Jun. 25th, 2016 09:08 am
danalwyn: (Default)
So now the post-Brexit stuff is going down. It's still very murky and unclear and about the only thing I can see a consensus on is that Cameron is a terrible politician. I mean, really. This is the second referendum he's mismanaged, and he can't even keep his own party in check. They may deserve their just desserts. The rest of the UK probably doesn't.

Presuming that Brexit doesn't simply die in committee or get set on fire or spontaneously combust in a second "Are-you-really-sure" referendum, the situation has become interesting to watch - from a distance. Things that were unthinkable a few weeks ago are now not only thinkable, but possible. That should worry the hell out of a lot of people, although everything is so far off that there's no point in worrying now. Still, for the sake of speculation, here's some ideas that have come up, which are fascinating in the 'unfolding trainwreck' way of things:

1) The Dissolution of the United Kingdom: One big argument for Scotland staying with the UK is that it would remain part of the EU (a new nation would not get that effect). But if the UK leaves, Scotland might choose to stay behind. That seems a reasonable outcome. Additionally, Northern Ireland is economically dependent on an open border with the Republic of Ireland. The Unification of Ireland would be interesting (and would hand an unprepared Republic of Ireland a smoldering fuse to put out). Wales might also do a bit better out of the UK, although it's unclear whether they'll make the jump.

2) The Disposition of the Expats: There are always a surprising number of British expats looking to spend their days in more southern and sunnier climes, often under the auspices of post-Schengen open border agreements. What happens to them post-Brexit? If the EU is feeling mean, they'll say that British citizens no longer have the right to live in Europe without a lot more paperwork, but the houses have to be taxed anyway. It's a good way to make some money for the countries involved, and it's not like the situation vis-a-vis Britain could be much worse.

3) The Free City of London: While we're carving up the British Empire, let's take it's most valuable part. London was definitely on the Remain side of the ledger. Its multi-ethnic, multi-cultural nature, its immigrant past, and the ties of its main financial industries to international markets make it a perfect candidate to be in the EU. If the departure descends into plebiscite hell, it would be interesting to see if London makes a break for city-state status. Southeastern England wouldn't be a huge country, but it would be bigger and richer than some similarly sized nations, like Austria. This is a catastrophic idea, but the fact that people are talking about it even in jest is an "interesting" development (as in the Chinese curse).

4) Learning to spell things without a u: The UK is no longer the world power it was last week. One of the UK's natural strengths was in its position in a series of alliances. Now its ties with the rest of Europe seem in tatters. The UK isn't on that good of speaking terms with most of its former (non-white) colonies. The only thing left to them is their "Special Relationship" with the US - which just got a lot less special because there's a lot less they can offer. This may look a lot more like a client relationship than an alliance if the UK can't recover some European ground, just due to the hostile climate they have created locally and the dependence that fosters on her remaining friends. That's okay. The US is always willing to step up. We'll soon teach the British not to stick 'u' in every possible word, and not to use words like 'lorry' that aren't in real English (American English), and how to provide soldiers for American interventions. Hey, maybe you'll even get to become a US state once London is gone!

Overall though, there are a few years left to shape this conversation. Don't worry about the catastrophes. The damage can still be contained. Or reversed. Or we get a do-over. This isn't just politics, this is history and history is never over.
danalwyn: (Default)
This letter is published as received:

Kim Jong-Un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, etc., etc.

Look, you have problem. Major problem.

Hulk knows your problem. Hulk have many problem as well. Same as Kim Jong-Un. Always there are many tanks and many airplanes shooting at Hulk and buzzing around Hulk and causing Hulk problems. They are annoying. Like Korean dictator Kim, all Hulk want to be is left alone, but the army keeps coming. Never let Hulk get moment quiet.

So Hulk understand what you going through. You saying big words. You not want be bothered by American Army so you always up there shouting, saying that you gonna cancel the arm-is-tice thingy. Those real big words.

Hulk say big words too. Always these people come along, they be saying that they bigger than Hulk, stronger than Hulk, smarter than Hulk. Well, maybe last one true, but who cares? And Hulk shouts back, "Hulk is strongest there is!". Hulk say "Hulk getting mad!" because whole world knows, the madder Hulk gets, the stronger Hulk gets.

So we both say big words. But here problem is. See, just like Kim Jong-Un, when Hulk say words to annoying people, Hulk really loud. But then Hulk fuck them up. Hulk Smash! Hulk take puny tanks and pound them flat like pancakes before throwing them at annoying helicopters. Hulk tear apart puny robots that they send after Hulk. Hulk break little tin man Tony Stark with funny tin armor. Hulk clobber Thing. Hulk beat shit out of long haired blond thunder god with his puny hammer. Hulk show whole world: Hulk is strongest there is! Then whole world know well enough to leave Hulk alone, at least until Hulk get new author and new storyline. Then it happen all over again, but that different problem.

But Kim Jong-Un no do this. Kim Jong-Un say words really loud, then do nothing. So whole world go and say 'Kim Jong-Un, he not strong. He weak'. Then they keep annoying him. They never leave him alone. If you gonna say words, you gotta smash. No smash, nobody cares. They make jokes about you and talk like they stronger than Hulk. Nobody stronger than Hulk!

Maybe Kim Jong-Un need new publicist? Hulk need job. Also, Hulk just push over Hollywood Sign, so many people in America not like Hulk right now. Also, American military always hunting Hulk. Maybe Hulk come work for Kim Jong-Un? Hulk teach puny dictator to smash enemies. Just kidding, Hulk humor. Kim Jong-Un not puny, just not as strong as Hulk, because Hulk is the strongest there is. So maybe Kim Jong-Un want hire Hulk?

Also, Hulk look good in publicity photos. Green very popular color these days. Very important for image.

-The Incredible Hulk.
danalwyn: (Default)
It wasn't exactly a peaceful 2012, and 2013 doesn't look a whole lot better. Oh, that Afghanistan thing is still going on, but in other parts of the world there's a whole lot of other civil conflict that looks like it could spill over across borders and into the international playing field at any moment.

So here is a quick list of all the powder kegs currently burning today.

Who's shooting at who )
danalwyn: (Default)
One of the things you have to watch out for if you run email announcements for any sort of organization is to always make sure to put the list of recipients in the bcc column instead of the cc column when you want them to stay confidential. There's no better way to screw up an entire business deal then to let everyone know who's in on it. It's one of the most basic, and the most damaging, mistakes you can make on a computer on a day to day basis.

This goes double if you're doing this not for a corporation but for an international terrorist organization.

As they say, 'heads will roll', although in this case they may actually be doing so literally.
danalwyn: (Default)
A lot of computer people have long suspected that anti-virus software was essentially a kind of elaborate scam, not just the pop-up window viruses that promise you 'virus protection' after they've infected your computer, but the kind of anti-virus programs that they sell in reputable stores. Even when they work, they're essentially attempts to fix problems they already know about, when your biggest problem is ones that you don't.

So it comes as no surprise that John McAfee, creator of the company that is probably second- or third-most likely to install their software alongside something entirely unrelated, is a bit of a snake oil salesman in real life. But we were surprised to find out from Gizmodo that McAfee has entered a lifestyle involving 17-year old girlfriends, an arsenal of guns, and a descent full-blown paranoia.

That was then, of course, November 8th. Now the neighbor that McAfee had disputes with, American expatriate Gregory Faull, is dead. McAfee himself, wanted for questioning regarding the incident, is on the run.

The affair has turned into a full-blown internet sensation. McAfee is making regular phone calls to Wired reporter Joshua Davis, claiming that he is now in disguise, and is evading the police. He's already compared the rounding up of his various employees for questioning to Stalin's detentions, has claimed the police are out to kill him, and is presumably doing some wacky stunt right now, probably involving driving an ATV off a cliff. What's drawn people here is not so much the celebrity factor, but the continual amount of crazy that McAfee continues to deliver live through the internet.

If this was the US, this would be pretty cut and dry. The kind of person who has to give live updates on his escape on twitter is not the kind who can stay out of police sight for long. If he managed to escape here he would rightly raise all manner of conspiracy theories. But McAfee has been living in Belize, that small country in South America that doesn't quite fit in.

No Conspiracy Theories Necessary )
danalwyn: (Default)
So how can I distract my mind from the horrific problems of my comfortable, pampered, upper-middle-class existence? By reading about the misfortunes of others, or course! And seeing how everything else seems to be blowing up around us this week, it's pretty easy to find something else to get all depressed over.

And the news, it is depressing )
danalwyn: (Default)
In response to mounting tensions along the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkey is moving more military forces to the border with Syria, including deploying fighters from an air base near Batman, capital of Turkey's Batman province.


If it wasn't for the fact that nobody cares about Syria anymore, this would be the most amusing geographic challenge that the news media would face all year.

(Bonus points to the first conspiracy nut who claims that the whole Syria thing is just a publicity stunt for The Dark Knight Rises).
danalwyn: (Default)
So, in case you weren't watching, there was a coup this week.

Well, maybe. Maybe not. What's clear is that there's a lot of noise right now in the Maldives. First President Nasheed resigned in the face of the mass public protests. Then he declared that he had been forced to resign at gunpoint. Then his supporters took to the street. Now the new government has issued a warrant for his arrest, although they kept the grounds for the warrant secret.

Nasheed was thrown out by a public demonstration, which arouses sympathy for the demonstrators. But one of the claims that the demonstrators made was that he was not sufficiently Islamic, which raises suspicions. Also Nasheed's election in 2008 removed from power Asia's longest serving head of state, who is still active in politics, and may be manipulating events. But Nasheed's also given to a bit of grandstanding, being the first head of state to hold an underwater cabinet meeting (if sea levels rise about one meter, the Maldives will become a memory). Maybe people really did get tired of him. Maybe he did refuse to call the army out against the police. Maybe he's scheming something now. We don't know.

Now people should be doing something about it. Either a democratic leader was overthrown, or a leader was overthrown by democracy. Many countries have nationals there. Many countries have economic interests there. Diplomats should be busy. Trade ministers should be busy. In anticipation of violence, militaries should be at least planning to be busy.

But nobody's really busy right now. And it's not just indecision over what actually happened. The world's democracies just have not figured out how to deal with a coup - justified or not. Condone? Condemn? Ignore? Isolate? Engage? A lot of words get thrown around, but a basic fact remains - the world's democracies don't know what to do about the collapse of a government. And until they figure that out, there won't be any kind of unified response to anything. Which means a continuation of the status quo, where every country tries to play things to their own advantage and usually manages to make things worse.

Which is what we do every time, because none of us really wants to sit down and figure out what we should do ahead of time.
danalwyn: (Default)
2011 Headcount - including the late Dear Leader:

  • Than Shwe (Burma): retired (maybe)

  • Ben Ali (Tunisia): deposed

  • Hosni Mubarak (Egypt): arrested

  • Fidel Castro (Cuba): retired (medical)

  • Muammar Gaddafi (Libya): killed while resisting revolution

  • Kim Jong-Il (North Korea): heart attack

Is it just me, or am I beginning to run out of people to make fun of?
danalwyn: (Default)
If you've got some goodwill to spare today, Tropical Storm Emily is hovering within 100 kilometers of Port-au-Prince, Haiti right now, a city where over 600,000 people are still living in tents. Currently it looks like the heart of the storm will pass slightly west of the main city, but even so a possibly devastating near miss is about to hit one of the world's largest populations of internally displaced homeless people. Wish them luck - it's too late now for anything else.
danalwyn: (Default)
News Summary Time:

I've been avoiding the Middle East like the plague ever since it became impossible to get anything concrete out of it, but there's a bunch of other things (some outdated since it took me so long to write this) that have been running around the headlines. So here they are:

But First, Here's Johnny With the News )
danalwyn: (Default)
For the interested, a fascinating photo collection from Jan Banning, made up of photos of bureaucrats in their offices around the world, giving you a glimpse into what life is actually like in those countries. There are a lot of contrasts in there, from the clutter of paper in the Indian offices, to the profusion of color in the Bolivian ones, and the stark bareness of the Liberian offices looted during the civil war.

Gallery here

(There's some minor NSFW in at least one of the backgrounds).
danalwyn: (Default)
There are a lot of things I should be writing about. I'm not writing about any of them now.

Instead, courtesy of Tyler Cowen, I bring you one of the most WTF-inducing sentences to ever start a news article:

A German student created a major traffic jam in Bavaria after making a rude gesture at a group of Hell's Angels motorcycle gang members, hurling a puppy at them and then escaping on a stolen bulldozer.

There is no conceivable universe I can think of where this makes any amount of sense whatsoever, yet it continues to sit there in factual smugness. Is it June Fool's Day in Bavaria or something?

Rule #14

May. 31st, 2010 08:53 am
danalwyn: (Default)
Morning Briefing Rule #14:

The answer to the question "Can things in Israel and Palestine somehow get worse?" is always yes.
danalwyn: (Default)
What is it about the last two weeks in the news? Has everyone lost their mind all at once?

The Bangkok situation inevitably disintegrates into the worst plausible outcome.
South Korea comes out and says what everybody already knew (also four North Korean subs went off the map the other day; makes the ROK nervous)
Fighting in Mogadishu
Still fighting in the Kivus.
Border fighting between Somaliland and Ethiopia.
Street fighting in Antananarivo.
Complete breakdown of civil order and all-out war in Kingston.
Street fighting in Kyrgyzstan.
The famine in Niger isn't getting better, and now Chad is in on it.
The DRC wants the UN out of their war.
Chad wants the UN out of their war.
South Africa's had to send troops to the Zimbabwe border with less then a month before the World Cup starts.
Yes, there are still Naxalites in India.
More bombings in [insert name of country here]

Basically you could have replaced the news for the past week with "Things Fall Apart". Here's hoping that we're using up all of summer's aggression in May, and that the rest of it will be quiet (except it won't).
danalwyn: (Default)
So, if you haven't been following, the internet kerfluffle over 1MillionShirts is continuing to gather steam. Here's a summary in a nutshell.

If you don't want it, Africa probably doesn't want it either )
danalwyn: (Default)
Well, whatever it was in Kyrgyzstan, it's over.

We don't know what it was, whether it was a revolution, a revolt, or what. We don't really know who's in charge, irrespective of what people say. All we know is that it was unorganized, it was violent, and mercifully, it was short. We know that so far the main army has declined to mobilize, and that the opposition is disorganized to the extreme, and that nobody knows where to go from here. We can only hope that their future is brighter then their past.

But what we also know is how dangerously restricted Afghanistan has made US Foreign Policy. The US should have dropped all connections with a man like Bakiyev years ago. His cronyism, his corruption, his dictatorial ways read like a list of indictments against his character and his government, and by all rights the US, which has keeps reaffirming its support for democracy, fairness, and rule of law, should have nothing to do with him. If not opposing him, we should at least have the sense to stay the hell away and wait for his regime to go down in flames.

But we can't, because we need Manas Air Base to supply our forces in Afghanistan. So we have to go back to the same bargains we made during the Cold War, cozying up to dictators whose unstable regimes were doomed to eventual collapse and failure, at tremendous cost to their citizens, paying them to oppress their own people in the name of freedom. Except this time instead of doing it to face down a monolithic Soviet Union, complete with massive armies and hordes of nukes, we're doing it to face down a handful of ragged, unwashed yokels living in the mountain country of Afghanistan, who couldn't fill a combat division if they all showed up to work at the same time. The game may be the same, but the rationale is getting harder and harder for the rest of us to swallow.
danalwyn: (Default)
Sometimes I do research for my own edification and my amateur attempts at writing. Recently I've been trying to learn about riot control tactics and techniques for large-scale protests.

This is surprisingly difficult. The United States has changed a lot of its crowd control doctrine since the Battle for Seattle to focus on either riots or demonstration protests, and in both cases the doctrine is mostly defensive. If a riot gets too large to be dispersed, contain it, and let it burn itself out. If a demonstration protest becomes large, you intercept its march route, or you contain it, preventing it from entering the area where a meeting is being held for instance. In either case it's the police who stand on the defensive, mostly utilizing the power of barricades to defend themselves, confining the crowd to a restricted area until the event is over and people disperse. The concept of having to disperse a crowd that is itself on the defensive, having barred itself into a large area of the city and showing no sign of dispersing, similar to the "Revolution" protests that swept the world, doesn't appear to have engendered serious thought in the US. The implication is that solving that problem is a political job, and the police shouldn't be coming up with specialized plans for dealing with it.

This is probably good for the US, because it indicates that people are finding easier ways to solve problems then starting urban civil wars. But it's bad for me, because I can't find anything to indicate what they would do when confronted with such a situation.

So now that both Kyrgyzstan and Thailand are swamped with protests, I'll be watching how the police there respond. Although given the possibility of brutality, I doubt that they'll be letting many people take pictures. And it just feels weird (not to mention immoral) conducting research by watching what could be an atrocity in progress.
danalwyn: (Default)
Kind of glad I'm not British right now; the hand-wringing and whine-fest over Falklands War 2010 is beginning to annoy me, and I'm on the other side of the Atlantic. I can't even imagine the volume that the amateur circuit is exuding on that side of the world. I suppose it's the British equivalent of what last year's Honduras testosterone fest was in the United States, loud, annoying, and ultimately run by people who don't know what they're talking about. The experts are being much more sedate, but what's the fun in listening to people who know what they're talking about?
danalwyn: (Default)
Remember Moussa Dadis Camara? He managed to get himself in trouble lately by, oh, being responsible for the rape and/or murder of hundreds of people, which is the sort of thing that slips out of the media's eye.

Of course, that's not the way he tells it.

Camara's Day in Court )

ETA: Where did all my links go?


danalwyn: (Default)

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