Weekend Good Reads and Quick Thoughts: Chelsea Manning, Gitmo, The Sinking East Coast, and More

This is the last weekend of the year you are legally allowed to listen to this song. 

I always want to do “Quick Hits” and such because I think they’ll be shorter, but they never are. Anyway, here are a few scatterings on some stories as well as things you should read, if you don’t have anything else going on during summer weekend, as summer blazes up once again to send us into the fall.

Let’s do this gossip column style.

Item! Who has a new theory of war, according to the Times magazine? A certain Slavic country that spans two continents! Russia’s war-fighting style revolves around propaganda, disinformation, and confusion. This is no surprise to anyone who, say, paid attention to the last election, but it also is part of the long continuum of Russia’s history. As modern as this is, it is rooted in that most ancient force: geography.

Image result for russian imperialism cartoon

This represent things, I think

Russia has no warm water ports, except now on the Black Sea. Their whole history has been reaching toward the oceans, whether through conquest, alliances, or spheres of influence. In this sense, the Cold War could largely been seen as an extension of the Great Game. Trying to destabilize the EU and the US are not goals in and of themselves, but ways to decrease the influence of liberalism and weaken player, relatively strengthening Russia as it attempts to forge alliances with Iran, Syria, India, Turkey and other ocean-or-sea states. Friendship with Turkey is inextricably linked to the seizure of Crimea. A map tells you what Russia wants to do. (Note: it is frequently unsuccessful. I don’t hold stock in the “Putin is an unassailable genius” theory.)

Older posts on Russia and Asia

  • Is Russia Winning in the Middle East? 8/17/16
  • What’s the Strategy in Russia’s Aleppo Insanity? 10/6/16
  • Trump, Tillerson, and Putin: A Politics of Pipelines, Power, and Ethnonationalism 12/16/16
  • Qatar and Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, War in Syria: The Dangers of Unserious Leadership in Fragile Times 6/9/17

Item! What stupidly-rich school revoked a Fellowship for Chelsea Manning because they were worried about Fox News being mean to them? Fair Harvard! This blog is studiously ambiguous at Chelsea Manning, and don’t think she’s the best representative of transgender troops, as Ace Commentor Diamond Mark Perrone points out, but understands why Harvard would be interested in hearing her speak. We understand the criticism! But loathe that they rescinded it because people were angry.

Let this be the last we hear about poor Richard Spencer being victimized by PC police. When it comes to liberals, we police ourselves out of quailing fear of what mean Fox News might say. Harvard also just turned rescinded a PhD offer to a jailed felon (a 14-yr-old who was raped and killed her child) who turned into a brilliant scholar, by all accounts, in prison. They were worried Fox would be mad.

Image result for sean hannity yelling

“Oh no! What is professional yelling hamsteak Sean Hannity gets mad?” -Harvard, apparently

As awful as that is in a vacuum, it is made worse by the fact that they also offered “Fellowships” to Joe Scarborough and Sean Spicer. Sean Spicer! The lying water-carrier for open white nationalism. He wasn’t convicted of a crime, but he literally represented the worst government in American history, was the face of civil rights rollback and open, naked, grasping corruption. But that’s just politics, right?

Item! We’ve heard rumours of a famous spacecraft completing its beautiful mission and crashing into Saturn. Marina Koren at The Atlantic has a lovely explanation of what Cassini meant (and here are my sappy thoughts on the little guy).

Which well-known coast is sinking into the sea? Call us biased, but we think it’s the East! Climate change is raising the sea levels of the Atlantic, of course, but groundwater depletion is compressing the continent. According to the Nature Publishing Group, the East Coast between 32 and 38 degrees latitude has sunk 60 centimeters over the last 300 years, since Europeans really decided to use up the continent.

Pictured: NEXT WEEK! (Not guaranteed)

Now, some of this is natural. During the last Ice Age (or, rather, the last extension of the current Ice Age), the ice was so heavy it pushed down the earth’s crust that it was over, and raised it in others. That’s amazing! As it receded, the raised land slowly sunk back, and the compressed land is springing back. This process is still happening, very very slowly. Isn’t that cool to think about? Anyway, researchers say that groundwater depletion has sped the process up as much as three times. And with rising seas, that makes flooding all the more dangerous, and inevitable.

(Side item! Does the US have a dance partner in sinking? It does! Groundwater depletion has as been sinking the Indonesian megalopolis of Jakarta, as reported by the invaluable people at Circle of Blue If you carefully study Indonesia, you’ll notice that it is a bunch of islands, and if you are an island expert, you’ll know that they are surrounded by water. Rising seas and sinking cities are super bad there. Jakarta is building a sea wall, but that might not be enough. It’s sunk 4 meters in the last 40 years. That’s nuts! Some parts are sinking 20 centimeters a year!)

Which prisoners longed to see the sea from their island home? The prisoners of Guantanamo! This is a fairly harrowing essay from a Gitmo inmate about how they were so close to the sea, but were unable to see it. The sea felt like freedom. Obviously, a lot of the dudes there are very bad, but many of them were not. Many of them were caught up in tribal rivalries or even just personal grievances and were bundled off and shipped to a lawless and tortorus netherworld where they could smell the ocean but were denied its openness. Many of the Afghans couldn’t even fathom its enormity, as landlocked as they were. But really, can you?

America doesn’t have a super great history with prisons. 

Item! I’m someone who believes (not originally) that the nuclear age has had a perverting and distorting impact on our morality and our sense of self. I don’t think the psychological impact of living with the potential apocalypse, one that we brought upon ourselves, has really been fully understood. This fun article by Jennet Conant in LitHub looks at the beginning of our terrifying era.

OK, we’ll finish on an upnote. Even if we end up destroying ourselves, nature will bounce back. A new study reported in Water Deeply tells us that rivers recover from being dammed up much quicker than we had thought. Caveat that they didn’t look at very large dams. But nature will eventually be fine. It’ll wash all of our follies away, in the long run.

Isn’t that fun? Have a great weekend, everyone.

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