Corybn on defense & media bias

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Converting a ballistic missile sub into a launcher for conventional cruise missiles is not a new idea

This week labour under Corybn were trying to float various policies to address what to do with the Trident submarines if they were disarmed of nuclear missiles. One option which they put forward was to simply send them out armed with conventional missiles, but without the nuclear warheads. Needless to say, the media quickly lambasted this, quickly digging up some disgruntled labour MP’s to ridicule it.

However, is this such a silly idea? A liberally leftie peacenik paper tiger? well no! And you mightn’t want to mention that to the crew of the USS Florida ….at least not while they are within missile range! They operate a SSGN, an ex-ballistic missile sub (which the Americans disarmed of nukes to comply with the latest START treaty) and loaded with cruise missiles carrying conventional warheads instead. The sub carries an incredible 154 cruise missiles, more than enough firepower to really spoil someone’s day.

A UK Vanguard or Trident replacement sub would have seven cruise missiles per VLS, giving a warload of 112 cruise missiles. A fleet of 4 of them could thus launch 448 missiles at an enemy within a very short time period. This would not only do a heck a lot of damage to the poor saps on the receiving end, but they would overwhelm enemy air defences, as even the best defended countries (such as the US, Russia or China) simply do not have the capability to deal with that many missiles simultaneously, particularly if the initial target is in fact those very air defences (this is exactly what the US has used its SSGN’s for in the recently). Needless to say, this would provide the Royal Navy with a formidable capability, one which would be much more useful than the current Trident fleet.

Its a concept known as an “arsenal ship. This was an idea floated by military theorists who questioned why you would want to use an aircraft carrier (which costs billions of dollars) and risk the lives of its crew (in the thousands) to attack a well defended target. Instead, they argued you could simply sail a less expensive ship crammed full of hundreds of missiles (e.g. even just a cargo ship, its holds filled with VLS tubes, operated by remote control) and have it unleash all of them one after the other and devastate the target, all for a fraction of the cost and without risking the life’s of sailors.

Needless to say, once the military took up to the idea, they made a few changes. Using sub’s would allow an “arsenal sub” to stealthy approach an enemy shore, which would increase its chances of survival and decrease the warning to the enemy of impending attack. And, as noted, they were planning to decommission the sub’s anyway, so its not as if it cost them a lot of money. And it ensured that the sub’s were still in service, should the Russians break the treaty and the US decided to re-arm them with nukes.

I would note that there was some opposition to this plan in the US Navy, notably from aircraft carrier and air force commanders, who obviously feared the submarine force were about to eat their lunch. So some opposition from certain sectors of the UK military would only be natural.

An alternative plan would be to re-arm the Trident missiles with conventional warheads. A Trident missile carries up to 14 MIRV’s which can be directed at separate targets within the same geographical area (so 224 targets per sub, in theory). Intercepting a ballistic missile is very difficult, only a handful of states can do this and they would struggle to cope with 14 in bound warheads, nor indeed multiple missiles launched at once (that’s sort of the whole point of MIRV’s!). So again, even with conventional warheads (keep in mind they’ll be travelling at hypersonic speed when they hit) a trident missile is really going to spoil your day. The downside is, that at $37 million a pop, its a bit of an expensive way to take out a couple of ISIS bunkers.

A more serious problem with all of this however, is the response from the UK’s nuclear rivals. The Russians see a load of trident missiles (or cruise missiles) pop out of the North Sea, they don’t know who is launching them, they don’t know what kind of warhead they carry (nuclear, conventional, chemical, a large lump of lead). Indeed they won’t even be sure initially what’s the target. They may well conclude the worst and commit to a nuclear retaliation (against NATO and the US). This is almost what happened in 1995 when the launch of a sounding rocket in Norway was mistake by the Russians for a trident nuclear missile strike on Moscow. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, but that mightn’t happen next time.

In short, a genuine criticism of Corybn’s plan is that he is proposing not so much unilateral nuclear disarmament, but to adopt a nuclear policy midway between Israel (who have nuclear weapons, but are not a declared nuclear power) and Japan (who have the technical capability to become a nuclear power within a very short time period, but have consciously chosen not to do so…unless threatened with nuclear blackmail). Whether the world, or indeed the UK’s NATO allies, would accept this is far from clear. Certainly there would have to be some negotiation and ultimately what policy the UK can then apply to these sub’s will be determined by the outcome of those talks.

So there are some real concerns regarding Corybn’s proposal. What is clear however, is that the media, even the BBC, were very quick to rush to judgement. It would seem that rather than asking some expert (e.g. Jane’s defence for example…headquarters in London), instead, they rang round the usual suspects of Tory-lite labour MP’s or right-wing leaning retired generals (the sort who still think we’re fighting the Germans) and rushed off to print with whatever sound-bite they got, rather than fact checking to see if it was true.

The media simply aren’t willing to give Corybn a fair trial. They will not allow him to air new ideas and seem determined to stoke up rebellion within the labour ranks.

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The Phone hackers of the World

I shall presume that only those who’ve recently returned from Mars can ignore the whole saga of the current “phone hacking” affair. Over the week the papers own propaganda machine has turned in on itself. For example the paper had made a name for itself, like most tabloids, by flying the flag (a paper run and owned by Yanks and ex-convicts, i.e. Aussie’s), trying to be “patriotic” and “supporting the troops”…until it turned out they’d be hacking those very dead “heroes” phones! All the human tragedy stories they loved to run backfired when it turned out they’d been adding to the tragedy by hacking the phones of those involved and leaking private info to the public. It has now brought down a 160 year old newspaper and put in jeopardy the BSB takeover. Now let’s be clear, we ain’t loosing much. One thing that always got me about “the news of the world” is that a) it didn’t contain any actual news and b) it hardly ever mentioned the world, as the top story was usually about rumours that some WAG had a new boob job, or the usual little red ridding hood stories.

However, call me a conspiracy theorist, but I think there’s something bigger going on here. Why is Rebekah “sideshow” Brooks still in her job? She claims to have handed in her resignation to the Murdoch’s but it was rejected. This does not make any sense. “sideshow” Brooks was boss of the paper during the time we know this phone hacking was going on. This means one of two things, either she knew about it (in which case she should be in custody) or she was not in effective control of the company. I mean she’d walk in to work past desks while the hacks were listening away to the voice mail of 4,000 people’s phones and fail to notice anything amiss! I have this impression of “sideshow” Brooks spending her entire time in charge in the executive wash room with her fingers in her ears going “NA NA NA NA NA can’t hear you!”. In either case and in any other situation involving a scandal like this hitting a company (never mind a newspaper), it would have been a case of her being given a simple choice of resign or be sacked. And this would have happened months ago. Why has this not happened?

One obvious conclusion is that “sideshow” Brooks not been sacked because she knows something, and for the Murdoch’s to be prepared to sacrifice a 160 year old paper with a readership of 2.8 million, then whatever it is that she knows it must be something big, something that could get one of Murdoch’s spawn banged up or even bring down the whole News International empire. We could speculate on what this is until the cows come home, it could be that the Murdoch’s knew about the phone hacking or even ordered it, some skeleton in old Rupert’s closet (love child, involvement in some naughty illegal business deal, being the guy on the grassy knoll), I mean we could speculate all day and personally I’ll leave that up to the conspiracy theorists whom I’m sure are having a field day right now. The fact is that if he’s prepared to write off an entire newspaper to save one woman’s career and put in jeopardy the BSB deal, he has to have some genuine reason to save her least she get herself arrested and turn canary on him.

Now, you might say that his reasons are out of loyalty to a loyal employee…this the same Rupert Murdoch we’re talking about! He wouldn’t have made it past the post of mop boy without learning the golden rule of the corporate executive, develop survival instincts that would give a rat pause for thought and make Machiavelli’s the prince look like Gandhi. And those instincts would have meant using Mrs Brooks as a “meat shield” the instant things looked dodgy. So the very fact he is prepared to shut down newspapers to save this situation means we are probably merely seeing the tip of an iceberg emerging. Watch this space.

As for the News of the World, I suspect we’ll have the “Sunday Sun” out by next week.

Politics of fear & hate, part II

The Tea Party and Sarah Palin’s response to the criticism in the wake of the Gifford shooting seems to be a case of “wunt me gov’nur” or “you started it by calling Bush a big fat meany!”. They’ve denied any blame for the shooting because the guy who did it wasn’t a member of the Tea party. Yes, all political assassins declare they’re party affiliations before opening fire, just like all super villains give secret agents a ten minute PowerPoint presentation of they’re evil plans, before leaving the room while the secret agent is executed by a hapless minion, whom he easily overpowers and escapes (I think the problem here is too many in America don’t realise that movies are made up….as increasingly is the case for the News they see on US TV). The fact is that the poisonous political atmosphere the Tea Party has created has to be blamed for this incident. Spreading ridiculously outrageous stories such as Obama having some sort of secret plan to turn America communist & fascist (at the same time!) and then start a new holocaust against WASP’s, well obviously you start saying that sort of stuff 24-7 on Fox News and someone who doesn’t speak Crazy or Paranoia (such as this shooter) is going to take it seriously and do something stupid. Passing the buck at this point clearly means they just don’t get it.

The fact is, I’ve heard lots of politicians this side of the Atlantic say nasty things about each other, but not since the era of the Fascist regimes have I heard any politician here call another a traitor or questioned whether or not they were natural born citizens. The Tea party have debased the political system and they have to accept that such actions have consequences, notably in the past when such tactics of spreading fear & hate were used there was an upsurge in political violence.

A little history lesson, the attack journalism techniques (or Swiftboating as we call them these days) used by the Tea Party were originally pioneered by the media baron and politician William Randolph Hearst. His newspapers were well known for concocting ridiculous stories about his political opponents, going on and on about a made up issue for days. These tactics lowered the tone of US politics considerably and they ultimately brought down Hearst’s political career. At one point he suggested that President Mc Kinley was so bad someone should take a shot at him – unfortunately someone did. Again as in Tucson this assassin had no direct link between him and Hearst, but the media and the American people at the time rightly blamed him and his newspapers for creating this poisonous atmosphere which had led to a presidential assassination. Hearst would ultimately fail in his attempts at high office (he hoped to become major of New York and even go for the presidency), a sobering lesson for the Tea party.

The story of the Fascist regimes, where as Hitler put it “if you’re going to tell a lie about you’re opponent say it loudly and repeatedly, and eventually it will be reported as fact”. The inevitable violence and destruction this led to speaks for itself. A more directly applicable example however would be that of Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch Neo-Fascist. If anything the language he used was pretty mild compared to what’s been coming out of Sarah Palin’s mouth, but it still got him assassinated by a left wing extremist. And this is the point the Tea Party need to realise, lower the tone of politics to this level and the lesson of history is that it will provoke violence (from both sides). If the Tea Party still don’t understand this point then they are ineligible for high office.

There is also a point about diplomatic decorum here. I won’t let a dog in my house unless I knew he’d been house trained (i.e he showed he knew not to shit on the carpet, or drink out of the toilet). Similarly the use of undiplomatic language by Sarah Palin and others in the Tea party suggests they should not be allowed into the diplomatic chambers of the world as they will inevitably say the sorts of things that one shouldn’t say and get the US and the West into all sorts of trouble. This is particularly important as after Bush, the patience of world leaders (the Russians and Chinese in particular) for abrasive, unilaterally acting US presidents is somewhere between slim and zero. And as Bush used up what political capital the US has left (post cold war) with his pointless war in Iraq (found those WMD’s yet George?), the ability and likelhood for these other country’s to punish America (and the West) for such behaviour is quite high. Obviously the lack of understanding by Sarah Palin as to what the term “blood Libel” means, suggests she and her supporters are clueless as far as international relations are concerned (it also means she’d best not be counting on the Jewish vote because I think she just blew it!)

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One possible solution to the attack journalism tactics of certain news media in the US (notably Fox (faux)news) is to do what we do in the scientific community, use peer review.
It works like this, suppose I want to print a story suggesting that Sarah Palin is in fact a soviet spy who swam over from Siberia in the cold war and is now working on a plan to bring victory to the Soviet motherland by acting as some sort of Manchurian candidate. I would submit this story, along with my research notes and references to peer review. Another journalist at another news paper or TV channel would then anonymously review this story and give me feedback…in this case most likely saying “that’s a bigger load of Bullshit that a cow with Dysteryia!”

Even with that review, there’s nothing to stop me publishing it anyway, if the network or newspaper is okay with, thought the reviewers comments would have to be included with the publication (which would reduce the possibility of anyone taking it seriously). Also, if it ever came to a lawsuit, my chances of winning would be greatly reduced if my story failed to make past peer review.

Another point would be to make journalists publish their sources. So rather than the all too often used phrase by Fox/Sky news “some people say, that Obama is a Terrorist” they would have to state “I / the bloke at my local klan meeting, says that Obama is a Terrorist”. Obviously there are situations where journalists want to hide they’re sources identify (whistleblowers, etc.), but even then “a well placed white house source” should suffice.

Similarly any retractions by journalists should get the same air time as the original story. So if you repeat a load of bull for 5 minutes on the hour every hour and it is then shown to be false, you have spend 5 minutes on the hr every hr next day retracting it. Similarly newspapers should be required to give equal page space to explaining how they were completely wrong about a particular story…..or just skip a day’s publication and give everyone a free voucher for the Guardian!