Life insurance can be a confusing subject. At its core, life insurance is simply a tool to protect your family and finances if something bad happens. I'm sure that statement doesn't eliminate the questions that exist, so here are answers to several of the most common questions I have received over the past decade when talking with USAA members.
While you certainly don't want to break your budget from buying too much life insurance, it can make a lot of sense to have coverage both through your employer and on your own. Coverage you buy on your own travels with you. That "portability" provides advantages. That's especially true since all employers don't necessarily offer life insurance or the amount of coverage you might need. A nice blend of personal coverage and employer coverage likely works well for most families.
Let's step back and define the two major types of coverage: term and permanent. With term, you have a typically less expensive option that lasts for a specified duration or age -- for example, 10, 20 or 30 years. Term insurance is what I would call "pure insurance": You pay a specified premium and receive a death benefit over a set number of years.
On the other hand, permanent coverage such as whole life or universal life is typically designed to last a lifetime and normally allows you to accumulate "cash value." Cash value is money that's returned or available to the policyholder should they ever decide to surrender the coverage or take out a policy loan.
Both types have a purpose and place, and the policy that works best for you should be based on your financial circumstances and, at the heart, your life insurance needs. In short, the reason or rationale for the coverage provides a good clue as to the "right" type of policy.
This is a question packed with emotion. The argument for getting your child covered is all about ensuring future insurability. In other words, get them coverage at a time when they're not likely to have health issues. On the opposite side of the argument would be someone who says, "They don't have anything to protect at this point in their life."
Personally, I like to see kids covered -- first, to offset costs associated with an unthinkable loss; and second, to provide a pathway for coverage in the future. For example, the kids of any service member who signs up for Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (SGLI) automatically are covered for $10,000. What I mean by "pathway" is the ability for the child, when they grow up, to be able to take over the coverage themselves and potentially increase the protection. Often, a rider on a parent's commercial policy will provide such an option.
At USAA, our basic rule of thumb is that you should have enough coverage to pay off all your debts and replace five years of income. I'd encourage folks to buy coverage based on their individual situation, and that may mean taking the time to use a life insurance needs calculator or talk with a life insurance agent.
This is a great question, especially since it's common for the recommended amount of life insurance to be tied to income. Despite that, the answer is probably "yes." Young or old, working or not, every life has a value and should be protected. Even if you don't earn an income in a formal sense, think about all that would have to change if you were not here. A lot of those changes could come with a steep price tag. So, as a rule, I think both spouses, no matter the income they earn, should be covered. If you or your spouse doesn't work outside the home, take a few minutes and try to put an economic value on all the nonworking spouse brings to the family. The number may surprise you!
While you may find different answers to these same questions, the one must-do is to build a protection plan without any gaps.
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Question: How do you know how much the monoliths at Stonehenge weigh? ~Jane
Answer: We know how much the monoliths weigh as we can calculate to their overall volume, including the bit that's underground, and we know what the density of sarsen, or bluestone, is. Also, some of them have actually been lifted by train while being reset not that long ago, which is also a good guide.
Question: It's one thing to drag a ten ton stone over three step middle planks. Was anyone making nice new planks 4,000 years ago? Probably a lot harder to drag a stone on rough cut timbers from ~Brad
Answer: People at this time were capable of quite fine timber work and we have evidence of this from preserved prehistoric trackways in peat bogs. So, yes, they would have been able to make smooth planks.
Question: Why was Stonehenge built? I've heard that on either the longest or shortest day of the year, the sun rises or sets just at the entrance. Why did they build it like this? ~Scott
Answer: The structure of Stonehenge is actually laid out on the line of the midsummer sun rise and the midsummer sunset, the longest and the shortest days of the year, and it seems likely that Stonehenge was built to mark these two events, which would have been enabled people to chart the changing seasons.
Question: Without the use of the wheel, the builders must have used sledges, log rollers, and many people, right?
Answer: Yes, and our experiments show that it seems more likely that some form of sledge would have been used to transport stones as log rollers are very prone to getting bogged down, particularly in softish ground.
Question: How far has the procession of the equinox moved the position of the summer solstice on the horizon since the time Stonehenge was built? ~Raymond
Answer: It has moved slightly, but not significantly enough to alter the fact that we can tell that it is this alignment that Stonehenge incorporates within its structure.
Question: On the Stonehenge raising, they used a weighted tip to tilt the main riser stone into the hole. Why not just have the stone dragged up an Earth ramp with wood rails to a pivot point of wood (timber) and just burn the timber? The loss of the support will drop the stone or is the angle too great for the raising? I can't see the stone (re: concrete) angle stone under the pivot point being used. ~Don
Answer: Burning a timber structure would, I suspect, cause a loss of control of the stone and also the heat generated would actually damage the sarsen. It's possible that any one of the stones which we now see built into the structure could have been used as that pivot stone before being erected. There are some that have a suitable cross section.
Question: Using the techniques from the show, how long did it take to build the entire structure? ~Jerry
Answer: To build the whole of Stonehenge will obviously depend on how many people you can use for the task. What we suggested was that, given a great concentration of effort, is the sarsen structures, the biggest bits of Stonehenge, could have been built within a period of three years. We suspect that probably it took longer.
Question: How do you know when it was built? ~Scott
Answer: The evidence for when Stonehenge was built comes from radio carbon dates which have been obtained largely from fragments of the antler picks used to dig the holes for the stones and the ditch.
Question: What kind of language or dialect did this ancient community speak? ~Jeff
Answer: Unfortunately, archaeology cannot deliver us any idea of the language that the builders of Stonehenge spoke.
Question: Why didn't they use pullleys to lift the monolith? ~Rich
Answer: Basically because it appears that the wheel had not been invented at that time and a pulley is a sort of wheel. If they did have pulleys, there is absolutely no evidence in the archaeological record.
Question: The ropes that you used, were they purchased or did you make them? ~Kenny
Answer: We purchased the ropes that we used. They were modern hemp ropes which we were obliged to use to comply with health and safety regulations. We would have liked to have made lime bark ropes to carry out the whole experiment, but this was impossible.
Question: I saw from the show that the ancients of the time had gold. Did they have any other metals? ~Robert
Answer: At the time when Stonehenge was started, no metal was used in the British Isles, but then copper, bronze, and gold were used, came into use.
Question: Where did you get stone slabs that big? ~Mike
Answer: We weren't able to get stone slabs that big. The ones we moved were replicas made of concrete. The places where both sarsens and bluestones come from are both now protected sites and it's not possible to extract stone from them.
Question: Where are the stones you have erected in this experiment now? Will they be left on this site? It appears they are a bit heavy to move. I hope to visit Stonehenge in July, hence these questions. ~David
Answer: The new trill is no longer on the site where it was erected. It rapidly became a place of New Age pilgrimage, and the farmer insisted on it being taken down the stones are currently in store.
Question: Is there an estimated population size at the time of construction that would have helped move the monoliths easier without the use of such elaborate devices that you used? ~Pat
Answer: Calculating the population which this time is very difficult because we have no clear indications of where people were living and how many settlements there were around. We felt that just using larger and larger numbers of people was not the answer, and that the builders of Stonehenge probably thought up a scheme which used less people in a safer and more controlled way.
Question: What was the closest known settlement to Stonehenge at the time of its construction, not including the area where the workers may have stayed? ~William
Answer: There are indications of settlement within a mile or so of Stonehenge, but the remains of settlements of this period are very difficult to find, in great contrast to the massive structures that that these people built.
Question: A thought occurs to me as I sit and think of the Indian burial mounds in my area: Wouldn't something like that have been useful in making the ramp for the piece on top? How old is the idea of mortice and tenon? Also, are there any writings on the stones at all? ~Patty
Answer: We know that people at this time were capable of constructing very large Earth mounds and so could quite easily have built a ramp to drag the stone up. Mortice and tenon joints, we have examples of these preserved from wet sites in this country that date back to at least a thousand years before Stonehenge, and there are no writings as such on the stones unless you count more modern graffiti, but there are carvings of daggers and axes that appear to date to the time of Stonehenge's building.
Question: I saw from the program that people were used to pull the ropes. Is it possible that beasts of burden were used for the heavy pulling? ~Sondra
Answer: It is possible that oxen were used to assist with the pulling and we would have liked to have carried out some experiments. Unfortunately, oxen, unless they have worked together before, are remarkably uncooperative beasts, and we were unable to get a team together. But this is possible.
Question: What type of marks, if any, were left on the monoliths as evidence of how they were moved? ~Keegan
Answer: There are no marks on the monoliths that provide evidence of how they were moved.
Question: In a book I read, it said that they probably put burning branches on a place they wanted to cut, then poured cold water on, cracking it. Is this what your experiment showed that they did? ~Scott
Answer: We didn't really go into the shaping of the stones, but fire is one way of breaking and shaping a stone like sarsen. It obviously carries risks, and having quarried a 40-ton block, it would be unfortunate to crack it in the wrong place. My feeling is that most of the shaping is done by pounding the surface of the stone with mauls ranging in size from footballs to small grapefruit.
Question: To move the stones, could the ancients have lashed enough logs to the stone to form a cylinder, loop ropes around the complete assembly, and pull on the upper loops to roll the stones to their site? ~Dave
Answer: This was one of the ideas that mark and I discussed and then rejected when we were thinking about how we could move the stone. It would certainly work, but could be potentially very dangerous when trying to control a 40-ton garden roller going downhill.
Question: Who owns the property on which Stonehenge is located? ~David
Answer: The land on which Stonehenge lies is owned and administered by English heritage. Effectively it's owned by the English people.
Question: Most religious practices in those days involved some sort of ritualistic or genuine animal sacrifice. Is there any evidence of such at Stonehenge? ~Botkin
Answer: I don't think we can be certain that most religious practices at this time involved sacrifice and there is no direct evidence of this from Stonehenge.
Question: How did they carve out the holes in the top piece and how did they make the stone pins that fit inside? ~Mark
Answer: Both of these elements of the mortice and tenon joint could only have been made by pounding away the surface of the stone. Obviously, to make the pin, all of the stone around this would need to have been removed, leaving the pin standing proud.
Question: Could it be that the large stones were moved not on tracks, as such, but on streams or slusways for irrigation/flood control systems? ~David
Answer: Water transport would obviously be an ideal method for these large stones, but unfortunately, there are no convenient river which run between the source of the stones and Stonehenge. The route crosses high and undulating chalk downland, so this method could not have been used.
Question: Have you considered using a series of sliding fulcrums where each end of the 40-ton stone is pulled in turn, and in effect walking it balanced in the middle? I have done this with large 18th century logs for a log house with only one helper. ~Willard
Answer: Although the walking method of moving large weights can be used and was used to move some of the Easter island statues, we felt that stones of 40 tons could not be moved in this way over relatively soft ground with any degree of safety.
Question: Might the weather conditions have been different enough 4,500 years ago to use snow and ice to reduce the friction of dragging and also to build ramps? ~Ken
Answer: The weather conditions at the time that Stonehenge was built were not dissimilar from those that we find today. Ice or snow would be a great way of sliding the stones, although it would make pulling for the pullers a lot more difficult, but could not be relied upon.
Question: Were the workers forced labor, or was it perceived as a community goal with benefit for all? Who was doing the farming during the construction? ~Joan
Answer: It seems unlikely that Stonehenge was built by forced labor. We have no evidence of this in society at that time. I feel that the people probably gave their labor willingly in the construction of a monument that had significance for a great many. Obviously, there would need to be sufficient people still left to carry out the farming, although the building work could be a seasonal activity, perhaps carried out at times in the agricultural cycle when not everyone was needed to work in the fields or look after animals.
Question: If, as is estimated on the show, it took up to three weeks just to carve out the bowl for the tenon for the lintel, how long may it have taken to shape the stones themselves? How much work did they put into the shaping of the stones? After all this time, it's fairly rough-looking. ~Joe
Answer: The shaping of the stones was obviously a very laborious process. As far as how long each stone took, we obviously can't tell from their finished form how much stone had to be removed to achieve this shape. Some of them do look quite rough, whereas others are very finely finished, and we suspect that they simply chose the optimum shape as the stone came out the ground, and then shaped it as much as they possibly could.
Question: Any sense of the role women may have played in the creation of Stonehenge? ~Bob
Answer: Personally, I'm sure that the building of Stonehenge was a truly communal task in which everyone participated, whether young or old, man or woman. It's interesting to note that the depiction of the building of Stonehenge which English Heritage had on display until quite recently showed only men involved in its construction.
Question: Since there were previous wooden structures at the site, why do you think that particular spot is so special throughout time? ~Heidi
Answer: The reason why that particular spot was first chosen for the construction of a simple earthen circle and some burials is uncertain, and why that simple circle then became the focus of such an extraordinary building is equally something that archaeology can't explain. Archaeology can't get into the minds of the builders.
Question: I believe when the holes were dug, the dirt was put in a large mound in front of where two of the upright stones were to be placed. The stones were then raised to upright with a mound of Earth acting as a stop support and later as an incline to facilitate moving the lintels in place. ~Gayle
Answer: The holes that the stones were set into certainly wouldn't have provided enough soil to construct a stop or a ramp for erection of the uprights. What is obvious is that if a ramp was used, then large quantities of soil and chalk would have had to have been brought on to site and later removed. This is why I still personally feel that the use of the timber crib was more likely for raising the lintels.
Question: I am trying to figure out how the original Stonehenge could be raised by using your methods, since you required a couple hundred yards of empty space on one side of the stone and enough space to lay the stone flat in the other direction. In the pictures, these stones appear to be very close together. By the way, great job and very interesting. ~Trudi
Answer: The stones in the center of Stonehenge are set quite close together, and the requirements of space certainly seem to suggest the order in which certain elements of the building were erected. The sarsen trilithons in the center clearly had to go up before the outer sarsen circle. But Mark thinks that his methods would work, and that there was enough space to carry out in the way that he suggested.
Question: Living in rocky New England, my mother-in-law and I had to use ingenuity to move a huge underground stone in order to plant a straight row of border hemlocks on our property. I would not say we were muscular types, but my elderly neighbor showed us how to dig a small hole next to the boulder, toss in stones, dig some more, toss in a few more stones, until we actually made the bolder pop out of the ground. Might the stone age builders are used stones as leverage instead of ramps to set the Stonehenge stones upright? ~Dorothy
Answer: The difference here seems to be between moving something out of a hole in the ground and raising something up above the ground, but basically, the principle is the same: You are presumably levering your stone up onto its bed of small stones, and I think you are suggesting dragging our stone up a ramp made of small stones. Chalk was certainly easier for them to get hold of to construct a ramp in this area.
Question: Do you know if they've sunk deeper into the ground since they were first placed and erected? ~Adam
Answer: Chalk is actually quite firm bedrock and it's unlikely that they have sunk further into the ground since they were first directed. What has happened is that the surface of the chalk has lowered the solution perhaps by as much as half a meter and so less of the stone is actually set into the ground than when they were first erected.
Question: What is the purpose of a calendar that only accurately forecasts two days of the year? ~Shea
Answer: It all depends how significant these two days are, and if they are times in the year which mark significant turning points at which people can gather and celebrate, then that calendar has a lot of purpose. My feeling is still that the midwinter solstice, which is pretty close to our Christmas, was the most significant of these turning points.
Question: It was mentioned that the monoliths stand 20 or 30 feet above ground. How deep below ground level are they buried? ~Dory
Answer: The depth below ground varies quite significantly. The one that fell over and broke a couple of hundred years ago was not buried as deeply as many of the others. Anything up to about 10 feet of stone is still buried under the ones that we know, but some have never been investigated.
Question: You mentioned the use of a timber crib, since the U-shaped circle of stones in the center were after the ring. The earth ramp is limited by the area inside the outside ring, right? ~Dawn
Answer: We can't be exactly sure of the order in which the sarsen horseshoe and the outer sarsen circle were built, but common sense suggests that the inner horseshoe was built before that complete outer ring; otherwise, getting those big stones into the middle and erecting them would have been very difficult.
Question: Why did one of the largest monoliths fall over? Was it an earthquake? ~Mark
Answer: No. It was probably due to the fact that it wasn't set as deeply into the ground as many of the other stones and there is evidence that the people have been digging at the base of that stone possibly looking for treasure.
Question: Do these rock structures have any connection with the menhirs? ~Joe
Answer: There are part of the same megalithic tradition—in other words, a tradition of building using large stones of which the menhirs and alignments in Brittany are a part—and they're all constructed at roughly the same time.
Question: Considering the accuracy with which the monoliths were placed, what tools were found, not for building, but for measuring distance from the angles necessary for the use of such elaborate principles of physics to construct the trililthon? ~Brian
Answer: No measuring or surveying tools have been found from this period, but as they would presumably have been made of wood, it's not surprising that we haven't found any.
Question: I was wondering if there was any truth to the statement made by someone about the circumference of Stonehenge. I heard the circle would fit exactly inside one of the Great pyramids in Egypt, with each of the walls touching the circumference of stonehenge. Could there be some possible link between these two great mysteries? ~Alfred
Answer: I'm afraid that I don't know whether Stonehenge would fit inside one of the Great Pyramids but if it would them I'm sure that it is co-incidence. There doesn't seem to be anything else to link tie two great sites.
Question: When I visited Stonehenge in 1987 I was told that the current monument was the 6th or 7th on the site and that it had never been a place of habitation, except during the various constructions and a few religious caretakers. It is still a windy hill top without a large settlement in sight. Is this this current thinking? And, if so, what do we know of the people who built Stonehenge that they would take so much trouble in a place away from where the bulk of them lived, hunted, farmed, etc.? ~Mary
Answer: Stonehenge has a long sequence of construction and modification and I suppose that you could say that there have been several separate monuments on the same spot, starting with a simple earth circle and ending up with the elaborate stone structures that we see in ruins today. People appear never to have lived at Stonehenge itself, in the same way that people don't live in most churches. The evidence that we do have suggests that there were settlements in the vicinity at the time Stonehenge was built and used but not close by. There appears to have been a sacred area surrounding it, defined by cemeteries of burial mounds, within which people were presumably not allowed to live or farm. Just beyond this prehistoric life carried on just the same as everywhere else. The reason that Stonehenge seems so isolated today is that all the medieval villages which are the villages of today lie in the river valleys to east and west. For centuries Stonehenge has been surrounded by pasture and now arable land.
Question: I think that instead of erecting the two bigger stones and then putting the third on top, that perhaps the protrusions in the two larger stones were used to help hold the third stone on. I realize that it would take more than just these protusions but it seems to me that it might be easier to erect all three vertically at once. Perhaps incorporating your ramp to help raise all three stones. This is just a suggestion. Great show and great work. ~Mark
Answer: You are not the first one to suggest erecting the whole trilithon at one go. Personally I wouldn't like to try 90 tonnes (plus all the timber you would need to hold the whole thing together) even with the mortice and tenon joints holding the lintel roughly in place. Thanks for your comments about the show.
Question: Very little was said about the numerological (dimensional) aspects of the site. any ideas why there were the number of stones there were in the circleor why the stones were set at the specific height they were? do they align with any constellations or particular stars or is it purely a solar tool? ~Dave
Answer: We were really concentrating on the construction aspects with a bit about the site and its context thrown in. You would need a whole series of programmes to look at aspects like the geometry, astronomy etc. I personally am not a great fan of the complex astronomy idea but try looking at a book called 'Stonehenge; Science and Society' published last year which has a good article about astronomy. Basically, as far as I'm concerned, Stonehenge is a big seasonal calendar (and a wonderful place).
Question: Besides the greased rails that may have been used to move the stones, is there any evidence that the builders slid stones down hills (perhaps after a rainstorm) to take advantage of the natural terrain to ease the transport? ~Kevin
Answer: No evidence at all I'm afraid. There appears to be no trace of any route or construction but I'm sure that the builders would have used anything to make their job easier.
Question: Is it possible that the purpose of stonehenge was a sort of gateway to the heavens, what these early thought of as the transcendental realm? It seemed to me that the clustering of the grave sites around stonehenge might deliver a clue to this. ~Jack
Answer: Possible but the one thing that archaeology won't do is deliver us access to the minds of the people that built Stonehenge.
Question: 1. Why use the animal-fat-based greased "cold" - why not keep pots of it heated for continual application as needed?
Answer: I'm not sure that this would deliver you much of an advantage, it might make the fat too thin.
Question: Another question addressed ice/snow - but why not dig a shallow ditch to pour water in during sub-freezing yet non- snow times - stone slides on this frozen railway, but lack of snow outside it, gives traction for stone-moving team.
Answer: Possible but given unpredictable weather this could severely restrict the time that was available for stone moving.
Question: For hoisting stones, consider tripod lift structure, not just A-frame. No pulley; just run ropes over vertex. Alternately add notched post as third leg to A-frame - can rest vertex of A-frame in each notch for incremental lifts. ~Ria and Brooks
Answer: Mark and I think that a 40 tonne straight lift would have been impossible. The sort of ropes that we assume were available probably would not have been able to cope with this.
Question: I know that on the summer solstice, the sun rises directly above the heel stone, the one in the opening of the circle. If one were to draw an imaginary straight line from the center of Stonehenge and through the heel stone, is it possible that this line would intersect with the Bosporous ("Cow crossing") or Heliopolis ("Sun city") in Egypt? ~Richard
Question: What do you think of water being used to move the stones into position. I created a mock experiment. I discovered that a circle of wood timbers supported by the mounding of earth around them, for reinforcement and ramp, would provide the perfect arena to maneuver the stones into exact positions. The most man power needed would have been in pulling and pushing the stones up the ramp, as you demonstrated in your show, and then sliding them down into the water. Ropes secured around the stones would allow workers to move into place with much less man power than expected! I think this theory has merit. This method could be accomplished without the wheel pulley's or hundreds of men. Perhaps they even made a ravine filled with water to move the large stones using beasts of burden over (below) ground to their destination? This theory has merit. I'm interested in your thoughts. ~Brian
Answer: I'm not sure exactly what you are suggesting and can't see the advantage of having the stones in water (they would sink - or have I missed the point). There is a problem too as Stonehenge lies on chalk which is probably the most porous sort of bedrock that you can find. There is no evidence of a water channel (canal) to transport the stones in and there would be a problem here too as the route that the stones would have to take is over very undulating terrain.
Question: If they used one A-Frame could they have linked two or three of them, and reduced the effort more? ~Doug
Answer: Possible, but I suppose there comes a time when the construction of more and more A frames is more trouble than rounding up a few more volunteers. It's a good thought though.
Question: Is it possible that Stonehenge was created as a place of healing for those with nasty contagious diseases? That might explain who paid for the work (the wealthy who had taken ill). It might also explain the burial mounds (quarantine areas) and way the burial mounds were ranked with the wealthiest men being closest to Stonehenge. The fact that at least some of the gold artefacts were not stolen from the barrows might indicate that people were afraid to go near these places Also doesn't it seem possible that the fellow that used the ramp to cap the trilithon got it right. If you were going to excavate enough earth to place a 40-ton stone would you not want to utilize the product of your labor to make a ramp? This would also enable these people to raise and cap the trilathon in one day. Maybe during an elaborate ceremony to celebrate the work. ~Brad
Answer: Lots of things are possible with Stonehenge but I haven't heard the idea of the wealthy and infirm funding it before. I'm not sure about your ideas concerning quarantine. Regarding the ramp, the volume of chalk that you would get from the stonehole is comparatively tiny compared to that which would be needed to construct a ramp (maximum of eight cubic meters compared with at least 100 cubic meters). How would this enable the people to raise and cap the trilithon in one day? I am quite sure that however it was done there must have been a celebration when they finally completed the building work.
Question: I noticed several questions about using pulleys. I, too, thought of this idea, and considering how simple it is to make a wheel, I am wondering why you think the wheel hadn't been invented. Also, considering that wood would not last these thousands of years, why would you expect to find any archaeological evidence of pulleys? I think you are underestimating the intelligence of these ancient engineers. Also, do you have any _real_ engineers working with you? I doubt you, as archaeologists, have nearly the mechanical know-how or ingenuity of even the least intelligent ancient engineer. ~Daniel
Answer: As archaeologists we have to take the absence of evidence seriously. There have been enough excavations of waterlogged sites with artefacts of all types surviving (but no wheels) to lead us to believe that the people that built Stonehenge were not using the wheel. Of course we don't underestimate the intelligence of the ancient engineers. You seem to have overlooked the fact that Mark Whitby, who played a central role in the experiment that was part of the NOVA program, is a "real" engineer. I am sorry that you have such a low opinion of archaeologists; maybe we don't have the accumulated skills of an ancient engineer (even one of the least intelligent ones) but we do have a genuine love of the past and a healthy respect for its inhabitants.
Question: You've probably answered the concepts of "counterweights" a million times, or even the compulsion for it. With buckets, ropes, logs, ramps, sand and/or rocks - progressively increased sizes of rocks - could these wonders have been built by just a few folks? Is there a technically disqualifying aspect of this concept or simply a, "why SHOULD they use counterweights"? ~Lee
Answer: Theoretically it would be possible to move large weights by using a small weight to help move a larger one, etcetera, but I think the idea of Stonehenge being the work of a small group of people is unlikely. You certainly couldn't move the big stones in this way.
Question: I was wondering if it would be possible if they could have built a hill over the entire area. Then simply dig a hole or possibly used forms before the dirt was hauled in. In this manner the large stones could be set in place in much the same way as shown on May 5. I would have to see a Geothermal map of this area to be able to tell if there were any large holes dug that would suggest this. ~Randy
Answer: Theoretically possible, but unlikely. The volume of chalk and soil required would be huge and there are no signs of any quarries in the vicinity of Stonehenge which could have provided this material,
Question: Could there be any link between Stonehenge and other large stone works elsewhere on earth, such as the pyramids? As there is no reliable written history, could the "giants from Africa" be Egyptians, or another race, and isn't it funny that they all came from relatively the same time period?.....the workmanship is a little different, but still, the tactics used to move large pieces of stone seem to be the same, at least in modern re-creations............. ~Jay
Answer: Although it is tempting to see similarities between Stonehenge and other large stone structures, the only ones which have a real link are the great alignments and other megalithic structures in Brittany. The idea of the architecture of Stonehenge coming from the Mediterranean area (or even from further afield) effectively died when radiocarbon dates became available and showed that Stonehenge was older than all the civilisations that were supposed to have influenced its design and construction.
Question: You mentioned that Stonehenge was erected 4500 years ago. How many 1000s of years ago did human first habitate in this area (U.K.)? I always thought the Mediterannean (Egyptian) area was one of the first locations for human inhabitants. Am I correct when I say that was about 2000 BC? ~Scott
Answer: There has been human (or initially hominid) occupation of what was to become the British Isles since about 500,000 BP. After this various ice ages meant that there were no people around for long periods. Further south in Europe and beyond they didn't have to contend with ice so there has been habitation for even longer. There isn't the time to go into this in detail but, suffice it to say that people had been around in the areas that I have mentioned for a very long time by 2000BC.
Question: I visited Stonehenge when I was eight. I do not remember the dimensions. But, is it possible that all three pieces of a trilithon could be raised together? Perhaps tied together and lashed to a wooden frame, then raised? I believe this would be labour intensive, but more simplistic in engineering it. Has anyone tried? ~Bill
Answer: No one has tried to raise the three components of a trilithon together. The whole thing would weigh about 90 tons, not counting the timbers that you would need to hold it together for the lift. It certainly couldn't be done for the Great Trilithon as we know that the two uprights are of unequal length which would make this method impossible.
Question: I have heard a brief mention of a way that someone could lift a mega ton stone. By finding the Zero gravity spot on these stones single individuals could lift massive tones with ease. Have you heard of such an explanation? Is there any proof that this could be possible? ~Jim
Answer: I'm not sure what the zero gravity spot is but it seems to be against all the laws of physics.
Question: In the Stonehenge project, what if the hole that was dug for the vertical stones was "c" shaped so that the stone would slide in, then use its own momentum to stand itself erect? Is this possible? Thanks for your input. ~John
Answer: I don't think that the stone would stand itself erect in the base of a "c" shaped hole. You would have to balance it there before packing it firmly in place and I think that it would be potentially much more unstable than if it was in a hole with one vertical and one ramped side.
Question: The show was very interesting. However, the people in the show forgot about the one resource that the people back then had. That was time and lots of it. The construction of Stonehenge may have taken many many years, not the short period of time that the show seemed to be portraying. The stone age people also undoubtably used many many more people than the show did. They may have also used captured enemies to do the work also. The cap piece could have been "walked" up the ramp by pulling on one set of ropes at a time, effectivly doubling the manpower. Did the stone age people know about the block and tackle or even an early form of it? Overall, though, a very educational and wonderful show. Please keep up the great work. ~Clifford
Answer: We are quite aware that people had a lot of time and we did not intend to imply that Stonehenge was built in a short period of time. What we showed was that it could have been built in a shorter time than many people estimate. I disagree that they undoubtedly used many more people than we did. As numbers grow then the ability to co-ordinate effort lessens.. Prof Atkinson suggested that over 1000 people were needed for some of the tasks, but such an army of labourers would have been well nigh impossible to manage. I disagree about "captured enemies" - there is no evidence for slavery in the British Neolithic/Bronze Age. We have no evidence for block and tackle (the wheel was not used until much later). Sorry to disagree with so many of your points. Thanks for your comments about the show.
Question: Would it not make sense to only roughly cut the stones at the location in a cylindrical form and roll them to the final assembly point, where the final square cutting would be performed? Do the dimensions of the uprights + the dimensions of the topping stones add to a cylindrical shape? The tracks seem to be way too much capital and human investment for the task at hand. Does the quarry have evidence to show the stones were cut square at the site? Another method would be to build wooden craddles shaped like wheels for either end (actually best if placed at 1/3 and 2/3's of the length) of the stone, using the stone as the connecting axle. Clearly from the shape of the final building and the burial mounds the concept of the circle, and hence the wheel, was probably well understood. Enjoyed the program but agreed with the analysis that the solutions were over engineered. ~Jon
Answer: The sarsen stones at the place where they originate are found largely as flat slabs (sarsen is a sedimentary rock). It is therefore unlikely that any of cylindrical form would be found which could be rolled as you suggest. Regarding the quarry - the stones are not cut out of solid rock, they exist as detached slabs of rock embedded in redeposited chalk. Why do the tracks seem too much capital and labour investment for the task? You would only need to make a short length of track which could be taken up and relaid in front of the sledge and stone. If it makes the task easier then it would be well worth it (there are earlier sophisticated and well constructed Neolithic wooden trackways in peat bogs in nearby Somerset). Despite the circular henges and barrows there is no evidence of the wheel at this time. Glad you enjoyed the show.
Question: Could you have tipped the large stone to vertical by men pushing the top with timbers and driving wedges or filling with stones behind? Also, were the pits dug that deep? Wouldn't a considerable amount of silt layers have accumulated over the thousands of years? ~Bruce
Answer: I think it would be difficult to generate enough force to tip the stone by pushing with timbers as you suggest. Wedges would help but filling in with stones behind can cause problems if they trickle round the sides and front and hinder moving the stone to upright. The pits were dug that deep, the stones put in and then the remainder of the hole packed tight with stones and chalk. No room for silt to accumulate.
Question: During the NOVA program, raising Stonehenge, the question of the methods used to erect the stones was bandied about, in particular how the lintels were raised. Simply put has any stratagraphic analysis of the soils around Stonehenge been done with an eye to spoils piles removed from putative dirt ramps? Could these piles be detected to this day by virtue of the disturbed strata and presumably undisturbed soils in the area of the monument? ~Don
Answer: The soils over the chalk are very thin in the vicinity of Stonehenge and there is no sign of the spoil from an earthen ramp. There is also the question of where the chalk etc would have come from in the first place. You may gather that I am not a fan of the ramp idea and prefer the timber crib method.
Question: I had thought that the stones in Stonehenge were of a sort that came from Wales? Sorry to make your Herculean effort sound trivial but perhaps boats were used to bring to a spot even further than yours? Also how does one use bronze tools to cut rock? Thank You for you foray in History. ~JTB
Answer: It's the smaller stones, the so called "bluestones" that come from further afield, from the Preseli mountains in Wales to be precise. It is suggested that they came part of the way by water. This can't be the way that the larger Sarsens were transported, as there aren't any convenient rivers that run from the place where they are found to Stonehenge. You can't use bronze tools to cut rock, except very soft ones like chalk. You certainly can't cut sarsen with bronze—even iron makes little impression.
Question: I think the idea of the A-Frame lever was very good. Why not use another mechanical advantage for transporting the stones, namely a pulley? Rope is affixed to a post in the ground, run around a post attached to the stone, then pulled upon by the pullers. 2X advantage! ~Dave
Answer: We didn't use a pulley because there is no evidence for pulleys, or for any other type of wheel, from this period in prehistory.
Question: What was the average life span of the stonehenge builders? ~Scott
Answer: We have no firm evidence about the average life span of people at this time. Many people have the idea that life was "nasty, brutish and short" but human bone specialists may have been routinely underestimating the age of people at death and there is no reason why you couldn't survive at least into your 50's if not beyond. It might seem simpler but the forces required to raise this would be huge. We know how much the monoliths weigh as we can calculate their overall volume (including the pit that is underground) and we know the density of sarsen (or bluestone). Also, some of them have actually been lifted by crane while being re-set which is also a good guide.
I'm Bear Grylls
and this is a WIRED Autocomplete Interview.
[lively upbeat music]
[lively upbeat music]
Who is Bear Grylls' cameraman?
The answer is there are a few of them.
An incredible team, our crew, unsung heroes.
They're amazing, work incredibly hard,
carry all the heavy gear,
do everything I do but backwards whilst filming.
Many of those guys who were there at the beginning
still there now.
Brothers, we through so much together.
I love those guys, yeah.
Who did Bear Grylls climb Everest with?
We took a small team of four soldiers.
Two of us got to reach the top.
We had four fatalities of other climbers
who were with us up there at the time.
The guy I reached the top with was a best friend,
served beside me in the British Special Forces.
Another unsung hero in my life called Neil Laughton.
Still best friend to this day, I love that.
What was Bear Grylls childhood like?
Kind of fun, I grew up on a little island
off the south coast of the UK.
As I say, my dad taught me to climb at a young age.
I love those early adventures with him.
My dad's no longer alive now,
but I look back on those times
with like real gratitude, really.
You know, he taught me so much of the important stuff
which was follow your dreams,
look after your friends along the way,
have a resilient, never deliver up spirit,
improvise, adapt, overcome, that was from him.
Where is Bear Grylls' festival?
Yeah, we have a festival in the UK, it's called Gone Wild.
Super fun, family adventure festival.
Everything from ax throwing, to climbing, to survival stuff,
mud runs, to great music, great bands.
We've run it for a few years in the UK now
for Veteran Charities.
Gone Wild, look out for it coming to stay soon.
How is Bear Grylls still alive?
By the grace of God and a great team.
Quite a lot of luck along the way as well,
but nowadays we really try and be smart.
You know, we're in the business of keeping people alive
especially with Running Wild
where we're taking real, iconic, big, old superstars away.
You gotta get it right.
In the wild you only get it wrong once.
There's always risk in the outdoors
and in the wild places and you're dealing with rookies
and big rivers and big mountains.
How to survive Bear Grylls?
Gotta have a plan.
I know it sounds obvious,
but so many people go into adventures
without a plan of when things go wrong.
What happens if they lose their cell phone
or their battery dies or, you know, they're outta water
or somebody gets injured.
Be prepare for the specific adventure.
Have the right gear,
the right training for when it goes wrong.
'Cause as they say,
Adventure only really happens when things go wrong.
So how to survive Bear Grylls?
Talk quietly, dig deep when you need to, be resourceful,
and never deliver up.
How many languages does Bear Grylls know?
A few and none very well.
I actually study Spanish at university,
and four years of studying Spanish taught me
that my Spanish is really bad.
I'm not a natural linguist in any way.
I've had to learn sort of basic,
I call it survival linguistics.
Which way, you know, North.
And it's got me out of a few scrapes for sure.
How did Bear Grylls understand Modi's Hindi?
When I took the Prime Minister of India away,
you see him speaking Hindi and me replying in English
and then I'm kind of nodding away as he's speaking
but I've got simultaneous translation going on in my ear.
But it's always a little bit behind,
so it kind of looks a little bit weird,
like I'm nodding at weird places
and the whole thing is a little weird sink.
It was hard because it was raining
so the earpiece was really cracky,
so it was like [imitates static] static in the ear.
But we figured it out
and he speaks actually pretty good English.
My Hindi is not very good.
How long was Bear Grylls in the military?
I spent four years in the military from the age of 19 to 23.
I gotta spend three of my years there
with the British Special Forces
where I got so much to the survival training as well
and made friends that endure to this day.
Is Bear Grylls' Running Wild real?
It is a baby of mine that, you know, Running Wild
and I think the testament to it
is always the sort of stars we attract
and the people who want to come on the adventures.
Is it real?
It is real and I think that's a heart of all adventure.
Can Bear Grylls be trusted?
I hope so.
You know, I've made mistakes in my life for sure.
Done bad things in my life for sure,
but I hope I'm trustworthy, I tried to be trustworthy.
Will Ferrell Bear Grylls episode.
Will Ferrell was the first adventure show I did
with someone else.
It was the first one where we took big Hollywood star away.
We pushed him really hard, probably too hard.
Still to this day, if I see Will, he goes,
Oh my god, that journey, that was a ballbuster.
You know, Will on that episode was incredible actually.
You know, we were right at tip end of the arctic,
tough conditions, he was in at the deep end in every way.
He never gave up, kept smiling most of the time.
And I think if we'd kept Running Wild at that intensity,
we'd never have had a season two.
So we learned, keep them short, keep them fast,
keep them a million miles an hour but made them achievable.
You know, we're not there to break anyone,
we're there to build people.
And that's definitely become the DNA of the show
over the years.
What has Bear Grylls achieved?
What have I achieved?
Good family, three great boys.
Still married to the girl I met when I was 22.
Good friends, still smiling, still going,
still doing what I love.
I never take that for granted.
What island is Bear Grylls filmed on?
We live on a little island off the Welsh coast in the UK
and we've owned it for years now,
our boys have been brought up there,
off grid about two miles offshore, one little house,
To get on and off the island,
we have a little rigid inflatable boat,
offshore craft that we just bomb back and forth
to the mainland in.
Getting supplies is always a bit of a mission
but also kind of fun.
What does Bear Grylls eat at home?
Sorry to disappoint, it's not all tarantula, scorpion,
snakes, and rat brain.
A lot of red meat, a lot of liver, a lot of eggs,
a lot of fruit, a lot of honey.
Try and stay away from the junk stuff as much as we can,
the processed food.
Eat like our ancestors,
throw in a little bit of wilderness food every now and again
just to keep everyone on their toes.
What has Bear Grylls eaten?
Had a good breakfast.
Lot of Greek yogurt and honey, some fruit, coffee,
bit of juice, ready to go.
What accent does Bear Grylls have?
I don't know, I get British, I guess.
Sometimes people go, Are you Australian?
Obviously that takes a great compliment
because we love Australia,
even though we do beat them often in the rugby.
Where did Bear Grylls get his name?
And I was christened Edward.
My sister then said that was such a boring name.
She called me Teddy, Teddy Bear.
I dunno, as a kid I didn't really like it,
I always wanted a normal name.
But actually I look back now
and it could have been way worse.
Where has Bear Grylls traveled to?
An occupational hazard of my job is that we do travel a lot,
done a lot in Wyoming for Running Wild,
Scotland for a couple of trips, some jungles, Costa Rica,
Central America, some mountains in the Alps in Europe,
Holm in Wales, little island in the UK.
When did Bear Grylls meet President Zelensky?
Yeah, a few months ago, I got to travel to Ukraine
to spend time with him, walk around the city a little bit,
hear a little bit about his background,
his life growing up for a show called War Zone.
Real privilege for me to do.
That was a special one.
When did Bear Grylls start his career?
I dunno, I never really kind of think of it as a career.
I suppose the answer is I started a life of adventure
when I was a kid with my dad, former marine, climber.
Taught me a lot of this stuff when I was a young boy.
But in terms of TV stuff, I suppose started at age about 26.
Somebody approached me from Discovery Channel and said,
Could we do a show where we drop you in difficult places?
You show us how to get out of there.
So that's that one.
Bear Grylls bee sting.
I was stung by a bunch of African bees once,
trying to get some honey out of a nest.
And I think the lesson is,
in the wilds it's not always the big things
that are gonna get you, it's often the little stuff.
Mosquitoes, some angry bees.
My face ballooned up.
My family said, Actually, Bear, that's an improvement.
Bear Grylls jellyfish sting.
I think this is probably about a Running Wild episode
with Mel B from the Spice Girls
and I got stung by jellyfish
and she ended up peeing on my hand.
I think actually, I've learned over the years,
the advice actually is tenuous.
I'm not sure pee actually does very much
apart from sterilize it a little bit
and she was adamant it was gonna work.
Bear Grylls healthy?
Feel pretty good, feel fit and strong.
We have a great outdoor fitness company.
It's veteran run called Be Military Fit.
So I train with that community most days.
Just short and sharp, half an hour.
I consider it as part of my job,
I've gotta try and be strong and as healthy as I can.
Work in progress always.
Why is Bear Grylls, oh dear, here we go.
Oh, that's nice, inspirational.
Learnt in life, you can only try and live from this,
and try and follow this, and try and speak from this.
Share the struggles, share the doubts, the failures
as much as the successes and the wins in life,
know the value of great friends,
try and keep the rest of it simple.
That is all the boards.
Thank you for lovely questions.
And for all of you guys watching, keep going,
respect for all your adventures.
Courage, kindness, never deliver up.
We got it, team.
From the New York Times, I’m Michael Barbaro. This is “The Daily.”
For the past few months, a single senator, Tommy Tuberville, has blocked hundreds of promotions within the US military as a political protest against the Biden administration. Today, my colleague, Karoun Demirjian, explains what’s behind his blockade and why military leaders say it’s becoming a threat to national security.
It’s Monday, July 24.
Karoun, tell us about this Republican Senator, Tommy Tuberville, who is very much at the center of this months-long drama.
So Tommy Tuberville is probably best known to the general population as a storied coach of the Auburn University football team.
Tommy Tuberville is getting another shower as —
He took Auburn to more wins over Alabama than anybody else had. And that was his whole public persona until he decided to stage his first political campaign.
The way I was raised, before a football game, you stood to honor America. And after the game, you knelt to honor God.
And run for Alabama’s Senate seat in 2020.
So I’m getting off the sidelines and into the fight. As your Senator, I’ll have President Trump’s back. We can’t be bought, and we won’t back down.
And he wins.
So Tuberville arrives in Washington three days before January 6. Obviously, DC is in turmoil. And we don’t hear that much from him, except for he’s one of those MAGA guys that’s newly in office in 2021. It isn’t until the next year in the summer of 2022, frankly, that the issue that will end up defining him starts to emerge. And that is that the Supreme Court strikes down “Roe v. Wade.” and that creates this patchwork of different abortion laws in various states around the country.
And so people are scrambling to figure out how to navigate this new patchwork of a post-Roe world. And one organization that faces a lot of pressure to do something is the Pentagon. The military has a bit of a unique situation. They deploy service members to states all over the country in places with different levels of access to reproductive care.
And so the question becomes whether they’re going to dictate a policy that will equalize that playing field for all different service members, regardless of where they’re stationed. So if you’re based in Massachusetts, you have a relatively equal ability to access abortion, reproductive care, whatever that may be as somebody based in Alabama because members of the military don’t get to choose where they’re stationed.
Right. Suddenly, a couple of dozen states are banning abortion. And service members might be in those states, or they might be in states where it’s perfectly legal in a post-Roe world.
Absolutely. And it takes the Pentagon a good long time to come up with what its policy is going to be. It isn’t until February of this year that they actually say, OK, what we’re going to do is we’re going to offer time off and travel reimbursement to anybody who needs to go out of state to obtain an abortion or some other form of reproductive care that is not offered in the state where you’re stationed. And Tommy Tuberville says, oh, no, you’re not going to do that.
And why is he upset about this government solution to a post-Roe world for soldiers who might need abortions?
Well, there’s two reasons. Politically, it’s pretty clear where Tuberville is coming from. He’s coming from Alabama. He ran on a very conservative Republican platform. And for him, the logical place that plays well at home, given where his state is, given where he has been politically, is you don’t vote for abortion. You don’t enable abortions to happen. That doesn’t work with your brand of Republicanism.
The other argument that he makes is that it’s illegal, that there are federal laws that say you cannot spend money on an abortion. And his argument is spending money to facilitate an abortion is basically the exact same thing. And so he issues an ultimatum to the Pentagon and says, if you go ahead with this policy, I am going to prevent you from being able to promote any of your generals or your admirals because the Senate actually has to say, OK, we approve for those things to happen.
It’s really rare that somebody actually says, I’m not going to allow uniformed senior members of the military to move up in rank because it’s a leadership issue in the military. And it’s kind of one of those third rails that politicians don’t touch. But Tuberville did, and that was the threat that he made.
And what is the response from the military, from the Biden administration to that threat?
They basically ignore it, and they go ahead and they implement the policy anyway in March. And so when the next batch of senior military promotions comes up on the Senate floor, Democrats try to move it through, and Tuberville says, no.
The senior Senator from Alabama.
Reserving the right to object.
I object. He makes good on the threat.
I’m holding the DOD nominations because the Secretary of Defense is trying to push through a massive expansion of taxpayer subsidized abortions.
And he makes this speech explaining, I told you what the terms were. I told you what I needed you to change about this policy, how I was not OK with you putting it in place. You did it anyway, so I’m doing what I threatened that I would do.
I object, and I will continue to object to any nominees as long as this illegal new abortion policy is in place. Americans want a military focused on a national defense. And that’s what I’m fighting for.
OK, well, explain how Tuberville, a single senator whose party, the Republican party, is in the minority in the Senate, has the ability to be a one man blockade on any promotion in the senior ranks of the US military because that seems hard to wrap your head around.
Right. So this gets into the rules and the arcane guts of how the Senate operates. It’s a very strange place. But basically, to be able to do anything without having to jump through a series of time-sucking procedural hurdles, you need what’s called unanimous consent.
You need all the senators to just be like, OK, I don’t care. Go ahead. Do it. And then you can get a whole lot of things done that would otherwise suck up a whole lot of time on the floor. Military promotions are one of these things that traditionally have been done by unanimous consent because everybody supports the uniformed military.
But that means any one Senator has outsized influence because they can deny you unanimous consent. All of a sudden, when you have one Senator saying, absolutely not, no, you don’t have that unanimity. And that’s what gives Tuberville the ability to have a one man blockade against basically the entire military and the entire way that things have happened in the Senate for decades upon decades.
So Tuberville has successfully exploited a funky little logistical reality of unanimous consent.
Yeah, he does. And then he does it again and again. And weeks go by. And then the question becomes for everybody else, how do we get Tuberville to stand down? He and the Defense Secretary have a phone call a few weeks into the protest, and the Defense Secretary tries to explain why it’s a bad idea. And Tuberville is not convinced. And he leaves that call and says, nope, this was not enough for me. I want this policy changed.
His GOP colleagues in the Senate also are really not comfortable with what he’s doing. There’s a lot of defense hawks in their ranks. They are not comfortable messing with the military’s ability to do its job. But the most that they’re willing to say, publicly at least at the outset, is I agree with your protest in substance, but do you have to do it this way? Because remember, the GOP also doesn’t like abortion and they don’t like this Pentagon policy.
More weeks go by. And in that time, Democrats try over and over and over again to bring up these promotions to get them through the floor. And every time, Tuberville is there saying, no, I object. And so what becomes clear is that Tuberville is demanding this issue be settled by an act of Congress.
What Tuberville’s fundamental complaint is is that the administration, the Defense Department, should not have been able to do this on their own. And what he wants is for Congress to actually dictate what the policy should be. That means either an act of Congress to force the Pentagon to undo their policy on abortion access, or proactively passing a law that says that policy, that’s the law. And if they fail to do that, if lawmakers can’t get that law through Congress, he wants the Pentagon to revoke its policy.
So for him, it’s an all or nothing approach. And it doesn’t sound like one that’s logistically and politically likely to go his way because, of course, the Senate is controlled by Democrats. So this just keeps dragging on week after week, month after month. And I’m curious, what becomes the impact of this one man, all or nothing blockade?
As the blockade goes on, the backlog of these senior uniformed commanders who haven’t been promoted grows and grows. So what was initially dozens becomes hundreds. It’s also now becoming really visible and tangible because it’s affecting the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Now the Joint Chiefs of Staff are made up of the most senior uniformed officials in each of the branches of the services. They’re also, as a body, the top military advisory crew for the president. And over the course of the summer, we may end up in a situation where over half of the Joint Chiefs don’t actually have Senate confirmation, as is traditional process.
They will be places occupied by acting officials, but those are temporary and they don’t have the authority and the blessing of Congress to make changes, to make decisions about policy. And that’s really what’s setting off alarm bells now.
One in five members of the US military are women. Abortion laws in this country that are now being passed are absolutely having an effect on their willingness to continue serving in uniform, or to —
And you’re starting to hear senior members of the military.
This is a national security issue. It’s a readiness issue. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves. And I think any member of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that.
The Secretary of Defense, the White House.
The idea that we’re injecting into fundamental foreign policy decisions what, in fact, is a domestic social debate on social issues is bizarre.
Saying this is becoming a real problem and could actually affect our military readiness and our ability to respond to threats around the world.
Right. If there’s one organization in the US government where you want people to firmly be in their jobs and for there to be no question about their authority and its power, it is the United States military. And it is especially the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Right. Because their counsel, their advice is considered to be pivotal for the president. And the president is the Commander in Chief. And so this really goes right up to the top now about, how much authority do they have to deliver that counsel? And how is that affecting the United States’s standing in the world?
I’m really curious what Senator Tuberville says in response to all these senior military people saying very pointedly, you, Senator, are making the military weaker with this blockade, with this protest. You must stop. National security is at risk.
First of all, he’s not buying their argument that the sky is falling. And he’s also saying, well, if you think so, change your policy because it doesn’t help military readiness and defense, he says, to be focused on things like providing abortion access. We should be talking about defense, and that’s it. And these are extraneous issues that that’s what makes us weaker. That’s his take.
And, frankly, he’s getting a lot of support for this, both from people at home in Alabama and even increasingly so in Washington, where a lot of far right Republicans in the House have basically taken up his cause and made this a fight against the Pentagon not just to undo the abortion access policy, but a whole bunch of other social policies that they say should be more conservative.
We’ll be right back.
So, Karoun, describe exactly what it is that Senator Tuberville seems to have helped inspire over in the Republican controlled House.
So over the months that he’s objecting, there’s a group of far right Republicans who are actually coming to physically show their support for Tuberville on the back of the Senate chamber when he makes these objections. And then it becomes time for the House to do its annual defense bill. This is something that the House tackles every year. It’s basically Congress setting the rules of the road for how the Pentagon can spend the money, the taxpayer money, that Congress eventually appropriates for them.
And they demand an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would basically bar the Pentagon from being able to implement this policy for service members that would need to leave the state for an abortion.
So they basically put Tuberville’s plan in their bill.
They put Tuberville’s plan in their bill. And they succeed in getting it attached, one, because a couple of Republicans in the House also have outsized power because the GOP’s majority is so, so slim. But also because Republicans don’t like the policy. And so when you put it to the floor, the GOP is hard pressed to vote against it, even if they’re worried it might blow up the whole defense bill.
And actually, the far right Republicans managed to do a lot more. They go after health coverage for people transitioning gender and say, you can’t spend money on that in the military. They go after the diversity training initiatives. And they stopped just short of saying can’t spend money on it at all, but they say we’re going to cut all the offices and all the personnel that are tasked to those offices to actually teach about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the military.
So they take what Tuberville is up to, which is pretty narrow — take the issue of abortion out of the military, and they broadened it. And they are basically trying to take all social issues they don’t agree with out of the military.
Right. The military thus becomes a forum, at least in the House’s defense bill, for these culture wars. And what ends up happening to the bill is that you took a defense bill that started off as a bipartisan product with support from Democrats. And by the time you’re actually voting on it, load it up with all this stuff. Almost no Democrats are willing to support it anymore.
And so what you have left is a GOP-backed bill. And that’s kind of a unique situation because, normally, you end up having a bipartisan vote for these defense bills. That’s the goal. And for the last 60 years, Congress as a whole has managed to annually pass a defense bill. But that’s in doubt now because you can’t get this bill with all of these conservative social policy clawbacks through a Democrat-backed Senate. And that could fundamentally change Congress’s relationship overseeing the military.
Right, because you’re saying it’s quite likely in the coming weeks, or I guess months, that the Senate might not pass this Defense Authorization Bill. And, suddenly, the military’s budget would be in doubt.
The Senate’s working on its own Defense Authorization Bill version right now, and it’s not going to look anything like the House’s bill on these issues. After this, they have to appoint negotiators to go work out a compromise. The question is, can they actually compromise? And whatever compromise they strike, can it get through both of these chambers?
Usually, the answer is Yes because Congress thinks that continuing to direct how dollars should be spent in the military is a super important thing. But the answer to that question is a big question mark right now because there’s such a split on these social issues that really cut to the core of each party.
Right. So at this point, Tuberville has seemingly emboldened his far right Republican colleagues to make social issues so central to the way that they think about the military that it may end up jeopardizing the military’s funding in a very unusual way this year.
Right. Usually, if you have disputes over social policy as part of the whole defense bill, they start to go away by the time you actually strike a compromise. But the far right Republicans have been emboldened. They realize the outsized power that they can have, even in small numbers. And they are not inclined to make a deal.
I’m curious if Republican leaders have either a plan or the power to end what Tuberville is doing, and I guess, by extension, sending a message to House far right Republicans to stop what they are doing.
Well, the thing is they don’t. Unless you change the rules of the Senate, you can’t really stop one Senator from objecting. Unless you miraculously find dozens more Republicans to deliver you a bigger than a five vote majority in the House, you can’t really change the fact that the far right Republicans in the House have a lot of power.
And the leaders of the party, knowing that they’re between a rock and a hard place, are not talking as tough as a lot of the mainstream Republicans and Democrats want to see them talk. They’re not threatening these guys in ways that they want to see happening, at least not openly, because they really don’t have their hand on that lever to pull the kill switch and make this stop.
So back to the beginning of our story here, Karoun, how does this all come to an end? How does this one man blockade end? Does it ever end if Tuberville wants to keep doing what he’s doing?
Well, first of all, I should say that Tommy Tuberville has basically rejected the idea that you can settle this under the defense bill because he thinks that Congress is too split, and it’s true, to actually be able to get it done that way. And he’s making these demands for standalone bills that, frankly, could never pass both the House and the Senate in similar ways. So that’s not very practical. The only way to get through Tommy Tuberville’s blockade right now seems to be to go around Tommy Tuberville’s blockade.
And what does that look like?
That means the Senate has to start putting these nominees one by one up for votes on the floor. The concern is if you have to do that for every single one of the promotions that are stuck in this backlog, you would be on the Senate floor for weeks on end if you went 24 hours, seven days a week, which is not how they work. Months on end if you actually parcel it out so it’s something akin to a normal workday. And you wouldn’t be able to get very much else done.
Right. This is the virtue of unanimous consent. It avoids having to spend hundreds, thousands of hours trying to get military promotions through the Senate.
It’s efficiency when it comes to things that should be pretty non-controversial, yeah. And so now the question being laid at the feet of the Senate Majority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, is, are you going to do that to get your Joint Chiefs in place?
And even if you say, OK, fine, we’ll do that, we’ll relent on the Joint Chiefs, we’ll make that a special issue, what about everybody else? There’s still no conclusion on the hundreds of other senior officers, commanders who are still stuck in that backlog and need to see those promotions get through.
Right. So it doesn’t look like Chuck Schumer is going to take this laborious, time-consuming approach for all the hundreds of promotions that are in this backlog. That’s what you’re saying.
It’s the equivalent of shutting down the Senate floor for a long, long time to anything else. But also remember, it’s not just about what you happen to have time to do this month. It’s what precedent do you set for the future?
And they are very, very concerned about saying this is a legitimate protest that we will engage with because what about the next time somebody has a complaint with a Pentagon policy? What if everybody could have their way on niche issues by threatening to block hundreds of promotions for months on end? You wouldn’t actually be able to ever get any laws passed, even in a season where you’d need to.
So what would it look like for Senator Tuberville to prevail here and for the military and the Biden administration, by extension, to cave and deliver in on this abortion access policy so that it can get the military appointment process back to normal?
It would not be unprecedented for the Biden administration to cave on a social policy to Republicans. This actually happened recently when they said, OK, we’ll take down the COVID mandate. That was more of an argument that happened in the contours of the defense bill.
But there’s something very different about this one. We’re heading into a presidential election year next year, and Democrats think that the abortion issue for them is a winner on the campaign trail. They did better than they were expecting to in the midterm elections because they campaigned on “Roe v Wade.”
They want to still paint the GOP as extreme on abortion and a whole bunch of other social policies because they believe that will get them votes to keep a Democrat in the White House. If they deliver up on this, that is undermining what is supposed to be a signature central campaign issue. And so the long-term consequences of that could be pretty severe at the ballot box.
So they can’t politically afford to cave on this issue. And the result is going to be a somewhat dysfunctional US military.
Yeah, at least organizationally. And the thing is, we don’t know how long that’s going to go on and what the repercussions are going to be in the long term because, frankly, right now, Tommy Tuberville seems like he can continue this blockade for just about as long as he wants to.
Well, Karoun, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Thank you. [MUSIC PLAYING]
We’ll be right back.
Here’s what else you need to know today.
In Israel over the weekend, tens of thousands of people marched to the capital city of Jerusalem in a last ditch protest against their government’s plan to reduce the power of the country’s highest court. That plan, which is supported by the far right government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is expected to be adopted today.
Netanyahu and his supporters say it’s necessary to prevent the left-leaning court from repeatedly overruling his government. But opponents say it’s a dangerous power grab that will endanger Israel’s democracy.
Today’s episode was produced by Rob Szypko, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Carlos Prieto, and Sydney Harper, with help from Eric Krupke. It was edited by Lexie Diao and Rachel Quester, with help from John Ketchum. Contains original music by Marion Lozano and Chelsea Daniel, and was engineered by Chris Wood. Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly.
That’s it for “The Daily.” I’m Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow.