Gordon Campbell on Havelock North’s water issues, and extreme vetting

Having belatedly advised the people of Havelock North about the pollution of their water supply, the local authorities seem to be prematurely claiming to see light at the end of the tunnel.

Reportedly, health authorities are reasonably sure “as far as we know” that campylobacter were responsible for the illnesses caused to thousands of residents and thus, the subsequent chlorination should make the tap water safe to drink. Although hey, boiling the water for drinking is still a great idea in the meantime. If only because….well yes, hmmm, there’s still a chance that cryptosporidium might also be involved. Can’t be ruled out, and chlorination won’t kill that. In which case Houston, and Havelock North, still do have a problem.

Sensibly, the people of Havelock North appear to be continuing to use bottled water, or the tanker water supplied. Don’t worry though, because local MP Craig Foss is onto it – whatever it is, whatever caused it, whoever is to blame, and however it might be fixed:

Tukituki MP Craig Foss, who represents Havelock North, said he had received complaints from his constituents, including about the response of the Hastings District Council. “Any number of issues, and people who are in the midst of it, people who have got over it, or are fearful that it’s still coming.”

He said it was far too early to say if “heads should roll”, and everyone should wait for the findings of the inquiry. “It could be no-one’s at fault, it could be something’s happened somewhere, we just don’t know, underground, but mission one is to get people healthy and better.”

And in any case – Foss went on to intimate – even if we had known more and put better preventive/avoidance measures in place a good deal earlier, we don’t know yet if that would have helped because…clearly we’re not sure anyone knows anything that might be useful, or relevant. Right? But the important thing is not to panic :

Mr Foss said despite the complaints he had been receiving, he did have confidence in the Hastings District Council. “Well there are frustrations about the information, but people still might have got unwell even if they had the information, that’s what we just don’t know right at this moment.”

Good to (not) know. Meanwhile, we’re all really, really confident that even if local dairying run-off – or whatever – polluted the water supply, and/or the aquifer from which it is drawn – the cause will be traced, identified and corrected. Somehow, sometime, by some-one. And no one else in the country needs to worry about what is happening to New Zealand’s clean water supply….until they do.

Trump gets serious, life still complicated

Thank goodness Donald Trump is getting his campaign back on track with a sober foreign policy speech in which he uh, blamed Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the rise of the Islamic State aka Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and for pursuing a policy of ‘nation building’ in Libya. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In boring old reality, Daesh’s rise was actually the result of (a) a reckless invasion mountain by a Republican President, one George W. Bush (b) Bush’s disbanding of the (Sunni) armed forces, and (c) the policies of retribution pursued by successive Shia majority governments against the Sunni population. (At the time, citizen Donald Trump supported both the Iraq invasion and the Libyan intervention but hey…)

As Juan Cole recently pointed put, Islamic State/Daesh is actually a rapidly receding threat to US interests. It can still pose a security risk, but has never remotely posed a threat to national survival. Most definitely, it is not a hydra-headed menace successfully spreading its vast tentacles across the globe:

In fact, Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) is a relatively small organization that has been shrinking in both personnel and territory. It has lost its footholds in Diyala, al-Anbar and Salahuddin provinces in Iraq and a campaign against its remaining stronghold in that country, Mosul, by Kurdish and Shiite forces is now building. It is possible that it will be finished as a holder of territory in Iraq before the November election in the US.

That’s the basic trouble with announcing a caliphate blessed by God. Claiming a divine endorsement doesn’t leave you very much room for explaining the subsequent setbacks. Despite God being on side, the recent loss of territory and the decline in the numbers of Islamic State/Daesh fighters on the battlefield has been significant. Foreign recruitment has been drying up throughout 2016, and battlefield losses have taken Daesh down to only circa 15-20,000 troops on the ground.

Lieutenant General Sean MacFarland said both the quality and number of Isis fighters was declining, while warning that it was difficult to determine accurate numbers. Earlier estimates put the number of Islamic State fighters at between 19,000 and 25,000 but US officials say the range is now roughly 15,000 to 20,000. Saying that “the enemy is in retreat on all fronts”, MacFarland said US-backed local forces in both Iraq and Syria had been gaining ground. The flow of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria had decreased and many people pressed into fighting for the Islamic State group were unwilling or untrained.

Beyond Iraq, Cole reports, the decline of Islamic State/Daesh is much the same:

Likewise, in Syria, Daesh has just lost Manbij, which sits astride one of its major smuggling routes. It has also lost most of northern al-Raqqa province, the city of Palmyra, and other important real estate. In Libya, its fighters in Sirte have fled the city under US bombardment….The terrorism it has pulled off in Europe has been of the lazy soft-target variety, and while the deaths it has caused have been traumatic and are horrific, the incidents haven’t actually been a challenge to national security anywhere outside the Middle East.

And then there’s immigration

Finally in his speech, Trump tried to back off from his prior targeting of Muslims by promising “extreme vetting” on a regional (not religious) basis for every migrant not willing to embrace the American way of life. (While still especially excluding Muslims with their sharia law and whatnot.) Hmmm… as Juan Cole concludes, that must surely mean a President Trump would want to exclude the sort of migrants who believe in stuff like marrying off girls at the age of 12, stoning adulterers to death, and imposing the death penalty for gay sex, right? So, if applied across the board, those criteria should require Trump to ban fundamentalist Jews from Israel from entering the US.

That’s why this “extreme vetting” of people “from regions compromised by terrorism” would create just as many implementation problems for Trump as his famous border wall with Mexico. What would happen say, to persecuted minorities – Jews and Christians and Yazidis – fleeing from those ‘compromised’ regions? Would they, too, be packed off to vetting centres? Apparently, this vetting would take place in “safe havens” located in some unspecified countries or territories offshore. (Nauru? Puerto Rico?) Here’s the latest version:

Marc Lotter, a spokesperson for [Trump’s vice presidential candidate Mike] Pence, confirmed in a telephone interview that Christians and Jews in these “compromised” areas would be banned from emigrating to the United States, at least temporarily. Instead, he said, they would be sent to “safe havens” while they could be vetted.

“There would be safe havens established to provide safety, security, and a safe location for people seeking to leave areas that have been overrun with violence and persecution,” Lotter said, “while the vetting process is taking place for immigration to the United States.” He did not specify where those proposed “safe havens” would be, referring questions about the specific location to the Trump campaign. “I think you would work with your international partners, as it relates to specific situations,” he said. He would not say whether there would be a specific process set up to speed the “vetting” of persecuted religious minorities seeking refuge in the United States.

So…. instead of being greeted with open arms, persecuted Christians, Jews and Yazidis etc would be sent away to an “extreme vetting” interrogation, under the policies favoured by the champions of the Christian right. That could create a few problems with the Christian voting base. This freedom of religion thing? Its so damn complicated :

…. This policy stance on persecuted Christians puts Mike Pence in a bind. It’s not viable—or, likely, legal—to propose that all immigrants from countries affected by violence take religious tests before entering the United States to determine whether they are Christian or Muslim or Jewish or adherents of some other religion. This was what some Republican presidential candidates advocated during the primary season, and that was Trump’s original proposal as well. For the general-election campaign, though, the campaign has pivoted: as Lotter said, Trump and Pence are now proposing temporary bans on entire countries or areas.

There’s a basic logic involved here that Trump and Pence seem to have missed: namely, the countries with the most terrorists tend to be the ones that generate the most refugees. This makes it very hard to impose a blanket geographic ban without inadvertently harming the people that you claim to be trying to protect. In the process, and while trying to be isolationist, the US – under Trump – would have to be more, not less engaged in managing the migrant flows :

Typically the countries that are geographically proximate to conflict areas make decisions about where people go. The United States would not typically play the kind of role in refugee management and resettlement that Pence and Trump are suggesting, and it’s unclear whether it could find the partners necessary to establish safe havens, or if they would attempt to carve them out by force of arms in active conflict zones.

Another week, another round of forehead slapping nonsense from Trump, in this never-ending campaign. And we haven’t even got to the debates yet.

Nonsense, nonsense

By general consent, the 1958 doowop classic “Shombalor” by Sheriff and The Ravels is one of the most happily, giddily unintelligible songs of all time. Happy? Unintelligible? Giddily nonsensical? Obviously, there’s a Trump campaign theme song here, one ripe for the taking:

And a song for the good people of Havelock North:

3 Comments on Gordon Campbell on Havelock North’s water issues, and extreme vetting

  1. If it’s ‘nonsense that sounds really American while actually being really not’ I’d put in for this. Possibly best know in NZ for Willie Moon ripping off the video and then complaining of plagiarism because someone else wore a suit.
    Though Sympathy for the Devil was also played before at least one Trump rally and also seems apt.

  2. Juan Cole isn’t quite the geopolitical guru your extensive quoting makes him out as.
    Most of his analysis is based on reading the regional ME media.. im fairly dure a remote analysis of nz gropolitics based solely on the nzherald.co.nz etc would be.. limited.
    He is a useful translator and historian.. a political analyst less so, and a military analyst (despite his best attempts) not at all.

  3. Otoh, treating extreme orthodox jews the same as extreme funda mentalist Muslims? And you say trump is crazy? That sounds way sane (but unsayable) to me.

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