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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

An Upside-down Christmas Tree in China

In an earlier post, I pointed out that national fertility rates tend to fall wherever national income rises. While such is indeed the case in China, the drop is further exacerbated by the national One-Child Policy, which went into effect in 1979. Not surprisingly, there's now a big drop in the 30-34-year-old cohort of the Chinese population. As China's population growth slows to a crawl, there's some talk of eliminating the policy, or at least cutting it back further (only about a third of Chinese couples are currently subject to the restriction).

But actually, it's already too late. The pre-policy Chinese couples are already fast heading out of their peak childbearing years, so for an entire generation to come, the reproductive potential of the Chinese is going to be severely curtailed.

In order do their part to keep China's population from dropping, every couple consisting of two only grandchildren (the 'little emperors') would have to first produce six children just to replace themselves and their parents; then another eight to replace their grandparents! Obviously, that is not going to happen. Instead, as the larger cohorts of the population die off, the population will peak, then start a long and continuous decline--even if the birth rate doubles or triples among the remaining cohorts as they come of childbearing age.

That results in an Upside Down Christmas Tree.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

End Game in Iran

Counter Three Ramadans have come and gone since I first started writing about "the impending war with Iran." I'm glad to say that none of my bellicose predictions have yet come true, but at the same time it's clear that war with Iran is at least as immanent as it ever was.

For the last year or so I've let my blogroll link to Joel Rosenberg's blog tell the story, but this time I'm going to comment directly on his latest post.
Denver, Colorado — Evidence is mounting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is increasingly prepared to order a massive preemptive strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. Here’s why:
1. Iran aggressively pursuing two routes to nuclear weaponry, one via uranium enrichment, the other via plutonium.
2. Thus, Iran is steadily approaching the “red line,” the point at which Netanyahu has said Israel would have no choice but to strike.
3. Officials in Jerusalem do not see the Obama administration taking decisive action to prevent Iran from getting The Bomb.
4. To the contrary, Israel sees President Obama and Secretary John Kerry weakening their resolve and opening the door to indefinite negotiations with the new Rouhani administration, which they perceive as “moderate.”
5. Israeli military leaders believe they have the operational capabilities to destroy — or at least seriously damage — Iran’s nuclear program, but they have a shortening window of time, after which the task would be beyond Israel’s capabilities.
Now, the approaching deadline is the activation of the new plutonium-generating reactor in Arak. In the view of the US at least, the environmental damage caused by blowing up a working reactor would be unacceptable.

I'm beginning to doubt that such a threat would be enough to stop Israel at this point. Look at Operation Orchard--where the Israeli air force flew through Turkey to to Syria's norther desert and blew up a nuclear reactor being built by the North Koreans. Look at the numerous nuclear accidents in North Korea itself. It's clear that the aftermath of a nuclear catastrophe is no longer as unthinkable as it once was.

Which brings us to the matter of route and weapons. Israel is reported to have stowed MOABs at an airfield in Azerbaijan, which would allow a total fly-over of Iran without much of any warning. It's also possible that Israel would use low-yield nuclear warheads to permanently disable Iran's underground nuclear facilities, which are also far enough out in the desert to minimise the ecological fallout of such a strike.  I don't see an attack at this stage in the game being desperate enough to resort to that, though.