Tuesday Linkage

22 April 2014, 1340 EDT

Editor’s note: this post previously appeared on my personal blog. I’ve been doing links posts on Tuesdays over there for a while now, so I guess I might as well start cross-listing them.

1. Excellent post by Reed Wood on targeting civilians in war. In it, he discusses two recent papers (one by himself and my colleague Jake Kathman, another by fellow PSU PhD Jakana Thomas) showing that insurgents who kill civilians—who resort to terrorism—do better than those who don’t. All standard caveats about correlation and causation apply, of course, but bear in mind that there’s good reason to think that the bias runs in the opposite direction on this issue. (See also this great Monkey Cage post, by Jakana Thomas.)

2. Don’t look now, but the Iran deal is working. Key quote: “Even if Iran were to break the deal today, it would take it many months to make enough uranium for one bomb, and the world would see them doing it. Nor is there any indication that Iran is about to break off negotiations. In fact, the prospect that negotiators can work out a final agreement ‘now may be better than 50-50,’ said David Petraeus, former CIA director and former U.S. Central Command commander, ‘which is not something we would have said even a few weeks ago, much less months ago.'”

3. The deal meant to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, however, is another story. As with Crimea, the culprit seems to be commitment problems. On top of the story about Russia feeling pressure to grab what it can now, knowing that pro-Western groups will only grow stronger over time, we’ve got the problem of non-state actors being asked to disarm. Key quote: “Separatists told Reuters they would not disarm until Right Sector, a Ukrainian nationalist group based in Western Ukraine, did so first.” That should work out well.

4. US forces in Afghanistan may be cut to less than 10,000. Possibly even less than 5,000. The administration probably wouldn’t be considering such a small force if the recent presidential election hadn’t gone smoother than many feared, but I expect Afghanistan to see an increase in violence after the US and its allies leave, just as Iraq did. And I bet many in the administration share that view. But it doesn’t matter that a few wonks like me have thought it pretty clear for years what the administration is doing (following the Nixon strategy of “don’t lose until your second term”). That’s the beauty of democratic accountability (which only encourages good policymaking when it comes to matters of war and peace, natch).

5. Corn ethanol has no environmental benefits. So why do we keep providing subsidies that enrich huge agrocorporations, drive up food prices, and subvert the international trade regime the US has worked so hard to build? Because the benefits are concentrated, the costs diffuse, and the collective action problem is a thing. Really, it is.

6. Jay Ulfelder on the implications of data availability increasing at an increasing rate. In many ways, this is a great thing. But there are issues we need to be aware of as well. This quote illustrates that nicely, “When our measurement systems evolve as we use them, changes in the data we receive might reflect shifts in the underlying phenomenon. They also might reflect changes in the methods and mechanisms by which we observe and record information about that phenomenon, however, and it’s often impossible to tease the one out from the other.” (Emphasis in original.)

7. The myth of meritocracy in academia. A lot of hard truths here. Those of us in positions of privilege cannot continue to be silent.

8. What the rape scene means for Game of Thrones. Having praised the show’s complex women just last week, I was really stunned by the decision to yet again turn what was consensual in the books into rape for no obvious reason. Whatever the implications for the show (and I’ll grant that Rossenberg and others make a decent case that show!Jaime needed to follow a different path than book!Jaime), the fact that there’s any debate over whether what was depicted on screen was in fact rape, that Reeves is using “it was consensual by the end” (emphasis added) as a defense against such allegations, and so forth, speaks volumes about our rape culture.