Iran and the female factor

A reminder from Timur Kuran (author of Private Truths, Public Lies) of a seldom acknowledged angle that's been in play here:

You can find examples from, e.g., BLM protests in Baton Rouge (despite white men being much more likely to be shot by police than black women) or from protests in other places like Sudan.

It's generally not acknowledged and virtually never described as "privilege". It's a pattern of behaviour that's applicable to soldiers and convicted felons. Will see how it plays out here.

Will China blockade Taiwan this year?

I'm starting to see more headlines like Blinken Says China Wants to Seize Taiwan on ‘Much Faster Timeline’ and US must prepare now for China invasion of Taiwan: admiral. The timeline mentioned in that article is 2027, though I worry that some recent events might have pushed the timeline of aggression forward with the admiral mentioned in the article above suggesting that now a 2022 or 2023 timeframe might be in play.

On the Chinese side is Xi Jinpeng increasing his grasp on power, as seen in the former leader Hu Jintau's removal from the current Chinese Communist Party Congress and the country's zero-COVID policies despite vaccines which seem likely to do the country significant economic harm.

On the other side are Biden's new restrictions on the Chinese tech sector and their ability to import the latest generation of chips amidst other constraints. Here's one twitter thread I'd bumped into (for which you can find some related commentary here):

One major thing that might have previously made China hesitant to invade is the risk of blowing up TSMC, the Taiwanese semiconductor manufacturer currently at the bleeding edge and the world's largest semiconductor manufacturer. As Gwern points out:

... to put it another way, if the CCP tries to invade Taiwan in the next 10 years, historians are likely going to point to 2-3 days ago as the pivot: it is now a razor blade cutting China's throat if AI and high tech in general is the future, with nothing more to lose and everything to gain from destroying TSMC so no one else can have it either.

Another relevant question that comes to mind is: if China were to attack Taiwan how would they do it? There are a lot of voices like this that suggests that this might mean more military buildup:

I'm not sure that they're right though. Did we see the dress rehearsal in August this year in response to Pelosi's visit? What we had was a 4-day de facto blockade which was described as follows at the time:

We now have an unprecedented series of four-day-long, round-the-island live-ammunition exercises featuring advanced warplanes, warships and missiles. The Chinese military designated six closure areas, one of which is merely 12 miles from Taiwan’s southern shipping hub of Kaohsiung. Beijing also warned commercial airliners to avoid wide swaths of airspace around Taiwan, in what amounts to a no-fly zone over major flight routes. Even though China portrays this as a step short of total encirclement, Taiwan’s defense ministry describes it as “a maritime and aerial blockade.”

What could work is something like this:

As the above notes, businesses tend to be risk-averse so a threat might be enough to bring most of that to a halt. Putin's been hinting at a risk of nuclear war as a way to hold off outside interference. Here China again has the TSMC card to play. Firing directly on a US military vessel is one thing and Taiwan is seemingly difficult to invade directly, but what if China were to threaten to attack an entity like TSMC in response to any outside attempts to interfere in a blockade?

The ability to blockade or invade are two different things, and China might be capable of the first without yet seemingly being capable of the second:

Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense concluded last year that China was not yet able to launch a full-scale invasion. The Pentagon’s most recent report on the Chinese military said such an invasion “would likely strain China’s armed forces” and create “a significant political and military risk” for Beijing.

But both reports acknowledge that China is capable of blockading Taiwan. This blockade, identified by the Pentagon as the “Joint Blockade Campaign,” would cut off Taiwan’s air and naval traffic and its information networks.

“Such a blockade could be the main effort, eschewing an attempted landing altogether, or it could be part of a larger invasion campaign,” Lonnie Henley, a retired US intelligence officer who twice served as Defense Intelligence Officer for East Asia, told the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission last February.

I'm really not sure how this'll play out internationally it it happens. Thus far despite what's been going on in Xinjiang, China managed to attract praise from the Organization for Islamic Cooperation. It's also much easier to get other countries to agree that something is an internal dispute to be resolved at that level when mainland China has kept most other countries from diplomatic recognition of Taiwan.

I'm still not quite sure what sort of number I'd put on the risk of blockade, but it seems to me substantially higher than than the risk of a full-blown invasion, one that I expect that recent moves have made much more probable, and one still not acknowledged to the extent it should be. Guess I can only wait and see what happens.

Two tales of Elon Musk

There's this one that I'm seeing draw a lot of attention, wherein Elon Musk stops subsidizing internet access in Ukraine:

It seems like me like a lot of Musk's behaviour here is trolling as per CNN:

Documents obtained by CNN show that last month Musk’s SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon saying it can no longer continue to fund the Starlink service as it has. The letter also requested that the Pentagon take over funding for Ukraine’s government and military use of Starlink

i.e. the move to cut off the funds seems to have been initiated last month before Musk's unsolicited advice to Ukraine.

Musk's been kind of an idiot re: Ukraine, but if you were to want to criticize him for recent activities regarding entities that the US seems to broadly treat as allies this seems a much better target: Tesla wins tax breaks from China after Elon Musk’s Taiwan comments: report.

Ceasing to fund a country whose ambassador explicitly told you to "fuck off" seems far less problematic to me than seemingly gaining financial perks for similarly dubious statements elsewhere.

Random links

Do Some Countries Discriminate More than Others? Evidence from 97 Field Experiments of Racial Discrimination in Hiring
"France has the highest discrimination rates, followed by Sweden. We find smaller differences among Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States, and Germany."
Medical advances mask epidemic of violence by cutting murder rate
"Murder rates would be up to five times higher than they are but for medical developments over the past 40 years. According to new research, doctors are saving the lives of thousands of victims of attack who four decades ago would have died and become murder statistics. Although the study is based on US data, the researchers say the principle applies to other countries too"
Electric-Powered Commercial Airplane Makes History
Not yet viable for long-haul and there are certain other costs (e.g. battery replacement) but these were better figures than I was expecting to see. "A 100-mile flight in the nine-passenger Cessna Caravan, one of the most popular short-haul aircraft, costs more than $300 in fuel. “In an electric Caravan, you will spend $6 to $12 on electricity” to charge its batteries, he said. ... Maintenance costs will be lower as well for electric motors compared to internal combustion engines". Meanwhile Air Canada's has ordered hybrid electric planes.
Who Benefits When Western Museums Return Looted Art?
On the complexities associated with returning art to from Western museums to places in Africa. In addition to the question of whether or not they're likely to be safe from theft and well-maintained, to whom specifically should you return the art?


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