Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Another Dick Cheney interview today with Larry King. From many bits that one could pick out, there's this --

When he's [Bush] finished, I'm finished. We walk out of here on January 20th of '09, and I think we'll be able to hold our heads high knowing we did the best we could for the country. That's what counts more than anything else.

Counts more than the actual outcomes of their policies?


Nigel Powers: ... There's only two things I hate in this world. People who are intolerant of other people's cultures and the Dutch.

Christopher Hitchens: It is often said that resistance to jihadism only increases the recruitment to it. For all I know, this commonplace observation could be true. But, if so, it must cut both ways. How about reminding the Islamists that, by their mad policy in Kashmir and elsewhere, they have made deadly enemies of a billion Indian Hindus? Is there no danger that the massacre of Iraqi and Lebanese Christians, or the threatened murder of all Jews, will cause an equal and opposite response? Most important of all, what will be said and done by those of us who take no side in filthy religious wars? The enemies of intolerance cannot be tolerant, or neutral, without inviting their own suicide. And the advocates and apologists of bigotry and censorship and suicide-assassination cannot be permitted to take shelter any longer under the umbrella of a pluralism that they openly seek to destroy.

On the more serious side, it's strange for Hitchens to pick out as examples of Islamic provocation Kashmir -- which for better or worse, began as a nationalist struggle -- and the perilous position of Iraqi Christians. After all, the latter did fairly well under Saddam.

The Australian War on Terror

It's getting ugly. Or in view of what's already happened to Mohamed Haneef, uglier. What looks like selective release of IM transcripts, with sentences open to multiple interpretations being given only one.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Unique, indeed

Dick Cheney in an interview for CBS --

Q What do you make of the campaign as it's going so far? I know you want to stay neutral, and I'm not asking you to take issues, but you must watch with great interest what the Democrats are up to.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Sure, I watch with great interest on both sides, both Republicans and Democrats. Our presidential campaigns are one of the unique and distinguishing features of our society. And the process by which we select Presidents and then hold them accountable is unique in many respects here in the United States.

If by "unique" he's referring to not selecting presidents by popular vote majorities, declaring some kind of legal immunity in the face of every attempt to hold them accountable, and leaving the head of government in place even after he's lost the support of the legislature, then he's right.

He was right the first time

Credit the BBC's Nick Robinson for being on the spot in real time to catch what was apparent from the instant it was uttered a mis-statement by Gordon Brown, or least a mis-statement relative to what George Bush wanted him to say. Because Gordon said --

Afghanistan is the front line against terrorism, and as we have done twice in the last year, where there are more forces needed to back up the coalition and NATO effort, they have been provided by the United Kingdom.

Thus going completely off-message on Iraq as the central front in the war on terror. Hence Nick's question --

And Prime Minister, you talked of Afghanistan being the front line in the struggle against terror, not Iraq. Do you believe that British troops in Iraq are part of the struggle against terrorism, or as many people now believe, making that harder, not easier, to win?

PRIME MINISTER BROWN: Well, perhaps I should deal with it first and then pass on to you, President.

In Iraq, you're dealing with Sunni-Shia violence, you're dealing with the involvement of Iran, but you're certainly dealing with a large number of al Qaeda terrorists. And I think I described Afghanistan as the first line in the battle against the Taliban, and of course the Taliban in Afghanistan is what we are dealing with in the provinces for which we've got responsibility, and doing so with some success.

Gordon's account of what he had said just a few minutes before is clearly wrong, with his new version being close to redundant as the Taliban are an Afghan movement.

UPDATE: The Telegraph's Toby Harnden subtitles Gordon's faux pax (via Iain Murray).

Bush-Cheney '08

Revealingly ambiguous terminology from the general in charge of US policy towards Iraq, David Petraeus --

Asked about media reports that Washington envisioned a substantial American force remaining in Iraq through mid-2009, General David Petraeus told ABC News: "Sustainable security is, in fact, what we hope to achieve.

"It's in our campaign plan. We do think it will take about that amount of time, as you discussed, to establish the conditions for it."

So his "campaign plan" will dump the inevitable withdrawal into the lap of Bush's successor and after next year's election campaign, leaving Bush free to complain that he stayed the course as long as the pesky constitution allowed him to. It's pretty bad when the job of a general becomes working on the legacy of the incumbent president.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

That new Brown policy towards the US in full

AP Photo/Charles Dharapak; caption

In the passenger seat of a golf cart being driven by George Bush -- having earlier hit his head on Bush's helicopter.

UPDATE: Watertiger notes this one with Bush clearly not watching where he is going.

FINAL UPDATE: Guido goes with the head smash.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Osama really loves emoticons

As people try to piece together the extent of the domestic surveillance that the US government has been up to in the last few years, there's been a sudden burst of relevant government leaks to various newspapers. This Wall Street Journal editorial hints at one aspect of what George Bush's spooks have been up to: looking for ways to snoop on Internet traffic without a warrant.

The Journal claims that if an Internet telephone call (or, presumably, an IM conversation) was between two foreign-based suspects but routed through US servers, it becomes a domestic conversation for the purpose of US law and so a warrant would be required to intercept it. Here's the (presumably) hypothetical example the WSJ gives

If an al Qaeda operative in Quetta calls a fellow jihadi in Peshawar, that call may well travel through a U.S. network.

Indeed it could -- if the terrorists use Skype. But are we really expected to believe that the evildoer in Quetta would go the trouble of finding a broadband connection to Skype with his fellow evildoer in Peshawar -- when he could just pick up the phone and dial him direct, on plain old Pakistani phonelines that don't come anywhere near the US? And anyway, aren't these evildoers always supposed to be "on the run" in caves somewhere, where Skype access is not an issue?

2 more things to note. First, the Bush surveillance is likely just massive data mining of all Internet activity, without any attempt to sort out who is where at each end of the transaction. Second, it might be time to take another look at those French concerns that Blackberry could be part of the problem.

UPDATE: David Rivkin and Lee Casey, again on the apparently well-briefed Wall Street Journal editorial page, go with the same claim that overseas calls might pass through US-based servers and so George W. Bush would need to be able to listen in without a warrant. Apart from anything else, these people don't seem to realize that the long-term consequence of allowing George W. Bush access to US-based Internet servers is that other countries will develop their own infrastructure to sidetrack the US. A big source of comparative advantage would be gone.

FINAL UPDATE 3 AUGUST: It seems that the briefing to newspapers were part of a shadow debate going on about revision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with this claim about electronic conversations between foreign parties cross US soil being a key part of the White House argument.

VERY FINAL UPDATE: While it's typical of Republican buffoonery that Congressman John Boehner apparently discussed classified information (see also here) in explaining why a new law was needed, note that it's clear from our WSJ links above that the same information -- the alleged need for a warrant to intercept communications overseas using US wires -- was being leaked to favoured news outlets before Boehner blabbed.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cheney watch ends .. or begins?

In his first public appearance in nearly 2 months, Dick Cheney spoke today at the retirement ceremony for the Vice Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, whom George Bush had creatively nicknamed "G." As usual with Cheney, you couldn't tell from his remarks that his senior military officers have gone from one mistake to another in Iraq e.g. --

It will be said, as well, that the years of General Pace [chairman] and Admiral G were years of extraordinary leadership and accomplishment. These two officers, with combined service of more than seven decades, have been a remarkable team for the United States of America.

So remarkable that they're both being replaced. But anyway, it's news simply that Cheney showed up and left evidence of his presence, unlike his stint as acting President last week in what is clearly medical procedures week for the 2 Deciders.

It's strange timing though, because Cheney will go to hospital tomorrow to have his heart defibrillator replaced -- surely he wouldn't want to give the impression of squeezing in one public event just in case the worst happens.

UPDATE: Dick got the battery replaced and its shows. A burst of events includes an opening at George Washington University Hospital, and two interviews -- one with Mark Knoller and one (coming tomorrow with Larry King).

Indirect fire

Photo by Richard Termine, Sesame Workshop, via the US Department of Defense

Against the backdrop of George Bush's complaining about how "death on our TV screens" is undermining his otherwise perfect war in Iraq, it apparently takes an oblique product from Sesame Street to being the war home to people. The acclaimed special production in which Elmo's dad gets deployed. Explained in more detail here.

Not a great alibi

Among the eyebrow raising anecdotes in this New York Times story about the US has publicly deemphasized its rift with Saudi Arabia over policy towards Iraq --

WASHINGTON, July 26 — During a high-level meeting in Riyadh in January, Saudi officials confronted a top American envoy with documents that seemed to suggest that Iraq’s prime minister could not be trusted.

One purported to be an early alert from the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, to the radical Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr warning him to lie low during the coming American troop increase, which was aimed in part at Mr. Sadr’s militia. Another document purported to offer proof that Mr. Maliki was an agent of Iran.

The American envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, immediately protested to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, contending that the documents were forged ... The American officials said they had no doubt that the documents shown to Mr. Khalilzad were forgeries, though the Saudis said they had obtained them from sources in Iraq. “Maliki wouldn’t be stupid enough to put that on a piece of paper,” one senior Bush administration official said. He said Mr. Maliki later assured American officials that the documents were forgeries.

This from the same Administration which believed that Saddam would leave a paper trail on that famous attempted purchase of uranium from Niger. Note also how the US resolution of the alleged forgeries entirely hinges on taking Maliki's word for it. They probably find the alternative too horrible to contemplate.

Weak link

One specific angle in the Bulgarian babies for sale racket exposed by the BBC is that the smuggler had determined that the best route for this trade into Britain was from France to Ireland on the ferry and then over to England or Wales the same way. This revelation comes not long after the floating bales of cocaine case off the southwest coast, with one of those smugglers having a fraudulent Irish passport. The signs are there for anyone looking that lax Irish border controls are a disaster waiting to happen.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hurling clubs in the USA

It's getting difficult for them. The Wall Street Journal explains (link should work for non-subscribers). One issue not mentioned: many towns back in Ireland would have trouble putting together a hurling team too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A shot of vodka and a packet of capital gains, please

It's been a while since we did any Guinness/Diageo posts so the Financial Times brings news that Diageo has again squelched rumours that it would sell the Irish brand, referring instead to a goal of increasing sales in Africa (where they offer a higher alcohol version) to compensate for declining sales in Ireland --

Mr [Paul] Walsh [CEO] said a continuing fall in Guinness sales in Ireland had "nothing to do" with Diageo’s marketing of the brand, and was instead due to "structural" changes in consumption as people spent less time in pubs.

Guinness accounts for about 13 per cent of Diageo’s total sales revenues, which were £7.26bn (€10.8bn) in the 2006 financial year. Guinness sales fell 1 per cent globally and were down 4 per cent in Europe in the six months to December.

"We have to continue to grow the brand outside its home market," Mr Walsh said, adding that sales of Guinness outside Ireland had risen 4-5 per cent.

Despite marketing abominations like Surger and Ice, he's probably right that changes in Irish drinking culture have more to do with the decline in sales. Incidentally, the article also says that Diageo is interested in buying the Swedish government-owned Absolut operation. Now, Diageo could do like everyone else and borrow the money to finance that purchase. But one option not explicitly ruled out by the claim that they won't sell Guinness is selling the St James' Gate Brewery.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All the world's a stage

Among the risks that George Bush has run with today's speech highlighting the US claim that the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq is a fictional character is that al Qaeda in Iraq could simply have Abu Omar al-Baghdadi pop up in person to issue an actual statement. Of course then the US would claim that that person was also an actor. But remember that George Bush's speech was supposed to make it clearer who it is that his troops are fighting.

Another risk with the speech is that more people might wonder how it is that the Iraqi prisoner Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashadani who was the source of such talking-point-ready information started talking so quickly once he was in captivity. It couldn't be that the CIA interrogation program is being used in Iraq, now could it?

Another risk is highlighted by Bush's use of the passive voice in explaining how al Qaeda in Iraq got started.

UPDATE: It's particularly bizarre to see the Wall Street Journal editorial page screaming for al-Mashadani to be sent to Gitmo for further interrogation since he's clearly already singing like a canary under the interrogation regimen in Iraq.

The Holy Trinity

Actual lead sentence of a National Review editorial --

If the results of Sunday’s Turkish election had been designed by a committee consisting of Henry Kissinger, Bernard Lewis, and Dick Morris, they could scarcely have come up with a better or more calming outcome.

That would be Henry "Bomb Cambodia" Kissinger, Bernard "Strong Horse" Lewis and Dick "Toe-sucker" Morris. It's going to be a rough year for Turkey.

George Bush is to Osama bin Laden as ...

... Christopher Hitchens is to George Galloway. They perfectly reinforce each other's blunderbuss approach to political analysis, and each finds the other an incredibly useful brush for tarring all critics. Watch Hitch associate everyone opposed to the war in Iraq with Galloway. Watch him use unrelated corruption investigations (e.g. Chirac's activities when mayor of Paris) as evidence of corrupt motives in opposition to the war. If that's the game, Hitch, have you checked Halliburton's profits recently?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Tell it to George

One of the big bits of news in Gordon Brown's first full press conference today was surely his repeated invocation of climate change as the likely culprit in the floods e.g.

Obviously like every advanced industrial country we are coming to terms with some of the issues surrounding climate change. It is pretty clear that some of the 19th century structures for dealing with infrastructure and where they were sited, that is something that we are going to have to review. That will be part of the review that Hilary Benn has authorised. Equally at the same time we are going to have to look at drainage, surface water as well as river water, and what we are going to be able to do in the future in relation to that.

It's a sign of changed times that the kind of attribution that was once seen as the province only of environmental loonies has gone mainstream. It's what happens when the loonies keep turning out to be right.

A Blitz of corn husks

Tomorrow sees the release of a Dick Cheney hagiography by Stephen Hayes. The promotion machine is in full swing as Hayes writes an e-mail to Powerline readers, via "Trunk", about the book and its subject --

The result is a meaty biography that traces Cheney’s life from his birth in wartime Nebraska (1941)

Thus an utterly gratuitous attribution of wartime experience to the infant Cheney -- one shared in terms of date by hundreds of millions of other people, many of whom were a lot closer to the frontlines than Nebraska. But with a later military career encompassing 5 deferments from the war he was actually eligible to fight, and then a great eagerness to send others into war in his political career: you write up the military experience that you have, not the one that you'd want.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


What does it take to get ABC to show any of co-leader Padraig Harrington's shots?

UPDATE: Apparently he has to be sole leader.

FINAL UPDATE: Co-leader with 2 holes to play is also sufficient. But what was going on prior to the 16th when he was right there near the top?


Friday, July 20, 2007

Waterboarding them there so we don't have to waterboard them here

Once one gets past the thought that "US bans terror suspect torture" is news, actual reading of the relevant Bush executive order makes clear that the mystery CIA detention program to which the order applies could be in use in Iraq --

General Determinations. (a) The United States is engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces. Members of al Qaeda were responsible for the attacks on the United States of September 11, 2001, and for many other terrorist attacks, including against the United States, its personnel, and its allies throughout the world. These forces continue to fight the United States and its allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, and they continue to plan additional acts of terror throughout the world.

(ii) the conditions of confinement and interrogation practices are to be used with an alien detainee who is determined by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency:

(A) to be a member or part of or supporting al Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated organizations; and

(B) likely to be in possession of information that:

(1) could assist in detecting, mitigating, or preventing terrorist attacks, such as attacks within the United States or against its Armed Forces or other personnel, citizens, or facilities, or against allies or other countries cooperating in the war on terror with the United States, or their armed forces or other personnel, citizens, or facilities;

This could be another aspect in explaining George Bush's insistence that the insurgents in Iraq are "the same people who attacked us on September 11." Nor does anything in the order preclude its applicability to permanent residents of the United States.

So could it be that the Army in Iraq hands over some detainees to the CIA program? Consider for example the suddenly talkative "Hamid the Mute" and the loquacious Iraqi source (Abu Shahid) for the information that the head of al Qaeda in Iraq is a fictional character.

UPDATE 27 JULY: A LA Times op-ed piece notes the potentially broad application of the order (via Dan Froomkin).

Maybe there's no White House room dark enough

The continuing absence of Dick Cheney from the public eye will extend even to tomorrow, when for a few hours he will formally have the powers of the Presidency with George Bush under anasthetic for a colonoscopy. Here's the strange thing, as revealed by Press Secretary Tony Snow --

Q Where will the Vice President be?

MR. SNOW: He will be at his home on the Eastern Shore.

That would be Cheney's huge pad in St Michael's, next to Rummy's. Doubtless they have much to discuss. But he's not up for at least the appearance of being at the White House when formally in charge?

Poster boys

One of today's press releases from Multinational Forces Iraq -- hot on the heels of their success in declaring an elusive opponent to be imaginary:

Coalition Forces captured a suspected terrorist with close ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) in a raid Thursday in Kharnabat near Baqubah.

No shots were fired when Coalition Forces conducted a raid to capture or kill a highly-sought operative with connections to senior leaders of the IRGC-QF. The captured terrorist is suspected of facilitating the transport of weapons and personnel from Iran into Iraq. The captured terrorist is also believed to have facilitated the flow of deadly Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs) into Iraq from Iran to be used against Coalition Forces.

During the raid, Coalition Forces confiscated a large sum of U.S. currency, weapons and photographs of juveniles with weapons.

That's 4 Iran mentions in a few sentences. But anyway, note the emphasis on the evilitude of the operative in having pictures of juveniles with weapons. Couldn't happen in America, let alone be endorsed by a prominent right-wing blogger. Indeed.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Remember the Domino

It's too much of a broken record to be going through yet another rambling George Bush Q&A like today's in Nashville (and the questions were nearly as much of a fiasco as the answers), so just this thought from him near the end on an issue that has dogged him before --

See, one of the interesting things about this war [Iraq] I forgot to tell you is, unlike, say, the Vietnam War, that if we fail in Iraq, the enemy won't be content to stay there. They will follow us here. That's what different about this struggle than some of the others we're had. What happens overseas matters.

Does he forget the rationale of the Vietnam war -- and the Cuban blockade, and the American interventions in Central America etc -- was precisely the claim that Communism wouldn't stop in one place and had in fact an ultimate goal of encircling the "free world", eventually leading to its collapse?

Bring your lunch

By playing with this Google map, one can see how the geography and roads conspire so that one bridge in Leenane being washed out can add a lot of time to what is a common trip for tourists in Galway and Mayo at this time of year.

The worst healthcare money can buy

Here, via the Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd), is the essence of why the American healthcare system is so bad relative to all the money spent on it. One of the biggest health insurance companies announced their financial results today --

UnitedHealth's medical-loss ratio, or the percentage of premium revenue used to pay patient bills, was 80.5%, a decrease of 1.1 percentage points, year-to-year, and 2.2 percentage points sequentially.

80 percent of premiums go on healthcare bills. The other 20 percent goes where? Not on hospital administration -- that's in the patient bill. But on payment and eligibility administration i.e. the insurance company's own costs for all the staff and bureaucracy that it has. With no insurance companies and the government just paying for everyone, all those administrative costs would be gone. Make everyone eligible. Pay for everyone. Collect taxes or levies from everyone to do it. 20 percent cheaper than what's being done now.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

He forgot his recyclable shopping bag

You'd think that they'd know better by now after the fiasco of John McCain's stroll around a supposedly safe Baghdad market, but here we go again. The above is the dismal Bush loyalist General Peter Pace, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and mercifully forced into retirement in a couple of months. He's on what is claimed to be an impromptu stroll around a Ramadi market, with everyone in sight wearing equipment that is doubtless available to the average Iraqi shopper as well.

In explaining the unplanned nature of the trip, the associated news release says that it happens because a sandstorm grounded his helicopter so he decided to take a walk around. Any possibility that the sandstorm grounded the insurgents as well?

Like that season of "Dallas"

In early March of this year, the current head of the umbrella insurgent group, the Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, was reported captured. In early May, somewhat inconveniently, he was reported killed -- in a separate engagement from the one in which he had been captured. The irrepressible al-Baghdadi later popped up again, sounding remarkably in tune with the White House in denouncing Iranian interference in Iraq -- an announcement was soon followed up by a car bomb attack outside the Iranian embassy in Baghdad.

Faced with such a persistent opponent, the US military has come up with a new approach: a declaration that al-Baghdadi is imaginary. Really. This comes with the report of the latest talkative insurgent captured by the US military, who despite repeatedly claiming to be up against a foreign-led insurgency, only ever seems to capture Iraqis. So --

Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid, was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military spokesman.

"Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq network," Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri. "In fact, communication between the senior al-Qaida leadership and al-Masri frequently went through al-Mashhadani," Bergner said.

"Along with al-Masri, al-Mashhadani co-founded a virtual organization in cyberspace called the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006," Bergner said. "The Islamic State of Iraq is the latest efforts by al-Qaida to market itself and its goal of imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people."

In Web postings, the Islamic State of Iraq has identified its leader as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, with al-Masri as minister of war. There are no known photos of al-Baghdadi. Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a "fictional role" created by al-Masri and that an actor is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.

"In his words, the Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al-Qaida in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq," Bergner said.

This is truly a classic of irrefutable claims. They can't capture al-Baghdadi, so he's declared not to exist. The insurgency that says it's Iraqi is in fact foreign, but they can't prove that, so they claim that the Islamic State of Iraq is really just an e-Qaeda.com, lacking perhaps only a blogger to complete its Internet presence. And all this just a few days after a White House official likened the actual al-Qaeda, which really does exist, to an imaginary character from childhood nightmares.

One likely driver of this shadow-chasing is that George W. Bush's talking points really need the name of the insurgent group in Iraq to be al-Qaeda in Iraq, so that he can disengenuously claim that they are the group which carried out the 9-11 attacks. The rebranding of that group as an all-Iraqi outfit would be a big problem.

UPDATE: Here's the official Pentagon story on Bergner's new theory about al Qaeda in Iraq, and here's an extensive roundup of (sceptical) coverage of the new theory.

The new median voter

Could it be that Karl Rove's research show that "some dude sitting in an office cubicle" is a key swing voter? Consider George Bush's itinerary over the next couple of days, via Dan Froomkin --

Bush will be talking about health care tomorrow [Wednesday] at Man and Machine Inc., a Landover, Md., company that manufactures liquid-proof keyboards. Then on Thursday it's off to Tennessee to talk about the budget at the Nashville Bun Company.

i.e. conceptually the shop that sells office guy his muffin and cup of coffee before he spills the latter on his liquid proof keyboard.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The fertile crescent

From the declassified section of the new US National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism: an admission that Iraq has become the 2nd pillar of al-Qaeda, which it was not before the invasion --

we assess that al-Qa’ida will probably seek to leverage the contacts and capabilities of al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), its most visible and capable affiliate and the only one known to have expressed a desire to attack the [US] Homeland. In addition, we assess that its association with AQI helps al-Qa’ida to energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Were there also finger quotes?

Laura Bush entertained the wife of Polish President Kaczynski while the respective husbands had formal meetings. They went to the Modernism show at the Corcoran Gallery of Art near the White House. Laura explains --

It's Modernism. It's still, even though it's from around the turn of the last century and the first few decades of the last century, very, very contemporary. Everything here looks very modern.

But it gets votes

OK, so this is a rehash of an old post but George Bush keeps reproducing the original motivation. Today he said --

War is never popular.

In a 2002 election rally, the election in which the WMD threat was the main Republican strategy --

And my message to Saddam Hussein is that, for the sake of peace, for the sake of freedom, you must disarm like you said you would do. But my message to you all and to the country is this: for the sake of our future freedoms, and for the sake of world peace, if the United Nations can't act, and if Saddam Hussein won't act, the United States will lead a coalition of nations to disarm Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)


Just what did that crowd in South Dakota think they were cheering?

The Visible Hand

In a world where All Good Things must be attributed to The Leader, this is hardly surprising: Larry Kudlow at National Review's The Corner --

In fact, after the president admonished congress last Thursday to toss aside troop withdrawal timetables and to give General Petraeus’ new counter insurgency plan time to work, the Dow Jones soared 300 points on Thursday and Friday reaching new record highs.

One problem for this theory is that other stock markets worldwide reached record highs too. No problem --

My take here is that Mr. Bush’s steadfastness on the war late last week was well received by U.S. and global markets.

Apparently all those other pesky stock market determinants like profits and interest rates take 2nd place to whatever George Bush has just said. The financial news channel CNBC, which gives Kudlow an afternoon show, would be well-advised to let him accept an inevitable offer from the Fox News business channel as quickly as possible, where his style of analysis will be par for the course.

UPDATE 19 July: Kudlow's interest in attributing the market boom to Bush may have direct input from the latter (via Dan Froomkin) --

[Mike Allen ...] "Bush held a long, casual session with nine influential conservative columnists last Friday. The meeting -- peppered with mutual compliments -- has produced a torrent of laudatory coverage from formerly friendly commentators who had turned skeptical and even hostile on some issues.

"People familiar with that session -- also held in the Roosevelt Room -- say it was jocular, with Bush going off the record at several points to give unvarnished views on foreign affairs. He called on William Kristol of The Weekly Standard and Time magazine as 'Billy' and opened the floor to Lawrence Kudlow of CNBC and the National Review by asking, 'Kuds, how about the market today?'

Enemy Characters

In an act from what is hopefully the last throes of the John Howard era, the Australian government has decided to override the bail granted to London/Glasgow bombing suspect Mohamed Haneef and keep him in detention on the ground that he "failed the character test" expected of an immigrant. It's not clear what normal bail would be in Australia but it looks like the presiding Queensland judge didn't think a whole lot of the case against Haneef in setting it at A$10,000, an amount that is now moot.

So far the entire case relies on Haneef having loaned his second cousin a SIM card on the plausible basis that he was leaving the UK (two years ago) and it had a good rate plan. The continued detention will of course be subject to a legal challenge, not least because if it allowed stand, it would be a backdoor route to Gitmo-style indefinite detentions, at least where immigrants are concerned.

UPDATE 29 JULY: The case against Haneef has completely unravelled, and John Howard discovers the cost of using George Bush as a role model in the war on terror.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

You know that she's no good

Barbara Amiel, aka Lady Black, in what is apparently an old quote dug up by the Telegraph but no less apt for her current situation with her husband facing double-digit years in Club Fed (or rather less in a Canadian slammer if he can get his citizenship back) --

My husband is very rich, but I am not … I have been a bitch all my life and did not need the authority of money to be one, ...

I am a north London Jew who has read a bit of history. This means I know this: in a century that has seen the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian, British and Soviet empires, reversal of fortune is the rich bitch's reality. One might as well keep working and have the family's Vuitton suitcases packed.

UPDATE: Monday's print edition of the New York Times had the Amiel quote but with the historical identity bit dropped, and the quote doesn't appear at all in the online version of the article.

Lucky James

It sounds funny. Martin Amis exploring the obsessive interest of his father Kingsley in James Bond, with the help of fellow Bond enthusiast Charlie Higson. Next Tuesday on BBC Radio 4 at 1130 BST. We'll try to listen.

UPDATE: Listen Again.

Friday, July 13, 2007

So very confusing

With George Bush having again yesterday packaged all Middle East evilitude under the category "al Qaeda", here's a news item that deserves more attention --

The leader of an al-Qaida umbrella group in Iraq threatened to wage war against Iran unless it stops supporting Shiites in Iraq within two months, according to an audiotape released Sunday.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who leads the group Islamic State in Iraq, said his Sunni fighters have been preparing for four years to wage a battle against Shiite-dominated Iran.

"We are giving the Persians, and especially the rulers of Iran, a two month period to end all kinds of support for the Iraqi Shiite government and to stop direct and indirect intervention ... otherwise a severe war is waiting for you," he said in the 50-minute audiotape.

That would be a threat against the same Iranians who are frequently accused by the US of supporting al-Qaeda -- who are apparently ungrateful for the support. Incidentally, the issuer of the statement had already been reported both dead and (separately) captured before he issued this statement. But the main conundrum here is for the US: would a new war against Iran be just what al Qaeda wants in Iraq?

War fatigue, indeed

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque ; caption

One can't tell for sure, but it's pretty clear that Vice President Dick Cheney is asleep during this morning's PR stunt of a teleconference briefing at the White House by provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq. Incidentally, Cheney's appearance at this briefing is one of his few sightings (and none with actual words) since the 5th of June.

UPDATE: The case for a sleeping Cheney is even stronger from this angle.

FINAL UPDATE 20 JULY: Just to add on the mystery of Cheney's increasingly infrequent public appearances, here's the last known one -- at a private fundraiser (therefore no media inside) for Georgia Senator Saxby Chambliss on the 16th. An authorised biography (by Stephen Hayes) of Cheney is coming out on the 24th which would be an interesting date to spring any announcement about his future.

Connecting favourite dots

The above is a chart from the lead editorial in Friday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd). It aims to prove the existence of the Laffer curve i.e. that it's possible to have set a tax rate so high that one could increase revenue by lowering the rate. This is of course true for the nonsensical experiment of a 100 percent tax rate. But it has formed the rationale for George Bush's self-financing tax cuts -- tax cuts that in fact caused huge deficits.

Anyway, the curve is in slightly better shape for corporate tax rates because corporations are very good at shifting their revenue around to low tax regimes. Like the Republic of Ireland, as the WSJ points out (and not for the 1st time) --

Ireland is the classic case of a nation on the "correct side" of this curve. It has a 12.5% corporate rate, nearly the lowest in the world, and yet collects 3.6% of GDP in corporate revenues, well above the international average.

But the WSJ wants to claim that the US is on the wrong side of the curve. Hence that bizarre curve drawn around the data points. Notice the trickery. They anchor the line at the UAE, which raises zero corporate tax revenue from a zero corporate tax rate, then hook it up to Norway before heading it down to where the US is.

The curve is not even close to what the line of best fit would do, which would would cut through the main cluster of data points and likely show no relationship between corporate tax rates and tax revenue. Which is probably because the corporate tax rate says so little about the overall structure of corporate taxes, filled with allowances, credits, and deductions. Not to mention that their Norway peak has high corporate tax revenue because of taxes collected from oil companies.

Now that's not to say that a cut in US corporate taxes would not pull some money out of Ireland, and maybe add some revenue to the US -- it would, but only until the next tax dodge came along. But there's no need to subject the numbers to "enhanced interrogation techniques" to make that point.

UPDATE: The clearly rigged curve-drawing attracts more attention [also here].

Thursday, July 12, 2007

As regular as Marching Season

Today at National Review's The Corner, Kathryn-Jean Lopez takes time out from cheering on death and destruction in Iraq --

"Right now, I could kill George Bush" ... Says an Irish Nobel laureate.

Click on the link. It's 1976 Peace Price co-recipient Betty Williams being quoted from an event in Dallas --

"Right now, I could kill George Bush," she said at the Adam's Mark Hotel and Conference Center in Dallas. "No, I don't mean that. How could you nonviolently kill somebody? I would love to be able to do that."

So a few points. First, K-Lo clipped the quote. Second, since one doubts she carefully reads the Dallas Morning News, it's more likely that someone else clipped the quote and is e-mailing it to all the big reactionary blogs. Third, K-Lo has no memory because these same blogs worked themselves into an "outrage" this time last year when Betty Williams seemed to say the same thing in Australia (Williams probably tries, like many Northern Irish people, to be abroad in July) --

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence,' because I don't believe that I am non-violent." She went on to say, "Right now, I would love to kill George Bush", blaming him for the deaths of children, particularly in the Middle East. "I don't know how I ever got a Nobel Peace Prize, because when I see children die the anger in me is just beyond belief. It's our duty as human beings, whatever age we are, to become the protectors of human life."

Again the full quote is from a person enraged at George W. Bush but knowing there's not much can be done about it. She clearly refined the quote a bit for the Dallas event, but not enough for the members of the Bush Personality Cult. Maybe she needs to rephrase again and wish that God would get rid of Bush, because Bush has used that construction himself.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin is aboard the outrage bandwagon, but at least has the wit to remember (or be told) that it's just a rehash of the same "outrage" last year. Given Malkin's Fox News connections, expect a festival of Betty Williams-bashing tonight.

UPDATE 13 JULY: Powerline joins the "outrage" -- but listen to the sound file with the post; the clipped quote is completely unrepresentative of the tone and overall sentiment.

Boogeyman, or men

A White House aide, quoted from a Wall Street Journal politics blog post about why Bush mentions al Qaeda so much these days --

It's a name that really resonates, like the boogeyman,

They're rarely so explicit that treating the populace like scared children is part of the strategy.

UPDATE: Here's the dictionary definition --

an imaginary evil character of supernatural powers, esp. a mythical hobgoblin supposed to carry off naughty children

How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?

In his news conference today, George Bush argued for letting his commander in Iraq, David Petraeus, determine the US troops level in Iraq -- the rationale being that the military commanders make the best decisions. He then went on to float the possibility that his commanders were wrong about troop levels for the invasion itself in 2003 --

I mean, one of the questions is, should we have sent more in the beginning? Well, I asked that question, do you need more, to General Tommy Franks. In the first phase of this operation, General Franks was obviously in charge, and during our discussions in the run up to the decision to remove Saddam Hussein after he ignored the Security Council resolutions. My primary question to General Franks was, do you have what it takes to succeed? And do you have what it takes to succeed after you succeed in removing Saddam Hussein? And his answer was, yes.

Now, history is going to look back to determine whether or not there might have been a different decision made. But at the time, the only thing I can tell you, Wendell [Goler, Fox News], is that I relied upon our military commander to make the proper decision about troop strength. And I can remember a meeting with the Joint Chiefs, who said, we've reviewed the plan. I remember -- and seemed satisfied with it. I remember sitting in the PEOC, or the Situation Room, downstairs here at the White House, and I went to commander and commander that were all responsible of different aspects of the operation to remove Saddam. I said to each one of them, do you have what it takes? Are you satisfied with the strategy? And the answer was, yes.

Whether they wrong then is surely not just a matter for "history" but for whether they can be trusted now.

He also claimed that Wild Oats Reblochon was pasteurised

If you believed that your organic fruit and veg and grass-fed meat was coming with kid-glove corporate ethics at Whole Foods, think again. Today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) reports that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey posted frequently on a Yahoo bulletin board under the pseudonym Rahodeb1 -- using the forum to praise Whole Foods and trash rival Wild Oats. The fact that Whole Foods is now trying to take over the latter, and that he talked up the Whole Foods stock price, puts him in dodgy legal territory.

And then there's the Internet bubble style predictions like --

13 years from now Whole Foods will be a $800+ stock before splits

Maybe 13 years is far enough away that there's not much meat to that "prediction."

The main crisis though may not be at the board of Whole Foods, but at the keyboard of the National Review's Jonah Goldberg, with his book Liberal Fascism: From Hegel to Whole Foods, coming out in December. The issue: how to fit Internet sock-puppetry into the narrative, which the publisher would surely love to have a nice topical hook.

1 Rahodeb being the lamest of lame pseudonyms -- his wife's name spelled backwards (and two letters switched).

UPDATE: Here's the New York Times story.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Running to stand still

Chastening, Andrew Sullivan style --

The Turks and the Kurds can become an arc of hope for some Persians who want to live in a free society and lack an obvious regional role model. I fear, alas, that Arab culture is simply immune to modern democratic norms - at least for the foreseeable future. That doesn't mean we shouldn't discourage democrats or liberals; but that we should have no illusions about their viability in Arab society. Mercifully, the Middle East is not all Arab dysfunction. The Turks, the Jews, the Kurds and the Persians offer much hope. It seems to me we should be investing in those places that have a chance, rather than further antagonizing those regions that have yet to develop any politics but violence, paranoia and graft.

Leave aside the fact that "Arab" means hundreds of millions of people. These people live right next to his envisaged "arc of hope", and they live pretty close to Europe as well. The only way to keep a lid on all the potential problems would be to have a bunch of repressive dictators in charge of Arab countries.

Murdoch couldn't be any worse

The Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; alt. free link) presents a pleasing account of progress under the Surge, written by someone named Kimberly Kagan. Things are going well. The main enemy of course is al Qaeda, with that awful man Moqtada al-Sadr playing a bit part in the evilitude. Good news is everywhere e.g.

some Iranian- and militia-backed mortar teams firing on the Green Zone have been destroyed.

It must have been with the knowledge that her article was imminent that the terrorists therefore launched their biggest ever mortar attack on the Green Zone yesterday, but that only shows how desperate they are. But anyway, leave all that aside and let's look at the WSJ's bio of Ms Kagan --

Ms. Kagan, an affiliate of Harvard's John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies, is executive director of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.

Unstated is that she is also the wife of Fred Kagan, the architect of the Surge.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias asks --

Is the conservative media machine really so short on wannabe apologists for Iraq at this point that it can't find enough non-Kagans to write about the Kagan-authored escalation scheme [?]


The inevitable Irish aspect to the Washington Madam scandal, which has already claimed the career of the head of the US Agency for International Development Randall Tobias and seems set to do the same to Republican Senator from Louisiana, David Vitter, (Irish Times, subs. req'd) --

Self-confessed escort agency manager Deborah Jeane Palfrey ... The records show that Ms Palfrey had 68 business phone calls on her mobile phone while on a trip to Dublin between November 25th and November 29th, 2004.

One call log shows her calling a Dublin number at 11.03pm on November 27th, 2004, while Ms Palfrey made 29 calls to her home base in Vallejo in California, where prosecutors say she ran an escort business for 13 years and allegedly made $2 million (€1.5 million).

Many other calls are to numbers in the greater Washington area, where US prosecutors say Ms Palfrey ran a prostitution ring for high-paying clients.

Ms Palfrey spent $110.88 on business calls during her trip to Ireland, including 29 incoming phone calls. Apart from calling her California base, Ms Palfrey also called numbers in Alexandria and Leesburg, Virginia, and Silver Spring and Pikesville, Maryland. Many of the phone numbers are believed to be those of suburban Washington hotels, where many of Ms Palfrey's clients were staying.

At a rate of well under $2 a call, she must have had a good roaming plan. Incidentally, that period that she was in Ireland was when Republican hubris was at its peak following the November election -- the wheels had not yet started to come off the wagon. Some bigshots could have gotten careless.

UPDATE 12 July: The Irish Times follows up (subs. req'd) the story with Palfrey telling their correspondent that she was in Ireland as part of considering where to retire.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Oceania is just now at war with Eurasia

So The Surge, which was the successor to Operation Together Forward II, and announced as such last December, and implemented as the "Baghdad Security Plan" aka Operation Fardh al-Qanoon with subcomponents Arrowhead Ripper and Phantom Thunder, all evolving over the last 6 months, actually only began two weeks ago. So says the White House Press Office (Scott Stanzel) --

MR. STANZEL: The shift in strategy occurred with the new way forward, which is now two weeks underway. And that was a dramatic shift in strategy, based on the input that the President received from commanders on the ground and leaders in Washington. That operation is now just two weeks underway in its full array of troops.

So the President believes that this June -- or, July 15th report will be an opportunity for an initial snapshot of how that is going; just an initial snapshot after a few weeks. September 15th is another time to provide an assessment and receive some recommendations from commanders on the ground.

Let's note that Congress debated this issue for 100 days. They debated the Iraq war funding for 100 days. Then they put in place, in passing that, they put in place two opportunities to get those updates: July 15th and then two months later on September 15th. So we are just now in the beginning phases of that.

Note the particular disengenuousness of trying to use the Congressional debate on the Surge as having stopped the clock, when -- highlighting a structural flaw in the US Constitution -- the President went ahead and put the troops in place without congressional approval.

Not counting the dirty money

The lowered expectations of this year's tourist season in Galway, via the Irish Times (subs. req'd) --

Galway's annual race festival will be "cryptosporidium-free" within the confines of Ballybrit, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was assured during a visit to the track yesterday.

The track's new €150,000 water filtration and UV light system proved clear in tests last Friday, according to its manager, John Maloney.

The track needing its own filtration system because the city's water is not safe to drink. But still, it was always going to be Perrier inside the Fianna Fail fundraising tent anyway, so it doesn't matter to them.

Monday, July 09, 2007

More believable at the White House

From the Alastair Campbell diaries, a story that is either not true or disturbing in its Bush-like sentiments --

April 2003: "Clare [Short] was rabbiting on more than ever [about Iraq]. I slipped TB [Tony Blair] a note about the time Saddam shot his health minister at a meeting because she was annoying him and did he want me to get a gun? 'Yes,' he scribbled."

They don't get it

Today's Wall Street Journal (on the still Murdoch-free news pages) reports on the latest bureaucratic fiasco concerning the Guantanamo Bay executive branch "trials." After the Gitmo judges threw out the cases against two detainees last month, on the ground that they hadn't been properly classified as "unlawful enemy combatants" before the trial began, the Bush administration needed to set up an appeals panel so that they could appeal that verdict. Apparently it never occurred to them to set one up beforehand, presumably because they assumed they'd never lose in any of the "trials."

So they set it up. It has 16 members who decide whether the original court was right in dismissing the charges, charges brought, in effect, by George W. Bush. 12 of the members are military officers. Their boss: George W. Bush. The other four are civilians who were on a predecessor panel -- the panel that set up the original Gitmo tribunals, later struck down by the courts. And of course they were given their original and new appointments by, ultimately, the Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces. That man again.

As the WSJ adds (subs. req'd)

Two of the four -- former Attorney General Griffin Bell and former Transportation Secretary William Coleman -- advised Mr. Rumsfeld in drafting the rules of the system struck down by the high court. Mr. Coleman also attended a mock trial the Pentagon staged in 2003 to help prosecutors sharpen their cases against detainees.

Anyway the good news from the article is that the military lawyers who represent the defendants plan on challenging this structure, and legal experts think that given the obvious conflicts of interest, they'll win. But the basic point -- that one branch of government can't be police, judge, jury, jailer, and on-the-fly rule maker, seems still lost on their less honourable bosses.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

He completes her

Fans of Condi Rice's occasional verbal slips and double entendres will have a field day with her CNBC interview yesterday. For example, did she hint that she'll resign as Secretary of State early in 2008? --

QUESTION: Would you consider being a running mate of any of the declared or undeclared GOP candidates?

SECRETARY RICE: I'll be back -- I'll be headed back to Stanford and there'll be great people to step forward. I'm sure of that.

The implication of her pre-correction statement being that she'll already be in Stanford when the Republican candidate is shopping for a running mate.

But the main high-jinks ensure with her discussion of her relationship with George Bush --

You know, when I was -- first met then Governor Bush, it was actually not foreign policy that attracted me to him. It was because he cared so much about education, and when he talked about the soft bigotry of low expectations of minority children, he had me at that point because I've seen it.

The suffering sweepstakes

Condi Rice, in an interview with Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo --

QUESTION: Looking at Afghanistan and Iraq. We have lost almost 4,000 people, closing in on $500 billion and the end result has been a civil war. In your own heart and in your mind, do you think this war has been worth it?

SECRETARY RICE: Certainly, the difficulties and the sacrifice in Iraq and the sacrifice in Afghanistan are difficult to look at every day. I think that it's even more difficult for those who had a responsibility in leading the country to war, and I know how strongly the President feels about that sacrifice, and you can never ever give back the lost family members, the fathers, the sons, the daughters. You can never do that.

This bizarre construction rates the sacrifice of war in terms of how it looks, and then claims that's trumped by it being more difficult for the leaders to look at. If we couldn't see it, for example this guy, would there be any sacrifice at all?

Friday, July 06, 2007

Weekend reading

The Pat Finucane Centre has struck gold with this previously secret British Army evaluation of their experience in Northern Ireland. The document, given the title of the Army's umbrella name for its operations in Northern Ireland, is called Operation Banner. We're reading it. In view of the terminological wars that have been waged over the years in parallel with the actual Troubles, the document begins by setting out the definitions e.g.

‘Ulster’ is an historic province of Ireland – the others being Munster, Leinster and Connaught. Ulster comprised the six counties now forming Northern Ireland and three others. Therefore it is not strictly correct to describe Northern Ireland as ‘Ulster’, nor as ‘The Province’.

If you're ever looking for an official source when this issue arises, you just got it.

[More to come ... analogies to Iraq will be particularly interesting ...]

Internment (paragraphs 219-220) -- The Rt Hon Brian Faulkner, Stormont Prime Minister since 23 March 1971, persuaded the Rt Hon Edward Heath, the British Prime Minister, to support Internment, contrary to military advice. The Army and RUC were poorly prepared: suspect lists were badly out of date and detention facilities were inadequate. The former led to many of the wrong people being arrested and the latter meant that those arrested could not be properly segregated during screening. In addition the Army subjected a small number11 to deep interrogation techniques which had been developed in other theatres during the 1950s and 1960s.1

Operation DEMETRIUS, the introduction of Internment, was in practice an operational level reverse. A considerable number of terrorist suspects were interned: the net total of active IRA terrorists still at large decreased by about 400 between July and December 1971. A very large amount of intelligence had been gained: the number of terrorists arrested doubled in six months. However, the information operations opportunity handed to the republican movement was enormous. Both the reintroduction of internment and the use of deep interrogation techniques had a major impact on popular opinion across Ireland, in Europe and the US. Put simply, on balance and with the benefit of hindsight, it was a major mistake.

Note the phrase "deep interrogation techniques" which is a variation on the "enhanced interrogation techniques" of the GWOT, which, remember, were themselves justified by reference to Northern Ireland.


The Discussion of Operation Motorman has a lot of Surge echoes (page 19) ... note in particular the high concentration of troops in just two areas -- very hard to replicate that strategy in a place the size of Iraq.

1 A later discussion in the document indicates that "other theatres" refers to Malaya, Kenya, Aden and Cyprus, an overlap that we've noted before. And here's a previous post of ours on the Pat Finucane case, one of the egregious outstanding matters from the Troubles.

He wanted to be some kind of professional

Here's the raised eyebrow moment of the day: considering the preparation for the 9/11 plot, a surge of al-Qaeda operatives into flight schools, and now the common occupational characteristics of the Haymarket/Glasgow bombers, what was the previous career aspiration of the Glasgow bomber now critically ill from the burns he sustained in the airport attack? --

It has emerged he [Kafeel Ahmed] was an aeronautical engineering student at Queen's University in Belfast.

A spokeswoman for Queen's said Scotland Yard had advised that they say nothing in relation to Mr Ahmed.

It is believed he enrolled for a post-graduate course at Queen's in 2001 and then stayed on as a research assistant until the middle of 2004.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Listen to the shipping forecast

Ireland's abysmal summer weather is making for rough seas, catching both cocaine smugglers and regatta organisers by surprise. Although one probably expects June-July seas to be calm, quick scrutiny of the current Irish and UK forecasts would alert one otherwise. Luckily it's only the odd bale of cocaine, and not any sailors, that are unaccounted for. Incidentally the cocaine incident may, amongst other things, have brought to light an apparently well-organised trade in fraudulent Irish passports.

UPDATE 10 JULY: More details on the passport -- it was obtained in the name of a deceased child from Northern Ireland. One wonders if someone found a loophole in the procedures for issuing Irish passports to residents of Northern Ireland.

A Beltway State of Mind

Another interesting thing about the al-Qaeda #2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, video is that he cites Bob Woodward and, indirectly, Tom Friedman --

For example, in discussing Saudi Arabia and the malignancy of the Saudi Royal Family in regard to that country, Iraq, and the entire region, Zawahiri uses excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book, Plan of Attack, to portray the Kingdom’s culpability in the War in Iraq, its agenda, and collaboration with the West at the expense of Muslims. A PBS Frontline documentary and words from Prince Bandar bin Sultan and Dr. Sa’ad al-Faqih also serve this purpose, highlighting corruption, particularly in the Yamamah arms deal, and the socioeconomic gap between classes in Saudi Arabia.

Other words for al-Qaeda come from footage excerpted from conference in which Dr. Saud al-Hashimi cites Thomas Friedman and the concept of globalization, believing that al-Qaeda has utilized the tools in the globalized world to its advantage.

That Afghan/Pakistani cave that the top leadership are always supposed to be in must have good broadband.

[previous post about the video]

Muslim un-Brotherhood

Melanie Phillips, in a much-linked piece --

And this Hamas coup [release of Alan Johnston] is in turn but one part of a broader strategy. Hamas is an arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. All over the world, the Brotherhood is behind the pincer movement of jihad through terrorism and jihad through cultural capture. And manipulation is the name of the game it plays. It creates terrorist or insurrectionary pressure; it then poses as the ‘honest broker’ peacemaker; it thus turns its victims into its supplicants and can then turn the ratchet still further. ...

And it is playing it in Britain and the US, where its proxies have been pushing hard for ‘engagement’ with the Brotherhood as an antidote to al Qaeda — and where, with the British and American political elite now in such moral, intellectual and political disarray, it is now succeeding.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, 2nd in command of al-Qaeda in his latest video --

During the course of his segments Zawahiri continually laments the ceding of four-fifths of Palestine, and again voices his anger at Hamas for entering into negotiations and abandoning Shari’a, and warns it to not fall into the same trap as former PLO leader, Yassir Arafat, giving up everything before allegedly being poisoned. Zawahiri also attacks the Egyptian regime and its prisons, and questions the Muslim Brotherhood’s position on peace initiatives and acting as its progency, Hamas, has done in regard to Palestine.

Of course it could be that al-Zawahiri is fiendishly contradicating in public what is his true strategy in private, the one that Phillips claim. This would also be strange, though, as none other than George W. Bush always prefers to take the words of al-Qaeda at face value.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A taxi driver dictates

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is legendary for his ability to deduce all important facts about a country from the taxi-ride from the airport to his luxury hotel in whatever city he is in. But of course for that time-honoured pundit trick to work, you have to be able to get a taxi. This would be the only logical explanation of Friedman's otherwise bizarre first-person anecdote of being in London on the day of the Haymarket attempted bomb (subs. req'd) --

I knew something was up when I couldn't get a cab. There were sirens and helicopters whirring overhead. I stopped a passerby to ask what was going on. He said something about a car bomb outside a disco six blocks from my hotel. A few hours later, I finally found a taxi. The driver warned me that it was nearly impossible to get across town.

So in a city with slow -- and expensive -- surface transport at the best of times, he waited hours for a taxi, even though it wasn't clear it would be able to take him anywhere? Unless the journey was the destination with a column deadline rapidly approaching.

Any colour so long as it's black

George Bush, in the course of his latest rhetorical atrocity as noted earlier --

In the great country of the United States, we believe that you should be able to worship any way you see fit; that you're equally American, regardless of your religious beliefs. They [Islamo-bad guys] believe that if you don't worship the way they see it, then they're going to bring you harm.

We believe in an Almighty, we believe in the freedom for people to worship that Almighty.

UPDATE: Since we're discussing the West Virginia event, it's a nice case study in the cult of personality photography that goes on around Bush: compare this shot of him, Patton-like, in front of giant flag with this one that shows (a) the gap between him and the backdrop and (b) the cropping not to reveal the empty space at the back of the crowd.

FINAL UPDATE: Dan Froomkin confirms that the crowd was too small for the venue (down a bit in column).

Know your place

George Bush gave a speech at an invitation-only 4th of July event in West Virginia. Amid all the hollow rhetoric --

After the speech, Bush was returning to the White House to watch fireworks and celebrate his 61st birthday on Friday.

"I told her to fire up the grill," Bush said he told first lady Laura Bush, who did not attend.

One wonders how many in his audience (of West Virginia Air National Guard families) actually believe that Laura will be grilling on the 4th.

Energy Independence Day

In an event that will surely have some viewers at the White House, given its propensity for free tax cuts, free wars, and indeed free energy, the Irish company claiming that it has produced a perpetual motion machine will at 6pm (BST) this evening unveil a prototype of it. The machine will be on display in London and apparently streamed live here, although the website of the company, Steorn, doesn't currently mention the event.1

1On closer inspection, the company's website main page does mention the event (see bottom of page), but is unclear about the time zone. We think it's still BST.

This one is after the kidnapping

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem; caption

Although it's hard to tell, freed BBC reporter Alan Johnston is ecstatic in this photo and similar ones. The Fox News crowd will doubtless complain about Johnston's reference in his news conference to "Prime Minister Haniyeh" as Mr Haniyeh has been consigned to the ranks of Islamo-Bad Guys by George Bush and deposed as PM. A small price to pay for being free.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Detachable Cheney

Thursday of this week [July 5] will mark one full month since any public event featuring US Vice President Dick Cheney, or at least any event rising to the level of being documented by the normally meticulous White House website1. As far as we can see, this marks the longest gap between appearances since Cheney become VP. While Cheney's reputation might lead one to fear that silence indicates something really nefarious going on, Cheney was always adept at keeping his schemes moving even while being more active publicly.

So where is he? Is he deemed so toxic to public opinion that the political types at the White House no longer want him out in the open? Or could it be that his absence supports rumours of a summer plan to ease him out? A little idle speculation for a particularly hollow 4th of July.

1 There was one appearance at an American Enterprise Institute event in Colorado, but Cheney with AEI counts as private, not public. And [update 5 July], one month ago today seems to mark his last public appearance on Capitol Hill. [UPDATE: He attended a Republican Senate lunch "last week" (as of 7 July)]

FINAL UPDATE: The only event Cheney has been documented attending in the last few weeks is the weekly Senate Republican lunch.


In what is probably the most abysmal of the right-wing talking points on the London/Glasgow plots, Powerline endorses the developing view at National Review's The Corner that it's all the fault of the NHS --

... the high percentage of non-British doctors practicing in England under the NHS. Socialized medicine, it seems, tends to chase British doctors into other careers or other countries.

The UK is not that big a country. Its population can't do everything. The health services have to come from somewhere if the locals find that other occupations, those part of the UK's comparative advantage, if you will, are more attractive. Do they want fewer British people working in financial services and more in the NHS, just to keep out the Islamo-doctors? Of course those wily Islamo-doctors would then all become Islamo-brokers and then the scandal would be that it's all the fault of the City of London.

Note also the awkward problem with their claim that socialized medicine is still an attractive career for people in other countries. And it's not just the Middle East. French doctors find the British system attractive too. The better argument about NHS hiring practices would be in terms of brain-drain, not in terms of the particular occupational details of this plot.

UPDATE 5 JULY: Fox News takes the argument up to 11.

A faraway country of which we know nothing

So Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness luvs the job that the US Special Representative for Northern Ireland, Paula Dobriansky, is doing --

"The energy and drive that Paula has brought to her position is quite exciting and very convincing. It's not an act. She's really determined to do something," Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness told me. [Irish Times reporter, subs. req'd]

It's a shame that Martin is not reading more widely because Dobriansky is one of the drivers of a key American policy towards Iraq: one which denies the existence of refugees from that conflict in the conventionally understood sense of people who are not going to be able to return home for a long, long time. Instead the US maintains the fiction that even the millions of Iraqis abroad are merely "displaced" and can return home just as soon as that Surge succeeds, which could be any month now. Or as she says herself --

“We are committed to working with the Iraqi government to create a stable and secure environment that enables Iraqis to repatriate voluntarily to their homeland.”

The only resettlement need that Dobriansky has acknowledged is for Iraqi translators working with the US military, which amounts to a few hundred visas. This contrasts with the tens of thousands of Iraqis already resettled by Scandinavian countries.

Since American government assistance to NI is no longer essential, and in current form is coming from the lamest of lame duck administrations anyway, how about if Paula was just told to spend more time working on a real humanitarian crisis and less time on love-ins with Irish politicians and businessmen?

Monday, July 02, 2007


Among the advantages of George Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence -- and not pardon him -- is that it keeps Scooter's appeal of his conviction alive, and therefore maintains the 3 year silence from the White House concerning the leaks that originally prompted the investigation. Because any questions can still be dismissed on the grounds of refusal to comment on "an ongoing legal process."

Note also the role of this Washington Post op-ed from nearly a month ago in the kite-flying for the commute option. Note the provenance of the author, William Otis, classic "Wise Man of Washington" type (and, apparently, with a Powerline connection).

UPDATE: The statement of justification from the White House for the commutation.

FINAL UPDATE: Our initial line of argument above has been around for a while.

Hear no evil

The last sentence at the end of the brief Bush-Putin Q&A in Maine -

PRESIDENT PUTIN: Of course we will continue our relations in the future. Today's fishing party demonstrated that we have a very similar -- we share the same passion -- that is, passion.

Q Is Cheney a member of the executive branch?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I didn't hear you.

Maybe that's what Cheney said when Bush asked him the same question.

[We'll attribute the odd-sounding Putin quote to awkward translation]

The river war meets the land between the rivers

A very strange post at National Review's The Corner from Steve Hayward -- long-time trafficker in Bush-Churchill comparisons. He's upset about a Lynne Olson op-ed in the Washington Post ridiculing Bush's Churchill pretensions, and in particular the claim that --

Churchill would snort, I believe, at the administration's equation of 'Islamofascism,' an amorphous, ill-defined movement of killers forced to resort to terrorism by their lack of military might, to Nazi Germany, a global power that had already conquered several countries before Churchill took office in 1940.

To rebut the idea that Churchill would have recoiled at a concept like Islamofascism, Hayward presents a Churchill quote (from The River War) that refers to all of Islam. This quote has circulated for years among the reactionary right; one always had the sense that it's not broadcast more widely precisely because it's so inflammatory --

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. etc etc.... and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science-the science against which it had vainly struggled-the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

Hayward then concludes:

Now, just imagine what Ms. Olson would say if Bush dared to quote this passage.

So what does he want? Does he think the passage is correct and that Bush should quote it, to solidify his Churchill credentials? Does he want Bush to ape a young Churchill, writing a jingoistic diatribe following a not especially successful colonial war against Sudan's Mahdi army? Does he think that Sudan turned out so well that Bush should be proud to make such an association? And most of all, does he think that Islamofascism and Islam are the same thing, or that he knows that Bush thinks that they are the same thing but won't say so publicly?

UPDATE: This Washington Post article notes that Bush is reading Olson's book; one also wonders if Hayward is included in the pack of historians that meet Bush privately -- or if he's jealous that Olson's book also made it to Bush's reading pile.

Let the leaks flow

As the inevitable off-the-record briefings by securocrats begins, a few of the tidbits being tossed --

[Wall Street Journal, subs. req'd] U.S. federal law-enforcement officials say there are links between some of the suspects in London and individuals in New York and California, and that they are being monitored closely. ...

One suspect in the most recent attempted attacks is Bestun Salim, who was named earlier this year as a fugitive from his control order, said a person familiar with the British probe. Mr. Salim is an Islamist who was detained as a peripheral figure in a police investigation called "Operation Rhyme."

[BBC] Earlier, Ms Smith [Home Secretary] had declined to comment on reports that US Intelligence had recently warned the UK that Glasgow could be a target.

The Glasgow claim is sourced to ABC News; weirdly well-informed US sources have figured in such leaks in the past.

UPDATE: CBS News says that "inside sources" identify the the so-far un-named overseas arrest as of an Australian resident who worked in the UK. And [later update], Australian officials are confirming an arrest in Brisbane.