Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived
A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?
Update: seemingly not
Update: Oh yeah!
Friday, November 10, 2006
All the good news you're not hearing about Darfur
Here, from the International Herald Tribune. Of course, this is likely to be every bit as misleading as similar "all the good news you're not hearing" stories about peaceful pockets of Iraq � southwestern Darfur is pretty much the only corner of the province where the DPA is holding - but it does underline a couple of things that I have heard from other sources.
First, the Janjaweed don't tend to attack villages unless they have Sudanese Army support. I've heard from a couple of Sudanese correspondents that the Janjaweed are basically quite cowardly when it comes to attacking villages, and if they don't have army support they prefer to skirmish on the outskirts of IDP camps (which are less heavily armed) or attack women when they go out to gather firewood. This means that they are only really active in North Darfur as a mass murder force, because Khartoum are basically sticking to the DPA everywhere else.
This is genuine good news as far as I am concerned, because it means that the risks associated with a collapse of the al-Bashir government (more likely as a result of a coup than foreign decapitation) are less than I thought they were. I had previously assumed that the collapse of the Sudanese state would lead to an Iraqi-style meltdown, as both the farmers and the nomads decided to settle old scores and grab land and water. But if the Janjaweed don't really exist as an independent military force and the Darfurians are more inclined to forgive and forget, that's really hopeful.
Second, however, it looks as if the IDP camps are still very political. Note in the story that the guy who returned to his village because it was safe, was regarded as a traitor by a lot of people in the camps, because they thought that his patriotic duty as a Darfurian was to stay in the camps and die of typhoid, in order to win a PR victory and persuade the UN to invade. Nice people. Lots of people know a lot more about fourth-generation warfare than me, and apparently this sort of thing is not unknown as a tactic.
In unrelated news, it appears from Sudan Watch that Eritrea is interested in getting involved. The whole position of Eritrea confuses me. All the information I have (which is not much) points to Eritrea as the source of the missiles that have altered the balance of power in North Darfur, and it is well known that Eritrea is home to some Islamist guerrillas who have no love for al-Bashir. However, Khartoum recently concluded a peace deal in East Sudan with the Eritreans and is trying to play nice with the Eritrean government � they appear to very strongly believe that the weapons are reaching North Darfur via Chad.
There is a sort of ethnic angle to this � Idriss Déby is ethnically Fur, and might be assumed to be more supportive of "Classic SLA" (the new name for SLA/G19) than SLA/Minnawi because Minnawi is Zarghawa. But this is the sort of beard-stroking tribalism that bedevils African political analysis and I don't believe it. For one thing, it is not like Classic SLA and SLA/Minnawi are ethnic militias. For another, nobody at all seemed to think that the distinction between Fur and Zarghawa ethnicities mattered until the SLA split up and the factoid that Minnawi is Zarghawa arose. And finally, Jan Pronk always believed that the missiles were coming to the NRF through the JEM faction, not SLA/G19. It's much harder in my opinion to see why Déby would be interested in arming a nationalist and quasi-Islamist militia. Except possibly, a simple desire to cause trouble for Omar al-Bashir, which is not exactly an uncommon or incomprehensible motivation.
For what it's worth, I am still inclined to believe in the Eritrean connection, and that al-Bashir is hoping that the Eritrean government are going to reverse policy with respect to al-Qaeda and wipe them out (this would be consistent with al-Bashir judging the Eritreans by his own standard of turning on past allies in an attempt to curry favour with overseas powers). It all still seems very chaotic and I still think that there is at least an even money chance of a collapse of the Sudanese government in the next twelve months. (I am not posting this opinion on the Guardian blog because I'm really quite cautious about self-fulfilling prophecies and still not sure that a coup would do more good than harm).
 I am still very unclear about the relationship between JEM and Islamism. They certainly had their origins in the supporters of al-Turabi, so I would guess that there is a lot of Islamist ideology among their supporters, but they've never really self-identified that way, haven't made any Islamist demands and don't really acknowledge much of a relationship with al-Turabi any more. My guess is that JEM's relationship with Islamism these days is rather like the relationship of the IRA to Marxism.
this item posted by the management 11/10/2006 05:47:00 AM
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Video Game News
The only person I know who cares about computer games is Steven Poole, but I guess that some of the rest of you might be thinking about buying the new game "Gangs of London". If you are, I have a tip for you.
The game apparently allows you to choose one of five gangs and compete for supremacy in London. One of the gangs is called the "EC2 Crew".
EC2 is the postcode of the Bank of England. It is entirely within the City of London. It has the Bank, the head offices of a few foreign banks, the meeting hall of the Worshipful Company of Plaisterers, Short's Wine Bar and a few novelty Filofax shops. I don't think it has any residential buildings at all. So basically, the tip is, don't pick the EC2 Crew, they are bound to be shit.
This joke is courtesy of Tess, who noticed it from their whacking great advertising posters on the Tube. Freakonomics? Never heard of it. No really, coming soon I promise.
 Yes I know it has been called "The City Tup" for about ten years now. Give me a break will you.
this item posted by the management 11/09/2006 02:39:00 PM
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Oliver Kamm in good joke shocker?!?!
In the past, I have noted on this weblog that Oliver Kamm's weblog has rather a high word to joke ratio. However, credit where it is due and this comment on the chore of being asked to plug a mate's book is rather good. I thought for a second that it might have been an impostor or a hired comedian, but the fact that the next paragraph refers to dull far-left grouplet battles of the 1980s as if anyone cared about them is pretty strong substantial evidence that it's the genuine article. Having proved that he can do it, I hope that Oliver will be putting a few more humourous remarks in his weblog and published writing, rather than saving them up for private emails.
Freakonomics? You do realise that it is now like two years since I read that book? No really, it's coming soon.
this item posted by the management 11/08/2006 12:06:00 AM