Baltic Entente (1934-1940)

Russian soldier

Is it time for the U.S. to exit NATO?   Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Turkey are all members of NATO.   If Russia were to attack any of these countries, the U.S., as part of NATO, would be obligated to defend them.   Can you imagine any scenario whereby the war-weary American people would be willing to go to war with a nuclear state in defense of Latvia, Lithuania, or Estonia?   I can’t.  I also find it hard to imagine Americans laying down their lives to defend Turkey, especially if it transitions from a secular state to a fully Islamic state (as it seems to be doing).

George Washington’s advice to avoid “entangling alliances” holds true, especially if one reads about the hundreds and hundreds of European wars over the past 5 centuries.  I have thought for a long time that the U.S. ought to encourage those who are the closest to the scene and who have the most at stake to form their own alliance.

The article on the Baltic Entente was a good reminder of how difficult and ineffective such local alliances might actually be.  This was an alliance between Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania to defend themselves against the Nazis and the Soviets.  It ended when the Soviet military took over the Baltic states.  According to Wikipedia (“Baltic Entente”), the alliance failed for several reasons.  It could not agree on what its enemies were.  It was not a military alliance, so there was no military coordination.  There was no economic unity, only competition.  Finally, there was a lack of cultural unity.  (The lack of cultural unity is a major problem I have with Turkey being in NATO.)

To sum up, if you’re young, here’s a map of the NATO countries you’re obligated to defend, along with the date when each entered the alliance:nato_expansion

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Air swimmers

Air swimmers are radio-controlled balloons, the fins of which propel them.  Wouldn’t it be fun to put a whole bunch of these in a giant “aquarium” and have a computer control their interactions?

Other fun uses of balloons (or bubbles) include the following ( Wikipedia):

  • balloon helicopters (a full-scale one has been built!)
  • bubble wrap (originally intended as wallpaper)
  • light effects (e.g. glow sticks) carried by balloons
  • balloon-powered water guns and rockets
  • flogos, environmentally-friendly foam bubbles that retain the shapes of flowers, snowflakes, or logos:


Balloons have more serious uses, too.   A rockoon is a rocket carried aloft with a balloon to save on fuel.  An aerobot is a balloon used for planetary exploration ( Wikipedia).

Wikipedia’s article “fire balloon” describes a weapon that killed a pregnant American and 5 children out for a Sunday school picnic:

The Japanese fire balloon was the first ever weapon possessing intercontinental range, using the jet stream to take explosives from Japan to the United States during World War II.  (One landed as far east as Michigan!)   From late 1944 until early 1945, the Japanese launched over 9300 fire balloons, of which 300 were found or observed in the U.S.  Fighters scrambled to intercept the balloons, but they had little success; the balloons flew very high and surprisingly fast, and fighters destroyed fewer than 20.

In what might have been an ironic twist of fate, one of the last fire balloons very nearly set off an uncontrollable nuclear reaction in the U.S. several months before Hiroshima.  On March 10, 1945, one of the last paper balloons descended in the vicinity of the Manhattan Project’s production facility at the Hanford Site. This balloon caused a short circuit in the power lines supplying electricity for the nuclear reactor cooling pumps, but backup safety devices restored power almost immediately. As if explosives weren’t bad enough, the Japanese Imperial Army Noborito Institute cultivated anthrax, Pasteurella pestis, and 20 tons of the cowpox virus, the latter being enough, in theory, to cover the entire United States.  Such biological weapons were never deployed, however.


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Baldwin II (d. 918)


Would the world be safer if Malia Obama married the son of another world leader?

Baldwin II “strengthened the dynastic importance of his family by marrying Aelfthryth, daughter of Alfred the Great, of Wessex, Eng. (EB).  This made me wonder if America’s rivals had any sons we could marry her off to in the name of world peace.  It was surprisingly hard to find sons for her.  Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has two daughters,  Russian Premier Dmitry Medvedev has one, and Chinese President Jinping has one daughter (Wikipedia).

I started wondering when marriages for political purposes ended.  It seems that monarchies were the driving force behind this custom.  While most of the world was governed by monarchies in the 19th century, “currently there are 43 nations in the world with a monarch as head of state” (Wikipedia, “Monarchy”).

That made me wonder what forces led to the decline of the monarchy as an idea.  What caused this system of government to become unpopular all across the globe at roughly the same time?  Was it corruption, or is the explanation more complex?    Why did the British monarchy outlast so many of the others?  Are there certain kinds of societies that would benefit from a monarchy?  Are there advantages to a monarchy that a republican or democrat might not be aware of?

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