Friday, December 31, 2010

Degrees of separation

Because I don't have Twitter, I have to be oldschool and share my links here:

Al Jazeera's latest episode of People & Power is a must watch as it looks at the identity crises faced by those tribes living by what is now a state border. Towards the end, it also has a brilliant example of how NOT to conduct a peacebuilding forum as it shows clips from a somewhat recent event that tried to bring the government and the Shilluk Kingdom together. Really good stuff.

Clooney's Satelite

P: No, Im Batman. You be Robin
C: What?! No way, Im Batman, I have more experience.
P: Exactly, you were Batman before, and you were shit at it. So this time I am Batman and you're Robin

In case you haven't seen, here is Batman (Clooney) and Robin's (Prendergrast) latest flash of genius...
Using public access satelites (from Google) to monitor military activity. If your interested, you can sign up and follow their twitter page* to be updated on genocide as it unfurls. Now you can be the cool kid at the table who is up to date with how many women and children were killed and raped as it happens!

Although while this is rather amusing on so many levels. I would just like to geek it for a second and talk about how exciting it is to see increasing usage of public satelites for a variety of reasons. In the case of South Sudan, this is not even the first time......this was. It was when Jane's Defense Weekly used commercial satellites to track down the cargo of tank from the hijacked MV Faina in 2008.

*there is no twitter page to follow, I made it up. If there is actually one.....2011 i going to be a very sad year

Thursday, December 30, 2010

So what happens to the north after secession?

With only 10 days to the referendum and talk of whether it will happen or not essentially dead (hint: its going to happen), what happens next is the new exciting topic.

In the South many of those who will be voting for unity (however many secessionist, especially soldiers believe this too) are preparing for what they see as the intra-south war between the Dinka and the rest of the various tribes/ethnicities/nationalities/whateveryouwannacallit. Although this view have mainly came from Equatorians who really only see a clash between the Dinka and the 'united tribes' of Equatoria, without consideration of anyone else, not even the second majority Nuer peoples. However, this is merely the speculations of average everyday people and I'm sure that GoSS has a strategy to deal with these issues - because at the end of the day, a civil war would only really happen if the politicians and tribal leaders decide it. They are the ones to incite hate in their communities towards others, and at the same time, they are the ones able to stop an escalation into war - if they choose to. Low-level inter-tribal conflict will essentially continue, but merely on a criminal level as it has throughout history.... Bla bla bla


What is interesting now is the ripple effect of the South's exhibition of a successful struggle. Now that the referendum has shown that success and freedom can be granted to those who try, we have begun to see a forthcoming revolution in the north. Well, at least that is the feeling I got when I read these headlines the other day:
Sudan opposition gives NCP ultimatum to hold constitutional talks
SPLM North threatens to use violence against Sudan's NCP

But the thing is, they are too late, and Bashir made some pretty strong arguments against them with his classic beautiful rhetoric.

"Whoever wants to overthrow the government can lick his elbow....."

In case you didn't get it, to lick one's elbow is physically is to overthrow the least through legal channels. As he argues, the NCP was a democratically elected government
"The government is not a revolutionary council or any government that can be ousted but it is the Sudanese people,"
And yes, I fully meant it when I said democratically elected government. Now I don't care about what you have to say about how valid the elections were and whether you witnessed some terrible electoral crimes, because at the end of the day, the election observers and the wider international community did not oppose the results or the credibility of the whole process.

It seems that at the time, people (locally and internationally) were too focused on ensuring that the election just happened so that the next milestone (the referendum) could be reached. Now that we are all reaching that milestone, the troubles that we chose to leave behind is catching up with us. Bashir now sits very comfortably in his position, with no legally legitimate threat to his power. SPLM in the South had sacrificed the right of the people in the north by getting Yasir Arman to stand down during the April elections as a compromise to NCP to ensure SPLM's dominance in the South (as it did to so many independent candidates in the South, what ever happened to Alfred Gore?). The international community (as non-biased as it is) didn't want to rattle the cage too much and was content with the two major sides being happy. And then of course there were those parties who tried to boycott the elections but were essentially left to stand alone with their dick in their hands with absolutely no love or support.

So, once again everyone settled for the easy path at the time of crisis and once again, they will pay for it. Everyone made sacrifices by turning a blind eye, or withdrawing from the process, but in the end Bashir still came out on really do have to hand it to the crafty little fuck.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Really Bored in post-conflict


This holiday season really emphasises the title of the blog. Juba is currently dead.......
As a result I have been feeling especially uninspired

However, I am going to make up for it,

So here is a few Juba updates:

  • Juba Police have recently received some new sexy wheels. Several sedan/saloon cars with Police painted on its side and the flashy lights have been parked at every major roundabout in town, where police have been keeping a strong presence all through the night. The reasoning is unclear, but it has worked wonderfully as a social facilitation where drivers are now driving a lot less like wankers and a bit more like fearfully law-abiding citizens. Also, the police (non-traffic) are now rocking their new uniforms - a strange colour of brown camo. I'm still unclear as to why the police need to be able to blend into dust and dirt in an urban setting, but they seem happy. I'm sure once the military mentality slowly washes away they will suit up once again. Finally, mad respect going out to all those traffic cops who have been working really hard in conducting traffic while showing no sign of a resurgence of everyday corruption......I no longer fear the sound of the whistle, and instead feel much safer driving around with police present.
  • The SPLA has been a very happy and excited as Santa brings them some new helicopters. They spent all day yesterday flying them all around town in, once again...terribly selected camouflage colours and patterns. These helicopters didn't seem like the Mi-17 Kazan Helicopters that were reported to have been purchased, but rather a smaller model....maybe the Mi-38.
  • There is a new GIANT billboard in town by the Petronas roundabout that simply tells people to vote for secession, with a reminder of the days left until the referendum (might I add that this was not in sync with the days left on the countdown clock at Juba roundabout - i think that's fixed now though).
  • Stim apple drink is now rather difficult to find in town as supplies from the north begin decreasing either due to fear of war or maybe just a holiday thing.
  • UNDP DDR is in trouble with this little gem of news. Victory point to GoSS for what may be more funding for their own DDR projects.
  • OH - it rained.....twice. In one week.
See, I told you it was boring. That is all for now. I will try and get some posts up soon to cover the northern opposition insurgency, why Salva Kiir is a cool cat and the unsettling (and sometimes stressful) ties between civil society organisations and politicians.

p.s. sorry i couldn't get photos of some of this stuff but my camera is dead. If you would like some photos, feel free to give me a camera.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Conflicts in Everything: Man vs Elephants

Man vs Elephant

From Osborn and Parker 2003, Towards an integrated approach for reducing the conflict between elephants and people: a review of current research(pdf):

Conflict between elephants and people persists even where considerable resources have been devoted to solving the problem. This can be attributed to a range of factors, including technical faults, lack of commitment of the farmers and limited resources

An expensive ‘arms race’ can develop between managers and elephants that are able to adapt quickly to new fence features designed to electrify the parts of the fence that elephants destroy.

Most interventions aimed at reducing crop-loss come from organizations outside of the aCected community, which include government wildlife departments and external development organizations. Farmers expect the conflict to be resolved, and when it is not, often turn against the responsible agencies. Donor-funded technical solutions are often unsustainable because external agencies are reluctant to provide the high maintenance costs.

Tests with various chemical repellents have been undertaken in a number of field situations. In Malawi, Bell (1984) conducted trials with HATE 4C, a commercially available deer repellent, on fields and found no significant reduction in crop loss.
The current methods to reduce conflict between elephants and farmers are either expensive or ineffective. If it is essential to bring farmers into the process of resolving conflict by taking responsibility for the problems of crop pests, then any large-scale solution that involves continuous funding from outside the community will eventually fail. We suggest that the more responsibility farmers have for crop protection, the more successful deterrence will be. The role of external agencies and wildlife managers is, therefore, to work with farmers to develop a range of management solutions for repelling elephants.

They should try adopting a peacebuilding strategy that is so widely used here in Sudan.....the peace conference. Although it would be cool to say that you resolved conflict with HATE 4C

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Quantifying Terrorism

photo credit

Discover Magazine has a fascinating article on how a particle physicists and an economist attempt to establish a model of terrorist behaviour.

“In political science literature, human rationality is primary. They assume groups are rational actors, have access to all the information, and make the right decisions,” Clauset says. “A physicist’s natural approach is to assume people are like particles, and their behavior the result of constraints beyond their control.”

The researchers found that the pattern of varying sizes of terrorists attacks against the number of casualties repeatedly formed a power law curve.

The splintered, disorganized nature of insurgencies became still clearer when Johnson and his colleagues looked at the timing of attacks. The numbers in Iraq, Colombia, Peru, and Afghanistan followed similar patterns, with “sudden bursts of activity, then quiet periods,” Spagat says. “If it were random, you would have far fewer busy days and far fewer quiet days than are captured in the data.” Without a centralized command to issue orders, there must be something else behind the clustered timing of attacks.

The article then delves into a debate on the strategic efficacy of adopting rational models of behaviour as opposed to context specific analysis.

Cultural context is not something Johnson pays much attention to. Accustomed to analyzing particles, which are not known for their reasoning capabilities or complex inner lives, physicists tend to ignore the why and go straight to the how. “All those questions of ‘why’ show a lack of understanding,” Johnson insists. “Whatever the reasons are, this is how they operate.” He has explained this to British and American military officers, Iraqi officials, and even security officials at the London Olympics. “Insurgents may be doing it for all sorts of reasons, but the mechanics are what matters.”

In the end the model still could not do what it had sought to accomplish, that is, to be able to predict terrorist attacks.

“Nothing we’ve done suggests we can predict there will be an attack in, say, the next two weeks,” Spagat freely concedes. “Rather, a physics-inspired insurgency model can help guide more general decisions. If the data show that attacks happen in a bursty pattern, it makes sense to have emergency medical teams able to react to several attacks at once. And the data offer a rough guide to how big those attacks might be, based on how they’ve looked in the past.” Moreover, he says, if the model is right about modern insurgencies’ being a constantly shifting collection of small, unconnected groups, it would be a useful tool for military planners trying to find the most effective tactics.

Definitely worth a read as the world continues to fly almost blindly in its counter-insurgency strategies, put together with the devastatingly horrible results of using quantitative analysis based strategies in Vietnam.

“a lot of people think counterinsurgency is very qualitative, very mushy, and should stay that way. It’s almost a mystical thing,”

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mind-controlled sharks?

"The shark attacks have the potential to do some real damage to Egypt, where tourism is pillar of the economy and an important provider of jobs. But the idea that Israel is behind the attacks is pretty farfetched."

That's Max Strasser writing for FP

Is it really pretty far-fetched? Just last week someone from the US Naval Post-graduate School suggested that DARPA should finance a robotic submarine system that would intelligently control teams of dolphins to detect underwater mines and protect ships in harbors.......

Ok, yeah it is still pretty far-fetched, but a guy can fantasize can't he?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dracula vs the Ottoman Empire

Mideastpost has a brilliant article on the origins of Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) and the very first vampire hunters, Dracula's own brother Radu the Handsome and Mehmet, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire).

"[Dracula] scorched the earth and slaughtered all the living in his path leaving a wake of desolation and writhing impaled bodies. He would not give up his homeland to the Muslims that easily. He began a beleaguering campaign of guerilla warfare that the elite Ottoman Sipahis could not endure. It is said he slaughtered 15,000 of the Ottoman soldiers in one single night. Still, as the mightiest of the Ottomans fled, Radu was undeterred seemingly driven by what can only be interpreted as an austere piety, to end the bloody reign of his haplessly misguided brother. None remained to fight Dracula save Radu and his fellow Romanian Muslim Janissaries."

This is the first time that I have heard this story and I have no idea how accurate it is......any Islamic history scholars out there are welcome to comment...*cough* Harith Ramli *cough*. Nonetheless, this is still an absolutely beautiful tragedy where one can sympathise with Dracula, while at the same time feel the heroic inspiration of Radu. There is also a nice little undercurrent narrative of the complexities of military alliances for personal survival. I could go on for days......

Rest in peace Leslie Nielsen

Best official reaction to the Wikileaks so far

[Admiral Mike] Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the exposed conversations showed that the United States was "a global power with relationships all over the world."
"I don't mean this arrogantly, but I've lived in Europe, I've been a part of NATO, I've lived in the Pacific. I understand what United States leadership means and brings," Mullen said at the Center for American Progress think-tank.
"That doesn't mean we always have it right, that doesn't mean that we don't make mistakes - because we do," he said.
"But we as a country choose to engage because we think that in engaging and focusing on and trying to solve the problems, it leaves a region, a relationship and a world potentially in a better place," he said.
DefenseNews reports

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Stained by the shit and urine of raped women's leaking fistulas?

I had to look up the word fistulas.........I then vomited a little bit in my mouth.

"AppIe is known for the clean lines of their products, the alluring simplicity of their designs. Dare I....go so to suggest...this signature cleanness is stained by the shit and urine of raped women's leaking fistulas?"

"I dream of the day when North Americans recoil in horror at the introduction of an otherwise revolutionary and exciting electronic product that lacks TAC....when the queues are expressions of solidarity for 11-year-old mine slaves, women whose vaginas have been perforated by object insertion rape, and families forced to eat one another in each other's presence."

The full article

......Errr, I don't really want to say anything more because I am now absolutely terrified of Ashley Judd.

(She has a surprisingly large collection of scary photos......
No idea what the caption is about though)
Photo credit

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dolphin-Mind Controlling Robots

From the NYT:

"...a computer scientist at the Naval Postgraduate School has proposed that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency finance a robotic submarine system that would intelligently control teams of dolphins to detect underwater mines and protect ships in harbors. “If we run into a conflict with Iran, the likelihood of them trying to do something in the Strait of Hormuz is quite high,” said Raymond Buettner, deputy director of the Information Operations Center at the Naval Postgraduate School."

And my favourite part (financial justification for the project):

“One land mine blowing up one ship and choking the world’s oil supply pays for the entire Navy marine mammal program and its robotics program for a long time.”

One zombie outbreak causing a collapse of the global financial system pays for the research into the Necronomicon to bring Ash Williams back into the present time

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Do guns make more violence likely?

From Barking Up the Wrong Tree:

The weapon instrumentality hypothesis suggests that guns contribute to the escalation and lethality of violence. But the relationship between guns and violence might be spurious if the aggressor's violent tendencies or the aggressor's situation-specific intent to harm is the common cause of the presence/use of a gun and the violent outcome. To examine such rival explanations, we draw on interviews with 100 men imprisoned for an aggravated assault or homicide that stemmed from an interpersonal conflict. Each respondent described a matched pair of conflicts: the violent conflict that led to incarceration and a similar nonviolent conflict from the same time period. The matched pair design allows us to control for both potential sources of spuriousness: violent tendencies and situation-specific intent to harm. The results suggest that guns contribute to the violent escalation of conflict, but the impact of guns attenuates substantially after accounting for situation-specific intent to harm.

Source: "Have Gun Will Shoot? Weapon Instrumentality, Intent, and the Violent Escalation of Conflict" from Homicide Studies

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So I was wrong.....(updated - again) - Khartoum attacks the South

Remember how I told Roving Bandit to chill out?

Well, maybe that has changed as reports are coming in that the Northern military has just bombed an SPLA base in Northern Bahr El Ghazal.......
Stay tuned, I will hopefully have more on this later.....well, no....hopefully this all gets resolved and we never hear about it.

Update: The story has now made it to the news, though in a couple of versions:
While most reports (more)I have heard claimed that the two helicopters bombed an SPLA base, Voice of America reports that the bombings were targeting a referendum registration centre. What it is agreeable is that the attack was conducted in Northern Bahr el Ghazal by helicopters and that the North outright denies the event.

What I don't get is SAF's intentions. If they had in fact bombed a registration centre, then it could be that their intention was to scare people from going to the registration centres with the idea that they may just get bombed by helicopters. It is heavily dependent on 'availability heuristics' but is a common terror tactic.

However, if they had bombed the SPLA base for 2 hours (between 10 am and 12pm), injured 6 people and then simply went home, then I am very confused and very worried as to what piece of information is being left out of the story from either sides. The North outright denies any attack taking place and the South has yet to kick up a massive storm about the whole incident (as would typically be expected if the North openly attacked a Southern military base).

I'm not quite worried yet, just very confused and suspicious of everyone. Especially the Reuters reporter who covered the story......McDoom (she must get that all the time).

Update 2: I just got another one.....Maybe, everything happened as ST and Reuters reported, but the South has not produce such a great reaction because they are fully aware that the North is simply trying to provoke and so the South has decided to be the big man. Now the fact that I didn't interpret the event this way the first time indicates how little faith I have in either side to act maturely......either that, or being bored in post-conflict is pushing my mind to want to create conspiracy theories.

Update 3: I should really just wait until incidences are fully over before I post things.....
So it turns out the VOA story holds some truth as the 2 civilians that were injured were on their way to the registration post when they were attacked. Furthermore, the President of the South has released a statement that the South will not conduct any reprisal attacks. This is a real strong sign of hope for peace. Clearly Khartoum is aware of the international backlash that will come from an all out offensive on the South. And the South is not falling for any provocation to drag it back into a very messy war. There is somewhat of an element of the mutually assured destruction doctrine at play and hopefully it will stay in play throughout the process.

Panic averted, carry on.....

Friday, November 19, 2010

Next Media Animation TV

Not sure if you have gathered, but I am a big fan of hilarious snarky satire and Next Media Animation (NMA) is here to provide. "NMA is the brainchild of HK tycoon Jimmy Lai. His vision was to animate news events that hasn't been caught on camera", and I first heard about them in the Atlantic monthly article where that quote is from. They have a brilliant catalogue of sketches ranging from Christine O'Donnell's campaign themes to a rap video of Obama and Hu Jin Tao having a currency rap-battle. The videos are predominantly in Mandarin and a lot of them are still lacking English subtitles. But, with a little background knowledge, the animation itself is able to clearly describe the jokes. This is the case for the sketch entitled "Is Palin Gunning for 2012", which while I speak very little Mandarin, is still hilarious to watch.

The site does predominantly make fun of western news events, and has very little content that addresses Asian news. While this can be interpreted as being a way for people to "laugh at the crazy westerners", I think it is simply a brilliant opportunity to hear the views (and more importantly, the jokes) of the 'other side', especially when the issue is related to Asia. Which is exactly the case when NMA produced their genius response to CAGW's ridiculous ad.

NMA is brilliant at the satirical side of things, but I do struggle to come to terms with the concept of animated news for 'serious news events'. While I realise there are plenty of animation of serious issues, e.g. Waltz with Bashir, there is something really off-putting about watching an animated re-enactment of the killings of Christians in the Baghdad church. However, there isn't really a large amount of 'serious news events' within their portfolio and I really can't imagine this aspect of NMA taking off…..then again, I thought reality TV was just a phase. For the moment, NMA seems to mainly be reporting on news events that are either already funny in itself or create a beautiful opportunity for satire. I hope they continue with this and look forward to more subtitles to their work and an explanation as to what the hell the Weather girls are all about.

Khartoum Bombing *IN* The South...

Roving Bandit is having a panic attack over Northern Antonov Bombers flying and dropping bombs in the South.......Chill out's cool.
He asks, "What on earth is going on?! Is this real? How on earth is this not a huge fucking issue? This can’t be true can it?"

Well.... SPLA (South military) is fully aware of SAF's (northern military) recent operations against Darfuri rebels (JEM, specifically), therefore, Khartoum is not bombing the South, but rather is bombing IN the south. And while usually this may have led to retaliatory attacks, I believe that the Southern Government is trying to not involve itself in any Darfur related matters to prevent any further friction with the North at this critical stage of CPA discussions, especially following recent accusations that the South has been aiding JEM rebels.
So fear isn't necessarily a Northern strategy to scare communities away from registering for the referendum (its just the indiscriminate bombing of Darfuris...).
As the Gurtong article Roving Bandit refers to says;
"A member of the Southern Sudan Referendum Committee at Gok Machar Angelo Ker confirmed the incident and said registration has been going on from yesterday without any setbacks."
All this is happening in Northern Bahr el Ghazal where at the same time;
"Authorities from the southern state of Northern Bahr el Ghazal on Monday said the high turnout for voter registration in Aweil East County has overwhelmed polling centers."

Now, if your life is boring and you do want something to worry about, allow me to refer you to interruptions of the registration process in Tonj East County due to cattle raiding by youths from Mayandit. As well as the prevention of voter registration in Koch County because the referendum commission is unable to access the area due to its 'No-Go' classification by the UN following attacks by General Gatluak Gai's insurgency.

Ma'alesh Roving Bandit. Kulu Tamam......well, sort of.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Real Four Lions

NOTE: This is actually a really shit post. It just got the most hits because of the picture and its link in google images.

Have you ever watched Chris Morris' Four Lions? No? Well you really should. It is a hilarious (yet feasible) tale of a group of blundering wannabe British jihadist who strive for glory through their terrorist plot. Aside from the more emotionally engaging scenes, the movie is basically a mock-blooper reel of terrorism that leaves a funny taste in your mouth at the end.

For all you reality TV fans out there, you can now watch a real-life terrorist blooper reel over at Wired's Danger room. The 26 minute video contains out-takes of what would have been a propaganda video had the 15 year old Omar Khadr and his merry men not been captured by US Special Forces (Go Joe!).

Also, if your a fan of behind the scenes Taliban behaviour, I would strongly suggest getting a hold of Paul Refsdal's 'Behind Enemy Lines'. You can't watch it on the SBS site unless your in Australia but it is still floating around the internet somewhere.....try torrents.

There is something to be said about the perceiving 'the enemy' in non-combat scenarios and its humanising effects......but someone else will say it....I'm going home.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Slackistan: Reality TV for a new audience?

"Islamabad, Pakistan. A group of privileged and westernised twenty-something friends while away their days and nights driving around town, partying, surfing the internet and smoking shisha pipes. As the country outside their world starts to crack, Hasan and his friends must face up to relationships, internal angst and life choices before it is too late."

So its basically a movie version of those American reality TV shows of rich youths hanging around....doing stuff.....BUT, this one is set in Pakistan. Therefore we can pass it off as cultured and meaningful.....

This is just like the Afghan version of pop idol that was made into a movie - Afghan Star

Next week: Reality TV cooking program in Turkmenistan

Finally, reality TV for us classy wankers

Monday, November 8, 2010

Devaluing the state sponsors of terrorism list

"President Obama told Sudan that if it allows a politically sensitive referendum to go ahead in January, and abides by the results, the United States will move to take the country off its list of state sponsors of terrorism as early as next July, administration officials said Sunday." NYT

This is a component of the US' package of incentives for North Sudan to discourage it from any naughtiness for the upcoming referendum. It is also an indication of how stupid and arbitrary the list of state sponsors of terrorism is. I mean, if your willing to take a country off the list simply because it cooperates with you on something completely unrelated to why you put them on the list in the first place, it seriously devalues the list. Would you take a pedophile off the sex-offenders list just because he starts recycling?

I imagine the War on Terror is of greater value to US foreign policy than whatever happens in this big ol' African country. So why is it so easy for the US to offer taking Sudan off the list then? Could it possibly be because the US thinks that Sudan doesn't actually deserve to still be on that list? Well lets look at what the State Department has to say:

"The Sudanese government continued to pursue counterterrorism operations directly involving threats to U.S. interests and personnel in Sudan......[An assessment of the hardliners in Sudan] reflected disappointment that Sudan’s cooperation has not resulted in its removal from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. Despite this, there was no indication that the Sudanese government will curtail its current level of counterterrorism cooperation despite bumps in the overall bilateral relationship."
"The Sudanese government has also worked hard to disrupt foreign fighters from using Sudan as a logistics base and transit point for terrorists going to Iraq. However, gaps remain in the Sudanese government’s knowledge of these individuals and its ability to identify and capture them."
"There was no reliable information to corroborate long-standing allegations that the Government of Sudan was supporting the LRA in 2009."

Hmmm.....So it seems the biggest reason for Sudan to remain on the list is that it has gaps in its ability to identify and capture terrorist? (seriously, read the whole is ridiculous)

Now what about the argument that Sudan is still on the list because of its hand in Darfur? Well, if that is in fact the reason, then why is it that this incentive has been moved away and unlinked from a "resolution of the violence in the Darfur"? That just makes it worst. That's like telling the molested child that he isn't getting justice because the pedophile has recycled a lot of stuff.

What about when Sudan does do something to help the War on Terror? In '94 it extradited Carlos the Jackal, then in '96 it expelled Bin Laden and yet even after that show of support and before any further terrorist sponsoring act, the US still kept Sudan on the list, crippled its economy and bombed its capital (more on this here) (also, a lot more points to be made on the misuse of the list, e.g. the case of Korea)

Don't get me wrong, there is nothing I would love more than a peaceful referendum, but I don't think that
1) The state sponsors of terrorism list should be used for anything other than discouraging countries from sponsoring terrorism

2) Pedophiles should get to run free just because they decide to recycle

“This proposal from [Kerry] does not matter,” NCP communication officer Rabi Abdel-Atti told the Monitor. “The two sides are already engaged in continuous discussions, and the negotiations are proceeding. We don’t understand what outside proposals have to do with anything.”

The US offer did, though, leave much off the table. US officials have so far made clear to the regime that full US sanctions will not be lifted as long as the ongoing conflict in Darfur remains unresolved.
Because of this, the new proposal offers little economic benefit to Khartoum, especially in relation to the vast southern resources it is being pressured to surrender, according to Bayless Parsley, an Africa analyst for Austin-based global intelligence company STRATFOR.

Friday, November 5, 2010

DAMN Kristof! you just got F'ed in the A by T in [the] A

"T in [the] A" being Texas in Africa, and "F'ed in the A" being....well....I'm sure you'll get it. (no offence T-in-A)

Once again Kristof's name has been echoing throughout the Blogosphere due to his controversial mouth. This time he has been making the bold claim that DIY Aid projects are better/more effective than those implemented by large aid agencies.........Bring on the academic gang rape:

Tales from the Hood argues that aid isn't about us. - I still get paid though, right?

Dave Algoso argues that aid is actually some pretty hard and complicated work. He also points to the fact that Kristof fails to describe any local DIY aid projects and seems to really emphasise the notion of 'whites in shining armour'.
Also, on Kristof's point about "grassroots, locally owned aid projects have a better record than large scale, top-down ones that don’t always have the same buy-in"; I can't speak for everywhere, but here in South Sudan, a majority of projects are developed and implemented by local NGOs and civil society foreign aid workers just throw money at people and take credit for the work.

Kristof then wrote a second piece in an attempt to counter the criticisms.

By this point Texas in Africa could take no more and wrote a beautiful piece on how Kristof's argument is really just based on anecdotal evidence rather than any real data. Why beautiful? Because I think it reflects the a major problem with DIY aid.

If we were to pretend that Kristof is the amateur implementing the DIY aid project, he would have gone to the field and implemented whatever genius idea he thought he had based on his anecdotal information that he received from some celebrity rather than real data that reflects the actual needs of the target community. They are called amateurs for a reason. For sure they can be effective, but at the same time, running a project based on anecdotal information can also mean that you are effective at causing more harm than good. Can we be sure that amateurs will be familiar with the necessary procedures such as 'Do No Harm'? If not, then where does the accountability land? If an aid agency messes up they will feel the wrath of the development gods, amateurs get to run back home and still feel good about themselves.

Anyways, if these people have such an urge to help the world and/or have a brilliant idea on how to save the world, why can't they work with the aid agencies? We don't accept mavericks in every other field, so why should they be allowed to run around the world under the banner of aid? Is it because they mean well so we give them a free pass? Well the machine gun preacher meant well, and so did the American Ninja in Afghanistan, but I think you will find very few people who would support them......wait......what?! There's going to be a Machine gun preacher movie?! and he is being portrayed as the hero?! Well, I guess I should start collecting all those old shirts I have then.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

News nibbles

So I don't quite feel up for much comprehensive ranting this week. Not to say that there isn't anything to be said about the Abyei talks being held 'hostage' or the hot new idea to just give Abyei to the South in exchange for a financial package.
Instead allow me to share some links with you:

Humans are taking back the internet with this latest search engine that only produces verified (by actual people) websites. It filters out all those trashy websites that are loaded with adverts and try to trick you out of your money. A search with the keyword 'porn' reveals everything but what one was hoping to find.

In line with Britain's new Big Society vision, the Maidenhead and Windsor council has been tinkering with the idea of offering rewards for doing good deeds that benefit society. A strategy of positive reinforcement to better the behavior of society, that has not been received positively by everyone. Religious leaders complained, "First they separate the church and state, and monopolised crime and punishment. Now they want to monopolise good deeds and rewards. What happened to the promise of a small government!". Those on benefits claimed that they would need these rewards made available as welfare for those suffering from a altruistic deficiency that prevents them from giving a shit.

Danger room has an article uncovering a real-life supervillian, Ibrahim Al-Asiri. The diabolical mastermind that brought us the explosive underpants and more recently, the explosive print cartridge. He may not have nuclear weapons or freeeking lasers but he did manage to convince his brother to shove a bomb up his ass.

The US military has begun their process of 'Hippy-fying' their troops by releasing the T2 Mood tracker, a smart phone application that is "designed to yield information that can assist doctors and therapists in addressing common responses to combat, such as post-traumatic stress and depression". Everyday, the user can update his emotion and mood and that information is collected and analysed by therapist who then know exactly how to address the soldier. Chinese hackers have begun breaking into the system and targeting emotionally vulnerable soldiers with disparaging and hateful messages.

The US Navy has declared war on Algae - in a further attempt to appear like a bunch of tree-huggers, the US Navy has decided to feed its war machines with the ocean's plants. Green Peace and Sea Shepherd have awakened their sleeper cells to take down the plant loving/hating seamen.

That is all.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Poverty Porn Gone Terribly Wrong


It was a hot and dusty day, a day just like every other in this poverty stricken land of atrocities and sorrow where tomorrow is merely an aspiration and yesterday was an accomplishment - a survival. Amongst the crowd of potbellied children and their bare breasted mothers stood Virginal, a fresh faced aid worker with a strong desire to rescue the people from their otherwise fatal lives. She stood proud in a khaki coordinated outfit, holding a starving child with trickling beads of sweat rolling playfully down the curve of his torso, like morning dew on a noble Inyo toad. Blonde hair, unshaven legs and luscious breasts that could provide for the entire village, the locals look upon her majestic beauty in awe. To them, she resembles a lioness, and only her presence can bring happiness to what is an otherwise desperately depressing lifestyle. This is because the world has forgotten about these people and only Virginal is left working to help this deprived community.

Nonetheless the villagers stay positive by gathering around Virginal clapping and singing their tribal tunes with such natural rhythm, when suddenly, in the distance a UN helicopter is seen tearing through the red glistening radiance of the sun. Slowly it lands, and as the dust settles, the helicopter doors slide open to reveal a rock star with a rock- hard hard- on. It is non other than Bono, frontman of U2 and global poverty expert, "Achtung baby!", he says as he grabs his sack of plumpy nutsTM.

In a moment of desperation, Virginal had called her good friend John Prendergrast - master of awareness and pimp daddy of suffering lives. She knew that only John could help grab global attention to her community.
Aroused by the sight of suffering, Bono grabs Virginal and ravishingly makes sweet love to her as the tribal community watch with their deep, clouded and experienced eyes, intermittently blinded by the flies that linger by them as though the tears that flow from those saddened eyes are filled with nectar.

As the intensity of their sexual experience begins to reach climax, the ground begins to rumble. A seismic behaviour akin to a stampede of wildebeests. However, this was not a herd of animals of prey, but rather a herd of predators, an entire convoy of celebrities in big white Land Cruisers being led by poverty fanatic, George Clooney. Each with their own limited edition African child snuggled tightly in their man/handbags.

"Oh look at all the suffering ooh" Clooney excitedly cries out as he begins to Swaffle his local guide.
"Mmm yes!……The suffering." reply the other celebrities as they caress themselves and each other.
"The suffering makes Matt Damon strong……the suffering makes Matt Damon hard!" Matt Damon proclaims in a hulkish voice as he begins to thrust Madonna in all manners.
Soon, with little resistance, the crowd of celebrities-turned-humanitarians begin to indulge in a sweaty, poverty induced orgy under the naked sun.

As the orgy continues, a small group of UN workers are seen standing on a nearby hill, looking down on the orgy with a smug self-satisfied look on their face. "Clearly the successes of this project would never have happened without our facilitation" proclaims one of the UN workers in a weasel-like tone of voice as he commences a "circle-jerk" with his co-workers.

As time goes on the orgy begins to die down as the celebrities begin to loose interest in their wild activities. Just as things begin to calm down, a marauding group of rebel fighter enter the village, burning down houses, murdering and raping the villagers as well as looting anything that is of any worth. Looking upon this tragedy a tear rolls down the cheeks of George Clooney as he shouts in a loud demonic tone - yet somewhat relishingly, "The suffering!!!". His fellow celebrities look to him and begin to groan and moan in all manner of ways as the orgy continues with greater intensity and passion.

Curious of this behaviour an expert economist arrives at the scene with a harem of young nubile interns to determine the cause and incentives behind such sexual behaviour. The sexconomist conducted some very rigorous RCT tests, where he gathered a group of wannabe celebrities (dependent variable) and exposed half of them to a group of suffering children (independent variable). The point of measure was their celebrity status based on the Cosmopolitan Magazine celebrity status indicators. The results showed a positive effect on celebrity status through exposition to suffering. The sexconomist concluded that these celebrities seem to feed off the suffering in a bid to increase their own status. The sexconomist then went on to try and see if suffering had the same effect on the celebrity status of b list economists.

(Camera cuts back to the celebrity orgy):
Bono demands his personal local aide to get into a crabwalking position so that Bono is able to place his sexual partner on top of his aide, using him as a coitus table. Naturally, the aide is made to walk around the village as Bono continues his act of "scuttlefucking". He then burrowed into her like a warthog as the tall African grass titillated the taint.

The End

What is Poverty Porn... - Aid Thoughts

How to write about Africa - Granta

A big stack of REALLY DIRTY Porn movies - Roving Bandit

I think I'm probably going to regret this.....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Clooney in Sudan....and more

(I couldn't find a single amusing picture of him, so here is Batman)
I think [a civil war] can be stopped,” he told Curry. “We stopped it in 2005, we stopped the north-south war … and we stopped it with diplomacy. We didn’t stop it with soldiers. If we get involved now we have a shot.”

That was George Clooney shooting the breeze with Anne Curry......
He thinks he's so.......hmmmm
That is totally...........huh

As much fun and pleasure as I would get from ragging on the Cloon, I can't seem to disagree with him (aside from the excessive use of 'We'). Plus, according to the article he got spat on by an old woman and was told it was a blessing......pffft, grandma is totally laughing right now.

Oh and to all you alarmists who thinks that no one outside of your little Western liberal bubble*** are able to resolve their conflicts through peaceful negotiation:

"The Sudanese First Vice President Salva Kiir and 2nd Vice president Ali Osman Taha met in Juba today to discuss a number of issues including the reported military build-up on the North-South border, state media reported today.
Sudan official news agency (SUNA) cited Kiir as saying that both sides agreed to calm the situation and stop the media* escalation between the National Congress Party (NCP) and Sudan people Liberation Movement (SPLM)." (Link)

Ooooooh! whats wrong? Did that just make you flaccid?..... Go jerk off over another war you wankers**!

*I'm pretty sure that's supposed to say military and not media. Otherwise, Kiir is one snarkily genius cowboy.

**note the proper/literal use of this noun.

*** OK, maybe western liberal bubble is a little bit over dramatic, but you know what I mean

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"O.K., my one prediction is that events won’t unfold precisely like that..."

That was the always alarming, Nick Kristoff, talking about his prediction of how things might play out in Sudan following the referendum. Well.....two can play at that game.

DEC. 10, 2010 Word trickles out of massacres and widespread rapes by tribal militias from the North in the boiling borderlands between North and South. Turns out, it was just a bunch of rumours spread by " Westerners with an interest in a divided and weakened Sudan".

DEC. 15 The chairman of the referendum commission (from the North) calls on the South to postpone the vote for “just one month,” pointing to insecurity and to inadequate preparations for voting. The South insists that the referendum will go on as scheduled. The North responds by simply giving the South it's desired independence and refocuses its attention on raping Darfur.

JAN. 9, 2011 The referendum is not held at the disappointment of many t-shirt flag vendors. Op-Ed columnists are left with nothing more to speak of so they too refocus their attention on raping Darfur. Chinese and Malaysian oil companies rejoice as their commitment to not pull out of the country pays off.

JAN. 18 Salva Kiir, the President of the newly independent South Sudan goes on a bike ride with Bashir. They stop under a mango tree to discuss their future alliance. They high-five each other - camera freezes as they both leap into the air and their hands meet.

JAN. 20 Reports begin to come out from the Nuba mountains of sightings of Care Bears. According to an interview with Grumpy Bear, it was in fact these diabolical bears and their bio-weapon, the "Care Bear Stare", that was behind the sudden prosperous peace between the North and South Sudan. Asked as to why Darfur is still seeing high levels of rape, Grumpy Bear answered "Well, Love-a-lot Bear was tasked to deal with that conflict. However she ended up overdoing it with her powers and became Too-much-love bear, leading to mass rape across the land"
See, Kristoff... I'm pretty good at making shit up too.

Anyways, 2 points:

Firstly; I am fully aware that there is a great potential for a resurgence of the North-South War if things don't go smoothly prior or during the referendum. I realise that the North has a lot to lose if the South does secede and are therefore willing to take action to destabilise the situation. However, that does not mean that there isn't any hope for a peaceful referendum and eventual secession. Maybe I am absolutely crazy for thinking that people can change for the better, or that the North can come to see the benefits of allowing its South to be independent (the South still needs a pipeline and refineries for its oil and like Singapore, Sudan can be the refinery guy). But I would rather be crazy than be that miserable-wanker-with-a-fetish-for-war who thinks that speculating about war all the time won't eventually incite it. Thats right, incite it. because drawing a picture of the north as being villainous is sure as hell not a very good diplomatic strategy. This isn't a 1970's cartoon where the bad guy just wants the world to descend into chaos for no real particular motive. Bashir is not Cobra Commander, but by always describing him as such one risks causing a self-fulfilling prophecy based on a form of stereotype threat, where if everyone says he is, he may just start to believe it and therefore act accordingly. Also, 5 years since the CPA (a massive agreement) was signed, a large number of the provisions have been accomplished (mind you with delays - but still accomplished) and there has only been 2 north-south clashes (even that were just between soldiers within the JIU and did not definitively reflect the intentions of either governments).
So lets not write off the chance for peace just yet, lets try and stay positive and lets act surprised when things turn for the worst.

Secondly, and this point is better put by Michael Busch and Oscar Blayton, is simply a call for all these advocacy groups, writers and 'academics' to stop suggesting that the US with its exceptional exceptionalism should take the war to Sudan - in the same packaging as Iraq. Also, I would just like to add, Kristoff's suggestion (based on an old CIA plan) to fire missiles at the refinery and pipeline in Port Sudan is just stupid. If you are doing it to help the South, I don't think destroying its main source of income is very clever. Also, good luck winning the support of China after that…..unless that was the plan? (cue dramatic horns "Dumb-Dumb-Dumb")

So if war breaks out, il be here pissing into the wind while you can laugh smugly about being right…enjoy it, because I will return as a ghost and haunt-rape you in your sleep (too much?)

Photo credit: got it from John Akec's blog

Friday, October 1, 2010

More analysis on violence and poverty

Don't you love when a topic you were thinking about is seemingly continued by someone else? Well, following on from yesterday's post on Blattman's statement that "Poor and underemployed young men don't seem to be a source of social instability", I came across a blogpost of an article by Vaughan Bell over at Mindhacks (An incredible psychology blog that I steal ideas from all the time) that touches on the same issue......."It’s about how murder is one of our most social acts."

"Murder is not antisocial. If you want a demonstration that we are governed by society even when breaking its rules, homicide is one of the best and grimmest examples. Studies show that victim and offender tend to resemble each other to a striking degree – the young murder the young and the old murder the old, rich and poor rarely kill each other, gang bangers prey on other gang members, and you are likely to be personally acquainted with the person who later ends your life. Socially conservative it may be, but homicide remains a deeply social act."

Ok that bit isn't really related, but its still pretty cool.

"Murder, is not, however, an equal opportunities reaper and you are considerably more likely to be dispatched if you are poor and marginalised. It was not always the case though. Historical records show that homicide was used equally by all levels of society but has become increasingly less democratic over time as access to formalised systems of dispute resolution have become more widely available. The fact that the legal system is preferentially used by those with money is perhaps not surprising, although the fact the distribution of justice is unjust should give us pause for thought."

Interesting, but what happens when those formalised systems of dispute resolution collapse or are made unavailable despite one's economic status - as is the case in countries where these youths are seen to cause social instability?

"Nowhere is this contrast more striking than in Latin America. Although the region has the highest murder rates in the world the generalisation tell us little – the devil is really in the detail. A 2008 study led by the Venezuelan sociologist Roberto Briceño-León found that poverty in the region predicted little of the homicide rate on its own. It was inequality that explained the trend: in areas where wealth and extreme poverty coexist, violence occurs more frequently."

Don't you just love the smell of discourse in the morning?
So the issue of defining the indicators of violence still needs to be addressed so that all these various studies can actually go through some sort of cross-analysis, but one can still get rather excited about the topic nonetheless. Also, we need to see more mixing of these various academic subjects. A lot of them are asking the same questions, but it sometimes feels like there is some sort of barrier preventing the sharing of findings.......I bet its ego...

Oh and while we are on the subject, here is a new study that shows that men under acute stress struggle to process and interpret the emotions that other people's faces are conveying.
"Under stress, men tend to withdraw socially while women seek emotional support,"

This could potentially lead to a disruption in empathy and could therefore cause less inhibition towards violently attacking others.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dem youts, dat cheddar and mad violence

"Poor and underemployed young men don't seem to a source of social instability", Blattman says as he takes a piss over the numerous peacebuilding NGOs around the world. Whilst my bitter nature would encourage me to argue his point, I do fully support the idea that 'just because your young and poor doesn't mean your going to go out and kill people'. That notion is essentially no different to Britain's fear of the 'hoodies'.

But I also have to defend those poor naive little NGOs as the reasoning behind the massive number of youth engagement projects are not necessarily to help improve their economic status, rather, it is to engage the youths and keep them busy......I tried to find some evidence for this but it seems that NGOs and the UN don't like to explicitly provide justifications for their projects.

So I can only really speak based on my own experiences working in South Sudan, but it seems that here, the belief is that the main drive of conflict between communities is not economics, but rather, idleness. Many people from the community, government and even the youths themselves always seem to give the same solution to conflict: "We have to keep the youths busy, when they are idle, they will more likely go out and fight or conduct criminal activities".

Anyways, I think my point is that outside of the economics world, peacebuilders and other NGO types don't think that the point of vocational training projects is to reduce poverty, thus reducing conflict, but rather as a method to change behaviour. I think its in line with all those silly sports for peace projects. Its a means of making these youths a contributing member of society and all the mentality that comes with it (if need be, I can try and draw out the sociopsychological mechanisms of this). Nonetheless, I am very much looking forward the findings of Blattman's study on the issue (though I'm very intrigued to see his design for this).
Kids will be kids, and youths will still stab you in the alley behind MacDonalds for not giving him a cigarette.

P.S. Don't get raped by the burden of proof, don't forget the lessons of epistemology and evidence is like's great, but sometimes you can live without it (sometimes).

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

War porn or just stupid?

I received a document today of IKV Pax Christi's latest publication on Sudan entitled:
CPA Alert: The State of Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement - Alert No. 2!!!! (you have to say it with a dramatic-action-movie-trailer voice).
I didn't manage to get past the cover without being shocked and disgusted by the recklessness of this publication. Have a look:

Notice anything wrong? No? Well allow me to explain......
Viewing an image of plumes of smoke rising up from
tukuls (huts) in a post-conflict country tends to invoke thoughts of violence and conflict as though marauding evil-doers are running around setting fire to entire communities, probably raping and pillaging in the process. This is especially true when the word ALERT is written (massively) twice just above the image. It acts to instill the idea that this carnage will happen if the issues surrounding the CPA (and what ever Pax Christi says about it) are not, RIGHT NOW!
However, this photo is actually just of a demolition project that took place in Juba a year or so ago. Talk about terrorism.... it is truly a sad day to see a peacebuilding NGO try to persuade their readers by adopting scare tactics and only using pathos as their mode of argument. I say ONLY using pathos because the paper is....well, pretty shit. Mind you, I have only skimmed it, but it seems like a repetition of many other papers that talk about the same thing and speculate only of horror scenarios (good breakdown of the referendum law though). The writing just feels lazy, and the recommendations are just unimaginative and consistently just state the obvious.
But, Im probably just being extra dick-ish about it because of their (ab)use of that photo and am therefore trapped in a cognitive bias.
Nonetheless, John Ashworth.......I thought you were cool man...

Photo credit: Petterik Wiggers (wanker.....well, only if you were the one that decided to be a whore)

NB: I am pretty damn convinced and have confirmed with colleagues that this photo is in fact a Juba demolition project and not actually a conflict. Otherwise, well, I'll shamefully delete this post and go into hiding.

Edit: I got caught up in the moment and may have been excessively critical yesterday. That photo and all this constant fear mongering by so many of these publications is starting to get to me. Have some faith you miserable bastards

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The malaise of criminals in Malaysia

"A burglar in Malaysia who broke into a house to steal watches and jewellery was caught after falling asleep with the loot on a sofa, local media report."
Sorry, but this was just too hilarious too pass. He must have eaten too much of that porridge......and I must be getting old enough to start making this type of bad/dad jokes.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cracking the meaning of Khawaja

Khawaja is the term Sudanese use to refer to foreigners, especially white people (I've seen some people look at Japanese aid workers with a very puzzled look). It is the 'Arabic' equivalent of Swahili's Mzungu. Throughout my time spent here I have tried to figure out the origins or even the root meaning of the term but have always ended up with conflicting, nonsensical or just obviously made up answers. That is until recently when I spoke to my favourite Islamic History Scholar and writer of the forthcoming paper, "The Rise of Early Sufism: A Survey of Recent Scholarship on the Social Dimensions of The Formative Period of Sufism", Harith Ramli:

The title khawaja (also spelt as khwaja, khoja etc.) is originally Persian, meaning 'lord' or 'master'. In Egypt and Sudan, usage of the term probably appeared under the Ottomans (maybe earlier under the Mamluks, but i dont think any earlier), whose officials often used Persian or Turkish (during this period a lot of Persian and Turkish words enter Arabic). Such an official might have been referred to as a 'khawaja' by a local. Then the word gets used to refer to any
high-ranking respectable person, like a rich merchant maybe. I'm not sure at which point it get used to refer to Europeans specifically, but maybe this happened in the 19th century, when a lot
of Europeans were hired as advisors and military officers in the Egyptian army of Muhammad Ali and his descendents. Since Sudan was ruled by Egypt at the time, its quite clear that the
word was transferred during this period, although in Sudan itseems to have more of the specific meaning of 'white person'. I remember some fair looking Sudanese being teased by their friends with the nickname 'khwaja' in Khartoum.

Mystery solved....
Now just 2 questions:
1) Would Sudanese continue to use this term if they were aware of the meaning?
If so,
2) How would awareness of the meaning affect the behaviour of Sudanese towards the international community working there? Would there be some sort of priming effect at play?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy Anniversary Terrorism!!!

Today marks the 9th anniversary of the new dawn for Islamomatic-terrorism. Nine years on from one of the most successful/devastating terrorist attacks on western soil, extremist Muslims the world over kick back and reap the benefits of their struggle as the world succumbs to their demands. As a result of their diabolical plan, the once mighty United States of America, it's President and military leaders now break out in hysterical fear over any action that may upset the Muslim community and subsequently, the terrorist overlords. Yes, I am of course referring to the Quran burning controversy, where the bold Pastor Jones has been pressured to abandon his plans to piss off over a billion people in the world. So why have these great leaders spoken out against the pastor's plans? Its not because the act would be illegal. Nor is it because such an act would be unAmerican. Rather, it is because the provoking fear of terrorism has scared them into submission (aye? submission, Islam means submission? clever wordplay? no? ok....).

Robert Gates pleaded, "going forward with this Koran burning would put the lives of our forces at risk, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan".
Petraeus warned, "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan".

The terrorists declared, "You see, what has happened is that the US has foolishly played into our hand by deploying soldiers in these Islamic states. What they may have thought was a move for greater control of these states turned out to actually be part of our diabolical global terrorist plot to hold American citizens ransom without actually having to go out and kidnap American citizens. And all it took was one attack on their own turf."

This may explain Obama's decision to pull out the combat forces out of Iraq. But the threat does not end there. Recognising the devious nature of the terrorists, Obama went on to warn his people of a greater threat, "We've got millions of Muslim-Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They're going to school with our kids. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our co-workers."

Now, with US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq being held hostage, and American citizens within the US itself unknowingly under the threat of millions of Muslim-American sleeper cell agents, the US government has to think very carefully before doing something to upset the Mulsim population. In a show of good faith, Obama has shown support for the construction of a Muslim palace on the 9/11 hallowed ground, and has even converted to the religion of his new rulers.

With that, I wish Terrorism a very happy anniversary. Congratulations and may you achieve all that you seek out to accomplish......What was that again?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Referendum options

"the hopes and expectations of the people of south Sudan are so pinned on that date that it would be dangerous to postpone it because the level of frustration and disappointment would be so high for anybody to manage."

That is Pagan Amum, the Minister of Peace, on why the referendum can’t be delayed. For the past couple of weeks, there has been a growing fear amongst the government and population of South Sudan over the potential delay of the referendum. What began as a statement, that was apparently misattributed to Pagan Amum, on the possibility of delays have begun to become more of a reality as disagreements over the selection of a secretary general for the referendum commission seeks to stall the entire process.

Tarek Osman Al-Tahir, a member of the referendum commission at the headquarters in Khartoum suggests:

“We have only two choices left: skip some of the procedures, which would be unacceptable because it could affect the endorsement of the referendum result or resort to the other choice of a limited delay to the referendum timetable to complete these procedures.” source

The first choice would probably work out favourably for Khartoum as a lack of registered voters will result in insufficient votes for secession. The second choice would be, as Amum puts it, “dangerous...because the level of frustration and disappointment would be so high for anybody to manage” and we will probably start to see an increase in violence from the civilian population if not from the military itself.

On the other hand, Pagan Amum also suggests 2 possibilities:

"One of them could be that the parliament of southern Sudan takes over the process of organising the referendum fully without the north if the obstruction is coming from the north,"

"Another one would be carrying out a vote in parliament which is not necessarily a universal declaration of independence," Source

These two possibilities have been the hot topic under the mango tree recently. Well, maybe just the latter. Khartoum would never stand for the parliament of South Sudan to simply take over the process of organising the referendum, as the CPA states that the process shall be conducted by both parties. So if they were going to go against the CPA, then there really isn’t much point in even completing the referendum process, which leads us to the second option...

Amum says that carrying out a vote in parliament is not necessarily a universal declaration of independence. Now, this can be interpreted in 2 ways. Firstly, it could mean that if the commission simply skipped a few processes by doing away with voter registration and doing away with the voters all together, parliament could vote as representatives of the population on the 9th of January. This seems somewhat feasible, but as the CPA has established deadlines for these processes, it may be rather difficult to argue against the necessity of including public voters in the referendum.

The second interpretation is a bit trickier because he says that a vote in parliament would not be interpreted as a unilateral (he says universal, but I’m sure he meant unilateral) declaration of independence. So we have to assume that either he really does not know what he is talking about, or he has some diabolical legal magic trick up his sleeve that will dazzle the world into not realising that South Sudan has in fact just unilaterally declared independence.

The thing is, the CPA and the subsequent Referendum Act doesn’t really provide sufficient information to deal with contingencies such as this. It gave a lot of power to the Referendum Commission to deal with the various issues that were bound to come up, such as the delaying of the referendum, but it seems that it didn’t really plan on the Commission having such difficulties in establishing itself. All that is left now is for renegotiations to take place. But this would only lead to a delay in the referendum, an idea that Pagan Amum has hinted to being very unlikely. Therefore, all it takes is for GoSS to come up with a good reason to decide that Khartoum is sabotaging the process and to declare the CPA null and void. This will subsequently open the doors to a unilateral declaration of independence, a decision that leaves the fate of South Sudan’s independence to the international community. But I’m sure they will work out, 22 years of war is still a 22 year relationship right?......

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Rationality and determinism at the Frontal Cortex

Over at The Frontal Cortex, there is a brilliant analysis of an old and a new study that reinvents the idea and purpose of rationality and reasoning.

"That voice in your head spewing out eloquent reasons to do this or do that doesn’t actually know what’s going on, and it’s not particularly adept at getting you nearer to reality. Instead, it only cares about finding reasons that sound good, even if the reasons are actually irrelevant or false. (Put another way, we’re not being rational – we’re rationalizing.)"

Being on a thought provoking roll, he also has an excellent post on the debate between free will and scientific determinism that is definitely worth a read. Lets hope he keeps it up.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The conflict minerals debate

After having my fair share of attacks (and here) on Enough and John Prendergrast, I felt that I shouldn't make any comments or (even) acknowledgements towards the ongoing debate surrounding the conflict minerals legislation. So I'm just going to link to Wronging Rights succinct summary and show some love to their excellent argument:

"Campaigns centered around telling the public that their yuppie-consumer-goods are full of rape and murder are, fundamentally, aboutdisengagement, not engagement. This kind of advocacy tells consumers that the problem is their connection to the conflict via the minerals in their phones and iPods, and that the solution is to break that connection.

That's not a recipe for ongoing engagement, it's an invitation to withdraw further from an already-remote problem."
Also, respect to Texasinafrica.

Recovering Pounds from Ghosts

GoSS recovers 6 million Pounds paid to ghost employees as they introduce the new electronic payroll system. Now, all government employees will be expected to open a bank account, which will be used for the payment of their wages rather than to simply hand them the cash. The Citizen printed newspaper, reported that whilst going through the various 'ghost employees', they found a 13 year old boy being paid a Captain's wages.