Sunday, October 31, 2004

Dubya's manliness, carefully edited

So this is odd. As is our usual habit, we watched the Saturday night news broadcast from SPECTRE i.e. the France 2 8pm news program, helpfully aired by a local reality-based TV channel where we live. And in their report on the Bush and Kerry reactions to the Bin Laden tape, they showed a clip from Bush's rally with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Columbus on Friday.

The sequence showed Dubya at the end of the rally, standing on the stage with Arnold and wearing his trademark smirk -- and then he is visibly startled by what turns out to be the bang before the confetti drop. And it's that look you've seen before -- the 9/11 look, the inconvenient facts during the debate look. And it's most definitely not the look of a Commander-in-Chief who would kill the evildoers with his bare hands, if he could.

We then basically burned the entire hour gained from the clocks changing to see if we could find any references to this incident on the web, with no success. Particularly odd is the C-Span video of this event [titled Pres. Bush & Gov. Schwarzenegger Campaign Rally]; it happens just after the 1.04 mark (hours/mins), but at that precise moment, there is a sudden cut in the video that makes it impossible to see the Bush reaction. Luckily, the France 2 version is still on their web site for a few more days - go to this page, select Journal de 20h, and then pick the newcast for 30/10/2004; it's the first story and the key moment happens at just about the 3.00 marker (mins/secs).

Which leaves us wondering. Clearly there is pool footage of the incident, but someone made the decision to edit it out; someone at C-Span, or someone else? And if so, why? Surely it's revealing about Dubya's mental state that he's this jumpy in response to a noise that is presumably heard at all his rallies?

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Time to revise the Dublin guidebooks

[Irish Times, Friday] Luxury-goods shoppers will soon have a wider choice in Dublin with the announcement, expected today, that London department store Harvey Nichols is to be one of the anchor tenants in Dundrum Town Centre due to open next March.

[RTE, Friday] Bewley's Oriental Cafes in Dublin city centre are to close with the loss of 234 jobs. The two outlets on Grafton Street and Westmoreland Street are to stop trading before Christmas.
But he's unconcerned in such a manly way

David "smart conservative" Brooks in the New York Times, October 30:

One of the crucial issues of this election is, Which candidate fundamentally gets the evil represented by this man [Osama]? Which of these two guys understands it deep in his gut - not just in his brain or in his policy statements, but who feels it so deep in his soul that it consumes him?

Dubya, March 13 2002 White House news conference:

You know, I just don't spend that much time on him [Osama], Kelly, to be honest with you ... haven't heard much from him.  And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure.  And, again, I don't know where he is.  I  --  I'll repeat what I said.  I truly am not that concerned about him.
The base's energy goes up to 11

It must be an indicator of how out of touch we are that we couldn't see how, watching the Osama tape, that it could be spun as good for Dubya, and yet, there it was on the Lou Dobbs show on CNN, being spun as ... good for Dubya. Here is the take of Roger Simon, the newsweekly journalist and not the novelist (although they seem to be in agreement on many things):

ROGER SIMON, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: I don't have any trouble parsing out who this helps. I think this is an enormous boost for George Bush ... I think -- also it energizes the Republican base.

To which we respond: just how much more energized can the Republican base be? We're repeatedly told how much the mere existence of Dubya energizes the base, let alone his recurring policy nods to them. It's gotten to the point where sane people are now seeing at least pseudo-fascist overtones to Dubya's rallies -- how else to interpret the rally where the crowd collectively pledged allegiance to George W. Bush? So we ask again: 4 days from election day, what exactly is involved in further energizing the base?

Friday, October 29, 2004

Who among us doesn't love fake quotes?

One might think that if your job description contains the words "media critic," then your columns within said brief should be more than just cut-and-paste jobs from other people's columns, devoid of any analysis. But not if you are Washington Post "media critic" Howard Kurtz. With the window closing for baseball metaphors in 2004, let's try and squeeze one more in: he's offered a 40 mile an hour fastball straight down the middle -- but he thinks he has a time out and so takes a called strike. And so it is with this extract:

[Kurtz cutting and pasting] New York Daily News columnist Michael Goodwin has had enough of '04:

"I'm sick of it. Sick of Bush and Kerry. Sick of their wives. Sick of Cheney and Edwards. And their wives. I'm sick of Kerry pretending to be a normal guy. ... Saying, 'Who among us doesn't like NASCAR?' to get the racing vote."

Except that Kerry never said that. This was a fake quote, cooked up by Maureen Dowd and Sheryl Gay Stolberg at the "liberal" New York Times. The Daily Howler from 4 weeks ago has all the details -- yet lazy columnists are still peddling the quote and "media critics" aren't calling them on it.

Incidentally, this is the same "liberal" New York Times whose adherence to objectivity in Friday's print edition requires side-by-side photos of Kerry and Bush rallies, shot at different angles and distances, to make it look like they are drawing similar crowds.
Fake, fake, fake, fake

So you'd think, after Colin Powell's now disgraced performance at the UN Security Council with vials and satellite photos, that Dubya's White House wouldn't perceive new annotated photos of Iraqi weapons activity to have much credibility. But they're still trying.

So we ask you -- which do you think is more fake: this alleged demonstration by the Pentagon of "loading activity" at the Iraqi explosives site on March 17th 2003 (i.e. "before we got there"), or the melodic warbling of Ashlee Simpson's voice (or at least whatever purports to be said voice emerging from the audio system)?

And since we're into the realm of preposterous excuses for what was going on at the Iraqi storage complex, how do we know that those trucks in the Pentagon photo are not just there for the al Qa Qaa Saint Patrick's Day parade?

Thursday, October 28, 2004

That post 9/11 mentality

One thing the White House has clearly learned in the post 9/11 world is the importance of memos having a good clear title with a straight message:

the [CIA] proposed "factual corrections" to assertions included in a draft fact sheet prepared by the White House titled "America Is Safer Without Saddam Hussein."

Because, after all, in the pre 9/11 world, memos went around the upper levels of the White House with vague titles like "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" and "Islamic Extremist Learns to Fly."

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A political unvitation

In case anyone was wondering about the sincerity of Dubya's last minute appeal to voters to cross party lines for him, one only has to examine the text of that section of his current campaign speech:

[Dubya, in Pennsylvania] I'm a proud Republican, but I believe my policies appeal to many Democrats. In fact, I believe my opponent is running away from some of the great traditions of the Democrat Party.

Now, it's tough to make a genuine appeal to the other party when you don't call them by their right name. It is of course, Democratic party, and as we noted a few months ago, it's standard Republican spin since the 1950s to use the other name.

Luckily, Karen or Karl (whoever operates the remote feed to Dubya's ear) catches the mistake, remembers that they are in reach-out mode, so later on it's: The Democratic Party has a great tradition ... The Democratic Party has a tradition of support for our public schools ... outside the mainstream of the Democratic Party ..., but then he slips again and the remaining mentions lapse back to the normal usage. Spin is hard!
That pre-9/11 mentality

THE PRESIDENT [today in Pennsylvania]: ...Well, September the 11th changed me. I remember the day I was in the -- at Ground Zero, on September the 4th, 2001 [sic]. It's a day I will never forget.

And to belabour the obvious, one draws attention to these things not because of the misspeaking per se, but the importance of the stuff that he misspeaks about.
Someone get Dick Cheney a map

Dick Cheney has two concepts of "Might Makes Right" -- the more standard one, and a more unusual one, pertaining to the fact that the insertion of the word "might" into a sentence makes just about scenario possibly true. Mohammed Atta might have met an Iraqi agent in Prague, Saddam might have been able to make nuclear weapons, those missing high explosives might have been gone before US troops got there, and Osama might not have been in Tora Bora in December 2001:

He [Osama] might have been there [Tora Bora], or in Pakistan, or even Kashmir. ... But it is not at all clear that those explosives were even at the weapons facility when our troops arrived in the area of Baghdad.

And what does Cheney mean with the Kashmir reference? Since he says "Pakistan or Kashmir," does he mean that Osama was actually in India, having crossed one of the most militarised borders in the world? Indeed, having crossed two of the most militarised borders, since Dick also says:

We supported them [Afghan fighters] with tactical leadership and air strikes and the Pakistanis provided as many as 100,000 troops to guard the [Afghan-Pakistan] border.

Either Dick is not paying attention to his spin, or it's just another example of the administration's approach of elevating individual terrorists to superman status -- also evident in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's ability to be in many different places in Iraq at once.

UPDATE: Brad DeLong advocates the explanation, which he has floated before, that Dick Cheney is simply no longer playing with a full deck.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

From one set of Troubles to another

Why does it seem to both Ulster Unionists and Irish nationalists that the British and Irish governments seem oddly eager to report more optimism about the Northern Ireland peace process than conditions on the ground actually warrant:

BBC Northern Ireland political correspondent Martina Purdy said Sinn Fein and the DUP claimed to be "puzzled by the optimism" coming from the governments over the possibility of an imminent resolution.
"While republicans have apparently made an unprecedented offer to deliver acts of completion over the IRA and its weaponry, in exchange for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, the structures of power-sharing have remained contentious," she added ...
SDLP leader Mark Durkan warned the governments against imposing proposals on the political parties in the next few weeks.

It couldn't be that the British government really needs all their troops currently stationed in Northern Ireland somewhere else, could it?

Monday, October 25, 2004

Dubya is not really that unpopular abroad

After all, they were chanting "USA! USA!" in Manchester on Sunday. But there is a minor problem with interpreting this:

In the stands [at old Trafford], Arsenal fans chant, "USA, USA!" - taunting their northern foe [Manchester United] over the proposed Malcolm Glazer take-over.
She who cannot be criticised

Just remember, when you see all this very studied head-scratching from officials and pundits about why 350 tons of high explosives could go missing in Iraq, that one year ago with great fanfare:

The White House said Monday [October 6, 2003] it is creating an Iraq Stabilization Group to be headed by national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. The group will be responsible for handling the day-to-day administration of Iraq, a task previously handled by the Pentagon.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Highway to Gitmo

Sunday's Washington Post reports that the CIA is secretly removing detainees from Iraq to other countries for interrogation. This practice probably breaks the Geneva convention. It is rationalised by a supporting memo from the US Justice Department, which in the past has produced memos justifying torture. While some of the other memos have been dismissed as some overeager lawyers just thinking outside the box about stuff that is never actually applied, in this case:

One intelligence official familiar with the operation said the CIA has used the March draft memo as legal support for secretly transporting as many as a dozen detainees out of Iraq in the last six months. The agency has concealed the detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other authorities, the official said.

It's not known where the detainees are being taken. One possibility is that torture is being outsourced -- they are being sent to a third country where those pesky human rights don't get much attention. But another is that they are moved to Guantanamo Bay. If so, the flights from Baghdad to Cuba would, like many military flights, likely stop at Shannon. One wonders what steps the Irish government is taking with regard to ensuring it is not a party to violating the Geneva Convention with respect to these specific detainees. Or does the Irish Department of Justice accept memos from their US counterparts as settling the question?

UPDATE (Oct 26): This article from Tuesday's New York Times confirms that it is now Bush Administration policy that the Geneva conventions do not apply to non-Iraqis detained in Iraq on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. The spirit of the new policy is best captured by this quote

a Justice Department official said separately, "No matter what the provision is in the Geneva Convention, they are subject to legal interpretation."

So the question remains for the Irish government: if these detainees are passing through Shannon on the way to Gitmo, what is the Irish position on whether the conventions apply?

FURTHER UPDATE (Jan 2nd 2005): Here's an article from the Sunday Independent (reg. req'd) that details the specific grounds for believing Shannon to be implicated in the Gitmo abuses:

If you're passing through Shannon airport, keep an eye out for a Gulfstream 5 jet. You might just run into N8068V, or whatever it's calling itself these days, and thereby get a glimpse of one of the less savoury elements of Irish foreign policy.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Oirish Presidential Endorsement

Not much surprise really: arch Oirishman Dermot Desmond, after expressing mystification about what could be so corrupt about politicians taking huge cheques from private businessmen, turns to the US election (Irish Times, subs. req'd):

he also declared his support for US President George W. Bush, saying he hoped the Republican would win next month's election "to get himself out of the mess he got himself into".

UPDATE: Here's the Irish Independent report on the same interview with Desmond (reg. req'd). In case you'd forgotten about his impeccable Oirish credentials:

He also has a villa in Marbella, a stunning Palladian property in London's exclusive Belgravia area and a residence in Gibraltar where his companies are registered. And then, of course, there is the icing on the cake - the spectacular golf resort at Sandy Lane in Barbados that he co-owns with John Magnier and JP McManus.

So what's the key to his success? Desmond, who owns stakes in Glasgow Celtic and Manchester United, etc etc
It must be old news that Dubya is lazy

Washington Post "media critic" Howard Kurtz with a double-barrelled shout-out to Dubya's Spinners:

By the way, how does Camouflage Kerry have all this time at the end of a campaign to go hunting?

Meanwhile, as for the dude who's still, like, running the country:

[Boston Globe] Always fond of returning to his own bed at the end of the day, Bush has spent six out of the last seven nights at the White House, stepping off the campaign trail some days in time to catch the baseball playoffs. This weekend -- less than two weeks before the election, typically a time for frenzied barnstorming -- Bush is planning to spend two consecutive nights far from any battleground, at his ranch in Crawford, Texas."
Today's reading assignment

Dubya has been using the following sentence for at least the last two years, and again yesterday on the campaign trail:

I believe all these things, because freedom is not America's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty God's gift to each man and woman in this world.

Visit Thursday's Daily Howler for a discussion of why this sentence is deeply, utterly theologically flawed. And then wonder why our glorious pundits won't ask Dubya about it.
Justification by words

Dubya, about John Kerry: Now, I know we're in a campaign, and he's paying lip service to legal reform, but it's his votes and his actions, not his words, that really count.

David "Axis of Evil" Frum, about Dubya: ... of the president’s religious beliefs, "If you want to know what George Bush really thinks, look at what he says."

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The centre cannot hold

Maybe everyone is extra tired from watching all the baseball, but it certainly seems that Andrew Sullivan is having particular attention span problems these days -- perhaps having lost the anchor that came from Dubya's manliness and resolve.

Sullywatch documents two cases of his overeager linking: one to a deeply unfunny Derrida-football riff that Sully attributed to Gregg Easterbrook but actually came from one of Easterbrook's readers, and another, via Mickey Kaus, that supposedly represented a John Kerry flip-flop in the hunt for Osama [note, by the way, the thirst of people who claim to be supporting or leaning towards Kerry for any bit of hackery that fits the Rovian stereotype of him, but that's another story].

Anyway, Sully just seems confused when he leads of with this:

IRAQ'S ELECTION: Let's review where we are. There aren't even faintly enough U.N. troops to prepare for a legitimate election in January

Who said anything about UN troops? Presumably he caught a glimpse of stories like this one from the NYT, which referred to a shortage of UN election monitors. Later on he seems to catch himself and realise that the issue is whether there are enough US troops to induce UN monitors to come -- but the incoherence neatly mirrors Dubya's own on the topic.

In fact, given Sully's continued weak spot for Dubya, we're not ruling out him offering a last minute endorsement, along the lines of Butt-head's trenchant analysis of Radiohead's Creep: "if it wasn't for the parts that suck, the other parts wouldn't be as cool."

UPDATE: we're going to claim some predictive power for this post, because AFTER our observations on Sully's lack of attention to details, the following classic typo appeared [since fixed without comment]:

KERRY FOR PRESIDENT: Here's the New Repubic endorsement.

The aforementioned Butt-head collapses in laughter.
War and sports analogies

We're still waiting to see the first analysis of what went wrong for the New York Yankees in their historic collapse to the Boston Red Sox that blames their catastrophic success in winning the first three games, setting up Boston to win the final four. But maybe sports writers, who unlike political pundits are expected to know their stuff, realise that they'd never get away with such a lame piece of ex post rationalization.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Putting the Old in Old Trafford

With our vast American readership somewhat distracted by baseball, it might be appropriate to ponder the latest weird goings-on amongst Manchester United Football Club's large shareholders. As we noted recently, Malcolm Glazer, owner of the once-again shite Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has been increasing his shareholding in Man Utd towards the 30 percent level that would trigger a formal takeover bid.

But any bid would likely need the assent of the Oirish 29.9 percent stake in the club, held by tax exile JP McManus and skilled tax avoider John Magnier. The two Oirishmen so far show no signs of having done a deal with Glazer, but they are busy with other investments which suggests they may be thinking of getting out of Man Utd.

In particular, the two are members of another Oirish consortium which through a takeover has just made itself the largest operator of nursing homes in Britain. And of course, because we're all supposed to be proud of any Irish businessmen, there's plenty of fawning coverage in the Irish meeja. The company in question is called Barchester -- which could easily be the name of a housing estate in, say, Lucan, and truly does Oirland have no greater ambassador than this fine outfit (subs. req'd):

An Irish-controlled company is on the verge of becoming the UK's biggest private healthcare player in a euro 760 million deal ... The Irish-controlled company saw off competition from venture capital players Blackstone, Charterhouse and Allianz private equity, as well as British health insurer BUPA ... The company said that this would make it the biggest provider of privately paid-for beds in the UK.
... [chairman] Mr Brosnan said the deal was a transformative event for Barchester. "It creates a group with critical mass and an unrivalled position at the premium end of the market," he said.

In that brilliant example of corporate-speak at the end, when he says "premium," he means: elderly people, individuals with learning difficulties, younger disabled people and dementia sufferers. God be with the days when the gombeen men stuck to pints and funerals.

But anyway, it's tempting to wonder whether the expansion into the premium end of healthcare might signal an exit from the premium end of football, if only for the need to generate some cash to support the expanded venture. And this does cast in a different light the claim of some Man Utd fans that Glazer would surely be a bad owner because he has shown no previous interest in soccer.

DUDES! Your two Oirish shareholders are thinking about soccer one minute and how to generate cash from old people in the next. In fact, one wonders if they're planning on landing manager Alex Ferguson, with whom they have feuded, in one of these homes.
Reader Quiz

Guess the subject matter of the New York Times article from which the following excerpts are drawn:

"the same idolization of the 'leader,' the same mass rallies and parades." "massive ideological brainwashing." ... the cult of personality ... atmosphere of extreme crisis ... Possessed, almost literally, by a sense of historical mission ... state into an instrument of the ruling party and transformed the economy into a mighty war machine ... far-reaching network of party clubs and political activists ... broad mass of the population subscribed to the utopian vision articulated by its leader ... average citizen applauded the thorough work of the security forces ... no room for doubt, for compromise, or mercy toward opponents ...

Answer here.
Evidence that conspiracy theories are true

From today's NY Daily News (in the little bit of the paper not devoted to the Yankees' collapse versus the Red Sox):

NBC News star Campbell Brown is taking undercover reporting to a new level. The sultry correspondent is dating former Bush White House adviser Dan Senor, we hear. Word is he and Brown have been dating since at least the Democratic National Convention.

Strange to say this about a gossip item, but this understates the problem here. Dan Senor is not some random former White House Adviser. He was the civilian spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, and his handiwork was recently most visible in writing Iraqi PM Allawi's speech the US Congress.

UPDATE NOV 2005: Apparently they are now engaged.
A baseball question

Is Kilkenny's finest export, Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, requiring that he be introduced as Doctor Tynan by the New York Yankees public address announcer when he sings God Bless America during the seventh inning stretch at Yankee Stadium? And if he likes the title, why is he planning to drop it from his web address?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

It's far from this Molly Malone was reared

Truly, Dublin has now arrived as a sophistamacated city:

[WSJ, subs. req'd] NEW YORK -- The New York Mercantile Exchange, the world's largest energy marketplace, yesterday formally announced plans to open a trading floor in Dublin, after the exchange's board approved the plan in a meeting Monday night.

The Dublin exchange will offer open-outcry trading in Brent crude oil futures contracts and will open as near as possible to Nov. 1.

Barrels of Brent crude, alive, alive oh.
Write headlines with care

Just too many wrong connotations from this RTE headline today:

Aid body head kidnapped in Iraq

[UPDATE: RTE has now changed the headline, though not apparently because of its dreadful phrasing, but because of the new detail that the kidnap victim, at first considered to be British, is an Irish citizen. This opens up the same can of worms as the belated citizenship for Ken Bigley -- namely the belief that being seen as Irish is somehow beneficial despite the Republic's obvious (for anyone who bothers to look) cooperation with the US military operations in Iraq.]

You'll never beat the Scots-Irish

Tuesday's morning's enemy surveillance took us (as usual) to the Wall Street Journal op-ed page and upon seeing this article pitch (subs. req'd; alt free link) ...

Secret GOP Weapon: The Scots-Irish Vote
Andrew Jackson's coalition can still turn elections.

... we thought: here we go, the (American) Republican -- (Ulster) Unionist axis, of which we have written frequently, is now out in the open. But to be fair, that's not what it is. Mr Webb is indeed arguing that the American descendents of Ulster Presbyterians are a key voting block in parts of New England and in what the nation once called the Indian Territories but from his own website one can see that this has been a lifelong writing theme of his, culminating in current book on the topic.

The article doesn't mention David Trimble or modern Unionism once, and the only slam is of Soviet-style psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer:

Mr. Krauthammer, who has never complained about this ethnic group when it has marched off to fight the wars he wishes upon us, wrote that Mr. [Howard] Dean "wants the white trash vote . . . that's clearly what he meant," and that he was pandering to "rebel-yelling racist rednecks."

Personally we think that Webb overstates the extent to which Dubya's Connecticut-Texas act appeals to this group but one look at the electoral college map shows why it matters.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Tonight I'm gonna (Rock you tonight)

Dubya: And winning the war on terror requires a strategy for victory

UPDATE: This Slate article captures Dubya's bizarre and ultimately circular logic about winning the WoT; that it can only be won if we have a leader who can win it. Thus Fafblog post does an even better job of it.
Romantic Ireland is in a hurry

So here's what Irish nationalism has come to. Our glorious Soldiers of Destiny, soi-disant Irish Republicans, inheritors of the nationalist struggle and perpetual party of government did their obligatory outing to the Wolfe Tone commemoration on Sunday [for our overseas readers, Wolfe Tone is not that band on the juke box in your local Irish bar, but one of the many doomed nationalist heroes of days gone by].

So what were Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern (no relation) up to during the event? From the front page of the Irish Times, we can see: looking at Dermot's watch.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Men and Supermen

The feature article in today's New York Times magazine needs to be read in full -- a fascinating and ultimately scary account of the extent to which a cult of personality that draws its power from Christian fundamentalism is now rooted in the White House. It's tough to pick the most damning excerpt, but:

The [senior White House] aide said that guys like me [Ron Suskind, the article's author] were ''in what we [White House] call the reality-based community,'' which he defined as people who ''believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.'' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. ''That's not the way the world really works anymore,'' he continued. ''We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.''

UPDATE: Many blogs now declaring themselves proud to be in the Reality Based Community.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Scotland doesn't have any votes in the Electoral College

For a while, Dubya's loyalists were happy to treat the recurring rumours of a new draft as no more than a pesky Internet theory. But as it gained traction -- due to its plausibility -- the sense of panic is growing, to the point where fake Irish-American Ed Gillespie is threatening to sue people for talking about it.

One of Ed's grounds for suing is that the rumour is so patently without foundation that talking about it must signal a political motivation against the Dear Leader. And what would be the warning sign that the rumour might be true ... say, what if the US seemed to be asking around amongst its thin list of allies for some extra troops, who would only be needed for a short period of time? And so it is that some Christmas plans for British troops in Iraq are looking endangered:

BBC defence correspondent Paul Adams said it was thought an American unit had been earmarked for "combat operations" in insurgency stronghold Falluja and that the UK Government was now considering the US request for British cover.
If British troops were deployed to cover for the US, it would be somewhere to the south of Baghdad in "a reasonably benign environment", similar to the British army's base in Basra, he said.
The deployment, which would involve up to 650 personnel coming under US command, was expected to last "a few weeks".

The specific troops affected are from the Black Watch regiment, which recruits in Scotland -- not a swing state in two weeks time.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Why does the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy hate Liverpool?

Let's say it upfront: We told you so. A few days ago, we had a lengthy post discussing how Dubya-loving hack Mark Steyn had a column rejected by the Daily Telegraph. We speculated that what made the Telegraph nervous was not just the impugning of murdered hostage Ken Bigley and his family, but the broader ridicule of the city of Liverpool, where the Bigleys are from. Too many echoes for the Telegraph of the mistake Rupert Murdoch's Sun made in blaming fans of Liverpool FC for the Hillsborough disaster.

But of course what often drives episodes like this is that an objectionable sentence or two reveals what people are really thinking, and it seems that amongst the Airstrip One branch of the VRC, it was those damned Liverpudlians who provided a downer for Dubya's War on Terror, and what else should we expect from the architects of the Hillsborough disaster? So says Telegraph columnist, Tory MP, and archetypal right-wing chum Boris Johnson in a column in the Spectator (which he edits, and was likewise part of the Conrad Black empire):

[BBC] The article, in the issue dated 16 October, says people in Liverpool "cannot accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes, but seek rather to blame someone else for it, thereby deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance about the rest of society".

It says Liverpudlians "wallow" in their "victim status", adding it is part of the "deeply unattractive psyche" of many in the city.

... It adds [Liverpool] fans at the Hillsborough disaster, when 96 people died, were at fault rather than the police

In a seemingly uncoordinated development, today's Wall Street Journal Europe (subs. req'd) devotes an editorial to the miracle of what global capital markets have done for Manchester United:

Capital markets helped make Man U great ... Manchester United -- or the Red Devils as they're nicknamed -- became a more dominant force in the modern game after they became a PLC in 1991. The financing that then became available enabled the club to successfully respond to commercial opportunities and acquire top players. Today's complaints about "exploitation" display a total lack of understanding of what the existing management has been up to these last 13 years.

Is the US side of the VRC now looking to ape the regional prejudices of uninformed English toffs*?

*[UPDATE: Which is to say that, other than having a big money globalised sporting dynasty in Manchester, people in northern England are just a bunch of whiners]

[Further update, Oct 19: Steyn is back in this Tuesday's Telegraph and uses the Boris Johnson imbroglio to work in the essence of his previous column:

By Friday, [the Spectator] editorial had been attacked as being insensitive to the great City of Liverpool, Michael Howard had (naturally) denounced it and, with a Scouse fatwa about to descend, Boris Johnson decided the previous day's robust words were no longer operative.

He goes on to argue, basically, that if there is more Islamist terrorism, it will partly be Liverpool's fault.]

Thursday, October 14, 2004

No Professional Golfer Left Behind

Today's Wall Street Journal reports on (subs. req'd) one of the extra special goodies in the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004, soon to become Dubya's latest tax-shift:

On page 598 of the 650-page bill, at the end of a section designed to limit the use of corporate "deferred compensation" plans, is an exemption for any plan "established or maintained by an organization incorporated on July 2, 1974." In other words -- the PGA Tour Inc., the nonprofit association whose members play on the professional golf circuit.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

This one goes down to minus one

From the Story You Couldn't Make Up department (Irish Times news update, subs. req'd):

Civil liberties groups, anti-war campaigners and a number of politicians have expressed concern that senior gardai [Irish police] will be present at a conference on so-called "less-lethal" weapons in Dublin next week.

Assistant Garda Commissioner Joe Egan, Inspector John Gantley and Detective Superintendent Patrick Hogan, who is described as being on the Garda's "less lethal weapons implementation team" are listed as speakers at the Jane's Less Lethal Weapons Conference 2004.
Patriot: it's not just the name of a stupid law

Howard Kurtz is dropping many little Valentines to the Republicans these days. Roger Ailes (not the bald repulsive one) caught him at it several times last week, and today Howie delivers a pleasing equation of John Kerry with the hapless Michael Dukakis:

after last night's 10-7 loss [to the Yankees], maybe long-suffering [Boston Red Sox] fans should skip the game (unless they think Kerry will continue the Massachusetts losing streak started by Dukakis).

Howie was in such a rush to get in this facile comparison (Kerry = Massachusetts = loser) that he didn't worry about whether it made any sense. Does this supposed state-wide losing streak cover the reigning Superbowl champions and 19 straight game winning New England Patriots?

UPDATE: A Slate article on how bashing the Bay State seems to be an integral part of Dubya's spin.

An 18th pale descendent

For two days in a row, Andrew Sullivan wants the world to know that he's Irish:

Yes, Mickey [Kaus], I'm excitable at times. I have Irish blood in my veins.

This followed yesterday's possible implication that he grew up in Northern Ireland. And with that Irish Blood reference, we wonder ... does he have Morrissey on the iPod right now? Sullywatch was recently led to some Smiths nostalgia by an earlier Sully post which had echoes of the great Mancunian moaners. Perhaps there's a shred of good still left in him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Cross-currents in the Anglosphere

An interesting day for Her Majesty's battalion of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders. There's a zombie stalking warblogger columns across the land -- the task of finding just the right comparison between Dubya and a British statesman of old. Today, Andrew Sullivan presents Gladstone as the apt figure:

But Bush's Gladstonian big stick alone is also problematic ... It is therefore primarily a pragmatic decision we now face about which approach - Bush's Gladstone or Kerry's Disraeli ... (cont'd p94)*

Putting aside our inner Beavis and Butthead with one meaning of that first clause, it is nonetheless germane to note our own previously expressed view that about the only relevant point of comparison between Dubya and Gladstone is indeed wood: they both liked to smash it as relaxation.

And since, via Gladstone, we're talking about Ireland, Sullivan offers his own credentials in another War on Terror:

I lived through the era of "an acceptable level of terrorism" in Northern Ireland. I loathed it then and I loathe it now.

There they go again on the Northern Ireland -- al Qaeda comparisons. And it's a sentence that's a tad imprecise (he lived in England) but then again the whole point of blogging is not have an editor who'd catch such things so let's leave it there.

Now to Mark Steyn, who likewise has a cachet amongst the American Punditocracy along the lines of: he writes for British publications, so he must know about that terrorism stuff. Steyn revealed yesterday that the Daily Telegraph pulled his column that was due to run today. There are a couple of ways to interpret this. One is that the free pass at the Telegraph for all things Canadian has lapsed with the exit of Conrad Black. The other is that the text of the column itself did indeed sound like the makings of a severe headache for the Telegraph had it run.

Steyn has helpfully provided the offending column [note: replaced dead link]. We've read it several times and don't have a judgement on what it is about this particular Steyn column that tipped it over the edge. It's about the anguished reaction in Britain and in Liverpool in particular to the extended kidnapping and death of British (and right before he died, Irish) hostage Ken Bigley. Steyn zeroes in on the little we know about Bigley -- the little that conforms to an expat stereotype -- and makes it the basis of sustained criticism of Bigley's family, the UK government, and (depending on how one reads it) Bigley himself. Not brave enough in death, says our fearless keyboarder.

Part of Steyn's reputation is indeed for being provocative so the Telegraph won't have much credibility if they express surprise at this column. We suspect that the clincher for the editors in pulling this column was not even any of the above, but the sustained mockery of the city of the Liverpool:

THE QUALITY OF MERSEY... the entire city of Liverpool going into a week of Dianysian emotional masturbation over some deceased prodigal son with no inclination to return whom none of the massed ranks of weeping Scousers ...

Any Telegraph editor reading this (at least one actually familiar with recent English history) would had to have thought of the years-long boycott in Liverpool of the Sun for the way it covered the Hillsborough disaster; as with Steyn, tragedy and death were converted into a means to mock a city and its people. Perhaps Steyn, sitting in New Hampshire as he wrote the column, was unaware of this problem.

(*cont'd p94 usage stolen from Private Eye a la Mickey Kaus)

Monday, October 11, 2004

America discovers socialised medicine

Faced with a shortage of flu vaccines this winter, the USA's faith in leaving health care to the market seems to be weakening somewhat:

[WSJ, subs. req'd] All the flu vaccine in Connecticut belongs to the private sector, and long-term-care facilities and hospitals are among those without shots.
By the end of last week, some states had moved to assert greater control of the flu-vaccine supply. California state health officials Friday issued a public-health order for all health-care providers to limit flu shots to those at highest risk. New Mexico, which had ordered its entire supply for older children and adults from Chiron [UK company shut down by British regulators], issued a similar order.

To belabour the obvious, what's the difference between America's usual approach of allocating health care to those with the means to have health insurance, and allocating flu vaccine to those most able to pay for it?

UPDATE [12 Oct]: The flu vaccine crisis produces a flip-flop from the Bush administration on the question of pharmacy imports; now they're in favour:

The [US] government is also looking for supplies from abroad. A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline, a British company that sells a flu vaccine in 70 countries, said yesterday that it was "working with the F.D.A." to negotiate a way to bring the vaccine to the United States. Anthony F. Holler, chief executive of ID Biomedical, which sells a vaccine in Canada, said his company had been contacted by federal authorities.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Some animals are more equal than others

Has the equal protection clause of the US Constitution become the 'damned spot' of the Bush administration? A little while back, we noted the odd amnesia that afflicts the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy when writing about this amendment: sure, it led to desegregation, which was a Good Thing, but now it risks leading to special rights for the unGodly, which is a Bad Thing. Furthermore, there is a strange reluctance to mention the most momentous recent application of it ... the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore, which put Dubya in the White House.

If only for the reason that he owes his current power entirely to it, one would have thought that Dubya would be somewhat familiar with the amendment's history and application; yet, as widely noted in the political blog world, he utterly botched a reference to it in Friday night's debate against Kerry. As is typical when Dubya strays away from the tested spin lines, it's not even clear what his chain of half sentences means, but the context gives us some pointers.

Dubya had been asked to specify his criteria for a good Supreme Court justice. He was trying to argue that a good justice is one who bases legal arguments directly in the text of the Constitution. Attempting to provide examples of cases where this was not followed, he knew that he couldn't mention the Court's reading of a right to abortion in the Constitution, risking offending moderate, pro-choice voters. So he reached into the haze of history and cited the Dred Scott case, in which the Court held that slavery was constitutional. Then the verbal chaos began:

[Dubya] Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.
That's a personal opinion [of the ruling justices]. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.

Somehere along the way he seems to have realized that in fact the example of slavery exposed the deficiencies of the original constitution, since the amendments abolishing slavery, making all US-born residents citizens, and guaranteeing equal protection were added later -- but in bailing, he adds this curious present tense statement that the consitution "doesn't speak to the equality of America."

So who's been whispering that statement in his ear? Clearly, for someone as in love with tax cuts as he is, "equality" is already a tricky word, but as we said above, what does this imply for his view of the equal protection clause? Good enough to put him in office, but otherwise inoperative? Who among the fearless Washington "press corps" will ask him to explain?

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Other fronts in the War on Terror

Maybe it's facile to juxtapose current terrorist attacks against War on Terror rhetoric. But then, the WoT itself is facile:

[Dubya, Thursday afternoon] In a world after September the 11th, he [Saddam] was a threat we had to confront. And America and the world* are safer for our actions.

*The term 'World' excludes Israel and Egypt. Other exclusions pending.
Font size strategery

Washington Post web front page, huge type: Hussein Gave Vouchers To Help Dilute Sanctions

Washington Post web front page, much smaller type: U.S. 'Almost All Wrong' on Weapons

UPDATE: web page later adjusted to a more sensible ordering of these stories.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Why does Dick Cheney hate God?

As widely reported today, the Bush-Cheney campaign's talent for boomerang spin went to a new level at Tuesday night's vice presidential debate, when Cheney claimed never to have met Edwards before, an intended slight on Edwards' Senate attendance record. The trouble is, Cheney had met him before, in the Senate and at a prayer breakfast. Amongst the excuses trotted out today, to the LA Times:

Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt described the prayer breakfast photo as evidence of an 'inconsequential meeting.'

So now even prayer is getting the Dr Evil treatment ("the details of my life are inconsequential...."). Don't Christian conservatives need to know about this?

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

The market in panic futures

Which will be more expensive in January: a flu shot, or a barrel of oil?
All that France-bashing is suddenly inoperative

[WSJ, subs. req'd] A company that expected to supply about half of the U.S. stock of flu shots this season won't be able to provide any doses of the vaccine because British health authorities have temporarily suspended the company's manufacturing license ... A spokesman for the biggest manufacturer of flu vaccine, Aventis Pasteur Inc., a unit of Sanofi-Aventis SA of France, couldn't immediately comment on how the company would respond to Chiron's troubles.
A football miscellany

A warning to our non-sports fan readers: there's a high risk of increased blogging here about Manchester United over the next few days. That subject kept us going through the 2003 silly season and is working its way back onto our agenda. The basic setting hasn't changed a whole lot since the days when Beckhamania gripped the world: there was life after Beckham in Manchester, and the club still has a complicated ownership structure in which the definitive Oirishmen own 30 percent of it, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers owner Malcolm Glazer owns about 20 percent.

It is now believed that Glazer intends to bid for full ownership of the club, and Man Utd fans are rightly worried about their team being subject to the whims of rich foreign businessmen who dabble in other sports and will move along once the next big thing comes along ... which is basically the current situation with the two Oirishmen. But it's a fair argument that Glazer would be worse: his closest previous interaction with soccer would be the Argentinian kicker on his (American) football team, and his Tampa team is displaying the classic plaything symptoms. After a Superbowl two years ago, they failed to make the playoffs last year and will have trouble scraping together even a handful of victories this year.

As the more sane financial analysts have pointed out, much of the hype that drove the high valuations of sports teams has dissipated over the last year. It's not clear that Beckham would have made any difference, but MU have fallen short of their championship standards since he left, and all of Europe's big clubs had an ugly 2003-04, which finished with the European Champions League trophy being contested by Monaco and Porto. By that point, the players for Real Madrid, AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Man Utd, and Arsenal had, as the Americans say, hit the golf course.

And Beckham's own star has fallen so much that today's Sun depicts his head, courtesy of a negative comment from Posh about his dancing ability, superimposed on the body of David Brent from the classic dancing scene from The Office. And one final sign of the globalised, cross-branded sports world: Arsenal's new stadium is to be called Emirates Stadium, via their new Gulf airline sponsor. As we said before: English football is now leased out.
Giving al Qaeda what they want

Dubya's daily campaign events are organised around a feature called Ask President Bush. It's a bit like Prime Minister's Question Time from the House of Commons -- with the exception that the Opposition never gets to ask any questions. Thus every question is along the lines of "Do you agree that you are the greatest human being of all time?"

Sometimes the main substantive content is in the comments within questions that are allowed to pass with just a nod by Dubya i.e. implicit agreement by him without having to say so. He used this trick before to put John Kerry's Vietnam war record in play. But check out his implicit agreement with this question, reported in today's Washington Post:

"Q Mr. President, first, we just want to tell you that we pray for you every night as our President.

"THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, sir. (Applause.)

"Q ... maybe my little seven-year-old should come down here and share it with you. Can you tell the President what Noah Webster (phonetic) said about our republic?

"SEVEN-YEAR-OLD: It would do our system well to learn at an early age that the correct principles of our republic is the holy Bible, the New Testament, and Christianity. (Applause.)"

And that's the end of that exchange. Note: from the US State Department critique of the status of religious freedom in Saudi Arabia:

As custodian of Islam's two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina, the Government considers its legitimacy to rest largely on its interpretation and enforcement of Shari'a. Consequently, the Government has declared the Koran and the Sunna (tradition) of Muhammad to be the country's Constitution ... Neither the Government nor society in general accepts the concept of separation of religion and state.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Colin Powell's lame excuses

One potential value of blogs is to follow up a story that the mainstream media -- busy making up John Kerry quotes -- have forgotten about. Consider then the minor question of why Colin Powell did not attend the Republican convention in New York. To an outside observer, the reasonable explanation would seem to be that Powell has enough intelligence to see what he's gotten suckered into over the last four years and wants to get out with some shred of his reputation intact.

But Powell is still in the weird grip of the Cult of Dubya, so there's no way that explanation could be allowed to stand out there. So there was another one: an alleged precedent that Secretaries of State stay out of party politics. It wasn't difficult to collect past instances where this was not the case, and here's another one (with added Irishness!).

We've blogged before about the Bloody Sunday killings in 1972, when British soldiers opened fire on marchers in Derry, killing 12. In those days, the White House was actually paying attention to overseas news, and the Irish Times (subs. req'd) has gotten access to transcripts of conversations between President Nixon and then Secretary of State (i.e. the Colin Powell analog) William Rogers.

In the manner of many Nixon conversations, there are parts that are funny: the pair know that Taoiseach Jack Lynch will want a meeting with Nixon to discuss the crisis, so they concoct the excuse that Nixon is busy preparing for his trip to China. The message being, we suppose, that the Irish need to coordinate our crises around St Patrick's Day if we hope to get a US meeting out of it.

But then there's an insight into those apolitical Secretaries of State:

Mr Rogers remarks that he will use the Irish crisis as "an excuse" to hold a press conference, during which he would attack the Democratic presidential candidate, Mr Edmund Muskie, for his stand on the Vietnam war.

Nixon also developed his own approach to the Irish Question, involving the sending of an interesting team of emissaries:

As well as sending Norman Vincent Peale, a TV celebrity and bestselling author of The Power of Positive Thinking, president Nixon also considered sending fundamentalist Protestant preacher Mr Billy Graham and the Catholic Cardinal of New York, Terence Cooke.

Luckily, the policy process in his administration was strong enough to shelve this idea. But does anyone think there are similar safeguards to filter out such fanciful schemes today?
al Qaeda strikes a blow for gay marriage

It seems to be a hallmark of Andrew Sullivan to hold with conviction a particular set of opinions a point in time without realising how they relate to his previous opinions on the same issue. Brad DeLong recently analysed this phenomenon at the philosophical level, and the examples just keep coming. Sullivan has never been clear on whether he views the Republicans' opposition to gay marriage as a sufficient cause in itself for his current disenchantment with them despite their very manly War on Terror -- an intellectual mess which leads to posts like this:

NOW, SPAIN: It's no longer big news that another country is adopting equal rights for gay couples. Almost every civilized country has done so or is about to do so, apart from the U.S. But Spain's adoption of marriage itself strikes me as a big deal ... For gay equality to have arrived in the land of Franco is a sign of how profound the social revolution has become. And how irreversible.

Yes, the land of Franco -- and the land of Socialists and Bin Laden appeasers who just six months ago had turned Spain back into al Andalus, the beachhead of a new Islamic invasion of Western Europe, if one believed what he had to say in the aftermath of the 11-M bombings:

BIN LADEN'S VICTORY IN SPAIN: It's a spectacular result for Islamist terrorism, and a chilling portent of Europe's future ... the removal of the Taliban and the Saddam dictatorship were two major blows to the cause of Islamist terror ... So it's vital that the Islamist mass murderers target those who backed both wars. It makes total sense. And in yesterday's election victory for the socialists, al Qaeda got even more than it could have dreamed of ... GREATER ISLAM: But there's another obvious reason for the targeting of Spain. It was once in part a Muslim-controlled country. The agenda of bin Laden and other Islamo-fascists is to reconquer those regions in Europe and the former Soviet Empire for a new Islamic Reich...

So is it a new rebranded Islamic Reich that sees gay marriage as a great PR move, or a fiendish plot to conquer Europe by further reducing its birth rate?

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The axis of spin

A fabricated news story is like iodine working through the bloodstream -- it reveals so much about where it travels. Blogger Josh Marshall has been tracking the sequence of events since a "news" story appeared on Pravda Fox "News" Channel on Friday. It reported supposed remarks by John Kerry to a post-debate rally on Thursday night in which Kerry gloried in the state of his nails. The story was completely made up. But the retraction came too late for Mark Steyn, who is peddling the manicure spin in the Sunday Telegraph:

Perhaps [Kerry's] hand movements were just to show off the manicure he'd had during the day, while Bush was out putting his arms round Florida's hurricane victims.

That minus 5 hours deadline pressure for the US based Telegraph writers is so unfair; so little time to check up on which stories are actually true. But we give Steyn some points for the clause "Speaking as a third-rate hack..."

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Maybe he wants fortune cookies at the summit

Remember when we said we'd do just one post about the 1st Bush-Kerry debate? We lied. Stung from the day-after coverage, Dubya seems to be ratcheting back up the France-bashing:

The president said Mr. Kerry "wants our national security decisions subject to the approval of a foreign government." As the invited crowd booed, Mr. Bush added: "Listen, I'll continue to work with our allies and the international community - but I will never submit America's national security to an international test. The use of troops to defend America must never be subject to a veto by countries like France."

Clear and resolute (and complete shite) -- no other countries should be involved in dealing with countries that threaten the US. So, like, if some crazy dude had nukes, we wouldn't let 3rd countries hold up how we deal with them? Or 4th, 5th, or 6th countries? Err...

[Debate] BUSH: ...we [USA] signed an agreement with North Korea that my administration found out that was not being honored by the North Koreans.
And so I decided that a better way to approach the issue was to get other nations involved, just besides us ... And so we began a new dialogue with North Korea, one that included not only the United States, but now China. And China's a got a lot of influence over North Korea, some ways more than we do.
As well, we included South Korea, Japan and Russia. So now there are five voices speaking to Kim Jong Il, not just one.
And so if Kim Jong Il decides again to not honor an agreement, he's not only doing injustice to America, he'd be doing injustice to China, as well.
And I think this will work. It's not going to work if we open up a dialogue with Kim Jong Il. He wants to unravel the six- party talks, or the five-nation coalition that's sending him a clear message.
It's different because we say it's different

Quiz: what government issued this very French call for some Kerry-esque sensitivity and nuance with reference to another country's military operations amongst an Arab population?

On the situation in XXXX, there are ongoing military operations in XXXX. Obviously, we understand that YYYY has the right to defend itself. We've also noted with regret, reports of civilian casualties. We urge the Government of YYYY to take every measure to ensure that only proportional force is used to counter the threats it faces. We urge YYYY to avoid civilian casualties and minimize humanitarian consequences. These kinds of casualties can only make all of our efforts to achieve a durable peace more difficult.

Answer: Here. The French must have infiltrated the US State Department. XXXX is Gaza and YYYY is Israel.

Friday, October 01, 2004