Friday, October 19, 2018

Inside job

The credibility of the burst of late night announcements from Riyadh about the Khashoggi case -- timed for the Friday news dump cycle in the USA -- is somewhat affected by the fact that the head of a committee looking into the need to restructure the general intelligence agency is ... Crown Prince Mohammed!

Minor update: also on the committee is Ibrahim al-Assaf, one of the former ministers caught up in the Ritz-Carlton swoop last year. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Now we are getting somewhere

Late night statement from Saudi Arabia Minister of Interior:

His Highness also affirmed that what has been circulated with the existence of orders to kill him (Khashoggi) are lies and baseless allegations towards the government of the Kingdom, which upholds its norms and traditions and is in compliance with international laws, conventions and conventions.

That is a carefully crafted American PR firm style denial. It is not denying Jamal was killed. It is denying an order to kill him.

UPDATE 19 October: Confirmation on the importance of the word "orders:" Reuters story that there were no specific orders to kill, but there is a standing order to return critics to Saudi Arabia. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Kanye's World

Kanye West made his own news yesterday (the transcript is captivating) so there's probably been enough said about him. So here instead is one of his occasional collaborators, Lupe Fiasco, from 2006. When George W. Bush was President.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

The cold war in Istanbul will not remain cold very much longer

Now, in re Jamal Khashoggi, where exactly would the Saudis have gotten the idea for a brazen hit, just murky enough to be deniable, but just transparent enough so that everyone who needs to know knows what you did?

Above: Crown Prince MBS visits Vladimir Putin at the start of the World Cup. 

Quote of the (Kavanaugh) Day

Pierre Bourdieu, The Force of Law (1987) --

When combined with the specific effects of professional training, such a background helps to explain that the magistracy's declared neutrality and its haughty independence from politics by no means exclude a commitment to the established order. The effects of such unanimous tacit complicity become most visible in the course of an economic and social crisis within the professional body itself. Such a crisis arises, for example, in an alteration of the mode by which the holders of dominant positions are selected. At such a moment, professional complicity of the sort just discussed collapses. Certain newcomers to the magistracy, by virtue of their position or personal attitudes, are not inclined to accept the traditional presuppositions defining the magistracy. The struggles they undertake bring to light a largely repressed element at the heart of the group's foundation: the nonaggression pact that links the magistracy to dominant power. To this point the professional body is held together in and by a universally accepted hierarchy and consensus concerning its role. But increasing internal differentiation leads to the body's becoming a locus of struggle. This causes some members to repudiate the professional pact and to openly attack those who continue to consider it the inviolable norm of their professional activity.

Friday, October 05, 2018

His offer is this

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in an interview with Bloomberg News --

Bloomberg: It does seem to be his [Trump] opinion that the kingdom should pay more for its security. So do you agree with that? 

 MBS: Actually we will pay nothing for our security. We believe that all the armaments we have from the Untied States of America are paid for, it’s not free armament. So ever since the relationship started between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, we’ve bought everything with money.

Up the Republic, Slight Return

From Brett Kavanaugh's bid for a few Hail Marys as penance for all his yelling last week --

Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic.

That bizarre sentence appeared in Donald Trump's original introduction of Kavanaugh as the nominee, so now we know where it came from. Bizarre because, for a group -- conservative lawyers -- that insists in the intrinsic meaning of words, it makes no sense to refer to a republic as having crown dimensions of anything.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


New York Times on the premium music tour style pricing for Michelle Obama book events --

Anand Giridharadas, the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” a critique of modern philanthropy, said the Obamas should not be held to a higher standard than other former public officials who have made money after holding office, but he added that he was still taken aback by the planned rollout. “As the first African-American president and first lady, I am very wary of arguments that they should not do something everybody else was allowed to do,” Mr. Giridharadas said. “But an arena with tiered seating is a powerful metaphor for everything they presumably want to destroy. What this illustrates to me is that cashing in has become our common culture in a way we don’t realize. It’s the water in which we’re all swimming.”

To understand what's happening here, you don't need to look any further than a case of the resolution of Status Income Disequilibrium.

They don't make them like they used to

A classic New York City obituary in the New York Times for Anne Russ Federman. More social history in this than you'd get in entire books.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Quote of the Day

In the FT,  Henry Mance wonders if the sudden change in style at the Daily Mail could happen in other newspapers:

As for the Financial Times, you'll know the revolution has come when you receive the first ever How To Spend It: Lidl Edition. 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

What happened in Islington didn't stay in Islington

The news of the separation of Boris Johnson and Marina Wheeler makes it worth recalling that, had that separation happened 3 years ago, Brexit, or at least the disorderly version of it, might not have happened at all. Because, as David Allen Green has pointed out, the obsession with the European Court of Justice seems to have metastasized within the Johnson - Wheeler household!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The check is in the mail

From the Gulf coalition statement accepting very limited responsibility for the botched air strike in Yemen that hit a school bus --

The Joint Committee will be mandated to consider granting voluntary assistance to those affected in Yemen by contacting the legitimate Yemeni government to determine the identities and names of those affected so that they can be assisted in accordance with the procedures.

The casualties occurred in a rebel area. How will compensation sent through the "legitimate" government get to them?

Fake News

This blog has been approached by advocates for a McCain - Lieberman presidential run in 2020 to use the slogan "Best of Both Worlds."

Monday, August 27, 2018

The idiot dissenters

Yes, we posted on this same topic 5 days ago but it doesn't get any less outrageous. Today, a UN panel investigating the Rohingya atrocities in Myanmar recommended that there are sufficient grounds to investigate the Myanmar military leadership, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, for genocide.

Here is the aforementioned general in a very jolly meeting in Moscow last week with the Russian minister of defence, Sergei Shoigu. A particular "outrage" cohort obsessed with events in Israel/ Palestine and the rightness of Bashar al-Assad snored through this event.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Common Factor

Very good Financial Times analysis of why Australian politics has such high turnover at the top --

Rupert Murdoch’s stable of News Corp Australia titles wield immense power in the country, which some critics blame for destabilising Mr Turnbull and previous Labor governments. The rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle have ramped up the pressure on political leaders and intensified criticism, denting their image and undermining trust among the electorate. 

Of course, Murdoch is present at the scene of deep polarization and personalisation of politics in other countries too ...

The needy President

Remarkable description of the Trump mood at the White House on Tuesday night from the Wall Street Journal --

He learned of Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea and Mr. Manafort’s conviction aboard Air Force One on his way to a campaign rally in West Virginia Tuesday and returned to the White House that evening in a “rotten” mood, further irritated by what he felt had been a flat audience, according to people close to the White House. His frustrations were amplified by the fact that his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is golfing in Scotland this week, people close to the president said

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Heroes of the anti-establishment

From Russian Ministry of Defence website: Defenсe Minister of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu at a meeting with the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing.

That would be the same armed forces of Myanmar that engaged in massive forced displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim population of Myanmar.

But this will do nothing to stop the adulation of Russia from a certain kind of free thinker who judges causes only by the roles of certain other countries in them.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Don't hold your breath

There was a news conference today in Riyadh to report on the progress in investigations by the Saudi Arabia/ UAE/ recognized Yemeni government coalition of incidents during coalition attacks in the Yemeni war resulting in civilian casualties. The only update given for the school bus attack in Saada earlier this week was that a team has been appointed to investigate. The rest of the news conference gave updates on other incidents, beginning with one that occurred on ... April 2015. The most recent land incident addressed was in September 2017, and the report concluded with the findings about the attack on three ships in Hodeidah harbour in May 2018. The conclusion in that last case was that the ships were booby trapped and a legitimate target, and in all other cases except one, the conclusion was that given the presence of Houthi forces around the incident, the attack was legitimate no matter who was killed. And in the single case of admitted error (an air-to-ground missile attack on a car), the excuse is that the error was unintentional, whatever that means. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Quote of the Day

In the FT Weekend, Arthur Beesley returns to Ireland to look at the state of the Catholic church on the eve of the visit of the Pope and the memories of JP2 in 1979:

As for that first splendid papal visit, [Mark Patrick] Hederman suggests that, rather than some kind of a high-water mark for Catholicism, it can now be seen more as an act of self-preservation by church leaders. "The hierarchy knew this was in decline, and so John Paul II was brought in as a kind of last-ditch stand to stop the dyke from bursting. So it wasn't as if it was a triumphalist display of Catholic Ireland at its zenith. It was that they knew."

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

There goes another trade deal

Boris Johnson, before his current burqa-bashing days, giving a Brexit-boosterish speech in Bahrain in 2016 --

I don’t know whether our Kuwaiti friends want to claim credit for all City Hall’s policies – including the popular cycle superhighways which we are now extending but when you consider that we have 20,000 Gulf students in London and they are very welcome may I say, as are their fees when you think the academic exchanges, the cultural exchanges you can see why London is sometimes called the eighth Emirate. I think I may have made that up myself, but we’re proud of it. And of course we get the ball back over the net in our own modest British way - Brits pay 1.7 million visits to the Gulf every year.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Quote of the Day

Financial Times, in the context of Jeremy Corbyn position on trade deals as influenced by Labour head of trade policy John Hilary:

A former trade policy analyst who worked alongside Mr Hilary during the 2000s said: "To call John's worldview Manichean would be to give it greater nuance and flexibility than was justified. In his mind there is only one mental compartment to put business or trade deals in, and it's one labelled 'exploitative capitalist bastards'."

Friday, August 03, 2018

But he'll make an exception for this one

Andrew Sullivan, whose silly season instincts are strong, has pounced on the Sarah Jeong "outrage." But here is describing his own writing philosophy -- in response to a charge of anti-Semitism:

I'm a writer who doesn't much care for political correctness, of policing discourse for every single possible trope or code that someone somewhere will pounce on as evidence of bigotry. I've gone out of my way as an editor and writer to stir things up - on race and gender and culture and sex - and I have never been one to worry excessively about the sensitivity of others.

Friday Night Slights

From Jeremy Corbyn's latest attempt to signal his position on tackling left anti-Semitism --

This has been a difficult year in the Middle East, with the killing of many unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and Israel’s new nation-state law relegating Palestinian citizens of Israel to second-class status.

Note that his definition of "Middle East" is within the territories of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza strip. It appears, therefore, to not include Syria.

Which does make it much easier to describe why it was a difficult year in the Middle East!

Photo of the Day

Jordan's King Abdullah takes a meeting with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, wearing his military fatigues.

via Petra

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Non-transitive haters

Reuters --

As tensions peaked last week, Israel shot down a Syrian warplane that it said had strayed into the Israeli-occupied Golan and warned Assad’s Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements against trying to deploy on the Syrian-held side. But Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman sounded more upbeat on Thursday as he described an Assad win as a given. “From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule,” Lieberman told reporters during a tour of air defense units in northern Israel. Asked whether Israel should be less wary of possible flare-ups on the Golan - much of which it seized from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized abroad - Lieberman said: “I believe so. I think this is also in Assad’s interest.”

It is going to be fascinating to see whether the self-styled contrarians who love Bashar al-Assad and hate Israel, and switch effortlessly between those two themes, will be able to reconcile themselves to Israel being, actually OK, with their beloved Bashar staying in power. If nothing else, easing the Israel hate in line with Bashar's modus vivendi would make their dual stances look a little bit less on the edge of anti-Semitic.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hair of the Dog

Vladimir Putin meeting Russian diplomats on Thursday --

With all the difference in views, we agreed [with Trump] that Russian-American relations are in an extremely unsatisfactory state. In many ways, even worse than during the Cold War. Of course, it would be naive to believe that the problems accumulated over the years will be resolved in a few hours. But no one expected it.

Donald Trump at the post-summit news conference --

But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.


Wall Street Journal ($) with the processology of the Trump flight home from Helsinki --

Bill Shine, the newly minted deputy chief of staff for communications and a former Fox News executive, voiced concern that the White House needed to provide a new TV image so that networks would stop broadcasting images of Mr. Trump's news conference in Helsinki, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Trump would heed that advice, making a televised statement from the Cabinet Room during a meeting with lawmakers that was originally supposed to be closed to the press. Mr. Shine didn't respond to a request for comment.

Which is a good example of the Fox News methodology and the role of visuals and assumed media laziness in it: TV will keep running the latest clip until ... they get another clip. Which would work fine if everyone was in "move on" mode. But Trump can't help himself, and Fox News is thus less able to help him. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If only there'd been someone there to speak for Ireland

Kate Hoey, in the House of Commons yesterday, one of the three Labour defectors forming the Tory government majority on the soft-Brexit wrecking amendments --

The right hon. Gentleman [Sammy Wilson, DUP] is quite right; there seem to be an awful lot of people who do not really understand what goes on at the [Irish] border now. Why would anyone who supports Northern Ireland even think of voting against new clause 37 tonight? The new clause clearly puts it out there that we want Northern Ireland to be treated the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom, so in voting against it, people would actually be supporting the Republic of Ireland.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Occupy Montgomery County

New York Times profile of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh --

But as with any nominee, Judge Kavanaugh and his supporters are carefully shaping his narrative for the diverse Senate and the broader American public: his mother the judge, not his father the lobbyist; his parents’ early struggles, not their second homes in the Florida Keys and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; his service as a children’s sports coach and a Catholic volunteer, not his participation in some of the most bitter partisan fights in recent times. They do not let on that Judge Kavanaugh is by legacy and experience a charter member of elite Washington: His family’s government-centric social circle, his two summer jobs on Capitol Hill, his White House service, his golfing at the capital’s country clubs, his residence in one of the richest suburban enclaves in America. Nor do they note that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.

If you rely on liberal punditry for your world view, you might want to second-guess the Move along folks nothing to see here stance of those pundits on Richard Reeves' Dream Hoarders which was published around this time last year. Yes, we're repeating ourselves, but one topic that has been shuffled to the dark side of the moon is the path to high opportunity through the ranks of the upper middle class -- not the 1 percent -- and the political consequences thereof.