FM newswire for 18 January, extraordinarily good articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis…

  1. Vital information to to know about America (myths are good for kids, often lethal for adults):  “Conservatives and Economic Mobility“, Matt Zeitlin, at his blog, 10 January 2010
  2. Perhaps it’s not the people; perhaps it’s the process:  “Politicians Gone Crazy“, Tina Brown, The Daily Beast, 13 January 2010
  3. Good news:  global surplus oil production capacity again over 5 million barrels/day, near peak levels of 1999 and 2002:  “Short-Term Energy Outlook“, US Energy Information Agency (EIA), 13 January 2010 — When people tell you we’re at peak oil, they’re either ignorant or lying.
  4. Record Bank Bonuses Based On Record Bank Fraud“, Barry Ritholtz, 15 January 2010
  5. Don’t let them fool us again!  “Conservatives’ ‘Team B’ Revisionism“, Matt Duss, ThinkProgress, 15 January 2010
  6. When I said Americans were not pants-wetting cowards, I should have excepted some school administrators:  “Science project prompts school evacuation“, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 January 2010 — I esp love this: “‘There will be no (criminal) charges whatsoever’ Luque said. Police and fire officials also will not seek to recover costs associated with responding to the incident…”
  7. Good news!  “World misled over Himalayan glacier meltdown“, The Times, 17 January 2010 — After several months, this at last hits the UK media. When will the dying US news media report it?

Perhaps the most important task for America in the 21st century:  reforming the Department of State

Our geopolitical policies are distorted before the massive militarization of US foreign policy.  It’s developed since WWII, and will take extraordinary effort to reverse.  I do not share Armstrong’s faith that State can regenerate without outside support.

(a)  “The State of State: A Proposal for Reorganization at Foggy Bottom“, Matt Armstrong (advisor and consultant on public diplomacy and strategic communication to the Departments of Defense and State, Congress, NATO and others), Progressive Policy Institute, 13 January 2010

(b)  Commentary:  “MountainRunner on Reforming State“, Zenpundit, 14 January 2010 — Excerpt:

We might even go beyond Goldwater-Nichols and think in terms of the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947 under Truman which saw the end of the Department of War and the absorbtion of the Department of the Navy into Defense along with the other armed services. State’s perverse dysfunctionality and empty pockets budget ( blame Congress here) has crippled public diplomacy, international development aid and the interagency process in which State too often plays the role of bureaucratic obstruction or hapless bystander.

(c)  Posts on the FM site about the State Department:

  1. Truly cracked advice to the State Department, receiving wide applause, 13 February 2008
  2. Ready, Aim, “foreign policy” away, 7 March 2008
  3. Thoughts on fixing America’s national security apparatus, 11 August 2008
  4. The State Department needs help, stat!, 22 December 2008
  5. The State Department needs help, stat!, 14 January 2009

Afterword

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7 thoughts on “FM newswire for 18 January, extraordinarily good articles for your morning reading

  1. I recommend two pieces in regards to the Himalayan Ice Melt- the first is by John Nielsen-Gammon, who records exactly how the IPCC managed to get the 2035 number; the second is by Roger Peilke Jr, who discusses the IPCC’s broader problem with using “grey literature” of the sort used to come up with this statistic.

    By the Way, there will still be glaciers in 2035“, John Nielsen-Gammon. Atmo.Sphere. 12 December 2009.

    Peer Review in the IPCC“, Roger Peilke Jr., at his Blog, 23 December 2009.
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    FM reply: Thanks for the links! IMO Roger Pielke Jr’s website is a must-read for anyone interested in climate science issues. As is his father’s website.

  2. Armstrong’s proposals are nothing short of brilliant. If I disagree any, it is because I think he does not go far enough. We should not just regionalize the overarching structure of the Department, but also the ranks of those who man it. That would be my dram retooling of the Department of State. To create a region-centric Department of State without creating the Regionlists with which to man it is only to handicap our progress.
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    FM reply: While brilliant, I suspect they are futile. The key to reform proposals is not planning the results, but planning how to mobilize the political support to achieve and maintain them. To mention just one aspect, training new FS officers must become a high-status role — not a backwater (the Marines do this well, for example).

  3. Futile? Shall we resign ourselves to defeat already? Goldwater-Nichols passed 95-0; why can’t a State Department reform bill do the same?
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    FM reply: That is a misleading comparision. The Armed Forces, esp the Army, by themselves had already repaired much of the internal damage from the Vietnam War era before the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. G-N reforms were important, but not remotely of the magniture required by DoS.

    “Shall we resign ourselves to defeat already?”

    Never. But deluding ourselves about the necessary effort required does not help. As I said, fixing DoS will take extraordinary effort. I do not share Armstrong’s faith that State can regenerate without outside support. Each Secretary of State comes on board with an agenda of foreign policy goals — uninterested in devoting his or her self to messy and difficult internal reforms. A coalition of FSO’s and ngo’s — working on Congress and DoS — is IMO the most likely path to success.

  4. “The craziness was not caused by the political race itself. It was caused by the terrifying transparency in which the modern candidate has to live.”

    These are the people who we expect to guard our personal privacy. Obviously nobody with any regard for personal privacy would subject himself to such a process. It is therefore hardly surprising that politicians have no more regard for our privacy than they have for their own.

  5. “Good news: global surplus oil production capacity again over 5 million barrels/day, near peak levels of 1999 and 2002”

    Is Goldman Sachs pushing another oil bubble (or is the government incorrect): “Oil Shortages to Reappear in 2011, Goldman Sachs Says“, Bloomberg, 18 January 2010 — Exerpt:

    Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said that shortages will reappear in the crude oil market as supply fails to keep pace with a recovery in demand. … “By 2011, the market is back to capacity constraints,” Currie said in slides shown with the presentation. “The financial crisis created a collapse in company returns which has significantly interrupted the investment phase.” … Last month Goldman predicted that crude would average $90 a barrel in 2010 and $110 per barrel in 2011. That makes Goldman’s outlook for this year joint-highest among 38 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

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    FM reply: Possible, if the world returns to the 4-5%/year GDP growth we saw before the downturn. A few years of that and oil demand might exceed capacity, forcing prices up to “destroy” the excess demand. Since commodity demand is relatively inelastic, that would require large price increases — as it did in early 2008. However I suspect Goldman’s global GDP forecasts will prove too high. As of 2 December, they forecast global gdp to rise 4.4% in 2010 (consensus is 3.8%) and 4.5% in 2011 (source).

    I recommend looking at the IMF’s forecast, to be released on 26 January. Their economics team is among the best.

  6. On “reform” and the DoS: Here’s a few fact checkable points (although I’m my own source…). Due to the expense of the campaign for Obama and Co. , the “price” for an A-Rank Embassy appointment (such as France, Japan, & etc.) is now a whopping $800,000.00, which, having come BEFORE the general election as “soft money” should technically and LEGALLY be impossible to declare with the FEC. Moreover, the Obama Administration is out doing even the BUSH I and BUSH II admins when it comes to purely fiduciary and political quid pro quo diplomatic appointments: the DoS claims around %20 of embassy posts are allocated for political payoffs, and when the Bush’s were selling %30-40 of their postings (for around HALF the current rate) it was so obvious, and done for such JERKS who now insist on being called BY THEIR DIPLOMATIC TITLES, it seemed Rove had found a new LOW. But the Obama Admin is selling HALF their Diplomatic openings. LOL. Hillary Clinton, the woman who sold Presidential Pardons, is EXACTLY the person to “reform” the Department of State!

    So for those readers who want to know WHO to contact within either the GOP or Democrat Parties if you find yourself with a spare pile of money and desire to buy an embassy and the right to the red passport and to smuggle to ones hearts content via the pouch….. Sorry, but I’m waiting on both Parties about my own chances (at a discount rate, ideally).

  7. Seriously.

    Fabius and Co. If the hacks at the DoS higher pay grades seriously wanted reform, the easiest thing in the world would be to begin by SURRENDERING the administrative and fiduciary authority the DoS took over USAID during the Bush Admin., as there isn’t anything “institutionalized” about a Federal Dept. MERGER that took place around the chaos of 9/11.

    All the DoS would have to do would be to assign the oversight and budget and affiliated contractors and employees of USAID to the COMPTROLLER GENERAL, who’d then work with the Executive, Congress, and the DoS and USAID Inspector Generals and representatives to clear up conflict of interest prior to assigning a new Federal Master to AID (ideally, the DoD Inspector General, reporting to the ODNI & an NSC committee). Ooops, I cannot imagine anything short of some application of 4GW type tactics against the DoS bureaucracy convincing them to voluntarily give over control of those missing hundreds of BILLIONS of funds; they’d have to give up being diplomats! ha. And when has there ever been a diplomatic corps willing to surrender power and authority because it was the small ‘r’ republican thing to do??? Never. Add this to the corrupted conflict of interests between the Party Machines that sell the posts on the sly, and the politicians themselves, who benefit across the aisle from this kicked back graft, and who ALREADY obey no Law save Lex Talonis, and the seriousness of the idea of the DoS reforming FROM WITHIN is a farce.

    (sigh) I’ve posted so consistently at the boundary of inappropriate disclosure and/or non-disclosure re the Dept. of State, I apologize for recent readers. In a nutshell, there’s so much corruption associated with foreign U.S. embassies and Consulates, the only way to get around it all would be for an amnesty to be declared by the White House. lol.

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