This is why the US doesn't use the metric system - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

In 1793, noted French scientist Joseph Dombey departed Le Havre, France bound for Philadelphia. His mission was to meet with Thomas Jefferson and give him two of the rarest items on Earth. Unfortunately for Dombey, fate had other intentions and storms pushed the ship he was aboard well of course. And so it was that around the time he was supposed to deliver his precious cargo to Jefferson, he found himself instead at the mercy of British pirates. Being French in this situation wasn’t exactly ideal, so at first he attempted to pass himself off as Spanish, but his accent gave him away. Dombey was eventually taken to the small Caribbean island of Montserrat where he ultimately died before he could be ransomed.

So what was the precious cargo he was to have delivered as a gift to the United States? Two small copper items (of which only six sets existed on Earth at the time) — standards representing a meter and a grave, the latter better known today as a kilogram.


At the time, the United States, having already become one of the first nations in the world to adopt a decimal, base ten system for currency was strongly considering doing the same with the system of weights and measures to get rid of the hodgepodge of British weights and measures system mixed with others also commonly used throughout the young nation. Thus, with the initial strong support of then Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, and thanks to a desire to continue to strengthen ties between France and the United States, adoption of the new French metric system seemed close at hand. Along with a trade agreement concerning grain export to France, Dombey was to deliver the meter and grave standards and attempt to argue the system’s merits to Congress who, at the time, were quite open to adopting these units of measure.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Thomas Jefferson.

(Rembrandt Peale)

Of course we all know how this turned out — Dombey never got a chance to make his arguments and thanks to concerns about whether the metric system would even stick around at all in France, combined with the fact that trade between Britain and the U.S. would be hindered by such a change, the U.S. eventually decided to abandon efforts to adopt the metric system and mostly stuck with the British system, though the U.S. Customary Units and what would become the Imperial System would soon diverge in the following decades.

But as more and more nations came to adopt this new system of weights and measures, the U.S. slowly began to follow suit. Fast-forwarding to 1866 and with the Metric Act the U.S. officially sanctioned the use of the metric system “in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings” and provided each state with standard metric weights and measures. In 1875, the United States was one of just 17 nations to sign the “Treaty of the Metre” establishing, among other things, the International Bureau of Weights and Measure to govern this system.

Fast forward a little under a century later and the full switch seemed inevitable in the United States after the 1968 Metric Study Act. This ended up being a three year study looking at the feasibility of switching the United States to the metric system. The result? a report titled A Metric America: “A Decision Whose Time Has Come”recommending the change and that it could be reasonably done in as little as 10 years.

Unfortunately, the public was largely either apathetic or strongly opposed to making the switch. (According to a Gallup poll at the time, 45% were against it.) This was nothing new, however. A huge percentage of the time a given people of a nation have been asked by their government to switch to the International System of Units, the general public of those nations were largely against it, even France itself, who went back and forth for decades on the issue, contributing to the United States’ hesitation to adopt it in the early going. Brazil actually experienced a genuine uprising when the government forced the change in the late 19th century. Over a half century later, British citizens still stubbornly cling to many of the old measurements in their day to day lives, though have otherwise adopted SI units.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

So why did all these governments frequently go against the will of their people? Arguments for the economic benefits simply won out — as in so many matters of government, what businesses want, businesses often get. So the governments ignored the will of the general public and did it anyway.

But in the U.S. the situation was different. Not having the pressure from being bordered and economically as bound to one’s neighbors as in Europe, and being one of the world’s foremost economic powerhouses itself, the immediately economic benefit didn’t seem so clear. For example, California alone — one of 50 states — if it were its own nation would have the 5th largest economy in the world. Texas and New York state aren’t far behind when compared to nation’s of the worlds economies at 10th and 13th respectively, let alone the other 47 states.

Seeing lesser readily apparent economic benefit, and not having the same geographic pressures as in Europe, in the 1970s many big businesses and unions were in strong opposition to the change, citing the cost of making the switch and, on the latter side, unions worried that such a change would make it easier to move jobs that formerly used customary units oversees, given that now such product could more easily be purchased from abroad.

Swayed, when the 1975 Metric Conversion Act was signed by President Gerald Ford, it had largely lost its teeth. While it did establish a board whose job it was to facilitate the nation’s conversion and put forth various recommendations, the act did not have an official timeline and made the switch voluntary.

Nevertheless, contrary to popular belief, in the decades since, the United States actually has largely switched to the metric system, just the general public (both domestic and international) seem largely ignorant of this. The U.S. military almost exclusively uses the metric system. Since the early 1990s, the Federal government has largely been converted, and the majority of big businesses have made the switch in one form or another wherever possible. In fact, with the passage of the Metric Conversion Act of 1988, the metric system became the “preferred system of weights and measures for United States trade and commerce”.

In the medical field and pharmaceuticals. the metric system is also used almost exclusively. In fact, since the Mendenhall Order of 1893, even the units of measure used by the layperson in the U.S., the yard, foot, inch, and pound, have all been officially defined by the meter and kilogram.

Speaking of the general public side, nobody in the U.S. blinks an eye about food labels containing both metric and customary units (required thanks to the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act, with the majority of states since also allowing metric only). The gram is commonly used to measure everything from the amount of flour to add in a recipe to how much marijuana one buys from a shop or, where it’s still illegal, their local dealer. And if you were to ask someone to pick up a two liter of Dr. Pepper or how a person did running a 10K, most everyone in the United States would know exactly what you are talking about. Beyond this, you’d be hard pressed to find a ruler in the United States that doesn’t include both inches and centimeters and their common divisors.

Further, in school, both customary units and the metric system are taught. Yes, while Americans may generally have little practical need to learn a second language, most are, at least for a time, reasonably fluent in two very different systems of measurement.

As with languages unpracticed, however, once out of school, many lose their sense of the latter from lack of use and concrete perspective. It’s one thing to know what 100 and 0 degrees Celsius refers to with respect to water, it’s a whole different matter to “get” what temperature you might want to put on a jacket for. However, students who go on to more advanced science classes quickly pick up this perspective as they become more familiar and, thus, the scientists of America aren’t at the slightest disadvantage here, also contrary to what is often stated in arguments as to why the U.S. should make the switch a bit more official than it already is. All students that go along that path become just as familiar as their European brethren, if a little later in life.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Tamarcus Brown)

This all brings us around to why the United States hasn’t made the switch to the metric system more official than it already is. Primarily three reasons — cost, human psychology, and, at least on the general public side, little readily apparent practical reason to do so.

As to cost, while there has never been a definitive study showing how much it would cost the United States to make the switch official and universal, general estimates range even upwards of a trillion dollars all things considered. Why so high?

To begin with, we’ll discuss a relatively small example in road signs. Installing street signs is an incredibly expensive affair in many places for a variety of reasons. For instance, in 2011 the Washington State Department of Transportation claimed it costs anywhere from ,000 to ,000 PER SIGN, though they later clarified those were worst case and most expensive scenarios and sometimes the signs and installation can ring in ONLY around ,000. Bronlea Mishler of the DOT explains,

Installing a sign along a highway isn’t quite as simple as pounding some posts into a ground and bolting on a sign — that’s why the cost is so variable. There are two ways to replace a sign. One way allows us to install it under old rules; the second way requires us to follow new federal standards… The old rules apply if we are just fixing something, not building something new. Installing a sign alongside the road counts as fixing something — basically, just giving drivers more information. If we install a sign on the side of the road, it would cost: ,000 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets; ,000 for two steel posts and concrete; ,000 to clear brush and other landscape work before and after installation; ,000 for maintenance crews to set up traffic cones, work vehicles, program highway signs and spend the evening doing the work. Total: ,000…. The new rules apply if we’re doing a new construction project. Costs would be higher because we would have to bring everything up to the current highway code. These often involve putting up a sign bridge, a steel structure that spans the entire freeway to hold up multiple signs. Typical costs include: ,600 to make the sign, buy the beams and rivets because the sign must be bigger; ,000 for the sign bridge. Total: ,600.

WSDOT Deputy Regional Administrator Bill Vleck also stated, beyond many of these signs needing to be special ordered on a 1-off variety (think a highway sign with city name and distance marker) and often being much larger than most sign makers make, drastically increasing cost, some of the seemingly exorbitant costs are due to special features of the signs few know about. For instance, Vleck states, “If there’s an auto accident, if a car hits that sign post and there’s any kind of injury involved, the state is going to be liable, so we’re looking potentially at a multi-million dollar settlement in those kind of situations… [So] it would have to be a breakaway type sign post, and it has to be specially fabricated so that if a car hits that sign, it reacts appropriately and doesn’t come down and basically take out the occupants.”

For your reference here, in 1995, it was estimated that approximately 6 million signs would need changed on federal and state roads. On top of that, it was noted that approximately just shy of 3 million of the nations about 4.2 million miles (6.8 million km) of public roads are actual local, with an uncertain number of signs in those regions that would need changed.

That said, the rather obscene costs quoted by the aforementioned Washington State DOT would likely be grossly overestimated on a project such as this, with prices massively reduced if special laws were passed to remove much of the red tape, and given the extreme bulk orders that would be called for here, including for the signs themselves and contracts to dedicated crews to make this happen as fast as possible.

For example, in 1995, Alabama estimated they could swap out all the signs on federal highways for a mere per sign (0 today) on average.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Ludovic Charlet)

Perhaps a better rubric would be in looking at Canada’s switch, swapping out around a quarter of a million signs on their then 300,000 miles (482,000 km) or so of road. The total reported cost? Only a little over million (about million today) or around 4 per sign in today’s dollars.

Extrapolating that out to the minimum 6 million signs would then run approximately id=”listicle-2635564449″.5 billion + whatever additional signs need swapped out on the 3/4 of the rest of the roads not accounted for in that 6 million sign estimate. Not an insignificant sum, but also relatively trivial for the U.S. taxpayer to cover at about per person + some uncertain amount for the local road signs that need changed.

Moving on to far greater expenses — industry and wider infrastructure.

While it’s impossible to accurately estimate the cost of such a change to American businesses as a whole, we do get a small glimpse of the issue when looking at a NASA report studying the feasibility of swapping the shuttle program to full metric. They determined the price tag would be a whopping 0 million for that project alone at the time, so decided it wasn’t worth the cost for little practical benefit… Now extrapolate that out to the approximately 28 million businesses in the United States, their software, their records, their labels, machinery, employee training, etc. needing switched like some sort of Y2K event on steroids. Thus, while it’s impossible to know for sure, many posit the cost could swell into the hundreds of billions of dollars, if not even creep into the trillion territory — in theory at least.

At this point, even the most ardent supporter of the metric system in the United States may be rethinking whether it would be worth it to make the switch more official than it already is. But don’t fret metric supporters the world over!

To begin with, the raw cost of making the switch doesn’t actually tell the whole story here. In fact, it tells a false story — while the gross total of making the change would be astronomical, it turns out the net cost likely wouldn’t be much, or anything at all.

You see, beyond it noted that, for example, on average Australian businesses saw a 9-14% boost directly attributed to the switch when they made it, back in the United States when companies like IBM, GM, Ford and others spent the money to make the change, they universally found that they made a profit from doing this. This was largely from being able to reduce warehouse space, equipment needs, streamline production, lower necessary inventories, as well as taking the opportunity to, at the same time, remove inefficiencies that had crept into their respective businesses with regard to these systems. They were also able to more uniformly manage their businesses abroad and domestic to the same standards and systems. As a very small example, GM reported they were able to reduce its number of fan belts they had to manufacture and stock from about 900 sizes to 100 thanks to everything that went into the switch.

In some cases the businesses also noted new international markets opening up, both in sales and ability to more easily, and often more cheaply, acquire product abroad. All of this resulted in a net profit extremely quickly from investing the money into making the switch.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Fleur Treurniet)

As you might expect from these types of benefits, an estimated 30% of businesses in the United States have largely already switched to metric.

Granted, these are generally larger companies and various small businesses dealing mostly locally might not see such a benefit. However, with the increasing globalization of supply chains, many small businesses would likely still see some benefit.

Unfortunately, particularly when it comes to construction, that general industry has lagged well behind others in switching, and, as you might imagine, the existing infrastructure of the nation from roads to bridges to homes to drill bits to screws to the architectural plans for all of it being based on customary units would not be cheap to change and it isn’t clear here what the net cost would be. However, as in all of this, the cost could potentially be mitigated via a slow phaseout approach with grandfathering allowed, similar to what other nations did, though in most cases on a vastly smaller scale than would be seen in the United States.

All this said, we here at TodayIFoundOut would like to posit that what the international community actually finds irksome about the United States not using the metric system is not United States businesses who deal abroad or United States scientists or even the government — all of which largely use the metric system and all of which have little bearing on what Pierre sitting in his mother’s basement in France is doing at a given moment.

No, what upsets Pierre is that the U.S. general populace does not use the metric system in their day to day lives. Why is this irksome? Beyond just the human drive for uniformity amongst one’s community, in this case of the global variety, because English websites the world over, keen to get some of those sweet, sweet U.S. advertising dollars, cater to the U.S. audience and use the units that said audience is more familiar with, those not familiar are often left to Google a conversion to the units they are familiar with. The alternative is for said websites to include both, but that often makes for a break in the flow of the content, something we here at TodayIFoundOut regularly wrestle with finding a proper balance with.

This brings us around to the human side of the argument. To begin with, while the United States would unequivocally see many benefits to joining the rest of the world in some good old fashioned metric lovin’, as you might expect given the lack of immediately obvious benefit to the layperson, few among the American public see much point. After all, what does it really matter if a road sign is in kilometers or miles, or if one’s house is measured in square feet or square meters?

While some cite the benefits of ease of conversion to other units in a given system, in day to day life, this is almost never a thing that’s cumbersome in the slightest. If it was, Americans would be clamoring to make the change. The argument that ease of conversion between units should be a primary driver for the public to want the change simply doesn’t hold water in an era where, on the extremely rare occasion people actually need to make such a precise conversion in day to day life, they have little more than to say “Hey Google”. And in most cases, even that isn’t necessary when you’re reasonably familiar with a given system.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by Makarios Tang)

Perhaps a poignant example of how, when you’re familiar, a non base 10 system of measure really isn’t that complicated to deal with in day to day matters, consider that the world still uses 1000 milliseconds in a second, 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. What few realize about this is that the original metric system actually attempted to simplify this as well, dividing the day into 10 hours, with 100 minutes in each hour, etc. Unfortunately, most people didn’t see the benefit in switching when also factoring in having to swap out their existing clocks. Nobody has much seen a need to fix the issue since, not even the most ardent champion of the metric system for its ease of conversions compared with imperial or customary units.

And while you might still be lamenting the stubbornness of Americans for not seeing the genuine benefits to themselves that would likely be realized here, we should point out that virtually every nation in the world that uses the metric system has holdover units still relatively commonly used among laypeople that aren’t metric, for simple reasons of not seeing a reason to stop, from calories to horsepower to knots to lightyears and many more. Or how about, have you ever flown on a plane almost anywhere in the world? Congratulations, you’ve in all liklehood unwittingly been supporting the use of something other than the metric system. You see, the pilots aboard, from French to American, use a feet based, Flight Level, system for their altitude, and knots to measure their speed. Just two standards that, much like the American public and their road signs, nobody has seen much practical reason to change.

Now to more concrete human psychology for not making the switch, which has gradually been converting more and more Americans from general apathy to the anti-switch crowd as the decades pass — when one group of humans tells another group what to do, occasionally using terms like “idiot units” and starting flame wars in comments of every website or video posted on the web that uses or discusses said units- you will universally get resistance if not outright hostility in response. This is not an American thing, as so often is purported- this is a human thing.

Try forcing the French government to mandate by law that French is dead and English is now to be universal spoken for the sake of better international trade, economics, and relations. You might argue that in a not insignificant percentage of the world English is already the standard in such international business dealings, but that is really little different than the current situation in business in the U.S. concerning the metric system. What we’re talking about is how the general populace of France would react if the government mandated such a change, and even more so if outside nations were pressuring it. Again, it’s not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

Beyond that, as anyone whose ever done anything online is well aware of — humans hate change. Loathe it. Make any change to, say, a format or style of video, no matter how small, and rest assured no matter if the change is unequivocally vastly superior and the audience universally comes to agree with that, a not insignificant number of one’s audience will complain, sometimes vehemently, at first. More directly we see this again and again throughout the history of various nations making the change to SI. Again, resistance of change is not an American thing — it’s a human thing.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Photo by patricia serna)

But fret not world. You see, slowly but surely the United States has been converting to metric and, for most practical purposes for those outside of the United States, other than having to see it on websites (which, again, we posit is the real driver of people’s ire the world over), the switch has already been made. So much so that at this stage while the cars made in America may say miles per hour on the speedometer, the makers of those cars are using metric to measure and build the things. The very military that defends American’s right to use “Freedom Units” has long since largely converted to the un-free variety.

In the end, money talks, and, for much the same reason other big holdouts like the UK ultimately gave in, as American businesses who have interest in dealing internationally continue to make the switch, they are seeing to it that the metric system more and more creeps into the daily lives of Americans. This will only continue until the inevitable complete adoption. Slowly but surely America is inching towards metric, largely without anyone domestic or abroad noticing.

Want to make the switch take longer? Continue calling them “idiot units”, a mildly humorous statement from a certain point of view given that it takes more brainpower to use customary units than metric, making the latter far more tailored to idiots. And continue to start flame wars in comments comprising mostly of personal attacks rather than using the many and very legitimate and rational arguments that exist as to why it would be of benefit for the people of the United States to make the switch. In the end, we all know there is no better way to convince someone to do something than making the whole thing a religious war, with you on one side and they on the other…

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch the USS Constitution fire a cannon for the Marines birthday

The United States Marine Corps turned 244 on Nov. 10, 2019. To celebrate, the Devil Dogs probably did whatever it is Marines do after their respective Marine Corps Balls. The U.S. Navy, often called the Marines’ Taxi Service, laid aside sibling rivalry for the day, and fired a shot from the oldest warship in the Navy and the only active ship to have sunk an enemy in combat, the USS Constitution, in their honor.

They even let a Marine pull the trigger.


The Constitution was first laid as a 44-gun frigate in 1794, outfitted with 24-pound long guns and 32-pound carronades. In combat, she would carry around 54 guns. The carronades would be on the spar deck, a long 18-pound “chase” gun would be mounted forward, and 30 24-pounders would be loaded on the gun deck. The guns on her gun deck, like the one fired by the Sergeant of Marines in the above video, are not her original guns. In 1883, Constitution became a housing ship for sailors in the port of Boston, and her guns were removed. They were soon replaced, however, with replica guns.

Her centennial refit saw 55 replica guns made for the ship by the end of 1931. Cast in the Charleston Navy Yard in 1929, these are the guns aboard her today. Two War of 1812-era carronade replicas were placed aboard in 1981. All her guns were restored and refurbished during Constitution’s 21st-Century restoration.

The only problem with the ship’s new guns is that they were never intended to be fired. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Constitution’s commanding officer decided it would be a novel idea for the oldest active warship in the U.S. Navy to be able to give a salute from its era. Two of the 24-pound long guns were sent to the Naval Ordnance Station in Louisville, Ky. to be retrofitted to fire a saluting charge in time for the United States Bicentennial Celebration.

The Marines aren’t the only ones who receive a salute from the USS Constitution. Past recipients include anyone from Chief Petty Officer selectees to Queen Elizabeth II. The day after the Queen received the salute, she boarded Constitution for a tour with Prince Philip. It was the only time a reigning British monarch ever stepped foot aboard the ship.

It seems we’ve been forgiven for the whole HMS Guerriere incident.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what happened when a newspaper called John Wayne a ‘fraud’

John Wayne never was able to join the military — when the draft first started in 1939, the then-unknown actor had a 3-A deferment because he was the sole supporter of four children — but that didn’t stop him from hopping in an armored personnel carrier and mounting an invasion with the 5th Armored Cavalry Troop. He had a cigar clenched in his teeth.

He was about to lead the U.S. Army in an invasion of Harvard University.


In January, 1974, the Duke invaded Harvard Square with some of the Army’s finest in response to a letter he received from the campus satirical newspaper, The Harvard Lampoon. In the letter, the paper said,

“You’re not so tough, the halls of academia may not be the halls of Montezuma and maybe ivy doesn’t smell like sagebrush, but we know a thing or two about guts.”

The paper then challenged the conservative Wayne to come to Harvard, a place The Harvard Lampoon described as, “the most intellectual, the most traditionally radical, in short, the most hostile territory on Earth.” They were challenging the actor to come to Harvard and debate against the students who called him, “the biggest fraud in history.”

Wayne accepted.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

The letter was purely goading, but John Wayne wasn’t about to let that bother him — he took the opportunity to visit in style.

He mounted the procession from the halls of The Harvard Lampoon’s on-campus castle, then drove to the door of the Harvard Square Theater through policemen, television crews, ‘Poonies dressed in tuxedos, students, and even some Native American protesters. There was even a marching band in his honor. In the heart of liberal Harvard, the conservative actor was met by thousands of admirers.

After signing autographs for a while, he took the stage. The first thing representatives of The Harvard Lampoon did was present Wayne with a trophy — made of just two brass balls. It was created just for him and awarded simply for coming to Harvard.

“I accepted this invitation over a wonderful invitation to be at a Jane Fonda rally,” he joked.

The Duke graciously accepted the award, noting that their previous guest was porn starlet Linda Lovelace and that seeing his invitation in a unmarked brown envelope was akin to being asked to lunch with the Borgias, a reference to the historical family’s propensity for murdering their guests.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

With the pleasantries out of the way, Harvard’s debate with John Wayne, a spokesman for the right, began. Taking questions from the audience, the Duke sat on a chair on the stage. The New York Times described the debate as one with “little antagonism, the questions often whimsical and the actor frequently drew loud applause.”

John Wayne was a conservative in his political views, but he answered the students’ questions thoughtfully and honestly, often with a wry smile. Asked what he thinks of women’s lib, he said:

“I think they have a right to work anywhere they want to [long pause] as long as they have dinner ready when we want it.”

The only question he seemed to rebuff was one asked about his testifying against fellow Hollywood personalities during the Communist witch hunts of the 1950s, which led to some being placed on the infamous Hollywood blacklist. The actor said he could not hear the question, even when it was repeated.

“Is your toupee made of mole hair?” One student asked. “No,” the Duke replied. “That’s real hair. It’s not my hair, but it’s real hair.”

Today, John Wayne and Harvard doesn’t seem like a controversial mixture. In 1974, however, the students at Harvard were very much anti-establishment and John Wayne was a symbol of everything they mistrusted about their country, its history, and its government — especially while the Vietnam War and the draft remained a very recent memory.

By 1974, Wayne’s career was threatened by his well-known politics, so it’s not really an exaggeration to say the actor was on his way into hostile territory. The Lampoon ended up doing what amounted to a celebrity roast with Wayne and he took it with a smile, even adding some funny jabs of his own:

“Has President Nixon ever given you any suggestions for your movies?” a student asked. “No, they’ve all been successful,” came the reply.

John Wayne never lost his sense of humor over politics — a lesson we should all take to heart today, liberal and conservative alike. What could have been a moment of sharp political divisiveness was settled with good humor and in the end, thunderous applause.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Restored P-51 Mustang returns for mission over Germany

A restored P-51 Mustang, once flown by the late Brig. Gen. Robin Olds, iconic US Air Force fighter pilot, flew with 480th Fighter Squadron F-16 Fighting Falcons during an event at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

The event included aerial maneuvers by the P-51, formation flight training with F-16s and a presentation about Robin’s accomplishments by his daughter, Christina Olds.

Robin was a triple-ace fighter pilot who had 16 kills by the end of his career. The P-51 that arrived to Spangdahlem, named SCAT VII, was Robin’s seventh airplane which he flew in the last days of World War II. It was restored and is still flying around Europe in the same color scheme it had nearly 75 years ago.


This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

SCAT VII, a P-51 Mustang, on the runway at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Preston Cherry)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, over Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside four F-16C Fighting Falcons at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, with an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Scat VII, a P-51 Mustang once flown by triple-ace fighter pilot Robin Olds, alongside an F-16C Fighting Falcon at Spangdahlem Air Base, May 28, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Roidan Carlson)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the habitation prototypes for NASA’s ‘Moon-to-Mars’ mission

Over the next several months, NASA will conduct a series of ground tests inside five uniquely designed, full-size, deep space habitat prototypes. The mockups, constructed by five American companies, offer different perspectives on how astronauts will live and work aboard the Gateway — the first spaceship designed to stay in orbit around the Moon, providing the critical infrastructure needed for exploration, science and technology demonstrations on the lunar surface.

NASA doesn’t plan to select one habitat prototype to advance to flight — rather, the tests will help NASA evaluate the design standards, common interfaces, and requirements for a future U.S. Gateway habitat module, while reducing risks for eventual flight systems.

“These tests were formulated so that we can do a side-by-side comparison of very different and innovative concepts from U.S. industry,” said Marshall Smith, who leads human lunar exploration programs at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “While we won’t dictate a specific design when we procure the U.S. habitat, we will enter the procurement phase with far less risk because of the knowledge we gain from these tests.”


NASA assembled a team from across the agency and from U.S. industry to conduct these tests. Engineers and technicians will analyze habitat system capabilities and performance proposed by each prototype concept, while human factors teams consider layout and ergonomics to optimize efficiency and performance. During the tests, future Gateway flight operators at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will collect actual live telemetry streams from each prototype. Flight operators will monitor habitat performance and support realistic mission activities as astronauts conduct “day-in-the-life” procedures within each habitat prototype, providing their perspectives as potential crew members who may one day live and work aboard the Gateway.

In addition to the physical enclosure, each company has outfitted their prototype with the basic necessities to support humans during deep space expeditions — including environmental control and life support systems, avionics, sleeping quarters, exercise equipment, and communal areas.

The prototypes

The NextSTEP Habitation effort began in 2015 with four companies completing year-long concept studies. Those studies set the foundation for prototype development from 2016-2018 — this time with five companies submitting concepts. Their prototype approaches are listed below, as well as a concept study outline from a sixth company, NanoRacks:

1. Lockheed Martin — Testing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

The Lockheed Martin prototype is based on a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM), which was originally designed to provide logistics capabilities for the International Space Station. The design leverages the capabilities of Lockheed’s robotic planetary spacecraft and the Orion capsule that will transport astronauts to and from the Gateway. The prototype includes a reconfigurable space that could support a variety of missions, and combines hardware prototyping and software simulation during the test.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Concept image of Lockheed Martin’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.

(Lockheed Martin)

2. Northrop Grumman — Testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Texas

Northrop Grumman’s prototype leverages the company’s Cygnus spacecraft that delivers supplies to the International Space Station. The Cygnus took its maiden flight in 2013, and is already human-rated. Northrop Grumman’s habitat mockup focuses on providing a comfortable, efficient living environment as well as different internal configuration possibilities.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Concept image of Northrop Grumman’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.

(Northrop Grumman)

3. Boeing — Testing at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama

Proven space station heritage hardware is the key ingredient in Boeing’s Exploration Habitat Demonstrator. Named the prime space station contractor in 1993, the company developed multiple space station elements. Their demonstrator will leverage heritage assets, with a focus on optimizing interior volume, with isolated areas offering the capability to use different atmospheres for payloads without impacting cabin atmosphere.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Concept image Boeing’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.

(Boeing)

4. Sierra Nevada Corporation — Testing at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas

Sierra Nevada’s Large Inflatable Fabric Environment (LIFE) habitat is designed to launch in a compact, “deflated” configuration, then inflate once it’s in space. The benefit of inflatables (also called expandables) is their final configuration is capable of providing much larger living space than traditional rigid structures, which are limited in size by the payload volume of the rocket used to launch it. The LIFE Prototype inflates to 27 ft in diameter and simulates three floors of living areas.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Concept image of Sierra Nevada’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.

(Sierra Nevada Corporation)

5. Bigelow Aerospace — Testing at Bigelow Aerospace, North Las Vegas, Nevada

Bigelow’s B330 prototype is an expandable module that expands in space, as its name suggests, to provide 330 cubic meters of livable area. Bigelow sent a smaller module, the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) to the space station in 2015, where astronauts expanded the structure live on NASA Television with compressed air tanks. The BEAM completed a two-year demonstration aboard the station, proving soft-goods resilience to the harsh space environment. Following its demonstration period, NASA extended BEAM’s time aboard the station to become a storage unit.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Concept image Bigelow’s Gateway concept featuring their habitat design.

(Bigelow Aerospace)

6. NanoRacks — concept study

NanoRacks has proposed yet another concept to maximize habitable volume for Gateway astronauts. The company’s idea is to refurbish and repurpose a spent rocket propellant tank, leveraging the natural vacuum of space to flush the tank of residual propellants. The company completed a feasibility study outlining the concept and next plans to develop full-scale prototypes demonstrating robotics development, outfitting and systems integration to convert the tank into a deep space habitat.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Concept image of NanoRack’s habitat concept docked to the International Space Station.

(NanoRacks)

Operational-driven engineering

“This prototyping approach allows us to design, build, test and refine the habitat long before the final flight version is developed,” said NASA astronaut Mike Gernhardt, principal investigator of the agency’s habitation prototype test series. “We are using this operational-driven engineering approach to gain an early understanding of exactly what we need to address the mission, thereby reducing risk and cost.”

Using this approach, the builders, operators, and future users of the Gateway work together to evaluate concepts earlier and more completely, which helps NASA move forward to the Moon as early as possible.

The Gateway will be a temporary home and office for astronauts farther in space than humans have ever been before, and will be a home base for astronaut expeditions on surface of the Moon, and for future human missions to Mars. The NextSTEP approach bolsters American leadership in space, and will help drive an open, sustainable and agile lunar architecture.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

At the height of the second World War, the U.S. military was devising a means to fire bomb Japan (and Japan was doing the same for the U.S.). Still a few years out from the Manhattan Project being completed, the First Lady’s dentist friend, Lytle S. Adams, came up with a disastrous and inhumane plan — attach tiny napalm bombs to a million Mexican free-tailed bats.


It was called the “bat bomb.”

The Mexican free-tailed bat is one of the most abundant mammals in North America. Known for having the fastest horizontal speed of any animal, the species was also considered because female bats could carry much more weight than themselves (because they need carry their babies until they can fly.)

They can also be induced into hibernation, making them easy to handle. And instinctively, bats seek out dark places during the daytime. So without a cave, they’ll take shelter in buildings.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Look at this little guy. Why would you consider weaponizing this?

“This man is not a nut. It sounds like a perfectly wild idea but is worth looking into,” a President Roosevelt’s memorandum concluded. So Project X-Ray was given a cautious green-light.

The idea was to strap timer-detonated napalm packets onto the bat, fill a case with around forty bats, drop the bomb over a Japanese village at night, and by the time morning arrived, the bats would detonate the mostly paper and wood buildings.

At first, it didn’t work. The lightest they could make an incendiary device was two pounds. Still thirty times the weight of the bat. They would fall like rocks.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Poor little guy. He just wants to serve his country.

Louis Fieser, the inventor of napalm, was then attached to the project. With his new weapon, he could shrink the individual capsule of napalm down to half an ounce. Since napalm is a liquid, it would also be more devastating when it seeped into the cracks. So testing began again.

Related: 5 insane military projects that almost happened

With the new light-weight devices, it still didn’t work. Explosive-carrying bats burnt down much of Carlsbad Army Airfield. They broke free of their handlers and incinerated the test range when they roosted under a fuel tank and the General’s car. This didn’t stop them from testing the bat bomb. It was just further proof that it could work.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Wow. The explosive carrying bats blew stuff up. Didn’t see that one coming.

The project was then tossed to the Marine Corps; and it still didn’t work. Millions of dollars were tossed into the project and over 30 demonstrations later, the atomic bomb was finished. There was no more need for the bat bombs.

Bats: 3

Mad scientist dentists: 0

(KingCitaldo125, YouTube)

Also read: These animals fought like animals on the battlefield

MIGHTY HISTORY

The US plan to completely destroy Germany after World War II

It’s one of those bizarre twists of history that might have changed the world as we know it, if not just for a small tweak. Believe it or not, the Allied plan for Germany wasn’t all Marshall Plan and Berlin Airlift from the get-go. While they also weren’t about to be nuked, a lot of animosity still remained after the fall of Nazism. World War I was about as far removed from World War II as Operation Desert Storm is from the US-led invasion of Iraq. A lot of people still hated Germany for the Great War – a war it didn’t even start. So they really hated Germany for what it did during World War II.

One of the people who hated Germany and wanted to take it out for good was Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr. – and he was almost President of the United States.


This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

He doesn’t seem intimidating now, but keep reading.

When President Roosevelt died in April 1945, Vice President Truman took office. Shortly after that, Secretary of State Edward Stettinius Jr. resigned his post. That left Morgenthau next in the Presidential line succession. President Truman, of course, finished out Roosevelt’s term and then some, but had President Morgenthau taken control of what was now a global superpower, his plans for postwar Europe would have had dramatic consequences on world history.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

A page from Morgenthau’s 1945 work, “Germany Is Our Problem.”

Morgenthau wanted not only subdivide Germany into smaller parts, he wanted to wreck all of its industrial capabilities. In order to keep Germans from making armaments, he wanted to keep them from making anything at all. Industrial facilities were to be destroyed, mines were to be wrecked and filled, experts in production and manufacturing would be forcibly removed from the region and put to work elsewhere. Germany was going to become an agrarian state, set back almost a thousand years.

The trouble was, the Nazis found out about it. They told the German people about the program in a piece of German propaganda, encouraging them to fight on against the Americans. Morgenthau’s plan would reduce the population of Germany by potentially millions of people who would no longer be able to produce enough food to feed each other or themselves.

And Roosevelt approved it.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Nobody’s perfect.

When Truman took over, he wanted the plan scrapped and ordered it done so. Unfortunately, the plan he replaced it with was pretty much the same plan under a different name. The JCS Directive 1067 called on Eisenhower to “take no steps looking toward the economic rehabilitation of Germany [or] designed to maintain or strengthen the German economy.” For two years, the recovery of Europe stalled under the plan as Communism crept into the occupied territories.

The Marshall Plan was approved in 1948, replacing the Morgenthau Plan. Named for Secretary of State George Marshall, this new plan for Germany oversaw its postwar recovery without decimating the German economy or its people while creating the foundation of a modern, more peaceful Europe.

Articles

7 of the greatest guerrilla fighters in American history

America often fights wars as the big, bad empire with all the fancy toys and weapons. But U.S. troops haven’t always enjoyed the technological advantage. So, sometimes military leaders have turned to guerrilla tactics to keep the enemy off balance until a more conventional force can pin them down and defeat them.


Here are seven of the American guerrilla leaders who took the fight to the enemy:

1. Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Francis Marion learned guerrilla warfare as a militia lieutenant in a war against the Cherokee Indians in 1761. When the Revolutionary War began, Marion was named a captain and given command of an infantry unit. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and fought hard, but he was there when the battle of Camden ended organized resistance in South Carolina.

Rather than sit out the rest of the war, he enlisted a force of a few dozen men known as Marion’s Partisans and led them in harassing operations against the British. The Partisans scattered British and Loyalist forces on multiple occasions and once rescued 150 Patriot prisoners. Multiple British task forces to capture or kill Marion and the Partisans failed.

2. John Mosby

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

John Mosby started his military career as a young cavalryman and scout but he was quickly identified by J.E.B. Stuart and commissioned as an officer. He rose to the rank of major before taking command of “Mosby’s Rangers,” the force that would later make him famous.

The Rangers used guerrilla tactics to devastate Union lines. He and his men once captured a sleeping Union general during a raid. The Rangers fought on after the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, but eventually broke apart. Mosby was wanted until Gen. Ulysses S. Grant intervened on his behalf.

3. Carl Eifler

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Carl Eifler was eventually dubbed “The Deadliest Colonel” in World War II for his work with the OSS. He led a group of American trainers into Japanese-occupied Burma and raised a force of the local Kachin people. Eifler and his men led raids against the Japanese that eventually claimed over 5,000 lives.

They also rescued over 500 stranded airmen and provided intelligence for Allied forces in the area. The Kachins would feed important target information to the Army Air Forces, allowing the bombing campaigns in the area to be much more successful.

4. Peter J. Ortiz

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Marine Corps Maj. Peter J. Ortiz parachuted into Nazi-occupied with a team of five Marines, but one was killed and another seriously injured during the jump. Ortiz and the other three survivors linked up with the Maquis resistance and helped lead them in operations against the Germans.

Related video:

The Marine-backed resistance forces set ambushes and stole key equipment. German losses were so heavy that they thought an entire Allied battalion had jumped into Normandy. The Americans were eventually captured, but put up such a fight that the German commander accepted the surrender and expected a company of fighters to emerge. When only four men came out, he initially accused Ortiz of lying about his numbers.

5. James H. Lane

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

James H. Lane was one of the more controversial guerrilla fighters in the Civil War, especially on the Union side. He fought in Kansas before the Civil War in support of “Free Staters” who wanted to keep slavery out of the territory.

During the Civil War, he led fighters in Kansas and raised a group of volunteers to guard the White House before the Union Army raised troops for the same purpose. After returning to Kansas, he raised 2,000 fighters that guarded Kansas against Confederate action. His controversy comes from an 1861 assault into Missouri where he led his men in the assault, looting, and burning of Osceola, Missouri.

6. John McNeill

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

John McNeill led approximately 200 men in a guerrilla campaign against Union troops in western Virginia in the Civil War. He and his men were probably most famous for shutting down a portion of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad by burning machine shops and destroying a bridge.

The Union later diverted over 20,000 troops to protect the supply lines. McNeill died in a raid in 1864 but his men continued to fight.

7. Jack Hinson

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Jack Hinson started the Civil War as an informant for both sides, seemingly fine with whomever came out on top. But then a group of Union soldiers executed and beheaded his two sons under suspicions of Confederate activity. Jack Hinson then had a custom sniper rifle made and became one of the most effective single-man guerrillas in history.

Armed with his 17-pound, .50-cal. sniper rifle, the 57-year-old man killed the men involved in his sons’ executions. Then he sought out to break the Union Army, firing on Union soldiers on the Tennessee River and killing about 100 troops. In one case, a Union gunboat attempted to surrender after suffering several losses because they were convinced they were under attack by a superior Confederate force.

Articles

6 Army Chaplains who made the ultimate sacrifice

Chaplains have long held a special place in many troops’ hearts. In fact, at times, they become legends. In the Army, the first chaplains were authorized on July 29, 1775. They’ve been with the troops on the front lines ever since.


Some chaplains have made the ultimate sacrifice. The most famous instance was that of the “Four Chaplains” who were on board the transport SS Dorchester when it was torpedoed by U-223 at 12:55AM on Feb. 3, 1943.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Painting of the rescue of USAT Dorchester survivors by USCGC Escanaba (WPG-77) on Feb. 3, 1943, in the North Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Coast Guard image)

According to HomeofHeroes.com, when the transport was hit, the four chaplains, Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rev. George L. Fox, Rev. Clark V. Poling, and Father John P. Washington promptly began to aid the troops who were on the stricken vessel.

One sailor was heading back to his bunk for gloves, but Rabbi Goode instead handed his over. Despite a loss of power, they got some of the troops to the deck. Then, they began handing out life jackets, even as the Dorchester was rapidly headed to a watery grave.

Finally, when the life jackets ran out, they gave up their own. They were among the 668 who went down with the Dorchester, but many of the 230 men who were saved owed their lives to the Four Chaplains, each of whom received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Army Capt. (Chaplain) Emil Kapaun performs Mass in the field, Oct. 7, 1950. (Photo: U.S. Army Col. Raymond Skeehan)

In the Korean War, two other chaplains notably made the ultimate sacrifice. Chaplain Emil Kapuan, a Catholic priest, was captured during the Chinese offensive of 1950 — and shortly after his capture, he shoved a Chinese soldier who was trying to execute an America.

Then, while held as a POW, he would steal drugs and smuggle them to a doctor. He continued to steal supplies and bolster the morale of his fellow prisoners. He would die in captivity on May 25, 1951. In 2013, he was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Chaplain Herman Gilbert Felhoelter. (U.S. Army photo)

Then there was the case of Chaplain Herman G. Felhoelter, also a Catholic priest, who, during the initial salvos of the Korean War, offered to stay behind with a medic to help the wounded. As he was providing comfort, North Korean troops attacked and wounded the medic, who escaped.

The North Koreans then proceeded to carry out what became known as the Chaplain-Medic massacre, killing the wounded Americans and the chaplain. Felhoelter received the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously for his actions.

These cases only begin to scratch the surface of why the troops love their chaplains.

Articles

The Air Force can forget about buying more of the world’s most advanced fighter

No other aircraft or air defense system in the world can touch it.


Stealthy, fast, incomparably lethal, the F-22 Raptor is without a doubt the deadliest and most advanced fighter jet ever built. And the Air Force, after a lengthy congressional-backed review, will not be getting any new Raptors to supplement its undersized fleet.

The Raptor, built by Lockheed Martin, was originally created as a follow-on to the F-15 Eagle, the previous mainstay of the Air Force’s fighter fleet. Taking in the strengths of the Eagle and improving vastly with new capabilities such as thrust vectoring for supermaneuverability built into a platform optimized for stealth, the Raptor was everything fighter pilots hoped for and dreamed of.

It would be able to fly the air superiority mission like no other, while also being able to carry out air-to-ground strikes with ease.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
Afterburners lit while an F-22 of the 95th Fighter Squadron takes off from Tyndall AFB. (Photo from USAF)

Initially, the Air Force planned on buying over 750 units to replace its massive Eagle fleet. Over time, that number was drawn down significantly, thanks to evolving missions and changing threat scenarios. By 2009, Congress voted to cap the Raptor’s overall production run at 187, severely below the minimum figure of 381 units the Air Force projected it would need to fulfill the air superiority mission.

According to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the sheer costs alone makes restarting the Raptor production line, defunct since 2012, completely unfeasible. Revamping manufacturing spaces in addition to rebuilding and redesigning jigs and the tooling necessary to build further Raptors would cost anywhere between $7 to $10 billion, and that’s only the tally on the infrastructure required. Estimates on each Raptor’s flyaway price rang up a whopping $200 million per unit cost, a $60 million jump over the aircraft’s unit cost when its production run ended. The study on bringing the F-22 line back to life was ordered by Congress in April 2016.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
F-22 Raptors parked at Rickenbacker ANGB in Ohio during Hurricane Matthew (USAF)

Though not wholly unexpected, the recommendation to not pursue a restart of the Raptor line will reduce the Air Force’s options in retaining dominance in its air superiority mission. Earlier this year, the service let on that the F-15C/D Eagle will more than likely face an early demise by the mid-2020s, thanks to an expensive fuselage refurbishment deemed impractical by its brass.

Eagles have long served the Air Force as its dedicated air supremacy fighter, excelling in the mission in the 1990s where it first tasted combat in the Persian Gulf, and later in the Balkans. The Eagle fleet was originally to be overhauled and kept in service until the early 2040s, when it would be replaced by a new 6th generation fighter.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system
An F-22 Raptor on the flightline at Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base in Romania, last year (Photo from USAF)

Instead, the Air Force will move on with its plan to refurbish and extend the lives of its F-16 Fighting Falcons, multirole fighters which can also fly the air superiority mission with a considerable degree of success. Critics, however, argue that the F-16 is unequal to the aircraft it seeks to supplant. Smaller, shorter-range, and limited in terms of the amount of munitions it is able to carry, the Fighting Falcon has still served the Air Force and Air National Guard faithfully since the late 1970s and beyond.

A possible byproduct of this news could be the Air Force’s push to develop its 6th generation fighter on an accelerated timeline, bringing it into service earlier than expected. This would minimize the reliance the service would have to place on its aging F-16s, while bringing online a fighter built to work in tandem with incoming next-generation assets like the F-35 Lightning II. This would also potentially reduce the burden placed on the F-22 to shoulder more of the Eagle’s prior workload once it is retired, keeping the small Raptor fleet viable and in service longer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 reasons it’s hard to tell how violent the ‘most violent’ cities in the world are

The most recent ranking of the world’s most violent cities by the Mexican research group Security, Justice, and Peace again drew attention to Latin America, home to 42 of the 50 cities on the list.

Latin America is indeed the most violent region, accounting for about 8% of the global population but tallying roughly one-third of the world’s intentional homicides.

While homicide is not the only kind of violent crime, it is generally considered the best measure of it.


“Of all the different types of crime, homicide is probably the easiest to track because there’s nothing more biologically evident than a dead body,” Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention, told Business Insider.

In most places, there are also legal procedures that authorities are supposed to follow when dealing with homicides.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Robert Muggah, the research director at Brazil’s Igarapé Institute and an expert on crime and crime prevention.

(YouTube)

“So unlike, say, assault or robbery or sexual violence or domestic abuse, homicide is one of those variables that across time and space is relatively straightforward to capture,” Muggah said, adding that researchers can draw on a panoply of sources — law enforcement, public-health agencies, nongovernmental groups, the press, and the public — to tabulate and track homicides over time.

But, as Latin America illustrates, there are a number of recurrent challenges that arise when collecting homicide data that complicate efforts to make comparisons and compile rankings.

Where did it happen?

“Are we looking at national data, state data, city data, and if we are looking at city data, in this case, how are we defining a city?” Muggah said.

A city’s geographic limits can be defined in a number of ways. The UN has three: the city proper, delineated by administrative boundaries; the urban agglomeration, comprising a contiguous urban area; and the metropolitan area, the boundaries of which are based on social or economic connections.

The populations of each of those areas can vary enormously, as can the number of homicides.

“It turns out cities are surprisingly difficult to define. There is no unified or uniform definition of a city, and this has been a source of some consternation for geographers for over a century,” Muggah said.

The Igarapé Institute eschews homicide rankings but does maintain a Homicide Monitor that compiles data on killings, using the urban-agglomeration definition for cities, Muggah said.

The Mexican group adheres to some set of criteria, requiring minimum population of 300,000 people and excluding places with active conflicts, such as Ukraine or Syria.

But the group says in its methodology that whenever possible it includes all the municipalities that it assesses as part of a city — “localities that form a unique urban system, clearly distinguishable from others, independent of the geographic-administrative divisions inside the countries.”

Muggah and his colleagues noted issues with this method in relation to the 2015 ranking, which found Caracas, Venezuela, to be the most violent city. That year, others also said the group based its tally on the homicide total for the metropolitan area of Cali, in southwest Colombia, and, in their view, overstated the number of homicides.

The group’s ranking for 2018, its most recent, put Tijuana, Mexico, at the top of the list, with a homicide rate of 138.26 per 100,000.

Tijuana has seen a precipitous rise in deadly violence, but the city’s public-security secretary disputed its rank, citing the inclusion of the nearby city of Rosarito, Mexico, in the homicide count and the failure to account for Tijuana’s migrant population.

Security, Justice, and Peace rejected the criticism, saying that it based its population count on official numbers and that excluding Rosarito would have actually raised the homicide rate. (Though it did not say why it assessed Tijuana’s metropolitan area and not those of other cities.)

What’s a homicide?

“It turns out there are many kinds of homicide,” Muggah said. “We have homicide that’s intentional. We have homicide that’s unintentional, which we also call manslaughter. We have homicide committed by police, which sometimes isn’t included in the formal homicide statistics.”

Mexico has experienced an alarming increase in homicides, setting records in 2017 and 2018.

Mexico’s official crime data includes two categories for homicide: “homicidio doloso,” which refers to intentional homicides, and “homicidio culposo,” which refers to manslaughter or unintentional homicides.

The most recent tallies for intentional homicides in Mexico in 2017 and 2018 are 28,868 and 33,369, respectively. The totals for all homicides are 46,640 in 2017 and 50,373 in 2018.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Missing persons in Mexico.

While official government tabulations distinguish between unintentional and intentional homicides as they are legally defined in those countries, counts by nongovernmental groups, the media, and the public can elide that distinction, grouping different kinds of lethal violence together.

“And that matters,” Muggah said, “because in some countries, including Mexico and Brazil, when you include police lethality, police killings, which fall under a different category, that can actually significantly augment the overall count.”

In many cases, Muggah added, “those deaths are not what you describe as illegal.”

In 2017, Brazil had 63,880 homicides — 175 killings a day — up 3% from 2016 and a record. (Homicides were trending downward through the first nine months of 2018, but full-year data for 2018 is not yet available.)

In 2017, there was also an increase in the number of people killed by Brazil’s police, rising 20% from 2016 to 5,144 people, or 14 a day. Authorities in Rio de Janeiro state have attracted special scrutiny for their lethality, drawing accusations of extrajudicial executions.

Not only where and how you measure, but also when?

Even when homicide data for a full calendar year is available — which is not always the case; Security, Justice, and Peace list in some cases extrapolates from partial-year data — it may change over time.

“In many cases, there are outstanding trials and judicial processes that are ongoing to determine … what in fact that lethal outcome was, and that can take months. It can take years,” Muggah said. “Typically though, there’s a delay when governments produce data to issue this information because they’re still dealing with many of the legalities around sorting out homicide.”

Full-year 2017 crime data for Mexico, released in January 2018, put the number of homicide victims at 29,168.

The most recent data for that year, updated in March 2019, indicates there were 28,868 homicide victims. (The Mexican government changed its methodology at the beginning of 2018 and updated previous tallies to reflect that.)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Police on the street in the high crime area of Iztapalapa, Mexico City.

There are also 26,000 unidentified bodies in Mexico’s forensic system, and the government estimates that more than 40,000 people are missing. Hidden graves full of unidentified bodies are frequently found all around Mexico.

All of that — coupled with issues such as a lack of prosecution and suspicions about officials manipulating crime data — means Mexico’s homicide totals are subject to change for the foreseeable future.

“In many countries, Latin America, in particular, there are huge impunity rates and a great gap in processing some of these cases, precisely because of the volume but also the lack of capacity to go through all of these cases, and so there’s a reason” for a delay, Muggah said.

It’s necessary to reflect on violence and trends in crime, but, Muggah added, “the challenge is that many governments are operating at different speeds.”

Relaying on data for only part of a year, or drawing on only certain sources that are readily available can often “unintentionally bias our sample,” Muggah said.

Know what you don’t know.

A challenge for “all of us who are in the business of monitoring and tracking and building systems to better understand criminality is that there are many places or instances where crime, including lethal violence, is not particularly well reported, or if it is reported it’s reported very badly,” Muggah said.

Latin American countries release crime data fairly regularly, but closer examination reveals “great gaps in the data,” especially in parts of Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil, Muggah said.

“There’ll be reports that … don’t accurately capture the cause of death, and therefore you get misattribution. There’ll be a situation where they just can’t store the bodies because there’s insufficient space, and so you get undercounts,” he said. “There’ll be places where the governments themselves, police in particular, have no incentive to report on lethal violence and therefore will skew the figures.”

Outside the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, a 36-member group that includes most of North America and Europe, available information about crime is also lacking, Muggah said.

“If you go to Africa, with the exception of a few countries, it’s … a knowledge gap around homicide,” he added. That’s also the case in parts of Asia, “where governments just don’t want to report overall statistics on crime, citing it as a national-security issue.”

Incentivizing cities.

In the methodology included in its most recent report, Security, Justice, and Peace said that it compiles the ranking with the objective of “calling attention to violence in cities, particularly in Latin America, so that the leaders are pressured to fulfill their duty to protect the governed to guarantee their right to public security.”

“What we are also looking for is that no one … wants their city or cities to appear in this ranking, and that if their city or cities are [on it] already, they make the maximum effort so they leave it as soon as possible,” the group added.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

Brazilian Federal Highway Police.

There are positive and negative potential effects of inclusion on such a list, Muggah said.

“One hopes that as a positive outcome, [inclusion] would incentivize city leaders, business leaders in cities, civic activists, and common citizens to be alert to the many risks that are there and also to seek and strive to find ways to get themselves off that list,” he said.

Stigmatizing cities.

But there can be negative consequences. Reducing a complicated issue such as personal security to a single metric risks sensationalizing the problem and can skew public perceptions, potentially empowering leaders who push hardline punitive responses, Muggah said.

In some cases, it can “stigmatize cities,” Muggah said, affecting foreign and domestic investment, credit ratings, and business decisions. It can also have a particular effect on local economies, especially for tourism, on which many parts of Latin America rely.

“The hope is that by shining a light … on these challenges that somehow this will provoke” a constructive response from the city, its residents, and its leaders, rallying them around a common goal, such as reducing insecurity and getting off that list, Muggah said.

“It’s not clear yet if that in fact has ever happened, whether these lists have contributed positively to social change, and that might be asking too much of a list,” Muggah said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

“You can have a kid or job” perfectly explains parenting right now

In Ray Bradbury’s non-fiction book Zen and the Art of Writing, he reveals how he once tried to write in his garage during the summer but quickly became distracted by his kids wanting to play with him all the time. Bradbury was a good dad, and so, he played with his kids when they came to bother him in the garage, even if it meant his writing didn’t get done. In the essay “Investing Dimes,” Bradbury reveals his solution was to create a kind of office for himself away from home where he could get some work done. And so, he retreated to a library where he could rent typewriters by the hour by popping in a dime. The result was the novel Fahrenheit: 451.


I’m no Ray Bradbury, but I am a writer, and writing for the internet is my job. I’ve been working from home on and off since my daughter was born in 2017, and before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I also faced this problem: Writing in the garage just doesn’t work because my kid is just too damn cute. And so, I started renting a desk at a local co-working space. But then, COVID-19 happened. And now, like so many working parents across a variety of professions, I’m back to working at home, which means the work I’m doing is constantly being put in conflict with my parenting. In a new piece for the New York Times, writer Deb Perelman puts it like this: “In the COVID-19 Economy, You Can Have a Kid or a Job. You Can’t Have Both.”

That’s a headline that captures the story — the story of parents right now — and it started a huge trend on social media the second it was published. It’s so obviously true it’s not even funny. People like Perleman, myself, and the late Ray Bradbury are somewhat lucky compared to most American parents insofar as I can type this little essay out on the back steps of my house, hunched over, while my toddler is sleeping and my wife is getting some much-needed downtime. But my working hours are all over the place. There’s never really a time I’m not working and that also means there’s never really a time when I’m being present for my kid either. This is what the COVID-19 economy has done for parents in all kinds of professions. It’s turned us into people desperate to hold onto our jobs, but unsure how we’re going to do it.

As Perelman points out, when and if public schools re-open, it won’t be easy on parents to make decisions, and yet, the outrage is almost non-existent. “Why isn’t anyone talking about this?” she writes “Why are we not hearing a primal scream so deafening that no plodding policy can be implemented without addressing the people buried by it?”

Why not indeed? Perelman’s main points are familiar to most parents. While there’s a giant public debate over how one should behave, there’s a reality edging closer to parents’ viewpoint; which isn’t about what should happen, it’s more about what will happen. “I resent articles that view the struggle of working parents this year as an emotional concern,” she writes. “We are not burned out because life is hard this year. We are burned out because we are being rolled over by the wheels of an economy that has bafflingly declared working parents inessential.”

Which is pretty much what has happened at this point. Parents need to keep making money to keep their families going, to keep their kids safe. But there’s no real infrastructure from our governments and institutions to help us figure that out. Despite centuries of so-called “progress,” families are essentially still on their own when it comes to figuring out how to fend for their kids. On some level, we know this, and it’s what we signed up for. But what the world seems to have forgotten is that it’s very obviously not even remotely fair. The economy has always been situated to basically scam American families, but what the pandemic has revealed is just how deep that scam goes.

Everyone who is living now had parents of some kind. The kids of today, the kids we are fighting for in this pandemic have an uncertain future. And that’s because parents are invisible workers. Relatively speaking, Bradbury had it easy. This generation of parents has it bad. And it’s only when everyone admits it that things will get better.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of August 30th

In case you didn’t know, the former Secretary of Defense, Chaos Actual, Gen. James Mattis (ret.) wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal and it’s just ahead of his memoir covering how he learned leadership from his time as a young buck Lt to his time leading the Pentagon.

Of course, Mattis makes a very in-depth analysis into why America’s allies are vital and some insight into his resignation last December – but he also makes a case against the tribalistic political-sphere that seemed to envelope 2019. He’s always remained apolitical, despite sitting in the Trump cabinet. The petty squabbling and BS just distracts from the mission.

I know reading lists were sort of his thing – and it’d be kind of awkward for him to put his own book on his own reading list for people to buy and read. So just assume it’s on there since I don’t think he’s even updated it since he was last in the office.


Anyways, here are some memes to get your extended weekend started while I shamelessly give an unsponsored plug for the Patron Saint of Chaos’ new book.

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme by Call for Fire)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via On The Minute Memes)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via ASMDSS)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

This is why the US doesn’t use the metric system

​(Meme by Ranger Up)