Archive for September, 2017

Fingers on buzzers everyone

Ok, so just how many people do have a finger on a Nuke buzzer?

Putin and Trump, obviously.

Add to them the Queen of England (just be grateful it’s not the Duke), heads of state of France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. South Africa used to but no longer, and now we can add North Korea to the list.

But is it really Kim Jung Un’s finger on the North Korean button? Because if you thought super yachts are a rich boys game, nukes are in a whole other league. North Korea, with a population of 25 million people, only earns about $US4 billion from exports, mainly coal and woollen suits and spends more than that on basic essentials like oil and Cristal champagne for the top table. That puts them in the economic league of the Congo or Jamaica. That does not make for a guy who can afford to sit at the biggest swinging dicks table and build nukes in addition to a massive and very well armed conventional army, navy and airforce. North Korea has an active military force of just under a million men, with over 5 million in reserve. The USA bill for it’s nuclear programme averages $US20 billion pa.; its total military budget, with 1.3 million active servicemen and women, is $US600 billion pa. They support this with exports over $1.5 trillion. That is well above Kim Jung’s pay grade.

So if you accept the current tension with Kim Jung Un’s nuke tests is, in effect, a “Go home Yank” protest, then who, apart from this ‘poor as a church mouse’ North Korean, would want to be behind that message? Well the Arabs come to mind quickly. George Dubbya and Tony Blair were convinced that Iraq had WOMD, but when they went there, the cupboard was bare. Is it possible Saddam had simply relocated his weapons development programme to North Korea? That programme would have stopped after Saddam was toppled of course but could the programme have been put back on the market in 2015 when Iran was very reluctantly forced to stop their nuclear weapons programme in order to relieve the international economic sanctions that were crippling their country’s economy. Is it possible they just also went to North Korea and picked up Saddam’s tab?

But let’s also start right back with the dividing up of Korea (as with Germany) after WW2. Russia got North Korea and USA got South Korea. Russia later did a deal with China letting them be responsible for introducing communism to their neighbour. USA occupied the South and just five years after WW2 ended, the Korean War started  when Kim il Sung, Jung Un’s granddad, after he got the green light from Mao Tse Tung, and armed with Russian tanks, invaded South Korea. That ended in a stalemate that continues today. Russia and China clearly want USA out of there.

Remember the Americans only entered WW2 when the Japanese, allied with Germany, bombed Pearl Harbour. So why was a resort island thousands of miles offshore such a deal breaker for the USA and what were the Yanks doing owning an island in the South Pacific in the first place? Interesting story, I am glad you asked. Back in the 19th century a number Americans were over in Hawaii organising the sugar business. A chap named Sanford Dole, born in Hawaii of American parents, worked his way up in the Hawaiian legal infrastructure eventually sitting on the Supreme Court. Then he got ambitious and overthrew the Queen of Hawaii and declared Hawaii a Republic. Then in 1898, the USA were discreetly assisting Cuban rebels to get rid of the Spanish when the USS Maine mysteriously sunk in the Havana harbour. That sinking swung the debate in Washington and Uncle Sam then declared war on Spain. Most of the Spanish Pacific fleet was over in the Phillipines which Spain also occupied, so the Yanks had a word to Dole and used Hawaii as the USA naval base from where they sailed into Manilla harbour to take on the Spanish. Short story shorter, the war was all over by Christmas and as a result the Yanks found themselves in charge of the Phillipines and Guam as well as Hawaii after giving Sanford the Governorship job.

Obviously they valued this little collection of Mid-Pacific naval fortresses and after WW2 thought South Korea would add nicely to the USA’s military influence in this Asian region. That is also why they went into Vietnam, because Russia was backing North Vietnam. But just as the USA didn’t like Spain sitting in Cuba on their doorstep with their navy and soldiers, nor do Russia or China like the Yanks sitting on their doorstep with their planes and ships and troops and rockets and guns. Just as Spain had to suck it up at the end of the nineteenth century, and Khruschev had to suck it up over Cuba in ’62, so might America have to suck it up now.

So back to Kim Jung’s little nuke games. There are any number of nations who would not be sorry to see the USA out of the Asian/Pacific region. Observe that Iran and Russia are allies in supporting Syria against its rebels; observe that Turkey, once a strong US ally is now buying missiles from Russia. They could each be playing a role in either arming North Korea or in playing some support role. Consider the persistent rumours that Russia played some interference role in swinging the unimaginable election of Trump into a reality. Trump went into the election very much with a siege mentality: vowing to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Trade Deal; to block immigration, to build the Mexican wall. Just the sort of man who might just pull up the American drawbridge and pull out of the Asia/Pacific with enough pressure. Putin would read Trump like a book.

Trump is just a TV reality-showpony, so when the hard men of the real world say: “fingers on buzzers please gentlemen, this is not a drill”  Trump has nothing in his hand but his dick. He can’t drop a nuke on North Korea. The radiation fallout would decimate populations of USA allies South Korea and Japan, including US personnel based there, to say nothing of their biggest trading partner, China which is just itching for a legitimate opportunity to drive America out of the region.

A conventional invasion of North Korea is possible; a sudden strike to try to neutralise the ten thousand conventional rockets pointing at Seoul before blasting the city of Pyongyang to rubble the way they did in Baghdad. But Trump would need to be assured that North Korea would get no advance warning and that he would achieve total victory within minutes. Because Jung Un has nukes buried deep in bunkers, that could be mobilised in minutes. One nuke on the US Base in Guam, as he has already threatened, then the South Koreans and Japanese will get really nervous about the US military bases in their countries and join the “Go Home Yank” call. Germany, Turkey and anywhere else with US military bases will also get nervy. And Jung Un does also apparently have a nuke that he could send anywhere along their west coast from Seattle to San Francisco or LA which will have the USA calling “come home Yank”.

His generals (still remembering the humiliation of Vietnam) will be carefully explaining that scenario to him in simple language so, before he faces the humiliation of his forces in Guam being nuked and there being nothing he can do about it (with the whole world against him), can’t you just see Trump making that speech:

I did not get elected President of this great country to send our brave boys to fight and die because of someone else’s stoopidity. America has done more for peace in Asia than any other nation has ever done for peace anywhere on the planet, anytime in history.  For more than seventy years we have been there in Korea trying to stop them killing each other.

But, you know, sometimes you have no option. China could have stopped North Korea in a minute; just shut off their oil supply and the problem is over. But oh no they did not want to upset Kim Jung Un. So we said ok, if you won’t do it the easy way then ok I will blow North Korea off the face of the earth; but oh no, no one wants that either. Oh no Mr trump, you cannot use the nuclear weapons that Kim Jung Un is threatening to use. So now they just want America to send in its fine young men to fight their war for them, in a way that gives Kim Jung Un a chance to win with his army of five million. Fighting on the ground with no doubt very high casualties to our forces. But you know what? I am going to walk away from that table because there is nothing in that deal for Americans. Only death to our soldiers, grief to their loved ones. So if they do not to listen to their American friends, and we have been very, very good friends to them. We have tried to bring them all together in peace by building their economy for them and giving them opportunities; yes we built their industries for them, out of friendship; 

But now it is now time for America to do what is best for Americans. We don’t need other people to make our Levis. We invented Levis. We don’t need them to make our cars! We taught them how to make cars! We make the best cars in the whole world! ! We don’t need their technology. We are the most technologically advanced nation on the planet and we will build the most technologically advanced missile defence systems so that no one will ever, ever threaten the USA again. I warn everyone now, if anyone points a missile in the direction of the US, we will obliterate them. No warnings, no questions. And we will control our borders with a technological wall far stronger than any brick wall. When I talked about building a wall, some people assumed I meant a conventional wall. Those people underestimated me and that is a big mistake. A very big mistake. I promised you I would make America great again and I am keeping my promise. Because I always keep my promises.”

Meantime back in the Kremlin, “Well comrades, with help from Mr Trump, we are making Russia great again. He has cancelled the trade agreement with all the Asian-Pacific countries as predicted and that has seriously weakened his support; Britain has weakened the EU and the emerging economic powerhouse of the world is our BRICS consortium with over 3 billion people. Soon we will bring in more members as our friends. Trump has had to withdraw his troops and missiles and ships from across our border in Korea because he kept making stupid statements he could not carry out and  already South Korea has been talking with our friends in China. Japan has lost all confidence in America and we will talk to them soon about BRICS and maybe sort out the Kuril Islands at the same time. Europe doesn’t return his calls anymore and Angela will start to put on pressure to remove their military bases because they will attract more and more terrorists. We will see to that. All the easier to expand our borders in Europe”.

History shows us the future. Global superpowers are as cyclical as the climate. America’s summer is over. Trump heralds the Autumn (which the Americans ironically call the Fall). The Russian bear is emerging from its hibernation.

And in Beijing and Tehran they will be saying: “Bye bye Yankee, you have a nice day ok?” 

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Forbidden pleasures…..

My old workmate, Chinny, headed off a number of years ago to seek fame and fortune in the bright lights of London. I have to say he has done quite well for himself actually and is now a professional pig walker. Sort of like a gym personal trainer, but for the pigs of the wealthy of London rather than for the wealthy themselves. Still its a rung on the ladder to mixing with the rich and famous.

Now before you throw in your Otago University Exam Supervisor’s job and buy a one way ticket to London, I have to warn you that it may not, in reality, be quite as glamorous a job as it first looks. Upon further inspection of the ‘first day on the job” photos that he proudly sent, I noticed his tools of the trade included a strong lead, a trowel and a plastic bag.

I suspect, given the weight and centre of gravity of the pig, that the job involves the pig dragging Chinny all over the manor so that he can scoop up pig poop whenever the pig feels the inclination to poop. The wealthy of London may think owning a pig is all jolly hockey sticks, but one cannot have one’s pig manure lying around the estate. I don’t know if you have ever been intimate with pig shit (apologies for the vulgarity but if any poop needs to be called shit it is that which extrudes from a pig’s arse) but it is the very sloppiest and most vomit-inducing brand of shit you will ever know.

The trowel may also be required to repair lawns and gardens as he goes. A neighbour of mine decided to grow a couple of Christmas hams a year or two back, they got out of his property and rotary-hoed my lawn. They are destructive little beggars.

Anyway, our email conversation about his latest career move led to the speculation of how it might taste with a couple of poached eggs on the side. That, for some reason, (our emails always take odd and unexpected twists) led to a discussion on the unique practices of some Jewish people he knew. Oh how we laughed at the irrational phobias of the Israelites, like denying themselves of bacon sandwiches and cutting off the ends of their cocks as though Moses had been told on the mountain ” by the way, Moe, when I wrote up the dna formula I accidentally  left a bit of surplus skin on the end of  your knob; sorry about that, but would you mind tidying up that little flaw every time a boy is born?”

But before I condemn an entire race for what appears to be an irrational fear of enjoying the delights of a plate of crispy fried streaky bacon with eggs and tomatoes, I should actually check up on their rulebook to understand the full story.

And it’s all in Leviticus 11. Sort of like the Israelite Ministry of Health’s “Good Eating Manual”. And it’s not just pigs that are targeted.

Sons of Israel can only eat animals with both a divided hoof and which also chew cud. (Just one or the other doesn’t work, its got to be both criteria). And beasts that walk on paws as well as beasts that crawl along the ground are also off the menu. Chewing cud is a double processing of food and I applaud the ancients for recognising the health science benefits of maximising nutrient extraction by cud chewers. The cloven hoof criteria is a little more difficult to understand.

So forbidden meats included camel, rabbit, hyrax (like a rabbit with short ears) and pig. Also lions and snakes, I presume, and horses whose hooves be not cloven. I would have thought that Moses was angling towards saying you can only eat herbivores and not carnivores, which I would understand. But excuse me? Rabbit pie is not kosher? May I ask why?

Rabbits eat their own dung………Oh……point taken.

Now, not that I have ever eaten a camel, but I know it is a cud-chewing, two-toed herbivore so I think camels get a very rough technical red card just because having two toes and respective toenails is not, strictly speaking, a cloven hoof. But you can see Moses’ point in getting the camels on the no-eating list. Imagine him wandering past one of his little tribes as he is planning his next big march to the Promised Land to see them all enjoying a camel roasting on a spit. “oy yoy yoy, if you keep eating the camels it’s going to take us literally months to cross this bloody desert.”

Actually when I think about it, there may be a truth spoken in jest. Whatever the reason, while I am not going to die in a ditch over the right to eat camel meat, a cloven hoof is one of those skinny little pointy hooves designed for agility in scrambling around rocks rather than the type of footwear needed to usefully transport a heavy load like a human across a desert. Sort of like the difference between ice skates and snow shoes. 

So maybe Leviticus is saying exactly that, don’t eat the animals we need to carry us, our tents and tabernacles across the desert; the camels, donkeys, horses and elephants. Especially when you consider the gestation of a pregnant camel is 13 months and it takes about 7 years for a male to reach maturity (female 3 years) and you can get 50 years work from a camel. Whereas by contrast sheep  have a gestation of less than 5 months, reach maturity between 5 and 12 months, goats about the same; bulls reach maturity at 12 months and cows 18 months. The original fast food option.

Makes sense, it’s nothing to do with being unclean, just practical farm and transport management. Don’t eat the bloody camels, it takes too long to get another one to replace it. Lesson learned after the Moses desert crossing and now we know why it took forty years to get from Egypt to Israel instead of the 11  days it would have taken by the direct route.

As for seafood, the sons of Israel may only eat that which has both fins and scales. So that rules out oysters, crayfish, prawns and crabs. Bugger. Well I suppose in our hearts we know crustaceans are the bottom feeders of the sea, scouring the seabed for food amongst the turds of all the fish that swim above them.

Also banned are insects with four legs with the exception of a few permitted species like grasshoppers and locusts; well that was never going to be an issue for me.

There is also a list of forbidden birds including eagles, kites and gulls.

So can’t a chap even have a seagull sandwich now?

And even if it is a clean food source but it dies (presumably of natural causes rather than being butchered by an Israelite) then it becomes unclean.

I certainly don’t argue with most of their forbidden foods on the list. Carnivorous animals that eat dead, rotten food or raw, still-functioning organs, including livers, bladders and intestines, are obviously full of nasty parasites that are quite inappropriate for the delicate human digestion system. Although I am starting to wonder what a roast camel might be like.

Gulls and hawks are scavenging birds, with roadkill being a particular favourite and I certainly wouldn’t want to re-digest anything that they originally digested. And yes, yes we know shellfish can contain high levels of toxicity, and true enough, the  crab-cakes you get at a Jewish deli are in fact made out of pulverised flesh of a fish that has fins and scales, which is a bit deceitful but probably no less so than the prawn sticks I get at a Chinese takeaway. Personally I am prepared to take the chance when it comes to Bluff oysters and prawns, albeit I accept that I may live to regret it. I certainly regretted it the day I didn’t quite cook the prawns well enough. That was the most violently ill I have ever been in my life. I still break out in a sweat remembering it. It was not a case of fearing I might die, but rather praying that I would. And yet I still can’t resist a plate of garlic prawns. And if anyone suggests that salt and pepper squid may have neither gills nor scales, I just don’t want to know. Fingers in ears, eyes shut tight, ‘nahnahnahnah…”

But what is the problem with pigs? Are they saying those cute little farmyard animals are indiscriminate eaters? They do have a divided hoof so is their only crime not chewing their cud? Seems harsh. Well, as it turns out, I have just finished a book about some rather unpleasant criminal types in southern Italy who decided to throw an unsuspecting (and innocent as it turns out) chap who they believed to be a snitch, to the pigs on a farm, comfortable in the knowledge that by morning there would be nothing left of the chap but his teeth in a pond of pig shit.

So pigs, as I learn, are classified as omnivores. They eat anything and everything.  I have recently taken a moral high ground and now only eat free-range pig meat. But now that I think about it, allowing them to wander about freely probably just increases the odds that the pig I am about to eat has already recently eaten a dead hedgehog, a plastic coke bottle, a trowel, a bag of its own shit and a professional pig-walker. No amount of smoking of the beast actually makes eating them sound any better. I think the Israelites have got this one dead right.

And I am reliably informed that the Israelites chop the skin off the end of their cocks to stop the irritating sand getting under their foreskin. Even back in the Biblical, desert-crossing days I would have thought wearing undies and peeing downwind might have been a less dramatic way of solving the problem. 

 

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