FM newswire for 29 January, articles for your morning reading

Today’s links to interesting news and analysis.  If you find this useful, pass it to a friend or colleague. 

  1. A Commedia for our times“, Spengler, Asia Times, 5 January 2010
  2. Briefing on “Training the Afghan army“, Lawrence Sellin (Colonel, US Army Reserve, retired), UPI, 5 January 2010
  3. A brief description of our most pressing economic problem:  “America’s Employment Dilemma“, J. Bradford DeLong (Prof Economics, Berkeley), Project Syndicate, January 2010
  4. Interesting and timely:  “Haiti and the Dominican Republic: One Island, Two Worlds “, Jared Diamond, The Globalist, 20 January 2010
  5. Now that it has done its work and convinced many Americans that torture is OK (for us, evil when done by others), the lies slowly get exposed:  “CIA Man Retracts Claim on Waterboarding“, Foreign Policy, 26 January 2010 — Will we see retractions from conservatives who trumpeted his testimony?
  6. The myth of China’s blithe consensus“, Michael Pettis (professor at Peking U), 26 January 2010 — Esp note the links.
  7. Good news!  Gobal warming is not flooding the Pacific’s atolls:  “Floating Islands“,Willis Eschenbach, Watts Up with That, 27 January 2010
  8. More science on the importance of soot as a climate driver:  “News Release On The Importance Of Soot In The Climate System“, Roger Pielke Sr, 27 January 2010 — Note the links to the papers.
  9. Another conservative who believes Americans are bed-wetting cowards:  “The Real State of the Union: Fear“, Michael Ledeen, Pajamas Media, 27 January 2010 — He has not a shred of evidence, but hopes this will become so.  Fearful people are easily led.
  10. Burying the lede, as the headline should be “Scientists broke the law“, not “Scientists in stolen e-mail scandal hid climate data”, The Times, 28 January 2010
  11. A valuable perspective on global economics:  “The Ring of Fire“, Bill Gross, PIMCO, February 2010 — The graph is brilliant, and deserves attention.

Today’s feature articles:

A.  More peer-reviewed research, slowly chipping away at the exaggerated claims about AGW
B.  Update to the conservative attacks on ACORN

(A)  More peer-reviewed research, slowly chipping away at the exaggerated claims about AGW

Slowly scientists outside the IPCC bubble examine the claims about anthropogenic global warming.  Slowly they chip away at them.  No one paper is dramatic by itself (that often would be dangerous for the authors in the present climate).  It’s the process of science at work.  Today’s example, as reported by the BBC, a stalwart global warming loyalist (but unwilling to follow the US newspapers into bankruptcy):  “Temperature and CO2 feedback loop ‘weaker than thought’“, 27 January 2010 — Opening:

The most alarming forecasts of natural systems amplifying the human-induced greenhouse effect may be too high, according to a new report. The study in Nature confirms that as the planet warms, oceans and forests will absorb proportionally less CO2. It says this will increase the effects of man-made warming – but much less than recent research has suggested.

The article:  “Ensemble reconstruction constraints on the global carbon cycle sensitivity to climate“, David C. Frank et al. Nature, 28 January 2010.

For a brief and simple explanation of this article’s significance:  “Nature: carbon cycle feedback is 80% weaker than advertised“, Luboš Motl, the Reference Frame, 27 January 2010.

(B)  Update to the conservative attacks on ACORN

Conservative ties bind 4 La. phone plot suspects“, AP, 27 January 2010 — Excerpt:

Four men accused of trying to tamper with Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office phones shared a common experience as young ideologues writing for conservative publications. Federal authorities said two of the men posed as telephone workers with hard hats, tool belts and fluorescent vests and walked into Landrieu’s office in a New Orleans federal building Monday. The others are accused of helping to organize the plan.

The most well-known suspect is James O’Keefe, 25, who posed as a pimp for a hidden-camera expose that damaged the reputation of the liberal community-organizing group ACORN and made him a conservative darling.

This is not a surprise to anyone paying attention (i.e., to those reading more than conservative websites):


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20 thoughts on “FM newswire for 29 January, articles for your morning reading”

  1. From the Pajamas Media link “As Scott Brown put it, most Americans think our tax dollars should go to fighting terrorists, not to pay lawyers to defend terrorists.”

    Think about the assumptions you’d have to have to type that sentence:

    1) It assumes that fighting terrorists is an activity that cannot involve the legal process, ie it must be military and extrajudicial.

    2) It assumes that military efforts against terrorism and legal efforts to try and convict terrorists are necessarily in opposition.

    3) It assumes that the cost of trials and legal defenses in terrorism cases is even remotely equivalent, or even the same order of magnitude as military and security counter terrorism activities.

    You could go through that rather mad editorial and unpack it, but it would be an exercise for someone with a stronger stomach than me.

    The people being arrested for wiretapping is amazing to me. Did they really not understand how wiretapping a Senators office in a Federal building was different from a sting on a community organizer? You’d think one of them would at least understand why ‘Watergate’ wasn’t just the name of a hotel.

  2. Re: A Commedia for our time

    While the first part shows a few good observations which also apply for other European countries, the second part is extremely weak:

    There are absolutely no facts shown which support a correlation between success of the USA and Israel and the influence of religious people. Do the fundamentalists really contribute to the “intellectual” output of these countries in the same proportion they contribute to the birth rate? Is it really relevant 200 years later that the first settler in the (later) USA were there because of their religion? What was the motivation of most immigrants during the 19th century, who formed the base of the US success. Why play other contries like Iran not in the same leguae?

    Short version: Are the USA/Israel successful because of or despite the “religious nutters”??
    FM relply: The theory is more about the 40% (or whatever) who are religious than the 5% who are extremeists.

  3. Burke G Sheppard

    An interesting assortment for the morning. A few comments.

    Regarding 8.) I remember reading one of Freeman Dyson’s Books many years ago – I think it was Infinite in All Directions – and there was a discussion on the effects of soot on climate in connection with his views on the nuclear winter theory. It was known that long ago that soot could affect climate in a major way. Makes me wonder what other science has been forgotten or misapplied in the name of AGW.

    Regarding 9. – It doesn’t make the American people bed wetting cowards that they are deeply concerned about high unemployment and a deep recession. Obama,like all Presidents, must take his political lumps in bad economic times, especially when his policies are helping to prolong them. As for treating enemy combatants like criminal defendants, well…he’s going to take his lumps for that too.
    FM reply: He did not say Americans are “deeply concerned”, a rational response to events. He spoke of naked fear, without citing a shred of evidence for this other than his hopes that conservatives will lead this fearful sheep.

  4. I’ve been waiting and watching to see if FM might mention the passing of an influential contrarian thinker, Howard Zinn. I guess his label as a leftist, his opposition to the Vietnam war, his support of unions, are too unsavory, or out of bounds, for this site. Nevertheless, his Peoples’ History of the United States is a book that sheds light on many of the disfucntions of democracy that bother most readers of this site.
    FM reply: This is not a general news website, and there is no section for births, obituaries, or comics. Most of these stories relate to previous posts.

  5. Burke G Sheppard

    FM: “He did not say Americans are “deeply concerned”, a rational response to events. He spoke of naked fear, without citing a shred of evidence for this other than his hopes that conservatives will lead this fearful sheep.

    Rejection of Obama, given his proven inadequacy, doesn’t make the American people cowards either.
    FM reply: Perhaps you should focus on what he actually said, rather than just making stuff up. That’s what my comments address: his unsupported allegation that the American people fear so many things.

  6. FM: “there is no section for births, obituaries, or comics.

    LOL. How about a Style section, based on all those old Miami Vice DVDs you’ve been watching?

    Re: the Plumbers 2.0 attempted wiretap, I too was amazed at the chuztpah / hubris of those guys. Becoming conservative media heroes seems to have elevated their own sense of capability, when they’re really just a bunch of kids playing at “secret agent” just like they were playing at “investigative journalist” earlier. The “forgot my credentials in the truck” bit only works in the movies. Gordon Liddy would have at least had the decency to forge some (much easier to do these days with computers). No doubt the seriousness of what they were doing got overlooked in the all the fun and excitement. I wonder if they even know what Watergate was? Do they still teach that in school?

  7. Grimgrin,

    Why are you surprised that people feel this way? Frivolous lawsuits, the acquittal of the clearly guilty OJ, etc. Lawyers are unpopular for a reason.

    Rightly or wrongly, people perceive the military as the least dysfunctional institution of our society, and will thus tend to rely on them to fix any problem.

  8. Reply to Comment #3:

    This was the impression that I took away from that particular section of the article:

    I think that the purpose of that paragraph was to suggest that religious faith served, for some people, as an appropriate rationale for abandoning some of the conventional security nets in place regarding financial stability. This claim, in turn, helps to outline the same connection that the author was drawing between the French Telecom workers whose jobs were too secure; that the level of job security and perhaps even government-mandated security is unprecedented, and is having a negative effect on the human psyche and society in general. Religion itself is not directly necessary to enable intellectual development or innovation within a market. However, it may be one of many catalysts that allow people to more effectively deal with fear and manage risk. I agree that an increase in a population’s adherence to a religious faiths doesn’t exactly translate to an increase in entrepreneurial risks, but it definitely has a significant effect on people’s attitudes in rationalizing “reckless” behavior, for good and for bad.

  9. Captain Ramen: It’s not that I’m surprised by it, I just read that sentence and realized that it doesn’t make any sense unless you believe quite a few things that are debatable at best to be true.

    As for lawyers getting people off, Hank Hill said it best, “Well, those ‘technicalities’ have a name, Bobby. They’re called the Bill of Rights.”. It’s kind of amazing to think about it. Americans have been successfully convinced that their constitutional rights are obstacles to justice and security.

    On the civil side if there are frivolous lawsuits proliferating, that’s perhaps a sign that laws have become so complicated and so numerous that individuals and companies cannot conduct business in a legal way. It’s also worth remembering that many frivolous lawsuits actually stem from real injuries caused by negligence, and that there’s been a long (and in some cases successful) campaign to limit the ability of the citizens to seek redress through the courts.

  10. Dear FM, Thank you for “The Commedia of our times”! A fascinating read.I wonder why,considering Asia Times source, that no mention was made of the rise and effects of religion in China itself. “The rising tide of religion in China“, Thomas Barnett, 9 February 2007.
    FM reply: This is interesting, as evidence-free wild guesses go. But I cannot imagine why should they mention it?

  11. re Commedia:
    Spengler must have never worked in a support call center; I can understand why someone would hurl themselves off a bridge after being told they were being transferred into that particular hell. I do think I could do better: as my hearing deteriorates with age, I find that what people actually said is much less funny than what I think they just said. After my first half hour on the job, my boss would hurl himself off a bridge.

    While the article was interesting (I hadn’t heard of the French Telecom self-downsizing), I think the American people are every bit as fixated on security as their French counterparts. The difference is that when the French feel insecure, they kill themselves; when the Americans feel insecure, they kill someone else, in a country far, far away.
    FM reply: The last line clearly wins best of thread.

  12. from #11

    Religion itself is not directly necessary to enable intellectual development or innovation within a market. However, it may be one of many catalysts that allow people to more effectively deal with fear and manage risk. I agree that an increase in a population’s adherence to a religious faiths doesn’t exactly translate to an increase in entrepreneurial risks, but it definitely has a significant effect on people’s attitudes in rationalizing “reckless” behavior, for good and for bad.

    I think that if I had a dollar for every time someone made an evidence-free statment about how society needs religion, stretching from today back to ancient Egypt and beyond, I would have no need of entrepreneurship because I would be stupendously rich.

  13. Thanks for the Leeden link. In a strange way, I enjoy reading neo-conservative bullshit artists like him. Because they are sometimes quite artistic in the way they spread lies and propaganda.
    FM reply: The success of left and right propaganda is perhaps the most amazing apsect of the last decade. And the most disturbing.

  14. @ AK

    you wrote “I agree that an increase in a population’s adherence to a religious faiths doesn’t exactly translate to an increase in entrepreneurial risks, but it definitely has a significant effect on people’s attitudes in rationalizing “reckless” behavior, for good and for bad.”

    If you check other societies like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran asnd many African counties, you find that faith plays a more important role, however it prevents developement.
    Or is it the other way around that a stable family/community structure facilitates faith?

    If you check who contributed most to the legal systems, constitutions, science etc. in most western countries, you usually find very secular guys, I would be surprised if this was different in the US.

    Religion per se is not useful IMHO; certain religions that emphasise education or “allow” education as only possible way to boast may be the catalyst for developement sometimes, here Puritans or Jews are examples. In case of Israel I would like to to see data, which answer the question whether the succesful citizens were the religiuos or the secular immigrants (e.g. from the former SU).
    Here I got quite different opinions from Jews in the last years, however, my interlocutors were only academics and therefore I may use a wrong filter.

  15. FM: Another conservative who believes Americans are bed-wetting cowards…He has not a shred of evidence, but hopes this will become so. Fearful people are easily led.

    Nobody wants to take action because they are not sure what wacky policy or another is going to come out of the White House. This is not irrational fear of some boogeyman, this the fear of uncertainty. Read the article.

    Take the health care bill. Like the stimulus, instead of proposing, the President let Congress come up with a disconnected package of goodies to this group and that, and restrictions and mandates to force everyone to do this or that, instead of fixing the fundamental problem (somebody else–insurance company, employer–pays). Examples:
    Page 22: Mandates government audits of all employers that self-insure.
    Page 30: A government committee will decide what treatments and benefits you get (and, unlike an insurer, there will be no appeals process)/
    Page 42: The “Health Choices Commissioner” will decide health benefits for you.
    Page 59: The federal government will have direct, real-time access to all individual bank accounts for electronic funds transfer.)
    Page 65: Taxpayers will subsidize all union retiree and community organizer health plans.
    Page 84: All private healthcare plans must participate in the Healthcare Exchange (i.e., total government control of private plans)
    Page 95: The Government will pay ACORN and Americorps to sign up individuals for Government-run Health Care plan.
    Page 102: Those eligible for Medicaid will be automatically enrolled: you have no choice in the matter.
    Page 124: No company can sue the government for price-fixing. No “judicial review” is permitted against the government monopoly. Put simply, private insurers will be crushed.
    Page 127: Government will set wages.
    Page 145: An employer MUST auto-enroll employees into the government-run public plan. No alternatives.
    Page 126: Employers MUST pay healthcare bills for part-time employees AND their families.

    Who would want to expand their business and hire people with this kind of heavy-handed micromanagement hanging over their heads?
    FM reply: You have a vivid imagination, but I suggest you not assume the rest of us share your terror at life. There are few periods in human history where people have the assurance of stability you seem to require.

    “Nobody wants to take action”
    Please don’t insult us with statements like that, suitable only when talking to children. Do you have any evidence of a great fear sweeping America? Ledeen’s little piece of propaganda doesn’t even bother citing any.

    Important note: Please do not post comments at this website that you imply are your original work, when in fact copied from another source. The PolitiFact column of the St. Petersburg Times explains that this list is from chain emails mostly based on the work of Peter Fleckenstein, who publishes on Twitter under the name Fleckman, labeling most of his posts #tcot, which stands for “top conservatives on Twitter.” Fleckenstein has also similar analysis at his blog Common Sense from a Common Man, as The HC Monstrosity“, 19 July 2009. His wild assertions have been widely debunked, such as by this post at PolitiFact, 30 July 2009.

  16. Ok, my deep apologies for not referencing the health care source and checking my facts. You will normally see my posts referencing the sources. I pulled this off of what I thought was a decent source. I was lazy and deserve chastening.

    I stand by my assertion that many businesses are holding off action (which is exactly the opposite of what you want a stimulus to do) because they are not sure if the rules are changing or not. See “Political Uncertainty Puts Freeze on Small Businesses”, Wall Steet Journal, 28 October 2009.

    The Senate Bill that was passed before Christmas is an incoherent mess. See Heritage’s analysis here.
    FM reply: The WSJ article you cite demonstrates nothing but the decay of US journalism. It’s political propaganda pretending to be news; its only evidence the interview with W. Michael Brown. We could as easily write an article about the increased number of people who believe the world is flat.

    The rest of the article is tripe, typical of the WSJ’s fantasy of the month club. We’re in the worst recession since the 1930’s, with many small businesses cut from from credit. The “signs of life in the economy” are almost purely government stimulus — little of which reaches small businesses. These trends predate the election (let alone the health care bill). The recession started in December 2007, which trashes this speculation.

    And, yes, the health care bill is a mess. Like almost all major legislation passed during the past several decades. Your point is?

  17. Fascinating. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a blogger deflect barbs from both leftists (the Howard Zinn comment) and right-wingers (the attack on the health care bill) in the same post.

    The effectiveness of FM’s analysis of contemporary events suggests that the conventional left/right division in politics has lost its usefulness and needs to be junked. Someone (I forget who) wrote that the main policial schism in America today is no longer between liberals and conservatives, but between the sane and the crazy.

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