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 TeasersFred Reed Blogview

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The systematic study of intelligence if fraught, dangerous, since everyone instantly thinks, “Race. Blacks. I will lose my job and live in a tent on the sidewalk if I think about this.” The concern is that study might reveal differences between groups. Oh God. So: Should we study it or not?

The panic arises only regarding blacks. Suggesting that Jews are smarter than other whites, which perhaps most believe, or that East Asians are smarter than whites, as seems to be the case, does not greatly roil the waters. Hispanics don’t seem to matter. Blacks do.

Now, if blacks are less bright than whites, as many quietly believe, we have one situation. If they are not less bright, we have another. If blacks seldom become software engineers because they can’t, what then? White European society seems to accept the apparent superiority of Jews and East Asian, and the consequent differences in prosperity, without dangerous levels of resentment. The resentment of , and by, blacks is intense and explosive.

Here, politics enter. Liberals insist that no racial differences exist. But they do not seem to believe it. If they did, they would favor a massive and careful regime of testing to prove their point. Instead, they strenuously resist investigation Why, other than fear of likely results?

Some facts, unwoke but demonstrable: Both intelligence and behavior are largely determined by genetics. Any dog breeder will tell you that Border Collies are smarter than beagles. They learn faster and learn things of greater complexity. He will further tell you that dogs can be bred for higher intelligence by mating unusually smart dogs with other unusually smart dogs. And he will tell you that traits such as protectiveness and aggressiveness are in the breeds and that these traits can be changed up or down by selective breeding. This mutability appears all through the mammals. Any determined teenager can breed mice to be better or worse at running mazes. Ly elevated offspring.

Now, subspecies. Collies and pit bulls are subspecies of dog, in simple terms meaning that they are both dogs but, a bit more biologically, that they can breed with each other. Similarly, Africans, Chinese, and Norwegians are members of subspecies of Homo sapiens, for exactly the same reasons.

The woke are usually ardent of Darwinian evolution, probably because it is a doctrine useful against evangelical Christianity, though typically they know next to nothing about either Darwin or Christianity. We will here grant them this. A foundational idea of orthodox Darwinity is that if a species is divided into separated populations so that they cannot interbreed (if, for example, an isthmus joining two continents sinks beneath the waves), they will over time evolve into distinct subspecies with distinct characteristics. The woke happily accept this principle when useful against Creationism. If it is pointed out that it works identically with separated populations of people, such as Africans, the Chinese, and Norwegians among others, a silence falls.

This is what is called an “oops! moment.” The woke sense where things are going.

Their usual response is to insist that race doesn’t exist (in which case racism presumably doesn’t either, but we will not complicate things), that it is a “social construct” with no scientific meaning. Most of the woke are graduates in the liberal arts with almost no familiarity with the sciences or mathematics which makes scientifically silly beliefs palatable.

Does race in fact have no scientific meaning? I propose an experiment. Go to the website of one of those commercial genetic-analysis services, such as Twenty-three and Me. Order ten test kits. When they come, spit in one of the sample tubes yourself, add the preservative, and put the tube in a drawer. Then go forth with the remaining nine tubes and find a series of approximately the following: a Chinese, a Mexican, a pure African black (perhaps at an embassy to avoid contamination by white American blood), a mixed black-white, an Amerind, an Ashkenazi Jew, perhaps a north and a south Indian. If you can scrape up an Australian aborigine, do.

On all the bottles put English names: Reed, Jones, Smith, Fletcher and so on.

When the reports arrive, you will find that the races have been correctly and scientifically identified, with such findings as thirty-five percent Middle Eastern, forty percent north European, and so on.

Another and desperate attempt to deny the existence of race is to point out that the DNA of humans and chimpanzees is 98.5 percent identical (or some such number). I suspect that the figure may be higher in the woke, but this is speculation. This is then used to urge that minor genetic differences don’t amount to anything. Actually of course it shows that minor differences have profound consequences. I don’t know your dating habits, but the difference between Bongo the Chimp and Marylyn Monroe seem at least noticeable.

Now, intelligence. Is there any reason why races might differ?

At this point the woke try to eliminate the question rather than answer it. They will assert that intelligence doesn’t exist, that it is a social construct. They do not believe this except when talking about race. They will say in casual conversation, “Fred, I want to get you together with Mary, she’s a biochemist at NIH, and really smart.” They do not say, “Wow! Is Mary ever socially constructed.” At least, not in reference to mental qualities.

But put five people of IQ 170 and five of IQ70 in a room and see how long it takes you to tell one from the other. About three seconds. The difference will be stark. And people autodetect intelligence. People of IQ 90 tend to associate with others of that IQ. Those of 150 do the same. A woman once said, “In Washington, you assume that everyone is in the 99th percentile.” No, but she was, so people she knew were. The is called “cognitive stratification.”

Why would one race evolve higher intelligence than another? In terms of strict evolutionary piety, a group under more environmental stress than another will be selected for its ability to figure out solutions—i.e., for intelligence. Proponents of IQ argue that life in cold regions requires more planning, thought, and ingenuity than life in tropical regions where fruit hangs low.

To what extent this is true is not clear to anyone who thinks about it, but the woke don’t. This puts the woke in a position requiring squirming. If they accept Darwinism, then races can differ in intelligence. If they deny Darwin, they find themselves agreeing with Creationists.

Here we come to the vexed matter of IQ. It is one that can lead to bar fights.

A reasonable question about IQ is whether it measures what it is supposed to measure: intelligence. This mystery attracts much sophistry from people who seem to illustrate the principle that intelligence doesn’t exist. Still, put people with IQ 70 and 130 in a freshman calculus class and your question will be answered.

Who studies IQ? At the top of the analytical hill we have psychometrists, usually highly intelligent (pardon the word) and well trained statisticians. They are careful, well aware of pitfalls in psychological measurement, and doing their best, which is usually quite good, to determine the truth. They are accused of course of racism for getting the wrong answer. Interestingly, though overwhelmingly white, they rank intelligence from high to low as Ashkenazi Jews, East Asians, whites, Latinos, blacks. The findings of psychometrists track observable outcomes over statistically significant groups.

 
An Engineering Overview

I have long been a partisan of insects in general, and hornets in particular, as exemplars of the most varied, imaginative and sometimes, in a correct use of an overused word, weird design and engineering in the live world. There is more of the unlikely, preposterous, and inexplicable in our six-footed cocitizens than in all the vertebrates combine. By comparison, we humans are a mundane and unimaginative lot.

None of this leaps immediately to consciousness. Think of hornets in terms of IT and mechanical engineering, optics, and aerodynamics, and they will concentrate the attention.

A complete description of a murder hornet would be sufficient to allow an engineer of enough ability to construct one from the description alone. The description would consist of layer upon layer of great complexity, biochemical, molecular biological, cellular, and, subsuming all, genomic. We will today consider only the anatomical, physiological, and IT aspects.

The murder hornet represents a very high degree of precision, miniaturized, optimized, multidisciplinary integrated engineering with a autonomous maintenance and energy management. Human endeavor has produced nothing resembling the hornet’s elegance of design.

Consider some of its systems individually:

First, the hornet perfectly controls six multi-jointed legs, allowing it easily to walk over uneven surfaces, even while hanging upside down. This requires coordination and sensory feedback. Any robotics engineer will attest to the difficulty of doing this.

Second, its flight system allows it to hover, engage in aerobatics, and fly at forty miles an hour. This requires adjusting the rate of wing beat and angle of attack of the wings. This is not simple. It also requires precisely located muscles anchored to the body and attached to the wings. These latter are seen to consist of a thin flight membrane reinforced by a network of supporting elements. The design produces a wing both strong but light.

Third, the sting. This consists of a biochemical mechanism to produce the venom, a sac to hold it, muscles to express the venom through the stinger, muscles to force the stinger into the victim, and the stinger itself. These must exist simultaneously and function in coordination in order to work. Absent any one, the system is useless

Fourth, the digestive system with its components and its complex biochemistry.

Fifth, vision. We tend to think of eyes as being of little interest since we all have them and most of us have a very simple idea of their function and complexity. This is illusory.

The hornet’s compound eyes consist of large numbers of intricately designed ommatidia, I don’t know how many the hornet has—quite a few as its eyes are large–but the dragon fly has thirty thousand.

Here a point that could be made of any of the insect’s systems. On examination, the hornet’s eyes are complicated and exquisitely engineered. The description below largely is from the Wikipedia and heavily edited to remove technical details, which makes it a bit awkward. Follow the link for the whole thing.

“The compound eyes of … insects are composed of units called ommatidia (singular: ommatidium). An ommatidium contains a cluster of photoreceptor cells surrounded by support cells and pigment cells. The outer part of the ommatidium is overlaid with a transparent cornea. Each ommatidium is innervated by one axon bundle (usually consisting of 6–9 axons, depending on the number of rhabdomeres) and provides the brain with one picture element. The brain forms an image from these independent units…

“Ommatidia are typically hexagonal in cross-section…. At the outer surface, there is a cornea, below which is a pseudocone that acts to further focus the light. …

“Each ommatidium consists of nine photoreceptor cells (primary and secondary pigment cells. and organized into a different tier. These “R cells” tightly pack the ommatidium. The portion of the R cells at the central axis of the ommatidium collectively form a light guide, a transparent tube, called the rhabdom.

“A hexagonal lattice of pigment cells insulates the ommatidial core from neighboring ommatidia to optimize coverage of the visual field…affecting the acuity.

The “…advantage of this arrangement is that the same visual axis is sampled from a larger area of the eye, thereby increasing sensitivity by a factor of seven, without increasing the size of the eye or reducing its acuity. Achieving this has also required the rewiring of the eye such that the axon bundles are twisted through 180 degrees (re-inverted), and each rhabdomere is united with those from the six adjacent ommatidia that share the same visual axis. Thus, at the level of the lamina – the first optical processing center of the insect brain – the signals are input in exactly the same manner as in the case of a normal apposition compound eye, but the image is enhanced…..”

Again, complex, miniaturized, optimized, integrated, elegant.

Sixth, the respiratory system consisting of spiracles, openings along the body, through which air enters and is pumped in and out by muscular contractions under control of timing and coordinating circuitry.

Seventh, the circulatory system, simple but requiring muscular contractions to pump hemolymph , as well as control circuitry.

Eighth, other sensory systems such as the antennae and auditory receptors, nerves detecting touch, three simple eyes (ocelli), etc.

Fitting all of these systems into an insect two inches long is a feat of engineering compaction orders of magnitude beyond current human possibility. Yet more astonishing, and hard to explain, is the IT aspect, the system integration and control to allow them to function seamlessly together.

To begin, the brain (for so we will call it) receives tens of thousands of what amount to pixels from two eyes and melds them to form an image. The brain must map this two-dimensional retinal information onto a three-dimensional world in real time since hornets do not characteristically run into things. This is not mathematically trivial.

Then the brain must interpret this information to decide what is going on in its environment, decide what to do about it, coordinate the action of legs, wings, perhaps stinger, mouth parts, housekeeping tasks such as respiration and digestion, on and on. This is a lot of computation.

How hard is a hornet’s information processing? Programmers working in assembly language think of processing in terms of lines of code. How many assembly language instructions would be needed to control the six legs, wings, armament, respiration, etc., and the integration of all of these to adapt to differing circumstances? While a hornet doesn’t use assembly language, the question points to the level of computation needed.

Finally, information storage. These insects come out of the egg knowing a great many things: How to build a fairly complex nest in cooperation with others, to include knowing how to make wood paste and how to place it. How to care for young and the queen, quite complicated. How to hunt and what to hunt (honey bees, for example). When and how to react to perceived threats to the nest.

Each of these breaks down into further complexity. The phrase, “Caring for the young and the queen” consists of seven words, but in practice involves many sub-tasks. Mating, done while flying (Think airline pilots and stewardesses) requires both agility and knowing how to do it.

Further, the brain allows considerable learning. Hornets fly far from the nest, often through forests, and return, necessarily having learned the way.

 
• Category: Science 
Notes on the World’s Motherlode of Moral Hypocrisy

Among the more nauseating elements of what has become the American national character is the moral preening, the lecturing of others on the virtuousness of the Exceptional Nation, on America’s incontinent goodness and sense of superiority. The world isn’t buying it. The internet makes fraud impossible.

Start with the domestic. The whole world can see, in what calls itself the richest country in the world, squalid, diseased, often rat-infested encampments of tens of thousands the homeless on the sidewalks of city after city: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Austin, on and on. In New York they live in subway stations, often on the trains. Forgotten diseases return. This must cause astonishment in civilized countries such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China.

Next, crime, levels of which constitute a measure of civilization. American lawlessness is a wonder of the world. Over seven hundred killed annually in Chicago, three hundred in Baltimore, with perhaps three times as many shot but not killed. Similar numbers per capita can be adduced for many other cities. Equally elevated figures exist for assault, rape, carjacking, mugging, shoplifting. To citizens of Taiwan or South Korea these numbers must look more appropriate to civil war in Sudan than a country that regards itself as an example to the world.

America talks of its commitment to human rights. Yet the world just watched agape as some four hundred cities exploded in looting, arson, and vandalism citing abuse of human rights by the police. Uighurs? As the world can easily see, and does, the black population lives generation after generation in crime-infested, drug-ridden semi literacy. Racial relations are terrible, probably worsening, and so bad that whites dare not walk in black regions. The frequent horrific racial attacks by blacks on whites are carefully kept out of the American mass media, but the world can see them in foreign publications such as the Daily Telegraph.

The fetid, necrotic, and hopeless ghettos are widespread. Consider Newark, Camden, Trenton, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, St Louis, Cincinnati, New Orleans, just to begin.

Human rights? America’s unending race riots appear in graphic detail all around the world. Cities burn, over and over, decade after decade, as American politicians speak of their values, which they seem to want the rest of the world to adopt.

Race relations in the most moral, preachy, and indispensable nation, two examples of many, many dozens that could be given:

Public disaffection is rampant in America. Washington is so afraid of its citizens that it called in over twenty thousand soldiers to assure calm when Biden was inaugurated. The whole earth watched, some in shock, others in amusement, as infuriated citizens stormed the Capitol. During a recent trial in Minneapolis troops were needed to protect the proceedings from an angry population, with stores boarding up in fear of looting. Can anyone imagine this in Tokyo?

And of course, few around the world can hve failed to notice the disparity between China’s quick and effective response to the epidemic and the chaos, verging on anarchy of the American, in which no one appeared to be in charge and much of the population refuses to cooperate with the government.

 

Americans are not an historically aware people and so have little idea of how or why they are regarded as they are abroad. Consider Mexico, where I live. People here know of the Mexican-American War (of which, preposterously many Americans have never heard) as well as the bombardment of Veracruz and Pershing’s incursion. Peoples remember their defeats and humiliations as the victors do not. Mexicans know they are powerless against America, resent it intensely. Latin Americans in general know of the almost endless list of invasions, coups, dictators installed, economic exploitation that Americans have never heard of. Today they see the persecution of Cuba, the attempt to starve Venezuela into giving Washington control of its oil, the coups and murder attempts against Maduro, the coup in Bolivia, other attempts in Ukraine and Byelorussia, on and on.

Many countries have endured American manipulation exploitation, invasion. Americans seldom know of these things, but the countries involved do. For example, China remembers that American (and European) gunboats seized Chinese ports, forced the opium trade on the country, and that American troops have rampaged through Beijing, looting, raping, and killing for sport. There was the burning of the Summer Palace (look it up if you haven’t heard of it.) During the Cold War, Americans saw themselves as on a moral crusade against Communism. The Chinese saw it as a crusade against China. Which is how the “trade war” looks to them now.

How does America appear to much of the world today? As a brutal, utterly unprincipled, destructive, out of control monster wreaking havoc on any country that doesn’t submit.

If this seems to you extreme, you are probably a normal American. But try for a second, if only as an exercise in mental gymnastics, to see how it looks from abroad.

 

America killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq and wrecked it for generations, has killed and killed and killed for almost twenty years in Afghanistan. Supervised the destruction of Libya, currently occupies much of Syria and kills there too, bombs Somalia, supports a grisly Saudi war against Yemen. In an earlier generation it killed millions in Southeast Asia.

At this writing America is the only country of note steadfastly supporting Israel’s search for lebensraum in the West Bank and its conversion of the Gaza Strip into the Warsaw Ghetto, with the IDF inflicting its usual devastation.

Human rights? The world saw the godawful photos of torture in America’s prison at Abu Ghraib. They know of the continuation of “enhanced interrogation,” in Guantanamo. These things could be seen, and were, everywhere from Kathmandu to Finland and all over the Moslem world, where they served to spur enlistment. The American media carefully do not speak of the horrors of the torture camps, or of the death and mutilation caused by the wars. Web sites in other countries are not as reticent. No, the pols speak ok American values.

Which leads to a question I often hear in Mexico: “Why don’t the gringos worry about their own problems instead of causing new ones for the rest of us?”

Amen.

Write Fred at jet.possum@gmail.com Put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid autodeletion

 
• Category: History, Ideology • Tags: American Media, Black Crime, Poverty 
America Makes Aircraft Carriers, China Makes Money

First, America increasingly relies on strong-arm tactics instead of competence. For example, in the de facto 5G competition, Washington cannot offer Europe a better product at a better price, so it forbids European countries to buy from China. The US cannot compete with China in manufacturing, so it resorts to a trade war. The US cannot make the crucial EUV lithography equipment to make advanced semiconductors, as neither can China, but it can forbid ASML, the Dutch company, from selling to China. Similarly, the US cannot compete with Russia in the price of natural gas to Europe, so by means of sanctions it seeks to keep Europe from buying from Russia. This is not reassuring.

Second, the Chinese are a commercial people, agile, fast to market, cutthroat, known for this throughout Asia. America is a bureaucratized military empire, torpid by comparison. America has legacy control over a few important technologies, most notably the crucial semiconductor field and the international financial system. Washington is using these to try to cripple China’s advance.

A consequence has been a realization by the Chinese that America is not a competitor but an enemy, and a subsequent explosion of investment and R&D aimed at reducing dependence on American technology. There is the well-known 1.4 trillion-dollar five-year plan to this end. One now encounters a flood of stories about advances in tech “to which China has intellectual-property rights” or similar wording.

They seem deadly serious about this. Given that Biden couldn’t tell a transistor from an ox cart, I wonder whether he realizes that every time the US pushes China to become independent in x, American firms lose the Chinese market for X, and later get to compete with Chinese X in the international market. Anyway, give Trump his due. He lit this fuse.

A few snippets

Prototype of China’s 385 mph maglev train
Prototype of China’s 385 mph maglev train

The above beast, developed entirely in China, is the first to use high-temperature superconducting magnets to keep the train floating just above the rails. HTSC magnets are a Big Deal because they can achieve superconductivity using liquid nitrogen as coolant instead of liquid helium for classic superconductivity, this costing, say the Chinese, a fiftieth of the price of using helium. The use of HTSC is very, very slick. The train will extensively use carbon-fiber materials to keep weight down, suggesting that the Chinese cannot distinguish between a train and an airplane.

Asia Times “China’s Hydrogen Dream is taking Shape in Shandong”

“A detailed pilot plan being worked out to transform Shandong, a regional industrial powerhouse, into a “hydrogen society” holds out much hope of delivering on the green promise.”

The article, hard to summarize in a sentence, is worth reading. As so often, the Chinese do things, try things, while the US talks, riots, imposes sanctions, sucks its thumb, and spends grimly on intercontinental nuclear bombers.

Huawei is Developing Smart Roads Instead of Smart Cars”

“Multiple sensors, cameras, and radars embedded in the road, traffic lights, and street signs help the bus to drive safely, while it in turn transmits information back to this network-“

Quantum Cryptography Network Spans 4,600 Km in China”

Quantum Key Distribution, QKD, allows unhackable communications. China read Ed Snowden’s book on NSA’s snooping, realized it had a problem, and set out to correct it. If this spreads to other countries—see below—much of the world could go black to American intel agencies.

The Chinese may have thought of this.

“…colleagues will further expand the network by working with partners in Austria, Italy, Russia and Canada. The team is also developing low-cost satellites and ground stations for QKD.”

The last sentence is interesting. If China begins selling genuinely secure commo gear abroad, it is going to make a lot of intel agencies very unhappy. Did I mention that the Chinese are a commercial people?

Further:

Chinese scientists achieve quantum information masking, paving way for encrypted communication application.”

My knowledge of this might rise to the level of blank ignorance after a good night’s sleep and three cups of coffee. However, the achievement made the American technical press, and suggests Chinese seriousness about gaining privacy.

The video below shows how China constructs high-speed rail lines as if painting a stripe on a highway. Since they can’t innovate, they have to get by with inventing things.

China to Europe rail freight: “Over 10,000 trains and 927,000 containers were forwarded via the China-EU-China route in 2020, China Railways has announced. The current volume of traffic has grown by 98.3% year-to-year, covering 21 countries and 92 cities in Europe.”

America makes aircraft carriers. China sells stuff.

NikkeiAsia: “What China’s Rapidly Expanding Nuclear Industry Means for the West”

One Chinese reactor in Pakistan just went live, with another expected in a few months. Says Nikkei, “The Karachi reactor is just the latest of these to come onstream, with the World Nuclear Organization listing a dozen different projects at the development or planning stage across a dozen countries from Argentina to Egypt in its recent survey. Many more are under discussion.”

In addition, says Nikkei, China intends to have the whole industry from technology to materials indigenous to China and outside of American sanctions. See above, about driving China to make things.

First China-Built DRAM Chip Reaches Market DRAM, dynamic random-access memory, appears in almost everything electronic and is a juicy market. Chang Xin Memory, which makes it, redesigned it slightly to remove American technology. If Chang Sin can ramp up volume, which has yet to be established, guess what foreign companies won’t sell much of in China any more.

Pingtang Bridge, recently opened. Well over a thousand feet high
Pingtang Bridge, recently opened. Well over a thousand feet high

Even in my short two weeks recently in China, I saw that the Chinese do not believe in vertical motion. An American, encountering a mountain, would, sensibly enough, go up and over. This is not the Chinese way. They go through. Similarly, on finding a valley, they do not go down and up. They go across. There may be some genetic abnormality behind this, or maybe interbreeding with space aliens. But it results in hellacious bridges.

Is China Emerging as the World Leader in AI?”

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: American Military, China, China/America, Russia 
Fred Figgered it Out, His Own Self

(This is an ancient column I just found, but represents a great service to humanity, so I republish it.)

I’m trying to figure out sex, and why people get in an uproar about it, and run around waving their arms and hollering, and everybody’s mad at everybody else.

It’s because men can’t tell sex from tennis. We can’t help it. It’s a character defect built into us, like tail fins on a fifty-seven T-Bird.

Yep. That’s it. I’ve just solved the question of the ages. Right here. Contributions welcome.

Best I can tell, ninety-eight percent of women are mad because all men want is sex. (Actually we want other things too, like big-block engines, dogs, and really bad movies with lots of gratuitous violence.) On the other hand, men are ready to become monks. It’s because they can’t talk to a woman for five minutes on a bus before she wants commitment. To a woman commitment seems so obviously good that she can’t see why he’d rather have pellagra. Which is what men think about sex. So the two glare at each other like two possums with only one garbage can.

It’s too bad. A lot of people end up being unhappy because of it.

The problem, it says here, is that to men sex is a primal drive that doesn’t have much emotional content. It’s just sex. It’s like when you have athlete’s foot, you scratch it, but you don’t have an emotional bond to it. Sure, a guy can commit to a woman, as evidenced by innumerable marriages that happen despite experience and common sense. Sex can have emotional importance to him with a woman he wants to keep. But he doesn’t have a hard-wired connection between sex and commitment. To him they’re separate things, like jackhammers and Vienna sausages. You can have both at the same time, but you don’t have to.

By contrast, for women, sex seems epoxied to a lot of emotional freight. A woman sees sex as a step toward commitment, as fifty years ago a man saw commitment as a step toward sex. When the man doesn’t see the connection, she thinks he’s just plain wrong-headed, and mean spirited, and a nickel-plated sumbitch.

Which brings us to tennis. (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

Men think of sex the way they think of tennis. Suppose I want to work off some energy. I call my buddy Ralph, and we meet at the courts, and have a good time for a few sets — sweat and grunt, twist our ankles, fall down and break things, and end up in a mild coma.

When we’re through, he doesn’t want me to marry him. When in fact I don’t, he doesn’t feel exploited. In fact, he feels deeply relieved.

That’s how men look at sex. A man genuinely doesn’t understand why he can’t say to the young lady in the next cubicle, “Hey, Jane, what say we go to my place at lunch for a roll in the hay?” (“Fred — you’ve got hay at your place?”) He may like Jane, think she’s bright and fun, have no slight desire to exploit, use, or degrade her. They may have been friends for years. But if he made what would seem to him a perfectly reasonable suggestion, she would explode and file at least a dozen lawsuits.

Yet he knows that she isn’t opposed to sex, and isn’t opposed to him. If he took her to three movies, so that the whiff of commitment hung heavy in the air, like methane over a summer swamp, she’d be worried if he didn’t make the suggestion. So why not . . . ?

He doesn’t get it.

The woman’s lack of the tennis instinct, or the man’s possession of it, complicates life for everyone. It ain’t her fault. It ain’t his fault. It’s how we are.

To aggravate things, we’re timed all wrong, like streetlights in New Jersey. After a certain age, somewhere around thirty, a woman’s interest in commitment rises, while a man’s declines — just as a man’s sex drive declines as hers rises. (Actually, sex may be a vast practical joke. If there’s a better explanation, I haven’t heard it.) Guys who are single in their mid-thirties are frequently comfortable with bachelorhood or, having been raped in the divorce courts, attached to it as tenaciously as panicked barnacles. And so guys, not looking for marriage, go into relationships knowing that they are going to end miserably. Three months, and the Marriage Monster raises its fanged head. It’s as predictable as morning.

Somehow having a mate seems much more crucial to women than to men. A guy with a girlfriend may figure she’s peaches, better than a competition yo-yo with extra strings. He may be proud of her and proud of himself for having her. If the Red Army attacked her, he’d leap in front of her like a spring-wound damned fool and die a pointless but gaudy death. (That too is built in.) But she will still be only a part of his world, along with motorcycles, the job, great software, rock climbing, or drinking beer and talking dirty with other guys.

Maybe this is why men are happier than women with intermediate degrees of commitment. If Willie Bob starts dating Maggie Lou, and she’s fun, he’ll just naturally keep on doing it. Left to himself, two years later or twenty, he would still be dating her, and be perfectly happy. His attitude is that if it works, why meddle with it? He doesn’t see dating as having to Go Somewhere like an evicted tenant. Depending on how much company he really wants, he may figure seeing her three times a week, and being left alone the rest of the time, is just right. He isn’t exploiting her. He’s just happy as things are.

She won’t see it this way, or at least not for long. It’s not because there’s anything wrong with her, or with women, or for that matter with men. We’ve just got different operating systems. What she sees as God’s intended result of dating, so clearly right as not to be examined, he sees as at best an unnecessary complication, at worst as giving up title to his house. He asks the, to him, reasonable questions: “Gee, Maggie, what would be better if we got married? Would sex be better? Food? What’s your point?” He’s genuinely puzzled. She thinks he’s being exploitative, that she has been had again, another five years wasted, men, the bastards.

There’s got to be a better way. I just don’t know what it is.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Political Correctness, Sex 
Never Happen Since Too Many People Get Rich from It

As perhaps most now know, China is preparing a digital currency with which it intends to replace cash entirely, and other countries, including the US, are considering the idea. Conservatives and libertarians will shriek, pull their hair, and turn blue at the idea, perhaps with good reason—which doesn’t matter since it is going to happen anyway.

How would it work? Digital currencies have many interesting qualities, but here we will look only at a few relevant to this column. First, you download the app like any other. It gives you a QR code and requires a face scan and perhaps a fingerprint scan, so that only you can use your money. Second, details of every transaction are recorded: time, place, name, and amount of every payment., from whom to whom. Most people won’t care since most people don’t do anything illegal, which will facilitate acceptance.

What effects would it have? Many and astonishing. A universal digital currency, combined with cashlessness, would wipe out the illegal drug trade overnight. At street level, every speedball sold would be paid for by the addict to the corner dealer, with the time, place, amount, buyer, and seller being recorded. The pattern caused by a dealer’s making repeated sales would be easily detected by AI algorithms. When the street-level guy bought a new kilo or whatever from his own dealer, this would instantly be flagged. When Pedro of Mexico wanted to sell a large batch to DeShawn in Chicago, the deal would stand out like sanity in a Democratic administration. Getting around this would be extremely difficult if not (more likely) impossible.

Arrests would not be necessary. Freezing the dealer’s account would be sufficient. As they say in Asia in another context, no money, no honey. Political effects? The current mass incarceration of blacks for drug crime would cease, and the drug trade would cease to ravage black neighborhoods. Reflection will show that many kinds of crime would disappear.

Money laundering? You would have to explain how you got it in the first place but if a crooked bank, which may mean all of them, accepted huge deposits of mysterious origin, lights would flash and bells go ringadingding at watchdog agencies. If the central authority wondered why Willy Bill had suddenly gotten seven million bucks from someone else who could not explain where he got it, the bank could simply freeze the money until Willy Bill dropped in to explain.

This isn’t fantasy. The technology exists. It is in use. In China, eighty percent of transactions are by cellphone apps. The Chinese predict that they will have digital currency up and running for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Corruption? Many forms would become harder. When a congressman receives twenty times his annual salary from somebody working for Lockheed-Martin the road to Leavenworth would loom. Bribery would not be impossible, but harder to hide.

Another effect would be that the (encrypted) digital currency of one country would be independent of and opaque to other countries and thus secure against foreign (read American) meddling. This has begun to worry Washington. The city seems to have noted that China could pay Iran for oil in digital yuan, circumventing American sanctions. Many countries would like to get themselves out from under the American financial boot. Once the dijjywan becomes functional a rush to use it, probably in addition to the dollar, would not be surprising.

On a slightly different subject, note that a great deal of the annoyance and bureaucracy of modern life come from the use of different means of identifying ourselves. We carry credit cards, ID cards, library cards, passports, and suchlike. At airports we have to produce tickets and ID. We have driver’s licenses and scuba-certification cards. On and on.

All of this could be eliminated by a combination of reliable biometric identification (face-recognition, fingerprints, iris scan, what have you) and cloud storage. At the airport a face scan identifies you, checks to see that you have paid for a ticket to France, checks to see that you hold a valid passport, and you board your flight by simply walking aboard. At a restaurant you pay by saying, “Visa.” No cards, no forms to sign. Reliable biometric ID would also allow getting rid of keys, passwords, and the like since all these do really is to identify you.

Would all of this endanger privacy? Usually, no. For example, the software could ensure that no one could see your scuba cert except with your permission, that border enforcement could check your passport information and visas but no one else could, and so on.

However, the government could see anything it wanted. Exactly as the shrieking blue libertarians and conservatives say. When, whether, and to what extent this would matter to most of us can be debated, but it would assuredly be possible. Again, this is not Fred’s fevered imagination. All of the technology exists, right now.

But…how different is this from today’s America? Visa and your bank record every purchase you make with a credit card, time, place and amount. Gmail or Outlook saves all your emails. Every check you write, every deposit or withdrawal becomes a record. Your smartphone knows where it is and therefore, usually, where you are: In Mexico I say to my iPhone, “Hey Siri, where am I?” she knows exactly. Cell towers know within a fairly short radius where your phone is, usually with you, and time correlation can show who you spent time with. The sites you visit on the web go into data bases. If you have been visiting porn sites involving donkeys, Google, which is as much a part of government as Congress, knows it. If you have “Hey Siri” activated, and perhaps if you don’t, your phone is always listening. Amazon knows all your purchases and reading habits. (Incidentally, it disappears books those in charge don’t like. A book is equally gone regardless of whether the vanishment is done by Washington or a quasi-governmental tech company.)

It gets worse. Our television—I am inclined to say “telescreen”– has control by gesture, meaning that it has a camera, as well as voice control. In principle, it listens only when we use the remote to tell it to. In practice, who knows? We have two Alexa boxes in the house If we accidentally say “Alexa” in one room, the box two rooms away will come alive and ask what we want. Would—does—Jeff Bezos let the government use this facility? I don’t know. With shaky search warrants and bunkum about national security, what choice would he have?. And of corse cameras are everywhere.

Most of this is innocuous. Nobody will look at the Seven-Eleven video of me buying a six-pack of Tecate unless there is a robbery, which would not involve me. But the watchfulness is there, everywhere, all the time, if anyone wants to get at it

We seem to be getting the surveillance so many fear, but not the benefits.

Traipsing Through Wonderland

 
I’d Rather Be Ruled by Brain-Damaged Twelve-Year-Olds

There is no limit to misjudgement. If the psychic curiosities in the Federal bunker start a war with China, or push Beijing into starting one, it will be blamed on a proximate cause, such as a collision of warships after which some lieutenant who joined on waivers lost it and opened fire. After all, historians have to write about something. The causes will actually be deeper and more complex.

To begin, people are cerebrally arranged to form groups–“packs” is a better word—and fight with other groups. This is dimwitted, but so are people. The urge manifests itself in wars, political parties, football, teenage gangs, and contract bridge. It is not rational. In football, armored mercenary felons having no relation to the cities they represent, battle other felons from another city, most of whose citizens would not let their daughters within a parsec of said felons—all this while the fans scream in adrenal murderousness. It is just what we do. At the national level, it is called “patriotism.”

Territoriality is part of the disorder. Human minds—the phrase may be an overstatement—seem intended for small wild groups for whom protection of hunting grounds might be important. When a Secretary of State embodies this instinct, he may, for example, confuse Asia with a patch of woods rife with deer. An instinct well suited to one situation is applied to another to which it isn’t.

But why do Americans regard China as an enemy? Partly because the vast military sector of the economy needs an enemy as a budgetary pretext. This is often said. It is also true. Since none of the anointed enemies—Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea—does anything to threaten Americans, a drumbeat of media about largely imaginary menaces is needed. And provided.

At a somewhat deeper level, it is again the pack instinct. Conservatives in particular tend to see the world in terms of tribes, countries, or faiths presumed hostile. Even though the public has almost no knowledge of China, or because of this, it can quite easily be persuaded that China is very dangerous. People can then easily begin clamoring for war and, politicians being politicians, they will not risk votes by pointing out the stupidity.

But let us go back to the collision of warships. Why would a diversity-admit junior officer open fire on China? Proximately, because he is frightened and panicky. A bit more remotely, because he has been told over and over and over that the Chinese are dangerous and aggressive and want to do terrible things, seldom specified. The military tells them this because you cannot prepare the troops for war by telling them that there is no reason for it.

 

Why would a President allow a war, knowing (if in a lucid moment) that it would produce absolute unshirted havoc in the economy even if it didn’t go nuclear? He wouldn’t. That is, he wouldn’t all at once choose Armageddon. But he couldn’t afford to seem soft on China, not with the midterms looming, so he couldn’t back off. If in the ensuing shootout the Navy got trounced, he most assuredly couldn’t drop the matter, and would have to double down. So, of course, would the Chinese for the same sorts of reasons. Off to the races.

Deeper in the forest of causation is that the pathologically aggressive, amoral, manipulative, and crafty tend to rise to power. We select as rulers those who are least fit to rule. In America this is often done a bit differently, with the unscrupulous and powerful choosing cardboard leaders whose strings they can pull. The effect is the same.

Why would war seem reasonable? Because Americans have never seen one, and believe their forces to be invincible. If you think that you can’t lose a fight, why avoid one? And because those in comfortable circumstances know that a war in Asia would be fought by the lower economic classes, about whom they care nothing and don’t much like. American elites do not fight. Note the list of draft dodgers during Vietnam: Bush II, Cheney, Bolton, Trump, Biden.

These men, knowing almost nothing of the military, war or, very likely, military history, are quickly hijacked mentally by the Pentagon. The firm handshake, the steely gaze, the clean shaven, confident, and patriotic warriors (if only via Powerpoint) are impressive to pols who…well, you know…haven’t done that. They project strength and realism, without necessarily having either. Listening to them, you can easily get a sense of being accepted into a special, manly club. They say that America has the most powerful, invincible, best trained, tra la, tra la, and if you haven’t been there it is easy to believe. The Chinese? A cakewalk. Iran? Coupla weeks.

Another reason for easily blundering into a war poorly understood is the very low quality of American government. Congress and the President are chosen by popularity contests, not according to competence. A congressman who worked his way up the political ladder in Wheeling or Baton Rouge knows state politics. He is unlikely to know anything about the first Island Chain or what a terminally guided ballistic missile is. A friend in a position to know estimates that ninety percent of the Senate do not know where Myanmar is. No one without a grasp of geography has more than a child’s understanding of military, economic, or strategic reality. But they vote on these things.

Sez I, we are well and truly screwed. But there is little we can do about it.

 

The below is a collection of non-political pieces over the years that I think people might find enjoyable.

Traipsing Through Wonderland

ORDER IT NOW

Amazon: “Chronicles of a wild life in biker bars and the fleshpots of Bangkok, of years of solo hitchhiking across America, of a Southern boyhood of drag racing in old wrecks and guns and beer, of Marine Corps boot camp and Moon’s strange church, of scuba diving the deep walls of the Caribbean and cave diving in Mexico, of life on staff at Soldier of Fortune magazine and nine years as police reporter for the Washington Times in the weird, sad, and often unbelievable urban Petri dishes of the big cities. Politically incorrect and evilly funny, Fred takes no prisoners. He skews with murderous wit things he doesn’t like, which are many: pols, talking heads, officious do-gooders. He has a soft spot for things he does like, such as dogs, drunks, bar girls, and ambulance crews, of all of which he has known many. His work has appeared in Playboy, Harper’s, the Washington Post magazine an op-ed pages, and suchlike stations of the literary cross.the literary cross”

Write Fred at jet.possum@gmail.com Put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid autodeletion

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, China, China/America 
Fred Reports from Foxhole

Today’s characteristically luminous insights will be disordered and structurally horrifying, the sort of essay that would have sent my high-school English teacher into anaphylactic shock. In exculpation I plead laziness.

Recently I wrote a column on China’s digital yuan, now in late-stage testing. Bare-bones explanation: You download a digital-wallet app with which you can then send payments to anybody in the world who also has the app, no forms, bureaucracy, or bank account needed. OK, that’s cute, you say. Then, with my phenomenally perceptive, pincer-like grasp of the inescapable, I thought, it sounds scalable. If you can do it with thirty bucks (in yuan) for a hat from some store, why not with fifty million dollars (in yuan) for a shipment of oil from Iran? Sure, with more security and so on, but same mechanism.

Interestingly, such payments would be completely independent of, and opaque to, Washington. And independent of…SWIFT, eeeeeeek! Do you suppose China has thought of this?

Well, I thought, this is mere speculative maundering by some guy in Mexico who is admittedly pig ignorant of international finance. And of course China itself was saying that the dijjywan had nothing to do with the dollar, oh no, was solely for domestic use, and for retail sales. Not important. Move on. Nothing to see here.

But then, this: China is consulting, whatever that means, with Hong Kong, Thailand, and the UAE over using the dijjywan for international payments. Uh…say what? Thailand and the UAE are not particularly domestic to China. And I doubt that Beijing is intensely interested in the retail market of the UAE, which has the aggregate population of a large city bus. Methinks China has Something In mind. And it don’t bode good for sanctions, the petrodollar, and the like.

Nuther subject: Being fascinated by what looks like a shift of the world’s technological and economic center of gravity from the West to Asia, I poke about the web in the manner of an Ernest truffle hound, to see what the wily Orientals are doing. My results are not too systematic. My distinct impression is that things are happening over there, ideas popping up on Wednesday and in volume production by Friday afternoon, of energy and movement. By contrast, America looks asleep at the wheel. Except that it doesn’t have a wheel. A few almost random examples:

China ahead of America in patent applications for second year.

Business Insider:“ “China is moving ahead with a huge robot farming project…powered by 5G cellular technology, the agricultural tractor with self-driving mode can also be remotely controlled to carry out multiple intelligent functions” says Chinese governmental site Global Times

Beijing has successfully powered up its “artificial sun” nuclear fusion reactor for the first time, China’s People’s Daily reported on Friday. It’s designed to be a clean energy source, similar to the real Sun.”

The foregoing is overexcited as neither China nor anyone else has demonstrated controlled fusion, but it shows that the country is in the race.

Global Times (Again, mouthpiece of Beijing): China needs to increase its nuclear warheads to 1,000.” Because of American hostility.

Education. China finds its brightest students with a grueling entrance exam. America dumbs down elite high schools because they don’t have enough unqualified minorities. Thomas Jefferson High School in Virginia has already been enstupidated, and the NYC schools are on the block. The purpose of schools is to admit students who can’t do the work.

New York Post: “With this year’s state math and English exams canceled, a watered-down grading policy enacted, and the tossing of attendance, the key factors for admission to selective schools have been dropped or diminished…. “

America Ties with China in 2019 Math Olympiad

Well, not exactly. The 2019 U.S. team is: Vincent Huang, Luke Robitaille, Colin Tang, Edward Wan, Brandon Wang, and Daniel Zhu. China, it seems, tied with itself.

BBC: China’s Chang-e Five lunar-sample return mission safely parachutes into Mongolia. Very sophisticated engineering, and it worked. The US is ahead in space exploration, its Perseverance mission now on Mars being a marvel, but the gap ain’t what it used to be.

From NIO, a Chinese Electric Vehicle Start-up

If a car looks like this, I want one. Nio is working on a system in which “gas” stations remove a depleted battery and replace it with a charged one, thus eliminating the problem of long charging time. Will it fly? I don’t know, but those folks over there are scurrying. China, Japan, and South Korea, for example, are rapidly advancing hydrogen-powered fuel-cell cars.

China’s Quantum Computer Beats Google’s Sycamore in ‘Computational Supremacy’, Claims New Study

Also a bit overdone. My grasp of quantum computing equals that of a hardboiled egg, but this seems to indicate that China is holding its own in a field that is a Very Big Deal.

Below: “China Finishes Building World’s Largest Radio Telescope”

China has finished building the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the world’s largest single-aperture telescope. This photo was taken on July 3, 2016, the day the huge dish’s last panel was installed” Gret big sucker. Four years ago. China has the money to spend on pure science. Wow.

MagLev.net: “The next-generation Chinese medium-low speed maglev doubles the top speed of the first generation and it becomes driverless…Most of the R&D work is done in Hunan Province….”

Miles of high-speed rail in the US: 0. Miles of maglev rail in US: 0. Likelihood of either any time soon: 0. Cost of new B21 intercontinental nuclear bomber: $550 million. Each.

China Will Begin Constructing ItsSpace Station in 2021

China to build 30 ‘fully connected’ 5G factories by 2023

 

The other day a friend and I were partaking of the mortal remains of quite a number of defenseless grapes, and the subject of law enforce arose. Having spent a number of years as a police reporter, I began thinking of curious and often erroneous ideas that people have of what we regard as a system of justice. Without meaning to bore the reader, I offer the following thoughts and observations.

First, any system will make mistakes. The only way to convict all of the guilty is to convict everybody. The only way to avoid convicting the innocent is not to convict anyone. The more the system leans in one direction, the more it will err in the other.

Second, it is absurd to accept the Enlightenment idea that a criminal, having “paid his debt to society” by a stint in prison, will come out and make a new start as a normal human. The fact is that most crime is committed by career criminals. An armed robber aged twenty-nine invariably will have a rap sheet dating from puberty of thirteen arrests and a couple of convictions for assault, drug offenses, gun offenses, drugs, and so on. He is not going to make a fresh start.

Third, the complacent adage that “it is better to let ten guilty men go free than to convict one innocent man” may apply in cases of shoplifting. It may not be better to let ten Ted Bundys go free than to convict an innocent. Your choice may depend on whether you have a daughter in college.

Fourth, people charged with crimes by urban police departments are almost always guilty. There are two reasons for this. One is that they are usually caught in the act, driving the stolen car, carrying the illegal gun, or having drugs in their possession. The other is that DA’s won’t paper a case unless they are pretty sure of winning either in court or by plea bargain.

Fifth, the US does not have trial by jury but, in over ninety percent of cases, trial by plea bargain. Crime is so rampant in American cities that many times more courts and prosecutors would be needed for jury trials.

Plea bargaining is convenient for prosecutors but a very bad system. It makes it easy for overzealous or crooked prosecutors to take advantage of suspects with little or no legal representation. It can, and sometime does, work against what we regard as normal people.

Suppose you are a suburban white man walking through a shaky part of the city without knowing it to be a red-light district, and you get unfairly arrested for solicitation of a prostitute. Your choice is to plead down to public lewdness or some such with a fine of five hundred dollars, or go to trial, lose your marriage, and maybe get three years. Which?

Yes, this can happen. Ages ago in my police-reporter days I walked one evening on Fourteenth Street, then a hooker venue. One of the girls said, “You sportin,’ honey?” Another lady of the evening stepped closer, as if to listen to my answer. I strongly suspected the first to be Cookie Marino, a police plant in the anti-sex trade force.

Solicitation was then defined as offering a specific price for a specific act. A guy with no interest could easily kid around (“I want five girls. I’ll give you a thousand dollars each.”) and get arrested. Then what?

Sixth, almost all of the celebrated shootings and brutality by police result from disobeying a cop’s orders. If a minion of the law tells you to stop and put your hands up, do it. You can sue later.

Seventh, drug rehab is a scam. The judge doesn’t want to send the addict to prison, since prisons are overflowing, but doesn’t want to let him go, and look soft on crime, so he sentences him to rehab, which he knows doesn’t work, but it becomes somebody else’s problem.

Eighth, jury trials are largely fraudulent. You are supposed to be tried by a jury of your peers. This was a good idea since it made it difficult for the government to railroad people it didn’t like. In today’s climate of racial hatred, “one’s peers” has to mean of one’s own race. A white jury is not unlikely to acquit a white charged with beating a black (Rodney King) and a black jury is very likely to acquit a black charged with killing a white (OJ Simpson).

Further, in theory the jury is supposed to consider the facts dispassionately and come to a reasoned verdict. Good luck with that. A jury of theoretical physicists might approach this ideal. In jury selection both prosecutors and defense attorney will try to impanel jurors emotionally biased in their favor.

For example, in a rape case the prosecutor will want a jury consisting of man-hating feminists and he will coach the victim to look sweet and defenseless. The defense will want a jury of primitive rural Christians who will think that if she was in that bar, in that neighborhood, with THAT Dress up to her armpits, she damned well deserved what she got. Yes, this is exaggerated, but it is how they think.

Ninth, it is not always clear what the country believes to be the purpose of prison.

Is the purpose to punish? Then prison should be harsh. If it isn’t disagreeable, it isn’t punishment.

It the purpose to deter? Then it should ed godawful as otherwise it will not deter.

Should vengeance be an acceptable purpose? In the case of someone selling marijuana, no—but the psychopath who tortured three girls to death? Your answer to this may depend on whether it was your daughter.

Is the purpose to rehabilitate? Then prison should be pleasant, with libraries, online courses, and training in auto mechanics, carpentry, and bricklaying.

Is the purpose to protect the public? Then the answer is long sentences’ whether in pleasant circumstance or not. Since the only thing that more or less reliably decreases criminality is age, sentences might read “until middle age.”

Tenth, the current system virtually guarantees recidivism. A black guy with a fourth-grade education goes to jail for fifteen years at age twenty-five. He comes out at age forty with no money, no acquaintances on the outside, and zero employability. What precisely do we expect him to do? Realistically there is no practical answer to this question. He understands armed robbery and dope sales. These are all he understands.

My only answer to all of this is what a friend, a public defender, told me: “Don’t ever—ever—get into the hands of the criminal justice system.”

Finally, it is worth remembering that few actually care about guilt or innocence. Trial attorneys are combative and want to win. An assistant DA does not rise in rank by losing cases. The defense guy, or gal, gains fame and clients by acquitting clients and do so even if they know the perp is guilty.

Write Fred at jetpossum@gmail.com Put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid heartless autodeletion.

 

Buy Fred’s Books! The gods, or any particular god of your choice, will love you for it. They may send you briefcases full of money. Act before the censors come.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Crime, Judicial System 
Questions for My Betters

China is now vigorously testing a digital yuan and threatens to have it ready for prime time for the 2022 Winter Olympics. This seems, to me anyway, important. It will be a real, workaday yuan, not a speculative cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. It will use a digital wallet via a cellphone app, and will not require an internet connection. Beyond this, I know about it only what I read, which may be wrong. To avoid endless qualification, I will write the following as if it were fact, but really I mean it more as an extended question. Any correction, amplification, or thought will be welcome.

I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that all currencies of any worth will eventually become digital. Many countries, the EU, and Google are now pondering the idea. There are serious objections to digital money, which we will come to shortly but, if all countries have them, the question will become which is least bad.

I also assume, tentatively, that Beijing will want to make the dijjywan as nearly universal as possible. The Chinese will accept it with little concern since they are accustomed to making payments with mobile apps. To have people adopt it in countries still mired in the Paper Age, the dijjywan will have to be attractive. To whom will digital currency appeal, and why? What will be the appeal? Some ideas:

It will not require a bank account, making it attractive to people who have a cell phone but not a bank account. While these folk do not on average have a lot of money, their use of dijjywan will be a step toward universalizing the currency. And of course, many who do have bank accounts may want another repository for money. It will require only the app and a QR code.

Transactions will be instantaneous and free of bureaucracy, such as the filling of forms and handling of SWIFT codes. (I suspect that Washington has thought of this latter point.) This feature will appeal to everybody.

As with paper currency, there will be no transaction fees. This will make it popular with merchants, though not with Visa and Mastercard. These charge a percentage of the purchase price of merchandise. A wan-wallet with no rake-off would have interesting consequences for the credit-card companies, such as bankrupting them. The threat to such companies as Western Union would be, well, gratifying. They would quickly become extinct.

Since the dijjywallet is a debit device, not offering credit, it will cut down on the impulse buying on which Visa and Mastercard rely to manufacture debt slaves. Goodbye twenty-percent interest rates on unpaid balances.

Armed robbery and theft will become almost impossible. I could put a pistol to your head and demand your money, but you would have to transfer it to my own phone. This would create a record of amount, date, time, GPS (or Beidou) position, as well as the identity of both of us. This would reduce the enthusiasm of most armed robbers. You would of course report the robbery, and your money could simply be pulled from my phone and returned to yours. In America’s dangerous cities, and Brazilian favelas, this might be appealing.

In countries vulgarly but accurately referred to by Mr. Trump, the currency can be, and often is, inflated into the 1923 Deutschemark by exuberance with the printing press. By adopting the Chinese dijjymoney as a national currency (or somebody else’s when available) said country would have a stable, grownup currency. This might actually appeal to some Third World countries. China might make such adoption a condition of loans.

An enormous appeal of dijjywan is that transactions are completely independent of and opaque to the American government. Even it its early form as a retail instrument, it will appeal to governments such as that of Cuba and Iran, which might like an influx of dijjywan into their tourist and retail industries. People who want to send remittances to countries being sanctioned, which does not yet include all countries but Washington is working on it, could do so unfettered.

It will appeal to people in badly governed countries, for example Zimbabwe, because it is portable. For example, the owner of a store there cannot easily today travel because Zimbabwean currency is worthless outside of Zimbabwe. But the dijjywan will be accepted around the world.

Washington will go into gibbering gollywobbles at the idea of dijjywan being used in the US, and outlaw it. So might other countries on, among other grounds, of not collecting sales taxes. However, Beijing could easily charge such taxes and deliver the proceeds to the local government.

The obvious, and entirely justified, objection to the dijjywan is that it would be transparent to, and controllable by, the People’s Bank of China. The possibility for social control is immense since, if you should be a bad boy, the PBOC could disappear your money. Note, though, that this will be true of all dijjymoney from whatever country. If—when—all major currencies become digital, you will have to decide which is least unreliable. And for most people, digital tracking of their money would make no difference. When was the last time you paid for anything illegal or that would upset Washington?

As a wild thought, might some international entity want to establish a planetary digital currency? We live in wild times.

Along with the downsides, there would be advantages. For example, the drug cartels would be very, very, very, very unhappy. Carlos lands daringly by dark of night at a clandestine airstrip in Florida with a ton of cocaine. Willy Bill the dealer steps from the jungle and pays Carlos for flying, which creates a record of time, place, amount, identity of both, and trips an alarm at FinCin in Washington. In the drug racket, this sort of thing is suboptimal. Money laundering would become the Achilles heel of the drug racket.

At this point the dijjywan sounds retail, not suited to purchases of oil. Could it be scaled up for larger transactions? I don’t know, being blankly ignorant of high finance but, if it could…Good Heavens, it would evade American sanctions. Oh no! I doubt, though, that Beijing has thought of this. Probably Washington hasn’t either.

Them is some thoughts. I don’t know whether they are good thoughts.

Write Fred at jetpossum@gmail.com Put the letters pdq anywhere in the subject line to avoid heartless autodeletion.

 

Buy Fred’s Books! The gods, or any particular god of your choice, will love you for it. They may send you briefcases full of money. Act before the censors come.

 
• Category: Economics, Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Digital Yuan, Dollar 
Fred Reed
About Fred Reed

Fred, a keyboard mercenary with a disorganized past, has worked on staff for Army Times, The Washingtonian, Soldier of Fortune, Federal Computer Week, and The Washington Times.

He has been published in Playboy, Soldier of Fortune, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Harper's, National Review, Signal, Air&Space, and suchlike. He has worked as a police writer, technology editor, military specialist, and authority on mercenary soldiers.


Personal Classics
Not What Tom Jefferson Had in Mind
Sounds Like A Low-Ranked American University To Me
Very Long, Will Bore Hell Out Of Most People, But I Felt Like Doing It
It's Not A Job. It's An Adventure.
Cloudy, With Possible Tidal Wave