Earthling: TV News meets Military Industrial Complex
Plus: Kamala on space weapons, Chinese protesters outsmart algorithm, What does the Donbas want? etc.
An article in Jacobin suggests that the next time you hear TV commentators pushing for military aid to Ukraine, you should do a little googling to see if they might stand to profit from their proposals. The commentators shown below are defense industry consultants, and that creates conflicts of interest that aren’t disclosed to viewers.
Both Leon Panetta and Jeremy Bash, for example, work for Beacon Global Strategies, which Bash co-founded and whose clients have included Raytheon. Raytheon makes Javelin anti-tank weapons (in collaboration with Lockheed Martin), and Bash, who worked in the Obama administration, had this to say about Javelins on NBC’s Meet the Press: “If the United States can train and equip the Ukrainians and, I think, engage in a second Charlie Wilson’s War, basically the sequel to the movie and the book, which is arming and training a determined force that will shoot Russian aircraft out of the sky, open up those tanks with can-openers, like the Javelins, and kill Russians, which is what our equipment is doing, I think this is a huge opportunity to hit Putin very hard.”
Panetta, for his part, told CNN’s audience that “the United States has to provide whatever weapons are necessary to the Ukrainians, so that they can hit back, and hit back now.” Panetta has come to the conclusion that “there is only one thing that Putin understands, and that’s force.”
To solve the long-term problem of climate change, focus on the clear and present danger of air pollution, suggests Binyamin Appelbaum in the New York Times. The solution to both problems is to stop burning fossil fuels, but that requires costly changes that humanity has seemed reluctant to implement. Appelbaum points to emerging evidence that air pollution is deadlier than we thought, and argues that Earthlings will be more motivated to prolong their own lives than to mitigate environmental disasters of the future.
Would people who live in the Donbas—the region comprising the two provinces Putin says should be severed from Ukraine—rather be part of Ukraine, part of Russia, or independent? A survey conducted in January and written up in the Washington Post this week sheds light on that question. Most people living in Ukrainian controlled parts of those provinces said they want to remain part of Ukraine (the sum of the first two blue bars). And most people living in separatist-controlled parts of the provinces said they don’t want to be part of Ukraine (the sum of the third, fourth, and fifth red bars).
And what about the overall sentiment in the two provinces? In other words, if the Russian military succeeds in extending its control across both provinces and then holds a referendum in them, how might the vote come out? This survey suggests that slightly more people would want to stay in Ukraine than would want to join Russia or go independent. (The sum of the first two gray bars versus the sum of the next three gray bars.) But since people who have been fleeing the Donbas seem identify disproportionately with Ukraine, and many of those wouldn’t return to a Russian-controlled Donbas, there’s a good chance that a post-war referendum in a Russian-occupied Donbas—even a free and fair referendum—would favor severing the region from Ukraine.
Russians and Belarusians won’t be allowed to compete in this summer’s Wimbledon tennis tournament, the All England Tennis Club announced this week. Those affected include the world’s No. 2 ranked men’s player, the No. 4 ranked women’s player, and various players who have spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The ban was denounced by both the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association. The British government had considered demanding “assurances” from Russian players that they oppose Putin, but club officials chose not to force that decision on the athletes. (The Earthling has covered other cases of wartime Russophobia here, here, and here.)
In the New York Times, Dave Philipps writes about the trauma experienced by some US drone pilots who kill suspected terrorists—and, sometimes, civilian bystanders—from thousands of miles away.
One pilot recalled, “We had to watch a target for days, weeks and even months. We saw him play with his kids. We saw him interact with his family. We watched his whole life unfold. You are remote but also very much connected. Then one day, when all parameters are met, you kill him. Then you watch the death. You see the remorse and the burial.”
And sometimes pilots are ordered to launch a strike on people who attend the burial. A pilot who was haunted by that among other memories grew depressed, started self-medicating with psychedelics, and was convicted of possessing them. He fled before being sentenced and—after the Air Force used a drone to track him down in a canyon—killed himself.