22 May 2010

Kim might be responsible?

There are unconfirmed reports that US intelligence believes Kim Jong-il is responsible for the attack on the Cheonan. It says that it is based on the internal dynamics of the state, rather than hard evidence, but they believe that the sinking was intended to help shore up the succession of Kim's son.

I don't buy the logic, but I'll admit to not having access to the same classified material. The idea is that standing up to the West will reestablish the strength of the Kim image, and help the son take power. Moreover, there is some evidence that Kim Jong-il congratulated the

If so, it might well make the Kims the dumbest dynasty on Earth. Would it be worth it to risk war with the greatest naval powers in the world, to insure that your son takes the throne?

21 May 2010

North Korea threatens war?

A war with North Korea would not be a picnic for the US or South Korea, but it would be absolutely suicidal for North Korea to go through with it. The forces of the US/ROK alliance are vastly better trained, and not remotely malnourished (link is in Korean, I had to use a Google translator). Moreover, the US is not using WWII era tanks and equipment.

At this point, I'm most worried about the possibility of miscalculation, particularly by a low-level North Korean military official (which strikes me as the most likely cause for the Cheonan sinking). All signs point to the breakdown of order in North Korea, and it would be very easy for someone to escalate it even further.

Fortunately, it's not likely to happen the other way. Here's hoping that the US and RoK can keep this from blowing up worse.

Track of the Day

I haven't seen Glee yet, but this made me very happy. I love the song, and I love Neil Patrick Harris.

20 May 2010

Fighting in Madagascar

I think just about everyone has positive feelings for Madagascar, if only because of the (not very realistic) movies. But, sadly, the political crisis there that began in January of last year has continued, and now there is open fighting in the streets of Antananarivo between different factions of the security forces.

One question I have, and I cannot find anywhere, is whether the leader of the government forces (Col. Richard Ravalomanana) is related to the ousted President (Marc Ravalomanana). The dissidents seem to be in favor of Marc Ravalomanana, or at least against the man who deposed him (Andy Rajoelina).

In terms of broader implications, there probably are not many. Madagascar is rather isolated, and it is unlikely that the unrest there will spread to any neighbors. However, I hope that the upcoming elections offer a way for all sides to stand down, but the past does not suggest that it will. Marc Ravalomanana won election that way, and was deposed by those who were upset. If Rajoelina's side does not win the election (Rajoelina himself is not running), another coup could happen.

We'll have to wait and see.

The Rand Paul Civil Rights Act Meltdown

If anyone missed all of this yesterday, here's a pretty good summary:

Another mass attack in China

This time, it was against university students.

As someone who's been to China, this is a little on the bizarre side. University students were once held in high esteem, and it was everyone's goal to send their kid to university. It was a sign of being an intellectual, and worthy of praise. That a group of 10 men would attack students in a university is extremely troublesome.

Moreover, the degree to which social cohesion is fraying in China will likely lead to more draconian efforts to create social cohesion, i.e. more human rights abuses. In particular, censorship of media is about to get a lot worse, and expect more hacks into emails of those who speak up.

19 May 2010


Senator John Kerry, in a Senate hearing on the new START:

During the question-and-answer period, Sen. Jim DeMint, a first-term Republican from South Carolina, who's up for re-election this year, said he found it "frightening" that the Russians believe there's a relationship between offensive and defensive nuclear forces.

The committee's chairman, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., patiently noted, "There is a relationship." If offensive forces are cut and defensive forces go up, "you can obliterate one party's sense of deterrence." This, he said, is "common sense."

DeMint said, "But you're agreeing with me." Don't we want to expand our defenses so that we can obliterate Russia's offensive capability?

Kerry, a bit nonplussed, replied, "No."

High Modernist Sim Dystopia

I find this video interesting but slightly disturbing. Some guy created the "perfect" SimCity city through meticulous planning, but it ended up like this:

...no one is leaving or coming into the city. Population growth is stagnant. Sims don’t need to travel long distances, because their workplace is just within walking distance. In fact they do not even need to leave their own block. Wherever they go it’s like going to the same place...

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle – this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. It’s a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They don’t rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years. 50,000 years to be exact. They are all imprisoned in space and time.

via Chris Blattman

The Rand Paul Revolution Will Not Be Televised, or Possess Basic Manners

Stay classy, Rand.

18 May 2010

Chinese social tension

This past week, almost every day I've seen another report of some kind of massive, crazy attack in China.

Things like this happen in the US occasionally, but I've never seen such an onslaught like this even in the US. Violent outbreaks are extremely common in China, such as when workers rioted over firings, killing members of management. In fact, a Google search for "factory riot China" shows so many it boggles the mind.

What does this mean for China's rise as a global power? Well, if the people are so cavalier about killing each other, it does show a certain willingness to be aggressive in international politics. However, it also shows that, despite all the efforts of the government to create a "harmonious society," it is far from having done so.

I cannot fathom how a state with such rampant violence will be able to continue its march to the future. Yes, the US is violent, but this really shows a certain amount of common insanity that may even be spreading. My first impulse is to blame the repression of the state, but I can't say for sure. I would love to see any research that has been done in this area.