Every edition of The America First Weekly includes Five Questions (a Q&A with an interesting figure, pseud or otherwise), Links & Screeds (all editors get to weigh in on anything they choose), and a friends-link to an original Featured Article by one of the AFW editors.
Thanks for reading. Please share this newsletter with your friends!
This week we interview HUNTSMAN, @man_integrated on Twitter, a logistics and supply expert who has written important threads on topics ranging from Decoupling from China, US National Security, International Trade Issues, and COVID Testing, among others. In an increasingly global world, where we rely extensively on goods sourced from one place, manufactured in another, sold in a third, and used in a fourth, it’s necessary for anyone attempting to formulate solutions to our national predicament to understand how the network of containers, ships, trains, trucks and warehouses move these goods and what limitations/stresses they are under. As we all learned during the national PPE and ventilator shortage, this web we take for granted is more fragile than we ever imagined.
Untameable Native King: America First Weekly is unapologetically nationalist, so for many of us the idea of "supply chain management" is anathema because it came about to solve problems brought about by the globalization of the supply chain. What would you say to someone who holds that position? What is an ethical form of Supply chain management you'd advocate for as a goal?
HUNTSMAN: Supply chain management—as applied—is indeed usually interpreted through a lens of maximizing efficiency and minimizing extraneous "spend." I would argue that this view is mostly an output of Wall Street's emphasis on short term earnings cycles, and the "elite" schools teaching to that particular test. Like most disciplines, one gets the solution set he is trying to solve for.
In my case, I see supply chain management as a toolbox, rather than a defined end state. If a company builds factories in China, but mainly sells its goods in the US, then supply chain management will mostly mean watching freight spend, customs, and domestic distribution. But what if I'm a small business manufacturing organic honey to sell at farmers' markets? Then supply chain management will mean sourcing of bottles and packaging, maintenance of the beehives and collection equipment, proper storage and handling of the honey, and transport to the markets. Same discipline, very different functions and scale.
In terms of the ethics of the matter, one will generally have to find the level at which he will compromise maximum ethics versus maximum profits. These tend to be the ends of the barbell, in the real world. I fall along the lines of John Boyd when it comes to ideation and execution of supply chain management—People, Ideas, and Technology, in that order. If we protect and invest into people, and remember their essential humanity, then the ideas and success will follow. People are both single point of failure and powerful force multiplier in supply chains. We forget that at our peril.
Native King: As people who care about America and its well-being first and foremost, what are the most strategic supply chains to reshore and how hard would it be to do so? What supply chains are worth ignoring and leaving in China/elsewhere?
HUNTSMAN: The most important supply chains to repatriate as fast as possible are medical devices/pharmaceuticals, critical raw materials, shipbuilding, and sensitive high-end electronics (think semiconductors, telecom, and cyber). Most of these we can do fairly rapidly by investing heavily into the manufacturing capacity here. The US has a capable labor pool, the best universities in the world for STEM, and a culture of innovation.
We also are a country perpetually at war, which tends to open pocketbooks for investing into bleeding-edge technology. Certain critical raw material manufacturing investments would also have multi-order effects. Investing into alumina and aluminum manufacturing not only provides us with a larger pool of an enormously-important raw material, but also generates a domestic inventory of gallium, which China has been gobbling up worldwide due to its enhanced capabilities versus silicon. This in turn drives the requirement to build better relations with bauxite-producing countries such as Jamaica, Brazil, and India.
I would also like to see the US act as a more benevolent hegemon in the Western Hemisphere. Let's start with reshoring certain middle-tier manufacturing to Central and South America, and use our voracious consumer appetites to drive up their standard of living the same way we did China.
Native King: From one of my earliest readings of your work, you were highly critical of the supply chain chokepoints that have been ignored, especially having to do with Chinese imports. What can American politicians do about this and how can we begin to wean ourselves off China's manufacturing stranglehold?
HUNTSMAN: The US is heavily-dependent on imports for consumer products, from furniture to electronics to household goods. This in turn makes us vulnerable to disruptions in the maritime sector, as we're seeing right now with port congestion, lack of containers, and slowed rail service. The biggest thing politicians can do to assist this is incentivizing the revitalization of our shipbuilding capacity and new ocean container manufacturing.
Not only do we need these items to better control the logistics of what we're purchasing overseas, but we can utilize those ships and equipment in the event of a mass mobilization for a large-scale conflict. And that is something for which we are grossly under-equipped. We also need to invest further into newbuild tankers for oil transport, largely for the same reasons as multipurpose vessels and containerships.
Second, American consumers should be educated on where their goods are built. Expanded country of origin labeling, including details of the raw materials and type of labor used, would go a long ways towards shifting people's buying habits. Imagine if a consumer purchasing an electronic item had to see a big label on the box that informed them of the suspected use of forced Uighur labor, and next to it on the shelf was another item of similar cost showing that the labor and raw material supply chains were audited for ethical compliance and best practices?
Native King: You also have criticized the early enthusiasm regarding the vaccination because you said the "cold chain" wouldn't be able to expand with needed demand. What does that mean and how will it impact the vaccine distribution timeline?
HUNTSMAN: Pfizer's cold chain requirements are simply impossible to scale, at least this rapidly. Ultra-cold logistics (-80C) is highly specialized and fraught with potential issues—equipment failures, forgetting to replace dry ice, and lack of freezer capacity all contribute to a known vaccine spoilage rate of 5% to 20%. Given that Pfizer and the US government are working real-time even now to decide who will get what doses, and when, the margin of error is infinitesimal. "Hub and spoke" distribution models rely on clear forecasting and the ability to match capacity of all infrastructure and transport assets to that projected demand. Variability or uncertainty grinds everything to a halt.
Moderna's offering has a bit more flex in the cold chain, requiring only -20C, which can be met easily with standard commercial freezers, dry ice and ice packs, and regular insulated shipper boxes. This allows more transport partners to carry the vaccines to more places, with more time to spare before risk of spoilage. Importantly, this issue greatly affects what I am calling "Vaccine Diplomacy"—the way in which nations might be able to offer vaccines as geopolitical "carrots" to allies or partner nations. The easier it is to transport and store vaccines to developing countries, the more rapidly a new geopolitical alignment (such as in Africa) could occur.
Native King: You called out Pete Buttigeg's appointment to Secretary of Transportation for both his lack of qualifications along with his statement about "this being the right time to create jobs, meet the challenges of climate change, and create equity for all." What should the Secretary of Transportation be focused on? What vital role does that position play in our country's governance?
HUNTSMAN: The primary responsibility of the Department of Transportation is to safeguard and upgrade our nation's transport infrastructure, while expanding the ability of transport and logistics companies to serve the interests of American companies and consumers. To that end, where we can take responsible steps towards more efficient transport or renewable energy systems, without sacrificing quality of service or increasing cost dramatically, SecTrans should push for solutions. However, the business of transport is a heavy, dirty, hyper-complex ecosytem with many thousands of stakeholders. One pebble tossed into the "climate change" pond has outsized impact as the ripples flow outward. Consider how even a moderate loss of longshoremen, warehouse workers, and truckers due to illness during the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly bottlenecked our ports and supply chains. Onerous new mandates in the interest of climate change or social justice, while possibly good-intentioned, will create bottlenecks lasting months as the ecosystem struggles to comply. And those bottlenecks would be felt in every home and company, and ultimately, to our economy.
Further, SecTrans has a little-known, but extremely important, role in our national defense. The Maritime Administration (MARAD) is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Transportation, and has direct oversight for the National Defense Reserve Fleet and its sub-unit, the Ready Reserve Force. Totaling a bit less than 150 ships, the last several administrations have allowed the fleets to degrade well beneath operational capabilities—and we depend on these ships in the event of a major mobilization of our national defense forces. Repairing and upgrading the fleets to full operational strength will require an enormous investment and the dedicated attention of the SecTrans and his team. Investing into these fleets would force US shipyards to upgrade, train new workers, expand the ecosystem of American shipbuilding, and attract new mariners to the Merchant Marines. It is vital to our economic and national security that SecTrans understands the inglorious but essential work of our transportation and infrastructure sectors, rather than worrying about appeasing progressive political activists.
Links & Screeds
Every week, each AFW editor comments on the news, shares links, talks about what he’s reading, or just rants. Presented in the order they arrive in the Managing Editor’s inbox…
Christmas celebrates our Creator becoming human for our benefit. What we lost the ability to know through the fall presents itself to us on our own terms, so that we might be sanctified and deified. As the perfect God-man, Christ is the incarnation of the transcendent, making the transcendent immanent in our fallen human condition.
To celebrate the incarnation is to participate in the fullness of life. It is no surprise, then, that demons will continually interfere with our Christmas season, no surprise that there will always be those who wish to “cancel Christmas.”
Those to whom the idea of “canceling Christmas” is even a possibility are also those asking us to deny another, more mundane incarnation.
In “The Soul of the World,” Roger Scruton ponders the mystery of the “real presence” of our personality. We are first subjects, experiencing the world of objects; yet we are not just subjects, for we are also objects. Others experience our presence in the world as one object among many others. But how is our subjective experience of objects that are also subjects different from our experience of objects qua objects? Scruton asks, “How can this thing that is not a thing but a perspective, appear in the world of objects where it occupies no place? How is it that we can not only address the other, but actually encounter him in the empirical world?” The answer, of course, is the human face, which is “the real presence in our shared world of you.”
So we should see, then, the logical consistency of being asked to wear a mask, hiding our incarnational presence with our fellow humans, and of being asked to cancel our Christmas celebrations. Both injunctions come from bloodless bureaucrats who understand nothing of life except arbitrarily issuing edicts to create a mirage of expertise thereby increasing their own power.
Their lifelessness grows in unison with their power. And their lifelessness becomes our own the more we tolerate their power.
Ulysses S. Musculus
I recommend this interview to our readers between Niccolo Soldo and Darren Beattie on the Fisted by Foucault Substack. And in doing so, I hope our readers begin to follow both Beattie and Soldo. Even if Beattie weren’t one of the brightest lights on the nationalist right, he is worth reading for his ability to combine witticism with a willingness to fight. Here he is on the ADL’s newest form, harassing Trumpy Jews:
Many people have congratulated me for calling out their disgraced leader, Jonathan Greenblatt, in the New York Times. Jonathan Greenblatt is a hideously ugly man who looks like a human gefilte fish. I suppose he has declared the "OK sign" racist at this point so I'll give him the finger instead.
I wish such tenacity were seen more frequently from nationalist leaders. When the left attempts to take the moral high ground we on the right must point out, in the sharpest possible terms, that their ethics have been disconnected from any intelligible reality. No one will pick morality if they have to be exposed as stupid and fraudulent. And stupidity, as opposed to immorality, is much harder to hide. Beattie is trying to teach you to hit them where it hurts. They are sloppy thinkers and sloppy people. Getting Americans to see this is the key to winning. Beattie, if you’re reading this, we’d love to interview you for a future issue.
This week Untameable Native King’s interview is all about the supply chain and is well worth your time. Several GOP leaders have taken up the twin causes in recent years of opposing free-trade/open-borders libertarian economics and opposing a rising China. But Beattie makes the point that these issues are of a kind and are just one side of the Trump platform. They miss that Trump rose to power by calling out the incompetence of those who are running our country. Opposing China and closing the borders, at this point, without deposing our leaders would be to lock ourselves inside the house with the murderer.
There is a class of people which has spent the last few decades selling out the American people in exchange for money and now, like a dragon, they wish to close the doors and merely lay atop the treasure they’ve amassed. These politicians and journalists, of left and right, are willing to openly oppose China now to distract Americans from realizing that the phone calls are coming from inside the house. If we ever want to be a safe and free nation again we need to find the traitors in our midst and root them out. The enemy of the republic lives quite well in beltway Virginia.
“Musculus, are you calling for us to kill people?” What a low IQ question. It was an analogy dummy. The path forward is to publicly humiliate “the elites” as often as possible. I use scare quotes because posturing as a member of the incompetent “elite” class is even more common than being an actual incompetent elite. And it is twice as embarrassing.
As a final link I recommend to our readers the essay by my colleague Cassian on the goofballs Thomas Kidd and Michael Horton at The Gospel Coalition. Where you find people making such weak arguments on such large platforms you have to wonder, are they trying to be taken seriously, or are such essays an attempt at flattery to placate their betters?
If you are a Christian and you are reading this I exhort you, find intellectuals and leaders with more self regard. Punching your friends while bowing to your enemies will never work. You will lose your friends but you will not gain your enemies. Rather they will think of you as the pathetic creature you have become. At least Eric Swalwell sold out his country and got a decent job and a cute girlfriend in the exchange; all Horton and Kidd got was publication on an incredibly low status web-log. Kidd, Horton: did TGC even pay you? Or is your writing so valueless that you do it for free?
Last week I wrote that Google is the American social credit system. Its aims—to eliminate internet anonymity and assess individual reliability algorithmically—are identical to those of the Chinese social credit system. The chief difference, to this point at least, is that as far as I can tell, Google has used its reliability ratings to distribute rewards and punishments only within the internet search, news, and advertising world, not for other “IRL” financial or political purposes, as within the Chinese system.
Well, some denizens of the global blob want to change that. Four researchers at the International Monetary Fund wrote a white paper, recommending that individual and business credit scores should be based on your web browsing history.
Well now, that didn’t take long, did it?
The Chinese social credit system, of course, is based in part on Western credit reporting agencies. So the fact that Lin Junyue’s (the father of the Chinese SCS) innovations are boomeranging back to the West should not surprise us.
I’ve pitched Niccolo Modolo’s Substack, Fisted By Foucault, in this space before (and now I’ve converted my comrade Ulysses, I see). I’m a paid subscriber, and you should be too. I’ve been catching up on it and in one of his “weekend reading” posts from two weeks ago, he calls attention to a Christopher Caldwell essay in The New Republic called “The Biden Popular Front Is Doomed to Unravel.”
A “popular front,” for those who don’t know, is a leftist coalition of otherwise opposed/competing political parties that unites electorally to defeat a threat on the right. So they’re actually the opposite of what you see in Monty Python, which is the joke, of course, but I don’t really have a sense of humor.
(Stalin’s prohibition on joining popular front governments in the early ‘30s turned the German Communists into a spoiler and helped the Nazis come to power.)
Anyhow, it’s Caldwell’s excellent anatomical description of the tripartite Biden Popular Front that struck me:
The new economy. Two titans of the finance world (Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer) sought to win the Democratic nomination by funding their own and various down-ballot candidacies. (Both would eventually back Biden.) There was also one impecunious primary candidate who had some original ideas about the tech world: Andrew Yang. The new economy provides wealth for so few people that it can never command the party’s rank and file. But it exercises a dizzying gravitational pull on its leaders.
Socialism. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were its candidates, the former in a doctrinal way (unions, benefits, income redistribution), the latter in a way adapted to strike more precisely at modern power relations (financial regulation, economic rights), which she denied was any form of socialism at all. Each was a more dire threat to the interests of people like Bloomberg and Steyer than anything the tax-cutting, deregulatory Republicans might produce. This is the great drama of the Democratic Party: They are the party of the 1 percent. They are also the party of expropriating the 1 percent.
Civil rights. The party’s glue is civil rights, broadly understood. Civil rights long meant looking out for the practical and principled interests of Black people—naturally a commitment on which cooperation with socialists is possible. But over the decades, civil rights has also become a regulatory and judicial system for advancing the interests of other groups, including immigrants (elite and mass), women executives, two-income gay couples, and lawyers—commitments more consistent with those of the Democrats’ plutocratic wing. The role of civil rights as reconciler-of-contradictions can be compared to that of anti-Communism in the tripartite Reagan coalition of the 1980s, which appealed in one way to Christians who thought the country ought to be more fraternal and in another to businessmen who thought it ought to be more rapacious. (emphasis added)
The Right needs to get its house in order and get ready to capitalize politically once the civil rights wing of the BPF implodes under the weight of the coalition’s contradictions, and the real internecine fighting begins. If we can’t take advantage of that, we deserve to lose.
I can grasp Bardolatry on an intellectual level. Shakespeare’s achievement, both in view of his entire corpus and in view just of individual plays, is staggering. But I’ve never felt it spiritually; that is, I’ve never made the mistake of thinking that, say, King Lear is divine revelation.
Reading Dante, on the other hand, frequently beguiles me. It feels like something handed down from heaven. There are a number of reasons for this, e.g., the combination of utter timelessness alongside the minute attention to confounding medieval Italian names and places; the total and ordered system of the cosmos which for all its planning nevertheless conceals surprises and paradoxes around every corner; and the wanton blending of mythic, biblical, and historical characters and events. And then, of course, the sheer beauty of the poetry. And I’m only reading a translation!
I’m in the Purgatorio right now:
Be proud, then! Onward, haughty heads held high, you sons of Eve! Yes, never bow your head to see how evil is the road you tread!
then will your feet be light with good desire
love grows more, each soul a mirror mutually mirroring
But I do think there’s more to it, to the temptation toward Dantolatry, than just the quality of his poetic and intellectual achievement. When I put the Divine Comedy down, I have to give my head a vigorous shake to clear out the sirenic echoes and remind myself that no, this isn’t actual Scripture. I think Dante is trying to produce this effect; he wants to beguile you:
O power of fantasy that steals our minds from things outside, to leave us unaware, although a thousand trumpets may blow loud
so that this unreality gives real anguish to one who sees it—this is how these souls appeared, and how they made me feel.
Untameable Native King
It’s a humbling experience to be confronted, in a single issue by two painful realities. 1. I’m not nearly the essayist Cassian is and 2. I’m not nearly as knowledgeable about real world, aka useful, issues as Huntsman. So then one wonders what am I to do with this space? What should I say?
It’s a plight both of the constraints placed upon me by my Creator and the choices I made with my life. As a jack of all trades/master of none, I’ve been blessed to engage with people from all walks of life. A friend who owns a body shop catering to vintage custom cars. A friend who is a lawyer dealing with high profile corporate fraud litigation. A friend who holds a PhD in an obscure subject area and can recite, at length, in Greek, from any number of ancient writers. A friend whose family imports and distributes large amounts of illegal substances and keeps a ledger in his head like an excel spreadsheet. A friend who lives to hunt and who invites friends on his expeditions so he can shoot their limit as well as his own. Friends who live three families deep in two bedroom apartments and friends who own vast estates, entire city blocks and who regularly travel overseas for pleasure.
Being friends with people from these disparate places and ways, I realize how little expertise I actually have. And yet, that I am created in this way is not a surprise. Hyper specialization is a biological good (in order to be great at something, you have to focus on improving at it) but it also breeds a certain myopia. With greater specific focus comes diminished wider understanding. As an analogy, I watched my dog the other day, nose to the ground-lost in scent, begin to wander out into the street. In his olfactory wonder, he failed to see the Dodge Stratus barreling down upon him. Now I know what you’re thinking, who the hell drives a Dodge Stratus? Answer: This guy. Statistics will demonstrate that some of you watched that video and said, “UNK, how’d you manage to film last night’s dinner?” Statistics also show that the rest of you are on opioids.
So as my faithful hound began to follow his nose to certain doom, I, having watched this event play out and looking out for his best interest, jerked him away from the street and back toward the sidewalk. Like all of us, being denied the desires of our hearts and minds, he looked at me mournfully, but with the trust that my decisions had made him happier, safer, more comfortable than he could ever be on his own.
And this, dear readers, is the point. We have been led down the dark path of credentialed specialization where people, narrowly focused in their expertise, make decisions about the direction our life, culture and nation takes. You doubt my assertion? See, for one example, Dr. Fauci’s declaration that gathering with family and friends during Christmas should be prohibited. For another, glance over the endless “Ted Talks” given by fatuously self-important people like this, this, this, or this absolute jackass. Or just take the most famous one of all, Jordan Peterson, who preached a gospel of self-reliance, accountability and restraint while becoming a prescription drug addict.
See, while Jordan Peterson may know a lot about Carl Jung and “psychological analysis” (quotes because that subject isn’t actually real; the DSM is the 21st century Communist Manifesto), and Fauci may know about viruses and AIDS, and that Mark Leipzig dude may know Hollywood and theater, none of them have walked out of the cave, seen the Good and returned. This is what we need. Our elites remain stuck fully inside the cave, chained to the floor praising each other for memorizing the shadows and meanwhile the people around them suffer the carnage of a culture and nation led into despair. Where are the guardians? What have they been doing? Well, they have been instructed to get PhD’s in fields so specialized that their knowledge becomes a kind of LARPing in light of real world events. Or, they have been told to pursue the love of the multitude, a love inimical to actual good.
“But UNK”, you say, “Democracy is our country's greatest gift.” The Copts would like a word as would every black American before 1960. Just consider the crowd around the lynching tree, the crowd in the Agora, the crowd in the Pilate’s square shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! May his blood be upon us and upon our children.”.
So what should we do? I don’t fully know, but I would suggest the first step is eliminating credentialism. Let people compete in the open. If someone can do something another cannot, let them do the job. If you know more about Plato, despite having never been formally trained, you can replace the philosopher at the resident Ivy League University. Allow competence and skill to rule the day and we may begin to slowly return to a world where the people who guide and decide are the same ones who can see.
In every week’s edition of The America First Weekly, we provide a “friends link” (no Medium subscription required) to that week’s original article written by one of the editors.
That “Jericho March” struck a nerve. Many from our refined Christian commentariat found much to sneer at: the unbecoming testicular enthusiasm, the spectacle of religious leaders sputtering into Shofars in imitation of the ancient Hebrews’ devastating blow to the wall of Jericho, the blending of religious rhetoric and political objectives. But the tisk-tisking from our cultured, co-religionist betters reached a climax over at The Gospel Coalition, which offered two impotent polemics against the “Jericho March” and the growing “Christian Nationalism” that undergirds it.
How classic that Kidd, one of Cassian’s targets in this essay, brings up Benedict Anderson’s book title Imagined Communities, as some sort of “defeater” for nationalism. It’s a perfect illustration of midwit-ness: Know the texts that one ought to read on a subject, then name-drop them like George Weigel writing in First Things and dropping the names of cardinals he drank campari with in Rome, but all without any engagement with any real arguments in the text or with any of your adversaries.
Cassian, if I may say so myself, does a much better job in Coalition of Cowards.