A Strategic Overview Of The Conflict Between Iran and Israel

As Iran/Hezbollah and Israel head towards a conflict that neither of them seems to want but neither of them seems to be able to avoid, it is worth stepping back and taking a look at the overall strategic picture between those two warring parties. Because of the high emotions that surround this conflict, the reporting is particularly bad regardless of which sides reporting you get. In a world that grows ever more divided, the Israel and Iran conflict still stands out as one in which it is particularly hard to get a dispassionate analysis. For this reason, I think it worthwhile to review basic facts that tend to get forgotten in the high emotions that surround this conflict.

The fundamental problem with most analysis of the conflict between Iran and Israel is that it often reduces the conflict to one of mutual hatred. Iran hates Israel and Israel hates Iran and so they fight. Therefore, the people talking about the conflict pick a side depending on their tribal preferences and hype up the conflict as if it was a sport’s game that both sides were trying to win. What this type of analysis misses is that both Iran and Israel draw benefits from the existence of the other even as they hate each other. To understand this paradox, you must look deeper into the strategic factors at play then is normally portrayed in your average news story. Continue reading

The Faith Of Christ And The Songs We Sing

What is faith?

When I was a young child I went to a live enactment of Peter Pan. We children were enjoined to clap our hands and believe so that Tinker Bell would live. Even though I was a child, I was angry and insulted that we were being asked to believe that my belief or lack therefore had any impact on Tinker Bell living. If it was up to me, she would have died on the spot. Fortunately for the script, the other children were more tractable.

Is faith clapping your hands and believing what the nice man on the stage tells you to believe?

There are many who grew up in Christian churches for whom the Christian faith is no different than children clapping their hands so that Tinker Bell can live. The lived it. They grew up in it. They found nothing but fakery and make believe in the entire experience. For them faith is a dirty word. An expression used only by charlatans and the credulous. Continue reading

Thoughts on Microsoft as a single point of failure

Yesterday I read an article on Ars Technica called “Why the US government’s overreliance on Microsoft is a big problem.” It was one of those things that I read that did not make the cut as I did not think there was anything educational enough in the article to be worth passing along. But one comment in the article about the reliance of Microsoft in effect creating a huge single point of failure stuck with me and made me think long after I could no longer remember what else was in the article.

One of the things that bugs me is when people talk about how to government should do this or do that to prepare for some possible disaster but don’t take responsibility for doing even the smallest things themselves. If people took even small steps towards preparedness it would make them less of a burden in those same disasters and in aggregate be more beneficial most things people want the government to do. So if you think it is stupid for the government to create a massive over reliance on Microsoft what are you doing in your life that makes it so you have alternatives?

On one hand, my reaction to those thoughts is that if Microsoft and its products ever fail in a systematic way I will have much bigger problems then if I have a spare laptop that can run a Linux distro or not. Also, I have limited bandwidth to deal with various contingencies and things like clean water or ways to deal with gas shortages seem higher on the list then the ability to use a computer.

On the other hand, this reaction is tempered by my recent experience with the COVID pandemic. If you had asked me prior to everything kicking off what would be the likely result of a pandemic, I would have talked about supply chain disruptions. This would have been no act of genius on my part. The historical record clearly indicates that those are common problems during serious pandemics and everyone pre-COVID who bothered to think about pandemics had the same concerns. So this was no great genius on my part but the experience of COVID showed that those concerns are well founded (even if in COVID’s case the issues were more caused by mass hysteria then any real impact caused by COVID itself).

But what I would not have predicted is that the single best prep for my extended family would be an investment in increasing the reliability and speed of the internet connection. In fact, if you had asked me prior to COVID if spending money on better internet was a good way to prepare for a pandemic, I would have told you no. I would have said that it was better to spend the money on backup power sources/greater food storage instead. And maybe if the Black Death came again I would have been right.

As it turns out, Black Death has not yet come again. And for our particular family and for the particular insanity that was COVID, investing in better internet was best preparation that could have been done even though it was not done for that reason. I guess the lesson here is that becoming more resilient is not all about preparing for the end of the world. Sometimes it is worth investing in a little redundancy in the things that are important to you just because you never know what kind of curve balls will be thrown at you.

I would not invest a couple of hours to make it so that I had a slim chance to play computer games even if someone hijacked Microsoft’s update system to bring down everyone with a windows computer. But would I invest a few hours to enable myself to still have some word processing and maybe basic spreadsheet abilities simply by creating a way to boot up my laptop on Linux if I wanted to? If the cost for doing so really was that low (as rumor has it) maybe it is something I should move up on my to do list.

A look at the thought process behind “Links for Today”

When I originally started this website, I felt that just providing links with no commentary provided no value. When I felt that the commentary I was providing was worthless and I did not have time to improve on it, I let the blog die for awhile.

A chance comment that let me know that someone missed seeing my links to stuff he did not normally see on his own lead to reactivation of this blog as a link centric thing that it is now. It might be very low value added, but it is very low cost to me as well. It adds very little time cost to keep a window open and add links to it as I go about my reading. My main trouble is to remember to hit publish when I am all done.

But even though it is low cost, there is editing involved. I don’t post to a link to everything I read. I try to keep it to things that I think might have at least one or two people besides myself who would find it interesting. And I worry that having too many links will crowd out the ones that are really interesting and of value to other people. So I thought I would go over the thought process behind yesterday’s links for the day and see if my readers had any thoughts on what added value and what did not. Continue reading

Theorizing On Why Russian Assets Have Not Been Used To Fund Ukraine

Stereotypically speaking, your average elite are in favor of more taxpayer support for Ukraine than your average hillbilly. But your average hillbilly is more willing to take seized Russian assets and give them to Ukraine then most members of the elite. As usual, the elite position makes no sense to the average hillbilly. You want to spend extra taxpayer money on Ukraine but you don’t want to spend Russian money that has already been seized? What kind of logic is that?

To be honest, I am a little bit in the hillbilly camp here. I am not sure I do understand the logic. But I have more faith in the average elite then most blue collar folks do in that I believe the elites usually have reasons for what they do. Often they are cowardly reasons. Often they are the result of trying to avoid making hard choices so that they can have their cake and eat it as well. But the hillbilly solutions are almost never as simple and consequence free as your average redneck believes. So I am presupposed to believe that there is a reason that your average elite is more willing to spend taxpayer dollars then seized Russian dollars to fund Ukraine. But that still leaves the question of why? Continue reading

The Problem With Most Demographic Doomers

In 1930 there were a lot of people who would have predicted that communism would be a major threat to the western way of life (including the communist themselves who had this as an openly avowed goal). The first “red scares” date to shortly after World War I and never went away as a concern for the religious, the small farmers, and the business elite. This fear of the communists would lead many to embrace or at least tolerate fascism on the grounds that it was a useful counterweight to the communists. No one up to the time that World War II started would have thought that next world war would have been fought against the fascists by both communists and the Anglo-Saxon world. Such an alliance would have been inconceivable to those who knew the level of hate and distrust between the ruling classes in the Anglo-Saxon World and the Soviet Union.

The people who predicted that communism would be a major threat to the Anglo-Saxon world were right. But those who sole matrix for looking at the world was communism and the huge threat it presented were often the most blind to dangers posed by the Nazis. Churchill was a famous exception this rule, but even he did not start warning about the rise of Germany until 1933. And his supposed fellow conservative Neville Chamberlain would write “The real danger to this country is Winston. He is the warmonger, not Hitler.” What is often forgotten is that Chamberlain way of looking at the world was the rule on the right and Churchill was exception. Conservatives by and large were blind to the threat posed by the Nazis because they feared communism so much.

Fast forward to today and many are obsessed with demographics and with good reason. There is no more sure guide to the future available to mankind then the study of demographics. We might not know how many people will die in the next 20 years, but we can say with a high degree of confidence what the maximum number of 20 year old can exist in 20 years time because those people will have been born today. And those numbers are so horrific for many countries that those who are aware of the numbers can’t stop thinking about them or interpreting everything they see in the light of those numbers. But there are more things that can profoundly change our world then just a free fall in the numbers of babies being born as bad as that can be over the long term.

Continue reading

In Praise Of Mike Turner

A while back Trump was praising himself for the increased spending by NATO countries that has happened during and after his time in office. Just to make sure he got a lot of air time, he threw in a gratuitous comment about how he would not defend and in fact encourage Russia to attack NATO countries that did not pay their fair sure. Predictably, this worked like a charm and all the shrieking Karens went around talking about what a bad man he was and how horribly irresponsible he was.

All they accomplished by all this caterwauling was to further convince the poorer economic classes that Trump was their man. All your working class people heard in all that screeching was a defense of NATO free riding on the poor working class taxpayer. And why should they pay for the defense of those effete snobs when the border is wide open and food prices are sky high?

Those attacking Trump fell right into a trap. Even the supporters of NATO acknowledge that many NATO members have been free loading off of the US. The dwindling military abilities of most NATO members has been a serious concern for serious military thinkers in the West for a long time now. And what has American’s feckless leadership class done about the issue all this time?

Contrary to Trump, I think the improvement on this front (slight as it has been) has more to do with Putin then Trump. But this quibbling about small details is not a productive way to counter Trump. Especially when any fair-minded review of recent history will show that while serving as president Trump brought more attention and pressure to bear on this issue than any other President in the post cold-war era. I think he did this mostly because his strategy is the find the weak points in the ruling classes that shun him and hammer them for all they are worth then him having an particular strategic concerns. Nonetheless, the fact remains that he did more on the issue then his contemporaries.

The below video gives a pretty fair overview of the situation including quoting Trump in all his glory….

Regardless of what you think about the above facts, those running around outraged by what Trump has said are doing nothing to improve the national discourse. But those running around being outraged by the ruling class are not doing any better either. All too often their arguments boil down to simply repeating that the ruling class is stupid and corrupt and trying to imply that all the problems with the world would be so much better as long as their messiah was made president. What is missing is people trying to explain the issues and facts involved. What is missing is people arguing about an issue instead of personalities. And that is where Republican Representative Mike Turner has taken steps to improve the situation. Continue reading

Newer Whirlpool Dryers Have Thermistors and Not A Thermostat

I recently had a problem with a dryer that was tumbling and not heating. Being lazy I immediately assumed it was the ignitor. When I went to school they taught me to do all the troubleshooting steps all the time and not make any assumptions. But the real world rewards cheaters nine times out of ten and so mostly I don’t do that. But if you play that game, you have to be willing to pay the price when the 10th times rolls around. In this case, it was not ignitor but I was not too upset about that.

I did a little checking with my meter, found that the thermostat was bad and moved on to order the new parts. The problem is that even though the part is called a thermostat, it is not a thermostat. At least in my education, a thermostat refers to a complete temperature control unit. Historically, this is a switch connected to some kind of temperature control. As the temp rises (or lowers depending on the type) the switch opens and visa versa as it closes. You can have other things that meet the definition of a thermostat but regardless you should not call something a thermostat unless it has all the control elements contained in it.

What the new Whirlpool dryers have is a thermistor. A thermistor is a resistor that changes voltages based on temperature. This voltage is in turn interpreted by a computer that is usually located some distance away although a lot of modern residential HVAC electronic thermostats have everything in one wall mounted package (and hence why they are called thermostats). However, in a dryer, the board that interprets the signal is separate from what they are calling the thermostat and so I don’t think they should be calling it a thermostat. It is a thermistor and should be trouble shot like one.

I am just throwing this out there because I did not recognize this just by looking at the part (in retrospect I should have but I have been running a desk for a long time) and I got confused by what my meter was telling me. It was a lot harder then a lazy person like me wants to work to figure out what was going on. All my normal google and youtube searches kept giving me instructions that took for granted that I had a thermostat even though that is not what I had. In the end, I figured it out it was no big deal. But in the off chance that google will work for somebody, I thought I would throw this post out there to help anyone who might be puzzled by what their meter is showing them when they go to check what they think is a thermostat.

The below is how you check a thermostat.

The below is how you check a thermistor.

Should the US Navy Protect All Commerce?

The below video is full of good information if you have time to listen to it (even though it is a video, you will not miss much by just listening). But in my opinion, it fails to address the complexity of this topic in a realistic way even though all the background information is good. The bottom line is that it is easy for any redneck to give the right answer to the above question. It is harder for people regardless of their education to understand and articulate the costs of that answer.

The root of the problem is that US economy is deeply intertwined with the world wide economy. When a ship got stuck in the Suez canal, the resulting supply chain disruptions were felt by factories in small town America. And that was true even though the issue was resolved relatively quickly and it was mostly non-US ships that were impacted. By the same token, it don’t matter who owns the ships or what they have on them, if the Houthi are impacting shipping, the US is going to feel the pain same as everyone else.

Moreover, these things don’t happen in a vacuum. Some people on the left thinks that this is only happening because of the Israeli conflict and if that goes away this will go away. But once you let something like this go unchallenged, why should other people who care about other topics or even just want to make money not try the same thing? If the Houthi get away with doing this with very little costs, it will encourage others with different goals and locations to do the same thing. In the end, failing to stop the Houthi will very quickly (over a period of years to be sure but that is quickly in my book) move us to the law of the jungle ruling the sea and resulting high costs for world trade.

But the problem is, America is the only nation in the West that is has any plausible ability to deal with this threat. Other nations could solve this problem if they made it a national priority and built up their forces over a period of years but right here and right now America is the only one who can plausible shut the Houthis down (that fact that America has failed to do that has more to do with America being unwilling to do things like massive bombing of population centers then any lack of ability).

This is one thing that video below fails to address. It is true as the video says that historically American has only protected American shipping. But what the video fails to address is that historically lots of other nations were more then capable of protecting their own shipping but no longer can. Even as recently as the 1980s, other nations had navies that enabled them to project power effectively (see the UK and Falklands although that was on the very edge of what they could handle). But it is no longer the case anymore and has not been the case for at least 20 years. This means that the safety of the Western World’s economic lifelines is almost entirely in US hands. Other nations can contribute a ship or two, but they can’t sustain the projection of power needed to deal with things like the Houthi on their own. And it does not matter if some abstract notion of fairness says that other nations should protect their shipping. The fact is that they can’t and US will pay the price for their inability along with everyone else.

This is what drives the Biden administration towards conflict with the Houthi. I don’t think they really want a war and if they do want a war the they are sure going about it in a half ass way. But almost any president or possible future president you can think of would do the same thing. They might do it more competently. They might do it with more gusto. Or they might be even more reluctant. But in the end, most of them would come to the same place because they know the voters don’t want another war in the Middle East and they know the voters will blame them for any economic problems resulting from trade disruption. So the incentive from the American voters themselves is to try to find some kind of half measure that squares the circle. It is hard for democracies to produce leaders capable of making effective hard choices because a hard choice is one that voters are not going to like either way.

In the long run, it don’t matter. Based on current trajectories of the US debt, American will soon be forced to stop funding a Navy that can handle such threats. Sooner or later the law of jungle will come to the seas. The demographic forces that are leading to the demise of the modern world will ensure that nobody is able to pick up the mantle when the US is forced to give it up. That is why on a practical level I think the redneck answer is right all along. Shipping disruptions are coming no matter what. The US will not be able to support the burden of keeping the world order from collapsing for very much longer no matter what. So we might as well start the adaption process sooner rather then later. The Houthi might be doing us a favor to help ease us along on the adaption process to what is going to come anyway.

But it bugs me nonetheless to see the issue addressed solely in terms of legalese or fairness with out an honest reflection on the real costs involved. It is a lot easier to blame Biden then it is to contemplate the nature of the systems that produce people like Biden and guide them towards the choices they make. It is a lot easier to say that “we should not be fighting the Houthi” then it is to say, “we should not be fighting the Houthi even if it means 10% inflation and the occasional empty shelves in the stores.” So most people go down the road of imagining that their preferred course of action has no real cost associated with it.