Blast From the Past

27 03 2011

“All this has happened before, and it will happen again.”

Since last I added anything to this blog, a massive amount of newsworthy stuff has happened. I’ll take them in order of importance (in my opinion).

Despite the fact that various celebrities have been doing their best to distract us, the US public has actually been paying attention to non-celebrity-related information. Granted, that non-celebrity-related information is pretty important stuff, but this has never before been an impediment to the feckless American public from quickly losing interest once some media-celebrated attention whore exposes a nipple, says something desperately stupid, or drives a car into a school bus full of nuns. It’s as if the general population in the US wasn’t composed entirely of thick-skulled sub-morons with the attention spans of drunken gnats. Who are these people, and what have they done with the easily-distracted masses of citizens we’ve all come to expect?

Next on the agenda is an agenda. Various state politicians seem to be bent on re-making the country in their image- one state at a time. This would be less of a problem if that image was not a dystopian wasteland filled with technopeasants and their corporate overlords. Worse, these politicians seem to be laboring under the misapprehension that they have the power to do so despite all evidence and case law to the contrary. Between the upper mid-west states trying to destroy public employee unions, the regularly-scheduled xenophobic legislation coming out of Arizona, and the nonsensical rulings of the Texas Commission To Replace All Book Larnin With The Bible, the overall results of the last big election cycle has been a non-stop churn of Willful Public Stupidity- with a side order of Political Hubris. Assuming the voting public can maintain their current level of attention to such important matters, the next election ought to be a doozy.

One of the situations which has maintained its odd grasp on the American attention span is Libya. While the world dithered about no-fly zones, the rebels in Libya were learning the age-old lesson of what happens when enthusiastic but unskilled mobs encounter trained killers with few morals but lots of good equipment. After getting almost to the outskirts of Tripoli, the undisciplined rebels started getting their collective asses handed to them by Gaddafi’s remaining cadre of troops plus the few thousand mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa the “Brother Leader” had managed to hire. In the space of a week, the rebels had gone from knocking on the gates of Tripoli to desperately trying to protect Benghazi. Literally in the nick of time, the French, British, and US cavalry arrived to save the day- sort of. The Libyan military has the same relationship to the modern militaries of the US, France, and Britain that the rebels had to the Libyan military. No contest. Without landing a single soldier (despite the presence of 1200 Marines off the coast), the international coalition enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya eviscerated Gaddafi’s armored units wherever they were spotted out in the open. This had the effect of breaking the siege of Benghazi- arguably a good thing, since Gaddafi had made very clear his intent to send his killers through the city house by house to eliminate the rebels. It also had the unintended effect of sending the surviving Libyan armor into the cities. Such is the case with Misurata, where Libyan tanks are indiscriminately shelling the city- slaughtering civilians while simultaneously using the proximity of civilians to protect them from air strikes.

Personally, I do not agree with the current UN decision (although I understand it). If the idea was to protect the civilian population, air power alone won’t be enough. Either go in with everything (politically untenable), or look the other way while Gaddafi slaughters the rebels and sows the smoking ruins with salt. The UN in particular and the world in general have a long history of choosing the latter. We collectively sat on our asses while innocents were butchered in Rwanda and Darfur, for example. While I’m on the subject, we’re doing exactly that in the case of Ivory Coast and Bahrain. Either shit or get off the pot. If the international community is going to use force to protect innocent lives, we need to do so across the board. That includes Chechnya, Iran, Ivory Coast, Libya, Syria, Bahrain, and any other place where unrest threatens to destroy the lives of innocent civilians. If we (the international community) are willing to use military force against the sovereign government to protect Libyan civilians, then the same rules should apply to Britain, Russia, France, China, and the US as well.

Lastly, we look at Japan. The earthquake was bad enough- the worst in Japan’s history- but Japanese engineers have been building in anticipation of just such a calamity. The buildings and infrastructure adequately withstood the shaking. The tsunami was another matter. Nothing man-made was going to do much good in the face of a thirty-foot wall of water with enough water behind it to reach sixty miles (one hundred kilometers) inland. The catastrophic effects of the tsunami (upwards of ten thousand dead and hundreds of thousands displaced) have actually been overshadowed by another effect of the tsunami- the damage to the nuclear reactors at Fukushima.

Better authors have covered the “Nuclear Power for Dummies” and “Radiation Exposure for Dummies”, so I won;t belabor those topics. I will ask a cogent question: how is it that the enormous death toll of the tsunami has so completely been eclipsed by the fight to stave off a complete meltdown at Fukushima? Is it just because it involves (insert spooky voice) radiation? At worst, if Fukushima Daichi or Daini melt down, the area will be uninhabitable for a long time. It would probably completely transform Japanese culture and possibly cripple Japan as an industrial nation. That’s just economics. We are not facing the specter of huge numbers of dead people from a meltdown, and everything else can be dealt with. We are facing the reality of large numbers of actual people who are facing lack of food, water, and medical care because everything that could have dealt with those problems was destroyed by the tsunami. Not potential victims- actual real live people. Let’s do what we (the international community again) can to help those people so the Japanese government can focus on the fight at Fukushima.

Speaking of Fukushima, there are fifty or so people still at the plant, fighting to get power restored and keep the reactors cool. These people are firefighters, engineers, and middle managers, for the most part. Every last one of them volunteered for the job, despite the knowledge that they were risking their lives. It’s been a couple of weeks, and already several of them have fallen victim to high doses of radiation. The rest of them are still on site, desperately fighting to repair damage caused by a thirty-foot wall of water and the subsequent problems with the reactor systems. If you pray, add these men and women to your prayers. I do not pray, but I am awestruck by their heroism. The least we can do is make sure their sacrifice is not in vain.

Current status: Humbled

Current music: Waiting for the End by Linkin Park



One response

29 03 2011

Notice how the local US news talks about how radiation is now here from japan, as if that is so important considering it is barely detectable. Where is the talk about how they will be helped with the food problems, and dislocations?
The funny part is on the news this morning they show these hippi-types protesting atomic power when Japan has clearly shown that they are not that dangerous.

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