Category Archives: Links

5 Trends Behind the Rise of UKIP

This morning Douglass Carswell became the first UKIP MP, winning 21,113 votes (59.66%) in the Clacton by-election. Whilst I’ve spent all morning banging my head on my desk and shouting angrily at the sky in a state of incredulity, others have been providing interesting analysis of what’s going on in British politics.

Dr Matthew Goodwin and Dr Robert Ford are the authors of Revolt on the Right, and their most recent book essentially asks ‘how is UKIP even a thing?! Like seriously, WTF?!’

Obviously the questions are worded a bit differently, and it turns out the answer isn’t, like I thought at first, ‘because people are idiots’. It’s way more complex than that.

Taking to Twitter they’ve outlined 5 key trends that explain the rise of UKIP.

1) The working class are dissatisfied with the traditional parties.

2) People who leave school at or before 16 and people over 65 are shifting to UKIP.

3) David Cameron is pretty unpopular.

4) Pretty much everyone feels abandoned by the government.

5) People are eurosceptic, anti-migration, and pessimistic.

Sad times.

A Twitter Q&A on Cybersecurity with P.W. Singer

Over the past week, the defence practice group at Powell Tate communications and public affairs have been collecting questions for a reddit style AMA with P.W. Singer (director of the Brookings institute and author of Wired for War) on twitter.

I’ve always find it hard to make sense of much of the cybersecurity and cyberwar stuff I’ve read and I’ve always found this slightly worrying as I like to think I’m, ahem, a relatively smart guy with a keen interest in security and the cyber world we all now inhabit. Moreover, it’s interesting that cybersecurity hasn’t been on the syllabi of any of the security courses i’ve taken at any level of my studies. Fortunately, Singer’s forthcoming book Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know, looks like it’ll address this lacuna and provide a handy guide to cybersecurity for scholars and students of International Relations and Security.

I haven’t got my hands on the book yet, but the Twitter Q&A has provided a few short insights into some important cybersecurity issues. Below are just some of the highlights with a few comments from myself for good measure.

What?! It’s not China? Or organised criminal gangs? Or angsty teenagers in their bedrooms? Apparently not. It’s simply the fact that we don’t really understand cybersecurity and therefore don’t act in ways that are appropriate to ensure it. As in the offline world, it seems that cybersecurity threats from external actors are overplayed. It’s not a dangerous unseen enemy that poses the greatest threat to our security, it’s our own lack of understanding. And maybe if we stopped picking up USB sticks in car parks and plugging them in at work we’d be a little bit more secure.

The proto arms race sounds, and is, quite worrying. Viruses such as Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame are all allegedly weaponised forms of malware purportedly created by the USA and Israel. Intended to cause harm either by actually subverting Iran’s nuclear facilities or gathering information about them, I guess the problem with these is that once they are out of the bottle, anyone who gets their hands on them can learn from and adapt the code. Thus they’re a danger in the ‘wrong hands’ and they also undermine trust within the international community.

The second point about a more authoritarian internet seems to be something that is happening through both the NSA PRISM scandal and through the introduction of more and more legislation to regulate what can be accessed online.

It’s good to see someone actually involved in the policy world pointing out that the extent of the NSA online spying was both dumb and legally questionable. Something which several of the US NatSec community rarely point out.

Was the Fox News headline for this ‘4 month old potential terrorist launches biological weapon at airport’?! If not, it should have been.

The whole set of questions and answers is worth looking at so check out @peterwsinger and @PTdefense on twitter and drop your thoughts in the comment box below. Singer’s book looks like it’ll be a great read and I’m sure it’ll go into way more depth on the issues covered in 140 characters on Twitter.

Friday Links

With Jonna starting a new job and myself doing actual PhD  and teaching work rather than watching cat videos all day, we’ve been a bit slow getting Friday links together so here’s a few things that have caught my eye today:

The beeb have a short  guide to the rebel/opposition forces in Syria. As you can see the majority of them are not Jihadist, something which might surprise you if you were to watch/read most of the British media.

Vice have an interesting piece on Jihadist culture in Syria. Parts of it seem to just echo a lot of the typical ‘Syrain rebels = Jihadist’ angle, but it has some interesting stuff on the role music is playing in Syria. Apparently “Al Qaeda is the Simon Cowell of the war zone, churning out hits the war-weary public wants and in doing so, providing itself with the perfect promotional gimmick.”

Meanwhile everyone’s favourite right-wing-fictional-daily-sewerage-spout has a piece with the headline “Tunisia’s ‘sex jihadis’ who were sent to Syria to have sex with 100 rebels EACH are coming home pregnant with their children”. You stay classy Daily Mail.

On another note, Politics has a virtual issue out which is all about teaching and learning in IR and politics, it’s an interesting read having just started teaching myself and worth checking out if you’re a student, researcher or teacher of global politics.

If you’re just starting out on the PhD path in IR and you’re based in the UK then this event organised by the BISA postgrad network will be of interest. It’s in London on the 6th of November and registration closes on the 30th of October.

Oh, and here’s ten reasons why recent intelligence leaks are not threats to national security. Have a nice weekend!

Friday Links

Hope everyone has had a great week – here are a few interesting things we’ve come across (usually while avoiding other work):

First up, the US government shutdown is now in its second week. Lots of interesting things have been published on this, and of course it has huge implications for government staff who either aren’t allowed to work or have to work for no pay. On the security front, it also means that 90% of US nuclear safety regulators were shut down yesterday. The article notes that ‘If something truly terrible goes down, of course, they’ll be able to call in emergency backup’ – though efforts to actually make reactors safer are now officially on hold. While we usually think of the US as a ‘reliable’ nuclear power state in terms of safety procedures, Greenpeace US have long campaigned to shut down American nuclear reactors, with some success in particularly problematic cases.

The Guardian have started a worthwhile debate over UK universities overseas partners, as six UK universities set up campuses in Uzbekistan – a country with an abysmal human rights record – including forced labour practices. This report also follows discussions from earlier this year over UK universities’ investment in (and generally close ties to) fossil fuel industries. Isn’t it time to start holding universities accountable for unethical practices?

A guest post on the Duck of Minerva asks, Why didn’t the US ‘re-interpret’ the UN Charter on Syria? 

Some research found interesting links between slave ownership and modern management practices. Control over every aspect of human lives basically allowed slave owners to maximise productivity, and the lessons learnt are still used in management today. 

Lastly: Don’t be that dude: handy tips for the male academic – a discussion that unfortunately still needs to be had, in 2013.

Have a good weekend all!

Friday Links

Experts respond to the lastest IPCC report, with some very sensible words from Mike Hulme (Kings College London):

“…it is good and proper to ask critical questions about the state of climate knowledge. Science never produces finished products, only provisional ones. But being sceptical about climate science does not automatically entitle one to be negative about climate policies—the question is what sorts of climate policies are most appropriate—effective and plausible—given what we know today. The problems of energy supply, weather risks and poor air quality all need to be tackled in some way even if the climate sensitivity was only 1.5C. This latest assessment of climate science from the IPCC threatens to distract from resolving the core issue of climate change – the political challenge of finding policy interventions that are effective and plausible. The difficulties in implementing policies that reduce the dangers of a changing climate don’t result from a deficiency of scientific knowledge. Raising the confidence that humans are a major influence on climate from ‘very likely’ to ‘extremely likely’ doesn’t change the politics of climate change. The difficulties arise because of different interests, values and attitudes to risk. These can only be worked through using political strategies that are less constrained by the need to reach global agreements.

We need a more pragmatic politics of climate change, not more weighty science about climate change.

Some useful links for academics:

10 tips on how to write less badly

Some wise words on ‘imposter syndrome’ and academic writing

10 truths a PhD supervisor will never tell you

Though I disagree with number 6, ‘be wary of co-supervisors’ – as some one who has had more than their fair share of supervisors (due to staff leaving for other institutions), one of the things I have learnt is that the more people you can usefully discuss your work with in a constructive way the better. Everyone is different, and so it’s good to have good working relations with more than one person to discuss your work with – whether they are a formal supervisor or not.

Exploratory writing and the discomforts of uncertainty

‘We are rarely in the position of simply ‘writing down what we think’. Instead, we are putting words together in a way that then shapes meaning’.