Tuesday, December 09, 2008


Aluminium is made from bauxite and electricity. A great deal of electricity. I once read (in an unreliable green publication) that to generate the electricity required to make the aluminium in a typical soda can requires enough fossil fuel to fill the can about half full.

So I was pleased to see that Dubai has added some recycling bins near my flat.

The three new cubical recycling bins are next to one of the old cylindrical trash bins that have been available to keep Dubai clean since my first arrival.

One of the new bins is for aluminium cans, one is for paper, and the third is for general trash, the same as the old cylindrical bin, which remains available for use.

So I gathered up all my aluminium cans and old copies of the Gulf News and dragged them down to the recycle bins.

All three of which were, of course, already full of general trash, including such items as fast-food bags containing the remnants of partly-consumed meals. Still, I suppose such meals are wrapped in paper and aluminium foil, thereby justifying their placement in the recycle bins.

I added my aluminium cans to the almost full bin for aluminium, and my old newspapers to the almost full bin for paper, filling both almost to overflowing.

I am glad that Dubai is trying to approach recycling.

Even if it hasn't quite gotten there yet.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Day of Infamy Remembered, 2008

Last year on this date I posted an essay, 'The Inscrutable Occidental,' about how the Japanese could not understand the US mentality. Several replies were quite angry when I wrote that the Japanese could not understand how the US could shut down its economy, refuse to feed itself, then suddenly put everyone to work with the sole aim of turning Japan into Trinitite. Someone was quite offended, but it remains true that the Japanese did not understand.

This occurred during the very strange middle half of the 20th century: the 50 years from 1925 until 1975.

In 1925, the Great Powers were Britain and France. The US was perceived, including by the US, as part of the developing world. The US actually had a larger domestic economy than Britain or France, but both the Great Powers had huge mercantile empires, and controlled far larger economies than the US.

But the US was the leading producer of oil, producing a much larger percentage of world oil production than any country today. However, with the Great Depression, the US economy shut itself off, and the ripple effects crippled world trade.

The comment last year was that Germany had always wanted revenge for World War I. This was certainly true for the Nazis, but, in 1925, the Nazis were a small party without power. Only after the US Smoot-Hawley act and resulting depression did the Nazis and the Japanese militarists gain power.

But Germany had been totally emasculated in 1918 after losing the first world war, and no nation could possibly challenge the two Great Powers. And Hitler, convinced of their power, promised not to challenge them in 1938. But in 1939, the Great Powers declared war on Germany. Winter passed, and in the spring, Germany defeated France in a few weeks. A British documentary (which is very bad history) said that Britain was hanging by a slender thread, praying for rescue by the US.

And, on this day in 1941, Japan attacked the US, and Hitler responded by declaring war on the US. The Axis now seemed invincible, seemed certain to dominate the entire world.

For less than six months.

The US economy, shut down for reasons economists still debate, restarted, and produced more steel than the rest of the world combined.

I wrote that the US Pacific Navy was destroyed on this day in 1941, to which a commenter responded that only a small percentage of the ships in Pearl Harbor were damaged. He was correct, since only a small percentage of the ships were capital ships, and only the capital ships, the ones capable of carrying a Naval Battle to the enemy, were destroyed. One aircraft carrier was out on manoeuvres, and survived, but the US lost a carrier to the Japanese Navy shortly thereafter. However, in six months, the US floated a new navy that fought Japan to a draw: both navies were damaged to the point where they could no longer fight. In six more months, the US had floated a second new navy, one Japan could not duplicate. And in six more months, yet another. Japan was doomed, even though most of the US military might was directed against Hitler's Germany.

In 1945, the US crushed Germany and Japan, nations that had so easily obliterated the full military might of the Great Powers, and imposed an unconditional surrender, which included the requirement that the Axis take full responsibility for all the world's ills for the first 45 years of the 20th century. Japan honours its treaties, and recently fired a general for saying that Japan was not entirely responsible for World War II.

But the middle half century was only half over. In 1950, the US, which had easily defeated the countries that easily defeated the Great Powers was fought to a draw by half of a tiny country in East Asia. Anxious to prove that the US had not lost its edge, it then fought half of an even smaller country, resolved not to let the war end in a draw. Instead of a draw, the war ended in the ignominious defeat of the US.

How could the nation that had so easily defeated the nations that had so easily defeated the two Greatest Powers on earth be so easily vanquished by halves of two tiny, insignificant, undeveloped nations?

This remains the mystery of the middle half of the 20th century.

Only one thing is certain: had Bush, Jr., been president in 1941, as the respected analyst Peter Seagal says, he would have ordered that the US respond to Pearl Harbor by attacking Bulgaria.