Posted on 13-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

A cautionary tale about Ashleigh Banfield, one of the few reporters who did not peddle the Bush administrations spin and actually did her job, journalism and questioning war coverage.  The speech in question is linked here.  For that she lost her job.  Its another example of why cable news in the United States is generally unwatchable and why it is probably a good idea in the Internet age to diversify news sources to include other countries.  Al Jazeera is often dismissed as propaganda here, but they sometimes cover issues and trample over sacred cows in a manner the so called free American media does not always do.  If anything, it provides perspective for why everybody abroad does not always attribute the noblest motives to American actions.

When Walter Cronkite died recently the talking heads on TV and in print gushed about his editorial report on Vietnam on February 27, 1968.  Sadly with the corporatization of main stream media where the profit motive trumps the duty of the Fourth Estate to report the news accurately, Cronkite today would have been drummed out of a job as quickly as Banfield.

It is probably summed by by the otherwise respected David Gregory’s defensive burden shifting last year when he essentially said that the media’s job is to mindlessly report what the administration is saying and not to challenge them when they peddle bullshit.  Quoted from the link above:

From the May 28 edition of MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews:

CHRIS MATTHEWS (host): Let’s take a look at what McClellan had to say here about the media.

Here he is, faulting the press. He wrote, quote, “If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq. The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war should never have come as such a surprise. In this case, the,” quote, “liberal media,” close quote, “didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served.”

David?

GREGORY: I think he’s wrong. He makes the same kind of argument a lot of people on the left have made. I tried not to be defensive about it. I’ve thought a lot about this over a number of years, and I disagree with that assessment.

I think the questions were asked. I think we pushed. I think we prodded. I think we challenged the president. I think not only those of us in the White House press corps did that, but others in the rest of the landscape of the media did that.

If there wasn’t a debate in this country, then maybe the American people should think about, why not? Where was Congress? Where was the House? Where was the Senate? Where was public opinion about the war? What did the former president believe about the prewar intelligence? He agreed that — in fact, Bill Clinton agreed that Saddam had WMD.

The right questions were asked. I think there’s a lot of critics — and I guess we can count Scott McClellan as one — who thinks that if we did not debate the president, debate the policy in our role as journalists, if we did not stand up and say, “This is bogus,” and “You’re a liar,” and “Why are you doing this?” that we didn’t do our job. And I respectfully disagree. It’s not our role.

This attitude also sums up why traditional media outlets are faltering before blogs and internet based journalists who do show the same deference to power and why John Stewart of Comedy Central may be one of the most trusted newsmen in America (cautionary disclosure, it was an unscientific online poll).

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Posted on 13-11-2009
Filed Under (Environment) by Rashtrakut

Noticed this chart on linked on Andrew Sullivan’s site.  The chart is misleading however, since all that landmass may not be usable or arable.  This link may provide a better understanding of the population pressures a country may face.

For example while the first chart makes it appear that China has all this unused land the second table paints a different story.  With 3 times the landmass, China has less cultivated land and less arable land than India.  The United States with similar cultivated land and arable land as the two Asian giants has only about one-third the population.

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Posted on 13-11-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

The New York Times reviews rising resentment in France’s former West African colonies from the French embrace of corrupt and brutal dictators.  As with the American embrace of various banana republic dictators in Central and Latin America, this could ultimately be a self-defeating policy.  In the short run, France will benefit but could lose out in the long term due to the local instability it is generating and the backlash on the ground.

In someways this mirrors the cynical Chinese attempt to lock up resources by dealing with kleptocrats and thugs across the world.  But even China (and Russia) are finding themselves the target of public ire.  In Iran it has lead to chants that routinely called for death to America and Israel, replaced with calls for death to Russia and China.  Russia in addition has an often ignored history of meddling in Iranian affairs for the last 200 years, generally to the detriment of Iranian territorial integrity and democracy.

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The New York Times reviews the recent air strikes conducted by the Saudi Air Force in Yemen and the risk of a proxy fight with Iran.  The article also has a brief but good overview of the complex religious schisms within Islam at play in Yemen.  It has been close to 50 years since the Saudis had to deal with a proxy fight on their southwestern flank.  In the 1960s the Saudis were sucked into a civil war in Yemen after Nasser inspired rebels toppled the Yemeni monarchy.  Unlike Nasser, the Iranians will not be able to send ground troops into Yemen.  For them it will be a proxy fight akin to their arming of Hezbollah – relatively low cost but high rewards from the likely Yemeni and Saudi overreaction.

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Posted on 13-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

TNR reviews the remarkable resurrection of Robert Gates.  The once derided former head of the CIA who was hopelessly wrong on the fall of the Soviet Union has reemerged as a non-ideological competent getting it done Defense Secretary.  A remarkable change from his predecessor who seemed to see only what he wanted to see.

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