NPF: I'VE HEARD BETTER IDEAS

Posted in No Politics Friday on April 23rd, 2015 by Ed

The Cold War inspired a brand of apocalyptic thinking that one just doesn't find anymore. Sure, terrorism has caused more than a few people and societies to lose their minds with fear, but you lose some of the legit crazy when you remove strategic contingency planning from the battlefield and traditional State vs. State conflicts. I mean, it's not like the Pentagon is dreaming up scenarios for what we will do if we have to abandon the United States after it is taken over by ISIS.

We wouldn't do something, for example, like plan to salt the Earth with radioactivity while retreating from the onrushing Soviet armored columns.

In the 1950s the U.S. and its NATO allies (which at that time essentially meant Britain, and they were still having a rough go of things post-War) were planning for World War III under the assumption of absolute Warsaw Pact numerical superiority. They had more men, more guns, and more tanks than the Free World could ever hope to muster. This explains why Western planning so readily embraced nuclear weapons; it was assumed that it would be the only option left when faced with being overrun by the Red Hordes.

There are holes in all of this logic in hindsight, of course. It was what they believed at the time, though, based either on the information available or their ideological motivation.

The Brits, still preoccupied with rebuilding their nation and not interested in raising enough ground forces to keep Ivan from charging into West Germany, came up with a particularly efficient way of contributing to the defense of the Western World. Project Blue Peacock (also known variously as Blue Bunny, which is now a lethal ice cream, and Brown Bunny, in which we can watch Vincent Gallo get a beej) was a plan to bury nuclear mines throughout Germany so that upon retreat we could wait until the Soviets occupied the area and then give them a big, one million degree surprise. It's not the worst plan anyone ever devised, if it is a bit nihilistic even by Cold War standards. Here's where it went from sublime to ridiculous.

Burying what at the time was a relatively rudimentary device meant that the electronic and mechanical parts would get unacceptably cold and most likely fail to work when the crucial moment arrived. Some visionary in the Pentagon or Ministry of Defense came up with the bizarre if somewhat unorthodox solution of putting a couple of chickens in the bomb housing. A small amount of feed and water would keep the chickens alive for the 8-10 days for which the detonation timer would be set. Their body heat, although not great, would be sufficient to keep the electrical parts up to temperature. When the moment of truth arrived, these Service Chickens would then be the first victims (by microseconds) of the explosion.

In the pantheon of harebrained Cold War schemes, it's actually not the worst idea. Ridiculous, sure. Unorthodox, obviously. But it probably would have worked. It sounds positively dull when you compare it to things like Project Acoustic Kitty.

NARROW RANGE

Posted in Rants on April 23rd, 2015 by Ed

When you live in the Rust Belt, talk of Urban Renewal is never far away. With a few exceptions – Chicago, Pittsburgh, perhaps Indianapolis – the Third Wave of Capitalism has not been kind to this area. Pick any of the minor cities of Pennsylvania, Ohio, upstate New York, downstate Illinois, or Michigan and the story is largely the same: all the manufacturing jobs are gone, nothing has replaced them, and everyone who isn't too old or poor to leave has done so.

It's not like we're not aware of the problem. Every city has some sort of pie-in-sky plan about how they plan to attract, you know, all of the Buzzword Jobs. Hi-tech. Information. Knowledge. STEM. Etc etc. The problem is twofold: there are dozens and dozens of cities trying to do the exact same thing simultaneously, and all of them have the same strategy. They throw free tax dollars at private industry and hope that it won't notice that none of the attractive things a business would want are available. The workforce is poor and poorly skilled, the quality of life for transplants would be lousy, and the location has little logistical appeal. I mean, what the hell do the Saginaw, Michigans of the world really have to offer? There's a reason these places are sinking ships.

And the sad thing is, they still have it better than the Dakotas.

Unless you are interested in temporary work in the shale oil industry in North Dakota / Montana, what in the name of god would draw anyone to those places? Don't worry, they can't figure it out either. That is a very interesting link, a story of governments trying to figure out how to sell their states and cities when they have very little to offer that would be of interest to anyone under 60. Wide open spaces? Low cost of living? OK great, lots of places in the US can offer that. And most of them don't have Hoth-like winters that make residents regret being born. And they're not eight hour drives from a major airport.

I like to think of myself as a person who can come up with a few half-decent solutions to problems when I encounter them. And I can honestly say that I have no earthly idea what South Dakota could offer major industries or young, economically successful people to move there. Sometimes a place is perceived as a barren wasteland because it is a barren wasteland. The range of things it can do to attract residents is quite limited, and the range of things that will work is even narrower.