Lewis Carroll would have had a fine old time with our job figures, and the anxious debate that has broken out about them. Unemployment is down – that sounds good! – but that’s only because so many have given up hope, which sounds rather bad. The participation rate in the job market is actually way, way down. But not to worry, because the bank economists literally can’t believe it.
Why so glum, they say, when everything else seems to be turning out rather well, in their estimation. Or at least when everyone else in business is confident it will turn out well and they certainly intend it to turn out well – and that’s more important surely, than whether it actually is. Turning out well. Goodness, is that the time? Lets ask the Minister, who is a very important person, and always in a hurry.
This morning, RNZ tried to ask Steven Joyce, the Minister of Everything about jobs and stuff, but to not much avail. Alas, Steven was off in Wonderland again. Wondering why the manufacturing crisis that he still refuses to believe in remains on his doorstep, getting bigger. Wondering why Mainzeal just collapsed – he hasn’t seen the details, he told RNZ’s Geoff Robinson, but he’s sure they’re unique. Wondering why he is no closer to hunting down the Snark of oil and gas exploration, which keeps disappearing over the horizon with a shrill and wavering cry. His conclusion: the crew must row harder, and New Zealand must be more welcoming to this delicate and alluring creature. Most of all, Steven was wondering why everyone was making such a big deal about it. Everyone knows it’s hard out there. And anyway, as he told RNZ, we have the 14th lowest unemployment figures in the OECD. Wondering why everyone thinks he has the answers, just because he makes out that he does.
Incidentally, asset sales were a part of the Hunting of the Snark:
They sought it with thimbles, they sought it with care/They pursued it with forks and hope/They threatened its life with a railway-share/They charmed it with smiles and soap.
Threatened its life with shares in state businesses, huh? Just past that point, you may recall, things turned out badly for the leader of the quest. He vanished, at the apex of his apparent success:
In the midst of the word he was trying to say/In the midst of his laughter and glee/He had softly and suddenly vanished away —For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.
Moral: we should beware the Joyce/Job Bird. As keen readers of Lewis Carroll will know, it lives in a narrow, dark, depressing and isolated place. Its voice is described as being “a scream, shrill and high” like a pencil squeaking on a slate, and it scares everyone who hears it. Its character traits include that it is “desperate.” It “lives in perpetual passion.” Sounds like Steven in Wonderland, alright.
For insight into a more lethal delusionary world, try the confirmation hearings for John Brennan. President Barack Obama’s pick as the next CIA Director. A long time advocate of drone attacks, Brennan gave written replies to the Senate along these lines:
Brennan said drones are better than bombs and artillery. “They dramatically reduce the danger to US personnel and to innocent civilians, especially considered against massive ordinance that can cause injury and death far beyond the intended target,” he said.
Right. And because the people that drones kill can’t be innocent civilians, by definition. And drones, he says, kill fewer innocent people than bombing or shelling an entire village, willy nilly (Which would be a blatant war crime, and is therefore not a reasonable comparison.) Talking of which, Brennan made the distinction that drones are in accord with “international law principles” – which is a different thing from saying they are in accord with international law. (Arguably, they violate it.)
Finally, who gets targeted for death from above? Relax, you can trust the CIA:
Brennan….said the decision on who to target by drone is made on a case-by-case basis that takes account of whether a person is “associated” with al-Qaida and if they pose an “imminent” threat. He cast the definition of imminent threat broadly, to include the possibility that if a suspected terrorist is not killed they could at some future date carry out an attack against the US.
So the target – and their wife and children and anyone in the near vicinity – can be killed by a drone not for past crimes, but for the crimes that they might conceivably commit in future. By that logic, killing the children makes perfect sense: dead children can’t grow up to join al Qaeda.
“As the attorney general has stated: the evaluation of whether an individual presents an ‘imminent threat’ incorporates considerations of the relevant window of opportunity to act, the possible harm that missing the window would cause to civilians, and the likelihood of heading off future disastrous attacks against the United States,” Brennan said in his written replies.
Human rights groups have said that definition is too broad and effectively opens the way for the president or his senior officials to order the killing of anyone associated with al-Qaida.
Correct. And that applies to US citizens as well. And the best way of telling whether they were associated with al Qaeda is if they’ve been killed by a drone.