STRATEGIC VAGUENESS

STRATEGIC VAGUENESS

Mme Commelynck says “Your ‘sort of’ is annoying…Sort of says ‘I am ashamed by clarity and precision’”

Ashamed, as if it would be uncool in a world of complexity to nail down that effect B has cause A and no messing.

“In judicial politics literature scholars find that court justices increase strategic vagueness and appease conflicting views among judges. But where a variety of ideological biases exist in a community researchers find that an increase in partisan conflict is associated with an increase (rather than reduction) in clarity. Arguably the public has a deep interest in delegating authority to institutions that hold its members to account including a higher standard of clarity. This is especially true where members are appointed rather than elected.”

A new Australian law to make it easier to fire workers was justified by how “in the globalized economy we will all have to work harder to stay ahead, or indeed even to keep pace. The Chinese work longer hours for less pay than Australians, we are told, and live meaner and more cramped lives. Thus China is able to manufacture goods more cheaply than Australia. Unless Australians work harder they will fall behind and become losers in the great global race…..The figure of economic activity as a race or contest is somewhat vague in its particulars, but it would appear that, as a race, it has no finishing line and therefore no natural end.”

“The World Trade Organisation is vague at points where vagueness benefits the developed countries, and precise at points where precision works against developing countries. Vagueness allows the developed countries to raise the level of threat to developing countries with threats of punitive actions justified by the claim that the developing country is breaking the (vaguely defined) rules of the WTO … (it) should be pressed to reduce the vagueness of the capstone agreements ; to adopt clearer operating rules and procedures; to publish a record of voting and discussions; to require the chairs of negotiating committees to explain why they include some proposals and reject others from the text of the draft declaration rather than at present being able occultly to make a “magic text”.

WHAT HO
THE MAGIC TEXT

“Stunned sources close to financial sources will reveal what police sources will refuse to comment, cabinet sources will shadow box with ghost writers of sources close to the treasury and spokespersons of secret city sources will persistently deny persistent rumours.”
Or are played with, the hint of threat from behind the curtain of Strategic Defense Initiatives, how the leaked rumour that Israel might attack in Iran keeps Iranians in a state of anxiety, unable to concentrate on their own hopes and desires.. “In 2007 the Arab Times of Kuwait reports ‘from a reliable source’ predicting USA might strike Iran launched from the sea while Patriot missiles would guard Arab countries in the Gulf. Why would the Kuwaitis know? The question “remained on the borderline of un/certainty , where the state of war is habitually intensified.” Now, in 2021 they’re still at, reliable sources and the same threat to the same country as if exempt from stale repetition
But then…
“…whenever we dilute the clarity of restraints on force we almost Certainly lend encouragement to geopolitically shaped decisions expressed through the Selective application of Legitimacy Criteria and an acceptance of the implication of double standards.”

Elsewhere, the Commander tells the Inspector with a wink what the inspector then says to the sergeant with a wink, “Appropriate response Sarge, Appropriate” This is what we call an orange light and the sort of outcome in this kind of case? Triple units of riot squad out on the street when the visibility of red flags has annoyed someone in a high window. When it comes to orange there are a thousand shades all recognisable to those with their ears to the ground and who will go far.

The Radical party president of Argentina in 1921 Hipolite Yrigoyen did not spell out on how the Butcher of Patagonia Lieut-Colonel Varela was to proceed in the smashing of an uprising of the ultra-exploited peons on the estancias of the region.. 1500 of the workers were killed without trial. military reports of up the executions of unarmed prisoners speak of ‘well-armed’ groups with ‘various revolvers’. And as for the executions themselves , as is the template then and now: they were killed while resisting arrest.

In Gothenberg in 2001when the alter-globalization movement picketed an EU Summit meeting with joy a young man was shot and critically injured with live bullets Despite the initial shocked disbelief of one or two mainstream media opinionists, it was normalized from the next day onwards. Regrettably these things happen, was the message. It gave an orange-to-green light to extreme police brutality when the movement came together in Genoa six weeks later at a G8 Summit. One young man Carlo Giulliani was shot dead. For British Prime Minister Tony Blair, it was “tragicbut”.

“Inhuman treatment is … treatment causing severe suffering. Torture is an aggravated form of inhuman treatment and degrading conduct is conduct which grossly humiliates” declares Lord Justice McGonigal so as the electrodes are applied to the tender spots you will not be if you are experiencing torture when you scream.

Members of armed groups in the Central African Republic so often feel shorted by programmes that had seemed to offer a promise of even greater largesse: “deliberately or not the language of promises of transformation are often used even when the resources, implementation and forms of control employed are those of expedience… The problem is when vague, platitudinal or contradictory understandings of reintegration translate into ad hoc and disengaged planning processes and programs, lacking a clear strategy and generating overblown expectations.“ The armed groups then regroup in order to make a living.

Elsewhere complaints may carry less menace: But I had thought, I thought it had been clearly understood that I was to be deputy headmaster. Only to find that seniority has lost weight and the junior Department head who is said to have panache, flair, charisma even, has got the job. But these days there’s no lack-of-menace guarantee. Where guns are easily available the manager shorn in a wave of cost-cutting may turn nasty, secretaries in the office who may have spurned his advances, not shown due deference as if they had been in the know all along that he was for the chop. Its intolerable, justice is his right. Bang bangbangbangbangbang until them spurting blood on the floor understand that they had underestimated him.

“Speaking metaphorically the inclusion of ambiguous expressions in peace agreements is comparable to re-opening a repository of arms to the parties to re-arm themselves with a kind of intellectual weaponry.”
“UN diplomatic texts may use vague words quite extensively. Such terms, whose meaning is very flexible, variable and strictly dependent on context and interpretation,. However, excessive vagueness could also lead to biased or even strategically-motivated interpretations of resolutions, undermining their legal impact and triggering conflicts instead of diplomatic solutions.” An example is UN SC Res242 after the 1967 war. One clause asks for Israeli armed forces to leave “Territories occupied in recent conflict”. without a ‘the’ in front of ‘territories(which the French translation had) . The sponsor of the Resolution, Lord Cardon (UK) had no intention of inserting the definite article. By implication Israel did not have to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders giving room for Israel to interpret the Resolution to its own advantage.

The first Gulf War led by the USA government of George H.W. Bush against Iraq under President Saddam in 1991wstarted when his forces invade Kuwait with a light somewhere between green and orange from the US ambassador April Glaspie. They were quickly forced to remove themselves from the same Kuwait “swiftly and absolutely at once and fucking immediately” by the forces of the same USA. The retreating conscript soldiers then became a ‘duck shoot’ for US airborne gunships and cluster bombs. On March 1st 1991 the Sunday Telegraph reported that the Iraqi death were so high that nobody wanted to put a figure on them. By March 2nd the Pentagon was talking of 200,000 dead but no official figures were to be issued and no formal study to be made to produce them. Instead it was said that the ‘allies’ (ie the USA with the addition of the UK and other odds and sods of military) intended to keep the statistics as vague as possible because they were so horrific. Some three weeks later the USA had either guaranteed the safety of Kurds against Iraqi air attacks or perhaps it hadn’t. On the 25th as the attacks started by Iraqi forces against Kurdish territory and people the Daily Telegraph quoted Presidential Press Secretary Fitzwater saying on this issue. “There’s an element of murkiness we want to preserve.”

In the immediate aftermath of the second Gulf War the UK New Labour government of Tony Blair and the Republican Administration of George W.Bush which took the lead in invading Iraq both rejected estimates of death numbers in Iraq from the Lancet, to which they provided no alternative..

“Missing in Action” 1916 Private John Barker and hundreds of thousands of others, Missing in Action: sort of got lost.

Now and then I look at the one brown photo I have of Private John who would have been an uncle. Nothing vague about him, all of 19 sharp and clear in uniform and would have shown it to my daughter at one time or another, talking of ancestors and history another world yet which did happen. 20 plus years ago she. and her friends couldn’t get through a sentence without a ‘kind of’, ‘it’s like’ and ‘sort of’ often in combination. At the other end it was one of those moments when you know you’re going to sound like the parents of your own remarking on such habits, and yet you plough on, complain, ask what is it you want to say, and so on. It may have been a phase, she has long abandoned such words, teenage uncertainty in a difficult world of ‘mixed messages’ where chains of production were stretched, chains of ownership stretched to vanishing point; where nothing was guaranteed of what had been guaranteed. Where no promise with substance could be made and if one did slip out unaccompanied, Plausible Deniability was at hand. If vagueness hides things who has most reason for its use than the exploiters and their protectorate of police and phrasemakers for whom promises to be unfulfilled are ten a penny. It always sounds paranoid to talk of strategy but when non-interested verification is out the window and Transparency Be Damned, this is what it started to feel like.

“His experience with her had taught Birt that she took refuge in a vast quagmire of vagueness when at all pressed”

In his courageous decision not to support a second UN resolution to ‘justify’ the invasion of Iraq in 2003 President Lamine Sidime of Guinea, with a temporary seat on the Security Council, demanded something definable and measurable about what constituted Iraqi compliance. This was intolerable to the US-UK axis but Sidime stood his ground while knowing the diplomatic and financial punishment that would follow.

Scott Ritter, a weapons inspector in Iraq in 2002-3 was relentlessly smeared before the Iraq invasion for detailing how there were no “Weapons of Mass Destruction” after the destruction of liquid biological weapons by the UN Inspectors in 1995. He relates how an American on the team, Dick Spertzel, would not do sampling there because he did not want to give the Iraqi state the benefit of a negative reading.

“Two Federal agencies, the Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATDSR), bear primary responsibility for safeguarding the nation’s environmental health … both of these agencies have routinely funded and conducted studies of effects of toxic pollution on public health which are inconclusive be design. These intentionally inconclusive studies have been used by polluters and govt officials into believing further measures to prevent toxic exposure are unnecessary”

This product is environmentally friendly

Donald Pearlman lawyer representative of the Global Climate Action Coalition -the good guys are always in coalitions- made up of oil and coal corporations -has been a regular on the Climate Change circuit for years. His work? To ensure the climate protection negotiations end in the nevernever land of vague declarations.

Our ingredients are non-toxic and sustainable.

The Sharm El-Sheikh Declaration Investing in Biodiversity for People and Planet
(15 November 2018) acknowledges, promotes, notes, facilitates, recognizes. mainstreams, emphasises and urges

We pride ourselves on our biodegradability

‘Greenwashing’: lofty pledges that can’t be measured and claims that can’t be verified. Net-zero emissions, promises thereof in the distant future won’t do. It’s all in the detail but “the global public needs benchmarks as simple as is possible without waiting to check some final result at mid century and then be disappointed.”

.At the time of the Asian Tsunami disaster at the end of 2004 in which 222,000 died and thousands of livelihoods destroyed, huge promises of aid were made. Very soon it was clear that only a much smaller amount was ever realised. This was in part because “the worrying fact is that when
the commitments of donor agencies of all kinds (international, national, official, and non- government) are examined, it is very hard to know what they mean … The generosity of donors in rich countries, and especially the public response, was widely remarked upon. Nevertheless, on closer examination, many of the financial references to ‘aid’ or ‘assistance’ are rather vague”

In the glow and the glare of the entire spectrum of orange light all cats look alike but some statistics exist whose glow can be turned light and readable so at least there is the possibility of the powerless being able to say loud and clear, they were right and thereby establish a temporary half-way ground at which you could at least look the bastards in the eye.
Child poverty, here’s the figures: 16,500 children die every day from malnutrition while there is ‘a war in poverty’.
In an epic novel of manipulation by the world of power, the one character who holds out against it is a statistician, Roger Mexico. He knows how statistics themselves may be manipulated and still stands by them against those would interpret with bad faith and stands by what they say even at the cost of his girl Jessica who until then, when it mattered, you never would have believed had a bourgeois heart.

And what the stats do say is that in the world we know and those we know only by repute the rich have got much, much richer and the poor have got poorer, proper wage earners and the survivors. Based on data in Piketty as well as supplied by Credit Suisse and Forbes – it is pointed out that about 46 per cent of the world’s measurable wealth (some 110 trillion US$) is in the possession of one per cent of the world’s population. This is 65 times as much as the lower half of the world’s population has to share with about 0.71 per cent of the global wealth.

“LEVELING UP”

These days the matter of how come family X has had these thousand acres and the manor house with its soft stone showing a pink tinge in the sunset, got possession of them in the first place/ and has had them for generations is Lost in The Mists of Time. There, in those mists, everyone can have their own opinion and all squirrels look alike, red or grey. Here anything could happen, could have happened however vile, and been “a restoration of order.

Inequality is life-squashing within and between countries and statistics have their limits, remaining as they are mostly at the whim of those who pay for them. The shift to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) from GNP (Gross National Product) has been quite a piece of dismal conjuring: GDP means that “the income generated by foreign companies is ‘formally’ attributed to the country where it is generated even though the profits may well not stay there.” In fact they are unlikely to stay “This statistical abstraction -GDP – hides a basic fact: the nations of the North are walking off with the South’s resources and calling it a gain for the South.” At the end of the Cold War GDP became ‘the only game in town’.

But still that’s not enough and when capitalism can no longer promise jam tomorrow, not even that, better to have no numbers but instead there is Well-Being. In April 2012 UN chief Ban-ki Moon participates in a conference called “Happiness and Well Being: Defining a new Economic paradigm.”

SO WHAT’S THAT THEN?

Of course we’re tougher now and may ask such questions, and in the headmaster’s study for the promotion that does not happen or the ‘unfair’ dressing down, your phone is recording everything. But not enough, even a camera, when it’s all a matter of interpretation, words taken out of context, the recording’s been manipulated. Not infallible, but better a lawyer writing the contract for you, one stipulation after another, penalty clauses to be applied. Except even then…

“ Vagueness on the other hand, is prevalent in legislation and commercial contracts…Clauses such as “best efforts” or “commercial reasonableness” are common in commercial contracting from franchising to mergers and acquisitions…Contrary to what legal scholars and practitioners assert based on the principle of legal certainty, contract parties are not better off in all cases with writing as specific as possible clauses. Legal scholars and practitioners seem to confuse the distinction between using the law as a guide and using the law to dictate one outcome in every possible case.”

OK, we’re all grown up sophisticated adults here, the “one outcome”, what kind of reductionist shit is that when however sophisticated the clauses and the rulings they cannot cover all eventualities, all possible occurrences. So what’s wrong with that? What, we’re children demanding certainty when there can be none?! Grow Up!

Only the courts even in this day and age could drag on and the greater the degree of vagueness and the certainty of information asymmetry the longer it will drag on which is time and money you don’t have.
“Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises.”
And yet and yet, the law and its courts should be a place where an answer will be found. To the question of “Where were you on the night of June the third?” Oh yes, certainty no problem. Nowadays pinned down by the cross reference of the mobile phone and the travel card, evidence irrefutable. You were that man on June the third at the skunk warehouse beyond reasonable doubt, a pinpointed crossroads of time and place in the chip. That’s when it’s crime. But there’s crime and crime and courts too are no places to look for a guarantee as in inquiries into the Iran-Contra conspiracy…

“…sixty three days of testimony arresting … for its collateral glimpses of life on the far frontiers of the Monroe Doctrine. There was for example the airline that operated out of St Lucia but had its headquarters in Frankfurt…and either was or was not (conflicting testimony on this) ninety nine percent owned by a former Air West flight attendant who either did or did not live on St Lucia. There was for example the team of unidentified men…who either did or did not (more conflicting testimony) arrive on the northern Coast Rican border to burn the bodies of the crew of the unmarked DC-3 that at the time it crashed appeared to be registered to the airline that was or was not ninety-nine percent owned by the former Sky West flight attendant who did or did not live on St Lucia.

As things are in the world “there is no room for verification.”

….”vagueness can also be a ‘resource’, that is, a strategy used by actors in adverse circumstances. A systematic analysis of the texts and illustrations of 36 urban transport plans shows that vagueness is an essential ingredient. It is used mainly as a way to hedge against unwanted public commitments in the context of major uncertainties and tension between actors”

“According to one logic vagueness is a by-product of accommodating conflicting views or what we call strategic vagueness. On the other hand a more diverse committee might lead members to ask for greater clarification, holding one another to account for details and meaning. Personal gains from being vague may include shirking responsibility.”
2020 Britain. Our aim is to reduce the peak not suppress it completely. “Avoid all unnecessary social contact “ People do tire of these sorts of social distancing measures if we start them too early. Lord Skidelsky: “herd immunity a goal silently under a cloud of obfuscation.” Daily Mail: “The roadmap has only a few vague directions”. Government: It is left it to the discretion of employers to decide whether to continue working if social distancing guidelines cannot be met. It depends on all of us to stay alert. See it, Say it, Sorted. The ‘rule of six’ excluding work or educational settings: Council leaders say it is “contradictory and confusing”..2021. Health minister has a ‘high degree of confidence’ that vaccines will work against the Indian variety but urges caution. Health minster stressed that the government was moving towards a “mantra” of personal responsibility.

“The shift from state responsibility to the internalization of responsibility in the individual subject is effected by a move away from the classical liberal value of ‘the freedom to choose’ – which assumes that freedom is essential to autonomy – to the neoliberal ‘capability to choose’ – which sees freedom as the continuous empowerment of the disenfranchised through capacity building. There is … an inherent infantilization in this way of thinking, as it assumes that if these subjects were to make better choices they would be more resilient to the challenges presented by the world. …”

You, You there, Adapt or Die!

“Positive emotions were found to disrupt the experience of stress and help high resilient individuals to recover efficiently from daily stress.”

“…… the scholarly consensus is that we should embrace the conceptual vagueness and malleability of resilience.”

Britain 2021 May Government advisor. “My advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should, and if you’re going to hug, hug cautiously The Prime Minister: “There comes a point when restrictions no longer prevent hospitalisations and deaths, but simply delay the inevitable. And so we have to ask ourselves the question: if not now, when?”

Ah, The Inevitable, no messing with that, the cosh is out and through the loud-hailer, Surrender now, resistance is hopeless.

In such circumstances “fellow independent thinker of the Western bloc, if you have anything sensible to say, don’t wait. Shout it out loud right this minute.”

• With help from David Mitchell, Black Swan Green; ‘Nicholas Rae, ‘Divided Communities and Strategic Vagueness’; J.M. Coetze, Diary of A Bad Year; Yda Schreuder, Corporate Greenhouse; Christine Brooke-Rose, Amalgammemnon; Hamid Dabashi, Can Non-Europeans Think?; Richard Falk, Power Shift: The New Global Order; Osvaldo Bayer, The Patagonia Massacre 1920; Starhawk, ‘Report on Genoa’; Environmental Health Network, 1992 report; Drazen Pehar, ‘Use of Ambiguities in Peace Agreements’; Giuseppina Scotto di Carlo, ‘The Language of the UN: Vagueness in Security Council Resolutions Relating to the Second Gulf War’; Louisa Lombard, State of Rebellion: Violence and Intervention in the Central African Republic; James Kelman, And the Judges Said… and You have to be Careful in the Land of the Free; Henry Green, Caught; Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow George Triantis, ‘Strategic Vagueness in Contract Design’; Charles Dickens, Bleak House; Joan Didion, The Last Thing He Wanted; Thomas Buhler, ‘When Vagueness is a Strategic Resource for Planning Actors; ’Grace Paley, Faith in the Afternoon in Collected Stories.