Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Oirish Comedy Hour

Ray Houghton is a legend of Irish soccer. Two key goals for the Republic over a lengthy career playing for the national team. But what in God's name was he thinking when participating in an effort to provide a few laughs for Britain's ITV on Sunday night? From today's Irish Times (subs. req'd):

When Houghton, who was born in Scotland, was asked if he considered himself to be "really Irish", he was shown dressed up as a leprechaun, a potato and as a Jean Butler [Riverdance] lookalike.

However, most complaints arose when Houghton was seen standing beside what appeared to be a paramilitary gunman dressed in a khaki army jacket and a balaclava.

The Irish soccer hero, best remembered for his goals against England and against Italy in the 1994 World Cup, was also shown standing beside [one of the hosts] when the comic impersonated Shane McGowan clutching a bottle of whiskey.

And after Bertie Ahern had said such nice things to the English the other day. Such ingratitude.

An Irish voice for the Bronx Cheer

At last night's Yankees vs Red Sox game at Yankee Stadium, Dick Cheney was in attendance. In what is a regular Yankees tradition, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan sang God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch; Cheney's picture appeared on the stadium screen, and in a politer version of Cheney's preferred insult (Go F*** Yourself), he was booed. Incidentally, we had hoped to pull a quote from the New York Times story which had described the incident -- but weirdly, although the print edition had it in full detail, the relevant sentences are gone from the web version, and the booing (minus the Ronan mention) is relegated to a side story about Cheney's pop-in. Is the NYT scared of making Cheney's unpopularity too explicit?

UPDATE: Atrios has also been tracking the changes in the NYT web version, which removed the part about Cheney being booed from the game report.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

DeValera's Revenge

The big news theme over the last week has been Dubya's summitry. Watching his trip to Ireland had us invoking the expression You'll Never Beat the Irish -- and not in our standard cynical way either. Because to their credit, it looks as if those Irish who put their mind to it did manage to needle Dubya quite effectively. There were three incidents.

First, widely noted, was RTE's Washington correspondent, Carol Coleman, being combative with Dubya in what he expected to be his standard 15 minute scripted interview with a journalist from whatever country is next on his itinerary. Instead it became clear that Ms Coleman saw that she was just getting the rote answers to the previously submitted questions -- a White House requirement -- and tried to interrupt to get in some followups before Dubya could run out the clock. He did manage to run out the clock, but looked sullen doing it. Which is more than the great Saint Tim Russert of Buffalo ever managed with Dubya.

Second, a quick photographer managed to catch the Emperor in his white undershirt** closing the curtains at Dromoland Castle, the Irish golf resort chosen for the next summit after the G8 summit held at the Georgia golf resort (the one at which Taoiseach Bertie Ahern wore the yellow trousers).

And finally, DeValera's revenge. The world will know DeValera as having the face of Alan Rickman, reflecting Neil Jordan's little extra dig (on top of the Michael Collins screenplay itself) of having Dev, the self-styled personification of Irish nationalism, played by someone noted for his portrayal of English-accented bad guys. Dev's heartland is Ennis, County Clare, just a few miles from where the EU-US summit was taking place. And Bertie Ahern had spent the whole weekend working on getting DeValera spinning in his grave. On the Friday, he held a news conference with Tony Blair and bantered with the assembled English hacks about his support for the England soccer team (which he justified by his support for Man Utd) and his belief that they had a goal unfairly disqualified in the defeat to Portugal. Which they had, but is this a fit topic for a news conference?

And from there it was down to Dromoland to meet the arriving Dubya. On Saturday, Dubya and Bertie were due to give the triumphant post-summit news conference at 1.30pm Irish time. Strangely enough, the seven-point summit declaration had already been released long before the summit had concluded, but the photo-op gods must be appeased. As the time approached, the cameras were trained on...the empty seats where the Washington "press corps" was supposed to be, in their usual roles of providing an appearance of an audience and asking fawning questions. The minutes passed, and still no hacks. Eventually word came that a sit-down protest had delayed their arrival from Ennis, where they had been staying and from which they were being bussed to Dubya's bubble.

The buses finally arrived about 45 minutes late -- delaying Dubya's departure for Turkey, and we laughed and laughed and laughed at the site of the besuited "press corps" sprinting up the avenue to take their seats. The poor things hadn't run as fast since the sprint to get copies of the report of Johann van der Smut (aka Ken Starr) into the grave matter of Bill Clinton's affair with an intern. And then the questions to Bertie and Dubya came, and most were about NATO, which was not the subject of the summit, and of which Ireland is not a member, reflecting Dev's constitutional enshrinement of neutrality. We think the protestors had some ghostly inspiration.

UPDATE: The shock of a journalist standing up to Dubya still reverberates through Washington one week later. This Washington Post piece rounds up some of the official fallout, including a complaint to the Irish Embassy. Blogistan followup via Crooked Timber.

**FURTHER UPDATE 21 MAY 2005. Our original link to the Bush undershirt photo was busted and the photo turns out to be incredibly difficult to find on the web. We stated above that it was taken by a photographer but in fact it was a grab from a video camera that was trained at his window. We were reminded to fix this post by a sitemeter referral showing us that people are looking for the Bush picture -- presumably to contrast the White House expunging of it from the Internets with their attitude to the Saddam Sun photos. Our new link doesn't have the Bush shot (which apparently was pulled with legal threats by the Irish EU Presidency) but it has images of newspapers which did run it, including what looks like a fake one.

Our legions of readers will be delighted to hear that P O'Neill has returned from his eastern flight, which had been prompted by a search for more favourable TV and time zone access to the European Football Championships. Sadly, we couldn't quite string out the trip long enough to cover the entire tournament, leaving us in the clutches of the Irish monopolists Setanta for the semifinals and the final. But we were delighted to see upon our return that long silent blog partner R Morgenstern resurfaced to provide with excellent posts in our absence. Incidentally, fans of R. can see some old posts here and here. So we are hoping to maintain the blog as more of a joint effort -- as reflected in its name -- from now on. And now back to our usual subjects.
Pigs still not airborne

The least surprising news of the day: The triumverate on the US Supreme Court who formed the lynchpin of the Bush v Gore decision stick together again in Bush v Magna Carta:

In the Guantanamo case, the court ruled, 6 to 3, that federal courts have the jurisdiction to consider challenges to the custody of foreigners. The finding repudiated a central argument of the administration...The dissenters were Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Thomas and Antonin Scalia.

Is there anything that Dubya wants that these three won't vote for?

Monday, June 28, 2004

Futile, indeed

Okay, we admit it: We've been strangely silent on the Seven of Nine/Scary Republican divorce papers fracas. Mostly it's because the thought of Jeri-Lynn doing anything with that creep is so upsetting. But then we forced ourselves to read the court documents (filed by the allusively named firm of Trope & Trope), and found this intriguing tidbit from her description of the events:

The clubs in New York and Paris were explicit sex clubs. Respondent had done research. Respondent took me to two clubs in New York during the day. One club I refused to go in. It had mattresses in cubicles. The other club he insisted I go to. Respondent did not like to go out to dinner, and we went out to dinner together that night. He said the least I could do in return was go to the club....

Typically, of course, what interests us is not the quid pro quo ("you made me eat food, now you have to have sex with me in front of other people in a skeezy club!"), but the idea of this research project on which the investment banker-cum-teacher had embarked. Did he just google "sex club new york"? Use Nexis? Assign it to an intern?

In any case, he's probably regretting that one of his early campaign events seems to have been named for one of filmdom's most famous sex clubs.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Unfortunate Clintonian phrasing

From page 776 of My Life, speaking of how his relationship with Monica Lewinsky had put Hillary in the position of having to answer tough questions from their critics:

"Finally, after years of dry holes, I had given them something to work with."

We find this nearly as painful as the unfortunate facial hair of Celebrity Poker Showdown, or that wretched Trapt video where Michelle Trachtenberg proves she's not a little girl/ball of cosmic energy any more.

Thankfully, we can buck ourselves up by considering what Hamid Karzai thinks of Washington Times readers (be sure to click for larger image).

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Carry on up the Nile

Apologies to our readers for the lack of postings recently, a drought that will likely continue until this day week. P O’Neill has retreated from his US domicile to seek better Euro 2004 football viewing opportunities at an undisclosed location somewhere in Egypt. So for instance, last night’s England vs Croatia match was watched with Arabic commentary, on a broadcast featuring a half-time analyst who seemed more concerned about the nature of the tackling than the goals. And then we would flick over to German commentary on the France vs Switzerland match. The Germans were helpfully providing extensive highlights from the England match, and of course German is really not that difficult to understand, especially when during one of those highlight clips they referred to Wayne Rooney as das europa meister .

Meanwhile, the locals tell us of their amusement at Americans denying that they are American when they obviously are. Apparently, changing the name of region in Dubya’s speeches from Greater Middle East to Broader Middle East was not a swing issue for the locals. Further thoughts when we return to the clutches of Euro 2004 pay per view next week.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Tell us something we don't know

Another American -- after Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg -- is kidnapped and beheaded by Islamic extremists. Two reactions. First, condemnation by politicians is a thoroughly devalued currency at this stage. What's the point? Surprisingly, it's Colin Powell who manages to sound more cliched and idiotic than his boss on this one:

Mr. Powell added, "If anything, it will cause us — I'm quite confident, it will cause our Saudi colleagues — to redouble our efforts to go after terrorists...

So sometimes we're "redoubling" and other times we're already doing everything we can. If you can't say anything sensible, then don't say anything at all.

And where Colin sees a bright side of redoubled efforts, Andrew Sullivan sees a TV news editor instruction:

Will the networks show these images? They absolutely should.

Has he thought about the moral hazard of terrorists knowing that they can get on the TV news by videotaping their killings?
European Union summit gets Gitmo-ised

Earlier, Dick Roche, Irish minister for European Affairs, said leaders were "tantalizingly close" to a deal and only "finessing" final details. No dinner was being served "in an effort to spur them to a deal," he added.

An American contract interrogator at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison described in January interrogation tactics that included a "Sleep/Meal Management Program" using sleep deprivation and diet manipulation to try to get prisoners to give up their secrets.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Sartorially Disqualified

Various important meetings are taking place in Europe over the next few days -- on football pitches in Portugal. Then there's a European Union summit. We have posted a few times about Ireland holding the rotating presidency of the 25 country EU, but all the initial energy that the presidency seemed to generate has thoroughly dissipated with the drubbing that governing parties took in the recent EU parliament elections-- to which a huge majority of voters delivered the worst insult of all but just not showing up.

But anyway, between trips to the TV to keep up on things on Portugal, our besuited betters in Europe are hoping to hash out a deal on a bible-sized constitution and on who will be the next President of the European Commission (the closest thing that the EU has to a chief executive). Henry at the Crooked Timber blog has tried to take the latter process seriously and provided brief profiles of the relevant candidates. Bizarrely, one of the blushing candidates is the chairman of the summit, Bertie Ahern.

Bertie is currently straddling two worlds -- that of international statesman, attending the G8 summit in Georgia last week, and that of parish pump Irish politician, enduring the slings and arrows of the Republic's politics and media -- who basically want to know: what was the deal with the yellow trousers? We watched the summit coverage last week on the BBC and like everyone else noticed Bertie's odd atire during Dubya's casual beach walk for the summiteers -- the other world leaders had their smart casual look (sober jacket, open necked shirt, dark trousers). But there was Bertie in what looked like a cream coloured jacket and yellow trousers. The jibes have not stopped since. During questions in the Dail (parliament) on Wednesday:

[Mr Ahern] "In regard to the job in Europe [Commission President], I think that if I was really interested in that job that I would have that job.

"However, when it comes to getting 1 million euro for working in Europe or staying at home to do the job I like doing, I will continue to do this job." Labour leader Pat Rabbitte suggested that when Chancellor Schröder "saw the gear in Savannah, that's what did it. You had it up to then. You had it in the bag."

Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan agreed. "It was the yellow trousers that did it."

On Tuesday, Bertie's defence was:

"I had to put a bit of colour into the place," Mr Ahern said as he came in for sustained criticism from the opposition leaders for his fashion crimes.

The fact that Bertie is even a candidate for this job forces us to the conclusion that EU-level politics is even more dysfunctional that we thought. For one thing, Bertie's estimate of what the job pays is off by about 900,000 euro. But anyway, even if our Continental partners wanted someone harmless in the top job, their fashion sense is probably just too offended by now. Onwards and upwards with the prime minister of Luxembourg, and his grey trousers.

[One minor mystery is why Bertie does not appear to be wearing the yellow trousers in the official group photo (also here), which apparently took place on the same walk]

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Bloomsday Inflation

From the Irish Times daily update (may require subs.) report on ReJoyce 2004, two signs of inflation -- in prices and weather:

...especially with a breakfast roll and a pint of Guinness costing 12 euro [about $14]...the weather on this day in 1904 was cool and breezy with a temperature of about 16 degrees, nothing as pleasant as the sunny 24 degrees predicted for today...

It's difficult not to wonder how the modern Ireland and that of Bloomsday would compare to each other; the Shamrockshire Eagle doubtless reflects a widespread opinion that it's not a flattering comparison. That mention of euro prices above has us visualising a present-day Dubliner, transported back in time to 1904 to Davy Byrne's and asking the barman the same way they yell at the Warrington Ikea, "Do ya take euros?"
Washington is worth a Mass

In the bizarre world of US politics, the Catholic candidate for President is under pressure to make his policy positions conform to Vatican doctrine, while the born-again Methodist incumbent -- who promoted a war condemned by the Vatican, favours the death penalty, and loaded his tax cuts towards the wealthy -- rushes to enlist the Pope to put pressure on US bishops to support his positions. And if it wasn't for bloggers, this state of affairs would not be attracting much comment.

Just how big a show of symbolism is Dubya prepared to make in the quest for the supposed "Catholic vote?" We couldn't help but notice this item from today's Washington Post:

The Associated Press reports: "Bodyguards for President Bush's daughter were entangled in a fist fight with two men trying to steal a cell phone in southern Spain, a U.S. Embassy official said Tuesday. "

AFP reports that Jenna Bush was in Spain to take part "in a religious pilgrimage in Spain, walking up to 30 kilometers (20 miles) a day on the way to Santiago de Compostela."

Leaving aside the fact that Jenna probably broke Texas law by not shooting the two miscreants on the spot, note that the daughter of the born-again Methodist is doing a very Catholic pilgrimage, one that honours St James the Apostle, as opposed to a direct focus on Dubya's favourite political philosopher, Jesus himself. is Dubya planning to have at least one family member flip-flop on their religious affiliation before November?
The investor formerly known as Bono

In perhaps a sign that the tech bubble is back, U2's Bono is becoming an investor in a Silicon Valley venture capital group called Elevation Partners. The Wall Street Journal has all the details in this article (subs. req'd). We credit the Journal for staying away from the temptation to play on U2 song titles in their reporting, and as for the name of the fund itself, all involved claim that it is just a coincidence that it is the name of a U2 song. But the article seems a bit too old fogeyish with this usage:

Elevation's partners declined to comment on details of its plans or Mr. Bono's responsibilities,

No word on whether Mr. The Edge will also be participating.

Monday, June 14, 2004

The Abu Ghraib H-Blocks

A few times in our 16 month history of blogging, we have felt compelled to note analogies between the current war in Iraq and the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In one recent post, we noted, with what was meant to be tone of sarcasm:

The US forces in Iraq should be getting advice from their British counterparts on how not to run their War on Terror.

This was in the context of the demonisation of the people of Fallujah in terms of a savage mob that had attacked a convoy of US contractors; a similar demonisation of an Irish mob had arguably led to the state-facilitated murder of the lawyer for members of this supposed mob. But as we say, we thought we were being sarcastic about Britain's War on Terror guiding the war in Iraq. That was until we read the analysis of the stunning "torture memos" which are now leaking to every big newspaper here in the USA. Brad DeLong has very helpfully pointed his readers to an expert analysis by Michael Froomkin of one of the Justice Department memos from August 2002, and as we read down we see the following:

Despite the increasingly heard right-wing complaint that the [US] Supreme Court should not rely on the decisions of foreign courts, the [US Justice Department] Memo then turns to what other nations have said constitutes torture. The most important case on which the Memo relies is "Ireland v. United Kingdom":, a 1978 decision of the European Court of Human Rights which held that "interrogation in depth" involving "five techniques" was not "torture" but merely "inhuman and degrading treatment". The five techniques were:

a) wall-standing: forcing the detainees to remain for periods of some hours in a "stress position", described by those who underwent it as being “spreadeagled against the wall, with their fingers put high above the head against the wall, the legs spread apart and the feet back, causing them to stand on their toes with the weight of the body mainly on the fingers”;

b) hooding: putting a black or navy coloured bag over the detainees’ heads and, at least initially, keeping it there all the time except during interrogation;

c) subjection to noise: pending their interrogations, holding the detainees in a room where there was a continuous loud and hissing noise;

d) deprivation of sleep: pending their interrogations, depriving the detainees of sleep;

e) deprivation of food and drink.. subjecting the detainees to a reduced diet during their stay at the centre and pending interrogations.

Froomkin goes on to discuss whether US law even admits a distinction between torture and "inhuman and degrading treatment" (he thinks it doesn't) but we were simply flabbergasted to see that the Pentagon is in fact relying on techniques drawing directly from the Northern Ireland experience. We're not sure that anyone has ever argued that these tactics were even "effective" in the sense of proving the security forces with good information, but they certainly created an ongoing public relations debacle and surely fueled the disastrous IRA hunger stikes of the early 1980s. Just what do Blair and Dubya talk about at these summits?

UPDATE: In all of Christopher Hitchens' lust for war in Iraq, it looks like the one thing that finally awoke his conscience is the Northern Ireland analogy.

[Updated link: the relevant sections are pages 27-29 of the Bybee memo].

FURTHER UPDATE 1 MARCH 2005: Another quote and link to back up our closing paragraph above. This New Yorker article notes the futility of the US resorting to 1970s British tactics in Northern Ireland, when the British themselves gave up on them:

Tom Parker, a former officer for M.I.5, the British intelligence agency, who teaches at Yale, argued that, whether or not forceful interrogations yield accurate information from terrorist suspects, a larger problem is that many detainees "have nothing to tell." For many years, he said, British authorities subjected members of the Irish Republican Army to forceful interrogations, but, in the end, the government concluded that "detainees aren’t valuable." A more effective strategy, Parker said, was "being creative" about human intelligence gathering, such as infiltration and eavesdropping. "The U.S. is doing what the British did in the nineteen-seventies, detaining people and violating their civil liberties," he said. "It did nothing but exacerbate the situation. Most of those interned went back to terrorism. You'll end up radicalizing the entire population."
The gombeens of the dish

[Apologies in advance to non-soccer fans]. Yesterday from our USA-based exile, we watched England play France in the 2004 European Football Championships. As widely reported, the match featured a jaw-dropping conclusion; we are still looking for the inevitable newspaper headline ZZ Top as the most apt summary of what happened. But that's not our issue today.

We watched the match at home on pay-per-view from our local incompetent cable monopoly, which charges $20 (plus unspecified "taxes and fees"). In this case though, we can't blame the cable company too much for the price, because we knew what the problem was when the first screen came up at the start of the broadcast: "..Presented by Setanta."

Setanta is the epitome of the downside of Celtic Tiger Ireland -- a greasy till bunch of aspiring monopolists who attract little scrutiny back home because there's still this plucky little Ireland mentality that expects us to be proud when our home-grown rapacious suits do just as well as overseas suits in making loads of money -- especially when it's dressed up in a Celtic-tech veneer as with the company's name, drawing (like their parasitic counterparts in government, Fianna Fail) on Irish mythology. Traditional Irish slang had coined the appropriate word for the village version of this character, the gombeen man, but he's alive and well and running a much slicker enterprise now.

And $20 is a magic number for them -- it's the benchmark price for any football broadcast (soccer or Gaelic) over which they have the rights, and it's $20 whether you get it at home on PPV or in the pub. [As it happens, the audio track on our broadcast was dreadful, so they are not even delivering competence for the high price]. Now in fact, we had a tendentious conversation with the manager of a branch of an Oirish pub chain in Philadelphia a few years ago, during which he said "'s Setanta that requires we charge $20 per customer for the broadcast."

At which point we started to that legal? Setanta is distributing a product (the satellite feed) to pubs and setting the price at which this product can be sold on to customers. That's called resale price maintenance and it is of questionable legality in the USA and in other countries where Setanta does business. Where's a regulator when you need one? And why would UEFA, which presumably wants to broaden the audience for football as much as possible, allow Setanta these monopoly rights that essentially restrict the US viewing of their showpiece tournament to expats willing to stomach the high cost?

UPDATE 23 Dec 2004: Not only does Setanta fleece those abroad watching the matches, it fleeces the players -- they are marketing a DVD about Cork's exploits with not a penny going to the players.

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Another way we might have gotten a united Ireland

Funny cartoon on supposed D-Day/Iraq war analogies, with Irish-related punchline.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Six Degrees of George Soros

The word has gone out from the Republican National Committee to their spinners in the media: use any and all means to attack George Soros. Soros is a Dubya critic with money and is therefore viewed as a particular threat. Things quickly turned ugly with Washington insider Tony Blankley's outright anti-Semetic attack on Soros: "He was a Jew who figured out a way to survive the holocaust." The fangs had to come in a bit after that one but now there's a new game to find links, however tenuous, between Soros and, like, bad stuff.

So readers of the Wall Street Journal today go the editorial page and find the following:

How to Lose Friends in Latin America

George Soros gets millions, but what does the American taxpayer get?
By Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Duly intrigued, we wade through the entire article (subs. req'd), which concerns a convoluted dispute between the US State Department and an Ecuadorian activist, looking for this bombshell revelation about that awful Soros, and then it comes:

While Mr. Teran [the activist] has had to go to the mattresses for his project, [the US Agency for International Development] has "obligated" more than $9 million to the Soros Foundations and George Soros's Open Society Institute since 1994. Recall that Mr. Soros is a renowned critic of the classical economic liberalism that made America great.

So that's it: USAID is not giving money to a particular project. USAID has given money to a George Soros-supported institution, along of course with the thousands of other projects that USAID has supported over the same period. Spin mission accomplished.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

A Shining Candle in the Wind

In the manner of Roger Ailes (not the bald repulsive one), we offer a little puzzle: Of which event, concerning the death of a major global figure, is this Wall Street Journal online editorial page article writing?

vulgarity and gaudy grief...The obscene hyperventilation that followed X's death, the breast-beating, the bawling, the wailing, the flailing...the martyr worship, the rampant mythology, the ululation...grieving for X as if X were a saint, a sage, an angel...

Every two-bit hack became a hagiographer; every chain-smoking, beer-swilling, quote-piping reporter became the builder of a monument of grief...Sonorous editorials were written--by men and women who should have known better--and headlines of the most excruciating unctuousness were confected by normally hard-bitten copywriters...

[I] gathered a bushel of inane quotes from sniffling teenagers and yentas. Never have I hated my job more, or had more contempt for the journalist's milieu. I was only obeying orders; but we've heard that line before, and have learned to treat it with scorn...My editors had become praise-singers. I had a bit part in this process of X's deification, but a part all the same. The memory makes me feel ill.

UPDATE: Yes, Princess Diana and not Ronald Reagan, a tirade from Dorothy Rabinowitz's Media Log column, though actually penned by fellow spite-meister Tunku Varadarajan.
We welcome guesses for these additional questions: (1) When will Dorothy Rabinowitz offer a similarly contemptuous account of some of the more mawkish aspects of the Reagan memorials, and (2) will such an article come sooner than an OpinionJournal retraction of their gloating over the State Department Global Terrorism report for 2003, which showed a reduction in global terrorism -- given that the numbers have now themselves been retracted? Their gloating included the following:

We're Winning
But isn't it more newsworthy that the State Department numbers suggest the Times' cliché [of rising terrorism in the Arab world] is false?

DUDES! Sometimes a cliche is a cliche because it's TRUE!
The mutation of Irish-American populism

It's getting more difficult to ignore the pronounced rightward drift of Irish-American public figures and commentary. One could point to the pro-Hitler rantings of Father Coughlin in the 1930s as an indication that some latent reactionary tendencies have been there for a while -- surely though, Coughlin was a bizarre exception to the potent combination of hawkish liberal populism that Irish-American politics used to represent.

But even if reaction was present before, it's now a phenomenon of much broader scale and scope. Some of it is fairly benign and is presumably what people have in mind when they use the expression "Reagan Democrats." However, a quick tour of US TV screens and newspapers on any day over the last few years would range from the ranting and thuggery of Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly on Fox News, to the inexplicably embittered vitriol of Michael Kelly (RIP) against Bill Clinton and Al Gore, to the shallow superficiality of Maureen Dowd aimed at the same two men. And then there's the pure unadulterated Irish-American spin of Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.

We were prompted to actually post about this by the following observation from Andrew Sullivan:

Ah, yes. Modern populist conservatism [Ann Coulter]. O'Reilly is another case. When I listen to him blather on, I'm reminded of a drunk Irish uncle at Christmas, who can't shut up and cannot be argued with. Switch him off.

It's always tough to get a read on how Sullivan feels about his Irish-Catholic identity; sometimes it appears as useful evidence of quasi-victimhood, when Dubya is perceived as playing too much to the evangenical gallery, sometimes it's an almost sub-conscious pride in an Irish Tory identity, but in this case it's serving as the equivalent of the bleacher seats for the more gauche members of the political movement of which Sullivan is a part. It's like those posh Oirish types who announce that they are holidaying in the "Balearic Islands" to separate themselves from the Irish plebs also on their way to Majorca, emphasis on the 'j.'

We still don't have a good theory for why Irish-American punditry has evolved the way it has. But looking at present day politics in the Irish Republic might lessen some of the mystery given the current government's combination of cronyism disguised as populism and outright incompetence. If it's really innate, that's bad news, because it means we're stuck with the Bills and Seans, the Maureens and the Eds, for quite a while.
Dubya does Krusty

[White House chief lawyer]: Anytime a discussion came up about interrogations with the president, . . . the directive was, 'Make sure it is lawful. Make sure it meets all of our obligations under the Constitution, U.S. federal statutes and applicable treaties.'

Krusty the Clown: I heartily endorse this event or product.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

And Liam Neeson is not actually Michael Collins either

You'll never beat the Irish...when it comes to our celebrities having a higher profile in the US than our politicians. For, in the planning for the Reagan funeral service on Friday:

Irish tenor Ronan Tynan has been asked by Nancy Reagan to sing at the funeral of her husband. Mr Tynan will sing Ave Maria and Amazing Grace.


Other countries, however, held off final plans until their embassies in Washington received the official invitation to attend the ceremony at the [Capitol] rotunda on Thursday and the funeral on Friday.

Even Ireland, the home of Mr. Reagan’s forebears, who hailed from Ballypooreen in County Tipperary, had yet to hear from the administration.

"The funeral is by invitation only," said Josephine Doyle, administrator at the Irish Embassy here. "We don’t know whether it will be Prime Minister Bertie Ahern or President Mary McAleese. We’re waiting to be invited."

Since then, Mary got the invitation, but Ronan will still have the primo spot amongst the Irish at the service. And yes, that business about Reagan being from Ballyporeen. Given the Boston Globe's obsession with John Kerry's non-Irishness, we eagerly await their crack team analysis of this factoid, which doubtless they are working on as we type.

UPDATE: Whatever about Reagan's actual credentials as a Tipperary man, he has a spiritual descendant alive and well in Dublin. Various people have run the risk this week of raising Reagan's tendency to "remember" his role in events that he could not have been a part of, such as being in Europe during World War II. Lord Mayor of Dublin Royston Brady, a member of Ireland's permanent party of government, Fianna Fail, is also a candidate in the country's European Parliament elections on Friday. Now, not to put too fine a point on it, there's already abundant evidence that Royston is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but such are the people who get elevated to stardom in Irish politics.

But two days before the election, the Irish media have performed the valuable service of airing a piece of supposed family lore claimed by Royston: that his father's taxi was hijacked and used by bombers in a devastating attack in Dublin in 1974. This claim, which is considered implausible, might be taken as a bit of harmless Zelig-like fantasising by Royston, except for the serious business that the crime remains unsolved, to the distress of the bereaved, and progress in solving it has been hindered by Fianna Fail's odd reluctance to press the British government for potentially valuable information on it. It is therefore unlikely that Royston will be able to let his "recollection" float above the facts in the way that Reagan managed.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

So it was like Duran Duran compared to the Sex Pistols

Andrew Sullivan on Ronald Reagan:

But as a performance in general, Reagan's was an exemplum of style and class, after a decade of tackiness and grime.

UPDATE: We expect that Sullywatch is going to have more to say about Sullivan's article, not least because it continues his comical tendency to stage his acts of defiance of totalitarianism from, shall we say, sheltered locations. So in this article:

I remember a crisp sunny day in Cambridge [Mass., but it might as well be the shire] after the bombing of Libya in retaliation for terrorism. I was exultant. Others were outraged...I remember seeing a cover-story in The New York Times at the time [1984] by Johnny Apple: "Why Is This Man So Popular?" I remember laughing out loud at it in a sandwich shop in Georgetown [DC], and thinking, not for the last time, "How Can Some Liberals Be So Dumb?"

This from a member of the crowd that loves to invoke Churchill at every opportunity, who told the British people that "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." Fine, but how about a capuccino?
The Kingdom of the United States of America

Royal terminology watch:

1. Monday's Wall Street Journal editorial:
The Reagan Restoration

2. Remarks from Dubya to the Pope:

I also bring a message from my government...

3. Remarks from Dubya to a conference on faith-based initiatives:

Listen, what I'm telling you is, is that I told our government, the people in my government rather than fear faith programs, welcome them.

(to be continued)

Monday, June 07, 2004

And now for something completely different

To give everyone a break from the Reagan coverage, we are pleased to announce that due to our excellent sources in Washington DC, we have been given access to a key document which initiated a diplomatic scam perpetrated on a gullible diplomacy "newbie." Due to embarrassment, the scam's victim is remaining anonymous but the CIA is confident that there is enough identifying information in the document that, with a few weeks work, their analysts can track him or her down. Here is the document:













So that's what he meant about being a uniter not a divider

From a scoop in today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd):

Citing confidential Justice Department opinions drafted after Sept. 11, 2001, the report advised that the executive branch of the government had "sweeping" powers to act as it sees fit [including torture] because "national security decisions require the unity in purpose and energy in action that characterize the presidency rather than Congress."

Saturday, June 05, 2004

A request for honesty

In the coverage of the death of Ronald Reagan, if the pundits are going to emphasise its occurrence on D-day weekend as a sign of his sense of timing (as Wolf Blitzer is currently doing), then please consider the alternative possibility that the Reagans chose this weekend for his death.

UPDATE: Sullywatch's measured dissent from the Reagan hagiography gets it right.

FURTHER UPDATE: Someone writing in a major media outlet finally floats the Reagan death timing hypothesis:

New York Times Op-Ed June 18
Planning for the Long Goodbye

...Was Mr. Reagan's pneumonia, the cause of his death, aggressively treated with antibiotics, or was the disease allowed to be the "old man's friend?"
Agent Raines: Mission Accomplished

Former New York Times executive editor Howell Raines seems to have a new gig as an opinion columnist for the Guardian. The debut piece, his reflections on the Presidential campaign season so far, has attracted much blog commentary. Initially it was seized upon by the reactionary right (Andrew Sullivan, OpinionJournal) as proof of a supposed leftist agenda that Raines must have had with him at the NYT.

But it didn't take much of a reading to see that Raines' article, while exhibiting some primitive Marxist claptrap about a deceived proletariat, was really emblematic of the elitist superficiality that caused Bill Clinton and Al Gore so many problems in the NYT's editorials and political reporting. Sullywatch was quickly on the case, and Brad DeLong has collected several critiques here.

It would be interesting to know how the Raines diatribe went down with Guardian readers; our fear is that its smugly fatalistic view of American politics found a ready audience. And in what must rank as one of Andrew Sullivan's more prophetic insights, a full two years ago, with Raines then in charge of the NYT, he wrote:

RAINES WATCH: [NYT editorial appointment] The Guardianization of the New York Times continues.

So Raines is in fact like one of those undercover operatives who has to lie low for a while after a crisis, but then can return to the fold.

And while we're looking through Sully's 2002 archives, he draws our attention to a bizarre statement by a fellow reactionary that deserves another look:

I guess he's just being honest, but Mickey Kaus says it's "intensely disappointing" that [Democratic Congressman] Condit might be legitimately cleared in the Chandra Levy investigation.

It's worth looking back at the Kaus obsession with the Condit-Chandra business just to see the level of dysfunction that he, (like Howell Raines), displays with Democratic politicians and women to which the media links them. Especially because Kaus is at it again with Alex Polier, the woman who did not have any kind of affair with John Kerry. But she has not explained herself to Mickey's satisfaction, because after all, it would be "intensely disappointing" to him if the rumour was not true. Roger Ailes (not the bald repulsive one) collects the offending quotes with appropriate commentary.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Believe it or not, Benny Elon isn't at home

Remember that Seinfeld episode where Alison wants to break up with George, so he avoids her to maintain the relationship until the big ball where he can made a Great Entrance? Well, it's never a dull moment in Israeli politics:

An Israeli government minister has gone into hiding to try to thwart Ariel Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan. The prime minister intended to fire two cabinet members who oppose the plan, but the dismissal notice has reportedly not reached one of them, Benny Elon.

Mr Sharon planned to ask his government to vote on the scheme on Sunday but, if Mr Elon is not found, the prime minister may have to postpone the vote.

[Elon] told Israel Radio that he had received a call from someone who sounded like the prime minister - but that he could not be sure if it was Mr Sharon or a comedian who impersonates him.

What remains to be determined is who Ariel will pick as his Kramer figure to meet Benny at Pomodoro in Jerusalem and complete the breakup, a classic scene which we can't resist briefly excerpting here:

[dismayed] So what am I in this for?
You know, I'm getting to a point in my life where I need something more than just.. a good time. [is tearing up]
[pause] Are you?
Wha--me? No! No. But she is.
Vatican follies

From Remarks by Dubya in Presentation of Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II:

"A devoted servant of God, His Holiness Pope John Paul II has championed the cause of the poor, the weak, the hungry, and the outcast. He has defended the unique dignity of every life, and the goodness of all life.

From July 17, 2003 Press Conference of Dubya and Tony Blair:

Q Do you have concerns they're not getting justice, the people detained there [at Guantanamo]?
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, the only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people...

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Eisenhower a la carte

Dubya is now pushing comparisons between himself and General Eisenhower. G.A. Cerny notes that the two have very different notions of personal responsibility. But in addition, Ike has been judged politically incorrect by Dubya's speechwriters. So in today's New York Times, we learn that:

Mr. Bush told the cadets that "on this day in 1944, General Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in the English countryside and wrote out a message to the "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces" who would soon be invading Normandy. Mr. Bush said Eisenhower wrote that "the eyes of the world are upon you" and "the hopes of prayers or liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."

Mr. Bush omitted the first line of Eisenhower's message, which was, "You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months."

There's another line from his speech pushing the comparison of WWII with the War on Terror:

The terrorists of our day are, in some ways, unlike the enemies of the past. The terrorist ideology has not yet taken control of a great power like Germany or the Soviet Union.

Which again means that Ike has to be censored because in another of his D-day statements, the great man wrote:

This landing is part of a concerted United Nations plan for the liberation of Europe, made in conjunction with our great Russian allies.

The House of Bush and the House of Plantagenet

Dubya now says that all this stuff about him being mad at France was a mirage, that in fact he loves France:

I've had friends all my life who I call friends, who didn't agree with every decision I made...And Jacques made it perfectly clear to me he didn't believe the use of military force was necessary. And we discussed it as friends would discuss it...I've never been angry at the French. France has been a longtime ally.

Shakespeare leads us to a more subtle reading of this expression of love for France, via Henry V:

KING HENRY V [to Catherine Valois]
No; it is not possible you should love the enemy of France, Kate: but, in loving me, you should love the friend of France; for I love France so well that I will not part with a village of it; I will have it all mine: and, Kate, when France is mine and I am yours, then yours is France and you are mine.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

He is seated at the right hand of the Lord

These days the USA is in the grip of two full scale personality cults. One of course surrounds Dubya himself, and forbids any mention of policy costs, lies, or mistakes within his orbit. But the second, which has facilitated the first, surrounds Tim Russert. Now on its face, this is bizarre, because Russert has no formal place within the structure of government -- he is NBC's Washington bureau chief and host of Sunday morning's Meet the Press TV show.

We have paid special attention to the growing cult around Russert because of its extensive use of Irish supporting material: Russert has repeatedly invoked his Irish-American background as evidence of his populist credentials, even when, as his more dispassionate reviewers have noted, he has become a quintessential Washington establishment figure. The cult has many aspects: laudatory reviews of Russert from Washington Post/CNN media "critic" Howard Kurtz, a promotional blitz for Russert's current book, and a news cycle driven by the revealing willingness of Cabinet members to appear on his show.

But the surest sign of the cult is the enormous ego at its centre, and that's where the evidence is most damning. Other websites have been documenting this phenomenon much better than we ever could so we'll just point to a few things here. The incomparable Daily Howler deconstructed the episode from a few weeks ago when Russert's interview with Colin Powell in Jordan was cut short by a Powell staffer. What was initially dressed up as Russert's persistent chase of answers from the top and his fearlessness of power turned out to be a sign that his ten minutes of blather with Powell was considered by him more important than that of other interviewers, upon whose time he encroached.

Now there's the flap over a picture in the Boston Globe showing some Boston College students sensibly snoozing through Russert's graduation speech. Being caught sleeping through one of Stalin's speeches would of course have much more serious consequences, but it's a dent in the cult nonetheless, and a price must be paid. So the Globe was attacked, not directly for having dissed the Great One, but for being anti-Catholic. No, we are not making this up -- the complaints hinge on the fact that Boston College is Jesuit. And of course, as a frequent player of the Irish-Catholic card, Russert himself gets to feel wronged by this supposed arrival of Oliver Cromwell to the pages of the Boston Globe.

As we said above, the dual existence of personality cults around Russert and Dubya is no coincidence. Two more links to support this: Roger Ailes collects three instances of Russert's hypocrisy, revealing of Russert's crypto-reactionary tendencies, and today's Daily Howler captures his on-air sanctioning of criticism of Dubya (scroll down to the item about the interview with Nancy Pelosi). Let's leave the last very promising words to Howler:

Somehow, Russert has come to think it’s his job to make Democrats say nice things about Bush. This was an embarrassing "journalistic" performance by a man who has lost his professional way...we’re reading his self-glorifying new book, and we’re reviewing his endless promotions for same. Russert is so important a figure that his outlook should be examined in detail. We expect to start next week.