Category Archives: Other Issues

Posts on many other important geopolitical issues.

Tips to find the experts that help you see the world more clearly.

Summary: Today’s post continues our discussion about experts. Here are a few tips to help distinguish reliable and useful experts from those that dominate the news media, plus some warnings.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly.”
1 Corinthians 13:12

“Nature is objective, and nature is knowable, but we can only view her through a glass darkly — and many clouds upon our vision are of our own making: social and cultural biases, psychological preferences, and mental limitations (in universal modes of thought, not just individualized stupidity).”

— Stephen Jay Gould, Full House (1996)

How to pick out the real experts?

How to pick out the real experts?

We can only understand the world — even imperfectly — by seeing it through the eyes of experts. Journalists showcase experts, usually a selected coterie (note how the same few show up repeatedly in a newspapers’ article on each subject). Unfortunately, journalists’ criteria for choosing experts don’t well meet our needs. The catchy sound-bites they favor tend to come from the over-confident and arrogant, especially those that endorse the current narrative. Caveats, uncertainties, and long explanations — these are things seldom found in the news.

How can we find better sources to rely upon? How can we use them most effectively?

Evaluating experts

In my experience, one hallmark of a reliable expert is their recognition of uncertainty. The experts I trust recognize how quickly the world changes, its complexity, the severe limitation on the data we have about it, and the crude state of our theories.  These traits distinguish headline-grabbing experts from economists like Nouriel Roubini, Brad Delong and Paul Krugman, physicists like Robert Hersch, climate scientists like Roger Pielke Sr and Judith Curry, and others.

How they grapple with uncertainty makes them more interesting to read, in contrast to the boring black and white certainties that dominate the news.

These experts have another useful characteristic distinguishing them from journalists’ favorites: they admit errors. Half of what we know is wrong, and top experts work to find which of their beliefs lie on each side of that line. From example, Brad DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley) runs posts about “smackdowns” of his work, which practice I copied in the Smackdowns page (top menu bar). Krugman often runs columns about his errors.

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Women in combat are the real Revolution in Military Affairs

Summary: Women combatants appear in many of today’s conflicts around the world, a change in warfare with few precedents in history and perhaps the biggest change since the use of nukes. Recent examples include fighters in the Eritrean Wars, Middle East suicide bombers, soldiers in western armies, and in the Kurdish forces. With few historical precedents, except in near-mythological tales, large numbers of women in combat represents a real revolution in military affairs. Here we sort through the news for an introduction to this powerful trend.

Warrior Women

Fact catching up to fantasy.

Contents

  1. War by women in the developed nations
  2. The test for women soldiers lies in future wars
  3. War in the less-developed lands
  4. The democratization of warfare
  5. How will this revolution change war?
  6. For More Information

 

(1)  War by women in the developed nations

First let’s look at women’s increasing role in the military forces of the developed nations.

Some have gone all the way: “8 Other Nations That Send Women to Combat“, National Geographic, 25 January 2013 — Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Israel, New Zealand, and Norway. In these nations women serve in roles that include “engaging an enemy on the ground … while being exposed to hostile fire and a high probability of physical contact with the hostile forces personnel” (per a 2010 British Ministry of Defense (MOD) study).

The number of nations doing so is increasing. As in the UK “Women soldiers to serve in front-line combat units” — “Senior Whitehall source says that MoD is ‘leaning towards making the change’ to allow women in front-line combat units after a six-month review” (The Telegraph, 5 December 2014).

But things might not be what they seem, as Martin van Creveld explains in Men, Women & War (2002):

This argues it is all a great illusion: that the influx of women into the military, far from representing a world-historic step in women’s unstoppable march towards liberation, is both a symptom and cause of the decline of the military. The process was triggered by the introduction of nuclear weapons over a half century ago. Since then the armed forces of no developed country have fought a war against a major opponent who was even remotely capable of of putting its own national existence in danger …

The more superfluous they have become — indeed precisely because they have been becoming superfluous — the more society and its leaders feel able to treat them not as fighting machines but as social laboratories …

For more about his theory see his article “The Great Illusion: Women in the Military”, Millennium – Journal of International Studies, 2000.

(2)  The test for women soldiers lies in future wars

The test of van Creveld’s theory and of western nations’ commitment to gender equality in combat, comes when women return in large numbers of body bags. So far none of those nations have had large numbers of women casualties.

Women have died serving America in our post-9/11 wars, but in small numbers (reflecting limitations on their roles) — as shown by this Congressional Research Service report (OIF and OID are Iraq; OEF is Afghanistan): women are 2% of military deaths so far vs roughly 11% of total US troops serving there.

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Why we have not gone into space, & why we will.

Summary: In the 1960s many bright people, from scientists to science fiction writers, predicted that we would have a large presence in space by now. They correctly predicted we would have the technology. Why do we have nothing but a few small robot explorers? What will eventually draw us into space? This is a follow-up to Men in space: an expensive trip to nowhere. {1st of 2 posts today.}

Robert Heinlein predicts the future.

Robert Heinlein wrote “Where To” in 1952, giving predictions about the year 2000. He was bullish about space.

By 2000 AD we could have O’Neil colonies, self-supporting and exporting power to Earth, at both Lagrange-4 and Lagrange-5, transfer stations in orbit about Earth and around Luna, a permanent base on Luna equipped with an electric catapult — and a geriatrics retirement home.

… If you’re willing to settle today for a constant-boost on the close order of magnitude of 1/1000 G we can start the project later this afternoon, as there are several known ways of building constant-boost jobs with that tiny acceleration  — even light-sail ships.

{Total time for a constant boost roundtrip to Mars and to Pluto at two low rates of acceleration:}

  • 1/100 G………………50 days………………50 weeks
  • 1/1000 G……………150 days……………150 weeks

I prefer to talk about light-sail ship (or rather ships that sail in the “Solar wind”) because the above table shows that we have the entire Solar System available to us right now; it is not necessary to wait for the year 2000 and new breakthroughs.

Ten weeks to Mars, a round trip to Pluto in 2 years and 9 months. Ten weeks — it took the Pilgrims in the Mayflower nine weeks and 3 days to cross the Atlantic. … England, Holland, Spain, and Portugal all created worldwide empires with ships that took as long to get anywhere and back as would a 1/1000 G spaceship. … Even the tiniest constant boost turns sailing the Solar System into a money-making commercial venture.

In 1980 he updated that article, writing “By the end of this century mankind will have explored this solar system and the first ship intended to reach the nearest star will be building.”

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The number of children killed by guns in America makes us exceptional, not better.

Summary:  We take pride in our exceptionalism, the ways we’re unique among the developed nations. We tend to assume that these represent advantages, as if different means superior. Our far higher rate of gun deaths, many of whom are children, show the falsity of that belief — and point to ways we can learn from our peers.  This is post #1 of 2 today.

Kelbie Ray Nelson

Kelbie Ray Nelson

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Kelbie Ray Nelson, 13, died the day after Christmas in Blackfoot, Idaho, playing with a gun at his grandmother’s house.

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Introductions

For your viewing pleasure on Pinterest: 33 Accidentally shot at WalMart, photos of 109 Children under 14 killed in 2013, 90 photos of Children under 15 killed in 2014, and the growing roster of photos of Children under 15 killed in 2015. You also might enjoy the generic category of GunFails in 2014 and GunFails in 2015.

For something different peruse a list of 69 mass killing events during the past 3 decades (mostly home-grown Americans, not jihadists — so it’s OK).

 Two articles from the endless stream

America gets hysterical from SARS in 2003 (774 deaths) and a few cases of Ebola in 2014. A few terrorist attacks prompt massive pants wetting, and a surrender of our rights. But we accept the annual carnage from deliberate and accidental gun use as a sign of our exceptionalism. And so it is; we’re exceptionally mad about guns — as these articles remind us.

(1) Are Gun Accidents ‘Very Rare’?“, David Frum, Daily Beast, 20 February 2013

In 2007, the United States suffered some 15,000-19,000 accidental shootings. More than 600 of these shootings proved fatal. … The total number of Americans killed and wounded by gun accidents exceeds the total number killed or injured in fires. The number killed in gun accidents is 20% higher than the total number killed in all U.S. civil aviation accidents.

In 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to ban drop-side baby cribs because these cribs have been blamed for “dozens” of infant deaths over the entire previous decade. The 600+ accidental gun deaths in any single year amount to 50 dozen.

… The Centers for Disease Control reserve the term “very rare” for accidental deaths from vaccines, the number of which is zero, or close to it. If more than 600 people a year were dying from vaccines, we’d have a national uproar, if not a revolution.

(2)  As usual, the little ones get to pay for our folly: “Children and Guns: The Hidden Toll“, New York Times, 28 September 2013 — The Times gives heart-rending tales of children’s deaths, amidst horrific data about the totals and terrifying news about the NRA’s work to obstruct efforts to keep us ignorant about the cost of guns in America. Excerpt:

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Good news for your Christmas reading

Summary: For Christmas we deliver our traditional post of good and inspirational news, a break from our usual gloomy but inspirational service. Regular service will resume tomorrow. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to you all!

Christmas peace

Contents

  1. A special post about Christmas
  2. A video about Christmas history of America’s military
  3. A holiday reminder about gifts to those who defend America
  4. A real Christmas story, for which we should be grateful
  5. Good news about the world
  6. Posts with good news about America

(1)   A special post about Christmas

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From 2011, well worth reading:  I’ll Be Home for Christmas – Marines in WWII.

(2)  A holiday reminder about gifts to those who defend America

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  1. An effective way to support our Troops: help the Blue Star Mothers of America, 8 June 2008 — There are ways to support our troops, actions more effective than a bumper sticker on your car.
  2. Support the USO – more effective than a bumper sticker, 5 July 2008 — Another way to support our troops, more effective than a bumper sticker.

(3)  A video about Christmas history of America’s military

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(4)  A real Christmas story, for which Americans should be grateful

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Here is a Christmas story known to few Americans, which should be read by all:  Washington’s Gift by Thomas Fleming, Wall Street Journal, 24 December 2007 — “Our revolution could have ended in despotism, like so many others.”  Subscription only; an open copy appears at the David Gold website):

There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington — his refusal to take absolute power — that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today’s world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America’s eight-year struggle for independence.

Click here to read the rest

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Shootings by police show their evolution into “security services”. It’s bad news for the Republic

Summary: Many things show the evolution in America of police into security services. Such as their frequent disconnect from the communities they patrol, and their increasing use of military equipment and methods. Perhaps we see this most clearly in their casual use of force, often disproportionate to the situation, with a near-total lack of accountability. Here we examine the grim numbers. We know little, but what we know should disturb us. But it doesn’t, which is an ugly symptom of the Republic’s weakness.

Lethal Weapons

Lethal Weapons“, The Economist, 23 August 2014

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The number of law enforcement officers killed as a result of criminal acts:

  1. 2004: 57
  2. 2009: 48
  3. 2012: 49
  4. 2013: 27

There are 885 thousand law enforcement officers in America, as of 2008 (120 thousand Federal, 765 thousand State/local). That’s a death rate from criminals of 3 per hundred thousand per year.

Number of civilians shot and killed by police:

  1. USA: 409 (in 2012, per FBI, plus one death by “other weapon”)
  2. Japan + Britain + Germany = 8
  3. The US population is 17% larger; US police killed 51x more civilians

British police fired their guns 3 times in 2012.

In 1994 Congress instructed the Department of Justice to “acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers” and “publish an annual summary”.  They’ve ignored this, unlike their lavishly detailed account of law enforcement causalities. The total of 409 comes from voluntary reporting by the 18 thousand US law enforcement agencies. This article at FiveThirtyEight by Reuben Fischer-Baum and Al Johri explains why that is certainly far too low (more details here), and points to more accurate numbers. But we don’t know if the total is rising, or how rapidly.

Given this vacuum, attention has recently turned to some excellent nongovernmental attempts to compile this data, including the Fatal Encounters database, the recently created Gun Violence Archive and a new database created by Deadspin.

But one recent effort stood out for its apparent comprehensiveness: The Killed By Police Facebook page, which aggregates links to news articles on police-related killings and keeps a running tally on the number of victims. The creator of the page does not seek to determine whether police killings are justifiable; each post “merely documents the occurrence of a death.” …

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The feminist revolutionaries have won. Insurgents have arisen to challenge the new order. As always, they’re outlaws.

Summary:  Yesterday’s post took 2,200 words to explain a simple theory, because I took readers on a journey to “derive” the conclusions. Here’s the spoiler version, in which we “cut to the chase” — showing only the last section.

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Feminism is one of the big revolutions of our time, over-turning our concepts of romance and marriage. In response to its success, insurgents have arisen. It’s early days yet, too soon to forecast which side will win. Reviewers consider this one of the more shocking — and darker — posts of the almost 2,900 on the FM website. Post your reactions in the comments (at the original post). It’s the first of two posts today.

Settling for a beta

Feminism is a revolution, one with few or no precedents in history, now in the last stages of consolidating its victory.  We can only guess at the effects.  This post discusses one facet. I expect (guess) that as guys understand the new order, many will refuse to play. They’ll become insurgents — outlaws — from their designated role as beta males — expected to dutifully ask permission at each step of the romantic escalation (see “Feminism for Bros“), marrying a women at the end of her youth after she’s chased alphas (of whom she’ll dream), and dutifully supporting a family until and after your wife divorces you (40-50% of first marriages; higher for subsequent ones; most initiated by the wife).

Once men see the game, why would they play? An insurgency might begin, perhaps leading to a new revolution (or a counter-revolution).

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