29 May, 2009

North Korea and Plan 5027

Plan 5027 is reported to be the primary contingency plan for American military operations in a war with North Korea.  Frankly, it doesn't mean much: the US isn't expecting to fight that kind of war.  It isn't expecting to fight any kind of war.  Reports that the US and South Korea have raised their threat levels generally miss the fact that only the WATCH condition has been raised (more observation), not the DEFCON (still at peacetime status).  Given all the testing going on right now, it would be amazingly stupid not to increase the WATCHCON.

Nightwatch (as supplied to AFCEA by John Mccreary) remains the best source I can find to keep up on North Korea.  Recently, it draws some interesting connections between recent reports of Kim Jong-Ils illness, the need for a father to surpass (or at least match) the achievements of the father, and the problem of succession.  There's much there to think about.

20 May, 2009

Odds and ends

While working on other stuff (finals, writing, and so forth), a pile of stuff has accumulated. Here's a few you might find interesting:

(1) Chris Goodall connects what he describes as the "complacency" over climate change to the irrational tendencies of the human mind: estimation bias, overoptimism, the need for a visible enemy, etc. I'm not entirely convinced. In at least some cases, these biases have proven to be useful. Would you have been born if your parents weren't suffering from irrational opimism? Is it possible that these biases (which no doubt exist) are still useful? His more telling point is that things that are rational for individuals may not be rational for collectivities. It makes sense to take care of myself and my family, rather than rely on an assumption that everyone else--now and for all time--will behave in a way that will be in my long-term best interest. Besides, who's to say what my best interest is? Goodall sees the problem, but his "solution" has problems all its own:
If I had to guess whether humankind could possibly ever agree to take substantive action on climate change if the worst effects only really began in a hundred years time, I would be pessimistic. We would have to rely not on economics or even traditional moral arguments, which have all the weaknesses I have tried to identify above, but on what is essentially a religious faith – a view that respect for the Earth demands that we allow it to stay largely as it is. [emphasis mine] There's no doubt that this is an important force in human thinking, even among people without conventional theism. After all, we do all seem to care a lot about a few thousand polar bears of no direct economic value. But I strongly doubt whether the quasi-religious strand in our thinking is powerful enough to get us to take the really radical actions that we need.
Is a theology of strong ecology the only (or best) way to go?

(2) The bbc reports that the Japanese economy is declining faster than it ever has since the record-keeping began in 1955. (If it were to continue at this rate, we'd see an annual decline of 15% of GDP.)

(3) Jesse Ventura gets back to basics on Fox news: waterboarding is torture, torture is illegal, we claim to be a nation under the rule of law, and if we really mean it about the law there are some senior officials who deserve to be prosecuted. The video of the argument on Fox and Friends is priceless.

(4) And the good news from the FAS, showing the decline in Russian and American nuclear arsenals: