Friday, June 23, 2006

Global Warming Declared Real

... rest of world goes "Yes, we knew that."

A report requested by the US Government has concluded that global warming is real. I understand that there are political aspects surrounding this otherwise obvious conclusion, but they're all concerned with short term gain.

I think the concept I have most difficulty wrapping my head around in modern politics is that fact that nobody, anywhere, seems willing to make changes that will return benefits in more than about five years. The fact that a major report had to be commissioned to convince people of such a fact annoys me greatly. Anyone with some basic ability to remember from one year to the next, let alone keep records, can see that the climate is changing. A little examination of history and historical data will show that the change happens in line with human activity. And the likelihood that some of those naysayers are going - still on a political, short-term gain basis - to produce a few tame scientists who'll babble a bit about faulty data and unreliable conclusions and not actually do any studies themselves - annoys me even more.

There's a notion doing the rounds that a lot of the motivations of environmental "sceptics" are based in religious ideas - namely, that the planet belongs to any given current generation of humanity (or the sceptics' particular sub-sub-segment of it) to do what it wants with, and second, that the world will end soon anyway, so it doesn't matter. These two notion, above all others, makes me see red. Being objective in this area is a real strain.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Wave of Microstates

And while I'm posting like mad, here's some opinion from on the long-term effects in other Balkan regions of the independence of Montenegro.

View of Democracy

Here's an interview by Jennie Rothenberg with Robert Kaplan about the stablisation of the city of Mosul, in Iraq. There's one vastly interesting quote of a quote (this is the interviewer):
Is it possible that some people are genuinely comfortable living under a hierarchical structure and really don't want democracy at all? One Sunni man you interviewed for this piece asked, "What good is voting if the Shiites and Kurds will vote, too?"
I find it fascinating that Rothenberg, despite her experience of political systems and current affairs and journalism in general, apparently finds it hard to conceive of someone preferring a hierarchical system to democracy. How did the West get from "everyone having a say in government sounds like a good idea" to an inability to comprehend any other form of society?

Realtime Attention-to-News

The BBC news website has made available a rolling, real-time monitor of what stories are being read most. You can even see what traffic to the site is like from each part of the world. Combined with Google Trends, it's a great way to see where people's attention is. I wonder if there's any way to track most popular or most discussed stories on Google News?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Action, Reaction: al-Zarqawi's Death

I've been following the news of the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, with some interest. The first thing that puzzled me is that he was actually killed, not captured. Surely someone like al-Zarqawi is more useful when he can be questioned? Calling in an air strike on a target like him seems strategically clumsy. It's reported here that they opted for an air strike in case he got away, but the building he was in is repeatedly described as "isolated" - thereby making escape difficult. Hard to know without seeing the place, I suppose, and I'm not a strategist or tactician.

Second was that all the coverage, down to images on the news of Iraqi police forces dancing with large guns in their hands, was of people who were pleased.

That second one seems to be partly balancing out now, with a Jordanian Shalafi, Sheikh Jarrah Kada, who describes al-Zarqawi as a martyr. Yet, bizarrely, he's pleased al-Zarqawi is dead too, because he's now "going to heaven". I wonder how much of that point of view we're going to see reported in Western media.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Montenegro Progress

I've been following the development of Montenegro's independence. It's fascinating watching the progress, which is generally civil and agreeable, in an area that's about as war-torn as you can get in Europe. Serbia declared independence (which seems an odd way to put it) and also laid claim to the continued statehood, which basically means that Serbia is the state that was Serbia & Montenegro, and Montenegro is a new state. The EU has said that it might be possible to reach a "stability and association agreement" in 2006, which would be the first step for Montenegro to join. The EU is likely to recognise Montenegro's statehood as a block, rather than as individual countries, although Iceland recognised it yesterday.

There doesn't seem to be any information available yet as to what changes in form of government Montenegro will have, if any. It almost goes without saying that it will be something democratic, but there are many forms to choose from. The Head of State (currently President Filip Vujanovic) could continue as a president of some kind, or possibly a monarch - there is an existing royal house, which has not given up the claim. At present, the existing parliament and prime minister, Milo Djukanovic, are in control. Djukanovic, according to the BBC article linked above, "is still under investigation in Italy for cigarette smuggling."

Obviously, there are still differing views within Montenegro - with the margin having been so slim in the referendum, that's inevitable.