway. So it backfires. Every time.)

That is their best hope, and their best offensive. It’s how historically they’ve won. A lot.

So think before you open your big, credulous maw. Think about what you’re saying, and what it will do.

The only way they can win is by making us give up.

Unless that’s what you want, consider your words carefully.

345 thoughts on “What Do They Know, and When Do They Know it?

  1. Re Heinlein thinking Russia superior: that’s not so clear. In one of his essays, forgot where, he discusses at some length the data showing that Moscow has to be quite a lot smaller than the official figures say it is.

    A great discussion of how to discover the bits of valid data from the flood of fakery coming out of totalitarian countries can be found in Emmanuel Todd’s wonderful “The Final Fall”, written a decade or so before the USSR disintegrated. He forecast this, shows how you can see just how bad a shape the USSR was in at that time, and what the consequences would necessarily be. Among other things he explained that the periphery would start the process since they aren’t quite so suppressed as the core. And indeed they did — Poland leading the way.

      1. Totalitarian nations have always been good at puffing their capabilities up. Free nations have always been good at downplaying theirs.

        Which directly lead to both the F-15 and the Cuban Missile Crisis…

      2. Oh, at one point the Soviets had more missiles than the Americans did. And more tanks, by a fairly wide margin. And more artillery, by a hilariously wide margin.

        But it was all poorly designed and shoddily built, and very little of it actually worked, because the Soviets, for propaganda reasons, never scrapped any impressive-sounding weapon, no matter how obsolete. So the number of missiles they were reported to have was a close approximation of the total number of missiles they had ever produced since the day they ganked the Nazi rocket men at Peenemünde. (Plus a margin for ‘Soviet statistics’.)

        1. yes well, some of those tanks may or may not have been T-34s that last ran when they pushed Germany out of Stalingrad.

          1. Kept in storage. The idea was that they would be pulled out (along with the T-55s) and given to the reservists if war broke out in Europe.

            Though who knows what shape they would have been in.

              1. The difference being that the M-60s were being used, so we knew what condition they were in. The T-34s and T-55s, on the other hand, were more a product of “don’t throw anything away if we can build giant depots and store it”. A better comparison would probably be to the USN’s mothball fleet, but with tanks.

                1. my point of the difference is that … well, T34s and T-55s versus M60A3s, whether the soviet tanks work or not…

                2. According to a Russian Jew emigre friend of mine who actually served in the mid-’80s Soviet Army (conscripted, of course), those vast mothball tank parks were in pretty good condition at that point. And quantity has a quality all its own, assuming you don’t really care about casualties. In a ’70s-80s WW3 land war scenario, all the front line army groups may have had T-72s, and the Warsaw Pact allies T-62s, but the follow-on armored forces were T-55s.

                  Now, several decades later, they’re probably rusted junk, of course.

                  1. and an Abrams can pen the front glacis of a T-72 at two klicks, while moving at a combined speed of 40 mph….the T-72s weren’t refitted with that kind of gun stabilization and targeting until the late 90s.

                    1. True, but remember Sherman v. Tiger. Like I said, quantity has a quality all its own. NATO may have ended up victorious in a 1985 Fulda Gap scenario, but they wouldn’t have had any fun doing it.

                  2. They probably were rusted junk THEN. “pretty good condition” is an estimate that varies by country. In Portugal it means “Has some semblance of maybe working.” I understand from mom and dad’s visit to the USSR mid eighties that Russia is to Portugal as Portugal is to the US.

              2. Heh. We used M-60s in the Gulf War. Albeit with plow blades attached and the main gun replaced with a howitzer for demolition purposes. Worked pretty good too. Old tech isn’t necessarily bad tech.

        2. No. What we’ve found is that they actually did not have anywhere close to our number of missiles. There were supposedly long tubes being driven around the country on trucks. It wasn’t even bad missiles. Shrug.

          1. Yes, but the maskirovka worked because it was a cooperative venture between the USSR, which wanted to appear strong and scary, and the US defense establishment, which wanted the kind of power and resources they’d only get if they were preparing to fight an enemy that was strong and scary.

            To be charitable, maybe the US defense establishment actually knew what was going on, but kept up the pretense to avoid revealing sources. We don’t know what the top secret reports said.

        3. In contrast, recently had a conversation on “Supercarriers.”

          (skip to last paragraph to get to the point)

          Several guys who are *very* into military stuff were trying to remember if the Kitty Hawk was one, and I hadn’t heard the term outside of occasional news stories I didn’t really touch. But I’m the Navy person involved, all my uncles on one side were Navy, mostly not career. Ask husband, whose family is Navy with occasional black-sheep Marines and a significant percent career as far back as they can FIND anybody in the US. He’s heard it in Navy contexts, but…. We established that the Kitty Hawk was, indeed, a Super-Carrier when launched.

          After some poking, turns out that’s the “thing.” Supercarrier is what our Navy calls the current bigger-better-and-more-awesome-than-ever carrier.
          *The guys who love these ships knew it, because you’re going to talk about these awesome-cool ships, and they’re also familiar with other countries and what they consider carriers.
          *My family didn’t usually end up on the super-cool ships, because that’s where folks who were making a life out of the Navy headed, rather than the ones just doing a job for a few years. Had an uncle on the Enterprise, but he was busy making Kirk jokes.
          *Husband’s uncle served on a Supercarrier *exactly because* it was the gee-whiz cool thing that was awesome for his career.

          So, Soviets:
          It’s older than our country and the boxes may actually be empty, but here is our inventory of rockets!
          This was a super-carrier. Now it’s just a carrier-carrier, and the NEW bigger and better than ever is our super-carrier!
          Other countries:
          The ones you land jets on are super-carriers. Vertical takeoff and landing is a carrier. Even if it’s just one helo pad. Sometimes.

          1. The trip-up to the “other countries” definition is the French navy. The French are the only other modern navy that perform US-style catapult-assisted launches with arrestor hook landings, and their carrier even carries a couple of Hawkeyes. But the air wing size is similar to that of everyone else except the USN. What sets the USN super-carriers apart is not just the launch style, but also the size of the air wing.

            1. The French were listed as one of the few countries besides the US that “has a super-carrier,” which is how the international angle showed up– so you might read about a half dozen carriers, “and France’s super-carrier.”

              The Charles de Gaulle is a nuke, but it’s only a bit bigger than our amphib assault ships…. she types as an excuse to share this REALLY COOL website she ran into. 😀


              1. Interesting. I’d never heard of the de Gaulle referred to as a super-carrier. And I certainly wouldn’t, myself. But to each their own. I guess the rest of the world’s navies need to console themselves about the glorified floating ski jumps that they’re all operating these days. 😛

                1. :big shrug:
                  Like I said, it seemed to be CRAZY dependent on context/area/resource/speaker, to the point that even two Navy vets from different Navy families had different exposures to it.

                  …I may still be giggling at the idea of a gater freighter being some kind of a “carrier.” 😀

                  1. My most despised thing about space-opera: Ship classes. We can’t even agree what to call the various floaty things that are around, right now, and the author makes a big deal out of 20 super-destroyers, 10 destroyers, 16 cruisers, and 3 frigates – let’s not forget the dreadnaughts. ARG!!! Just STOP!

                    1. Ooooh! That could be an inside-baseball funny part, have like 48 different ship designs, they’re all named the local term for “Destroyer.”

                      …what else are you going to call your standard fighting ship? Wecome Inpeace?

                    2. Back when I studied statistics, the factor analysis books used data from Jane’s Fighting Ships as an example. Using size, armor, guns, etc the basic classes fell out. The issue was around cruisers where there was a large overlap between (e.g.,) British Dido class cruisers and the larger French Fantasque class.

          2. Now Kitty Hawk is just waiting to be turned into razor blades, because the Navy didn’t accept any of the proposed museum plans as viable.

    1. Well, neither Russia nor China has any interest in attacking the US, particularly with nukes, and I can’t see any reason why we would attack them on their home turf (which always fails) so I think it’s pointless to talk about war, no matter how much the crazies in the State Dept want it..

      1. The problem isn’t Territorial US. The Problem is Taiwan (which has a large portion of the worlds active chip fabs) and Ukraine (which borders on NATO allies, and actually the useful ones unlike Germany). And we’ve been letting the strategic forces slide since Clinton, and Turnip in chief isn’t helping. The armed forces have gotten sloppy since Obama was in office because they were not focused on their purpose (being able to break stuff as required for deterrence) and have been mistreated throughout and not being allowed to replace stores expended in Afghanistan/Iraq. This is one of my big bones to pick with Trump and his administration. The rot of 8 poisonous years of Obumbles on the armed forces was not addressed especially in the officer corps and to some degree in the Academies. I suspect the enlisted officers and men are mostly still OK, but fear intrusions even there by politically oriented folks.

  2. Over the years, I’ve heard too many “America Is Doomed” stories.

    The US would be surpassed by the Soviet Union, the European Common Market, Japan, Inc. and so on.

    Then of course, there were the “dangers” of air-pollution, over-population, the coming Ice-Age and the coming economic collapse.

    We got some problems today but we survived all of the other problems that some people thought would doom us.

    No Nation is immortal, but the US Isn’t Dead Yet.

    1. Even if the cause were lost, fighting until the very end would be the correct choice, for the sake of our own souls.

      The fights we are actually looking at, known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown knowns do not paint a picture of the inevitable victory of our foes. In fact, for ‘us’ there may be a possibility of minor victories, or even major victories.

      It is very much a game to play out carefully and hopefully. This isn’t yet time for a rush. These people had their hearts set on a fast game, and don’t have their heads prepared for a waiting game.

      Let’s Roll.

      1. I’m with Bob. Except I’d probably add, if we were all at the saloon talking this over, “Let’s Roll, M*****F******.”

  3. Interesting article. Do you know if anyone has attempted to collect these “cultural blind spots” from each country / culture in an objective method with any sort of empirical (such as statistical incidence) evidence?

    1. There is, in general, a TON of need for sociological research. But sociology is a Marxist sh*tshow, so no.
      I do what I do from my contacts and anedacta. Oh, and horse sense.
      BUT I do wish someone would study this stuff properly. In an interconnected world, it’s vital.

      1. Also, looking into that tends to be a mine field for anyone involved, due to the inevitable uproar.

      2. If the CIA/State Department weren’t more interested in the Iron Law of Bureaucracy, one or the other (both?) *should* be well placed to put that together. OTOH, there’s no indication that the people in those institutions give a rat’s patootie about the interests of the USA.

        Question: Has there ever been a period when the State Department was actually working in the US interests?

        1. A diplomatic service, as such, is a country’s way of paying its own citizens to act as enemy agents. This appears to have been true since permanent embassies were invented in Renaissance Italy. The only exceptions I know of occur in those totalitarian states where opposition to the Maximum Leader is considered treason against the State, and not tolerated from anybody – even from a diplomat.

        2. No. I was talking with Bill Reader the other day, and we couldn’t figure out any time when the US government was GOOD at something beyond taxing and hurting the citizens.
          Take that as you will.

    2. The nearest thing to what you are looking for is Thomas Sowell’s culture trilogy – ‘Race and Culture: A World View’, ‘Migrations and Culture: A World View’ and ‘Conquests and Cultures: An International View’.

      I commented at Instapundit a while back that a sane sociology syllabus could be constructed solely out of Thomas Sowell readings. I may have to work on it.

    3. Not that I’m aware of. But you can get a good idea of the underlying values/social expectations of a culture by studying the underlying themes of their entertainment. Makes an interesting (albeit informal) study.

  4. When the Soviet Union suddenly fell the most surprised people in the world were the US intelligence agencies. They had spend decades and billions spying on the Soviets and were even stealing the Politburo reports. They never understood that totalitarian countries are lies from top to bottom. China is lies from top to bottom; half the country has never used a telephone. They cannot produce enough food to feed themselves. Their population will shrink by hundreds of millions in the next 30 years. They are dangerous but they will collapse long before they could “defeat” the US in any confrontation…

        1. Japan, for all of it’s sins, had some spots of honesty-losing a war the way they did definitely shook up parts of their culture. China never has, not really…and, that house of cards has been falling for a long time. We just haven’t seen the top part that is falling land yet.

      1. Given that we still aren’t allowed to see most of the chicanery uncovered by the Church commission from when I was wee bairn…
        Or the recent head of the CIA, who had bragged about voting for the CPUSA candidate during the height of the Cold War…
        Or the readily observed behavior of the past six years…

        It’s on purpose.

  5. Frankly, I’ve always wondered if it were liklier that China would take on either Russia, or India, since they share a border, and are easier to get to.

    1. They had *another* border dispute with India some time during the last two years. The Indians whipped them – the Indian commander gave the Chinese general a bloody nose, and casualties on the Chinese side were higher than on the Indian. It wasn’t even close.

      1. A while back they tried to take on Russia. The Russian soldiers retreated until the Chinese were past the border, then blasted them.

        1. China has fared poorly in nearly every major conflict they’ve had since WWII. And Chinese generals, commanders, and admirals *know* this. They do okay when they have proxies that they can back for their enemies to fight, but toe to toe they’ve got their butts kicked but hard more than a few times.

          They can’t project force with any reliability, so mostly they’re concentrated on making South China Sea their own. They don’t *want* to get into a fight that they’ll lose for several reasons. Their economy is in free fall, a lose would break their morale in a serious way, and their military infrastructure is shaky. They steal designs and ideas that they then cannot replicate well, so they try and find ways to cheat.

          It’s smoke and mirrors. China has serious issues right now and doesn’t want any more variables that might make things worse.

          1. Not just in the post-WWII period. China’s army has always had a much better success rate killing Chinese citizens than foreign soldiers.

          1. Well, Vietnam a mere four years after Vietnam had racked up 25 years of continuous combat experience and the PLA had none at all. And it’s not like China sent the entire PLA at them either; it was more of a border clash or punitive expedition.

            1. Not only that, the PLA was set up to lose that war. It was a punitive expedition, all right: an expedition to punish the PLA itself by using its most undisciplined units as cannon fodder. Deng Xiaoping also wished to send a message to the Vietnamese government about its treatment of the Chinese minority in that country; but this seems to have been secondary. The primary purpose was to weed out the worst elements in the Chinese army, and as Paul Johnson has put it, ‘to teach the PLA that life was a serious business’.

              It would be rash to judge the combat capabilities of the PLA as a whole from that, especially after a lapse of more than forty years. On the other hand, the fact that no PLA unit has seen significant combat since then tells you that the whole army is more or less green and not likely to perform well against experienced troops.

    2. China’s been trying to slowly strangle India, Vietnam, and other downstream countries by cutting off their water and draining the rivers before they cross the border. If it looks like China’s buckling, the mini-dragons may just swarm and take out the Chinese hydro projects and irrigation stuff. Which could also be . . . interesting. (If China really does try to divert the Indus and Ganges . . . dear Lord, I want the popcorn concession.)

      1. Especially given the Ganges is holy in the Hindu religion. You literally can’t say that the Ganges is polluted — instead you have to say that Mother Ganges is “neglected” or “mistreated” or “disrespected.”

        Mess with the Ganges and expect to have millions of very pissed-off and very motivated Indians coming after your keister.

        1. Doesn’t matter anyway, because the sources of the Ganges are on the Indian side of the Himalayas. A couple of its tributaries arise in Tibet (the Ghagara and Kosi, if the map serves), but not enough for the Chinese to make much mischief by damming them.

          1. Not the Ganges, but the Chinese have threatened to divert or dam up the Brahmaputra, which starts up in Tibet and meets the Ganges just above Bangladesh. Which would be very damaging to them but wouldn’t hurt India all that much.

      2. That is likely less than it appears. Consider: dams combined with ChiCom-level quality control. Anything they do is going to be *very* temporary.

    3. The problem with picking a fight with the US is that it needs to happen close to China. Tactically, that provides them with knowledge of the terrain. Logistically, it makes it possible to carry it out (since China can’t reliably power project). Culturally, controlling the ground of battle is part of Sun Tzu’s book. And the Chinese are culturally big on the classics. Thus, three very good reasons that limit where the Chinese might theoretically attempt to manipulate the US into getting involved in a battle with Chinese forces.

      The logical targets would either be US allies, or USN ships in the South China Sea. The former risks triggering the wrath of the ally, and the nearby ones tend to be powerful. A pretext against USN ships in the SCS seems far more likely in such a situation.

      1. Assume the Chinese hit a USN ship, maybe even sunk it and killed a bunch of sailors. Could even Biden avoid engaging in massive retaliation?

    4. I always figured Taiwan or India were most likely.
      There’s something inherently destabilizing about a large cohort of men with no prospects.
      China needs piles of bodies and brides as war booty.
      But spoiled only children only (officially) a couple of generations removed from ancestor worship aren’t exactly the self-sacrificing types.
      Add in a cultural bias against warrior cultures, some truly fantastic racism, and all the incompetence a totalitarian country can mark as merit, and the ability to sustain a ground war is in question
      And I’m wandering.

        1. I just realized– there’s also the social aspect, the party member BS.

          So besides it mattering (intensely) what inside-of-China ancestry group you are, it ALSO matters what your parents and grandparents did/didn’t do/could be accused of doing.

          1. Yes, the party is in many ways an oligarchy. In theory anyone can break in and rise through the ranks. In reality, it appears that’s not so much the case.

      1. Beijing does *not* want piles of Chinese bodies. In addition to the issues with unhappy parents and grandparents mourning their dead sons, there’s also the issue that China’s infrastructure requires warm bodies in order to stay even minimally functional.

  6. Best part of a story is the villain’s “You’re going to lose anyway, so why not give up now and save us all the trouble” speech. Once they give that, they’re tipping their hand; the good guy’s almost there and they know it. If he quits they win by default and never have to admit they were on the verge of being defeated. If the good guy spits out a tooth and throws another punch, though…

    China? Pah. Their economy is tottering, they suffered serious natural disasters over the last two years, Hong Kong is giving them headaches even now, their population is aging out, and they’ve inculcated a culture of small families or no families at all. That’s not even considering the state of their equipment and their training methods, which are subpar *at best*. They put on a good show, but that’s all it is – a show.

    Russia…we’ll see. The noises they’re making about Ukraine are worrisome. The former Soviet satellite states have been gearing up for trouble for a while now. We’ll see.

    But as for quitting… *feral grin* “I can do this all day.”

    Can they?

    1. New Final Fantasy 14 expansion has this, *working*, from multiple angles.

      And it’s not done in a way that has an obvious answer, you can just *taste* how wrong it is, but you can’t… quite… put a finger on it, and there isn’t an obvious response right off the bat. (Well, besides pointing that the speaker’s behavior doesn’t match their rhetoric.)

      1. Of course, the blue bird of despair and world destruction is up against an individual who – even in his or her past life – is generally regarded as someone who just flat out doesn’t know how to quit. And somehow always pulls off a win. As a certain someone else notes, the poor little blue bird was doomed to fail before she started.

        1. I just got to the point where I’m going:

          (For those not gaming: it’s a Japanese video game. The story tellers are playing fair. I wish most movies could manage a *fraction* of the philosophical thought going into this.)

          1. Wait.. what!?

            Oh. I think I know what you’re talking about. That hadn’t even occurred to me. But yeah, I’m starting to see a number of parallels. Also means that you haven’t gotten nearly as far as I thought you would have by now. 😛

            On another note, I’ve restarted my FFXI subscription. /sigh

            1. Yeah, barely even *touched* it, although I’ve got a vague idea of what’s coming from my husband playing it– I have a tendency to stand up and go do something for “just a minute,” and twenty minutes later I remember I was gaming.

              When the log-in cue was measured in hours, that kind of limited my play time. 😉

              (Also hadn’t finished the post-stuff for the last expac.)

            2. The thing that twigged me was [tries to think of a way to not-spoil it but still be understandable] the refugee girls in the snow.

              1. Yeah. There’s also another item, though I suspect it hasn’t been mentioned to you yet. And that one shouldn’t be matched up too closely to history for reasons that don’t become apparent until even later.

          2. The story tellers are playing fair. I wish most movies could manage a *fraction* of the philosophical thought going into this.

            Okay, you’ve just persuaded me to pick up a Let’s Play of the game. (I gave up video games cold turkey years ago when I realized I was addicted to them, but I can watch Let’s Play videos on Youtube and get the storyline without triggering the addiction.) I skipped it because I thought, who wants to watch a Let’s Play of an MMORPG? But since you’re the one who recommended Vathara’s Embers to me, when you say something has good storytelling, I take notes. 🙂

            1. I don’t know if they’ll manage to pick up on all the cut scenes, or the side-quests, but FF14 is *definitely* aimed at people who are following the story.

            2. You’re looking at a lot of stuff at this point. FFXIV is a game where the plot has always mattered, and it’s had quite a while to develop (which is why vets always tell newbies not to buy a level skip). The previous expansion – Shadowbringers – is critical to understanding Endwalker’s (the current expansion’s) plot. But there are plot hooks trailing all the way back to the game’s relaunch. And there’s even stuff linking back to the original, failed version of the game, including what appear to be some video homages (for ex. the opening video was eerily similar to one of the game starts in the original).

              Basically, if you’re wondering about what Foxifier is discussing here, you want to watch Endwalker’s plot (which I also mentioned regarding something else a few weeks ago). But without the plot of Shadowbringers, you’ll be literally lost and have no clue what’s going on. And without the plot of Stormblood, you’ll be wondering who this Zenos guy is, and not know why you should despise Fandaniel’s body (it makes sense in context) with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. And so on.

              1. Oh, I plan to find a Let’s Play to watch that’s been going from the beginning of the game. But thanks for the warning that that’s important in this case. I love big stories that take a long time to develop, e.g. Babylon 5 and so on. So I’m looking forward to discovering FF14.

            3. Well, there’s always this:

              That’s part of a playlist, BTW. The people who do that series are getting a lot of mileage out of FF 14.

              1. For anyone who cares: that series is Final Fantasy in a Nutshell, which basically makes fun of ALL the main series FF games. Unfortunately, they go for puerile humor a lot of the time, but they do have some genuinely funny moments (including some “I didn’t know you could do that in the game” moments as well). The mostly-full playlist (not just the FF 14 stuff) starts here:

  7. Does anyone remember when Heinlein actually went to Russia and came back with real stats about their economy and population? Rather a red pill trip (as it were) for him and Virginia. I could go into the next room and get the book it was published in but when I stand up it will be to go to the elliptical trainer.

    1. I’ve been to China, many times, and actually looked around. It’s not what we’re led to think.

      1. My cousin went in the 90s– sent to play volley ball against their gals– not sure what else happened, but they saw a car accident.

        And watched the driver back up and hit him again, to make *sure* he died, because that’s cheaper.

        Also ended up at a hospital, the *best* hospital they had in the area, and after seeing what they were working with dragged the team-mate back to the hotel and did ranch kid medicine on her instead.

        … not a lot of “China is super powerful and awesome” in my family before that, and zero after that.

        1. My wife was watching a video recently, a collection of clips about people having close calls with death. I recall one clip with particular vividness. The camera is pointed up a back street somewhere in China, lined with modest-sized buildings built spang up to the pavement. A small car comes putt-putting down the street, but something makes the driver decide to hit the brakes. A few seconds later, an entire building collapses into the street just in front of him.

          He must have (a) seen something to warn him that the building was about to go, something not visible in the camera angle; but more telling, he must have (b) known that houses collapsing into the street were one of the expected hazards of urban driving in China.

          I have stopped wondering why goods manufactured in China tend to suddenly stop working. Now I wonder why they ever work in the first place.

          1. Good design, poor execution? My old company had a particular part, a small electric motor, made in Shenzhen I think it was. Original design was a company in Texas, got it cheaper made overseas. Motors from Texas had pretty solid sub 2% fail rate and tended to last. Chinese stuff was pretty decent to start with, some burn in issues but nothing more than 5%. Over time, around every three months or so, we got a bad shipment. Joke on the factory floor was that was when they got new workers in the factory because the “experienced” ones all died or fled.

            Knowing what I now do, I do wonder if that joke didn’t have some truth to it…

          1. This was second rate compared to “My mom is fussy so I have a basic first-aid kit in my luggage at the hotel,” both in supplies and being clean.

            I do know I’ve heard that some hospitals in the UK and EU also have issues with the rooms being clean, but the impression I got was that she’d rather have had my mom working on the classmate, in one of our barns.

    2. Yes, I do. He checked his impressions several ways (wife had gotten familiar with Russian language, and got a general sense of how big families were (quite small), a military friend worked it out using the amount of food that could possibly be shipped in via water, road and rail (their claimed population was simply not possible), and Heinlein had walked around the city, noted the pedestrian traffic, the general feel of the city, and had a sense that Moscow was smaller than Copenhagen – relatively, a small city.
      So, there are multiple ways to check for veracity of claimed stats. I suspect that the USA doesn’t feel it useful to show their hand in rebutting the claims of China.
      China is on its last legs. Lots of average people barely making it, an elite that is bankrupt, and looking for an exit, and children who are being sent out of the country to secure a toehold in another country. The monied elite are shoveling their cash into non-Chinese hidey-holes; they are sucking up to people who might help them find a cushy landing place. It’s Paris in the mid-1930s, and everything is for sale, everyone can be bought, and everyone is busy seeking those ‘exit papers’. It’ll suck to be the guys left behind with a bankrupt country. Watch the usual leeches suck up every resource in sight.

  8. Some time ago, I did some work on a conference for the UN.

    The woman who was in charge of our room was a low-level bureaucrat from China. She spoke decent English, and knew nothing else about what we were doing.

    Early on, we found out that we weren’t going to actually be working much. We were an overflow room, and most days we ran out of things to do by about 2 PM. After a couple of days of this, I asked the woman if we could shut down early and leave.

    The answer, without hesitation, was “no.” No explanation.

    The next day, I asked the same question, and again, “no.”

    But by that point, I had the phone number of the next person up the chain, who was an American acquaintance of mine. So I pulled out my phone, dialed the number, and asked the same question, while staring at the Chinese bureaucrat in front of me. The answer was, of course, “yes, you can shut down for the day,” and I asked if they could call the bureaucrat to make it official.

    When her phone rang, she stared at it for a moment, answered, and hung up. We left five minutes later.

    For the rest of the time we were there, she was almost terrified of me, since I could so casually and easily go over her head without fear of reprisal.

    That’s who we’re up against.

  9. It is impossible to speak of an Utopian strain in Chinese thinking, because they are ALL Utopians. Even Legalists thought there was a magical thing that would, if done, make people obey the law.

  10. China is destined to conquer because they’ve managed to conquer death. In 2020, the Chinese statistical agency reported 10.4 Million births and population growth of 11-12 million. It follows, with a rather elegant inevitability, that no Chinese died in 2020 and that China has managed to raise between 1 and 1.5 million people from the dead.

    It would seem that The long Chinese search for the elixir of immortality has been successful and that Chinese long range missiles are not the threat, rather armies of undying Chinese zombies would seem to be forthcoming.

    or they could by lying. But, that’s crazy talk.

        1. Speaking of labs, according to the official statistics over 4,000 people in China have died of WuFlu. 4000! That must mean 4000 more zombies. They need to get this technology to Cuomo so he can resurrect the 15,000 dead from NYS nursing homes.

          China is just so much better than we are here in the decadent west. I mean, they have only 4000 Covid deaths, don’t laugh the WHO considers this to be reliable because masks and stuff, decadent NYS had 4 times as many in just care homes. I say we surrender to the CCP immediately so we can all live forever.

          BTW, Chinese CPI inflation is 1.4% and has been flat at that level since Zhi the great helmsman became premier. You can buy a Chinese LT bond yielding 2.8% with a real yield of 1.4%. Better than that US trash yielding 2% with negative 5% real.

                1. You capitalist roadsters! Next you’ll say you don’t believe Saint Anthony Fauci.

                  Btw. I didn’t make this up. These are the official statistics that are routinely cited by Bloomberg and all.

                  1. They had higher numbers reported back a YEAR ago. And heck, even the Washington Post said the numbers (then) were off by two factors of ten at least, given the crematory records alone.

      1. Do we get extra points for hitting the paper charm thing on the hopping ghost’s head? That WOULD be a lot harder….

        *hands sketching the motion of roughly the nose-line of a hopping corpse*

        1. *G*

          I have to admit I’m not a zombie fan, but it sounds like Kingdom did it right. As in, with enough guts and determination, yes people can stop a zombie horde in its tracks.

          Considering tracking down the DVDs when finances allow….

  11. Some time ago I read a book called Investment Biker, in which the author detailed his impressions on the various countries and cultures he visited while travelling around the world. His impression of China was a free enterprise economy held down by a central government. Off icially it was Communiat. Unofficially? The chinese people were industrious and actively doing business.

      1. *dry tone* That explains why Xi is insisting that Christians replace pictures of Jesus with his image instead. *end dry tone*

    1. Which is why diaspora Chinese do very well for themselves no matter which country they’re in. Adjusting to a high trust society in Western countries must be a shock for them, though.

    2. black markets and barter keep these places alive for far longer than otherwise
      The USSR collapse had a side effect of the organised crime bosses becoming rich and powerful in gov’t because they were the ones already operating in a way that allowed them step right in.

  12. This reminded me of a video I saw last night talking about whether or not Japan should jettison bushido. As they defined it for the debate, it was the moral code for a fully collectivist society, as formed in Edo era Japan.

    What struck me about it was, while the Edo system did lead to 250ish years of no civil wars and relative peace, it bought that at the expense of zero growth. None, until a few steam ships kicked in the door.

    1. Sloppy terminology on the part of the writer, imo. Bushido predated the Tokugawa Shogunate. And Oda Nobunaga was very open to foreign ideas and innovations. He was just on the verge of reuniting the country when he was attacked and killed by one of his generals. His successor, Hashiba Hideyoshi, a sandal-holder who became a general (not that general), climbed the ladder from nobody to leader of the country. But began the process of putting the country into stasis by locking people into their castes (and, incidentally, pulling up the ladder behind himself for anyone who might attampt to do what he did). Tokugawa Ieyesu, who subsequently seized the reigns of power after Hideyoshi died, is the one who finished locking down the society when he set up the Tokugawa Shogunate.

      If Nobunaga had survived, Japan might have been a much freer place during the subsequent centuries.

      1. You’d probably have to go read the whole book, but he was talking about the concepts of bushido as inherited from that post-lockdown period, rather than the earlier ideas. And their primary point was that, while the hyper-conformist, collectivist society of the Edo period seems nice, it’s also completely self destructive in a globalized modern world. Basically, they have to drop their love of being the nail that doesn’t stick up.

        I’m also not sure their culture even has a full idea of what individualism really is, anymore, either. I wasn’t able to articulate what bugged me about it when I first watched it, but iconography the presenter used for individualism was a sparkly guy in a business suit. It hit me later, I’d expect something more like someone in rugged cloth building or hammering on something. I.e. individualism isn’t manifest by being a successful maanger, rather it is more truly manifest by someone making something manifest of their own will, be it a farmstead, a novel, the world’s most intricate butter statue, or a Mars Launch System. And you do it regardless of what the world thinks, or if it even cares, because you are doing it because you want to.

        1. It hit me later, I’d expect something more like someone in rugged cloth building or hammering on something. I.e. individualism isn’t manifest by being a successful maanger, rather it is more truly manifest by someone making something manifest of their own will, be it a farmstead, a novel, the world’s most intricate butter statue, or a Mars Launch System. And you do it regardless of what the world thinks, or if it even cares, because you are doing it because you want to.

          That works well with a pattern I’ve been seeing in anime– the stuff that is… well, healthy, for lack of a better term. Some of it is really dang weird, and some of it is barely clothed Life Lessons (like how to cook), but they DO work on the idea that “it’s something I want to do, and do well” being a valid consideration. Even that it is acceptable to want to contribute to Big Impressive Thing.

          1. I had not thought of that before, but now that you’ve pointed it out, yes, I’m seeing it everywhere. Heck, that’s probably the ur theme of One Piece. And its definitely the biggest challenge running into with writing fanfic.

            I basically ended up making an entire new area for characters to explore because I didn’t see any way to do growth writhin the current space without causing big collisions with set cannon.

          2. Would you be interested in doing beta reading for the fanfic I’ve been writing? It’s set in the touhou universe so, anime adjacent. Could really use someone to go through and flag what works and what doesn’t.

            Thank you.

            1. Not familiar with it, sorry; also having the devil’s own time getting into reading lately. Shadowdancer has a series I *know* I should be slipping into like it’s water, and I keep having to go back and re-read stuff because it doesn’t make sense with what I thought I read.

                  1. Had not heard of the Miss Marple books before. I’ll have to look into them.

                    I’ve got enough raw material that I’m comfortable doing stuff like the battle with the birds that drink souls, but the more domestic aspects are what I’m finding myself thin on. I mean, how exactly does the samurai retainer respond when her boss eats all the cakes for the bakeoff, anyways?

                    1. Oooh, are you in for a treat:

                      (There’s books, too, but the copyright fights on those are different so they’re harder to find; Agatha Christie is over forty years dead, and her only child almost twenty in the grave.)

                      And oddly enough, she might help you figure out how folks will act, or try Chesterton’s short stories– they were both very into the psychological and manners overlap.

                    2. Thank you. I’ll have to look into the Chesterton ones as well.

                      One of the things I’m definitely running into is figuring out how to juggle character secrets. While working out motivations, I ended up inventing some character relationships that are not listed in the cannon to rationalize their odd behaviors.

                      Basically, their official relationship in cannon is A, yet their dynamic is Y, without explanation. I’m inventing a secret relationship B that I think fits with the cannon dynamic, and allows extrapolation to new situations. But it means the characters now have multiple competing objectives, some of which they will absolutely never let anyone know about ever, and I need to figure out how that manifests in their behavior.

                      On the upside, if I can get it right, it should let the characters behave in extremely unexpected ways, that still feel in character.

                    3. And it is giving me ideas, and a new in with the tribesfolk. The main character has now acquired the name “moon hair” (or moon something, not exactly sure which moon thing) because her hair is silver. But given their moon is bleeding red, it begs the question, what the heck are they talking about 🙂

  13. My concern is not a Chinese or Russian invasion of the US. I’m more concerned about a Russian invasion of Ukraine and Chinese invasion of Taiwan. That being said, the latter is probably not going to happen as I doubt the Chinese have the ability to project power that far. The former is a concern, but the US won’t be alone in their response.

    1. What the Russians actually going to try to do is strangle Europe on energy. And turn Europe against us. And they will manage for a little while. Then comes the hammer.

      1. I wish there was some way to support the Eastern European countries that want our help without dealing with the Germans. When Germany chose a pipeline to Russia instead of an LNG terminal to get natural gas from us, they chose their fate. I guess it is true – you can take the girl (Merkel) our of East Germany but you can’t take East Germany out of the girl. It certainly appears that East Germany won the reunion.

      2. Germany is not allowing military supply flights to Ukraine to use German airspace. Since the Luftwaffe has almost no available airplanes, I say we bomb Berlin and have done with it. What can they do about it?

  14. One of the reasons the Soviets backed down in both the “Cuban Missile Crisis” and when Nixon threatened to come in on the Chinese side in the Sino-Soviet war is the fact that only about a quarter of their ICBM’s would would actually lift off the pad when launched. Then there was the low number of those missile warheads that would actually detonate. The Chinese military has the same reliability problems. Just look at the bad state of their new aircraft carriers.

    1. According to a Mao biography I listened to, when China conducted a test launch of a nuclear missile *with the warhead*, everyone involved – from the launch crew to the general overseeing the target zone – thought they were going to die.

      The missile apperantly flew perfectly, and the warhead detonated right where it was supposed to.

      The author of the biography then added that the missile failed in every single subsequent (non-nuclear) test.

      1. When the USN does a test missile launch from a boomer- the boomer is called in from patrol. The junior enlisted man is invited into the wardroom where he picks a number- and that number decides how many and which missiles are launched. In port long enough to remove the real warheads, which subs may or may not be carrying (I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons aboard a ship of the United States Navy…) During that brief time in port- you’re still officially on patrol at sea. No maintenance can be done that wouldn’t be done at sea. And being home for one night is long enough to cause pregnancy. Ask me how I know. Once at sea, the wait for the launch order begins. No one on board, not even the CO, knows. He has the authentication codes. When the launch order comes, we launch. The USAF when they do a test missile launch from a silo? The bird is gone over with a fine tooth comb before launch, and any possible problem addressed. From what I’ve heard, USN missile launches are more successful than USAF launches..

        If you remember the full Heinlein story about Russia- the military war colleges and therefore senior officers knew the true state of the Russian population and the Russian military. But letting the CIA overestimate what the Russians could do was good for the US defense budget… SO why disagree with them in public?

        Even the average enlisted man knew that Russian military strength as not up to par. Spruance class destroyers would occasionally be shadowed by their Soviet counterparts. American skippers would maneuver to steam alongside them (because steaming is still the term used when powered by anything other than sail) ad then slowly add a little speed. Not even a full knot at a time. The Soviets would kick up their speed to keep up. And at pretty much the same speed every time it was done the Soviet ship would have a black cloud erupt from it’s stack followed by them being dead in the water.

        An American ship on deployment goes to sea and steams. And steams and steams, going from here to there and back again, with occasional port calls. Soviet ships would exit the Black Sea, head towards anchorage, and sit there for weeks or months, maybe making a show the flag visit to either an ally or someone they wanted to intimidate. Their ships were very fierce looking with all kinds of missiles and launchers showing. That was their middle complement. The Spruance class was outfitted later in life with a 61 missile vertical launch system. Doesn’t look very impressive- it’s a big box. With 61 missiles in it…

        PMS- planned maintenance system, the bane of a sailor’s existence. Army and AF have something similar. And the Soviet Union adopted all the worst features of it. Along with our ships steaming constantly, our tanks, humvees, and every other sort of vehicle in inventory, are ALL routinely operated in exercises and practice. And PMs are done as calendar/mileage/operating hours dictated. In the Soviet Army, most of the vehicles were kept warehoused. The few that operated were constantly being tweaked to keep them running. If needed- a spare part would come from a never driven vehicle which would get the replacement part when it arrived… AKA never. But it wasn’t reported out of service. And all the warehoused vehicles had all the required maintenance done as the calendar date rolled around. With the parts that weren’t there.

        And we won’t bother discussing enlisted personnel training.

  15. Chinese webnovels… Aside from the incredible anger that fuels a lot of the protagonists being incredible jerks, and aside from the revenge plots and “faceslapping” of ridiculously arrogant children from important/rich/powerful families… There is an awful lot of “I will make a killing in a short term way, because if I rise high enough in power and money, quickly enough, nobody will be able to get me back.”

    Protagonists often reject legit business opportunities because they figure they will be stolen away by more powerful.people, and regard tricking other people as doing them the favor of teaching them not to trust shady people.

    Otoh, it is routine to show legit businessmen being framed or driven out of their businesses, unless they have powerful friends or some other strength factor.

    So yeah, I think people being out for themselves and their own families, and not easily able to ally with each other except through marriage or some kind of brotherhood friendship, is part of the problem. And communism obviously would make that worse.

    1. I’ve read a few pieces suggesting that Mao’s destruction of familial trust with the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution are responsible for a lot of China’s problems right now. It went from “low trust outside the clan” to “no trust anywhere”. I’m not sure that’s correct, but those two cultural cataclysms can’t have helped.

      1. I suspect inner-city black culture has similar problems. Back in 2016 I spoke with a black gentleman outside a posh Charleston hotel. He had come up to me because I was wearing a cross and he needed SOMEBODY to unburden himself to. He had taken a menial job (he was sweeping the driveway) to make money, he was willing to work hard and accept the low status because he was going to save and move up…but his family was treating him like dirt for trying. Still praying for him.

        1. A friend of mine (native American) dropped out of school in the 80’s because someone in her tribe was killed for “getting above his place.” He’d just graduated from college.

          1. The Seattle Times just ran an article claiming that WA State has the highest rate of Native American women going missing. It occurred to me that maybe they’re fled not dead.

          1. That problem is far more common than it should be our society. Almost as if schools were encouraging it….

            When I was young the universal message was “You can be anything you want if you put your mind to it.” Now- it’s “If you’re not a white male, they’re the ones holding you back. So we have to restrict them from succeeding…”

      2. A few years a go the fellow running a Chinese restaurant said he liked the USA because when he spent a dollar, he generally got a dollar’s worth. And in China, he was lucky was get a dime’s worth for that dollar.

    2. I’ve read a few and got the same impression. Snatch at any advantage you can get, lie cheat and steal if you have to, once you get powerful enough that nobody can touch you then whatever means you used are justified. That and a curious and funny indignation when they themselves are subjected to the same dirty tactics is typical.

        1. What kills me is that, very often, when the protagonist finds out something stupid is about to be pulled on the low-ranking people in the group, like a sudden expedition or contest, he gets ready for it but he doesn’t go and warn the other low-ranking people, even if there’s no real way it could hurt him to share the information and lower the risk for everyone. Not always — some people are all about making friends and influencing people — but often.

          Similarly, there are a few protagonists who are all about helping other people learn and get opportunities (including some of the most homicidal and arrogant ones, because apparently the authors feel like it balances out all the killing to save a lot of small children and cute magical animals, or to turn the more interesting antagonists into students instead of corpses), but a lot of them don’t even want disciples when they have become ridiculously powerful.

          But what really annoys me is when it’s a science fiction world, and humanity is facing some kind of hideously powerful aliens. And instead of having local or larger programs to help everyone advance in power, as one would think reasonable, while letting individuals progress beyond that point, it’s usually some kind of crazy dog-eat-dog. I mean, yes, I guess it shows that nobody likes Communism, but sheesh, act like it’s wartime.

      1. If one makes a study of east Asian history, one very quickly hits a stereotype of the Chinese merchant class, which is firmly grounded in their historical record and cultural practice. One could confidently predict all the problems with adulterated products, sub-par quality, lying, cheating, stealing, etc. in the modern Chinese role in the international system by looking at the past record. There are documents from 3500 years ago of neighboring states complaining to the Chinese central government about the same issues. Truly this falls under the category of “nothing new under the sun.”

    3. Obviously in real life, this would be an exaggeration. But it does seem to be the way a lot of companies and individuals in the real world in the CCP operate.

    4. The one thing I learned doing business in China is that a very large portion of the population are degenerate gamblers. I watched ordinary working class people lose everything on leveraged foreign exchange trading. We would wonder about the “suitability” of our firm offering this product and we pointed out that it would have been more honest to have them simply give us the money but no.

      In a similar way, I remember looking over a customer service call center when all the reps mobile phones went off at the same time. I asked WTF that was about and was told they were all day trading the Hang Seng. These were people living in Public housing making minimum wage, they had no business trading anything at all.

      More recently, I’ve noticed that the local casinos have all their signage in Chinese,

      1. Walk into the high stakes room at any casino in the US or Canada. Asians are represented way beyond their population numbers. There are several reasons for this, not just one, but all cultural. If you work hard, doesn’t matter, the emperor (now the state) owns the income from your work. Getting rich is a matter of luck, not hard work. Easy come, easy go…. And they share with Scandinavia the philosophy that the nail that sticks out gets hammered. And there are others.

        1. Agree, except, I was in a southern California casino just before Christmas – all the Chinese were gone. And last week in a casino near the Bay Area – very few Chinese. Unless they are scared of Covid, I assume they are having big financial problems.

      2. Gambling is often a sign in a culture of people that feel like they have nothing to lose-or gain-by any other means.

        I dealt with quite a few Chinese people, and even those that had been here a while still have the imprint of their culture on them. Quite a few of them work hard, push hard to get their kids educated, that kind of thing. But, an amazing amount of them will work quite a few side hustles and side scams. I know that I got no less than four different offers to have life insurance or mutual funds or similar fiscal things offered to me once I knew some of the people well enough.

        They’re also amazingly a “facade” culture. Knew a girl that was doing sex work because she needed the money to buy a new Lexus. She hated it, but she needed the money. I asked her how much money she had, and when she told me, I found her a good used Toyota that did everything she wanted-and she could buy in cash and still have money left over. This pissed her off, because she had to have the Lexus. Because the Lexus was the status symbol she needed. It’s why there’s so many knock-off products in Chinatown-because if you could have a Status bag, even if it only looks good at a distance, you’re of higher status.

  16. The “it’s all already lost” mindset also goes for the “we’re going to run out of resources!!!” crowd.

    My answer (in my head, because as we all know “you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason their way into”, and they’re otherwise decent folk) has always been “um, we’re humans. if given half a chance we’ll invent our way out. But that can’t work if you let them chain us down”

  17. One of the things I learned in grad school was that departments with large numbers of Asian and South Asian students had to have special classes on “what is plagiarism vs. research.” In certain other cultures, until you reach a certain academic rank, you are expected to quote the experts verbatim, attribution not needed. After all, your professor knows his own writings, yes? This shows respect for the experts, and acknowledgement of your place in the hierarchy. I was told that original thought is . . . not entirely discouraged, but strictly channeled, especially in lower-division classes.

    The Chinese culture mostly worked, with a few notable interruptions, for a couple thousand years. I say mostly worked, because it never faced long-term competition that the Han couldn’t co-opt or eventually muster enough force temporarily to defeat. That is, until the west had the technology and determination to beat the Middle Kingdom at its own game. The Qing Dynasty couldn’t regroup fast enough to deal with the new ideas, Opium wars, and the Tai Ping Rebellion together.

    Disclaimer – I am not a Sinologist, and I am not as well read in Chinese philosophical and political history as I probably should be.

    1. “I am not as well read in Chinese philosophical and political history as I probably should be.”

      Nobody is, I don’t think. Part of the problem with rewriting your own history every few decades or so is that soon enough, you don’t have one.

    2. The problem, imo, is that China spent millennia isolated from any other powerful cultures and civilizations. The only nearby powerful culture was India, and India was separated by a number of nomadic cultures. That didn’t stop Buddhism from slipping in and entrenching itself. But the trip between the two regions was difficult enough that one famous trip from China to India was turned into a fanciful and fantastic novel – The Journey to the West.

      So there was little opportunity for China to evaluate its culture against powerful foreign cultures.

      And then the First Opium War happened.

  18. “Because humans aren’t creatures just of genetics. They’re also creatures of culture. No, I don’t mean environment. Yes, that goes into the pot, too, but the strong part of the environment for any human is “culture.” We are each born and raised in a culture. And cultures behave much like a “collective unconscious” in that they implant in us all sorts of cultural and subconscious detritus, which we would realize are nonsense in the full light of day.”

    This. Human brains (especially in infancy and toddlerhood) are *very* plastic. Meaning they readily take impressions from their environment and internalize them. Culture informs and helps to form nigh every single part of our individual identities, from the information we consume to our tastes in food, clothing, dating, friendships, religion, politics, and all.

    Genetics forms a baseline, I believe, to that personality. What you look like matters to other people, and their reaction in turn has an impact on *you.* Your health and physical fitness as well. I don’t think culture can be adequately separated from genetics, really (yes twin studies, yadda yadda. BTDT). Culture is what you are enmired in and the measuring stick you compare yourself to. I would argue that it has a *huge* effect.

    Considering China and Russia, they wouldn’t try quite so hard if they did not believe that a strong, independent US was a threat somehow. They are right to think that. A free state will always be a threat to the totalitarian socialist/communist. Their best minds and most creative people will often be seduced by that freedom (usually without much effort on our part at all).

    We are also the opponent that they measure themselves against. The US has aircraft carriers? We will make bigger ones! Nukes? ICBMs? We will have more of them, and better ones, too! They will also lie to their peoples, as they compulsively do. That all of their problems are our fault (climate change anyone? Famine? Plague? All been done). It only makes sense in their minds that they use all the tools they have to bring us down a notch or two.

    If only they weren’t so bad at it, and didn’t have so many credulous allies in academia, media, and democrats who hate us, the poor, brown people, small businesses, and anyone with half a brain and the wit and stubbornness to stand on their own two feet, then I’d be more worried. Yes, we need to clean up many messes being made at this time (and being made worse). But we *can* clean those messes up. Supply chain logistics is *not* irreparably broken. Neither is the economy, nor education, the legal system, et al.

    And that, I think, is what scares them most. An unfettered US, energy independent, and economically strong. Practically speaking that’s a good thing for the world. Trade improves. World economies stabilize when we do. The only things it is bad for is kleptocrats, democrats, and totolitarian socialists/communists. Which kind of explains the present.

    1. Russia’s got insecurity issues. Given how many times outsiders have overrun the place and burned everything, this is understandable. It’s still a problem when dealing with them. But it’s understandable.

      China’s the guy who was sitting in a throne being acknowledged as god-emperor. But some new guy showed up out of nowhere, smacked China upside the head, and knocked him off of his throne. China believes he can get his position as god-emperor back if he can beat the new guy.

      1. I think that’s slightly backwards. The way I read it, China believes he can beat the new guy because he is destined to get his position as god-emperor back.

        This is a very dangerous delusion.

        1. It’s a little of both. China believes that it’s destined to get its position back by virtue of the fact that it’s China. But it also sees that before that can finally happen, it needs to dethrone the “pretenders” in order to get the rest of the world to acknowledge China’s greatness.

      2. Russia’s got insecurity issues.

        Russia (and perhaps China) has projection issues as well. During the Cold War, no matter how fervently we proclaimed it, the Soviets just could not believe that we weren’t planning to attack them by surprise at any moment. Why, just look at all those American tanks poised right on the border! (The Germans made us do that because they didn’t want us trading German space for American lives.)

        What was really going on is that the Russians didn’t believe that a technologically/economically/militarily superior power on their border wouldn’t want to attack and conquer them, because that’s what they would do.

  19. “But their bio weapon was a dud.”

    Yeah, even with us helping them. Or was it Fauci’s anyway? Okay, forget it.

    For several years I’ve wished to see a US – Russia alliance. We could still drum up enough enemies
    (China +) to keep establishment hawks from slitting their throats (though that would be nice to watch),
    and it would put China into a paranoid frenzy.

    1. The U.S. today concluded an alliance with Russia.

      In other news, a man with two perfectly sound legs went out and bought a broken cane.

        1. Eh, the cartels are better organized than Russia, I think. Still evil and NOT something we want in the US, like Russia, but less corruption I’d say, ironically.

          1. Too much competition– if one defines corrupt as breaking the rules of the group, then you get too corrupt and you become a target.

            I’m pretty sure that they’re funding the heck out of American political groups.

            1. I am too. There’s too much benefit for what is relatively little cost to them not to. I know they’ve got their pawns in the legal system. It’s not such a stretch from there to politics. Thank Himself for Texans and the other borer states (minus Californistan) that have the perspicacity and guts to see what’s going on and resist it when and where they can.

    2. We don’t need Russia. We don’t *want* Russia. I’d be pleased as punch if they and the Chinese decided to get into another dust up. Popcorn futures would be worth investing in, but we don’t, and shouldn’t have a dog in that fight.

      Russia has made a run against us once in recent history, as I recall- and it ended very, very poorly for them. Granted “contractors and associated non-Russian slavs, mercenaries, etc.” Crossing the river in Syria with some crappy old T55s, T72 and towed artillery in range of a US base that tells you “we will be taking defense actions (so don’t be an idiot)” was quite hazardous to their health, I’m told.

      The Kurds releasing water from the dam upstream so they had to ford back across with their wounded was just icing, really.

      1. On the one hand, I’d prefer not to have two of the biggest countries in the world get into a major dust-up, particularly around Mongolia (which, from what I’ve heard, is populated by great people who get along well with Americans). On the other hand, I’m *really* curious to find out how the current Russian and Chinese military equipment (and not just the small stuff used in border firefights) would fare in actual battlefield conditions against a theoretically parity opponent.

        1. Somewhere on archive.org there’s a travel journal from the late 1800s, by some fellow who tried to go touristing in Mongolia. He wound up as a captive, and only missed out on the better grades of torture due to some technicality I forget. The moral is… Mongolia is still populated by old-school Mongols. If they get along well with Americans, it’s because they too understand Oh Yeah? Try and Make Me… and are not the least bit shy about protecting their home turf.

        2. Got to meet a couple of Mongolian guys who came over for military-exchange stuff.

          Quite impressed– got the impression that they’d have the closest cultural similarities to US ranchers. (not ‘cowboys,’ but the actual on-a-ranch-year-round types, like the ones who grow hay all summer and feed it all winter)

          1. They’re not that many generations removed from nomadic cattle herdsmen living in beautiful but not so fertile land who have historically been willing and able to recognize and incorporate superior practices from the cultures that they encounter.

            Yeah, I suspect they generally get along just fine with Americans.

    1. It was either Michael Totten or Michael Yon who observed that the Chinese always do well when they’re not in China.

      When they’re in China, on the other hand…

      1. Pity it doesn’t keep them from cheating and plagiarizing.

        The only saving grace is that not all of them are very good at it, so they can be caught and corrected before they do themselves some real damage.

      1. That’s partly a language issue, and partly a language issue.

        To unpack:

        The language-group misleadingly known as ‘Chinese’ is so starkly different from most languages spoken in the rest of the world that it is very hard for a native Chinese speaker to learn any foreign language well, or for any foreigner to learn any form of Chinese well. Thus, first-generation Chinese emigrants have a very hard time doing business in their new countries.

        But also, the cultural attitudes bred in the bone of Confucianism, the same ones that have made China such a shining example of tyranny and incompetence for the world, are by the same token bred in the bone of Chinese writing. Literary Chinese, having been for many centuries in the keeping of Confucian scholars, has become an ideological language, and it is difficult to untangle your thoughts from that ideology so as to form ideas suitable to life in a relatively free country. It’s similar to the problem of Piraha, though less severe. Those Chinese who grow up knowing a non-Chinese language have the best of it, because they are raised with the good and useful elements of Chinese culture, while being equipped with a language that does not inhibit them from taking independent thought.

  20. Sure, Obama survived the destruction of our embassy, but it was an embassy far away, in a troubled land, and the mass media still had more power than it does now

    And they hadn’t maxed out their charges on the Race Card.

    And a lot of people really, really wanted to believe.

    Meanwhile, Biden is literally an old, white man who is so establishment he’s been in office since the parents of the median voter were graduating high school. Even the Boomers recognize him as “old.”

  21. The modern chinese are not known to be inventive on their own, mostly due to their education system filling young minds with propaganda and not teaching them how to think. It was only 50 years ago that China was counted among the “backwards” countries of the world. It wasn’t until US companies started producing products in China, and chinese citizens were allowed to live in the US while attending college and working for US companies, that China advanced. It was through theft of intellectual property that China has become what it is today. China really isn’t more advanced than the US is militarily, it’s just that in some instances they have produced more of the advanced products than what the US has. However, I believe that the chinese made products are likely inferior to the US made equivalent. Just look at the quality of consumer products that come out of China. It isn’t that they don’t know how to produce the quality products, because they have access to the production methods used by US companies to produce the better quality products. The inferior quality of chinese products likely come from greed, which causes them to cut corners on the quality of material used, and graft that causes QC to be overlooked.

    Russia was plagued with inferior products while under communism. I am not sure how much progress has been made in recent decades with the quality of their manufactured goods, or if the old mindset is still ingrained in too many of their workers to have allowed any significant advancement in product quality.

    Unfortunately, the US is not in a position to win a long drawn out war with a large adversary like Russia or China. Unlike during WW2, the US no longer has the manufacturing base needed to crank out products to support a large war effort like it accomplished during WW2. Also, our education system now resembles what is found in China, where propaganda is taught instead of how to think. And, unfortunately, what little manufacturing still exists in the US may also have fallen to the greed and graft that plagues the chinese as evidenced by the recent discovery of falsified QC for steel used in the construction of submarines for the Navy as one example.

    1. A long drawn out war?
      Tickle me to make me stop laughing.
      Russia is a dead man walking. China can’t START a war without killing itself.
      It’s ALL mind games.

      1. You mis-interpreted what I wrote. I was merely comparing the capabilities of the US to that of China and Russia. The truth is that the US is not capable of being engaged in a long term war with an adversary that is more capable than the third world countries that the US has had conflicts in for the last 60+ years. The US does not have the manufacturing base needed, like it did during WW2. The steel mills, and other “dirty” industries needed to produce large weapons (tanks, artillery, ships, etc.) on a scale needed to supply a long term war have been decimated in this country due to government regulations.
        War with Russia is only likely if the US provokes it with an action that Russia cannot ignore.
        War with China would likely only be thru its proxies, like North Korea. However, you cannot rule out China getting into a war with one of its neighbors if it feels it needs a war to distract a disgruntled population. Of course, China has been stock-piling food for the last couple of years in an effort to keep their population fed, so hopefully they aren’t likely to need a war to distract their population anytime soon.
        Any war is likely to come from the idiots in DC who desparately need it for distraction, and of course money…

        1. War with Russia is only likely if the US provokes it with an action that Russia cannot ignore.

          :eyebrow raise: You mean like how we were being horribly provocative to object to the idea of them invading the neighbors, especially those neighbors who escaped and started doing better once they were out of Soviet control?

          As has already been mentioned– our manufacturing ability *is* coming back, with speed that puts a lie to the estimates that we’ve been given for it my entire life.

          And that is with all the environmental regulations– and lawsuit harassment– still firmly in place. Russia decides to actually F around? I would not lay bets on those getting the same enabling support they are currently receiving.

          1. I think you are confusing assembling with manufacturing. As an example, automobiles are not manufactured in this country, they are assembled here. Nearly all of the components are manufactured in other countries and shipped here for assembly. That is the way it is with almost everything. There are very few items requiring more than a handful of components that are truly manufactured completely in the US.
            But, as balzacq states, there isn’t likely to be anymore long drawn out wars like WW2 anymore. As soon as one side begins to find itself losing, nukes are likely to begin flying.

            1. No. We aren’t. The difference between assembly and manufacture is well understood.

              And where do we need to send the fuel truck to refuel those goalposts?

              1. From the example he chose, maybe he’s over-focusing on large consumer goods, instead of the “keep things running, not just Everybody Buys” stuff I know you’re familiar with?

                1. Maybe? Someone on IIRC Instapundit the other day used that tack of “I don’t see any less Made In China stickers at the store”.

                  But it’s still stupid, in the same way as “everyone just goes along with masks! WAAAAA!”, “Where are you?”, “Downtown Seattle”.

                  1. They’ve been using *that* one since at least the mid-90s– absolutely nothing will break through it.

                    There’s a few things that are hard to find made anywhere but China– fuzzy throw blankets, for example– but at this point, if you haven’t noticed it dropping in the last decade, you’re unlikely to notice it until you’re required to find something made in China.

            2. I think you are confusing assembling with manufacturing.

              I think you are working off of outdated/direly limited information, since your correction would have been mostly accurate over two years ago.

              1. Even then the disentanglement was already happening in the beforetimes, even before Trump. It was just slow and you had to know right where to look.

                1. :nod: Quality issues.

                  I *saw* places move over to Mexico– and then move back, fast enough that there was discussion if it was a rope-a-dope to be allowed to shut down the place that was “moved” so they could start over without all the nonsense that was there.

                  1. Vietnam is also doing well out of this.

                    China screwed up in ways it shouldn’t be possible to screw up. Once they priced themselves out of the market their fall was inevitable.

        2. No war in the modern era between the US and a near-peer, or between those near-peers, is going to be “long and drawn-out” anyway. All this moaning and groaning about “oh we don’t have the industry to build more tanks while the war is going on like we used to, all is lost” is silly and stupid, because the hot war will last at most six months before either one side cries uncle or both sides fall into exhaustion* or the nukes fly. Like Dick Cheney said, you go to war with the army you have; what he didn’t say is that in a big war you won’t get to change it or even replace it while the fighting is still going on.

          (* maybe a Korea-type armistice or a devolution into a “frozen conflict” or both)

        1. That’s partly because it contradicts THE NARRATIVE about Western decadence and Communist superiority; but also partly because the media still think ‘industrializing’ means building factories with unfiltered smokestacks and dangerous machinery operated by hordes of union workers wearing overalls.

          The truly typical factory of the current reindustrialization is the chip fab, where everything has to be done by robots because the presence of even a single human hair or dead skin cell would be enough to contaminate the clean room and spoil a batch of very expensive ICs. A guy wearing a white lab coat, working in an aseptic environment to maintain the machines that go into the clean room, does not tick any of the boxes that the media expect when they see the term ‘manufacturing worker’.

      1. And you are part of it, in a way. That 3-D printer? Maybe it’s research, maybe it’s cottage industry, maybe it’s distributed/customized manufacturing. Even if it’s “just” pre-manufacturing, such as making the jig so that particular item is held just so for a more classic machine (e.g. drill press).

        1. Aye. It is low priority side work, but I do want to slowly edge into niche production as a secondary income source.

          I also have ideas for magazine designs. But those require a lot of experimentation before I can even think of starting.

          I’d think about going the same way for producing ammunition in some of the more ridiculously expensive niche calibers, but that industry is already regulated to hell and back. Even if the fees aren’t much, the potential for Federal prison if you screw up is quite the pitcher of cold water.

          1. You really should talk to younger son. He just got a 3d printer with same basic idea. (Though so far just learning how to use it, and of course the illness that the family started the year with didn’t help.)

        2. Or making a piece that will only work for five or six minutes…which is still five or six minutes you didn’t have before. Sometimes that’s Enough.

    2. We’re all paper tigers. I think Russia has a real shot of they can change their peoples’ mindsets, China if they can change their leaders, and the U.S. if we can remember who we are faster than the woke virus can eat out kids.

      Any war between us, we all lose. Our leaders are a mix of incapable, crazy and nuts.

      1. Dear Lord. No.
        We’re sound. THE COUNTRY IS SOUND.
        Russia, no shot. They are a bunch of tugs living on ruins, while their population vanishes and is drunk.
        China? Far, far worse.

  22. Another bit of “what the hey?” Chinese accomplishments (?): there’s evidence someone in China invented a treadle spinning wheel around the 2nd century AD. And it never caught on and was forgotten. So women stood up to spin for another thousand years. (Yes, you can spin on a spindle sitting down, but drop spinning encouraged standing for greater mileage).

    1. That seems to me to be the secret to China’s history. they invented almost everything and the. Their educated classes deliberately suppressed it. Another rhythm is that the coasts get rich from trade until the interior provinces come and shut it all down. Add in periodic mass famine and plague and immensely destructive war and you get what we have now.

  23. Yes, that’s why you tend to have entire families of “only if you drag me” stubbornness and why parental curses of “you’ll have one just like you” tend to come true.) But again, how the heck would we know?

    Because humans aren’t creatures just of genetics. They’re also creatures of culture.

    Which is how you end up with folks that ADOPT getting a kid that is “just like you”– but also have kids that were handed off shortly after birth finding they’ve got a lot in common with their birth-family, should they meet them. (The happy stories, that’s good; the sad stories, that is sad but hopeful– different family culture lets the adopted-out bypass some issues.)

    1. I know some of those—one is my husband’s niece who is just two years younger than he is. Adopted out of the family because her parents weren’t married (yet), open enough adoption that she got back in contact with them later and came to her sister’s wedding.

      Which happened to be the first time my husband heard about her. “Oh, K is coming.” “Who’s K?” “J’s sister.” “WHAT?”

      They’d told me years before, but apparently nobody ever realized he hadn’t been told…

      Anyway. Can definitely see where she slots in to my husband’s family—and also where she didn’t grow up in the same environment as J.

  24. Yea yea, OK, throw rocks instead of carp; but in my opinion Putin is a far better leader than our presently appointed president. He cares about his country.

    Also the ‘drunk’ Russian army, again in my opinion, is in far better shape than ours under it’s present leadership.

    Yes, don’t trust China, China is A__hole but in today’s woke world I think we could do far worse that side with, or at least take a hands off position with Russia. I wouldn’t with Biden but I would shake hands with Putin, even if I did, surreptitiously, count my fingers before and after.

    1. Uh. Going to disagree on that one, that Russia’s army is in better shape. We’ve got different problems. Russia has supply, trust, leadership, corruption, and out-and-out thievery problems. We’ve got disloyal leadership and political shenanigans trying to insert commissars into the command structure, which is causing retention and recruitment issues, among things (some minor, a few major).

      Our issues are fixable. They are rooted in outside influences that should not be. Russia’s problems are endemic to the culture and politics of Russia. Much bigger problem fixing those.

    2. Yeah.

      I’ll just repeat my usual assertion that Putin’s behavior, and probable actions, do not line up with him having a real love of Russia.

      1. Agreed. Putin loves *Putin.* Russia is just a secondary concern, as it’s his seat of power, I think. He’s a KGB thug who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Clever enough to stay in power, but he is neither a patriot nor a player of 3d chess. He’s been fortunate enough to take advantage of fools and canny enough to back down when real threats show themselves.

        Between Russia and China “a plague on both their houses” is sufficient. They’ll fall in time, and without much work (if any) on our part. We need to look to ourselves, and set our own house in order.

    3. Jim, I agree with you. But it seems that we are resigning ourselves (gov’t. and public opinion) to a never ending Russia! Russia! Russia! dog and pony show. How we are trying to secure any measure of stability and peace for future generations is actually an endurance run to a big blow up.
      No wonder the ET’s are keeping close eyes on us.

    4. Putin is highly effective in his lane. And he tries to stay inside his lane, most of the time. He knows he’s a thug doing big time thuggery.

      But no, he’s not a leader. He’s not preparing Russia for life after him, which is one way you can tell.

    5. I reviewed the comments (rocks), and they not have changed my mind (& yes, D. Lane, I agree with your first paragraph, your second,, in my opinion, note, just in my opinion, is wishful thinking.). I love America, in this day and age, I love Alaskan America better but…

      But, but, but, if I were in the position of having to make a choice, move to my neighbor’s country to the East (OK to clarify from where I sit looking south. to the left.), of my neighbor’s to the West (Russia’s Wild East.), move to Canada or the Russian Far East (Again clarifying, to the right.), I’d chose the wild wild East.

      Hey I’m not selling anything, just my opinion, you don’t have to buy it.

      1. No worries. I’m aware my opinions are often off the wall and I know I get things wrong, too. Note I didn’t say that the fixing would be *easy* or that it would happen in my lifetime, or that it would happen without pain. It’ll be a monumental task. It’ll involve multiple people in all layers of command with the spine and wit to stamp out the utter moronic stuff that we’ve been laden with lately.

        Is it possible to cull the Pentagon down to ashes and dirt? Fire all the officers (okay maybe keep one or two) and NCOs above E7, or at least *enough* of them so the rest slink away or keep their heads down until their time is up? Sure it’s possible. Crank up the standards and focus on core skills, remove all diversity and suchlike training everywhere? Same. Now ask me if it’s *likely* to happen.

        The military after Vietnam was a shocky, drugged up mess. We recovered from that. We can recover from this. Just so happens that it’ll be a nigh impossible task.

        That said, and take this from a guy who *hates* studying the cultural side of anthropology/psychology but does it anyway: That task is several orders of magnitude simpler than fixing a culture that’s completely borked. The US has done it. It sucked. It was a bad idea that worked out in the end, not quite the way its designers intended either.

        On a lighter note, I do agree Alaska is getting along better than any other coastal state I could name. Most Alaskans I’ve met have been good people. Sometimes a little weird, but less so than any urban folks I could mention. The rest of the US could learn some valuable lessons on liberty and self reliance from Alaskan America.

        1. Is it possible to cull the Pentagon down to ashes and dirt? Fire all the officers (okay maybe keep one or two) and NCOs above E7, or at least *enough* of them so the rest slink away or keep their heads down until their time is up? Sure it’s possible. Crank up the standards and focus on core skills, remove all diversity and suchlike training everywhere? Same. Now ask me if it’s *likely* to happen.

          I know I’m a broken record on this, but– the most effective measure, both in being able to be implemented and hard to game, would be to require that promotion/retention decisions be made on the basis of duty-related items.
          That includes removing bonuses beyond a pin for cross-training. Not because it’s a bad idea to cross train, but because I would put it at LEAST on par with sex related issues for waste of Naval resources and abuse of power, especially if you combine it with the “volunteer” requirements.

          1. I’ll not argue that. For bang-for-the-buck, that’s probably the most efficient in the short term. There’s a lot wrong with the way things are going, and waste of time and resources is high on the list of things in dire need of fixing. It just sickens me to see what the boys and girls enlisting today are made to put up with. It’ll take a lot more than folks like me complaining about it, though. First steps need to be taken, so why not start there?

          2. How do you feel about Eagle Scouts in the military?

            ‘Cause many of the really good military types I know (including officers) are Eagle Scouts.

            1. So far as I can remember, that’s an enlistment benefit, not an advancement one– sort of like how people who are already trained in a medical field can get in at a higher starting rank because the military saves on training.

              As it stands now, those who put getting their job done over doing college classes and volunteer work (especially if they are in technically oriented and thus perpetually understaffed fields) can’t get promoted.

              1. Stories propagated when our son was in scouts going for Eagle the armed services enlistment + eagle scout, meant:

                “Eagle Scouts step forward”

                All “Get first chance at squad (appropriate service equivalent) leadership” … including the first to fail at it.

                Plus often – “you are teaching …”

                1. Basic Knots
                2. Map & Compass orientation.
                3. Basic First Aid

                And they were told that those with Eagle Scout, GS Gold Award, Top Campfire Award, *Venture Gold Award, got starting pay level one step above the bottom. Did not help when advancing further.

                * Those who received BOTH Eagle and Venture Gold Award, did not get recognized because had earned both.

                1. Navy didn’t formally do the offer-them-leadership things (although they definitely put folks in jobs by what they might succeed at)– but yes, Eagle Scout was a route to being able to be E2 or E3 in bootcamp.

                  1. Didn’t say it was “fact”, just those were the “stories told”. From what our son did experience, his Eagle Rank, and general scouting leadership experience, did benefit him and the other Eagle Scouts, when he participated in the summer program for Air Force ROTC because the small team “solve this” exercises were not something new, even if he’d never seen any of the exercises. (Note. He did not contract or enlist based on the ROTC. Obama’s program cuts was a major reason.)

                    1. :laughs: Not arguing, and honestly I’d be shocked as heck if they *didn’t* basically set any Eagle scouts up for failure.

                      Going over to the principle involved– offering bonuses for recruitment is standard. If I’d been willing to go nuke, I could’ve gotten at least one rank higher when I enlisted, just for that, even though it was the start of the year and they had *all* the jobs available.

                      The corruption/danger seems to be from basically abandoning the very resources that such selection is aimed at.

      1. On the other hand, Biden (& the democrat party as a hole [misspelled, should have wrote whole? Na…]) doesn’t’t love America and really doesn’t love the American people.

  25. Listen, I AGREE that neither China nor Russia are much as far as military power goes.

    The question is whether the US has fallen so far that it’s below even them.

    Incidentally, there are TWO different schools of thoughts on the Right that tend to emphasize the relative strength of China vis a vis the US. The one is the intellectual Right who are essentially the defeatists you say they are. They have spent their lives in a comfortable ivory tower, and have a certain contempt for blue collar types. So when things start going south, their first impulse is to talk as if this is a society-wide problem.

    The other school of thought is essentially the same as Heinlein. They are not trying to sow defeatism; quite the contrary, they are trying to get people to realize the dire situation we’re in, so that they will man up to the fight. I would add that, in most but not all cases, the fight they want people to man up to is not so much with China as it is with the internal enemy. We need less philosophers and more Kyle Rittenhouses.

      1. In fairness, estimating fractions of the US still sound is not entirely a trivial exercise.

      2. Maybe he’s talking about the difference between “Kruschev will bury us” and the space race mindset. As in, “Russia and China are doing X and we need to beat them at their own game” idea.

        In this case, the game of not trying to destroy their own culture, their religion, history, and basic biology

        Yes I know, that’s hilarious, but if it spurs us to do better?

    1. Basic reality check:
      is it usual when one of our ships is in such poor repair that it cannot operate?

      No. It’s still startling.

      It’s been not-startling in their militaries for my entire adult life.

      1. Yep. That’s not even counting the paper only units, the rampant thievery, lack of consistent discipline, and corruption endemic in the culture…

  26. Btw, with everything else going on, some Satanists have decided to hold “SatanCon” in Scottsdale AZ, over St. Valentine’s Day weekend. Not that they can’t have a convention, but c’mon. That name’s supertacky. And they’re promoting afterschool Satan clubs and trying to get news coverage, while using the format of sf conventions, which is bound to cause trouble for sf fans.

    The reason for the convention’s existence is apparently that Scottsdale’s city council decided to reject the offer of a Satanic invocation before a city council meeting. They’ve been fighting a religious case since 2016, on the grounds that civil rights doesn’t make you accept invocations from everybody. The Ninth Circuit federal appeals court upheld Arizona’s federal district court in May 2021, and said that indeed there was no religious discrimination by Scottsdale, for various reasons. (And the Ninth Circuit is usually the most crazy-liberal court, so… yeah, it looks like the Satanists didn’t put up a good case.)

    So the “The Satanic Temple” is trying to make a show of strength by holding its first national convention. I seriously doubt that they’ll get much turnout, with travel difficult, although February in Arizona would probably be a good bet in normal times.

    Holy Protection of Mary Eparchy (the eparchy for Byzantine Catholics in the western US, and based in Phoenix) is asking all Christians of goodwill to join them in prayer and fasting that weekend, to help save the Satanists from themselves. Sort of a pre-Lent thing.

      1. I suspect they’re mostly either “shock the ‘danes” folks or “Satan is just like Prometheus and got a bad rap from later churchians nyah nyah” people. With a small group of really scary True Believers using the others.

        1. Some take the frequent ‘neopagan’ attitude that all religion is just LARPing, nobody believes any of it anyway, so you should choose the religion that most authentically expresses the incredible specialness of YOU. Basically, they think the Devil is purely imaginary, and they want to imagine him as the ultimate cool teen rebel, the guy they themselves want to be when they totally fail to grow up.

    1. Good choice– it may do them some good, and at the very least praying for them will really piss’em off.

      (The Satanic Temple never struck me as being very coherent even inside of their own statements, much less on contact with reality.)

    2. I don’t buy into religion. I see it as an attempt by primitive, ignorant people to impose some semblance of order on a world they lacked the physical and philosophical tools to understand. A collection of myths which have been superseded by actual knowledge of facts we can prove through observation, analysis, logic and reason. We know why there are earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes and epidemics. We don’t have to make up supernatural causes and pretend that they can be appeased with sacrifices or prayers.

      So then why, when I heard about those groups’ activities, did I instantly have an OH HELL NO! reaction? After all, if none of those old myths are real, what harm can they do? Why was I so sure that it was so wrong?

      I done did me some thinkin’.

      I reached the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. Real or not, Satan is a symbol of evil. Whether that evil exists as some infernal personification or entirely within ourselves, it remains evil. Satan represents the forces of chaos and destruction which will rip our society apart if we act upon them. The forces that have been turned loose in our major cities for almost two years because they serve certain political purposes. We have all seen the damage they do.

      Celebrating a symbol of evil is not the action of people who value civilization. Enticing children to celebrate a symbol of evil is not the action of people who value the future. What they are doing is wrong for reasons which have nothing to do with any particular religion.
      Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!!

  27. Hello everyone. I often read the blog but have never commented until now.

    Around fifteen years ago I spent some weeks in Russia giving a series of lectures. I lived in student housing rather than hotels during that visit, so I got to see something of everyday life at Russian college campuses, both in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I was also attending professional conferences in eastern Europe, mainly Poland, at that time.

    I am told conditions have improved, but the standard of living in Russia following communism was eye-opening. The student dorm at a fairly elite college had one toilet and one shower stall per floor, each serving roughly 40 students. My dorm room was equipped with a big sink, in the same room with twin beds, where the students washed their clothes in cold water and no doubt themselves most of the time. There were no TVs. The electrical wiring was especially frustrating. You could plug in either a computer or a lamp in the single socket in each room, but you couldn’t plug in both without tripping a fuse. The classrooms contained dilapidated wooden chairs and blackboards that looked like they had been in use for a century.

    And YET, and this is the point of my post, the electronic equipment at those same institutions was state of the art, maintained by technical staff who were a pleasure to deal with. The research libraries were impressive; I ran checks and they had everything in my field. Conferences with hundreds of participants took place without a hitch. Impromptu discussion groups were well-attended by students with many questions. I sat in on classes and never heard “Will this be on the test?” The students I met were grateful to have made it to the university, hard-working, smart and inventive, particularly in math and sciences. A particular memory is of students congregating in the stairwells at night, singing complex Christian liturgies that reverberated up and down the stairs. They told me it was what they did for fun.

    The Polish universities were quite different, comfortable buildings set in beautiful landscaping. But the electronic equipment was obsolete, the research libraries poorly equipped. It was always one problem or another with microphones and slide presentations. On several occasions I attended conference banquets where the participants were charged a lot of money in advance and where almost no food was provided (a few token dishes for 300 people). It was obvious that the university officials had pocketed the money. In Russia the food had been painfully basic but no one doubted we were being provided with the best they had, in sufficient quantity, presented with beautifully laid tables and heirloom urns.

    The Russian vase, from what I saw, is worn, cracked, and ugly on the surface but solid steel underneath. China, as you say, is another story.

    1. Russian? No. They have massive problems. You were in an elite place, as you said, and probably with elite students.
      Russia has massive problems with alcoholism, their population is plunging, and what passes for economic life is organized crime.
      So, it’s unsightly on the surface, AND cracked underneath. But it holds together long enough to fool the west (which admittedly isn’t hard.)
      FYI “their equipment is amazing and students are sharp” was said in the seventies and eighties as well. It also wasn’t true then.

      1. While in Romania in 2010, the dorm at the Romanian-American University was basic, but comfortable. No AC, but we had a TV in our room and no issues with plumbing, power, and so forth.
        We did eat a lot of breaded chicken cutlets, sausage, cabbage….
        The faculty made it abundantly clear they’d done communism and now something like a free-market economy, and they knew which one they wanted -not communism.
        But we did notice when we were taken to the EU commissioner’s building our Romanian counterparts would NOT ask the EU official any questions. Nope, not gonna do anything to catch the attention of a person with power.

    2. That sounds like cultural differences– just not quite the ones you might think.

      I’ll try to recreate the thought process that hit me while doing house-work and thinking about your comment. (is actually relevant, I’ll get to that. 😀 )

      Who has more issues with setting up a presentation?
      The place where there is a wide range of stuff, because you’ve been buying it for years, the older stuff gets passed down as good-enough and people can bring their own?
      Or the place where there is only one system, no older stuff at all?

      Who has better dorms?
      The ones who are producing a conference?
      Or the ones who are offering information to students?

      What you observed would be consistent with different ideas about the purpose of a conference– is it to be seen, or to see?

      This came to mind because I was fighting with the stuff in the kitchen– our coffee maker is new(ish), one of the fridges is squirrely and the dish-washer is ancient but solid so long as you know how to use it, and got to thinking about the ONE conference my husband had go off without a hitch.
      They had a brand new system, right down to the mic, and he was able to get folks to submit their stuff to him ahead of time so the power-points were all preloaded. (It was definitely a show off thing, too.)
      Every other time, it was a matter of getting systems of various age to work together, and the goal was to pool information– for everyone to learn things.

      A thing with dorms? Even if you’re required to have a room…it doesn’t mean you actually live there. I knew a lot of guys in the Navy who got an apartment off base because they wanted to live in a better place than the barracks.
      Even Navy setups have care for the resource living in them, though– they’re not the cheapest aspect of any situation, because when you treat your people like they don’t have much value, they tend to act like it. (Which is part of why the Army screws themselves so hard when they treat their guys like borrowed low-value equipment.)

  28. OK, well I guess I hit a nerve there. As I said, it’s a novel experience for me to be accused of being overly optimistic about China’s technological capabilities. But I’d like to suggest that when confronted with irrational techno-defeatism, a level-headed discussion of the *actual* technology (or lack thereof) might be at least as reassuring as “China can’t do anything, period”.

    1. Sigh. Again. From the top: China is pocked. In ways you have trouble imagining.
      All they have right now is bluster. People falling for the bluster was the last two years.
      I’ve had enough of that.

      1. They raise tomatoes, for humans to eat, in manure from human feces. My grandpa told me that, and I couldn’t believe it in the 1980’s. And they were still doing it in the 1990’s. And they’re still doing it today.

        All the Chinese students I knew in college were weirdly enthusiastic about eating American grocery store tomatoes. If they came direct from being picked from someone’s garden, where they could see there was no manure of any kind, they were even more enthusiastic about them.

        Yup, China is a great country with horrible problems, even before you get to the concentration camps and political killings and organ-stealing.

        1. Ah, yes. Growing conditions. We were told specifically not to eat the incredibly luscious looking big ripe strawberries in Korea- because of what they were grown in. If it came from the ground, if you couldn’t peel it, don’t eat it was the rule. Don’t know if it’s still that way- my 2 visits were in 1979 and 10 years later- and Korea made enormous visible strides during that time. The Philippines were a shithole both times…

          1. Went in the mid-00s, they’d gotten beyond that– at least for anything in town. We did get warned about being careful eating stuff if we went and bought it outside of town. (Hasn’t had time to become a cultural “we all know this” thing.)

          2. When I used to go to Asia one only ate piping hot food. One never ate raw anything, nor ice, nor dairy products even in top hotels. You would only drink bottled still water if you absolutely knew where it came from and only sparkling outside because they had the lovely habit or refilling water bottles.

            The most memorable restriction was in India where they sold tea out of big cauldrons. One could drink the tea but couldn’t trust the cups. The tea was delicious.

            In my grandparent’s day, they brushed their teeth with gin.

            1. I recall over in the sandbox, the military folks learned to sniff bottled water if it didn’t have a US name on the bottle. Some just gave up and refused anything without english on it at all (often only those in bigger bases). Diesel was one of the most prevalent reasons for doing this, iirc.

        1. Who then? China? They already know.

          No, it’s people with adenoidal voices going China will run everything we’re all doomed. the US is finished so let’s welcome our new overlords.

          I don’t know if you have an adenoidal voice, but the rest seems to fit.

          1. I can’t speak for Neil, but my take on this whole conversation is:

            1. The Chinese are not ten feet tall. All is not lost, we are not doomed. BUT:
            2. The Chinese aren’t two feet tall either.

            1. Why should anyone bother?

              We’ve seen what you do when you are given a quote that doesn’t align with what you want to hear, and the idea of offering evidence is not one to which you hold yourself.

              1. It’s comical that you’ve all decided that I’m the target for your two-minute hate, rather than some of the commenters that actually believe what you accuse me of believing.

                1. Sorry, Snowflake, but this isn’t a “two-minute hate.”

                  This is paying attention to what you wrote, responding rationally to it, and recognizing that you attempt to be abusive when you are not flattered, favored, and instantly granted deference beyond what you will consider extending to others.

                  1. You are leaving out the part where I was perfectly polite until after several personal insults from you. The single insult I gave in return was hardly abusive–perhaps it was too much for an open blog but you certainly earned it.

                    1. I had regretted interjecting yesterday, but couldn’t resist the image that jumped into my head and I’m going to do it again.

                      Struck a nerve.

                      You seem fond of that expression. It’s really not helpful. I know it set me off. Everything else you said after that was lost.

                      Don’t bother responding since I won’t respond back. Sorry, I’m all out of nerves to strike.

                    2. No, you already tried that angle — that’s when I gave quote and link to the conversation in question, showing both that you had not been polite, and that I had not made accusations you chose to attribute to me.

    2. I have to agree that we need to be realistic in our appraisals. Plain, simple fact. China is a demographic catastrophe with the shortfall sitting in the age cohorts where it takes its soldiers. Perhaps they can motivate those soldiers by telling them they’ll have access to foreign women since there is a huge shortfall in women in those age cohorts. Families have taken their generational savings and invested them in empty apartments, built of straw and paste, because one has to have an apartment in order to marry one of these rare women. These apartments are actually worthless with 25% of GDP tied up in their building. Did I mention that there is no social welfare or pension system in China? This generational wealth is gone it will never pay anything and these people are well and truly f-caked when they get older.

      None of this is to deny that China has weapons nor to deny that the United States is currently ruled by poltroons. I think the basic difference, though, is that the US has a pretty good idea what weapons we posess and where they will land if fired. China knows none of these things.

      Really, let’s be realistic. China is a basket case, yes they are dangerous and yes they can do a lot of damage. on the other hand, it’s all very unreliable and the politicians in China get killed when they take a risk that doesn’t pay off. They don’t actually know what the situation relay is because telling the truth gets you killed. I suspect were they to launch their hyper missile it is a likely to land on Beijing as DC, and its landing on DC would measurably improve human happiness anyway. All in all, then, much like Russia.

      The US under the reign of error is very much handicapped, yes, but there’s a lot of ruin in a nation. What we need to do is fix ourselves. China, Russia, the rest don’t matter.

      US Grant had an interesting anecdote in his memoirs about commanding his first battle. he had wrapped himself in knots worrying about what the enemy would do until he crested the hill and saw they’d run away. his conclusion was that the confederate commander was every bit as afraid of him as he was of the confederate commander. From that point on, he stopped worrying about what they could do to him and started to consider what he would do to them.

      I’d suggest we do likewise.

  29. Heinlein discusses the population of Moscow in the notes to, “Inside Intourist,” in Expanded Universe. Just found my copy.

    1. That’s right. Though I am sure he in his own turn seriously under-estimates the size of Moscow. It is likely true, as he says, that Moscow had sufficient transport and depot facilities to support a First World city of no more than a million people. (Of my own information I could not say.) But Moscow wasn’t a First World city; it was a place where the mass of the people lived on black-bread-and-borscht-and-not-enough-of-either, and had to queue for hours to get that. The population was certainly large enough to strain the existing facilities even at subsistence level.

      1. But Moscow wasn’t a First World city

        Aha. That’s what’s always bothered me about that anecdote, I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

        The rise of 3rd world megacities in the decades since that essay should have provided a clue: Kinshasa (just to pick an example) has an urban population of 15 million+ and exactly one railroad line.

        1. To be fair, Kinshasa also sits right on one of the biggest navigable rivers in the world; and at that, I wouldn’t trust that population figure to the nearest million, and maybe not even to the total number of digits. Still, I’m glad you see my point and don’t find it obviously wrong. (I hate when I’m obviously wrong.)

          1. You’re not OBVIOUSLY wrong, but I think you and Heinlein could split the difference.
            What I’ve heard from NGO employees who are friends is that these third world cities are STILL not maybe 1/10th the advertised size on the one thing that can’t be changed: water consumption. I don’t mean for bathing, etc, which can be drastically lower in the third world. I mean minimal drinking water consumption. (Even taking in account fermented and distilled drinks, which are a basis of drinking in the third world.) So, I’d say split the difference.

  30. I knew one, Porter Goss. I met him after his initial CIA career (60’s -> early 70s) ended when he was a City Councilman in Sanibel, FL and I worked for the local paper as a photographer. One of the brightest men I’ve known – and a great persuader.
    He later became a Congressman, then got tapped by W to be Director of the CIA. He reversed a lot of stupid policies, fired a lot of people and had a lot resign rather than follow the new rules. It needed to be done but as the hatchet man he was eased out after about a year and a half and the establishment folks took the agency back over and by the end of 0’s Presidency was again nearly as useless as it had been prior to 2001.
    Every Federal agency needs similar shakeup periodically to keep “but we’ve always done it this way” crowd from thwarting the accomplishment of the actual mission.

    1. Wp delenda est. This was supposed to be in reply to our hostess saying she thinks she met some sincere CIA agents. It is possible.

  31. Thank you for this piece. I’ve been writing about the importance of “culture” for over a decade since a number of things crystalized in my mind during an email discussion. I got to be a bit, or more than a bit, of a crank and so mostly dropped it.

    I put quotes around “culture” because if you dig into definitions of it you find that everything not part of hard science or math can and is talked of as “culture” by someone. My definition is more like what is described in this piece.

  32. I used to keep track of the Chinese plans for their space program. They pretty much were just doing what we had done in the US with a few variations of plans the US had had and didn’t implement.

    What I gathered from that was that the cost of failure is so high in their culture, that the planners could always blame the American plans if things didn’t go as planned.

    I don’t agree that the Chinese are without creativity, as some people I have talked with claim. I just think that their culture with no room for failure (symptom of totalitarianism) leads to a lack of daring, that will never survive the long haul in competition with a much more dynamic America.

      1. The Helicopters have been doing everything they can to fix that problem. But I think their reign is already over at this point; we just have to pick up the wreckage.

        1. I’d say more the Mean Girls– it’s a lot easier to make yourself feel great by tearing down someone that tried, than to actually try and maybe fail yourself.
          And then you can tear down people who DO succeed, for not doing it “right.” (Spoiler: there is no right way.)

          1. The Mean Girls don’t have nearly the amount of access to a child’s everyday life as the Helicopters do, except perhaps indirectly by enforcing Helicopterism through social pressure.

            1. Not just social pressure– legal pressure.

              You can lose your kids if Anything Goes Wrong.

              It’s not nearly as bad here, but even on this very blog there are people who find it much more comfortable to blame a parent when something goes horribly wrong than to deal with the fact that bad things happen.

              Apply that to the insane standards of Progressives– my mother was confronted not long after 9/11 because I’d gone into the military instead of college, when Everyone Knows that only idiots and losers would do anything but college– or look at what children Must Be, calling the poor kids trophy children is not off base– or look at Democrat groups openly stating that schools properly serve to produce children who ‘know’ things that ‘society’ wants, not what parents want them to know, completely dehumanzing the kids that are properly the customers of public education–

              :nuke head emoji here:

              Ooooh it is just so infuriatingly nasty.

          2. There are nine and sixty ways of composing tribal lays, and very single one of them is right.
            I use that as a reminder when someone is doing something in front of me and it’s not my way….

    1. Bingo. Cultures that punish failure end up stifling innovation. Edison famously said, during his attempts to create a functional light bulb, that he hadn’t failed, he’d just found 10,000 ways that don’t work. But if he had grown up in a culture that punished failure, those 10,000 ways would have been counted as failures and nobody would have been willing to work for him any more, because the stench of “failure” would attach to them too. So if American culture had been one of those that punishes failure, we would never have gotten the light bulb. Nor the airplane, nor any of the other things that required multiple iterations to get it right.

  33. I want to toss in “life experiences” as a modifier or in addition to the aspect of culture. Take a guy born in the ’50s (parents are WWII era and Dad is a vet) and the American society of the 60’s and 70’s… the kid gets drafted or joins the military and that life experience has a major impact of how he or she views the world and their part in it as an adult. Another kid with parents who didn’t serve in WWII and goes on without any military experiences, goes to college and winds up an accountant at a big company. These life styles will likely produce different views… one becomes a “republican” the other “democrat” due to the social experiences they had… or whatever but life counts too.

    There can be a huge difference as well if the first kid did college and went into the service as an officer and the second kid came from a family with serious money – or reverse it, the first kid went in as an E-nothing and got out as quick as he could and the second kid came from a poor family from the ‘wrong’ side of the tracks. The culture wins out for the overall expectations but life experiences can cause a serious modification of the individual persons application of culture values along with life experience. Just thinking out loud… YMMV!

  34. Any totalitarian system founders on a lack of information that makes setting prices for goods impossible. They ironically can only endure if there is a free market somewhere where they can get some valid information. China tried to transition from full bore communism to a fascist mercantilism, but marxism can’t endure even that very minimal exposure to freedom. Billionares cropped up who weren’t so compliant or dependent on the CCP, so Xi has been rolling it back. Kind of looks like a reverse Gorbachev to me. Will end in failure for Xi personally like it did Gorby and I pray to God it unravels as relatively harmlessly as the Soviet Union did. Likewise for Bidenzuela.

  35. Keep in mind that China’s top-notch rocket falls “wherever”. They may be building a space station, but the rocket that launches the components falls on the heads of whomever happens to be underneath it.

    This is not an aspirational achievement.

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