Friday, December 05, 2008

Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Could I survive on nothing but potatoes and milk?

I heard it's possible to live for an extended period of time, not just short-term, on nothing but potatoes and milk. Is there any truth to this? If I could really get all the nutrients I need from just potatoes and milk, it sure would make my grocery shopping easier.

— Joshua B, Olney, Maryland

Excellent question, Josh. With hard times coming, we're all going to have to economize. The good news: A spuds and milk diet definitely has possibilities — the Irish, to cite the best-known example, got by mainly on potatoes until the infamous blight of 1845 wiped out their main course. The bad news: (1) Considering the quantities you're going to have to eat, you'd better really like potatoes. (2) If you're literally going to eat nothing but potatoes and milk, you risk — brace yourself — serious molybdenum deficiency.

More here.

U.S. says latest missile defense test a success.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military conducted a successful test of its system built to knock out long-range missiles that could be fired by North Korea or Iran, the Pentagon said on Friday.

The target missile for the test over the Pacific was launched from Kodiak, Alaska and an interceptor was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, officials said. The intercept took place at 3:29 p.m. EST .

The argument against missile defense has always been twofold: That it was technically impossible and that regardless of the technical difficulties it was destabilizing. The fact that these arguments were mutually exclusive never seemed to bother anyone that advanced them.

As it is becoming increasingly clear, what ever technical issues may remain with missile defence they are distinctly in the realm of solvable conundrums. That leaves the issue of whether or not missile defense causes instability.

There is a strong argument that nuclear weapons have a deterrent effect. Europe has (with the exception of Yugoslavia) enjoyed its longest period of peace since the Roman Empire. Despite the tensions and conflicts of the Cold War, both sides always understood that the cost of direct confrontation was far too high to be risked. In this sense, nuclear weapons helped ensure...well not peace exactly....but an absence of war. Similarly, Israel and their Arab neighbors have fought a half dozen wars since 1948. Then Israel got the bomb. Since then there have been no direct attacks by Arab armies on Israel (lots of terrorism though). India and Pakistan also used to go to war with one another every now and then. Once again though, once both nations became nuclear powers, direct warfare became to costly to contemplate. Here again though, that deterrence may have led to encouraging terrorism as as way of continuing the conflict by other means.

The fundamental assumption of a deterrence bases strategy is that your opponent is a rational actor AND that they believe that you will respond in kind. When considering opponents like North Korea, Iran, and pre-invasion Iraq the deterrence argument collapses.

History is riddled with dictators willing to inflict enormous suffering on their peoples for any number of reasons. Consider the nihilism of Adolf Hitler who was determined that Germany should be destroyed because it had failed him. Pol Pot or Chairman Mao during one of their genocidal purges or Kim Jong Il watching his people starve today. The assumption that those folks love their kids just the way we do doesn't hold water. We cannot rely on their good graces to keep us safe.

The other real problem is the credibility of our deterrent. If when we invaded Iraq, Saddam had used a small nuke and killed several thousand American soldiers...what would we have done? Responded with nuclear weapons, killing several million Iraqi civilians? That's what credible deterrence requires but somehow I really don't think that would have been an option.

The uncomfortable truth is that with a certain type of leader, you can't deter them. If a country has a leader who is willing to have his people wiped out to destroy the Zionists infidels you really only have to choices: Kill them first (the New York Times won't approve) or find a way to render his weapons useless. To do that you can either bomb them before they go online or develop a high tech solution to deal with an arsenal that already exists...i.e. missile defense.

The article is here.