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Recommendations for your weekend reading pleasure – and an open comment thread.

11 May 2012

Summary:   Today we have a potpourri of articles — insights, information, and folly — for your weekend reading pleasure (with the two best below the fold).  Yes, this went up a day early. The comment box is open.  Ask questions and express your views.  Please be polite and brief.

(1)  Everybody loves real estate!  See the fascinating tables and graphs in the 2012 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey.  Australia looks like a bubble ready to pop.  Out-migration has produced very inexpensive housing in some US cities.  Too bad they have little (or no) job growth.  An Florida urban housing affordability still has not returned to levels of 2000.

(2)  Propaganda deconstructed:  “Tax Foundation – up to its usual nonsense“, Linda Beale, Angry Bear, 6 May 2012 — Marketing the bogus “tax freedom day”

(3)  An important insight from research, to remember every day:  “Don’t Like the Message? Maybe It’s the Messenger“, Justin Fox, Harvard Business Review, 4 May 2012

(4)  This is what the approach of peak oil look like:  “Marginal oil production costs are heading towards $100/barrel“, Financial Times, 2 May 2012 — A steady rise in exploration and development costs.

(5)  This deserves to be at the top of your reading list: a revised edition of John Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict. An introduction is here. Download the PDF here.

(6)  An interesting report about an important subject “A Dozen Economic Facts About Innovation“, Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney, Brookings Institute, August 2011

(7)  The ominous opening sentences to Limits to Growth – the thirty-year update by Donella Meadows, Jorgen, and Dennis Meadows:

The signs are everywhere around us:

  • Sea level has risen 10-20 centimeters since 1900. …

Ten to twenty centimeters is 3.9 to 7.9 inches over 112 years. That’s 7 hundredths of an inch per year. Estimates of the recent rate of increase are approximately 13 hundredths of an inch per year. Run for the hills!

For accurate information about rising sea levels, see these posts:

  1. An example of important climate change research hidden, lest it spoil the media’s narrative, 22 May 2009
  2. About that melting arctic ice cap, 17 April 2010
  3. Fear or Fail: about the melting Greenland ice sheet, 24 May 2010
  4. Today’s good news, about rising sea levels, 3 June 2010 — Esp note the links to articles and studies!
  5. It’s time to worry (again) about disappearing arctic ice, 8 June 2010
  6. Climate Armageddon postponed (again): the melting polar ice, 9 October 2010
  7. Looking into the past for guidance about warnings of future climate apocalypses, 17 October 2010
  8. More about the forecast for flooded cities in the late 21st century, 16 October 2010

(8) In Libya, the Captors Have Become the Captive“, Robert Worth, New York Times, 9 May 2012 — Excerpt:

Libya has no army. It has no government. These things exist on paper, but in practice, Libya has yet to recover from the long maelstrom of Qaddafi’s rule. The country’s oil is being pumped again, but there are still no lawmakers, no provincial governors, no unions and almost no police. Streetlights in Tripoli blink red and green and are universally ignored. Residents cart their garbage to Qaddafi’s ruined stronghold, Bab al-Aziziya, and dump it on piles that have grown mountainous, their stench overpowering. Even such basic issues as property ownership are in a state of profound confusion.

Qaddafi nationalized much of the private property in Libya starting in 1978, and now the old owners, some of them returning after decades abroad, are clamoring for the apartments and villas and factories that belonged to their grandparents. I met Libyans brandishing faded documents in Turkish and Italian, threatening to take up arms if their ancestral tracts of land were not returned.

What Libya does have is militias, more than 60 of them, manned by rebels who had little or no military or police training when the revolution broke out less than 15 months ago. They prefer to be called katibas, or brigades, and their members are universally known as thuwar, or revolutionaries. Each brigade exercises unfettered authority over its turf, with “revolutionary legitimacy” as its only warrant.

Inside their barracks — usually repurposed schools, police stations or security centers — a vast experiment in role reversal is being carried out: the guards have become the prisoners and the prisoners have become the guards. There are no rules, and each katiba is left to deal in its own way with the captives, who range from common criminals to Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the deposed leader’s son and onetime heir apparent. Some have simply replicated the worst tortures that were carried out under the old regime. More have exercised restraint. Almost all of them have offered victims a chance to confront their former torturers face to face, to test their instincts, to balance the desire for revenge against the will to make Libya into something more than a madman’s playground.

For more about this see The promise: We’re from America and we’re here to help you. The reality: bomb ‘em and leave them, 18 February 2012.

(9) Important news of the week, from (as usual) Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.

Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).

Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).

This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, must surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.

If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency. …

UPDATE II: It is now confirmed that the would-be bomber of the civilian jet was, in fact, a double agent working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence. So just as virtually every “domestic Terror plot” is one conceived, directed, funded and controlled by the FBI, this new Al Qaeda plot from Yemen was directed by some combination of the CIA and its Saudi partners. So this wasn’t merely a failed, nascent plot which is causing this fear-mongering media orgy: it was one controlled at all times by the U.S. and Saudi Governments.

Also see:

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 May 2012 10:43 pm

    In the FWIW department, I’m doing some commentary on various charts in Patterns starting, logically enough, with no. 141. Those interested in Boyd can follow along at Fast Transients http://bit.ly/GJtl5j

    Like

  2. Derek5 permalink
    12 May 2012 3:33 am

    “Patterns of Conflict” is an extremely valuable and useful document…Thank you for making it available in this format! I find Chet’s commentary enlightening as well. It strikes me that Boyd’s ideas could add much to the social sciences. If the “history of intellectual change” (as Randall Collins delineates it) is the result of networks involved in interaction rituals competing under the law of small numbers thus causing ascending levels of abstraction and reflexivity, imagine how creative/destructive Boyd’s ideas could be.

    Like

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