Monday Miscellany, 2/5/24

Monday Miscellany, 2/5/24 February 5, 2024

Our “weak” military.  The first human gets Musk’s brain chip.  And a big problem with the primary system.

Our “Weak” Military

As war breaks out throughout the world, with some experts saying that World War III has already begun,  America’s military has been rated “weak.”

The Heritage Foundation’s 10th annual Index of Military Strength  has found that the U.S. military is under-manned, under-equipped, and under-prepared.  The study, described as”the only non-governmental and only annual assessment of U.S. Military Strength” found that “as currently postured, the U.S. military is rated “weak” and at significant risk of not being able to meet the demands of a single major regional conflict while attending to various presence and engagement activities.”

The study did an in depth assessment of each service’s “capacity,” “capability,” and “readiness,” and gave an “overall” rating of either very weak, weak, marginal, strong, or very strong.

According to a press-release based on the 664-page report, the Air Force rated “very weak,” needing 1200 aircraft but having only 897.  “The result is an Air Force that probably is able to handle only a single major conflict, and that only by resorting to global sourcing, leaving it unable to do much else.”

The Navy is “weak,” needing 400 ships to meet current demands, but having only 291.  It has also lost its technological edge to China and Russia, has “inadequate infrastructure,” and gives insufficient time to train crews.

The Army is “marginal.” The Army has less than two-thirds the forces it needs to deal with more than one regional conflict. “Although the Army has made progress in its readiness for action, it is still aging faster than it is modernizing and continues to shrink in size as it struggles to recruit young Americans to join the service.”

The new Space Force is “marginal.”  “While the capacity of strategic-level communications, imagery, and collection is growing, the Space Force is not capable of meeting current—much less future—on-demand, operational, and tactical-level warfighter requirements.”

The Marines are the only service that rated “strong.”  “The Corps sustained its efforts to modernize (which improves capability) and enhance its readiness during the assessed year.”  The Marines, though, are set up to fight one war or regional conflict, whereas the other services are supposed to be able to fight two.

Nuclear capabilities were rated “marginal,” still set up to deal with one potential nuclear-armed enemy, whereas we now have multiple nuclear powers to worry about.  We are also failing to modernize our nuclear weapons, all of which endanger our ability to maintain deterrence.

The report concludes,

“The 2024 Index of U.S. Military Strength sounds a loud alarm on the decade-long saga of our military’s decline—a perilous path marked by years of overextension, deployments, and a lack of prioritizing defense spending on what is needed to fight and win America’s wars.

Meanwhile, the Navy, in an attempt to boost recruitment, has announced that it will no longer require enlistees to have a high school diploma or GED.

The First Human Gets Musk’s Brain Chip

Elon Musk’s Neuralink project has just implanted a computer chip into the brain of a human being.  The goal is for the subject to be able to control a computer just by thinking about it.  Musk says that the technology will be helpful for the disabled.

But he has greater plans.  He hopes to develop the technology so as to allow humans to compete with artificial intelligence and preventing it from killing us all.

But greater still is Musk’s hope that Neuralink technology can give us immortality.  An article on the subject quotes him:

“You could probably save state in the brain. So if you were to die your state could be returned in the form of another human body or a robot body,” he said.

The billionaire compared this saving process to backing up a video game.

“There could be something analogous to a video game, like a save game situation, where you are able to upload your last state… Maybe lose a few memories but mostly be you,” he explained.

A Big Problem with the Primary System

After the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, we already have the presumptive presidential nominees, even though as many as 67% of the general public–including half of the Democrats–would rather have different candidates to choose from.  Is there something wrong with the way parties choose their candidates?

Geoffrey Cowan, who way back in 1968 helped draft new rules for the Democrats to eliminate the “smoke-filled room” method of picking candidates, has identified a problem with the current system that I hadn’t thought of.
The problem isn’t just that a small number of states can have an outsized influence over our politics or that the primary system locks in unpopular candidate choices so far in advance of the election. It is also that the system locks out alternatives: Thanks to changes in party rules over the years, it has become almost impossible for people to launch a campaign after the start of the calendar year of the election. This problem has been growing for some time, but it has become particularly obvious this year. . . .

Most states have now adopted rules requiring candidates who want to run in a party’s primary to register by the first week of the year of the presidential election.

Before, Cowan says, the intent was to allow candidates to jump into the process later in response to current events.  In 1968, Lyndon Baines Johnson ran for re-election, but the anti-Vietnam War senator Eugene McCarthy ran against him beginning in January, winning 42% of the New Hampshire vote held March 12.  On March 16, Robert Kennedy entered the race, which he would not have been able to do under today’s rules.  Two weeks later, LBJ dropped out, whereupon Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who eventually won the nomination threw his hat in the ring on April 27. Kennedy won the California primary on June 6 but was assassinated that very night.

The point is, things happen over the course of a year-long campaign.  Both of our presumptive candidates are advanced in years.  As things stand today, if Donald Trump should have a heart attack or his legal troubles cause him to drop out of the race, Nikki Haley would be the party’s only other candidate.  Though if she comes to the convention with too few delegates, which is likely, the delegates would have to pick some other candidate with no input from the primaries.  This would certainly happen if Joe Biden were to pass away or become unable to serve leading up to the convention, since with Biden cornering virtually all of the primary votes, Democrats would  have no option other than a completely open convention.

We would be back to party bosses picking their candidates in a smoke-filled room.  Or today a non-smoking room.



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