Tuesday, August 30, 2011

North Korea may be starting cyberwarfare against South Korea

Chico Harlan and Ellen Nakashima have a bizarre story in the Aug. 30 Washington Post about an apparent cyber attack against a South Korean bank by hackers from North Korea, where very few citizens have access to the Internet. Here is the link

It seems very strange, but North Korea might have a lot to “gain” from such a venture. I’ll watch as a potential Internet security issue more broadly in the future. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

China has a "license to publish" concept

On Aug. 26, the Washington Post ran a “China Watch” section with a report by Jiang Xueqing writing, “Turning the page, Newspapers and magazines enter a challenging era”. What’s interesting is this process in China of quasi “privatization” of news services into “enterprises”, but the requirement of “licenses to publish” (a medieval concept) associated with required “serial numbers”.   China apparently regards having the capability to release information “into the wild” for “everyone” (or the “public”) as a privilege that should be regulated. No free entry!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Britain meets with social media companies on flash mob problem

According to a New York Times story by Ravi Somaiya (link), British officials met with executives of Twitter, Facebook, and RIM (Blackberry) to discuss ways of limiting the use of social media to organize destructive flash mobs.  Twitter is now considering the use of real names (or at least valid nicknames), a practice already controversial with Facebook and Google-Plus. Many Twitter users make up cute handle names almost as personal "trademarks", and these are not deceptive.

Britain will have to walk a tightrope to distinguish itself from authoritarian Middle Eastern governments that tried to restrict social media and Internet access during the Arab Spring, a development partly credited to social media.

Social media users have not always been held to the same standards of conduct in obeying court orders as traditional media.

Saturday, CNN reported that Britain would not take any specific measures now.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Gadhafi will probably fall tonight, giving Obama another Sunday night surprise to announce

Is Muammar Gadhafi about to capitulate? Will he be gone in the next few hours?  Will this be a Sunday night triumph for Obama (like Osama bin Laden on May 1)?  He needs it, while on “les vacances” in the Vineyard (that’s not “The Island”).   I see the Libyan dictator’s last name spelled every conceivable way.

The news is breaking so fast, about the capture of the sons, and the advances into Tripoli, the naming of “Martyr Square”, that viewers will just have to stay tuned to breaking news.  Here’s Time Magazines speculations, link

It does look as though Gadhafi will be evicted from power before the stock market opens tomorrow.

The world will have to learn the difference between legitimate revolution and flash mobs, as both can be accelerated by social media. You know it when you see it. 

And perhaps this is a Sunday for "feeling reckless" (actually, Saturday night was, as there was a small incident at the bar).  There are people who know what this means.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Iran sentences two hikers who "wandered" over border to 8 years in prison

Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran, as a result of their arrest when they “wandered” into Iran when hiking in northern Iraq. The young men say that they were tricked into crossing intentionally by Iranian guards.

Of course, this episode serves as a warning to Americans travelling in unstable or non-western countries, or countries with regimes hostile to “western values”.  But attorneys act hopeful about the possibility of an appeal. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Zakaria: The US should switch to a parliamentary form of government, like Britain's

Today, on CNN, Fareed Zakaria made a pitch to Ali Velshi (CNN business and finance editor) to the effect that the United States should seriously consider switching to a parliamentary form of government, like Britain. It would then have a prime minister, who controls both the legislature and executive, and guarantees that a government can actually function (even on a matter like deficit reduction, which Britain has been doing heavily).

So where do we start with this one, with another constitutional convention?  (A proofreader once caught me with "constitutional conventional".)

Here is Zakaria's blog posting on the matter.  Zakaria points out that no country with a "presidential system" (compared with parliamentary -- counting France which has both) has a AAA rating from S&P on its sovereign debt.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fareed Zakaria: The US and China have a pact of mutually assured financial destruction

Yesterday, Fareed Zakaria, on his Global Public Square (GPS) program on CNN, said that China, despite complaints about American debt, is not likely to stop lending us money, as Tea Party conservatives have warned. He says that the US and China have a deal of the financial equivalent of the Cold War, of “mutually assured financial destruction”, as explained in China Digital Times here

China owns about 1.2 trillion dollars of the 14.3 trillion federal debt.  But most federal debt is owned by Americans in the Social Security trust fund, pension trusts (public and private employers), and the Federal Reserve. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

China holds dissident for filing lawsuit in US against Cisco involving abetting Chinese surveillance

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an important story about China’s detention of Du Daobin for bringing a lawsuit against Cisco in the U.S. for selling China tools to use against dissidents, including surveillance and blocking tools.

The link for the advisory is here.

Daobin was also arrested for his pro-democracy blogging activities.

There have been several notorious cases of Chinese detention of Internet dissidents in the past year. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Social media, while helping Arab spring, may not be instigating lawlessness in England, elsewhere

While social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, takes some moral credit for helping instigate the “Arab Spring”, with mixed results, now these media are “implicated” in the outbreak of rioting in several areas of London and three other cities in Britain, and even Philadelphia in the US, supposedly a reaction to so-called “police brutality”.  The term used to characterize this activity is "flash mob", although the term is also used for gatherings that do not have destructive intentions (wiki link). 

I could say we saw this attitude in the 60s (Detroit, Newark, and then “medium cool” Chicago in 1968).  And I personally can remember the indignation of a lot of people those days during my own coming of age, mostly from the far Left in those days. At least on the surface, this also calls to mind the Rodney King incident in LA in 1991. 

Is this criminality, or is it something that inevitably results from the gap between rich and poor, and the cutbacks, and hyper-competitiveness?  One could sound like (ultra-Leftist) Noam Chomsky about this one.  The “decadent” public is caught in the middle, but it gets caught on a lot of disputes, like strikes, anyway.

The media have reported some of the teens in the streets as saying "we have the power", etc.   Left-wing site AlterNet has an account "Elites are 'shocked' the poor are rising up against brutal austerity measures; angyr young people with nothing to do and nothing do lose are turning on their own communities, and they cannot be stopped, and they know it", story by Penny Red (pun), link here.  Is this what Marxists called "class warfare" during my own generation?  Chairman Mao would turn over in his grave with glee.

The Washington Post, usually "liberal", has a more moderate track on a front page story by Anthony Faiola, "Riot-battered London asks itself why", link here. While describing the lockdown of parts of London and maybe other cities in England, he characterizes the rage as "blind, apolitical and profoundly selfish" and later quotes mention of "bad parenting." The Washington Post editorial this Wednesday morning took a middle of the road tack, talking about how democracies respond to the "rebellion by the dispossessed". And Britain rebuked the Syrian ambassador for its (false) metaphor comparing the lawlessness in Britain with the uprisings in the Middle East.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture below:
Update: Aug. 16

Here's a Washington Times editorial on the problem.  Theodore Dalrymple aka Anthony Daniels, invoking memories of Butterworth's "A Shropshire Lad", razes the sense of entitlement in Britain with a piece in the Wall Street Journal Aug 16, "The Barbarians inside Britain's gates", link here. Other columnists of the WSJ have expressed similar interpretations.

British courts have sentenced a few young adults to up to four years in prison for using Facebook to organize the destructive flash mobs, and many more have been sentenced to a humiliating kind of "community service", cleaning up the mess in riot-torn areas while wearing orange jumpers. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

CNN hints international credit freeze (quasi 2008) coming, emergency meetings tonight

Is another credit freeze looming? That’s what CNN suggested this afternoon after Wall Street laid its egg today at the end of the session.

Richard Quest confirmed these comments this afternoon, despite the fact that the yield on US Treasuries dropped even in the wake of the downgrade.

It’s not clear if this is the same concern as in 2008, when there was a fear that the global financial system would simply “seize”. But cash “hoarding” could lead to an international freeze, some says, such as this blog by Eric Dixon. This is the sort of argument one used to hear decades ago from the political Left.
Investors could watch the “Ted Spread” (link) and LIBOR.  That would have gone up today if the T-bill interest went down.  LIBOR, or the London Interbank Rate, is said to have risen slightly today (link )

Yet CNN speculates on high-level international finance meetings taking place this evening.

Much of the drop in the Dow occurred at the end of the day, some time after S&P announced additional downgrades and Obama gave his speech.

I conducted some minor business at a Wells Fargo branch recently converted from Wachovia, and the bank conveniently did not display stock market numbers on its jumbotron. 

Let’s see what the pundits say tonight on CNBC, CNN, etc. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Save the Children makes appeal in Somalia famine crisis, which has political complications

The Washington Post, in a story by Mary Beth Sheridan, is reporting that the United States government has to walk a tightrope in funneling aid to victims of the Somalia drought-related famine, to prevent assistance from being controlled through Al Qaeda-related al-Shabab, which collects “taxes” or “tribute”, in a manner that reminds one of early Middle Ages feudalism.

The link is here

The current AP story about pressure from the UN for more money is (website url) here  and it is reproduced this morning in most newspapers.

Save the Children has a link for its own campaign here

Wikipedia attribution link for Ciismanyia alphabet. 

Here is a YouTube video on the emergency drops from STC:

Refugees are spreading into Kenya, waiting in huge crowds for aid.