Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Time to ratchet up American paranoia...

... and add to the ol' probligo's worries as well. And, TF, you do not need to "read between the lines" with this story. The only thing puzzling me is how it has missed the right-whinge news feeds in the US. At least until now (19:50 27/4/10 NZST)that is and I have not yet been across to TF's place for a read.

Today's Herald had this article reprinted from Telegraph UK -
Iran and Venezuela have already shown an interest in the Club-K Container Missile System which could allow them to carry out pre-emptive strikes from behind an enemy's missile defences.

Defence experts say the system is designed to be concealed as a standard 40ft shipping container that cannot be identified until it is activated.

Priced at an estimated £10 million, each container is fitted with four cruise anti-ship or land attack missiles. The system represents an affordable "strategic level weapon".

Some experts believe that if Iraq had the Club-K system in 2003 it would have made it impossible for America to invade with any container ship in the Gulf a potential threat.

Club-K is being marketed at the Defence Services Asia exhibition in Malaysia this week.

Novator, the manufacturer, is an advanced missile specialist that would not have marketed the system without Moscow's approval. It has released an emotive marketing film complete with dramatic background music.

It shows Club-K containers stowed on ships, trucks and trains as a neighbouring country prepares to invade with American style military equipment.

The enemy force is wiped out by the cruise missile counter attack.

The ol' probligo is not in any way claiming an ability at prescience. Not one little bit. This is a weapon that was just crying out for development. It would surprise me immensely if such a system was not already an element of the US war machine. The diff obviously being that they would limit sales to one or two good friends - like Israel for example.

So, TF (and any anyone else of like mind), this one does scare the ol' probligo. It is what I have talked of for some years come to fruition.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

In Remembrance...

Today is ANZAC Day.

It is the day that NZ and Australia join in remembrance of those who gave their lives in war.

It is not a celebration of victory.

It is not a commemoration of any particular military action or battle.

It is significant (at the very least to me) because it is for the memory of those many who gave their lives on the cliffs and beaches of Gallipoli. That action was conceived by men from another country. It was a futile and (in the light of history) unnecessary action. The planning was fundamentally flawed.

It is significant for the memory of those men and women who served and gave their lives in war since that "War to end all wars".

It is significant because it brings remembrance of a generation of men who were lost in the pusuit of glory by others.

I remember the men from the farms, from the factories, from the towns, who undertook "the great adventure" for patriotism, a sense of duty, society's expectations, and even the expectations of their own families.

I remember their sacrifice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The Mrs probligo and I went out to one of our occasional forays to the picture theatre last week. To bear in mind here, there were probably no more than 15 in the theatre at the session we went to but it was announced this morning that it has already overtaken "Sione's Wedding" as the highest grossing NZ film. We are a fairly stubborn nation; the creations of ex-pats like Jackson just do not count as "NZ films".

This one by Taiko Waititi definitly qualifies as NZ grown.

The film gets promo'd in the press as a "comedy". I can't agree with that. It has some light moments but that is all.

It is a topical and backward looking excerpt from the life of an 11 year old boy living in back-country NZ. I think that is where I start getting uncomfortable about it; it is about where I come from, it is about people I have known, went to school with, played rugby with, swum in the creek with, fought with, gone fishing with...

Will it make an international hit? I think not.

But for all that, keep a weather eye out at the festivals that come to your town. One never knows, you might get the chance to see it.

Link to home page in the header...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Reading between the lines...

In a recent exchange with TF, regarding Russia supplying nuclear weapons to Venezuela, he opined that he could "read between the lines" in the news reports.

A different tack, but heading for the same mark, is a regular feature of the Herald on Saturday mornings; an in-depth interview by Michele Hewitson with a person in the news.

This week (this morning) it is Michelle Boag, past-President of the National Party and many other political posts to her credit.

She is a political public relations expert supreme. And that is where "reading between the lines" comes to the fore.

One of her recent "jobs for the girl" was appointment as the selection consultant for the CEO of the reorganised Auckland City.
I phoned again: it still wasn't a good time, and then it really wasn't a good time. She is also on John Banks' SuperCity mayoral campaign team so anyone, particularly her, could have seen that it was only a matter of time before somebody shouted "conflict of interest".

Labour MP Phil Twyford did and after a process involving mutterings of murky dealings, she stepped down from the recruiting. So I thought she'd have gone to ground. I should have known better. She never does for long.

There was a story about her this week in My Generation and the bit I really enjoyed was the titbit about how every year she makes, and gives away, 400 jars of plum jam.

Your average domestic goddess might settle for 40. 400! Huh, that's nothing to her. She makes Nigella look like a slacker; she made me want to go and lie down for a week.

What a nice story, I said, possibly a little sarcastically. "Yeah, and that's unusual, isn't it?" Is it? "Oh, I don't know. I don't have any complaints. I find a silver lining in any cloud. I'm relentlessly positive."

Everything is about her image. She said: "My profile is my livelihood." Could she say that nice story wasn't calculated, for her image? She gave me one of her looks, of which she has an impressive repertoire.

She said, scathingly, "Well, no. I couldn't prompt her to ring me up." Then she grinned. "But I did think, 'Oh well, that's not going to do me any harm!"'

Not after the ATA spat, no. Oh, that. She was very grateful to Phil Twyford, she said, because he'd freed her up to do much more profitable work.

To my raised eyebrow she said, "Well, he did! And the other thing he saved me from doing was having to tell a whole lot of people I know really well that they didn't get the job."

Spin, spin, spin. She said, airily, "I told you I could find a silver lining in any cloud."

She gave her silver lining philosophy within five minutes, an excellent tactic because you can ask about the two things which ought to have been career botch-ups - the Winebox inquiry and her involvement in the covert filming of Winston Peters and her presidency of the National Party before National's catastrophic election result of 2002 - and she'll not merely silver the lining, but add ermine and diamonds.

So there y'go TF. That is how you run "spin". Or in your words "reading between the lines".

I call it twisting the truth...

Thursday, April 15, 2010

How to re(a)d the news - 2

Y’know, the ignorance of some passes all understanding. In fact, I am reaching the point where I am doubting “ignorance” as an excuse and substituting something like “intentional stupidity” in its place.

Now, I know that my knowledge of science is little more than average – emphasis on the “little”. I am told, from reading just a little wider than the daily press, that about 25kg of WGU (weapons grade uranium) and the right technology can be converted into an effective fission bomb. Given the same quantity of HEU (highly enriched uranium) you can build a bomb that might explode, but which is likely to be more effective as a local radioactive contaminant.

So, when Russia sells a nuclear reactor and powerstation to Venezuela the news becomes “Russia sells nuclear weapons to Chavez”.

In the background to all of this is the Obama summit, completed this morning NZ time, the purpose of which was to gain universal agreement to better and more effective controls on HEU and WGU to prevent terrorists getting their hands on the potential for nuclear weaponry. For some, any foothold that allows them to cling to the cliff-face idea of “Obama is a communist” is well worth the promotion, irrespective if its accuracy or inaccuracy.

That makes the Russian sale of a nuclear powerstation to Venezuela immense news. “Oh waly waly!!” news. It is easy to turn an intentionally very blind eye to the fact that a power reactor does nothing more than convert a small quantity of quite impure uranium to unusable isotopes of other elements. In order to create U235 and Po you require a totally different kind of beast; the difference between the two is like comparing a milking goat with an enraged male elephant on heat.

The solution?

Just let Chavez know that any attempt to establish a breeder reactor, enrichment and weapons processes “will be certainly unsuccessful”. After the news and agreements of the past three days not even the liars in the Kremlin (who IMO are no different to those who inhabited the White House four years ago) would stand against the message; most particularly if the idea to supply Chechnya or Kyrgystan with a nuclear powerstation were made public.

Personally, I think that all of this is in vain. Pandora’s box is open as TF points out. There is no closing it. The biggest threat of all does not come from a container on a ship in the Hudson River; nor from a suitcase left in a hotel room in San Diego; nor the model aircraft flying over the reservoir supplying San Francisco its water…

The greatest threat is long term; competition for resources; competition for food supplies; competition for potable water…

Monday, April 05, 2010

How to Re(a)d the News - 2

We went north (to Opo) for Easter, to enjoy the last of our summer. Very enjoyable it was too. That was, if you exclude the news...

On Sunday, the SST published this article. It was "speculative" to the extent that the name of one of the suicide bombers in the Moscow metro had not been confirmed.

This later article is bylined 2 April, a fact that might upset some seeing as how that was Good Friday. The News does go on...
When the shooting started Adlan Mutsaev and his friends were in the woods picking garlic. They had arrived in the forest earlier that day, together with a group of neighbours travelling in a battered coach. The plan had been straightforward: stuff their sacks, enjoy the countryside, and then head back home to the Chechen town of Achkoi-Martan.

Without warning, Russian commandos hiding behind a hillock opened fire.Adlan, 16, was with his brother Arbi, 19, and their friends Shamil Kataev, 19, and Movsar Tataev, 19. Shamil and Movsar were both wounded. Adlan was shot in the leg, but managed to hobble into a ditch. He hid. Arbi also attempted to flee, but men in camouflage fatigues caught up with him.

According to the human rights group Memorial, Arbi was forced to drag his two wounded and bleeding friends across the snow. Shamil begged for his life. But the solders were impervious. They placed a blindfold over Arbi's eyes. And then they opened fire: executing Shamil and Movsar on the spot. At least two other garlic pickers suffered the same fate: Ramzan Susaev, 40, and Movsar Dakaev, 17. According to his relatives, Dakaev had pleaded to be allowed on the trip with the others. Wearing a bright green fleece, he took a photo of himself in the woods with his mobile phone. It shows him proudly posing against a craggy backdrop of cliffs and trees covered in snow. A little over 48 hours later his body was discovered.

The misfortune of the four garlic pickers was to have unwittingly strayed into a "counter-insurgency operation" conducted by Russian forces in the densely wooded border between Chechnya and Ingushetia. The soldiers, apparently looking for militant rebels who are waging their own violent campaign against the Russian state, came across the unarmed group, brutally killing them amid the picturesque massif of low hills.

Normally this atrocity on a cold day in February would have raised barely a ripple of attention had it not been for the terrible events in Moscow this week. In a video address on Thursday, Chechnya's chief insurgent leader, Doku Umarov, said Monday's suicide attacks on the Russian capital's metro were in revenge for the killings of the garlic pickers near the Ingush village of Arshaty. He claimed federal security service (FSB) commandos had used knives to mutilate their bodies of the dead boys.

Now I know that this goes completely against the confirmation bias of people who believe that Islam is out for world domination.
Russia's counter-terrorism committee yesterday named the Park Kultury bomber as Dzhanet Abdurakhmanova, saying she was also known as Dzhanet Abdullayeva. Born in 1992, she came from Dagestan. Kommersant newspaper published a photo of her dressed in a black Muslim headscarf holding a pistol. It named the second bomber as 20-year-old Markha Ustarkhanova from Chechnya, describing her as the widow of a militant leader killed last October.

Linked or not, human rights groups say it is undeniable that the brutal actions of Russia's security forces have fuelled the insurgency raging across the North Caucasus region of Russia and the ethnic republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and Kabardino-Balkaria. This largely invisible war has now reached the Kremlin's doorstep.

"People are abducted. People are killed. There are no guarantees of security," Magomed Mutsolgov, a human rights activist, told the Guardian yesterday, speaking from Nazran, Ingushetia's chief town. Law enforcement and security agencies have committed dozens of summary and arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as extra-judicial executions, rights groups say.

Typically, armed personnel wearing masks encircle a village or district in a "sweep operation". They force their way into homes, beat residents and damage property. Suspected militants are taken away. Many never return. Others are simply shot, and fake weapons planted on them, rights groups allege, citing interviews with victims and relatives.

According to Mutsolgov, the Kremlin's counter-terrorism methods have proved entirely counter-productive: "Violence produces more violence. It drives people to the militant underground."

The nature of the armed conflict in the North Caucasus has also mutated. From 1994 to 1996 Boris Yeltsin fought a war against mainly secular Chechen separatists who wanted – like the newly independent Georgians over the mountains – their own constitution and state. In 1999-2004 president Vladimir Putin fought a second Chechen war. The aim was to crush Chechen separatism.

Now, however, the Kremlin is battling another kind of enemy. The new generation of insurgents have an explicitly Islamist goal: to create a radical pan-Caucasian emirate with sharia law, a bit like Afghanistan under the Taliban. In February Umarov vowed to "liberate" not only the North Caucasus and Krasnodar Krai but Astrakhan – on the Caspian Sea -and the Volga region as well.

The rebels' tactics have also grown more fanatical. Umarov has seemingly revived the suicide squads used by his assassinated predecessor Shamil Basaev. Last summer a suicide truck bomber blew up Nazran's police station. Another bomber succeeded in ramming the car of Ingushetia's president, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov. Monday's attack in Moscow was the first in the capital for six years.

I wonder.

Can anyone else see the same dots as I? The dots between action by the "infidel" and the increasing number of volunteers for suicide missions.

I wonder.

Will the connections between "action" and "consequence" ever be realised in the measurement of the futility of "conventional warfare" in the war against terrorism.

I know.

I do not have the answers. I would be immensely powerful and probably equally rich if I did.

It does seem to me that a very large part of the success of that "war" will come from the removal of "cause". Those "perceived (by the terrorists) causes" I would guess to include US support for Israel, poverty (watch for that one to become of even greater import), inequalities and inequities, and many more I can not imagine.

Perhaps it is another "quote" that came over the radio on Saturday afternoon -

If consumption per head of population in China were to reach the same levels as in the US at present we would need "another seven planets"

Totally unsupported (to my knowledge) by any scientific fact, but not an unimaginable conclusion to reach. After all, how many truly obese people do you see in China?