I think the news response to North Korea's shelling of an island is very disappointing. It is true that that action cost lives, but it was also a provoked action, where the provocation was bloody stupid. South Korea was conducting military drills with live ammunition in disputed waters. Now we see the United States joining in this provocation by sending an aircraft carrier to join more such drills. China is trying to get everyone to calm down, while the US and South Korea seem determined to engage in a pissing contest with North Korea. Shame on South Korea for pulling on a tiger's tail and playing the victim when the predictable happened. Shame on the US for enabling that kind of BS. This is exactly the same kind of rubbish that Hamas played when it kept firing rockets at Israeli cities and found Israeli tanks rolling into Gaza.
I am not commenting on the rights or wrongs of either situation - more broadly understood there's a lot of history behind each conflict, and there are coherent value-justification positions on all sides. What bothers me is when one party provokes another and acts surprised and hurt. There are times when it's appropriate to prove others in a conflict, when it even might be the right thing to do. Just don't play innocent. If you spit in someone's face, be ready for a fight, and don't be outraged when it starts.
It's also really irksome that the U.S. notion of allies typically means "blank check". We've seen that kind of BS WRT how the US treats Israel for far too long - Israel is no more serious about peace than Hamas (at least under Likud and its current coalition partners), and it's continuing to give undue weight to many of the worst members of its society in avoiding peace. It may be a kinda-sorta western nation (excepting the institutionalised racism), but politically speaking it's a disaster area. It would be better that the US (or anyone else) give notice (for evacuation, so no unknowing people would be killed), flatten all the settlements, divide Yerushalaim, close all the Yeshivot and Madrassa, eliminate Hamas (bring about universal integrated public education without any Zionist curriculum and enforcing bilingualism), and bring about/enforce peace through military means than to continue to let this conflict fester any further. Sometimes continuing a status quo is grossly irresponsible, and sometimes democracy really does not work.
I think the impending release of the next giant Wikileaks document set is going to be very interesting - much more interesting than anything released yet. Because it has a number of frank communications between diplomats (Department of State = site of leak?), there will be a much bigger impact - the war leaks from before were not so surprising, they just confirmed what most well-informed people mostly knew. The frantic covering-of-ass that's happening : US attempts to pre-soothe the feathers that will be ruffled - juicy. There may be a point to those unhappy about the release - that it makes diplomacy difficult when secrecy is hard, and that revelations like these are dangerous.
Interesting criticism of the Obama presidency. I'm not as critical as they are on average, but I'm fairly critical. I do think Obama has largely wasted the movement that brought him to power, and that he's trying too hard to reach out to groups that won't support his already-mild policy directives.
I sometimes wonder how different the web would be were all the information on any site to be machine-accessible in raw form (rather than screen-scraping) and if our browsers were able to do intelligent, natural-language (or easily-learned other language) parsing and analysis on sets of well-known data sources.
MJD is working on a "Minimum you need to know about topology" document. It's just a draft now, and he's open for criticisms or help - it may also be interesting to some of you (I'm going to be working on it alongside my slow digestion of "Sweet Reason", although MJD's work is considerably smaller). Also, for those of you who haven't heard of MJD or poked around on his site, he's one of those geeks who's well known by his initials (and considerably better worthy of that stature than ESR).