FM newswire for April 17, interesting articles about geopolitics

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

  1. An analysis of effective propaganda:  “Cherry-Picking Income Distribution Statistics“, Justin Wolfers, blog of the New York Times, 13 April 2010
  2. Another example of effective propaganda: “Competence isn’t the issue“, John Emerson, 16 April 2010 — Shorter version:  lies work, because the media spreads them.
  3. Recommended:  interesting information, albeit of unknown accuracy: “Kyrgyzstan: Business, Corruption and the Manas Airbase“, OilPrice, 15 April 2010
  4. Destruction of Videotapes Documented in CIA E-Mail“, AP, 16 April 2010 — “E-mail shows ex-CIA director agreed with decision to destroy tapes of suspect’s waterboarding”
  5. The End Of The Think Tank“, Bruce Bartlett, Forbes, 16 April 2010 — “These once-reputable institutions are becoming less academic and more political.”

Feature stories

(6)  “The Wrong Man“, David Freed, The Atlantic, May 2010 — Summary:

In the fall of 2001, a nation reeling from the horror of 9/11 was rocked by a series of deadly anthrax attacks. As the pressure to find a culprit mounted, the FBI, abetted by the media, found one. The wrong one. This is the story of how federal authorities blew the biggest anti-terror investigation of the past decade—and nearly destroyed an innocent man. Here, for the first time, the falsely accused, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, speaks out about his ordeal.

This shows many important aspects of modern America. The government can do whatever it wants to an individual, unless protected by wealth or a strong organization.  The law and courts provide almost no protection to the little guy.  The media content themselves with feeding from the swill poured into the trough by their government feeders.

(7)  Frum, Cocktail Parties, and the Threat of Doubt“, Julian Sanchez, 26 March 2010 — Excerpt:

One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!)

This epistemic closure can be a source of solidarity and energy, but it also renders the conservative media ecosystem fragile. Think of the complete panic China’s rulers feel about any breaks in their Internet firewall: The more successfully external sources of information have been excluded to date, the more unpredictable the effects of a breach become. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal.

A summary of this debate: “More on that Closed Loop“, Jonathan Bernstein, 15 April 2010.  Also see this funny but serious rebuttal of Jonah Goldberg by Matthew Yglesias.

(8)  Matthew Yglesias (who knows little about finance), nevertheless gives great coverage of the financial regulation bill:

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