Today’s broadsheet from the FM website pressroom, with 7 sections of hot news. Lot’s happening in the world today, mostly either overlooked or misinterpreted by the mainstream media.
- Links to interesting news and analysis
- Another disproof to climate doomsterism
- A sitrep about from Europe about the swine flu pandemic
- More evidence the Right in America is crazy
- Most important article of the month, or year
- Quote of the day about the President’s speech
- Plus an Afterword
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(1) Today’s links
- “La Familia’ North of the Border“, Stratfor, 3 December 2009 — Strafor looks at the North American drug trafficking networks. Follow-up to Update about Mexico, the failing state on our border.
- Strong recommendation to read: “What is good for Goldman Sachs is good for America — The origins of the current crisis“, Robert Brenner, Center for Social Theory and Comparative History – UCLA, 18 April 2009 — Highly technical but valuable.
- Best TomDispatch ever: “Victory at Last!“, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch, 3 December 2009 — A brilliant analysis of the President’s speech at West Point about the Af-Pak War.
(2) Another disproof to climate doomsterism
No, the Kilimanjaro glaciers are not melting due to global warming. This is well-established in the climate literature, despite the ignorant doomster stories in the general media. Here is another analysis in the peer-reviewed literature — of course ignored by the new media:
- “Half-precessional dynamics of monsoon rainfall near the East African Equator“, Dirk Verschuren1 et al, Nature, 3 December 2009 — Abstract; the article is subscription-only.
(3) A sitrep about from Europe about the swine flue pandemic
Main surveillance developments, Weekly influenza surveillance overview, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 27 November 2009:
- Influenza activity is still high in 27 EU countries.
- Thirteen countries reported a rising trend, many of which are in Eastern Europe.
- Influenza activity is stable in some countries which may suggest they may be nearing the peak of their epidemics.
- Influenza A(H1N1)v oseltamivir resistance has been officially reported in the EU.
(4) More evidence the Right in America is crazy
Six decades after the “who lost China” madness the Right still persists with this madness, as seen in “Will Turkey Spoil?“, Michael Rubin, National Review Online, 2 December 2009 — Excerpt:
How was Turkey lost and why did Washington do nothing to stop it are questions that historians will ponder. Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is the new Vladimir Putin. Erdogan’s disdain for independent press rivals the Kremlin’s. He has systematically harrassed journalists and confiscated media companies, often handing them to political allies or family members. NGO activists and journalists are held in Turkish prison without charge for months on end. More than 200 journalists, editors, and intellectuals have been arrested in the last four years.
Turkey is a sovereign nation. It’s people will chart its own path, irrespective of our wishes. It is not ours to “lose.”
Why is this so difficult for these madmen to understand? What kind of Hell will they plunge America into, unless we evict them from the public policy discussion. As we have other crazies from the political extremes.
(5) Most important article of the month, or year
Readers of this website know that much of America’s geopolitical analysis consists of nothing but people working their rice bowls. Whatever the war, they will write it is logical, necessary, and winnable. Finally we have some folks experiencing a revelation of the blindingly obvious, writing about this dynamic.
(a) “How the Afghan Surge Was Sold“, Nathan Hodge, Wired, 3 December 2009 — Excerpt:
I’m not suggesting here that there’s any funny business, but I do think we need to take a closer look at who’s paying the bills, especially when you consider the remarkable clout of a select number of national-security think tanks. The 2007 Iraq surge was at least partly cooked up at AEI (the photo above shows the Kagans on a visit to Basra). Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings helped make the case for the surge, and argued that it was working. Graduates of CNAS have occupied top posts in the new administration.
More importantly, think tanks served as a sort of advance guard for a troop increase, with some pundits pushing early — and hard — for an escalated involvement. Here’s Cordesman, arguing in early August for more troops and fewer allied caveats. And here’s a CNAS brief from back in June. Not everyone one McChrystal’s advisory team signed on to the surge — Shapiro of Brookings, for one, did not advocate more troops — but the panel’s bipartisan design helped lend more weight to the general’s recommendations.
Walt proposed rating think-tanks on their financial transparency and willingness to disclose sources of income. Some of that information is readily available: With a few hours to kill, and a Guidestar.org account, you can take a closer look at the financial side of things, by examining the groups’ “Form 990″ filings with the IRS. Some of the think tanks do contract research for the government (CNAS, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, or CSBA); others do not accept government funding (Heritage, AEI).
But there are still a lot of blanks to fill in here. Some think tanks do not disclose donor names (but if you look at the name of endowed chairs for scholars, you can figure out who is paying some of the bills). Big defense contractors — Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing — also contribute to many of the defense-oriented think tanks, although getting specific amounts is tricky (Form 990 does not break down individual donations).
We here at Danger Room are not trying to knock these think tankers — some of them, like Biddle, Cordesman and Exum, are as smart as they come. We’re as fond of quoting them as anyone. But it’s also worth asking who pays the piper.
(b) “The Think Tank Arm of the Military-Industrial Complex“, Matthew Yglesias, 3 December 2009 — Excerpt:
While agreeing that Biddle, Cordesman, and Exum are all “as smart as they come” I think it’s also worth being a bit less polite about this. Smart, honest people have smart, honest disagreements about all kinds of stuff. But if it’s easier to get funding for smart, honest ideas about the need for more activist policy than for smart, honest ideas about the need for less activist policy, then each smart, honest person who has some smart, honest ideas implying the need for more activist policy is going to find him or herself primarily working on smart, honest ideas about the need for more activist policy. Even if you assume that nobody in the system is corrupt or dishonest, the system itself contains a systematic bias in favor of military action and against counsels of restraint. It’s a real problem, and it’s something that smart, honest people should be able to acknowledge.
A related point that both reflects and re-enforces the military’s extraordinary prestige and political influence is that having a good relationship with the senior military leadership is a very useful career asset for a defense policy analyst. This is a huge contrast to what you see in other areas. The fact that, say, EPI has a closer relationship with teacher’s unions than do other think tanks isn’t regarded as giving EPI extra credibility in analyzing education policy issues. That, again, serves to distort the terms of the debate. One-note guys like Bill Kristol or Robert Kaplan who think the answer to every policy question is “invade!” are treated as about a thousand times more credible than people who think countries shouldn’t be invaded or bombed for reasons other than self-defense.
(6) Quote of the Day about the President’s speech
Why oh why Says:
If we stay 18 more months, invest heavily in Afghan development projects, carefully secure parts of the country, and possibly add even more troops, we may finally create the kind of quagmire that made great movies like ‘Platoon’ or ‘Apocalypse now’ possible.
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