The world is beset by a plague of goofiness. I thought it was limited to the United States until recent events demonstrated that goofiness has become a worldwide phenomenon. Premature European austerity programs, commenced before unemployment subsided, have led to higher deficits, elevated bond yields and more recession. Although sober-minded economists warned against implementation of austerity measures until justified by economic circumstances, there was this itch that politicians had to scratch. Now they have a nice infection.
In America, everyone had some good laughs of this video clip of President Obama’s discovery that he was locked out of the White House upon his return from Brazil. Although it was widely reported that the White House staff was “caught off guard” by the First Family’s early return from their Brazilian vacation, I don’t believe it. Such things don’t happen by accident. My suspicion is that Chief of Staff, Bill Daley and his real boss, The Dimon Dog, deliberately locked Obama out of the White House as an admonition against cracking down on the megabanks, increasing taxes on the rich and empowering Elizabeth Warren.
Our President has been busy puzzling over the situation in Libya, where he (with authorization from the United Nations) has joined in on the “kinda-sorta” invasion. Few people have dared to suggest that interloping in the Libyan civil war is sheer goofiness. Many Republicans, such as Newt Gingrich, were in favor of intervention until Obama made the decision to launch air strikes. Gingrich and his contrarian cohorts suddenly found it necessary to do a 180 on the issue. Meanwhile, the smart conservative, George Will, was asking all the right questions. I’ll reprint just a few of them here – but be sure to read his complete list. These questions are among those that remain unanswered:
- The world would be better without Gaddafi. But is that a vital U.S. national interest? If it is, when did it become so? A month ago, no one thought it was.
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- Presumably we would coordinate aid with the leaders of the anti-Gaddafi forces. Who are they?
- Libya is a tribal society. What concerning our Iraq and Afghanistan experiences justifies confidence that we understand Libyan dynamics?
More recently, George Will wrote an essay raising the question, “Is it America’s duty to intervene wherever regime change is needed?” Consider this point:
. . . America has intervened in a civil war in a tribal society, the dynamics of which America does not understand. And America is supporting one faction, the nature of which it does not know. “We are standing with the people of Libya,” says Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, evidently confident that “the” people are a harmonious unit. Many in the media call Moammar Gaddafi’s opponents “freedom fighters,” and perhaps they are, but no one calling them that really knows how the insurgents regard one another, or understand freedom, or if freedom, however understood, is their priority.
While many commentators have been busy condemning Bradley Manning as a “terrorist” and the worst American traitor since John Anthony Walker, few of those hypocrites would admit that the “people power” revolutions now taking place throughout the Middle East have resulted from the publication of Manning’s purloined files by WikiLeaks. Beyond that, few – if any – of those self-righteous journalists have hesitated to quote from those leaked documents in their own essays. A look at one of those leaked cables (dated February 15, 2008 and originating from the American Embassy in Tripoli) gives us a better understanding of who some of those Libyan “freedom fighters” really are:
xxxxxxxxxxxx partly attributed the fierce mindset in Benghazi and Derna to the message preached by imams in eastern Libyan mosques, which he said is markedly more radical than that heard in other parts of the country. xxxxxxxxxxxx makes a point of frequenting mosques whenever he visits Libya as a means to connect with neighbors and relatives and take the political pulse. Sermons in eastern mosques, particularly the Friday ‘khutba’, are laced with “coded phrases” urging worshippers to support jihad in Iraq and elsewhere through direct participation or financial contributions. The language is often ambiguous enough to be plausibly denied, he said, but for devout Muslims it is clear, incendiary and unambiguously supportive of jihad. Direct and indirect references to “martyrdom operations” were not uncommon. By contrast with mosques in Tripoli and elsewhere in the country, where references to jihad are extremely rare, in Benghazi and Derna they are fairly frequent subjects.
The foregoing cable was discussed in a recent piece by Alexander Cockburn of CounterPunch. Mr. Cockburn also focused on some information contained in the so-called Sinjar Records, which American forces retrieved from an Al Qaeda stronghold in northern Iraq during 2007:
The West Point study of the Iraqi Sinjar Records calculates that of the 440 foreign al-Qaeda recruits whose hometowns are known, 21 came from Benghazi, thereby making it the fourth most common hometown listed in the records. Fifty-three of the al-Qaeda recruits came from Darnah, the highest total of any of the hometowns listed in the records. The second highest number, 51, came from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Darnah (80,000) has less than 2 per cent the population of Riyadh. Darnah contributed “far and away the largest per capita number of fighters.”
The Embassy cable from February of 2008 and the Sinjar Records provide some useful information to consider when pondering the questions raised by George Will. Is Team Obama “up to speed” on any of this?
The aforementioned CounterPunch article by Alexander Cockburn covered another episode of tragic goofiness – the Fukushima power plant disaster. As I previously discussed here and here, the feeble information flow concerning this crisis has been downright sleazy. Mr. Cockburn provided a must read critique of how this critical situation has been mishandled and misrepresented by the media:
Amid reasonable suspicions that leading news media might have been in receipt of informal government advisories to stop creating panic, it became much harder to find credible bulletins on what was actually happening. In fact careful perusal of the daily briefings at the Vienna hq of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna disclosed absolutely no substantive progress and indeed discreet admissions that “[this was on March 23) the “Agency still lacks data on water levels and temperatures in the spent fuel pools at Units 1, 2, 3 and 4.”
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On our own website, by contrast, several articles and interviews stressed what Hirose Takashi said:
“All of the information media are at fault here I think. They are saying stupid things like, why, we are exposed to radiation all the time in our daily life, we get radiation from outer space. But that’s one millisievert per year. A year has 365 days, a day has 24 hours; multiply 365 by 24, you get 8760. Multiply the 400 millisieverts by that, you get 3,500,000 the normal dose. You call that safe? And what media have reported this? None. They compare it to a CT scan, which is over in an instant; that has nothing to do with it. The reason radioactivity can be measured is that radioactive material is escaping. What is dangerous is when that material enters your body and irradiates it from inside. . . .”
Allow me to repeat Hirose Takashi’s question: “And what media have reported this? None.” That’s because the media are incapable of covering serious (non-goofy) subjects. Unfortunately, those vested with positions of responsibility and authority all over the world are impaired by a degree of goofiness, leaving them incapable of making the right decisions or taking the necessary steps to protect public safety and welfare. Is this a permanent situation or just a temporary condition?