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I think I used to write on here, largely about news and politics and things like that. But I haven't been, largely because news and politics is now in the streets and coming up the alley and being all in my business and so on, which explains my long absence.

It's odd to wake up and find yourself living too far in a story to turn back to the first page. Nothing to do, one expects, other than to muddle on.
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Every cycle they tell you that this will be the most important election of your lifetime. They might have actually gotten it right this time.

Nobody really has a good idea of what's going to happen. Let's all hope for the best today.

Deja vu

Nov. 6th, 2016 08:42 pm
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Seriously, can the FBI just be done with this shit? I feel like I'm watching the election's worst moments eternally on rerun. Let's get back to the work of actually having an election here.


Jun. 25th, 2016 09:08 am
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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.
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There's a lot of tea leaf reading you can do in the Presidential Primaries in the US right now. A lot of it can be done with using the ghost votes (early absentee ballots and all that) cast for Republicans no longer in the race to predict who should have stayed in, and what the voters of a state really think. You can do entire pages of statistical analysis on this. That's on top of the reams of which poll results are likely to be altered because of which candidate's last minute ground game, etc., etc.

Probably more productive to just drink the damn tea. At this point, the Republican race is really up in the air (the Democratic less so), and everyone should accept that until after the conventions are over. Then it's time to start figuring out what to do for the actual race that half the country has forgotten about.
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So, Delmer Berg is dead.

I didn't actually know about Delmer Berg until this week, until he died, but he was the last survivor of the Abraham Lincoln brigade, and his death means that a strange but relevant portion of American history has slipped from living memory.

It's strange to look back at the 1930s and think that, at that time, both fascism and communism were seen as possibly viable successors to democracy. It is strange to remember that Americans of that time, in the throes of the great depression, amid the labor struggles and the struggles for survival that characterized the United States during the mid-30s, were so alarmed by the spread of fascism that some of them chose to volunteer to fight against the fascists in Spain.

The Spanish Civil War was an odd time. In our age of cynicism it is odd to think that people saw these new ideas in statecraft as representative of a golden future yet to come. But the Spanish Civil War became the flashpoint for conflict, attracting people of all ideological stripes to all sides. It draw not only on eAmerican laborers and activists, but also on foreign fascists, news reporters, and foreign authors like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell. It saw the final death of European anarchism, and the collapse of the League of Nations. It was an accurate prelude to World War II, a clash between German and Italian troops on one side, and Soviets on the other, through the crush of Spanish auxiliaries.

The Abraham Lincoln brigade fought for the Spanish Republic, despite the lack of support from anywhere else in the world for the survival of what began as a liberal democratic republic. They were not only committed ideologues, but also wanderers, vagabonds, troublemakers, and adventurers. Equipped by the Soviet Union (and only barely), and facing an increasingly well-equipped Nationalist force, they fought in the heart in the war. They were exposed to the fire of their enemies, and to the pettiness, capriciousness, and vindictiveness of their erstwhile Communist leaders. Some grew disillusioned, some reaffirmed their dedication to international worker solidarity, while perhaps growing apart from Stalinism.

The journey of adventurism and ideology, followed by hopeless battle and eventual disillusionment has uncomfortable parallels to the journey many volunteers for IS now undertake. It is also an uncomfortable reminder to the American Left that once the dedication to workers was so strong that people were willing to journey across the ocean and fight for worker's solidarity. And it's a reminder that people of all stripes are so caught up in the way they view the world that they are willing to cross it and risk death in order to protect their worldview. Sometimes they may even be right.

I can't say what good or ill came out of the Abraham Lincoln brigade, but they overcame terrible burdens and fought for an ideal of solidarity that many of us would choose to applaud against an enemy all of us would choose to loathe. For that they deserve to be remembered.
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Goodbye Scalia, we hardly even knew ye.

I mean, you were around for a while, but your opinions, while strident, were so ideologically incoherent that we had a hard time figuring out what you actually stood for. Something to do with the constitution, we think, or your particular interpretation of it, unless it proved convenient to whoever you were angry at today.

So, who knows? His death leaves the court deadlocked (and Republicans threatening to block nominations), and reduces the vitriol per Supreme Court opinion by about ninety percent, and concentrates most of the burden of judicial incoherence in Clarence Thomas.

May he be replaced soon so we can get on with the damn business of running the country.
danalwyn: (Default)
It's been raining for a while, off and on. Some people are beginning to get tired of it.

Thing is, we've still gotten barely over half of our winter rainfall (measured July to June). The snowpack is over average, but it's under 100%, and ending the drought will take 150%. In four years or so we've forgotten what winter used to be like in California, and also completely underestimated the sheer amount of damage that we've suffered to our water system.

It's not a vanishing problem. Thing is, people are living in the wrong place, farming in the wrong place, and trying to squeeze water out of the wrong place. It's probably necessary - after all, there's no such thing as a perfect spot where nobody has to worry, but the situation isn't getting much better.

I hold out hope for the rest of the rainy season, but we need all we can get. Maybe this year will be good enough to put us back on the road to recovery.
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So, it's been a while since Turkey shot down a Russian jet and nobody seems to have started World War III.

I'm hoping that this will disrupt the strange, peculiar, and in some cases almost homoerotic fascination that members of the American right have with Vladimir Putin as a strong, macho, manly man who doesn't take guff from anyone. For a man who is supposed to show no fear and whose tough use of force is supposed to make everyone else back down he's been putting on quite a show of nothing. Then again, when it comes to the Putin-fanboys in the Republican party making a sensible course correction, I'm not holding my breath. I suppose manly men never admit when they're wrong.
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So, if you are American, hopefully you have done your civic duty. It's probably too late now, but you never know. And if you missed this election day, you can always make it up by annoying your local government in person. It's what I do.
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While everyone is celebrating over Obergefell:

Held: The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State

one should also not forget Texas Department of Housing:

Held: Disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.

and King:

Held: Section 36B’s tax credits are available to individuals in States that have a Federal Exchange.

It's been a banner week for the court, approving gay marriage, upholding the Fair Housing Act, and continuing the ACA. It's also been a terrible week for Scalia. That's okay too. If you drew a Venn Diagram of Major Court Opinions I Agree With, and Major Court Opinions Scalia Dissents On you would only have to draw one circle.
danalwyn: (Default)
There's a superb introductory-level article about code at Bloomberg. Here, it's very, very, very long. 38,000 words to be more precise, so don't embark upon it lightly, but if you ever were curious about how programming works or what those overpaid idiots in my profession actually deal with, this is probably the best introduction I've ever seen, including textbooks on the subject.

It's also a good way to waste a couple of hours, even if you know something about the subject already.
danalwyn: (Default)
The rain continues. There was a point where this itself was not particularly noticeable in the Bay Area, but after three years of drought, people notice. For one thing, they notice that they've forgotten how to drive in the rain.

Just as unsurprising, despite the fact that we've had probably half of our yearly average rainfall this early in the season, we still need a lot more to actually recover from three years of "hardly any". The best this is going to do is to stave off disaster for another year or two - which, hey, another year, but it's not like it got any easier to live in California. Worryingly, the snowpack is barely at half its usual depth.

People live here because it doesn't rain. Now it's gotten worse. We'll have to see what happens next.
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Well, we're actually getting a warning about storms this week. Like weather with real rain. Like, water from the sky or something. I mean we've actually had decent amounts of rain, and we're going to get more.

I am unusually excited for this event. Considering the massive drought we are still in, that's probably understandable.
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Happy Thanksgiving, although most of you who celebrate it are probably already recovering from any feats of gluttony.

To those of other nationalities or persuasions, I hope you enjoyed your day.

Back to my internet hermitage.
danalwyn: (Default)
It will surprise nobody who reads this journal to realize that I keep up a lot on current events, mostly those involving conflict.

In the aftermath of 9/11 one of the first questions America asked itself was "Why do they hate us?" A lot of answers came fast and furious, because of past events, because of religion, because of fundamentalism, but they were mostly wrong because this is the wrong question. As people became aware that the entire world was involved in a great clash that transcended a religious divide, a political divide, and even geographic divides. The world was, in its entirety, in struggle.

It is human nature to draw narrative out of a great panorama. A number of narratives have been drawn out of this one. One of my personal favorites is the idea that what you see throughout the world is a grand reaction to global inter-connection. On one side is a world where people communicate across the world at the drop of a hat via Skype and SMS and Twitter, where you can order something from a shop in China for delivery in Uganda; a place with a huge culture made up of common threads that pokes its sharp, pointy elbows into every available spot. On the other side lies a world of our fathers and grandfathers, or traditionalists and ancient cultures and a cycle of years that passes back centuries (nostalgic centuries of course, history is rarely so kind as to be comfortingly static).

It's hard to explain human nature, but that's never stopped me from pontificating before )
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So, people are bombing Iraq again. You might remember this from several previous incidents. We're doing the whole thing again.

As usual, it's not going to work. Or rather it's better to say that all it's going to do is provide some minor assistance to the folks on the ground. For an example, I turn to the BBC.

To summarize, two GR4 Tornado aircraft (each costing about $15 million by past accounts) flew about 920 km one way (you don't want to know what the gas bill is for that), piloted by pilots who need hundreds of hours of training in expensive simulators, cruised around a target zone for a time, hit a "heavy weapons" station (capabilities unknown), and then spotted an enemy technical (also known as a pickup truck with a gun on the back). They fired at least one Brimstone missile (estimated cost $240,000), and hit and destroyed a truck (probably a couple of thousand dollars even in the US) mounting what was probably something similar to a ZPU (a dual purpose anti-aircraft gun first manufactured by the Soviet Union back in 1949, and probably about the same cost as the truck).

The point is not that this didn't do anything. It probably killed someone if they didn't bail out. If there were Kurdish or Iraqi troops around, it reduced the immediate threat to them. If it was in the middle of a fierce battle, it opened a hole in a position and allowed the shape of combat to change rapidly. Soldiers pinned down could advance, perhaps catching ISIL off-guard. At the least they weren't being shot at quite as much, and that's always a good thing.

But if the truck was just sitting near a command post, it does very little. ISIL will get a new truck and a new gun (both readily available on the black market), and replace the driver. The coalition will run out of missiles due to budgetary concerns and aircraft from the wear and tear long before ISIL runs out of second-hand Toyota trucks.

So if the RAF drops a state-of-the-art missile on a truck in the middle of Iraq and no friendly troops are around to take advantage of the situation, does anybody care? Probably not.
danalwyn: (Default)
Looks like CY Leung isn't going to resign, at least not easily. Best of luck to the Umbrella Revolution and Hong Kong today. Let's hope things go well.
danalwyn: (Default)
So, first, a rant. I know it's a little Victim Blamey - but can't people at least think for a change? I know that you can go wherever you are legally allowed to be, but come on! You flew a giant passenger plane through an active combat zone. An active combat zone where not one, but several, planes were shot down during the preceding weeks. Yes, it still may have technically been an approved route, but why take chances? And yes, they shouldn't have shot down your plane, but why take that risk in the beginning?

That being over, here are the answers that I've come up with to some of the most popular questions regarding the crash - because I'm annoyed at the internet, as usual:

Questions and Answers )


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