This weekend I took the somewhat-practical-but-more-symbolic step of moving my first carload of stuff across the state. Unfortunately, due to communications difficulties with maybe-will-be-landlord, that stuff's in a storage facility, but it still counts. Coming weekends will be split between here and there and once new apartment is acquired, I might see how much I can work from home where home is Eastern PA.
Having driven between PGH and PHL a few times, the 「Blue Mountain」 area calls to me each time I pass. It's stunningly beautiful (and has part of the Appalachian Trail! (which I would like to hike in its entirety someday)).
Attention Pittsburgh, if you have any of my stuff, now would be a good time to get it back to me. I believe many books and movies are out on loan. If things are missing, don't worry about it. My copies of Zamyatin's 「We」 and Barry's 「Jennifer Government」 have probably been out there for so long that they might be hard to track down. If anyone wants to have a "so-long-for-now" lunch or dinner with me, from now until the end of june is the time (weekdays are better).
- In Canada, Quebec's Bloc Québécois (Federal-level party) suffered a major loss in the 2011 elections, losing 90% of their seats and losing their status as an official party. The next provincial elections in Quebec will be interesting for Partí Québécois.
- In Britain, the 2011 elections, the Liberal Dems and smaller parties were demolished, with seats swinging mostly back to Labour. Nick Clegg's decision to form a coalition with the Tories is looking like a mistake, particularly because he could've gotten more from Labour at the negotiating table, Labour's platform is more compatible with his, and the Tories (predictably) are using the Liberal Dems to take the brunt of the damage from their privatisation programmes. Even the hope that the Conservatives would let the proposal for proportional representation pass was naïve; LD got very little from the coalition whatsoever.
- In Scotland, all parties but the SNP lost, while the SNP achieved the first majority government in the modern Scottish Parliament (53/73 seats). This likely will mean a vote for independence within a year or two.
- Pakistan and the United States have had some rough moments over the recent Osama bin Laden assassination. There are not-commonly-spoken-about facts: The CIA funded Al Qaeda to fight the Soviet Union, and they did so significantly through ISI (Pakistani intelligence). Significant portions of rural Pakistani society supported/approved of Bin Laden. The Pakistani and Afghan governments are not strong enough to control their territory long-term. Pakistan has squandered a lot of US aid to fight conflicts between different parts of its society, as well as in a cold-war-like struggle with India. It is not in its military's interests to refocus on terrorism or national stability because these will diminish its dominance over civil society. Nontheless, Pakistan has natural pride, and it's embarssing to have foreign troops operating on its soil. The US is, IMO, correct not to trust ISI not to leak intelligence to Al Qaeda (we need to disable our irony sensors here; the readings are off the charts). It's reasonable to assume that:
- ISI still has ties with Al Qaeda, as well as people sympathetic to it
- Pakistan's government might try to make a deal over that kind of information
- ISI's security is otherwise lax enough that things might pass from it through a chain of people with progressively more sympathy for Al Qaeda into Al Qaeda's ears.
- Given this, it made sense for the US to conduct this operation on its own, as terrible as it is for the political illusions Pakistan presents to the public. There is one highly unfortunate effects; in marginal states, the effectiveness of a government strongly depends on the people's beliefs that it is effective. The idea that it is not could damage it further. Out of tact, it would be wise for the US to downplay its lack of coordination with ISI on this raid, or to have somehow arranged for some kind of token/safe military involvement with a single Pakistani military member (sans communication with the broader military) as token representation. This should have been planned for. As for Pakistan, it'd be easy to call for it to sort out ISI, but it needs to entirely rethink the role its military plays in society, enough that rivalry with its twin (India) is buried forever. Of the sins of mass-politics, bogeymen are among the worst.
- Iran's reaction to Bin Laden's killing: interesting analysis. Choice quote: 「Iran has little to celebrate, apart from the fact that one enemy of the Islamic Republic was removed by the hands of a bigger enemy. 」
- Charedim are still living in the past. Reprehensible.
- The recent clash between Ahmadinejad and Khameini has been exciting; as the alliance between the two men has marginalised a number of once powerful political figures, the distinction between Ahmadinejad's popular nationalism and Khameini's clerical-government establishment has led to a lot of tension; Ahmadinejad's attempt to groom a successor and remove an obstacle (the security member of his cabinet) was blocked by Khameini, leading Ahmadinejad not to report to work for a week and then not to appear publicly near the person he tried to fire. Khameini may have narrowed the field too much for this to end well; liberal trends in Iranian society have no effective voice in government, but the portions that are represented may be too narrow to coexist and too narrow to retain enough broad buy-in needed to remain effective as a government.
- Syria seems to be a slow-pace mess. Holding a reporter is not helping them internationally, portions of their military are not keen on killing civilians, and the flight of some of their people into Lebanon mixes irony and embarassment.
- The recent GOP primary debate was pretty special. I'm not sure whether I find Ron Paul or Rick Santorum more objectionable; both would be enormously destructive if elected, but in different ways. Of those there, I consider Paul and Santorum the worst; Bolton or Palin might be worse than either, it's difficult to say (Trump is a clown, but I doubt he'd be effective enough to mess things up very much).
Packing... it's not so bad. I don't yet know if this coming weekend will be another cross-state drive. The costs are adding up though; it would make more sense for me to own a car right now. Sigh.