Finally, a US President attempting to achieve something positive for the world, and actually succeeding.
Thanks to efforts from the Carter Center, the Guinea Worm may have been eliminated.
Finally, a US President attempting to achieve something positive for the world, and actually succeeding.
Thanks to efforts from the Carter Center, the Guinea Worm may have been eliminated.
Real historians don’t embark in counterfactual speculations. Political pundits, armchair historians, and fiction writers frequently speculate on what would have happened if some historical event had turned out differently, but skeptics should be leery of the analysis.
In the specific instance of George Friedman’s speculations on the Battle of Midway, he makes several inferences that are worthy of scrutiny. He is correct that Japan’s rapid advances throughout the Pacific drastically changed the calculus of early war efforts. The threats to the South Pacific raised Japan’s profile significantly and endangered the “Germany First” doctrine in place prior to hostilities.
Sensing the panic, FDR personally assured Australia’s PM that the US would send at least one division, perhaps more, to ensure Australia’s security. The US also beefed up defenses along the communication lines, including Fijis, New Caledonia, and Samoa. Seen from the outside, Japan’s Imperial Navy seemed invincible, but internally they struggled under several years of war in China and six months of all-out global war that spanned the largest war theater to date: from the Indian Ocean in the west to the Hawaiian Islands in the east, from Aleutian islands in the north to Australia’s northern coasts in the south. Hatches failed to close, broken facilities awaited repair. The carrier strike force was badly in need of port time. The Imperial Army, for its part, bristled at the invasion of Australian mainland, understanding fully the manpower and logistical difficulties this would entail and suspecting their rivals in the Imperial Navy wouldn’t be up to the task.
Moreover, Tokyo also opposed Yamamoto’s plan to draw the US into a massed battle around Midway, and for good reasons. The plan completely inverted the formula that had been successful to date. Successful operations throughout the Pacific, including Malaysia and Singapore, Guam, and Indonesia, advanced under the protection of Army air units. With each success the construction of new air strips expanded the circle of protection. What the Navy proposed would require the carrier strike force to provide sustained and coordinated air support to troops landing on beaches, something it was particularly ill-suited to doing. The carrier strike force was precisely that — a strike force. It was a lethal and effective weapon that destroyed enemy naval forces with devastating and brutal efficiency. Carrier hangars were too tight and constrained to launch more than a three or for strikes before retiring to port to resupply and replace damaged aircraft and downed pilots.
The logistics of Operation Midway stretched the Imperial Navy’s capabilities — the military operations alone consumed nearly a quarter of Japan’s strategic fuel reserves. Tokyo estimated 60 transports per month would be required to support the islands if they could be taken, spending half their time empty on the return trip. Civilian transports would be harassed by American subs. The islands were within range of US strategic bombers from O’ahu; Japan’s smaller bombers, however, could not counter. Any detached analysis would show that attacking Midway was lunacy, and by all rights Yamamoto’s plan should have been dead on arrival, were it not another piece of lunacy. On April 18, 1942 sixteen B-25B Mitchell medium range bombers (normally land-based) launched from the USS Hornet to sprinkle a smattering of bombs around Tokyo and other locations on Honshu island. Though militarily insignificant, the Doolittle Raid solidified support for the only detailed plan then being advocated by any of the services that would strike back directly at the Americans.
Precisely because of these considerations Nimitz wasn’t concerned about losing Midway, but his confidence in his intelligence led him to believe that he could conduct a surprise counterattack that would catch the Imperial Navy off guard. The Navy’s achievements in the Coral Sea also led him to be believe that his own naval dive bombers were a match for Japan’s. Nimitz also assessed his disposition of forces better than subsequent historians, who repeatedly described Nimitz’s capabilities as crippled and desperately outnumbered. Nagumo brought 20 warships and four carriers with 248 aircraft. Nimitz brought 25 warships, three carriers, and 233 carrier aircraft. In addition the Army rounded up another 120-odd aircraft on Midway, plus a significant number of AA guns in direct defense of the island. Arguably it was Nagumo who was outnumbered, having lost his decisive edge in Carrier Division 5 due to complications in the Coral Sea and the subsequent repair and refitting of the carriers.
Nimitz knew the quality of pilots he was up against, and the nature and importance of the battle. The Midway islands were not existentially important to him then (as they are not existentially important to us today). It is unlikely he would have sacrificed the carriers casually once their presence had been revealed. The surviving carriers would have retired west to the protection of the forces on O’ahu, already considerably strengthened after the Pearl Harbor attacks, and plotted how to fight another day.
Even if you assumed a complete naval victory for Japan, Freidman makes an erroneous assumption that victory of the islands would have been assured. This is far from the truth. The Marine Corps had placed 3,000 and 4,000 troops on both islands, buried communication cable throughout, fortified both islands with anti-air and anti-ship cannons, and hid tanks inside a grove of trees. Japan’s landing forces of 800 and 1,000 lacked nearly everything: marine landing craft, coordinated air or naval cover, and any kind of doctrine for marine landings. This lack of capability showed up several times throughout the war. The carrier strike force was just that — a strike force, and couldn’t sustain the kind of bombardment and cover required in a major marine landing. The reality is 1,800 Japanese navy and army troops would have been slaughtered by American machine gun fire during a brutal 150-200 meter march over submerged reefs and sandy beaches without cover.
Friedman also speculates on Japanese incursions against the Soviet Union, drawing the Soviet Union out of battle with Germany. No such operation was even conceived by the Imperial Army, because of the logistical challenges inherent in it. Whereas Japan wasn’t seriously considering either major operations against either the Soviet Union or all out invasion of Australia, Friedman speculates Japan could have achieved both simultaneously.
To assume that Japan successfully invades Midway, you have to assume that Nimitz lacked the intelligence to launch a surprise counterattack. At this point Japan might have been able to overwhelm a smaller contingent of US Marines normally stationed on the atoll. Nimitz could simply have waited for the carrier strike force to retreat, which it inevitably must have done within days or weeks, at which point he could bring long-range bombers from O’ahu and carrier-based forces to bear against the small contingent of forces that Japan left in place. Assuming he calculated it was worth bothering to do so. Despite the great interest given to Wake Island during its 15 day siege in the opening salvos of battle, the US never retook it. Cut off from supply lines, the Japanese garrison withered on their own, and similar fate may have awaited a Midway garrison. The remaining carriers in place in 1942 (three or four, depending on how you play out your counter-factual analysis) possessed a variety of potential targets for continuation of hit and run operations they had undertaken prior to the battle.
What the Battle of Midway bought the US was operational tempo and strategic flexibility. The US could launch a major operation in Guadalcanal and force Japan to counter, instead of waiting to counter Japanese moves. This ultimately shortened the war by one to two years, but didn’t fundamentally alter the basic constraints that Japan faced or the advantages that the US possessed for fighting a long, total global war.
The idea that people should be prosecuted for not beliving in any religion, as opposed to not believing in a specific one, should seem as incredulous as not believing in UFO’s or Elvis sightings.
And yet here we are.
The Atlantic documents plight of a young Saudi woman, Lubna Yaseen, who went into hiding, and her rescue by the Center for Inquiry program called Secular Rescue. This small non-political group features prominently in the article.
The death threats are not derived from apostocy — we can reject the notion that anyone is born into a religion. There is no such thing as a “Christian child” or a “Muslim child”. The decision to accept a religion cannot be made until one is an adult.
The World Health Organization publishes health guidelines specific to sugar intake. Their observations and recommendations include:
For me, a tall adult male, with a daily 2,600 Calorie diet (and 4kcal/g of energy in sugar) the looser guidelines lead to a daily intake limit of 65g of sugar, or one 20 oz bottle of Coca Cola (240 Calories).
For women or children, the sugar intake guidelines will be significantly lower, due mostly to lower total caloric consumption. Applying the more stringent 5% standard to children will limit total intake to a fraction of a 12 oz can of Coca Cola.
The WHO provides no guidelines on the intake of artificial or substitute sweeteners or sugar alcohols. However, these substitutes are generally used in processed foods that do not generally provide the same health benefits as whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
The USDA now recommends limiting sugar consumption to 10% of total caloric intake. USDA guidelines generally emphasize a calorie balance for maintaining body weight. Therefore their recommendation is derived from the requirement to meet other nutritional requirements with the remaining balance of calorie consumption. A similar argument applies to their recommendations on saturated fat intake (10%).
The Japanese government does not make sugar-specific intake recommendations. In general this is because childhood and adult obesity are lower there. However, in 2000 the ministry announced its “spinning top” (upside-down food pyramid) that permits a moderate amount of snacks and confections. Given the overall lack of sugar otherwise in the diet, Japanese guidelines are probably consistent with WHO recommendations.
President Trump has done it: he has ignored the advice of his saner advisors (i.e. Tillerson, Ivanka) and withdrawn from the United States from the Paris climate deal negotiated by the Obama administration in 2015. The announcement is all over the news cycle.
Global climate change is the greatest moral and existential crisis of our time. Broad scientific consensus is difficult to achieve (scientists are very competitive), but on this issue the consensus is nearly unanimous. Science denialism is prevalent only among US politicians.
Less unanimous is how to address the challenges, because those are largely political questions, therefore involve who wins and loses, who pays, and how to balance long-term and short-term costs and benefits.
How foreign countries respond is up in the air. Already there are calls to boycott America. The most effective mechanism would be a carbon tax, based on the amount of carbon dioxide released in the manufacturing of products and their constituent products. If necessary the taxes raised can be used to offset other forms of taxes and remain revenue neutral.
Moreover, countries that adopt a carbon tax can avoid multiple-taxation by waiving taxes on imports from countries that have adopted a similar carbon tax. Import taxes will be imposed on products from countries that do not comply. American exporters would therefore be placed in a situation of paying the taxes anyway, in spite of the stranglehold of special interests over the US body politic.
According to the New York Times, the withdrawal process will require several years, leaving the final withdrawal up to voters in the 2020 election.
Merkel is calling for European countries to look out for their own interests. US policy evaded this outcome for 70 years, and Trump destroyed it in 3 days.
Europe descends into a continent-wide war ever 40 years whenever European powers pursue self-interests in complex alliances. And, no, this time is not different.
How fast the slide into World War III occurs depends on how much Trump appeases Putin. At the moment the signs aren’t good. Russia is economically weak and militarily potent, which is a dangerous combination in a proud and traditional power, especially a waning one.
For US citizens living abroad, participating in domestic business and society can be challenging. One of the most challenging aspects can be obtaining a driver’s license in a state where you no longer reside. All states require demonstration of residency, and nearly all states mail your new or renewed driver’s license to your address on file.
The State of South Dakota caters to a subset of the US population who “travel full time” by relaxing several requirements. People who travel full time are only required to maintain a Personal Mail Box (PMB)1 service in South Dakota, and only need to provide a receipt from a local hotel, motel, or camping ground when applying for a license.2 The Driver Exam Station creates and hands over the license immediately.
For myself the process was relatively fast and smooth. I arrived approximately 8:15am and was handed a number and application form. I had to wait only 15 minutes for my number to be called, and the process of reviewing documents, taking the photo and digitized signature, and printing the card required only about 20 minutes. The following documents were required:
Because I held a valid license from another state, the Driver Exam Station did not require either the written or driving portions of the exam.
Moreover, voter registration was relatively painless. People who travel full time using a PMB service must appear in person at the county auditor’s office. There was no line at the voter registration section and the application form required about five minutes.5 The person who verified the application only needed to check my South Dakota identification.
Less than a week later my registration has still not appeared in the online registration database. I have not yet attempted South Dakota’s absentee voting process, but I suspect it will be inferior to Oregon’s absentee ballot that I used in the last election.
Rob England, under the name “IT Skeptic” has posted an important reminder on how much progress China has made in the last few decades.
You owe it to yourself to review his article. China’s economy overtook Japan’s in 2010. It will overtake the the US economy in the early 2020’s and double that of the US a decade later, by the early 2030’s. The timing of these trends depends on how consistently China maintains economic growth. Arguably China will continue to grow, but not without pains. A large build-up of infrastructure cannot take place without some over-investment and hence the need for recessions to reallocate resources. The arguments begets wrangling over dates, but not over the underlying trends.
Outwardly a rising China is worrying, particularly for its neighbors with whom they share overlapping territorial claims. For the United States such worries are more abstract, but may include:
Nevertheless, China’s rise does not worry me, for several reasons:
All told China will settle down after 2030 as respected power in an multipolar world. China will have as much responsibility in maintaining a peaceful international system after 2030 as it does in challenging those that desire to constrain it today. Ironically, the greatest obstacle to the peaceful rise of China won’t be its growth, but the questioned legitimacy of the Communist Party if it fails to deliver growth.
What concerns me more is how poorly the United States has invested it’s own capital over the last decade. Since 2001 the United States has committed $4.4 trillion to wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan which have provided zero benefit to the United States, it’s business interests, it’s citizens, or their security. In fact, the primary beneficiaries have been Iran, China, and the ISIS.
Sometimes I dream of what we could have achieved with more wise and inspired investments over the last decade and a half. Would we have landed Americans on Mars? Would we have revitalized our decaying infrastructure, built new infrastructure within Mexico and around the border in order to support expanded trade? Would we have invested in Mexico’s institutions and people in order to end illegal migration once and for all?
Maybe not. The hawks are now calling the ISIS the most imminent national security threat without offering a shred of evidence. The list includes Congressman Michael McCaul, chair of the Homeland Security Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. John McCain and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. (Presumably, if pressed their answer would be “if you knew what we know, but can’t tell you for reasons of national security, you would agree with us”. We heard this in Vietnam, and it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t any more true now.) Now they want to trap United States into spending several more years and $100’s of billions directly countering the ISIS in Iraq with American boots on the ground, using classical chains of escalation that are well rehearsed. And in two years they may control all three branches of government again. A few trillion here, a few trillion there…
I suggest that we let China deal with ISIS. Chinese companies will be the primary beneficiaries, due to their investments in Iraq and Iran. I also suggest we open direct dialog with Iran towards a acoordinated solution.
The political establishment of the United States needs to realize that the world is becoming multipolar and there are limits to the its reach and power. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can move forward with a consensus that makes sense in the world we now live in. It is the world we made, after all.
Last month two events led me to do some thinking about manned exploration of Mars.
Billionaire investor Dennis Tito, under the Inspiration Mars Foundation umbrella, announced plans to launch a 1.4 year manned circumnavigation of Mars in 2018. I had the enviable assignment of writing our official position for The Mars Initiative, a fundraising organization I helped found in 2012. (If you haven’t had the chance yet, please review the rest of the website, as well as my post.)
The IMF announcement catalyzed some necessary discussions within TMI that will remain ongoing for several months. IMF’s agenda is ambitious, particularly the timeline and the margin for safety and testing. In the broader community most people are skeptical about whether the mission can be achieved, and a few are adamant that it cannot be achieved. I think it is achievable, and failure of one attempt will not prove this assertion false (n=1 is not a sufficient sample). This mission could not have been conceived two years ago because the necessary commercial developments had not yet occurred. The project operates under a tight schedule constraint, and execution risks abound.
In 2003 I was one of the original founding members of the Dallas Chapter of The Mars Society, which last year successfully hosted their national convention. I continue to host and update their website. Then and now, getting involved in Mars-related organizations seemed like something interesting to do that not many other people were doing. It wasn’t until I wrote the following words that the magnitude started to sink in:
IMF is inspiring multiple generations to prepare immediately for humanity’s genesis as a multi-planetary species.
I feel I have to put that into context.
In addition to energy, the organizational systems and technological environment (i.e. Kevin Kelly’s technium) enabled such accomplishments.
On a planet that is 4.5 billion years old in a galaxy that is 13 billion years old, the recent rapid pace of social and technological development is remarkable. There are 200 to 400 billion stars in our galaxy. We are rapidly discovering planets around many of them. In the end there may be at least as many planets in our galaxy, and tens or hundreds of millions that are approximately like Earth. I think it is safe to conclude that life exists all throughout our galaxy.
The existence of complex life like that found on Earth is more dubious. The existence of complex social and technological systems like that of modern homo sapiens is even more in doubt. Amid vast numbers, and vast timescales, the current progress of our species is truly remarkable.
In the first paragraph I mentioned there were two events. The second of was the opportunity to complete the reading of Robert Zubrin’s new mini-book, Mars Direct. Much like his earlier books, it outlined a plan to put humans on Mars in one decade. In addition it echoed the criticisms made in his previous books of the the political and administrative dysfunctions that have stifled the plan over the last thirty years.
The next step for homo sapiens is to become a multi-planetary species. Indeed the entire progress of humanity almost seems to have led us to this goal, if such a thing would be possible accidentally. The necessary social and technological prerequisites have already been developed. The flame and passion for exploration thrives, as does our ability to engage in collective action for group benefit. For the last 5 decades, humanity has been one to two decades away from achieving its first steps towards that goal of putting its first representatives on another planet.
It is frustrating, therefore, to witness that ways and means that we have convinced ourselves that squandering progress was in our collective best interests.
There is nothing magical about Mars. It is simply a rocky body with 40% the mass of Earth and an atmosphere that provides some protection from and redistribution of solar radiation at the surface. Unlike the Moon, Mars contains the requisite atmosphere and resources to sustain an self-sufficient and permanent human civilization. The technologies will take longer than one to two decades, but their development will inevitably provide benefits back on Earth. It is important to note that humanity faces time pressures that are similar to those Inspiration Mars faces–expanded from years into decades or centuries. I won’t turn this into a tract on the dangers of nuclear weapons, global climate instability, or accidentally misplaced asteroids. These dangers are all real enough.
The remarkable achievements of humanity are a but the smallest spark, and they are not guaranteed to endure. Making sure they endure, and building on them is our responsibility.
1 DNA evidence now suggests some modern non-African humans in Europe and Asia contain DNA not found in our more immediate African progenitors, as a result of interbreeding with these earlier Homo populations.
SPACE.com posted a recent article about NASA Chief Bolden’s visit to China. Insofar as a US government official is (and should be) visiting his peers in other countries, the visit isn’t controversial.
However, the hubris of American foreign policy and the stupidity of the members of US Congress never cease to amaze me. To quote:
“As you know, we have serious concerns about the nature and goals of China’s space program and strongly oppose any cooperation between NASA and China,” the lawmakers wrote Bolden Oct. 15 as he was leaving for China.
The fallacy is based on the premise that China wants, or even should want, any cooperation with NASA. To do so would be a death warrant for its own programs. Unlike the United States, Chinas has stated a clear goal and timeframe: to put a human on the moon by 2025 to 2030. China could probably do so much sooner if it wished, but the goal achieves the SMART criteria: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
On the contrary, NASA has nothing. I shouldn’t say NASA, because most members of NASA do desire a SMARTer mission. However, the last four decades of NASA has been a legacy of failure, declining capability, and lost opportunity. NASA has been a make-work program for lawmakers that has achieved nothing since Nixon killed the highly successful Apollo program.
Moreover, the lawmakers fallacy is based on the premise that US even has anything interesting to offer to China. There is a joke in the space advocacy communities: if NASA can go to the moon, why can’t NASA just go to the moon? There are specific areas, of course, where NASA has a great deal of knowledge and leadership, including the psychological and physiological affects of space travel on humans. Otherwise US capability for heavy lift launch is dwindling, and no longer particularly cutting edge. The Europeans, Russians, and (nearly) Japanese are equally capable of heavy lift launch (though Japan will never be a major player in this area).
It is obvious China also intends to militarize space, as other space powers have done before it, including the United States. However, China does not intend to compete militarily on a global scale with the United States. Chinese leaders are too smart for that. More specifically, China is investing in a variety of military capabilities to disable adversaries (including the United States) from carrying out military operations in Chinese territories. It is not a strategy of, in military terms, forward force projection. Americans may fear otherwise.
The defensive strategy is rational and even predictable. Look at a world map and center it on China. To the southwest is India. To the north is Russia. To the east are Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. To the south and southwest are Singapore and Australia. All have formidable military or naval capabilities and are unfriendly towards Chinese military interests. China is literally surrounded on all sides.
Here is how I interpret what the US lawmakers are really saying:
As you know we have serious concerns about the decline of US hegemony caused by our own decade long record of fiscal recklessness. We are concerned about the nature and goals of the Chinese space program that might inhibit the use of US forward force projection to achieve diplomatic goals or force economic concessions on the Chinese people. We oppose China in succeeding in an area where we have demonstrated 40 years to complete and total failure.