Four boys rescued from Thai cave

Some good news from Thailand:

The first four boys rescued from the Tham Luang cave ordeal are now in safe hands and are under medical care at a local hospital in Chiang Rai, rescue mission chief Narongsak Osotthanakorn said yesterday.

An ambulance transports one of the trapped boys from Chiang Rai airport to the Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital yesterday evening. He was airlifted from a field hospital near Tham Luang to the airport after being extracted from the cave.

Speaking at a briefing at 8.45pm last night, Mr Narongsak said the first three boys were airlifted by helicopter to Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital in Muang district after being extracted from the cave, and the fourth was taken by ambulance.

The first boy emerged from the cave at 5.40pm, followed by the second boy about 10 minutes later. The third and fourth boys later made it out at 7.40pm and 7.50pm respectively, Mr Narongsak told reporters.

“Today is the most perfect day. We’ve now seen the faces of members of the Wild Boar football team,’’ said Mr Narongsak, a Phayao governor who formerly served as the governor of Chiang Rai. “This is a great achievement.’’

However, the remaining eight boys and their 25-year-old football coach Ekkapol Chantawong remained at the ledge called Nern Nom Sao where they had been sheltering since June 23, he said.

After the four boys made it out safely, the rescue mission was called off temporarily because oxygen supplies were all used up, Mr Narongsak said. An assessment will be made in the next 10-20 hours before a decision is made about when to resume the rescue operation, he said.

About 90 rescuers were involved in the operation. Of them, 10 foreign divers escorted the four boys out of the flooded cave, three divers, also from foreign countries, were technicians, and five Thai Navy Seal members supporting the rescue bid, Mr Narongsak said.

A dubious honor

Washington DC psychopaths

Crawling with psychos

Perhaps not surprisingly, the nation’s capital is the most sociopathic place in the US. And Connecticut is number two!

Ryan Murphy, an economist at Southern Methodist University, recently published a working paper in which he ranked each of the states by the predominance of—there’s no nice way to put it—psychopaths. The winner? Washington in a walk. In fact, the capital scored higher on Murphy’s scale than the next two runners-up combined.

“I had previously written on politicians and psychopathy, but I had no expectation D.C. would stand out as much as it does,” Murphy wrote in an email.

When Murphy matched up the “constellation of disinhibition, boldness and meanness” that marks psychopathy with a previously existing map of the states’ predominant personality traits, he found that dense, coastal areas scored highest by far—with Washington dominant among them. “The District of Columbia is measured to be far more psychopathic than any individual state in the country,” Murphy writes in the paper. The runner-up, Connecticut, registered only 1.89 on Murphy’s scale, compared with the overwhelming 3.48 clocked by the District.

According to Martha Stout’s The Sociopath Next Door, sociopaths make up four percent of the US population. Assuming “psychopath” roughly corresponds to “sociopath,” based on DC’s population of about 694,000, we can estimate that there are well over 27,760 psychos in the capital — possibly in the region of 50,000 or more?

Soviet Valley

This is amusing:

Things that happen in Silicon Valley and also the Soviet Union:

– waiting years to receive a car you ordered, to find that it’s of poor workmanship and quality

– promises of colonizing the solar system while you toil in drudgery day in, day out

– living five adults to a two room apartment

– being told you are constructing utopia while the system crumbles around you

– ‘totally not illegal taxi’ taxis by private citizens moonlighting to make ends meet

– everything slaved to the needs of the military-industrial complex

– mandatory workplace political education

– productivity largely falsified to satisfy appearance of sponsoring elites

– deviation from mainstream narrative carries heavy social and political consequences

– networked computers exist but they’re really bad

– Henry Kissinger visits sometimes for some reason

– elite power struggles result in massive collateral damage, sometimes purges

– failures are bizarrely upheld as triumphs

– otherwise extremely intelligent people just turning the crank because it’s the only way to get ahead

– the plight of the working class is discussed mainly by people who do no work

– the United States as a whole is depicted as evil by default

– the currency most people are talking about is fake and worthless

– the economy is centrally planned, using opaque algorithms not fully understood by their users

Mr Zuckerberg, tear down this wall!

China aims to overtake “slower vehicle” US

China has big plans for enhancing its military power around the globe, is bracing for increased frictions with Japan and other neighbors, and sees the US as a power in decline, according to a leaked document:

China’s military reforms are aimed at expanding its military might from the traditional focus on land territories to maritime influence to protect the nation’s strategic interests in a new era, according to an internal reader of China’s Central Military Commission obtained by Kyodo News.

If the reforms progress, the reader points to intensifying friction with neighboring countries, including Japan, in the East and South China Seas and elsewhere. It also suggests the willingness of China to overtake the United States in military strength. […]

“The lessons of history teach us that strong military might is important for a country to grow from being big to being strong,” it said. “A strong military is the way to avoid the ‘Thucydides Trap’ and escape the obsession that war is unavoidable between an emerging power and a ruling hegemony.”

A Thucydides Trap is a phrase used to refer to when a rising power causes fear in an established power that escalates toward war.

Military reforms are therefore a significant “turning point” for any given emerging country to “overtake a slower vehicle on a curve,” it said, suggesting that the United States is in its decline.

Stepping back from the brink?

The economic dispute between the US and China is heating up:

Chinese officials are warning that they are prepared not only for trade war, but for financial, diplomatic and limited military confrontation with the United States, in response to American demands for fundamental changes in Chinese economic policy.

The dispute between the world’s two largest economies has moved beyond narrow issues of trade or specific areas of prospective conflict: Washington now views China’s technologically-focused economic strategy as a challenge to America’s world position, and China views Washington’s demands on China as the equivalent of a “new Opium War,” as a senior Chinese official told Asia Times last week.

Helped along by the US Senate’s torpedoing of a carefully crafted agreement with telecom giant ZTE:

A critical turning point was the Commerce Department’s ban on sales of American chips to power ZTE’s mobile handsets, sourced mainly from the American semiconductor giant Qualcomm. ZTE had violated sanctions on sales of high technology to Iran and North Korea. China’s President Xi Jinping intervened personally with President Trump to rescind the decision. Trump’s Commerce Department negotiated an unprecedented $1.9 billion fine as well as direct American controls over ZTE management, only to have the US Senate vote to reinstate the crippling ban on chip purchases. Trump’s Republican opponents united with Senate Democrats to embarrass the US President. The Chinese official commented, “That is Trump’s problem, not our problem.”

Thanks guys!

The US needs to address any Chinese trade abuses. But no amount of punitive trade actions will save the US economy from corkscrewing into irrelevance, if America does not launch its own “technologically-focused economic strategy,” rather than trying to somehow shut down China’s.

Goldman has some suggestions:

First, do what the Eisenhower administration did in 1957 – shift federal resources toward science and technology and starve the universities of all other forms of aid, including student loans.

Second, restore federal R&D spending to the levels of the Reagan years (when we spent 1.3% of GDP on basic R&D vs. about 0.7% now).

Third, begin Manhattan Project-style programs under the aegis of the Defense Department to force breakthroughs in critical technologies: quantum computing, semiconductor manufacturing, drone technology, artificial intelligence, missile defense (including space-based systems), and anti-submarine warfare to start.

Fourth, as I noted above. organize a brain drain out of China: Identify and recruit their most inventive and creative tech people.

Fifth, get together with the Japanese and organize an alternative to China’s One Belt, One Road program. The fulcrum of this program is the 600 million people of Southeast Asia, most of whom would welcome an alternative to Chinese dominance.

Watch the subs

The broad outlines of the next world war are beginning to take shape:

The world’s three largest naval powers are all developing the next generation of their nuclear submarine fleets, accelerating the underwater arms race between the United States, China and Russia.

For now, at least, analysts say America remains by far the most dominant submarine force, even as its chief rivals work feverishly to overcome the U.S. advantages. Each country appears to have different strategic goals, with the U.S. bent on gaining greater cost and operating efficiencies while the Chinese and Russian are keenly focused on technological advances and achieving greater stealth.

I’m no military expert, but focusing on cost and operating efficiencies, rather than overwhelming technological dominance, seems like a sure path to losing the next war.

SSBNs, or “boomers,” hide in the ocean and can launch nuclear ballistic missiles at an enemy anywhere in the world even if the rest of a nation’s nuclear triad of air- and ground-based missiles is destroyed. They are the guarantors of mutually assured destruction in the event of nuclear war.

Some analysts say that these boomers will be increasingly crucial to the national security strategy of all three nations in the coming decade.

“There is no higher priority for the U.S. Navy than SSBN recapitalization,” said J.D. Williams, a retired Marine Corps colonel and senior defense researcher at RAND Corporation, who said SSBNs play a major role in the Navy’s big-picture decision making.

Now, why might that be? I thought the specter of global nuclear war was mostly a thing of the past.

Looks like we could be in for a fun century.

Differently wired

An intriguing overview of the differences between the brain activity of introverts and extroverts. Summary:

Whereas extroverts are linked with the dopamine/adrenaline, energy-spending, sympathetic nervous system, introverts are connected with the acetylcholine, energy-conserving, parasympathetic nervous system.

Introverts’ and extroverts’ blood travels along different brain pathways, and each pathway is activated by a different neurotransmitter: dopamine in the case of extroverts, and acetylcholine in the case of introverts. Excepts are from this book.

Foreigners banned from hotels in China?

Wade Shepard says it happens a lot:

An old blog post of a situation that seems to have gotten way worse. Hotels in China are still segregated by ethnicity and national origin. Imagine if you went to a hotel in the USA and they refused to let you stay just because you were from China?

And here is the 2012 blog post in question. Sample:

Imagine this: You travel to a new city, scour the streets looking for a good, cheap place to sleep, and when you finally find one you’re told you can’t stay just because you’re a foreigner. Now play this story out over and over again for 90% of the hotels you try to stay in and you have an idea of what it’s like to travel in China.

Technically, Chinese hotels are suppose to have a special permit before they can admit foreign guests. To get this permit they first must have the proper surveillance equipment installed — meaning a computerized registration system — and, or so it is my impression, be up to snuff and project the image of China that the government wants the outside world to see, which is to say: modern, developed, new, clean, and expensive.

These rules are nothing new, but, from my previous travels through China, I don’t remember them ever being enforced very readily. It has been my experience that one out of every two or three inns that didn’t have a foreigner’s permit would let you stay anyway. Like so, travel in this country was not that much of a hassle: when denied at one inn you’d just walk over to another until you found one that didn’t give a shit. But now this seems to be getting more difficult, for the first time in all my travels in China I was defeated when trying to find accommodation. […]

It wasn’t happening. I couldn’t stay in this inn. My foreign face and accent gave me away, and the inn would not give me a room no matter how much I pleaded. No problem, I’ll just walk on to the next one. I asked the lady at the reception desk if she knew of another cheap inn 旅馆 that I could stay at. She told me to go to a hotel 宾馆. The difference between the two is one little character, but the impact is colossal: it means the difference between spending $5 and $30.

Fact check: I cannot confirm the 90% figure, but the idea that many Chinese hotels refuse to accept foreigners is ABSOLUTELY TRUE. Exhibit A: An expat colleague and I were turned away by a hotel in the city of Wuxi in 2010 for precisely this reason. Exhibit B: In 2016, an American friend living in Shanghai’s Yangpu district was told by virtually all of the 10 or so hotels within walking distance of his university that they couldn’t accommodate his foreign friends. Again, this was in a central district of Shanghai, not some backwater town. This friend has had similar experiences in Beijing and elsewhere in China.

Now, I should make it clear that I’m not complaining at all. China is a sovereign country and has the right to subject foreign nationals to this treatment for whatever reason it wants, or for no reason at all — and it’s completely pointless to gripe about it.

Also, I can’t speak for anyone else but if I were travelling to a new city I would very happily pay $30, as opposed to $5, for the privilege of staying in an actual hotel rather than a guest inn or hostel. That’s just me though.

The comments below Shepard’s recent post, however, are fascinating as a cross-section of the types of responses that any criticism of any aspect of China inevitably elicits. Let’s take a look at some:

PERSON A: Exaggerated.

Wade Shepard: Go out of a big city and try it.

PERSON A: Simple research will point foreigners to several hotels in smaller cities. Article’s title is very misleading.

Wade Shepard: Research will lead you to tourist hotels. I’m talking about the cheap local inns. Not places you can find online. Anyway, the point is that accommodation is segregated based on nationality not whether you can find a place to stay somewhere from looking online.

Then there’s this guy, who took the opportunity to offer some insider “tips and tricks” that might be helpful to a theoretical person not named Wade Shepard:

PERSON B: The alternative is to make friends with the owner of the establishment, then walk with them down to the police dispatch to register temporary residence (24 hrs for urban areas/ 72 hrs for rural areas), perfectly acceptable if one has a residence permit and not a tourist visa. One can then give their new friend a 200 kuai hongbao as a thank you. The same can technically be done on a tourist visa provided one declares precise details of their travel schedule in advance. Mandarin skills are ultimately the key to getting anything at the local price.

Well, hokay — no problem then! Shepard’s reply is impressively patient:

Wade Shepard: Hello Connor, I had a residence permit then and I speak Mandarin. 200 kuai hongbao!?! haha I’m talking about 50 kuai per night rooms here 🙂

Then there’s this guy who appears to think that China is a market economy — totally missing the point that the foreigner registration system is imposed on hotel owners by the government:

PERSON C: Any entrepreneur, including hotel owners, should have full choice on who to serve. The customers then have the corresponding right to select which firms they support and carry their money to. That’s called a market economy.
Honestly, it’s rather embarrassing to witness Westerners trying to impose their culturally biased views about equality on other cultures. I was under the impression that modern Western culture is pretty much all about respecting the rights of others and especially those from other cultures. Well, live and learn.

And no discussion of this type would be complete without the guy who interjects his own irrelevant and misleading personal anecdote:

PERSON D: Really? I have never had a problem when travelling with a Chinese companion- maybe it’s more of a language thing.

Freedom of speech is important, but so is freedom *from* speech — i.e. the freedom to tune out other people’s ignorant yammering. Seriously, some people just need to STFU when those with actual knowledge and experience are trying to make a point.

UPDATE: It seems I’ve unleashed the dogs of war. I sent the link to Shepard’s post to my friend Antonio Graceffo and, well… hilarity ensued:

But they can’t innovate…

Nano lab Suzhou China

Vacuum Interconnected Nano-X Research Facility in Suzhou, China (Source: News Agency of Nigeria)

The complacent, self-satisfied conventional wisdom that China is incapable of matching, let alone surpassing, the West on innovation takes another body blow:

Most European firms operating in China think that their local counterparts are on the same level or even better in innovation for the first time, according to a survey co-collected by the European Union’s commerce chamber in China.

Some 61 percent of the respondents from 532 firms answered that Chinese companies are equally competitive in creating goods and services or even superior, which is double the number from a year ago, according to the survey done by the EUCCC and German consultancy firm Roland Berger. This marks the 12th year that the study has been executed.

Ouch.