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November 17, 2023


I can see where Russia would like to have those supporting Ukraine, especially the US, distracted by other parts of the globe. Not least because Russia, for all its history of outlasting opponents, doesn't have the resources to do that unless it can shut down Ukrainian's allies. (And maybe not even then, given the endemic corruption inherent in being a kleptocracy.) The current loss ratios are just not sustainable, even with Russia's larger population.

China would certainly like to take over Taiwan. Their preferred approach is to get the Taiwanese to go for a "one country, two systems" deal. Having seen how that worked for Hong Kong, the Taiwanese aren't buying, but hope springs eternal.

The alternative would be to invade. But Beijing has been watching the war in Ukraine. It knows that, whereas Ukraine had minimal defenses in place, Taiwan has been preparing for decades. And the PLA last saw combat decades ago, in Vietnam -- which they lost. So, not an attractive option.

As for "the Levant", for all the nastiness around Israel at the moment, this isn't really the kind of existential threat to the US that raises serious concerns. Suppose (as looks seriously unlikely) the fighting grew to involve other countries in the region. Suppose further that Iran and Saudi Arabia could bring themselves to cooperate and coordinate -- not the smart money bet. Israel remains the regional military superpower, with nukes of its own to back it up, if necessary. The impact to oil supplies would hit some of our allies hard. But the direct impact on the US just wouldn't be that enormous. And even the indirect effects would be manageable.

In short, I'm only seeing two possible justifications for his position. 1) Arms manufacturers in the US would like their business to pick up and stay large in the long term. 2) Russia would like the US to decide that it would rather abandon Ukraine than expand munitions manufacturing. No idea where the Marathon Initiative's funding comes from. But it would be worth knowing before putting too much credence in his concerns.

The way that the conflict is imagined really underscores the US-centric nature of the worldview in the piece. I'm certain that we do have the potential for three concurrent conflicts challenging US government interests, and especially US logistics. It's fairly clear, however, that the US has less weight on its European foot at the moment than on its South Pacific foot. Were we to see a Chinese push to reclaim Taiwan, I think we'd also see the US stepping back in Ukraine and letting other allies in NATO take on a larger role. We've seen this trend happening already. So EU allies taking the lead on Ukraine, the US, UK, and Australia working to keep Taiwan independent, and Israel continuing to get monetary and material support from allies, but managing its own sovereignty - for better or worse - just as it has been doing.

And I'd expect things to trend these directions even without China deciding to risk action to make good on its territorial ambitions.

And while lj is thinking Battle of Marathon, I've just ordered a copy of Tolkien's Battle of Maldon book, and have the germ of a research project there.


The Amazon rain forest is experiencing a severe drought. Some of the rivers there have reached the lowest level on record. This past week, parts of Brazil had temperatures in the upper 50s °C (mid-to-upper 130s °F). And it's still only late spring.

Follow up... The Brazilian temperatures are heat index, not air temperature.

Follow up... The Brazilian temperatures are heat index, not air temperature.

whew. For a bit there Michael, you had me worried.

As for Mr. Mitchell, I play Risk thus.

What’s the wet bulb temperature? I gather that’s the best one for figuring out the effects on people.

Michael - My suspicion is that the wreckers are actively working towards rendering vast swaths of the planet uninhabitable, and killing off as many species as they can, as quickly as possible, so they can then say "Well, the damage is done. Too bad, so sad, but now there's no reason not to keep using fossil fuels, right?"

As for Mr. Mitchell, I play Risk thus.

Don't want to insult Risk players, it is a fun game, but when you start thinking the map is the territory, you are going to run into some problems.

Yes, wet bulb globe temperature is the best for determining how much heat a human can dissipate. OTOH, measuring it is trickier. Three thermometers: one dry, one wet, one inside a black globe. The last one measures the effects of radiant heat and wind. Wet bulb globe temperature is a weighted average of the three temperatures. The National Weather Service does provide a forecast of estimated WBGT here, but considers it experimental.

People still publish new models for estimating WBGT from commonly available weather measurements.

A remarkable resignation letter.

So, The New York Times is now without rhyme or reason.

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