atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#2642: Is it Saturday again already?

Of course it is!

My still-whacked sleep schedule being what it is, this post is merely an intermission in today's episode of "I'm sleeping like an old growth forest again".

* * *

The problems of one nuclear plant in Japan are kind of dwarfed by the other problems. I haven't given this enough snark, not nearly as much as it deserves; all the papers and the media outlets are all "OMFG TEH NUKEZ!!!11" and ignoring the fact that some 20,000 people are dead and an entire city was basically flattened and washed away.

There was one story I gave the right amount of snark to; the headline was something like "is Japan approaching a crisis?" and my response was approximately, "Hello? Fifth-worst earthquake ever followed by a 30-foot wall of water? Hello?"

Notice that the huge refinery fire was quietly forgotten? Notice that there's very little discussion of fuel price and availability in Japan? Almost none; and there's no discussion of any other kind of difficulty stemming from having an entire city reduced to rubble--nothing about chemical spills or the like. The rolling blackouts get only cursory mention. These things certainly happened; where's the coverage?

Fukushima is an industrial accident. The release of radioactive contamination from the reactors has been minimal and even people working on-site are not in any significant danger of radiation-based illness. (You had guys standing in water thick with beta-emitters, and their worst affliction is approximately a mild sunburn.) The release of contamination has had very little effect on Japan, and none on the rest of the world; the only reason we can detect contamination from Fukushima in the US comes from the fact that we know how to make some extremely sensitive instruments.

The stories are all over the place: "Radiation from Fukushima found in XX!" The terminology is usually wrong and it's panic over nothing--they report the numbers in Bequerels because it makes it sound worse than it is. I mean, 10,000,000 Bq certainly sounds a lot worse than 0.1 mSv!

And it's wrong, because contamination is measured in Bq per unit volume--such as, I don't know, Bq/cc or /ml or /kg or something. Measuring radioactive flux with Bq is useful only because it measures disintegrations per second--how many atoms are actually fissioning and emitting radiation of whatever kind--and if you don't know what the volume measured is, it's useless. 10 million Bq is worrisome if you're talking about a milliliter of water; but if you're talking about the Pacific Ocean, it's vanishingly small. (The natural background radiation of the Pacific would be far above 10 million Bq.)

Saying "the radiation observed was 10 million Bq!" is like saying "The getaway car was going 100 miles!" How fast? What direction?

The numbers I gave above (10 MBq and 0.1 uSv) aren't equivalent, and not meant to be. The point I'm trying to make is that the media is interested in making Fukushima look as bad as possible and they're covering it to the exclusion of just about every other story coming from Japan.

The disaster in Japan is not a few leaking reactors; the disaster is 20,000 dead people and a city in ruins. We would do well to remember that.

* * *

Obama supporters are dumbfounded that he could actually do something like go to war against Libya.

It gives me a nice little tingle of schadenfreude to read Andrew Sullivan's complaint:
It’s so surreal, so discordant with what the president has told the American people, so fantastically contrary to everything he campaigned on, that I will simply wait for more confirmation than this before commenting further. I simply cannot believe it.
Yeah, that's the guy you voted for. He's got the CIA crawling all over Libya and he's launched more cruise missiles than any other Nobel Peace Prize winner in history.

That's Obomber for you.

* * *

Maybe next time you'll pay attention to the stewardesses as they do their safety demonstration. Yeah. Because when you're in a pressurized metal tube hurtling through the stratosphere, a loss of cabin pressure is always a possibility.

* * *

Gormogons shows us the rounding error in graphic format.

I wish I would have thought of that myself. It very neatly demonstrates the old maxim, "A picture's worth a thousand words!"

The entire federal budget is represented by that yellow square. The total amount the GOP wants to cut is represented by the combined area of the green and red blots.

Do you understand now why I call that a "rounding error"? Even if the GOP manages somehow not to "compromise" (read: "bend over holding their asscheeks apart") and actually get the whole $62 billion in cuts they want, IT'S NOT GOING TO MAKE A LICK OF DIFFERENCE WHATSOEVER.

This is what I mean when I say the GOP is "Democrat lite".

* * *

Same site: an excellent theory about what happened to that Air France AirBus that crashed two years ago. Problem number one: over-automated cockpit.

"If it's not Boeing, I'm not going" gets another tick mark.

* * *

Apparently the guys driving the airplanes didn't get the memo about the rebels being the ones they're there to support. 13 rebels down, meaning there are now about 987 of them left, more or less, if you accept the figure commonly bandied about that there were only about a thousand of them to begin with.

Hmm.

You know, this whole Libya thing--I still have mixed feelings about it. My main criterion for any American involvement in foreign wars always comes down to a simple question: What is our compelling national interest in this?

Afghanistan: Gutting the Taliban

Iraq: Getting rid of Saddam Hussein and establishing a democratic republic in the middle east which is both friendly to the US and not Israel; also concentrating Al Qaeda's attentions there instead of here (though I only realized that in hindsight).

In fact, in 2003 I was against going into Iraq; I didn't see the point to it and thought the idea of getting rid of Saddam Hussein--while nice--was probably unnecessary. It worked out pretty well, but at the time I didn't see how it would help matters much, if at all.

But Libya: Uh...well, France wanted to help the rebels oust Moammar, so we're there.

I don't see it. I certainly don't see what this does for the United States, other than spread our military even thinner than it already was by involving us in a third middle eastern country. It doesn't get us cheaper oil; it won't change the fundamental bloody-mindedness of the people supplying us with the stuff; and it won't make the region any more politically stable. In fact, it promises to make the oil more expensive, the region less stable, and the people incredibly more bloody-minded.

Iraq? With Iraq, I merely thought, "WTF does Iraq have to do with 9/11?" George Bush--the entire US government--was not interested in fighting an unlimited war, so there had to be a proxy; Iraq ended up being it. Unlimited war would have been very bad for world opinion of the US, because there would have been a lot of dead muslims and a lot of them would have been totally innocent of any real wrongdoing. It also would have stopped the terrorist bullshit cold and for a good long time, but there would still be a lot of parking lots where there used to be cities. (And some of our gasoline would likely be faintly radioactive, too--above background, I mean--and it'd all be dirt freakin' cheap.)

But Libya--Libya has not been a problem for the US since 1986. I don't care what France and England want or need; they have their own militaries and if they want to help the rebels, let them. Why is it our problem? NATO? NATO is supposed to be a defensive organization; just because France decides to go to war against Dictator X it does not obligate NATO to do the same.

France has a history of refusing to help us when we want something done. In 1986, when Reagan wanted to bomb Tripoli, US aircraft had to make a six-hour detour around France because France refused even the token of letting our planes fly over French soil on their way to Libya. France was a member of NATO in 1986, the way it is now, yet refused to help us.

Now we're supposed to help them? Why? Same dictator, same country, but because France wants it, why, we've got to hop to it!

I'm not opposed to helping the Libyan rebels for any reason other than the fact that there is no good answer to the question, What does it get us?

"The good will of other nations?" No one cares. They'll turn around and call us nasty names for anything else they can think of, and stab us in the back whenever they can. You're deluded if you think us helping France with Libya is going to make a difference. The US is the world leader in helping others, and everyone hates us. They take our aid and smile to our faces, but the hate never goes away. "Good will" does nothing for our national interests.

"Cheap oil"? Libya's a member of OPEC. Whoever ends up in charge there is not going to change that. We have more oil that the rest of the world inside our own borders, and if we were allowed to exploit those resources and build refineries we'd have the stuff coming out of our ears.

"Getting rid of Moammar"? The middle east is unstable as hell. Moammar's been a fixture there for 40 years, and we know him pretty well. Yes, Libya is a third-world shithole; all the muslim nations are, pretty much. By ousting Moammar we risk exchanging a well-known and relatively docile despot for a government run by the "muslim brotherhood" or Al Qaeda--giving us yet another oil-rich nation run by 12th century barbarians.

The same philosophy was behind the ouster of Mubarak--"he's a tyrant!"--but it looks as though the government that's shaping up in Egypt will end up being an islamist theocracy, just like Iran.

And none of it does the United States any good--not in the short term, not in the long term, not ever. We just end up with nations that have gone from "somewhat hostile" to "entirely hostile".

If it doesn't do the US any good, why do it? The real punchline to all this is that none of the oppressed peoples of the middle east are going to fare one whit better under their new tyrants than they did under the old ones. The names change, the rules change a bit, but the oppression continues.

International diplomacy is a dirty game. It always has been. Unless you're a superpower that's willing to lob nukes around like confetti, you have to work with the material you're given, and frequently that comes down to a choice between Jack and shit...and by the time you're in a position to choose, Jack has left town.

If Barack Hussein Obomber really believed in any of the principles he espoused during the 2008 campaign (and before) he would have stayed out of Libya, because whatever reasons we had for going into Afghanistan and Iraq are absent with Libya, and he voted against both actions when he was a Senator. How much less reason do we have to go into Libya, then? If he thought it was wrong with Afghanistan and Iraq, why is it right with Libya?

His own answer (given on national TV a few days ago) was incoherent at best, and it failed to outline any compelling national interest the US has in the conflict. Certainly he gave no reason for flip-flopping on an issue he clearly thought very important when he was a Senator.

He didn't think "regime change" in Iraq was a compelling national interest; why is "regime change" in Libya so important to us? What's different between then and now that makes Libya such an important issue?

I'm interested in knowing what prompted Obama to change what are clearly deeply-held beliefs about what the US should and should not do when it comes to intervention in foreign conflicts.

When the people of Iran took to the streets by the thousands to protest a stolen election, Obama wasn't even willing to utter so much as one negative word about the oppressive regime in Iran, even after the Iranian government started murdering people to stop the peaceful protests.

But let Moammar try to stop open revolt, and man, he's got to go! To hell with my entire career of denouncing US involvement in "regime change" in foreign nations, because France and England want to go in!

You see, the only "compelling national interest" we have in Libya is that Obama is up for reelection next year.

He's spent the last three years being weak and wishy-washy and indecisive, and everyone knows it. He's come out on the bottom of every single call he's made; nothing he's done has made him look smart or strong or wise, and he knows it. Every time there's been a crisis, he's dithered for weeks until an outcome became apparent, at which point he acted to reinforce it in such a way he could take credit for it...and half the time he's still been wrong.

His numbers are in the toilet. Foreign leaders don't take him seriously. Unemployment remains high and the economic recovery he takes credit for is chimerical at best, and everyone knows it full well. You can't even spin it any more.

The answer? "Look! Halley's Comet!" Get involved in a shooting war somewhere, because that always shores up the numbers. Especially when it's somewhere in the middle east; Joe Sixpack will think, "'Bout time we whupped them camel-humpers!" and obligingly vote "Democrat" in the next election. It's just a matter of pushing old Joe's buttons the right way, and he's such a hick and hayseed all you have to do is wave the flag around and he'll fall in line.

But Irag and Afghanistan are dead horses. Joe is sick of hearing about those places, because there's nothing fancy going on. There are no gunsight videos, you know, no night-vision images of smart bombs blowing shit up. It's boring to see guys building stuff and IED's look and sound like M-80s going off. There's nothing spectacular to gawk at, to grab Joe's attention away from football and American Idol. Besides, we just finished eight years of flogging them as "Bush's war". We need a new war!

But it can't be against someone with resources, you know, because we might get drawn into another Iraq. Egypt is no good, and we're for damn sure not going into Somalia again. We need someplace that can give us a quick and--above all!--easy victory. Someplace we get to define what "victory" is, someplace where even abject failure can be spun positive because the real consequences won't be obvious until after the elections are over.

...and then a little rebellion crops up in Libya.
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