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Moronic bull

Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:45 pm
by Paul McKeown
Chuka Umunna and Thomas Docherty slapped it into Vince Cable with shocking bullcrap!

Sodium and potassium fluoride, well known chemical precursors to toothpaste, were licensed for export to Syria. It's not as if Syria won't have had fair quantities of these (and hydrofluoric acid and hydrogen fluoride) relatively common (if nasty to handle) industrial chemicals, used in numerous processes from etching glass, manufacture and maintenance of steels, bulk refrigerants, fire suppressants, non-stick coatings and medical and veterinary anaesthetics, cleaning in bulk silicon wafer manufacture, etching and lithography of semiconductors, refining petroleum spirit, processing of metal ores, the list is near endless. Rust removers sold in dilute solution as a household product. The production of dentures, for pity's sakes.

Its not even as if the sources are limited to the Western world, with China leading the field with millions of tons of exports every year.

Message to Messrs. Umunna and Docherty: if you really want to limit the ability of Syria to manufacture nerve gases, look out for the export of bizarre organophosphates, probably labelled as "pesticide" or the like.

And, before going for shock horror headline grabs, chums, have you ever considered how ridiculously easy it is to manufacture phosgene using chemical feedstocks (carbon monoxide, chlorine, activated carbon) that would be entirely impossible to control? Okay, phosgene isn't remotely as poisonous as sarin or the like, but released in civilian population centres could murder thousands with ease.

Laughable non-story, but Sky News are running with it already. Strewth.

Final tip to our frothing MPs: read the Schedules 1 to 3 of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. There you will actually be able to read which chemicals are actually controlled as potential chemical weapons or their precursors. You won't find simple inorganic fluorides on their lists.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:39 am
by John McKenna
Thanks for pointing that out, Paul. Just another reminder that it's the silly season accompanied by the distant drums calling us to war in the background. While I am vaguely familiar with Chuka the only T.D. I remember is the dearly-departed football manager. That reminds me, did you listen to Better Red than Dead on the radio? (I didn't quite know what to make of it.)

PS I do not blame Vince C. for allowing the export of the ingredients for toothpaste, even to Syria, but all Lib-Dem, Lab. and Con. MPs are responsible for the mess we in and they are making it worse, in my opinion. If only they would all go into a retreat at some island monastery until after the next election I feel sure things could only get better. As for the media I simply wish it would all vanish in a puff of smoke.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:41 am
by Paul McKeown
Sorry, John, "Better Red than Dead" does not ring a bell. Who are they?

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:01 am
by John McKenna
Sorry Paul, didn't see you there. I meant the reading of the book Red or Dead by David Peace - about the career of Bill Shankly - on Radio 4.
PS I really should get my facts right before I post (that is one reason why I took a rest from it all this summer) - Better Red Than Dead (Dec. 2012) is by Mike Hodgkins. You'll like this one though - Better Dead Than Red (1992) by Michael Barson and subtitled: A Nostalgic Look at the Golden Years of Russophobia, Red-Baiting & Other Commie Madness... Do you know, the strange thing is I am more worried about the red, white and blue Russia of today than I was when it was when it was simply red.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:50 am
by Rob Thompson
Of course there's a whole load of ill-informed panic about Syrian weapons - the government wants a war. It's exactly the same as the panic about all those scary WMDs that we were told Iraq had.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:35 am
by PeterTurland
A good few years ago, I used to deliver trailor loads of fertilizer in half ton bags all over the place. One job I was given, was way up in the Pennines, when I got there, the thing that puzzled me was, it was not arable land, all that was there in terms of farming, were a few sheep dotted about. So I found the drop and it was not a farm, so I asked the bloke who tipped me, what they were doing with all that fertilizer, he looked around a bit furtive like, well he said, it is not actually a farm, it is a quarry, and we use the fertilizer for blasting, as it is far cheaper than dynamite!

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:39 am
by AustinElliott
Rob Thompson wrote:Of course there's a whole load of ill-informed panic about Syrian weapons - the government wants a war. It's exactly the same as the panic about all those scary WMDs that we were told Iraq had.
Quite. There now seems to be a post-Thatcher rule that every British PM has to have their own war. Poor old Gloomy Gordon wasn't in the job long enough to conjure one up, or he might still be Prime Minister... which may be what is motivating Mr Cameroon.

How times have changed. My late dad always used to say Harold Wilson was his political hero in part because Wilson managed to keep the UK OUT of the Vietnam War when Lyndon Johnson was trying hard to get us to join in.

PS As a Chemistry graduate I was equally baffled to find out that all the synthetic fuss was about bog-standard Potassium Fluoride rather than some kind of organophosphate.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 8:41 am
by AustinElliott
PeterTurland wrote:A good few years ago, I used to deliver trailor loads of fertilizer in half ton bags all over the place. One job I was given, was way up in the Pennines, when I got there, the thing that puzzled me was, it was not arable land, all that was there in terms of farming, were a few sheep dotted about. So I found the drop and it was not a farm, so I asked the bloke who tipped me, what they were doing with all this fertilizer, he looked around a bit furtive like, well he said, it is actually not a farm, it's a quarry, and we use the fertilizer for blasting, as it is far cheaper than dynamite!
I hope yon quarryman wasn't Irish, Peter. If he was you're probably on lots of GCHQ/MI5/MI6 lists. Though come to think of it, we probably all are.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:10 pm
by Kevin Thurlow
Unfortunately, a lot of people (not just politicians) don't understand basic science. I used to advise on Export Control of chemicals and would get a frantic phone call saying that someone was claiming to represent a school in Colombia and wanted to buy 2.5 L of the well-known drug precursor, acetone. So I spent a lot of time pointing out that every chemical lab in the world had acetone in it, and that 2.5 L would not go very far in manufacturing drugs.

Incidentally, symptoms of organophosphorus poisoning resemble those of BSE and CJD.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:26 pm
by Paul McKeown
Kevin,

It was probably their legal department saying they couldn't sign off on the sale until someone pestered some poor bloody civil servant. You were lucky it wasn't highly purified and de-ionised dihydrogen monoxide they were after.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 12:46 pm
by Alex Holowczak
Paul McKeown wrote:You were lucky it wasn't highly purified and de-ionised dihydrogen monoxide they were after.
:lol:

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 1:04 pm
by MartinCarpenter
Oh its, much more reasonable than Iraq in principle really. That was just trying to trump up support for a straight up (illegal) invasion.

The thought here is that they've already been used and that this use merits some sort of action to deter future use/protect the Syrian population. The practicality of doing anything actually useful is of course quite another matter.

If you could somehow magically remove them you'd do it. The mooted idea of a few random cruise missiles attack would certainly not do that. Prolong their civil war a bit perhaps. Great idea that.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 2:27 pm
by Paul McKeown
Sadly, Martin, there was so much wrong with the government's approach, it would make for a boringly long post to even begin to examine it.

I thought, though, that George Galloway's rhetorical question was salient: if Assad is mad, how much more mad would he be, if we launched a blizzard of Tomohawk cruise missiles upon Syria. When George Galloway starts to sound reasonable, you can reasonably assume you've gone badly wrong somewhere.

One can reasonably assume that Assad's forces have scores of missiles, all capable of reaching Istanbul and Riyadh and all points between, all containing VX, much nastier than sarin. Assad is fighting for his life, and he doesn't have any scruples whatsoever. A chemical weapons strike by Syrian forces against Ankara or Tel Aviv would result in instant World War III.

It might have been useful for the government to outline how they intended to avert such a catastrophe. Just for a start.

Re: Moronic bull

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:09 pm
by David Robertson
They could target the cruise missiles to blow up the VX and sarin weapons. Oh...wait...

Re: Moronic bull (Minotaur?)

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2013 4:27 pm
by John McKenna
Yes, this is a waiting game of regime cat and opposition mouse. However, two sea eagles are about to get involved - a little old French eagle and a huge new American one. Meanwhile the Russian bear can growl but it has lost some of its teeth and the remaining ones could be rotten. At present China is just a panda (but even they can have a nasty bite) though given time it could yet become a dragon, or at least some kind of large snake.