Body Count

Have you read Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes? You should. It's not just the best novel I've ever read about the Vietnam War, but it's also one of my irreplaceable sources of inspiration for understanding The Maw - that unlimited gluttony of the violent State to chomp on our bones and suck out our minds ... and the oddly not-so-rare instances of individual human bravery to persevere regardless.

I would bet my life that there are thousands of instances of individual human bravery persevering against The Maw happening right now ... in Wuhan ... in Wenzhou ... in dozens of other quarantined cities throughout China.

And in Xinjiang, too.

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  1. Avatar for Schase Schase says:

    Ben, what I like best is your insight into what is visible in plain sight but unobserved.

    What I like second best is Rusty’s BBQ last summer.

    Is the narrative about the virus “for sale” as currency in the political utility market? Looking forward to hearing what comes out of DC.

    “Conventional journalism could no more reveal this [Vietnam] war than conventional firepower could win it, all it could do was take the most profound event of the American decade and turn it into a communications pudding, taking its most obvious, undeniable history and making it into a secret history. And the very best correspondents knew even more than that.”

    — Dispatches by Michael Herr

  2. Avatar for bully bully says:

    George Carlin" My first rule: i don’t believe anything the government tells me"
    Ben, I believe this is a piece that needs more public readership, how do we go about accomplishing that? ( Short of going on an ET subscription drive of course )

  3. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    Thanks, Don! The best way to spread the word about ET notes to a broader audience is to promote on social media … Twitter is the best for this, but LinkedIn and Facebook work. We’ll be sending out an email on this note tomorrow, so forwarding the emails to anyone you think might listen is fantastic help, too. AND we should all be on an ET subscription drive at all times, of course!! - Ben

  4. I don’t know if you’ve ever thought of putting select articles on Medium?

  5. Excellent work Ben! Confirms my suspicions all along that Chinese health statistics are no different from Chinese economic statistics. They always contain a message, but not necessarily any “truth”. Even 5 minutes of critical thinking about what flaws may exist in the data collection or the logistics of collecting and processing all the necessary data reveals an utter farce. But in the absence of better data, people will cling to the farce. Reflexivity in markets and economies suggests that this strategy can work to a degree with the economy. Mother nature has a way of creating her own narratives though…

  6. Cartoons are relative, like Final fantasy XV (2016) and “Winnie the Pooh”. At all times there will be somebody telling an “objective” view of reality with occasional tendency to flirt with reality itself. Besides, suggestion boxes regarding inflation and employment are wide open for improvement. Asset allocation, electoral coverage and financial journalism are anomaly rather than the norm being available to 4% of the global population. I know I learned a lot from all of them.

  7. Per CNBC this afternoon/evening:
    Feb. 11 - 103 new deaths - 1,011 cumulative
    908 * 1.10 = 91 Uh-oh… fantasy model is already breaking.

  8. Avatar for bully bully says:

    Ben, do I get a free face mask for every subscription sold?
    Just asking…

  9. Interestingly, believing something is quite easy. All one must do is believe, meaning do not resist whatever it is that is the be believed. But disbelief, now that is an entirely different matter, especially when one is disbelieving “officially sanctioned” belief.

    To do this, a rational and logical man or woman must attempt to counter the official belief with facts, figures and so-called truth. One must attempt to displace the previously declared belief with another belief that is truth, or at least more true than the official belief.

    I follow a simple process when attempting to determine if an official belief should actually be believed. Watch what the official behind the promoted belief does and not what they say. What China is doing, locking up hundreds of millions in quarantine on a true exponential basis, speaks so much louder than words.

    China is lying, proven by what it is doing rather than what it is saying. And given similar circumstances, the rest of the world, including the USA, would (attempt to) do the same thing.

  10. Well, with the Apple event in March, guess we will find out how clean the Foxconn facility is when they ship all those AirPods and iPhones via FedEx first week of April. We all know that Chinese citizens are coming forward and raising their hand saying, “I have a fever”. If the numbers are cartoonish, there will be no pretending after that. I know, I know, way out there.

  11. Avatar for ianfvr ianfvr says:

    Has been interesting to hear the passion with which some people here in the US repeat the narratives like “it’s just a flu” etc. then you look at the twitter videos of the charter flights from Wuhan or the “gear” Chinese medical teams are wearing. You are so right. The cartoon seems meant to break the independent spirit out there. It’s too hard a gig to marry such diverging ideas like “it’s nothing” yet China / the cruise ship etc is on lock down. Easy to give up given how much energy is required to hold all of that in your mind and do it alone.

  12. C’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute.

  13. Ben - thanks for factually challenging the coronavirus narrative. It is interesting, though it is now denied, that Tencent in China accidentally published coronavirus numbers far in excess of the official government’s: 154,023 cases, 79,808 suspected but unconfirmed cases, and 24,589 deaths. This was reported 2/6/20 in Zerohedge and various other outlets before it was taken down & denied as “doctored”. Here’s the link to the Zerohedge article:

    Thanks for your always unique & enlightening articles. I look forward to them!

  14. Avatar for bhunt bhunt says:

    A fave quote!

  15. “Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.” - Otto von Bismarck

  16. The Age is changing: people can go and get the info for themselves; the days of the official narrative grow cloudy and dark.

    This new age of instant and personal research brings it’s own problems, but naive credulity isn’t one of them.

  17. Great read. My fav line;
    “It’s what the Best and the Brightest always do … they convince themselves that the people can’t handle
    the truth, particularly if the truth ain’t such good news”

    Reminds me of the poignant words of Col. Nathan Jessup ( Jack Nicholson ) from A Few Good Men ( 1992);

    “You Can’t Handle the Truth…I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom…You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know…You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me…”

    No, No, No…I believe the Truth will set you free.

  18. My time in China makes me very sceptical that any such ‘every one knows that everyone knows’ moment will come in this case. If the virus stays in China and only mild outbreaks escape I don’t think the media’s focus can hold on it long enough to break the common knowledge game. I think the only viable way that happens is with an outbreak internationally that simply could not have happened unless what we think we know is wrong. Maybe that happens, but I don’t think it does - not only are the CCP the best equipped propagandists in the history of the world, outside China there are a LOT of vested interests in making sure the common knowledge doesn’t break in the name of the ‘good public order’ and ‘don’t spread rumours’ memes. I think I’m less optimistic than you that a common knowledge moment will come - more likely a ‘lost’ 100,000 people who’s families who lose everything unless they sign papers saying Grandpa Joe died of a unrelated heart attack.

  19. I have no doubt that the Communists are fudging the numbers. The epidemic is likely much worse than has been reported thus far. Time will tell, but it serves to say that the vast majority of problems on the planet originated from “The State”. That is as true for our great experiment in “limited government & freedom” as it is with Nazis and Communists.
    As for Vietnam, it was won on the ground (including the Tet Offensive) but was lost inside the beltway and in the “hearts and minds” here in the US. The fight against Communism was morally right but fraught with strategic errors. We would have been better off to assist Ho Chi Min right after WWII rather than allowing the alliance with Communism. I always cringe when someone says “the Cold War was one without a shot being fired”. Tell that to the families of the 120,000 dead in Asian wars and of the thousands lost in incidents around the globe and the stars on the wall at Langley.
    Sadly, the Chinese government’s statistical manipulation is going to effect much of the world population otherwise outside the sphere of Communism. As with elections, totalitarianism has consequences. In this case as with many prior, it means human lives, often on a large scale.

  20. Dispatches! I haven’t read Matterhorn yet (on my list) but Dispatches is the best non-fiction ever written about the war in Vietnam. Maybe the best non-fiction about war full stop. Vive la Pack.

  21. Avatar for rguinn rguinn says:

    FWIW I generally agree with this.

  22. Avatar for bnuner bnuner says:

    Boy, you called it. Finessing the numbers now, 2/12-13, by saying the rising count is done using a more accurate test.

  23. Avatar for rwgood rwgood says:

    It occurred to me reading this that the elite - LBJ, McNamara, Westmorland really believed that they would win a war of attrition that would also contain communism even though it led to what was patently absurd and obvious to participants on the ground. Not saying the analogy is perfect but I can’t think of anything more absurd than negative interest rates and QE infinity. BTW, Hackworth’s book About Face is also a great one on the subject.

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