Monday, May 12, 2008

Readings 5-12-08

A few items from late last week you might have missed.

Averting "inadvertent" nuclear war

Do you know about this? On Nov. 22, Thanksgiving Day, 2007, two U.S. jets were scrambled from the 90th Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska to intercept two Russian long-range "strategic" bombers (strategic being a euphemism for nuclear-capable) in the skies over the Aleutian Islands as the bombers approached Alaskan air space.

Yeah, Russia is flexing again. Is it to send a message to the world, especially China and the U.S., or is it directed more toward the inside, to let everyone know who's in charge, or both?

This sort of brinksmanship has unearthed old fears of accidental nuclear exchange. In light of recent news, this is certainly a cause for concern.

One thing one should keep in mind: My sources tell me that, despite current problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, the rest of the world, most notably Russia and China were quite whelmed, in fact, scared shitless by our display of military might during both Gulf Wars. Both countries are also aware that we did this with a relatively small professional force with a considerable amount of popular dissent, most notably in GWII. They are spending a lot of time and energy working out how to deal with the U.S. military.

Of course, there's a very good chance that the Russian over-flights are merely acts of game-piecing, designed to get everyone all worked up and see how they react. Perhaps because of the unpopularity of the wars we're in and the dissatisfaction with the outgoing administration as well as the dip in the economy has prompted a test of resolve or an end run in a political football game. It's a game that seems to have a lot of people nervous, and justifiably so in the face of a potential "accidental" nuclear exchange. (I'd wager that these exercises serve a multiplicity of purposes, internal, external, political and strategic alike.)

One quote in the Slate article grabbed me. This is from Bruce Blair's paper presented at the International Conference on Nuclear Disarmament in Oslo:
"The nuclear command systems today operate in an intense information battleground," Blair wrote, "on which more than 20 nations including Russia, China, and North Korea have developed dedicated computer attack programs. These programs deploy viruses to disable, confuse, and delay nuclear command and warning processes in other nations. At the brink of conflict, nuclear command and warning networks around the world may be besieged by electronic intruders whose onslaught degrades the coherence and rationality of nuclear decision-making. The potential for perverse consequences with computer-launched weapons on hair-trigger is clear."

I'm just a layman in this regard, but as laypeople, we should strive to become informed citizens. An informed citizenry is one of the key components of any democracy. Well, the informed citizen in me is mystified by the fact that humans are still strategizing nuclear war. Call me naive, but I think we really need to get past this. This statement may be a simplistic emphasis of the obvious, but it's a point that needs to be hammered on as long as it takes. I don't hold out hope that we'll stop shooting each other any time soon, but the nuclear option is just not an option.

Russians to operate computers by power of thought

Bear in mind that this story is from Pravda, a publication closer to the Weekly World News than the New York Times, and also that the Washington Post has shuffled the story off to their Off Beat column, but I though it brought some things up that deserved some consideration.

First, it seemed odd to me that the writer of the Pravda story didn't seem to know that people are already doing this and are pretty well along in the process.

Secondly, and a bit obliquely, there's an old saw that makes the rounds among space buffs that the Americans spent a million dollars to make a pens that works in space, the Soviets used pencils. This may or may not be a myth, but the message is implicit. 750,000 dollars doesn't seem like a lot for this kind of research.

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see what they come up with considering their reputation for low-cost improvisation. (I've heard that the work-arounds and cob-jobs on the old Mir space-station bordered on steampunk with chewing gum and bungee cords.)

via Environmental Graffiti

Amazon Under Threat From Cleaner Air
The new study identifies a link between reducing sulphur dioxide emissions from burning coal and increasing sea surface temperatures in the tropical north Atlantic, resulting in a heightened risk of drought in the Amazon rainforest.
My head just exploded.

We can't seem to do anything right.

Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity
Delta Green - be part of the conspiracy. The latest sourcebook for Delta Green, the cult modern day Call of Cthulhu setting, is being financed via fundable. If the target for funding is not met it’s release will be delayed... if it is released at all. A niche setting within a niche system in a hobby in decline, Delta Green is still intensely well loved by those who know about it, making them a good target for the ransom model. Will thinking outside the usual publishing business models save pen and paper RPGs?

I can see this catching on with other niche markets in the Long Tail.

Delta Green has a solid core or devotees, so it's conceivable that the folks at Pagan Publishing could utilize the 1000 true fans model to their benefit.


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