On the one hand:
US defence secretary Robert Gates says Libyan troops are placing bodies at the sites of coalition air strikes and then blaming western forces for their deaths.
Then on the other hand:
Western forces in Afghanistan have accidentally killed seven civilians, including three children, in an air attack.
Making about the 10th such ‘accident’ this year in my estimation.
Now of course it’s understandable that in a country like Afghanistan, where the US and its supporters have only had almost 10 years to gather intelligence and work out who the bad guys are, mistakes will be made. Whereas in Libya, where bombing started a full week ago, there is every reason to have full confidence that American attacks are laser-like in their accuracy.
Consequently I believe Robert Gates 100%. Moreover I am convinced Gaddafi is getting his bodies from Saddam’s people-shredder, just to make the Glorious and Heroic Allies look bad.
The UN Security Council has declared a No Fly Zone over Christmas Island. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate cease-fire on the island. “Any further assaults on the rebels will result in Tomahawk missile attacks on government forces, followed by aircraft bombing raids” he said, applying NATO’s creative new interpretation of a No Fly Zone.
“It’s a truly co-operative effort by the international community, not a US thing at all,” commented US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “The US carrier strike group assembling in the Indian Ocean will be accompanied by a Ugandan rubber duckie and there’ll be a Samsung pilot-less helicopter from South Korea, once we can figure out WTF the instruction manual is supposed to mean.” The exercise, code-named ‘Operation Santa snow’, will be under the overall command of a Mexican admiral, although American officers will retain operational command (i.e. decide when to blow things up).
The UN resolution is consistent with the new doctrine of ‘responsibility to protect’, under which the international community will ensure insurgencies and revolutions can happen any time people like without the government being able to do anything to stop them. Unless of course they are revolutions against regimes which The Empire approves of, in which case the regimes can go ahead and suppress them as much as they like. Go King Abdullah you good thing!
Julie Gillard and Kevin Rudd were unavailable for comment. A senior official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was making shit up said they were desperately trying to work out how to send Australian forces to join the attack on Libya. Otherwise how can they keep telling the yanks we’re the only country in the whole goddam world that’s fought beside them in every war in history?
This doesn’t need any commentary. It speaks for itself.
Who is Duane Clarridge?
Duane Ramsdell “Dewey” Clarridge, (born 1932) was an operations officer for the United StatesCentral Intelligence Agency (CIA) and supervisor for more than 30 years, who became known in the mid-1980s for his role in the Contra end of the Iran-Contra Affair. He is the reputed planner of the clandestine mining of Nicaragua‘s harbors during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Clarridge was the founding director of the CIA Counterterrorist Center.
Since leaving the CIA (having been pardoned by Bush 1 when he was facing charges of lying to Congress), Clarridge has been running a private spy ring which apparently has credibility in Washington.
This is how the world’s superpower functions in the year 2011.
Here is an article from Our ABC. The headline is calm and dispassionate, as befits the nation’s premier news organisation:
Experts fear ‘Chernobyl-like’ crisis for Japan
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
Well naturally I couldn’t wait to read who the experts are and what they have to say. Step up to the microphone please ‘Robert Alvarez, who works on nuclear disarmament at the Institute for Policy Studies’. Robert has this to say:
“The situation has become desperate enough that they apparently don’t have the capability to deliver fresh water or plain water to cool the reactor and stabilise it, who now, in an act of desperation, are having to resort to diverting and using seawater.”
Wow, the desperate Japanese are committing an act of desperation. I’m shitting myself, honestly. My only tiny reservation is that someone who ‘works on nuclear disarmament at the Institute for Policy Studies’ may not actually be 100% totally competent to make judgements about the state of mind of power plant operators on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. Just saying. And for that matter, WTF does someone who ‘works on nuclear disarmament’ know about nuclear power generation anyway? Oh wait, it’s all scary atomic BOOOMM so who cares about these artificial distinctions, eh?
But let the record show that the Institute for Policy Studies
became involved in environmental issues through the anti-nuclear movement, a natural extension of its long history of work on the “national security state.” In 1979, IPS Fellow Saul Landau won an Emmy for his documentary “Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang,” which tells the story of the cover-up by the U.S. nuclear program and of the hazards of radiation to American citizens. In 1985, Fellow William Arkin published Nuclear Battlefields: Global Links in the Arms Race, which helped galvanize anti-nuclear activism through its revelations of the impact of nuclear infrastructure on communities across America.
Haha well OK they are hardly a source of neutral scientific advice and I’m sure Our ABC would have told us that if only they had not been so conscious of the need to warn us of the looming ‘Chernobyl-like crisis’. Because unless we all wear lead underwear for the next 50 years our kids are going to be born with two heads and repulsive tumours, because of the fucking irresponsible nukular industry in Japan.
Anyway of COURSE Our ABC is not going to peddle alarmist bullshit on the basis of one guy’s word, so the story quotes other impeccable sources. Let’s see now, who’s next? Come on down ‘Ken Bergeron, a physicist who has worked on nuclear reactor accident simulation’. Trouble is, Ken doesn’t actually say anything very alarming, possibly because (unlike the rest of the reported ‘experts’ in the story) he seems to be a scientist and not a lobbyist (even though his public profile until now seems to be approximately nothing and it’s impossible to find out online what expertise, if any, he has about nuclear power generation. Oh, and he ‘specializes in social and political aspects of science and technology’ which suggests he might not be the go-to guy to ask about physics, unless they are dumb reporters who can’t tell one field of scholarship from another.) Anyway the most they can get out of Ken is this:
“The containment building at this plant is certainly stronger than that at Chernobyl but a lot less strong than at Three Mile Island, so time will tell,” he said.
Hmmm, maybe I don’t need those lead jockey shorts yet after all. But wait, Our ABC is nothing if not thorough. They promised us experts and experts we will get. Number 3 is ‘Peter Bradford, former member of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’. Wow, that sounds impressive. Here’s his warning about a ‘Chernobyl-like crisis’:
… if the cooling attempts fail, “at that point it’s a Chernobyl-like situation where you start dumping in sand and cement”.
Oh I see. A bit like if my grandmother had balls she would be my grandfather. Or maybe not, depending on how reliable are the opinions of Peter Bradford. He turns out to have been appointed to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a 5 year term by Jimmy Carter in 1977, 34 years ago if you are trying to do the maths. He’s a lawyer. Well shit, lawyers are experts on everything, aren’t they? Besides, ‘During 1964 and 1965, he taught English and American history in Greece.’And right now, he apparently ‘teaches energy policy and law at the Vermont Law School and has taught at Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies’. Who better to comment on the likelihood of a meltdown at a Japanese nuclear reactor in 2011?
But wait, there’s more. Our ABC has assembled a panel of experts like you would not believe. Here comes ‘Joseph Cirincione, the head of the Ploughshares Fund’. Heh, cute name for a fund. No clues there about their ideology. Let’s see:
Ploughshares Fund is engaged in an aggressive strategy to seize the unprecedented opportunities before us to achieve a safe, secure, nuclear weapon-free world. Combining high-level advocacy, an enhanced grantmaking capacity and our own expertise, we are helping to fundamentally change nuclear weapons policy.
And this makes them experts on nuclear power generation how, exactly? Well no, not at all in truth, but they know about this nuclear stuff and it’s all the same at the end of the day innit? I mean it’s all pants wetting SCARY, and that’s all that matters to Our ABC. For what it’s worth, Joe ‘Promote the elimination of nuclear weapons’
Ploughshares Cirincione opines that ”If it continues, if they don’t get control of this and… we go from a partial meltdown of the core to a full meltdown, this will be a complete disaster,” although why he is considered an expert as opposed to, say, Doris my next door neighbour who works at Coles is not explained by Our ABC, except that he looks really tough. Oh and he is ‘a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Catastrophic Risk and the Global Agenda Council on Weapons of Mass Destruction’, in which capacity he has undoubtedly made a close study of Japanese nuclear reactors used for power generation purposes.
Sorry, there is one more expert to go. He’s (no women here, I’m afraid, this is tough guys’ talk) at the end of the story and thrown in for balance, which of course is a must for any story published by such a reputable broadcaster as Our ABC. He’s Ian Hore-Lacy (hehe yes really) and he has this to say:
… the threat of a full meltdown is minimal.
“That possibility is remote at the best of times and is diminishing by the hour as the fuel gets cooler and generates less heat,” he said.
Whew. So that’s all right then. Except Ian is a (the?) ‘World Nuclear Association spokesman’ and the World Nuclear Association ‘is the international organization that promotes nuclear energy and supports the many companies that comprise the global nuclear industry.’
So let’s recap, shall we? One assumed scientist (Ken Bergeron, whose comments seem to have been pinched from ‘Scientific American’) says that shit might possibly happen if everything goes wrong, but nobody can tell yet. Anti-nuclear power propagandists tell us to panic, while the nuclear power industry lobbyist says no worries, everything is sweet. And somehow Our ABC manages to put all that together into a story headlined ‘Experts fear Chernobyl-like crisis for Japan’. I guess it’s a reasonable headline if you overlook the fact they didn’t quote any experts, but they did the best they could with Google and perhaps that’s all they can afford at Our ABC these days. I guess asking actual nuclear physicists would have involved long-distance mobile phone call charges, not to mention doing some research to find out who they were, and why bother when Google is their friend?
No doubt Our ABC will run a story shortly about the way the public’s right to be informed can only be protected by strong, professional, independent institutions like, well Our ABC. Meanwhile I will continue to look for reliable information elsewhere.
Further reading in US news media online makes it clear that the ABC story is nothing but a pastiche of stuff published by other people. In education we call this plagiarism but apparently at the ABC it’s called journalism.
That is bad enough, but it’s not even ACCURATE plagiarism. The ABC story wrote that the information was provided by ‘several experts, in a conference call with reporters’. The Christian Science Monitor, reporting the same information, stated that it came (my emphasis) from ‘a conference call convened by anti-nuclear power groups‘, a little detail that Our ABC apparently didn’t think was worth mentioning.
The remarkable thing is that the very partial views of this handful of ‘experts’, none of whom appears to be qualified in physics or engineering, are being endlessly recycled in the global English language mainstream media as the basis of factual reports about the emergency in distant Japan. One searches in vain for instances of a reporter actually going to find some physicists or engineers who might be able to provide some unbiased advice about what is going on; there are no online translations of reports in the Japanese media by people who have first-hand knowledge of what is happening. Heh, like anyone can understand that weird moshe moshe mumbo-jumbo. All we get are the speculative opinions of opportunists who have no first-hand information about the power stations but do have an axe to grind, presented as if they are reliable facts.
It’s sad enough that commercial news organisations engage in this kind of sloppy ‘reporting’, but tragic that Our ABC is reduced to writing reports about important events that consist of bits and pieces culled from RSS news feeds. High school students do that sort of thing as homework; it’s a travesty that our premier news service can do no better.
The internet is so educational. Did you know we have a public holiday coming up in eight days’ time? Well the reliably uninformed Mark Steyn says we do, so who am I to disagree? If your boss has a problem when you take the day off, just refer him or her to Mr what? me fact check? Steyn:
Ever since they invented it back in the Nineties, I’ve thought Australia’s “Harmony Day” was one of the most creepily totalitarian names for a public holiday in a free society.
Gosh, I’ve never even heard of the thing and here it’s been worrying this Canadian goose ever since 1999. And wait, wasn’t Steyn’s beloved John Howard prime minister in 1999? How could such a terrible idea have been thrust upon the nation by a conservative hero?
Upon investigation, I discovered that:
Harmony Day is celebrated around Australia on 21 March each year. It’s a day where all Australians celebrate our cultural diversity. The day is also the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Harmony Day is managed by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) and gives people the opportunity to celebrate what makes each Australian unique and share what we have in common.
The continuing message for Harmony Day in 2011 is that Everyone Belongs, which means all Australians are a welcome part of our country, regardless of their background. It’s a time to reflect on where Australia has come from, recognising the traditional owners of this land. It’s also about community participation, inclusiveness and respect – celebrating the different cultures that make Australia a great place to live.
No wonder he finds the whole thing creepy. I mean how much more subversive and authoritarian can you be than encouraging community participation, inclusiveness and respect? Keep the friggin’ blacks and Lebs and all the rest in their place, that’s the way to stop ‘restraining and shriveling core western values’ as insufferable Steyn would have it.
Still we needn’t be too concerned just yet that the government is about to destroy our way of life. The official web site confirms that ‘There is no funding available for Harmony Day events’, which suggests it’s not really up there in the top 10 priorities of the Gillard Government, or even the top 1000.
It just goes to confirm something I realised when I read conservative whines that the liberal bastards at Google didn’t have fancy fonts in their search page to celebrate Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday: there are literally no limits to their pathological celebration of ‘evidence’ that liberals control the world.
Hillary Clinton demonstrates that it’s not only wingnuts who believe reality is there to be made over in any image you like.
“Al Jazeera has been the leader in that are literally changing people’s minds and attitudes. And like it or hate it, it is really effective,” she said [ungrammatically].
“In fact viewership of al Jazeera is going up in the United States because it’s real news. You may not agree with it, but you feel like you’re getting real news around the clock instead of a million commercials and, you know, arguments between talking heads and the kind of stuff that we do on our news which, you know, is not particularly informative to us, let alone foreigners,” she added.
I confess I’ve never regarded the news as something to agree or disagree with; news is supposed to be objective information. Either Clinton is endorsing the MSM practice that news and opinion are the same thing, or she’s proposing that somebody get out there and publish some alternative real news – real news you can believe in.
I suspect it’s the latter. The story goes on to note that the State Department has started tweeting in Arabic. All those Palestinians with their Blackberries should get the authorised US news anytime now.
Daniel Larison neatly captures the feature of contemporary public policy discourse that condemns it to endless argument, with no possibility of constructive discussion.
If people want to discuss issues constructively, they try first to gather relevant data that is reliable and valid. People of good faith can legitimately reach different interpretations of the data, in which case the solution is keep an open mind while getting enough data to remove the ambiguity*. Or they can legitimately disagree about the ideological aims that public policy is supposed to serve, in which case there is no solution. But at least in the latter situation the nature of the dispute is clear. People trying to reach their own informed opinions can understand the competing ideologies and decide which one is closest to their own values and mental models.
However what we have now is a large, powerful conservative voice that implicitly rejects this rationalist model of public policy discourse. Instead, they favour a model where data is twisted, misrepresented or plain invented to accommodate preconceived ideology. It is ultimately a policy of despair – an admission that rational discourse is too difficult and life is much simpler if reality is simply recreated to fit pre-existing prejudices.
Thus we have daily posts on conservative blogs solemnly discussing the existential threat to the USA from Muslims, and the ‘fact’ that Europe is already lost to sharia law, and the hopeless ‘liberal bias’ in the media. Thus we have a uniformed George W Bush declaring to the mob that he stood in front of them as ‘a wartime president’. Just as we had Hanson telling us we were being over-run by Asians, and conservatives waving maps of the parts of suburban Australia that would be claimable under native title laws, and Howard and company describing David Hicks as about as dangerous as a man could be in the year 2003. And thus, of course, we have conservatives everywhere in the world proclaiming that scientists are wrong about global warming, trumpeting in the process a quite astonishing assortment of distorted data and outright lies.
These incidents and countless others like them are ultimately an expression of childishness. The world is a scary place that presents the human race with enormous challenges, most of which are self-inflicted and may prove incapable of resolution. That’s scary even at a superficial level, and downright terrifying if you engage with the issues in any depth. What do children do when confronted with monsters in the cupboard? Hide under the blankets and create an imaginary alternative world of course, and that pretty much describes the mental condition of the 21st century American/Australian white male conservative.
* I recognise that in some instances, it is difficult or impossible to gather enough data to remove all ambiguity. In such cases people of good will acknowledge they are acting on imperfect information and remain prepared to adjust their position in the light of new evidence, while seeking always to gather additional data as and when it becomes available. This is pretty much the antithesis of the stridently absolutist nature of most public policy discussion in Australia and the USA. It is now unthinkable, for example, that many global warming denialists would alter their positions no matter what weight of new scientific data becomes available. It would all be called further evidence that scientists were fools or conspirators.
News stories like this make me feel physically ill.
Nine boys collecting firewood to heat their homes in the eastern Afghanistan mountains were killed by NATO helicopter gunners who mistook them for insurgents, according to a statement on Wednesday by NATO, which apologized for the mistake.
The boys were aged between 9 and 15.
After the feelings of nausea comes the outrage that hardly anyone in Australia cares about this terrorism that is constantly being committed in our name (it’s the third such incident in only two weeks). All we get is pompous bullshit from the Rudds and Smiths and Abbotts about stopping Afghanistan being a safe haven, and smirking sneers about jihadists from conservatives, and shoulder-shrugging nothing-to-do-with-me from the masses. Julia Gillard needless to say is much too busy being prime minister to worry about stuff like military occupations; she’s happy to outsource that to the Rudd/Smith/Pentagon consortium.
I never thought I would live in a nation that shows such callous disregard for human life in the pursuit of tawdry political self-interest. The USA and its allies have spent the last 10 years fomenting such hatred in Muslim nations that the eventual response is going to be tragic indeed. Our closest neighbour has the largest Muslim population in the world. Do the clowns in Canberra ever pause to think of the long-term consequences of their actions? Well we all know the answer to that of course … and when the inevitable anti-Australian sentiment begins to spread in Indonesia, all we’ll get by way of response will be stern lectures about Western Values and offers to send the AFP to help them crack down on terrorism.
Australian foreign policy with its mindless panic at the thought of being abandoned by America has to be one of the most egregious examples of irrational thinking in the modern era.