Thursday, May 31, 2012

Taking a Dive

The Maldives government claims the evil developed world is warming the planet which will drown them.

Funny, they don't act like there is a global warming emergency:

Check out this BBC report on the burning of the island’s trash titled, ’Apocalyptic’ island of waste in the Maldives.

Maybe if the Maldives, instead of burning the trash, should use it to build the island higher to guard itself against the climate change they are causing?

Given the poverty of the Maldives, they don't want us to preserve their island nation, the just want us to pay to relocate them to a developed country. I'd burn my garbage, too, if I thought it would hasten the day when I could get off those islands.

Strange Nach Osten

The Russians under Putin are getting just a little too strange for the Germans to like:

Relations between Germany and Russia appear to be approaching a new ice age. Berlin is more dependent on Moscow than ever before, but Merkel has little trust in newly re-elected President Vladimir Putin. She would like to strengthen the opposition.

Merkel doesn't trust Putin? Go on!

I don't mind if German-Russian relations get a little frosty. Especially if the alternative is a compliant Germany under threat from Russia.

 I figure strained relations with Russia tend to remind the Germans that we are their best friend and ally.

Clean Up in Aisle 235

When you just can't get that uranium stain out before company arrives, the Iranians have found a simple solution:

U.N. nuclear inspectors displayed new satellite imagery on Wednesday indicating that some small buildings had been dismantled and other possible clean-up work undertaken at an Iranian military site they want to visit.

One image from May 25 showed signs that "ground-scraping activities" had taken place at the Parchin facility, as well as the presence of a bulldozer, according to diplomats who attended a closed-door briefing by U.N. nuclear agency officials.

Yeah, any agreement with Iran that counts on inspectors keeping Iran honest will work out just swell.

UPDATE: An overview of six key Iranian nuclear facilities.

The FNG Catches On

France's new president, Hollande, has been brought up to speed on the chaos in France's former colonial realm:

The West African group ECOWAS said it rejected the idea of a separate Islamic state in northern Mali, and new French President Francois Hollande urged African leaders on Tuesday to ask the U.N. Security Council to help restore stability in the region.

Hollande said France, the former colonial ruler, would be ready to help restore stability in Mali if there was a Security Council resolution.

I've long thought France is the only power that can defeat the new Islamist/Tuareg government in northern Mali any time soon. If it takes a UN Security Council resolution to get them to move, so be it.

Hopefully, the Russians and Chinese don't get all difficult as they tend to do.

The French won't comment on the readiness status of their forces in the region.

Tuesday, 31 MAY 88

Got paid. Went to range.
Fucked up first time, hit second.
Didn't think BRM would be a
problem. Probably most difficult
for me for some reason.
Pugil sticks, too. I think
I had a concussion 12 years ago
so didn't fight. Was going to
do it anyway--it looked fun.
But someone who had a concussion before
got nailed so I prudently
changed my mind.
I didn't go on sick call.
Maybe tomorrow.

Basic rifle marksmanship was a struggle despite much shooting. For some reason, sometimes I'd do just fine and other times I'd do awful.

I remember pugil sticks day. Like hand-to-hand, this was more of a familiarization rather than real training. Although it was a chance to finally use all that bayonet training with the various slashing and bashing moves. I remember wanting to try it since we'd be padded up. They didn't want anyone with a previous concussion to participate. I'd been hospitalized several days as a teenager to watch me for signs of a concussion. But I kept quiet at first. Until someone who'd had a concussion was flattened by his opponent. Then I mentioned it. The fact that this was really no big part of training can be deduced by the fact that nobody who didn't fight caught grief from the drill sergeants.

Like I said, the only really critical things to learn were shooting an M-16 and passing the PT test at the end. Do those things and everything else could be fudged and learned at advanced individual training or reinforced at your unit when you got your assignment. Basic training didn't make you a trained soldier--it gave you the basics that everyone else got in order to learn to be a trained soldier.

I did not go on sick call. Every day I had to make the call--can I literally limp along and continue to make progress to graduation? Or does the pain risk sliding into an injury that stops training and makes me start over? That was the problem. I knew that basic training was hard but it was designed to be passed. The image of being hard is greater than the actual degree of difficulty. After all, how could the Army exist if it weeded out most who actually made it to training? But knowing I could make it through if I wasn't a total weenie assumed that I wasn't physically incapable of making it because of injuries.

I don't know if I mention this later, but one guy who was injured in basic training was pulled out of training and ended up helping out around the company headquarters while he healed up and awaited a new class to come in after we graduated. At one point, the stress of thinking about starting all over again got to him and he went AWOL. Eventually we heard that he'd gone to the airport, caught a flight home, and once there called his parents from the airport to tell them he was out of the Army and to come get him. Eventually the Army called his parents to find out where he was. The Army was not for him. If I remember things correctly, if you couldn't complete training and the Army got rid of you, you didn't get a dishonorable discharge or anything bad. The Army simply figured you couldn't hack it and sent you home.

I wanted to go home. But for me--and almost everyone else--the way home went through the graduation ceremony.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

An Inconvenient Truth

The article says climate change doomed an ancient civilization:

The mysterious fall of the largest of the world's earliest urban civilizations nearly 4,000 years ago in what is now India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh now appears to have a key culprit — ancient climate change, researchers say.

I was prepared to read a really strained effort to explain why the Harrappan fall was a warning to us. Perhaps the Harrappan drove sport utility chariots that showed their disdain for the carbon footprint.

But then I read this:

Initially, the monsoon-drenched rivers the researchers identified were prone to devastating floods. Over time, monsoons weakened, enabling agriculture and civilization to flourish along flood-fed riverbanks for nearly 2,000 years.

"The insolation — the solar energy received by the Earth from the sun — varies in cycles, which can impact monsoons," Giosan said. "In the last 10,000 years, the Northern Hemisphere had the highest insolation from 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, and since then insolation there decreased. All climate on Earth is driven by the sun, and so the monsoons were affected by the lower insolation, decreasing in force. This meant less rain got into continental regions affected by monsoons over time."
Eventually, these monsoon-based rivers held too little water and dried, making them unfavorable for civilization.

"The Harappans were an enterprising people taking advantage of a window of opportunity — a kind of "Goldilocks civilization," Giosan said.

Insolation caused the change and not mankind? Who's have ever thought that?

This is why I say I am not convinced that our temperature increases have been tracked for a long enough period to be significant. What are even several decades of increased average temperatures (or decreased averages before then that led to worries of a new ice age) in the face of sun-based trends that last thousands of years?

Who's Sorry Now?

Thank goodness we have smart diplomacy now and a president willing to build bridges to the rest of the world by apologizing for pre-Obama American foreign policy:

Poland's prime minister said Wednesday that remarks by President Barack Obama erroneously identifying a Nazi death camp as Polish had hurt all Poles and he expected more from the US than "regret".

"I am convinced that our American friends can today allow themselves a stronger reaction than a simple expression of regret from the White House spokesman -- a reaction more inclined to eliminate once and for all these kinds of errors," Donald Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.

Obama on Tuesday mistakenly called a Nazi facility used to process Jews for execution as a "Polish death camp." The White House later said the president "misspoke" and expressed "regret".

Apologizing for pre-Obama policies is one thing, apologizing for what President Obama says--or does--is another.

Don't worry Poland, you're hardly the biggest ally we've stiff-armed.

After 3-1/2 years of appeasing enemies and stiff-arming allies, we've had little progress in making new friends and we're lucky we haven't lost our allies. Is this how "smart" diplomacy is supposed to work?

UPDATE: President Obama did the right thing and admitted the error while expressing regret for his unfortunate word choice. Poland is a solid ally, so good for him.

And while our government is writing letters, could the White House just tell the State Department to pipe down about the Falklands?

Our diplomacy smarts all right.

This Would Be Nuanced

So our president stirs up a firestorm by referring to a Nazi death camp on conquered Polish soil as a "Polish death camp."

It's this type of nuanced thinking that may explain why President Obama still hasn't closed the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities despite promising to close that allegedly horrible place (mere hope and change could not save its reputation, apparently) by January 2010--it's actually a Cuban prison.

Nuance is a wondrous thing to behold.

Never Mind

The Army was right to worry about expanding our Army:

In 2010, the U.S. Army met a Congressional order to increase their strength to 570,000 troops. The army did this ahead of schedule, despite having told the politicians that the additional troops would not be needed by the time (several years later) they were recruited and trained. Then, when the politicians realized that the war in Iraq had unexpectedly been won (because politicians were listening to the media rather than the troops), they ordered a sharp cut in the new army strength. Army personnel strength must now be cut 14 percent over the next five years.

Making these cuts has proved more difficult than anticipated.

Early in the counter-insurgency campaigns in Iraq, I supported adding a couple infantry divisions to our Army force pool to help with rotating troops. When the Army responded to the need for more troops by expanding the Army by 9 of the newer brigade combat teams with existing troops (by converting units intended for a major war in NATO), I backed that effort as an initial step to see if that worked.

The Army was not eager to add troops out of fear that we'd get them ready for action in time to observe us win in Iraq. Then we'd need to demobilize them and risk disrupting the Army or pay for unneeded troops and risk hollowing out the Army by paying for those troops with money intended for modernization, maintenance, and training.

By the time Congress voted to expand the Army's troop strength to add 6 more brigade combat teams, I didn't see that we'd really need the troops. We didn't. Sure, it helped at the margins for unit rotation, but it wasn't critical to have them. Mind you, I didn't think our pre-9/11 Army strength was sufficient since that level wasn't high enough to fully man the force structure we had, which proved too small to sustain the Army in the field without stressing out the troops.

And now the budget can't handle the new troops even as the war in Afghanistan and the War on Terror in general continue.

Monday, 30 MAY 88, Memorial Day

We ended up getting the day
off--organized but little training.
Good. Got to buy candy and pop.
It was only 0830 but I grabbed
a Coke and malted milk balls.
Some touch football. I went easy
to avoid injuring myself. Ankles
hurt, back hurts. I'll go on
sick call tomorrow--regretfully. I
hope I don't miss BRM. On PT
test, of 35 in platoon, 10 did better
on push ups, 1 on sit ups and 6 on
2-mile run. Amazing.
Training starts all over
again tomorrow. 4 letters
to mail tomorrow. 1 to [fiance],
1 to mom and dad, 1 to Company D. One to [best man].
I was able to write a nice long letter to [fiance] over
the weekend. Let me graduate
soon! Should get 6 hours sleep
tonight. Plenty to eat today.
Felt satisfied for first time
in long time. Pay day Wednesday.

We actually had a day off as the base took a day off. Hamburger Hill was good. The other movie sucked massively. Junk food for breakfast was excellent. Injuries lingered on and I guess I didn't want to actually screw something up by playing football too hard. It looks like I resolved to get the aches taken care of after passing the task and physical tests. And I was near the top of my platoon in repetitions and running time. Given how badly my feet hurt, my run time really shocked me. But if this wasn't the time to get things checked out, what was?

I'm not sure why I wrote Company D--my National Guard unit back here in Ann Arbor. I vaguely recall the cadre telling me that if I ran into trouble, let them know. I probably just wrote to let them know I was making it through so far. I don't recall needing any assistance for anything.

Again, I'll say that I'm shocked to read that getting enough food was rare. If you'd asked me before I read these journal entries, I'd have said I had plenty. Mind you, I think I maintained my weight exactly as it was when I arrived, so I obviously wasn't starving like a North Korean private. But I have mentioned being hungry several times now.

And I was going to get paid. Not that there was much to spend it on while there. But I had rent at home to pay.

I'm sensing that things seemed downhill from this point. We'd been dogged. We'd been trained. We took tests and passed them. We had a Memorial Day to relax a bit like ordinary people. We could handle whatever else there was on our schedule.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Too Many To Ignore

For over a year, Assad's forces have been killing civilians in Syria to maintain Allawite rule. Perhaps 10,000 have been killed, plus security forces and armed opposition. But you know what gets the international community to notice? Not the 10,000 dead and counting, but the spike in the long-term average that the international community can no longer safely ignore:

President Bashar al-Assad faces renewed international pressure to end the bloodshed in Syria but, with peace envoy Kofi Annan visiting Damascus, his government blamed Islamist militants for a massacre in which U.N. observers had implicated his army. ...

In Damascus on Monday, Annan called on the authorities to act to end the killing after what the special envoy called the "appalling crime" late last week at Houla, near Hama, in which at least 108 people, many of them children, were killed.

One wonders if the international community would have noticed if the death toll had been 54. Or maybe just 36.

The sainted international community isn't against people being murdered by a member state of the UN. Just space out the deaths at a low enough level and keep the videos away and it can go on for decades without comment. Ask North Korea.

What prompts the international community to call something an appalling crime is just having the sainted international community's inability to stop a particularly bad day of murdering from being rubbed in their faces.

One must keep up appearances, mustn't one?

Wankers Aweigh

Ah, so the Law of the Sea is the only thing that stands in the way of freedom of the seas for our Navy?

The treaty sets international navigation rules, which U.S. Navy officials consider important and which business groups argue are critical for exercising rights to mine the ocean floor or explore for oil in the Arctic.

Advocates of ratification warn that if the U.S. doesn't join the pact, other nations will be able to shape the rules for exploring the ocean floor, without the U.S. input.

I thought our Navy, with their periodic freedom of navigation exercises--like this one when Libya asserted we must not cross their "line of death"--was the source of that freedom of movement. If this treaty is so crucial for that, how on Earth have we managed to defend freedom of navigation since 1982 when the treaty first raised its ugly head? That's a puzzle, no? Further, if China is your worry, what makes you think this treaty is the one they'll obey? I mean, if China is so keen on respecting the Law of the Sea, why did this happen a few years ago? I mean, China did sign the Law of the Sea. Aren't they bound by it? Wait. What? They interpret it differently than we do? Huh. Fancy that.

And what's with the notion that a treaty we don't even belong to is binding on us? Isn't that the point of deciding to join or not join? I mean, we have to obey a treaty we don't sign while China gets to ignore other treaties on sea issues that they did sign?

If the Obama administration is worried about China halting our Navy, they'd best think about maintaining a strong Navy and Air Force to support it. Otherwise, we'll change our course, so the People's Liberation Army won't steer shy-y-y-y. Roll over and beg, Navy, Wankers Aweigh.

Oh, and what about the Davis Strait? My understanding is that we contend that is international water. The Canadians seem to think signing the treaty gives them the strait. Without arguing on the merits of the claims (because I know nothing about the merits), doesn't this argue against signing the treaty? It's one thing to have a dispute with a good friend and ally. But what other claims do treaty signers assume our signature ratifies? Is the "line of death" now sanctified by international treaty?

Further, if the Obama administration is so gung ho about drilling for oil in the Arctic and mining the sea bed, our president can tell companies to do it now and see who tries to stop us. Heck, we'll even donate a tiny portion of the revenue to the Third World Dictator Retirement Fund of the UN's choice.

Yet we're being told by the Obama administration and the nuanced crowd that only nuts oppose something that George W. Bush and oil companies support.

I'm sorry, but when both Bush and oil companies have been demonized by the Obama administration and the nuanced crowd for years, I'm just a bit suspicious of motives. Call me a nut, but I'm also suspicious of something that John ("I served in Vietnam") Kerry supports. When these guys say we need the treaty so our Navy can go where it wants, so we can drill in the Arctic Ocean, and so we can scrape the sea bottom for minerals, forgive me if I think they are lying through their teeth.

We've lived just fine without joining this treaty for thirty years, now. Thirty more years of success at sea will rely on the strength of our Navy and not on some farcical aquatic ceremony of signing the UN Law of the Sea.

UPDATE: The treaty won't set the rules of the road at sea and keep the peace with China. It will just create rules where China drives on the left and we drive on the right.

Yet we'll be surprised if we collide after ratifying this worse-than-useless treaty.

Honestly, what exactly have we missed out on for the last three decades because we haven't signed it?

Anyone? Bueller?

Vanguard of the Warmetariat, Anyone?

I know the vast majority of people concerned with global warming aren't totalitarian fruitcakes, but a disturbing number of the most worried are so worried that totalitarian solutions seem perfectly acceptable:

If I were empress of the Universe I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached – a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals.

The best way to reduce your carbon footprint is to put people in charge who can stomp their boot on your face--forever. Or until your carbon-spewing life is mercifully ended before you poison the Earth.

Do click through for more here and here.

Oh, and her idea that bar coding everyone means soldiers will never again accidentally kill non-combatants is too stupid to believe. How will bar codes prevent combatants from fighting amongst civilians? Seriously, often we can see someone with a weapon moving amongst unarmed civilians. And how will we make insurgents or terrorists have their bar codes changed to show their combatant status rather than their visual look as a civilian?

There is also that teensy problem that some governments will use the bar code information to target the easiest-to-kill:

World outrage grew Saturday as details emerged about an attack in the Syrian village of Houla, which left more than 90 people dead, including nearly three dozen children, according to the United Nations. ...

Observers confirmed the use of artillery and tank shells[.]

But that surface appeal is just to get a bar code on you so that every time you purchase something that produces carbon dioxide, you can be properly punished. In her perfect world of course. But then, most totalitarian Hells start with someone's dream of a perfect world--or universe for the really ambitious.

You know, this is only incidentally a global warming post. Mostly it is about the totalitarian groupies out there who think their own reasonably enlightened rule would benefit everyone.

Sunday, 29 MAY 88

We've been fucked. Captain [Hotel] and
fucking lieutenant colonel [Papa] decided we can't
use phones because we're on TC [total control] officially.
Like we haven't used them before on TC.
Everyone's morale dropped so much
upon receipt of news. Not our sergeants'
fault--they tried to argue. It's true,
when you become an officer, your brain
is removed. How the hell does this
improve training? We're a good platoon
and still nothing. The fuck-up platoons
have gotten more than we have.
Candy, phones calls last weekend. We
get nothing and we are the most motivated,
best performing platoon of E Company.
Otherwise easy day finished Phase I
test--all "go"s. Locker inspection
today. No problem. No
free time today though today
was supposed to be a day off.
Morale better as day went on.
Some rumors of trouble in world.
I tried to dispel them. Still,
I wish I could read an issue
of the Economist. I don't like
being in the dark. [Fiance]
tries to keep me informed but info
is at best 3-4 days old.
Another day down. 39 to go.

I clearly swore a lot more freely then. Excuse me. I don't want to censor the actual record. It was part of the toughness you needed to display. And whatever solidarity I might have felt from having as many college credits as officers was vanishing as I became an enlisted soldier.

Note too the signs of unit cohesion that was developing. Our platoon was the center of our world. Not even the entire company let alone the 3rd of the 10th infantry regiment that Echo company was part of. Despite the fact that another platoon's trooper had helped me out on a march, collectively the other platoons were the inferior mortals who somehow got all the breaks.

There was no stress about inspections or tests. Just tasks to complete.

And the isolation from the world was weird. I don't remember what the crisis was and a quick Google search didn't refresh my memory. I think it had something to do with Iran, but I can't remember for sure. I do remember that I told my fellow trainees that rumors that we'd be sent off to war were ridiculous. It would be grossly complimentary to say we were "half-trained." Yet when we prepared Iraqis and still prepare Afghans to fight, we call them trained enough after too few weeks of instruction.

Apparently, enough other things were screwed up to keep me from mentioning whatever physical ailment was hobbling me.

The most hilarious thing of all is that a weekly news magazine was the height of keeping up to date on the world for me!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Well, It Is Only a Ceasefire

I know the Korean War is technically only on hiatus, but this kind of surprised me:

U.S. Army Gen. Neil Tolley, commander of U.S. Special Operations Forces in South Korea, told an audience in Tampa that U.S. and South Korean forces have been sent into North Korea to spy on the communist country’s vast collection of underground tunnels and military installations.

They've pinpointed 20 partially underground air fields, 180 underground ammunition factories, and thousands of buried artillery positions. Plus they monitored 4 North Korean tunnels under the DMZ.

I'm shocked we send guys in there. And more surprised that we admitted it.

But it does make it more likely that we can use counter-fire using that precise targeting data to protect Seoul from North Korean artillery dug in within range of South Korea's capital.

UPDATE: We deny sending in special forces to spy on North Korea:

"My understanding is that the general's comments were contorted, distorted, misreported, and that there is in no way any substance to the assertion. Again, it was misreported that there are U.S. boots on the ground in North Korea. That is simply incorrect," Little said.

Either we didn't send guys in there or we aren't admitting it. Neither of which is shocking.

Of course, South Koreans and CIA contracted special operators could be going on missions. Hard to say. I suppose it doesn' hurt us to have the North Koreans chasing shadows if we don't.

Not that it would be wrong to send agents north given that North Korea is happy to send agents south.

Off-Shoring American Jobs

If China ever decides to invade Taiwan, hitting Chinese bases across from Taiwan where ships stage or hitting air bases used to hit Taiwan or provide air cover for an invasion will be important. Start the attrition close to China's starting point and there is more chance that China loses enough along the entire embarkation to invasion path that Taiwan can hold--or at least buy time until America and Japan can help.

But for America to attack those Chinese bases is far more risky. Once we hit Chinese national territory, we automatically have escalated to where China can hit our national territory. Once we're exchanging blows on national territory, emotions might get too high to think rationally. Not that we should rule out doing that--especially if China is using their national territory to fire at our carriers. But it would be nice to put that decision off as much as possible.

So Taiwan's ability to do the job is a great thing for us:

Taiwan has for the first time deployed cruise missiles capable of striking key military bases along the southeast coast of the Chinese mainland, local media reported on Monday.

Mass production of the Taiwan-made "Hsiungfeng" (Brave Wind) 2E, which have a range of 500 kilometres (300 miles), has been completed and the missiles have come into service, the Liberty Times said, citing an unnamed military source. ...

"In case of war in the Taiwan Strait, the missiles could be used to attack the airports and other military bases of the People's Liberation Army."

He estimated that there were more than 100 of the Hsiungfeng 2E missiles pointing at China.

If China is attempting to invade Taiwan, Taiwan obviously doesn't need to worry about angering China. Taiwan lives or dies based on whether China can be stopped or not.

Let's up that number, Taiwan. China will try to knock them out in the opening hour of war, and every missile that survives will be needed. Plus, every Brave Wind that needs to be hit increases the number of targets China needs to hit, diluting the impact of their own 1,600-strong missiles force aimed at Taiwan.

This Breaks My Heart

As the proud father of a little girl who I love dearly, it is heart breaking to read stuff like this about a country that could become a solid friend and ally:

"New-born girl found in dustbin, second in a week," announced a recent headline in the Hindustan Times. The article was datelined Gurgaon but it could have come from one of many Indian cities. Thousands of baby girls are abandoned each year, an extension of sex selection practices that, according to a 2011 study in The Lancet, include half a million abortions in India every year. Most abandoned babies die, but a few are rescued. While the statistics on the number of babies killed or abandoned at birth are murky -- the vast majority go unreported -- the radically skewed sex ratio of children under six years of age is an inescapable indication.

This is horrible. Yet the article annoyingly tries to appear even-handed and even non-judgmental by saying the problem exists--if "with less severity"--in the United States and other developed countries. I'm not aware of that problem so I click through to their source for my country. Is there a sex-selection baby-killing epidemic here?

What’s common to these cases is a pregnancy where the mother fears the consequences if the pregnancy is revealed,” said Kendall Marlowe, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. “As a result, these overwhelmed parents felt they had no option but to discard their child. The ‘safe haven’ law gives parents in crisis an option to do the responsible thing.”

The linked article notes only stories of baby girls abandoned yet despite all the statistics given, none breaks the babies down by sex. An odd thing if girls are the victims here.

Yet being aware of this as a state-level policy question during my time working for our state legislature, I knew in my own state the issue was abandonment--not murder--and from not wanting any baby at all rather than not wanting a baby girl. It is tragic. It is not in the same league, however.

So why soften the sting of calling India on this terrible record by trying to pretend we all struggle with this issue?

We rightly condemn communist China for similar practices. Democratic India should not get a pass on this for being a friend, budding ally, or developing country. I'm lucky to have a son and a daughter who both fill me with pride. Indian society needs to open doors for their women to thrive so that baby girls aren't viewed as disappointments and killed for their sin of being born.

My daughter is an American girl. I'm pretty sure she'll grow up to beat down any of those sex-selected boys who are viewed as the best thing possible.

UPDATE: Although we are perhaps simply too nuanced to do anything as crude as kill or abandon girls who are born. Bastards.

It Takes a Village of Free Entrepreneurs

I guess we can start worrying about "peak shale energy:"

Vast reserves of natural gas and oil unlocked from underground shale deposits have slashed the price of U.S. natural gas to a fraction of costs in Europe and Asia, making it some of the cheapest energy in the world.

That is cutting production costs at U.S. factories, making 'Made in America' a more attractive option and driving investment in everything from foundries to chemical plants.

The shale energy revolution could also turn the United States into a net exporter of many fuels in little more than a decade, transforming energy from the economy's Achilles' heel to a source of strength.

Good thing that not everybody bought the line we hear over and over from the environmental left that any individual energy find would be too small to matter, and so should not be approved. A funny thing about the real world is that a whole lot of separate energy discoveries add up to something that is, to borrow an expression, "a big effing deal."

Yet the reality-based community still thinks that windmills are our energy future.

Even old fashioned crude is out there. Kudos to the president for approving this project (tip to Instapundit). He acts like he is in the pocket of the anti-energy environmentalists yet can do something good like this. There is a randomness that is unsettling. You can see why business uncertainty exists these days. Who knows what direction this White House will go in on any given day?

And don't think this won't shake up international affairs. The Islamic world has a limited time to get their house in order before we just don't have to give a damn about how badly they mis-manage their own affairs in the Middle East and focus on quarantining their hateful ideologies rather than curing them.

Saturday, 28 MAY 88

1/3 of way to getting out. Didn't
get phone call privilege today. Almost
2 weeks since I called [fiance].
PT test today. Despite cold I did
43 push ups, 76 sit ups, and 2 miles in 14:43.
Amazed even myself. That passes Army
standards and I've still got 6 weeks
to go. I still have a roll around my
waist. I'd cut down on desserts but
I'm so hungry I like to grab everything
to eat. Hell, I ate peas today!
Prospect of two days basically off
is pretty good. Bugs are big here.
Guys still basically pretty cool. Only
a couple I don't like. Even one guy
who didn't seem to like me
appears to like me. Cool. I thought
he was OK from start--kept
treating him in friendly manner
w/o backing down. Can't wait
for BRM. Want to redeem my
poor score on that shitty firing point.
Sometimes it seems like such
bullshit. EX. Hand-to-hand combat
today. 1-1/2 hours of wasted time.
No way we'll get proficient to make
it more effective than using an
empty rifle or shovel. We just risked
injury in useless throws.
Great desire to be careful now physically.
Don't want to get recycled.
Sleep in to 5:00 tomorrow.
May get 6-1/2 hours sleep. Thinking
of going on sick call Wednesday. Road
march Wednesday. Knowing me, when
time comes I'll probably be stupid
and go on march despite back.
Feet better, still. Morale good.
Wish this was over, though. Glad I'm
not RA [regular Army]. Just found out we get
15 minutes on phones Sunday. 10 for [fiance].
5 for parents. Mental health note--
I seem to sing cadence to myself
a lot.

Only a third through. I had a calendar where I included--day by day--what percent of my time in basic training I had left.

I did well enough to pass standards easily. Given my sundry pains and injuries--and while fighting a cold, to boot--I think I was fairly shocked.

I am still shocked that I periodically mention how hungry I was or that food was sparse. My memory is that I ate plenty. But the primary document says otherwise. And three weeks into training, I was not buff like I was on some government-run fat camp. I'm still not. I bet Julia would be all buff, and stuff.

I remember the guy I'm talking about. A Mexican-American from Texas. For some reason he took an instant dislike of me and didn't hide it. Eventually he came around. He signed my "year book" and wrote I was "a cool dude." I never did learn why he disliked me or why he changed his mind. I suspect he figured I was just some well off, college-educated white guy. He was a cool dude, too.

I'll never forget him popping a hot pepper in his mouth, smiling, and eating it like it was a piece of Wonder Bread while I thought I'd been hit with tear gas doing the same thing.

I continued to focus on shooting and was confident I'd do well. But some training seemed pointless--like the hand-to-hand. After enduring the worst 3 weeks of training, the worry of being "recycled" and starting over loomed over everything we did. I remember convincing my sparring partner that neither of us wanted to risk that and so we went through the motions of the throws and moves without actually knocking each other down. I don't think either of us suffered for that scam.

To be fair, once at war our Army finally did teach enough hand-to-hand techniques to make it useful for deploying troops and even made a sport of it to encourage extra training on free time.

I was still debating going on sick call for my back pain, but suspected I'd keep putting it off. Doing so on the eve of a major exercise seemed like it would look bad.

And my morale was good despite it all. I also had the advantage of knowing that when I was done with basic training I'd go home while the regular Army people went straight to their advanced individual training.

It took years before I stopped singing cadence to myself while I walked around. I don't do that any more.

Honor and Remember Them

We are a free and prosperous nation. I thank God that we continue to raise men and women who are willing to die to defend our country.

What would we have lost if any of them had failed since 1775?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bat's Aren't Cute

As long as we can keep even one photo-shopped polar bear from drowning and slowing their population's rate of growth, the mass slaughter of bats at the hands of windmills is a price well worth paying:

One unintended consequence of the installation of wind turbines has been a massive increase in bat deaths. Bats seem to be drawn to them, and scientists can’t figure out why. But they do know that the rapid decline in our bat population—which is crucial to general insect control—is really bad news.

I don't know why global warming alarmists are so drawn to them, either.

But keep in mind that in one narrow range of policy the global warmers failed to anticipate consequences of their plans to save us. Fancy that.

Oh well. I for one welcome our new insect overlords.

Great. Another Islamic Republic

How nice. The jihadis have cut a deal with the Tuaregs to join forces in their break-away caliphate in northern Mali:

Mali's Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Ansar Dine Islamist militants have agreed to merge and create an independent Islamic state in the north of the country, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday.

The deal between MNLA, which has said it wants an independent secular state in the north, and the al Qaeda-linked Salafist Ansar Dine, which had wanted to impose Sharia across Mali, may complicate international efforts to stabilize Mali after a March coup that plunged the country into chaos.

Sometimes, war really is the answer.

And God help us, the only state with the local links and military power to pull it off is France--under their new socialist president who is running from Afghanistan early.

Or is France our only hope?

I wonder what AFRICOM is pondering. They've been vewy, vewy quiet. Would we try the Afghanistan option with special forces and precision weapons (now using drones to update the model) leading whatever government forces we can scrape together in the south? We do have some responsibility for this given that spill-over from the Libya War started the chain reaction that led to this moment.

Is the declaration of an Islamic state enough justification for President Obama to take the lead now? Would we send a battalion or two of Rangers plus special forces and drone forces backed by some long-range B-52s for the initial shock and awe?

Mind you, I'm well aware that this is a small force for a caliphate bigger than France. But the idea is to use that small force to break the back of the northern forces and allow government forces and ECOWAS troops to move north and reclaim the urban centers, bases, and roads.

Musical Success!

Despite a rain delay from yesterday, I managed to get Mister to a concert before his term is over. We listened to the Ypsilanti Symphony Orchestra play at Riverside Park this afternoon.

It was enjoyable. We didn't stay for the picnic after, but in future years it would be fun to chow down on hot dogs and chips after the music.

Lamb was disappointed to have missed hot dogs. Perhaps next year I can take her, too. We'll see if the prospect of hot dogs can get her to sit through a music set.

Now Mister just has to write a two-page report on it and turn it in Tuesday.

Mission Accomplished

Yes, this is blatant propaganda for the Obama reelection campaign, but I can't be upset about it:

The story behind a photograph showing a 5-year-old black boy touching President Obama's hair may be coming to your inbox soon.

The New York Times published the adorable back story about the photo—which has been hanging in the West Wing of the White House for more than three years—on Thursday, and it's quickly become the most-emailed article on the Times' website.

There are lots of little boys who can now grow up knowing no job is beyond their reach. Hopefully, all children can believe that it really is true that any American can grow up to be president.

Yet this touching moment is no reason to reelect President Obama. I still believe--as I did when he was elected even though I did not vote for him--that it was a good thing for America to prove we would elect an African American as president. But I remain deeply disappointed that Barack Obama is the African American we gave that honor to. If the left is going to argue that Americans must now reelect President Obama to prove--again--that we aren't racists by refusing to disappoint young African Americans who draw inspiration from an African American in the White House, in four years will we be told that presidential term limits must be lifted to prove--again--we aren't racists?

And if this is our thinking, don't Americans need to prove we aren't religious bigots by electing a Mormon to the presidency this year?

Ah, now that game isn't so fun.

I hope Jacob Philadelphia grows up knowing that no goal is unreachable in America. But I hope he also learns that every goal should be earned and is not granted. Julia could tell him that there is no government program that grooms you for the presidency.

Friday, 27 MAY 88

EOCT/PT tests tomorrow.
We're off total control. Whoopee.
No phone time. Very little
difference to us. In time
we may gain phone use
as we earn it. Will get to
use phone Sunday for a few
minutes. Last call 15th.
Letter from [fiance] today.
Happy to get it.[Fiance]
planning wedding and honeymoon.
BRM today. Fucked up the
pop-up targets. High grass obscured
targets so much that I shot high.
I figured it out late (too late).
Redeemed myself on another
firing point by blowing away targets.
Got no-go but saved me from
remedial classes. I'll burn the
range Tuesday. Feet healing.
Back still hurts. Ran 1-1/4 miles
today. Hope to get 6 hours sleep.

The end of cycle test and physical training test were upon us. And the close supervision we were subject to ended in theory. I guess it didn't seem very different.

The isolation from the world was still pretty weird. it had been a couple weeks since I'd been able to call out. There was no news available. For a news junkie like myself who is continually thankful that I live in an age when news from around the world is a click away, I can't imagine living in such an information vacuum.

But I didn't get to dwell on it much. My world was reduced to making sure my buttons were all buttoned, by bunk was made, and--at that moment--that I could hit those damn targets with my M-16.

The pop-up targets screwed me up. And even before going to basic, I knew that green shooters tend to shoot high. And I still did it! Since I didn't do it on simple target practice, I guess I didn't know why people shoot high. I found out that high grass that obscures the target pushes you to aim high.

I did better the next round, but in the world of "go" or "no go" on your evaluation sheet, I got a "no go." Still, avoiding remedial training in the evening during what little free time we had (not that it was for anything more than doing laundry, cleaning up our own stuff, or reading or writing letters) was something. And I did feel confident that I'd do fine when tested.

The general hurting continued, though I felt my feet were throbbing less--so that was progress. I'm not sure what was going on with my back.

I do remember that the prospect of 6 hours of sleep seemed pretty good.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Shall We Rely on a Fleet of Paper?

I don't understand why people think the Law of the Sea is the best way to preserve our Navy's access to the world's seas in the face of attempts to expand claimed waters by various nations.

But there is a recent push by our top brass to argue for ratification. While there are troubling provisions regarding ceding sovereignty and cash to non-US bodies that should (again) disqualify the treaty for consideration (Really, treaty supporters seriously arguing we need to join a treaty to avoid being bound by treaty rules that others will write and impose on us even though we don't recognize that the treaty applies to us? Just how small will our fleet get?), the idea that it will rein in China is absurd.

One US senator wonders why the administration is making this effort when the strength of our Navy has been the ultimate guarantee of freedom of navigation?

Could it be that some have decided to put their hope in a piece of paper rather than provide the resources necessary to maintain our Navy’s traditional strength? Does this U.N. treaty provide real justification for such devastating cuts?

I can believe the current crowd in Washington, D.C. believes exactly this.

But why would China stop making claims to the South China Sea if we join the treaty when China already signed the treaty yet makes claims that exceed what the treaty allows?

In a March, 2008 cable, the embassy reported that a senior Chinese diplomat, Zheng Zhenhua, had handed over a written statement when asked about the scope of this boundary.

"The dotted line of the South China Sea indicates the sovereignty of China over the islands in the South China Sea since ancient times and demonstrates the long-standing claims and jurisdiction practice over the waters of the South China Sea," the statement said, the embassy reported.

Scarborough Shoal falls within the nine-dashed line, as do the Paracel and Spratly Islands, the two most important disputed island groups in the South China Sea. ...

China insists it has sovereignty over both these groups but it has yet to specify how much of the rest of the territory within the nine-dashed line it intends to claim.

One reason suggested for this lack of clarity is that China, like all of the other claimants except Taiwan, is a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

If Beijing defined its claim to conform with the provisions of this treaty, it would almost certainly reduce the scope of Chinese territory and expose the government to criticism from vocal nationalists.

Alternatively, if Beijing was to maximize the extent of its claim to include all or most of the territory within the nine-dashed line, it would be difficult to justify under international law and antagonize its neighbors. ...

Most maritime experts doubt China will agree to have any claims over the South China Sea heard by the United Nation's International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the body set up to rule on disputes.

Shouldn't their acceptance of the Law of the Sea clarified and limited their claims? Apparently not.

China is now engaged in bitter disputes with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, both located far beyond China’s 200-mile-wide territorial waters in the South China Sea. Indeed, so expansive are China’s claims nowadays that many Asians are wondering what will satisfy China’s desire to secure its “core interests.” Are there no limits, or does today’s China conceive of itself as a restored Middle Kingdom, to whom the entire world must kowtow?

Are we really waiting for the Peking leadership to assure us that they have no more territorial core interest ambitions?

Trust a strong military and robust alliances to keep freedom of navigation. This treaty will only allow us to pretend--for a while--that a strong military and robust alliances aren't necessary.

We're Giving Iran What They Want

Of course there will be additional nuclear talks with Iran in June!

Iran and world powers agreed to meet again next month to try to ease the long standoff over its nuclear work despite achieving scant progress at talks in Baghdad towards resolving the main sticking points of their dispute.

Iran would love it if the West reverses its long-held position and allows Iran some form of Uranium enrichment--that opening leaves room for lots of cheating. Which is apparently easy enough now:

The U.N. atomic agency has found evidence at an underground bunker in Iran that could mean the country has moved closer to producing the uranium threshold needed to arm nuclear missiles, diplomats said Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has found traces of uranium enriched up to 27 percent at the Fordo enrichment plant in central Iran, the diplomats told The Associated Press.

And if we give in and allow Iran to carry out some enrichment, the excuse Iran trotted out for this discovery will be easier to make and even more difficult for the West to call them on:

A top Iranian nuclear negotiator said traces of enriched uranium discovered at an underground bunker came from a "routine technical issue," the country's official IRNA news agency reported on Saturday.

Even if we can get our maximum position of no more enrichment at all, years of talking while Iran's centrifuges spun have put Iran in a good position to get to their goal:

Iran has significantly stepped up its output of low-enriched uranium and total production in the last five years would be enough for at least five nuclear weapons if refined much further, a U.S. security institute said.

Iran seems to think Israel is a one-bomb state, so they'll have a margin of error if everything is halted now.

But all Iran really needs from the West is time to finish their nuclear work. So just talking is a victory for Iran.

Heck, time is really just what most Westerners want, too. If only Iran will go nuclear before we strike, these Westerners can claim it is too late to do anything about Iran's nuclear program--darn the luck, we were so close to doing something--and we just have to stop worrying and learn to love the Iranian bomb.

UPDATE: I'm reasonably sure there will be some sort of deal. The main sticking point will be convincing Iran that we really are willing to pretend that Iran is making some concession to us. But there's a decent chance that Iran is so confident that they won't stoop to that level of even pretending to back down to the West.

Have no doubt that Iran has learned from Saddam about how to treat international inspectors:

The U.N. nuclear watchdog has not yet given good enough reasons to visit an Iranian site where it suspects there may have been experiments for developing nuclear weapons, Iranian media said.

And when will there be enough good reasons? When Iran has scrubbed the site enough to make sure that any anomolies are small enough to be a mere "routine technical issue" rather than a violation. Prove it, IAEA. We dare you.

She Did Go in First

Our pool opened yesterday and I took Mister and Lamb there after school yesterday. Lamb was determined to be the first in the water. She wanted rules that said she went in first but I told her that whoever gets in first gets in first--just no running!

Lamb headed in to the pool area and dropped her stuff on a recliner and even though Mister and I were well behind her she raced to the pool edge and jumped in--still wearing her skirt that she had on over her swim suit.

At least she took off her t-shirt.

I didn't need to mention this since as soon as Lamb climbed out she exclaimed, "Dad, I forgot to take off my skirt!" She was clearly delighted about that. I'm guessing she has a story for her friends at school come Tuesday morning.

For the Win

I'm not saying there can't be problems with the Pentagon engaging in propaganda (tip to Instapundit) to support a war effort. But if it is true information, I'm not convinced it is a bad thing to engage in information operations to counter enemy propaganda that often is false. There is opposition to lifting the ban on domestic information. I'm honestly not sure where I stand on that. I lean toward keeping the ban, but I could be persuaded my first impulse is wrong.

But what gets me is that some propaganda directed at the American public is perfectly legal, it seems:

The Department of Health and Human Services have an ad campaign that, oddly enough, falls right in the middle of the midterm elections that “advises” seniors on the wonders of ObamaCare.

Fancy that. Call me cynical, but perhaps it just depends on who you think you are at war with and what you are willing to fight for. Enemies abroad? Well, we probably deserve their anger and we should really engage in lengthy debates about why they hate us. Enemies in the election campaign? Well, you have to do what it takes to win.

Part of my impulse against lifting the ban on domestic information operations is that it should be the job of the administration that sends the Pentagon to war to bolster morale on the home front by explaining why we fight. But even as I despaired that President Bush didn't do more on that issue, I now look at that period as a golden age of presidential attention on the war. And at least I never doubted that President Bush was committed to winning. President Obama just can't be bothered to explain why we must fight and win our wars. It's all about "responsibly ending" them.

But he can still work up a good rage about Republicans.

Thursday, 26 MAY 88

Drill sergeants mellowing out. Off total
control if we have good barracks
tonight. Getting a cold--will sleep
under covers tonight and make bed in
morning. Have to wake up at 3:30 [a.m.].
I'm lousy at making beds. Back
still hurts. Feet a little better but
still blistered. BRM--did pretty
good. 4 of 10 (poor), 18 of 20, 5 of 10.
Ran 2 miles after dinner.
Decent day. Guard twice
breakfast and lunch.

One of the problems of leaving my bed made all the time was that if I needed to make it, I had little practice at getting it right. I actually felt sick enough to want to be under my covers but would have to wake up early just to make the bed again and still have time to get to morning formation.

Having a cold in basic training (and a flu virus in advanced individual training, I'll add) reminded me that the Army doesn't really debate that "feed a cold, starve a fever--or is it the other way around" thing. The Army clearly believes in "exercise the heck out you and extra sleep isn't happening"--whether it is a cold or a fever. If there is a debate, they ponder whether it is "drop a cold (as in "drop and give me 40 [push ups]!), run a fever (2 miles)," or the other way around.

The impact of seeming to start basic training all over with new drill sergeants seemed to be wearing off. But the physical ailments continued, yet were tolerable.

Shooting (basic rifle marksmanship) seemed fine to me. And running was routine, it seems.

I'd forgotten that we had to guard our gear when we went into the mess hall. We'd dump our gear outside and someone had to watch it all. I honestly can't remember how that was handled. Was someone tagged to go in early to eat and come out to relieve whoever started the guard duty? I honestly can't recall that detail. I assume that I would have mentioned not being able to eat two meals since I pulled guard duty twice that day.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Liberation Has Never Been Easy

As many despair of the problems in the Arab world that have followed from the overthrow of Arab dictators--whether in Iraq from direct American military intervention or in the aftermath of Arab Spring revolts--and argue that it would have been better to leave the dictators in charge to preserve order, let us not forget that chaos, death, destruction, and revenge in the aftermath of upheaval are not limited to Moslems:

Lowe follows with a look at the virtual chaos of the times [in Europe after World War II], violence by “liberated” peoples, Allied troops (of all nations), former slave laborers, and former concentration camp inmates, directed against “collaborators”, prisoners-of-war, displaced persons, minorities, and especially women. This disorganized violence was followed in some areas by systematic “ethnic cleansing”, and that by “civil wars” of varying degrees of violence in
many countries, from which the Cold War emerged, setting the political stage in Europe for the next fortyfive years.

Every time a region has experienced movement toward democracy, whether in Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, or now the Middle East, people in the West have argued they were just not ready for it. Which fits nicely with the propaganda put out by the dictators who want to continue to rule.

Let's not forget that planting democracy isn't just a matter of a weekend convention of the League of Women Voters agreeing on rules of the game. Don't fret over who wins the first election, fret over whether there are future regular and free elections. Teach them how to elect good men and not to elect good men.

If it was easy, our help wouldn't be needed.

Work the problem. The tremors shaking the foundations of the old order in the Arab world are an opportunity and not a curse.

The Reality-Based Community Strikes Again

I'm not sure whether I'm more disgusted if the left believes this rot or is just that comfortable with lying.

And it is lying. Ponder that when George Bush left office, our debt stood at about $10.5 trillion. By the end of President Obama's first term it will be well over $16 trillion. Yet we are to believe that a more than 50% increase in our debt was caused by a mere 1.4% yearly increase in spending under President Obama.

The idea that what was intended as one-time extraordinary spending (TARP for the banking crisis and the stimulus for the recession) is now the baseline of spending is just mind boggling. Never mind a slippery slope--this is a freaking cliff! Who can blame Republicans for opposing any spending when this is how the new rules are written?

Or, if you somehow believe the president's defense is true, you have no business claiming you are part of the "reality-based" community.

UPDATE: Related. Do you really want to argue that Bush jacked up our debt by spending on Iraq?

Iraq is such a tiny portion of our spending that it is silly to blame our deficits on that war. And that's aside from whether it is right to insist that any other portion of our non-defense budget should be considered paid by tax revenue rather than from borrowed money.

UPDATE: Wow. The fantasy defense didn't start with the president, but it ended up coming out of his mouth. Raising the question of whether the president really believes this rot or is just that comfortable with lying.

The Peking Insurance Bureau

China looks at tiny Australia and says, "Nice little country you've got there. It would be a shame if anything was to happen to it." (Tip to Instapundit.)

In what can only be construed as a direct threat to a top U.S. ally, Song Xiaojun, a "retired" Chinese general, told the Sydney Morning Herald that "Australia has to find a godfather sooner or later."

"Australia always has to depend on somebody else, whether it is to be the 'son' of the U.S. or 'son' of China," Song said, adding that Australia had best choose China because it all "depends on who is more powerful and based on the strategic environment."

Remember, when you buy term life insurance from China, it just means your life is set by their terms.

The Coronation is Messy

Remember when the press corps couldn't get enough of asking why Romney couldn't "close the deal" in the primaries when actual credible opponents kept popping up to draw votes away from him?

Don't expect similar treatment when assorted fringe candidates draw significant amounts of votes away from President Obama in his "unopposed" primaries.

Wednesday, 25 MAY 88

Day started badly. Feet hurt like
hell and I could barely march.
Rode to rifle range to zero our
M-16A1s. No problem, 9 of 12 in
circle. One of first to finish.
PT not too tough. Feet felt
better as day went on. New blister
on right foot but basically better.
Locker and bunk straightened. Letter
from [fiance]. Getting used to
little sleep. I was good to go on
4 hours of interrupted sleep. Morale
much better. I think we'll go
off total control tomorrow.
I bet [sergeant Sierra] will turn out to
be cool. With more rifle time,
less bull to put up with. Marching
around with pack a pain. Feel good about
yesterday's march--I never gave up my
M-16 during march though two troops offered
to carry it. I've also kept my claymore
at all times. I haven't been hassled
lately. I won't go on sick call. Feet
feeling better though still bad. Back
seems ok. Start letter to [fiance].
Want her to know I'm ok. I'll
probably get to call her before letter
gets to her. 8:45--3rd platoon being
dogged outside.

After yesterday, no doubt the day started off badly. But a ride to the rifle range and hope that the focus on shooting would crowd out harassment did wonders it seems.

And whatever feet and back problems I had, they at least seemed like they wouldn't keep me from continuing training. Pain was one thing. Injuries that put me out another altogether. Only the latter was unacceptable.

I'd forgotten that we'd sometimes carry each others stuff during marches if someone got really tired to the point of nearing falling out. Troops did and there was a truck that followed the company to carry them after they were revived and checked out. I felt strongly about not giving up my weapons.

And I guess I had a good opinion of our new drill sergeant. But I can't remember him one bit, to be honest.

And there was a reminder that things could be worse as another platoon experienced an evening training opportunity. Actually, any time we were dropped as individuals or as a group, we had to call out, "Thank you, drill sergeant, for training my mind and my body!"

Sometimes it took effort to remember that they weren't sadistic SOBs.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'll Take "China" for 500, Alex

In many ways, China's rise is nothing different than other east Asian countries have done--except for the vast size of China which makes the results more dramatic. The question is how long will China continue their growth rate? Eventually, China must slow down and anyone who argues the Chinese system uniquely allows for high growth rates indefinitely is just silly (or possibly Tom Friedman).

Why must China slow down? Because, as I've droned on about for years, eventually China runs out of peasants or places to put peasants in the cities:

For catch-up countries, growth is mainly about resource mobilization, not resource efficiency, which is the name of the game for lower-growth rich countries. Historically, about two-thirds of China's annual real GDP growth has come from additions of capital and labor. Mainly this means moving workers out of traditional agriculture and into the modern labor force, and increasing the amount of capital inputs (like machinery and software) per worker. Less than a third of growth in China comes from greater efficiency in resource use.

Those who expect China to stumble sooner may be making the mistake of thinking that the lack of qualitative growth makes the quantitative growth less real. But China's growth is real, different from our growth (not superior--just how would a "reasonably enlightened despot" in America make China's input model work here when we are long past that growth stage?), but not destined to go on forever even if we under-estimate how long China can keep plugging in inputs and get good results.

As an aside, the article says that housing will not be the bubble that bursts China since despite stories of "ghost cities" of vacant housing there is actually a shortage of housing in China.

So the question is when does China slow down? As an American, I can be excused for wondering whether China slows down before surpassing America in gross GDP. But the more relevant next question is what kind of effect will that slowing of growth have on China?

Although most Chinese have benefited from economic growth, the top tier have benefited obscenely -- often simply because of their government or party connections, which enable them to profit immensely from land grabs, graft on construction projects, or insider access to lucrative stock market listings. ...

At the root lies a political system built on a principle of unfairness. The Communist Party ultimately controls the allocation of all resources; its officials are effectively immune to legal prosecution until they first undergo an opaque internal disciplinary process. ... In a few years' time, China will likely surpass the United States as the world's top economy. But until it solves its fairness problem, it will remain a second-rate society.

One, I wouldn't count on America losing the top slot for good. Honestly, I worry about China. But I think we can cope with China's rise, China's collapse, or anything in between, and still be just fine. China's rulers are in more jeopardy in regard to the question of China's future than we are.

So the more important question is whether the prospect of remaining a "second-rate society" is what should worry the Chinese?

China is doing what other nations in east Asia have done. As I said, it is only the sheer scale of China that makes China's rise seem qualitatively different than Japan's, South Korea's, or Taiwan's rise. Doesn't China's size also make the effects of losing vast growth more unpredictable? And isn't the fairness issue between provinces of China at least as important as the personal unfairness?

We keep debating the future of China as a unitary actor. Why can't China have multiple futures? As I've written before:

With a state both cruel and failing economically, governing a continent-sized population with a history of fragmentation, I don't know why we need to guess which course the government of China will follow. The continent of China is big enough that it could follow all the possible paths.

There are many questions about China's future. And we don't know who will answer them.

From the Senate Committee on Irony

Unless they remove the word from the Senate rules, this is likely to be a meaningless gesture. (Tip to National Review Online)

And tomorrow, the Senate will go back to doing what they've been doing the last four years and somehow think they'll get better results.

Dreams From My Reset

Republicans in Congress, in light of the captured comments of President Obama to Russia's Medvedev that Obama needs "space" from Russia until after the election in order to be more flexible on missile defense issues, are wondering if President Obama has cut a missile deal with Russia that might not be in our interest. Democrats object to worries about what Obama might have done:

Democrats say the Republicans are manufacturing an alleged deal for political gain in the presidential campaign, and that Obama’s comments were merely reflecting the political reality of an election year.

Yet the Democratic defense--as reasonable as it seems on the surface--neglects the fact that Medvedev seemed happy indeed to hear our president explain that after the election our president would have more room to negotiate.

Given the paranoia of Russia about anything we do, anything that seems like a great relief to Medvedev does not fill me with confidence about what President Obama was hinting at. Lord knows what composite Russian leader our president believes exists in Moscow with whom he can make a good deal.

What that "political reality of an election year" is exactly is of great concern to me.

Data We Might Need

Anthony Cordesman has a long report out on Persian Gulf nation military power.

I can take or leave Cordesman as an analyst in regard to policy, but you can trust anything he puts out on events and equipment. He's thorough.

Just looking at the Iran-Iraq balance is disheartening. At least in the air and at sea, the cross-Persian Gulf balance lies with our side.

I don't think Iran could capture Basra, turn south, and roll through Kuwait and then reach Saudi Arabia's oil fields in the east (and then roll up the causeway to take Bahrain from the land side), but you never know what the Iranians might believe. They've been more prudent than that in the past, but as the clashes with the US Navy in 1987 and 1988 show, they can do stupid things.

This article is an interesting approach to fighting Iran if they try a form of psychological warfare by creating disorder in the Persian Gulf that they hope will inspire enough fear of oil insecurity to end the fighting. It assumes that Iran doesn't want to close the Strait of Hormuz, that the Iranians can't stop oil traffic with their attacks, and that we could best respond by staying out of the Persian gulf while we operate in the Arabian Sea and hammering Iran's assets with our longer-range weapons while keeping out of range of Iran's assets that can reach no farther than the Persian gulf.

The author has an excellent point. Defeating Iran doesn't mean we have to maintain a forward defense that gives no ground at all from H-Hour forward. If world oil supplies and reserves can be juggled to handle a short-term interruption of the oil flow, taking the time to destroy Iran's assets from a distance is the smart thing to do. At that point, we can then move into the Persian Gulf to close with and destroy the enemy that survives, and escort civilian traffic. I've already stated that carriers have no business in the Persian Gulf and it is an open question of what can be risked there in the opening stages of a war with Iran.

I have doubts that in the short run that tanker owners will decide losses will be at an acceptable rate and continue to carry oil through the Strait of Hormuz. And I have doubts that we can prevent Iran from inflicting damage on oil facilities on the Arab side of the Gulf in the opening hours or days of a fight. But it is valuable to understand that we can give ground in the opening days or weeks of a fight and it doesn't mean Iran is winning the war.

If we strike Iran's nuclear facilities, having an idea of what Iran might do in retaliation is a good idea. And knowing the playing pieces on the board is the starting point of that exercise. A lot of scary things that Iran might do are actually counter-productive. But you never know.

We should also remember that while we might view such a strike as a one-off and assume Iran will resume talking, Iran might believe we are at war and act accordingly. As far as I'm concerned, Iran has been waging war on us for over three decades--if our looted embassy and body count from Iraq directly linked to Iran is any guide. But it would be good to think of a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities as only one part of the opening act of a long war to destabilize and overthrow the mullah regime with the time our strike buys.

Remember, attacking Iran is a matter of national security and analysis needs to be deeper than tracking the effects on presidential popularity in October.

Tuesday, 24 MAY 88

Great pain. 4 mile road
march in pack. Back
out again from hand-to-hand.
Did well on BRM [basic rifle marksmanship]
Marched back, 3rd platoon trooper
"dragged" me for 1/4 mile or
so until we resumed march.
Then I made it.Back went
out in barracks. Hurt like hell.
PT after. Ran 2 miles plus
some exercises. God I'm tired.
Let this shit be over. Really
miss [fiance]. Feet have more
blisters. One looks like a 6th
toe. Sergeants don't like our
barracks. Got my bunk torn
up. Much work to do.
Very tired. Morale not too
bad. Tonight I finish 2
letters regardless of time
pressures. Must write [fiance]
and mom and dad. August 88!
Wish I could call [fiance].

Good grief. I'm starting to feel sorry for myself reading this! My miracle back cure was apparently not real. Now I can't remember if this is the day that I nearly allowed an amateur barracks doctor to work on my back or yesterday was.

We must have had to run in formation for a while. Another trainee let me hang on to his pack while we ran. My back must have been pretty bad. But I made it on my own marching.

And my feet continued to be a constant enemy sniping at me from below my ankles. God damn them.

But at least I felt like I was hanging in there. Really, the psychological pressure wasn't so bad and neither was the lack of sleep. And even the pain wasn't so bad since I clearly had gotten used to a lot of chronic pain as background noise. What was disturbing was the possibility that the accumulated injuries would exceed my hit points (man, haven't played role playing games in ages and that comparison still leaped to mind) and prevent me from finishing basic training.

And with a wedding planned for August, it would be difficult to explain that I couldn't make it because I had to start basic training over again. Not to mention the second year of graduate school waiting for me in the fall.

Oh, and our sergeants tore up a perfectly good barracks. It was torn up to impose stress and not because it was sub-standard. We had to put it all back together quickly and then get outside for the next training activity. I won't say there isn't method to the madness. But it was unpleasant.

And we'd only been in Fort Leonard Wood for three weeks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dreams From Their Europe

The Greek columns that President Obama is now famous for might have been far more appropriate than we could have known four years ago.

The "reality-based" community should really try to keep in mind that Europe isn't trying to fight their budget problems with "austerity" as much as they are trying to balance their budgets more energetically than we are. And in their haste to balance budgets (because they want to save the common currency?) they are not cutting spending as much as they are raising taxes:

European spending cuts, the argument goes, have hurt people and are arousing political opposition, while Obama's proposals to keep federal spending at 24 percent of gross domestic product indefinitely are likely to succeed.

Evil Republican spending cuts, in contrast, would deny the economy needed stimulus and wreak havoc on ordinary people.

But the facts undermine the storyline. Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University took a look at what "austerity" in Europe actually means.

What she found is that government spending has increased or not appreciably declined in Britain, France, Italy, Spain and Germany. The only significant spending reductions are in Greece, where the bond market cut off funding.

In the other countries, the big adjustment has been an increase in tax rates. European "austerity" is an attempt to reduce government budget deficits largely by increasing taxes and only to a small extent by reining in spending.

So when you hear from people who want us to raise taxes while increasing spending that we should learn from Europe's "austerity" failures, I hope we really do learn from Europe's so-called austerity program and focus on cutting taxes and cutting spending. If we can simplify our tax code while keeping it revenue neutral, I'll consider that enough progress. That will put us on a better glide path to lower annual deficits and eventually a spending surplus.

Who says liberals don't like faith-based initiatives?