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Tuesday, September 21

Additions to Pundita blogroll, Part 1

It is a scurrilous lie, started by one of my enemies on the Tory backbench, that the only way to get on my blogroll is to say nice things about Pundita essays. But it is true that often I've discovered a blog because it discussed a post of mine. One of my regrets is that the volume of research and essay writing I do, along with my attempts to have a life, prevent me from spending more time reading other blogs. It's partly from a sense of guilt about that situation that I'm doing this post to accompany the addition of some blogs to the blogroll or to reinstate them.

Fausta's Blog
Ignore the cartoon of the ominous-looking woman on the blog's banner.
<---- This is the 'real' Fausta (the one on the left) in what she calls not one of her better photographs. But it's enough to convey the charming woman who runs the blog, which accompanies her blogosphere radio show.

Although her blog features many posts related to U.S. political conservative views, which frankly I don't bother to read, her weekly Latin American 'carnival' of links to blog posts/news items about Latin America, and her frequent posts about Latin American matters, is why the blog is long overdue for addition to the Pundita blogroll.

It goes without saying that U.S. citizens of voting age desperately need more news about Latin American/Caribbean issues. One of the greatest failings of the U.S. mainstream media and even the U.S. blogosphere is how little attention they give to Latin America and the Caribbean.

The El Paso Times and Mexico in Focus blog
Last week a blogger sent me a news item from the El Paso Times about a car bomb in Ciudad Juárez, in a day-care center parking lot (which the police were able to deactivate).

Right next to the report on the car bomb, which was was filed by Alex Hinojosa, was a linked list of news reports from sources such as The Washington Post and the (U.K.) Guardian under the title Fighting the Border Drug War. That's when it hit me: Juárez, Mexico, 'murder capital of world,' is a stone's throw from El Paso, Texas. So of course an El Paso newspaper would be tracking daily news reports on the drug-related violence in Mexico. Duh.

Mexico Slogger it ain't but the list is better than nothing, if you can't read Spanish but you're trying to scrape together a picture of today's Mexico.

It was by scanning the comment section in a Guardian report linked to at the El Paso Times then zipping to Wikipedia's article on the Sinaloa Cartel that I found U.S.-based National Public Radio's stunning investigation, published in May of this year, of the cartel. There had been many accusations over the years that the cartel had gained influence in Mexico at the federal level, and in 2009 NPR had carried a series of reports about them. But such accusations had never been backed by forensic evidence.

In 2010, in an approach that evoked the one used by the Mexican detective in Orson Welles' "Touch of Evil," the NPR investigative team plowed through thousands of police reports and found a clear pattern in the arrests of different cartel members. While not necessarily indicative of corruption (police and prosecutors will often favor one criminal syndicate to help them take down others) the pattern indicated that the Sinaloa cartel had indeed been given preferential treatment by the Mexican authorities.

The El Paso Times even has a Mexico in Focus blog (link is found next to the list of reports). The blog, run by Mexican journalist Lourdes Cardenas, was a great disappointment to me -- but then readers who saw my "Mexico Insurgency" post can imagine what I was hoping to find when I clicked on the link: Mexico Slogger.

However, Ms. Cardenas, who has "over 20 years of experience working as an editor, producer, correspondent and reporter for Mexican and American media in Mexico and the United States," does make a stab at following news out of Mexico and these discussions are in English, so again they're better than nothing.

If more Gringos and Gringettes from around the USA (and around the world) visited the section and added polite questions and comments to the comment section, this might encourage the paper's editorial board to expand the section and even give Ms Cardenas an assistant. Then we might eventually have a right proper English-language Mexico version of the late, great Iraq Slogger, which Americans desperately need beep this is a recording.

Armchair Generalist
From the blog's "About" section:
Jason Sigger is a defense policy analyst in the Washington DC area. I discuss general military topics and specific chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) defense issues, in addition to general day-to-day military issues. I could be described as left of center, a moderate or progressive voice, and a proud member of the reality-based community. One of the main issues I will be working on is to identify progressive positions on military affairs.

Certainly there are lots of conservative positions on military affairs, and many seem to think all progressives are pansy ass anti-war demonstrators. I believe that the key is really articulating a progressive national security strategy and promoting a non-partisan military strategy. Hopefully this blog will broaden the discussion. See the glossary under "Core Issues" on the left side for decrypting any military acronyms, brevity codes, or abbreviations (ABCAs). ...
Just for the glossary this milblog is valuable, but every time I visit the site I find discussion of books, scholarly articles and news items that slipped through the cracks of the mainstream press, yet which are important for those trying to make sense of U.S. defense/foreign 'policy' -- although policy is too imprecise a word to describe the cacophony of foreign and domestic lobbies that have turned official Washington into an extension of the Washington National Zoo.

This is not to say I don't have disagreements with the Generalist's opinions on many matters; we have agreed to disagree in the past. And I will take this opportunity to mock his apology for the Afghanistan Study Group Report, which Joshua Foust at Registan shredded into confetti before incinerating it.

So thoroughly did Foust's analysis discredit the study group's scholarship that in an attempt to save his think tank's reputation Steve Clemons crawled on his belly in Registan's comment section to rationalize the report. The study group wasn't trying to do an actual study, Clemons explained; they were just trying to raise the level of debate in Washington about Afghanistan.

That's what's out there, folks.

Where was I?

The Marmot's Hole
Things are heating up on the Korean peninsula again, so it's time to restore Marmot to the blogroll, although I can't remember for the life of me why I dropped the blog in the first place. The blog's Korean-speaking American author, native Long Islander and Georgetown University grad, Robert J. Koehler, has lived in Korea since 1997; his day job is editor of a Korean cultural affairs magazine.

He is careful to explain that The Marmot's Hole is his very personal view of Korea. ("If you’re using this blog as your primary window on Korea -- and I pray to God you aren’t -- then I beg you to reconsider.") But he writes of matters Korean with the mixture of affection and exasperation that marks someone who's developed a 'feel' for a country -- in this case, two countries: North and South Korea -- and its people:
The blog represents a rather poor attempt to mix “hard” news and intellectually enriching discussion of “serious” topics such as Korean history, Korean politics, North Korea, the U.S. troop presence in Korea and regional geopolitics with less-serious fare -- Korean tabloid crap, booby pics, “dumb foreigner” stories and the like.
The Marmot's Hole, which is graced with Koehler's droll sense of humor, helps keep my feet on the ground when I study U.S. policy toward the peninsula.

The one caveat that Koehler does not mention in the "About" section of his blog might be intuited by noting the glaring omission of The North Korean Economy Watch blog from Marmot's extensive blogroll listing of Asian/Korean blogs.

All expats who live in a country they blog about are working under certain constraints when the country's government is on the authoritarian side.

North Korean Economy Watch
This blog's author, an American named Curtis Melvin, is under no such constraint because he's based in the USA. Melvin has a MA in economics and is working on his PhD.

Using "public maps, interviews, innovative analysis, and elbow grease" Melvin created the most comprehensive Google Earth mapping of North Korea available to the public. Which I doubt has endeared him to Pyongyang. And his enthusiasm for tracking and analyzing North Korea's economic prospects probably hasn't endeared him to Seoul's defense hardliners, either -- or the USA's.
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