Why China Sucks (according to Thomas Friedman in the NYTimes)

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/01/opinion/china-united-states-trade-economy.html

In the grand tradition of Russia rejecting the West because it threatens the greatness of Russia, China will screw the world (and eventually themselves) to show how wonderful they are. In his article in the NYTimes, Thomas Friedman describes four ways they have been and are continuing to do this:

“Xi’s election to an unprecedented third term on a platform emphasizing Marxism and ideology over markets and pragmatism “shows me that the opening up of the Chinese economy is not going to continue. … We have to assume that China is setting itself apart from other countries and will build a countermodel to the liberal, market-oriented model of the West.”

“[In the] aftermath of Tiananmen Square in 1989, when the Chinese Communist Party leadership sought to dampen the democratic aspirations of China’s youth with a fire hose of hyper-nationalism.”

“a much more aggressive Chinese foreign policy that is trying to assert dominance across the whole South China Sea, frightening China’s key neighbors, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, India and Taiwan.”

“Instead of importing effective Western-made vaccines to keep the pandemic at bay, China is relying on a “zero Covid” policy that uses lockdowns of whole cities as well as all the new tools of a surveillance state: drones, facial recognition, ubiquitous closed-circuit television cameras, cellphone tracking and even tracking of restaurant patrons, who must present a QR code to be scanned and recorded. It feels like a Xi strategy for preventing both Covid and freedom from breaking out.”

Without even mentioning the million or so Xighurs being forcibly reeducated by China, the article concludes:

What Xi fails to grasp is that all of the most advanced technologies of the 21st century — like semiconductors and mRNA vaccines — require big, complex global supply chains, because no country can be the best at each one of their increasingly sophisticated components. But such supply chains require a huge amount of collaboration and trust among partners, and that is exactly what Xi has squandered in the last decade.

when one-sixth of humanity makes a wrong turn in our still very connected world — China, for instance, still holds almost $1 trillion of U.S. Treasury debt — everyone will feel their pain.

A great quote from the book “Trump: The Divider in Chief” (by Susan Glasser and Peter Baker)

This quote from the book was read during a Skullduggery podcast:

He [Trump] didn’t know anything about anything. He did not know Puerto Rico was part of the US. He did know if Columbia was in North or South America. Thought Finland was part of Russia. Mixed up the Baltics w/the Balkans. Was confused about how WWI started. Did not understand the basics of America’s vast nuclear arsenal. Did not grasp the concept of the US gov’s separation of powers. Did not understand how courts worked. “How do I declare war” he asked at one point to the alarm of his staff who realized that he was unaware that the constitution proscribes that role for congress.”

After reading this, one of the podcast’s hosts, Michael Isikoff observed,

It’s just staggering a guy who is essential an ignoramus was running the country for 4 years.

Remember, every time you get a spam phone call, it’s because of the intentional lack of planning & regulation during the rollout of Voice Over IP (VOIP) technology. Yay Republican deregulation!!

VOIP developed Internet style, ie., as a raft of competing, fastest to market protocols with no central planning, coordination, or regulation. It made phone service cheaper, but the constant spam calls (using spoofed caller Ids) killed the usefulness of that service. For me, 99% of the phone calls I receive on my home (landline) phone are spam, using fake caller numbers & names permitted by VOIP. Yay deregulation!

Here are the sea of overlapping standards from the Voice over IP Wikipedia page:

A variety of functions are needed to implement VoIP communication. Some protocols perform multiple functions, while others perform only a few and must be used in concert. These functions include:

  • Network and transport – Creating reliable transmission over unreliable protocols, which may involve acknowledging receipt of data and retransmitting data that wasn’t received.
  • Session management – Creating and managing a session (sometimes glossed as simply a “call”), which is a connection between two or more peers that provides a context for further communication.
  • Signaling – Performing registration (advertising one’s presence and contact information) and discovery (locating someone and obtaining their contact information), dialing (including reporting call progress), negotiating capabilities, and call control (such as hold, mute, transfer/forwarding, dialing DTMF keys during a call [e.g. to interact with an automated attendant or IVR], etc.).
  • Media description – Determining what type of media to send (audio, video, etc.), how to encode/decode it, and how to send/receive it (IP addresses, ports, etc.).
  • Media – Transferring the actual media in the call, such as audio, video, text messages, files, etc.
  • Quality of service – Providing out-of-band content or feedback about the media such as synchronization, statistics, etc.
  • Security – Implementing access control, verifying the identity of other participants (computers or people), and encrypting data to protect the privacy and integrity of the media contents and/or the control messages.

VoIP protocols include:

I got two spam phone calls while writing this post. Thanks Republicans. At least I’m not burdened with onerous regulation <sarcasm>

Brutalist tribe politics

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/24/desantis-trump-2024/?commentID=aff1707e-73b1-4a75-8a40-1df3542c0691

From a comment by Andrew G Bjelland in the Washington Post

MAGA-Fascist-Republicans like DeSantis know the psychological orientation of those who constitute a significant portion of their base. They act accordingly. They establish their own brutalist creds.

Social psychologists estimate that as high as 30% of a given population are of an authoritarian psychological disposition—a disposition that prizes tribal unity and is intolerant of cultural diversity and ethical complexity. People with this psychological predisposition are often cognitively and emotionally incapable of dealing with rapidly evolving circumstances. They are highly uncomfortable within a pluralistic and democratic society. 

Such individuals are inclined to follow a leader who projects an image of strength and energy; who identifies and targets the enemies of the tribe; who presents simplistic “solutions” in response to the complex problems of the day; and who sets tribal boundaries whereby the “outsiders” are readily identified, rejected and even violently persecuted.

The projection of strength and energy is often the psychological defense mechanism employed by narcissistic and insecure bully-boys.

DeSantis is effectively establishing his own brutalist creds. Is it any wonder that Trump, brutalisms past master, is increasingly irate?

Voting blue is the sole option for those who oppose authoritarianism and who value one-person-one-vote democracy

The Trump judge ruling on the Mar-a-Lago affair is defying established law (Why is a young, ideologically-driven judge with a lifetime appointment to the bench allowed to ignore legal precedents?)

By Laurence H Tribe and Phillip Allen Lacovara

Judge Aileen Cannon’s two rulings in the Mar-a-Lago affair offer a master class in illustrating how a young and ideologically-driven judge can badly bungle important issues of law and public policy and distort the proper role of courts in protecting state secrets and supervising criminal investigations. The Justice Department, wisely, is appealing.

The catalogue of errors and abuses is too long for a single column, so we touch only on the low points.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/19/the-trump-judge-ruling-on-the-mar-a-lago-affair-is-defying-established-law

Jean-Paul Sartre on the Trumpists of his day

“Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the
absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.”

Business Withdrawals and Sanctions Are Crippling the Russian Economy

Although Russia’s economy seems ok, based on news reports, a paper from the Yale School of Management makes some pretty stark observations and predictions for the Russian economy. :

  • Russia’s strategic positioning as a commodities exporter has irrevocably deteriorated, as it now deals from a position of weakness with the loss of its erstwhile main markets, and faces steep challenges executing a “pivot to Asia” with non-fungible exports such as piped gas
  • Despite some lingering leakiness, Russian imports have largely collapsed, and the country faces stark challenges securing crucial inputs, parts, and technology from hesitant trade partners, leading to widespread supply shortages within its domestic economy
  • Despite Putin’s delusions of self-sufficiency and import substitution, Russian domestic production has come to a complete standstill with no capacity to replace lost businesses, products and talent; the hollowing out of Russia’s domestic innovation and production base has led to soaring prices and consumer angst
  • As a result of the business retreat, Russia has lost companies representing ~40% of its GDP, reversing nearly all of three decades’ worth of foreign investment and buttressing unprecedented simultaneous capital and population flight in a mass exodus of Russia’s economic base
  • Putin is resorting to patently unsustainable, dramatic fiscal and monetary intervention to smooth over these structural economic weaknesses, which has already sent his government budget into deficit for the first time in years and drained his foreign reserves even with high energy prices – and Kremlin finances are in much, much more dire straits than conventionally understood
  • Russian domestic financial markets, as an indicator of both present conditions and future outlook, are the worst performing markets in the entire world this year despite strict capital controls, and have priced in sustained, persistent weakness within the economy with liquidity and credit contracting – in addition to Russia being substantively cut off from international financial markets, limiting its ability to tap into pools of capital needed for the revitalization of its crippled economy

Looking ahead, there is no path out of economic oblivion for Russia as long as the allied countries remain unified in maintaining and increasing sanctions pressure against Russia, and The Kyiv School of Economics and McFaul-Yermak Working Group have led the way in proposing additional sanctions measures.

Defeatist headlines arguing that Russia’s economy has bounced back are simply not factual – the facts are that, by any metric and on any level, the Russian economy is reeling, and now is not the time to step on the brakes.

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4167193

HOW SAN FRANCISCO BECAME A FAILED CITY

Because yesterday, San Francisco voters decided to turn their district attorney, Chesa Boudin, out of office. They did it because he didn’t seem to care that he was making the citizens of our city miserable in service of an ideology [to allow homeless people everywhere] that made sense everywhere but in reality. It’s not just about Boudin, though. There is a sense that, on everything from housing to schools, San Francisco has lost the plot—that progressive leaders here have been LARPing left-wing values instead of working to create a livable city. And many San Franciscans have had enough.

walking these streets awakens me to how bad San Francisco had gotten even before the coronavirus hit—to how much suffering and squalor I’d come to think was normal.

Stepping over [homeless] people’s bodies, blurring my eyes to not see a dull needle jabbing and jabbing again between toes—it coarsened me. I’d gotten used to the idea that some people just want to live like that. 

I’d gotten used to the crime, rarely violent but often brazen; to leaving the car empty and the doors unlocked so thieves would at least quit breaking my windows

people addicted to drugs come from all over the country in part for the services San Francisco provides.

Under Boudin, prosecutors in the city could no longer use the fact that someone had been convicted of a crime in the past to ask for a longer sentence, except in “extraordinary circumstances.” Boudin ended cash bail and limited the use of gang enhancements, which allow harsher sentences for gang-related felonies. In most cases he prohibited prosecutors from seeking charges when drugs and guns were found during minor traffic stops. “We will not charge cases determined to be a racist pretextual stop that leads to recovery of contraband,” Rachel Marshall, the district attorney’s director of communications, told me.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/06/how-san-francisco-became-failed-city/661199/

The Harvard Professor Who Enabled Putin and the Oligarchs

It was under Clinton that the Harvard Institute for International Development let professor Jeffrey Sachs propose the economic “shock therapy” for Russia. This directly lead to hyperinflation and the give away of major industries to the lucky few who became Russia’s oligarchs. This was a f**k up on a historical scale. This chaos became associated with Westernization leading to the rise of strong man Putin to restore stability:

https://www.thenation.com/article/world/harvard-boys-do-russia/

https://www.nytimes.com/1992/01/22/opinion/IHT-shock-therapy-is-the-wrong-treatment.html

https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/1990s-shock-therapy-set-stage-for-russian-authoritarianism-by-katharina-pistor-2022-02