Friday, November 30, 2007

Becoming the story

Dumped into the Friday afternoon cycle is this cryptic post on National Review Online from editor Kathryn Jean Lopez concerning material that appeared on their military blog, preposterously named "The Tank". The issue is that one of the bloggers on The Tank, W. Thomas Smith, was forced to acknowledge that his accounts of witnessing various Hezbollah activities were incomplete: giving the impression of being eye-witness accounts, but in fact cobbled together from eye-witness accounts, extrapolations, assumptions, and other unspecified sources' accounts of what they had seen.

This is the kind of "reporting" that has launched a thousand right-wing "outrages" when its subject matter is insufficiently good news from Iraq (e.g. Bilal Hussein). But even stranger than the quasi-apology is Smith's defence of his methods and actions in "reporting" on Hezbollah --

Speaking of wild, my detractors have claimed that my “public cowboying” — writing openly about carrying weapons, photographing Hezbollah facilities and stealing flags from Hezbollah strongholds — has endangered all reporters in Lebanon. They argue that Hezbollah fighters might assume, based on my reports, that any Western reporter could be armed and hostile to their interests.

Frankly, I'm not concerned with what Hezbollah assumes. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, funded, trained, and equipped by the Islamic (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard Corps. My responsibility is not to concern myself with how Hezbollah perceives me, nor do I feel any compulsion to court them. They are the enemy as far as I’m concerned. My responsibility is to deliver the facts to my readers, which I have always done and will always do.

Now, am I a “cowboy?” Perhaps I am bit of a cowboy. I did, after all, snag a Hezbollah flag while I was there. Was that Thomas the journalist snagging the flag? Hardly. That was Thomas the Marine. And that's part of who I am, which I suppose makes me part cowboy. But that’s something my detractors will just to have to live with, because that’s not going to change.

So he's in Lebanon, under the auspices of the National Review, and announcing not only he's there to report on Hezbollah as "the enemy" but seeking to directly provoke them. Smith lives in a state where if you shoot someone on your property who was stealing stuff, no one would bat an eyelid. So what will National Review's complaint be if Smith gets hurt in one of his future pranks against Hezbollah? What explanation will they offer to another reporter who gets hurt on the assumption of Hezbollah that he's another Smith character? And what is their liability if Smith, who apparently totes a gun in his trips around Beirut, hurts someone else? Someone has a blogger ethics problem.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan noticed, although he's more focused on the New Republic payback angle (exhaustively documented by Glenn Greenwald) than the ongoing ethics problem. As Sullivan points out, Smith never links to his original disputed posts. They are here and here.

FINAL UPDATE: Via a later Sullivan post, someone on the ground who's had a problem with Smith's methods from the start.

ONE MORE THING: K-Lo finally follows up, on The Tank and not at The Corner, with what essentially amounts to "We apologize to those facts that took offense". It now seems that K-Lo only owned up in the first place because the people who were disputing Smith's reporting for 6 weeks could get nowhere with National Review directly and so took the story to Tom Edsall.

Gordon loses Khartoum

This business about the teddy. A few weeks ago there was the Zoe's Ark affair next door in Chad. A French NGO developing a freelance adoption business in which children who are allegedly orphans from Darfur but may in fact have been from poor families in eastern Chad are shipped to France -- the NGO is probably breaking multiple laws in Chad and France and now they sit in jail awaiting trial. Regular protests outside the jail demanding justice and in principle one could see the point of the protestors since the activities of Zoe's Ark touch so many sore points in African history -- Europeans coming in and doing what they think is best, even if it includes moving people thousands of miles from their homes.

But there was something slightly fishy about the protests. They looked organized. There was always a well-dressed protestor available to speak fluent French to the assembled hacks. Meanwhile when the TV crews would head to one of the villages where the children came from, the attitude of the families who had been misled into providing children for the scheme was much more shrug of the shoulder and measured. And like most people in Chad, they didn't speak much French.

So now in Khartoum another protest. And protestors available with fluent English for the assembled hacks. If they can get that worked up about a teddy, maybe the Zoe's Ark thing is not such a big deal. Something that the French might keep in mind if they contemplated springing the NGO people out of jail and bringing them home. Especially since they are the ones that keep the government of Chad in power anyway.

Anyway, the point of this rambling post is a hypothesis: that the protests over whatever the latest outrage is aren't benighted villagers. It's the local elite.

Why Gordon Brown is in trouble

American pollsters. From the Financial Times --

Mr Brown’s problems can be traced to the moment on the morning of October 5 when Stan Greenberg, Labour’s US polling consultant, flipped open his laptop and gave the prime minister his verdict on the likely outcome of an autumn poll. “He said the PM would win but that his majority could be as high as 40 or as low as 20,” says one of Mr Brown’s aides.

It has never been explained what comparative advantage American pollsters posess in understanding the quite different electoral dynamics of UK politics. Using them to determine the timing of election is especially bizarre, since this is a decision point that is irrelevant in the US, with its fixed terms.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

War on Arteries

From the White House Christmas party menu --

Crispy Chicken-Fried Steak Fingers with Creamed Pan Drippings

Someone also needs to alert Bill O'Reilly, assuming he's attending, that if the fried food doesn't give him a heart attack, the description of the event as a "holiday reception" certainly will. Why does the White House hate Jesus?

Building behaving suspiciously

Some terminology from Multinational Force Iraq --

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – A house-borne improvised explosive device was destroyed near Maderiyah on the afternoon of Nov. 25.

Soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division were conducting a foot patrol in the area when they found an abandoned house with copper wires extending out of a window.

The more usual VBIED (vehicle-borne) makes sense because after all the vehicle is carrying the bomb. But a house? Maybe the traditional term booby-trap doesn't sound scary enough.

Remember the Beagle

An illustration of how the American right views everything through their culture war lens -- the National Review's John O'Sullivan citing the good points about new Australian Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson --

He supports the teaching of intelligent design in schools if the parents want it

Pining for the 90s

Slate's Mickey Kaus is wondering why it is that rumours about Hillary Clinton having a lesbian affair with a staffer are not circulating widely in the USA. Among the reasons one could offer is that the rumour is baseless, apparently based on the observation that one of Hillary's close-knit circle is, nudge nudge wink wink, a woman! Anyway, Kaus has constructed a perfect circle of undeniability so that the rumour is true no matter what Hillary says --

In the new Webby post-Lewinsky world [the rumour is] more likely to surface, which makes the subsequent denial all the more important. Contrary to popular belief, it's not impossible to issue a denial so convincing that even gossip-addicted bloggers drop a juicy rumor ... The trouble for Hillary is that when it comes to sex rumors she and her husband (unlike, say, John Edwards and his wife) have no credibility. They threw that away when the philandering charges they righteously denounced in 1992 and 1998 turned out to be basically true

Over a few sentences he has two links to the Times (UK) which itself only reported the existence of the rumour and didn't have a shred of evidence for it. But check out the logic: the rumour is out there, so if she doesn't deny it, it might be true, except that if she does deny it, no one will believe her.

But anyway, is the rumour really out there? What it lacks is the key ingredient of the Clinton scandal-peddling of the 1990s -- a direct link between a British hack willing to run with the story and right-wing outlets in the US sufficiently Clinton-obsessed to run regular stories beginning with the clause "London's Sunday Telegraph is reporting that ..." Because that was the 1990s trick: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Conrad Black-owned Telegraph would type up the latest shite, and then the American Spectator, Washington Times and Scaife-owned newspapers would get it into circulation in the US citing the Telegraph as their source.

But now that circle is gone. Evans-Pritchard is not on the US beat, it's a post-Black Telegraph, Clinton's impeachment burned more Republicans than Democrats (anyone remember Bob Livingston?), and even George Bush ran against the "politics of personal destruction". Add to that a sense that there's plenty of scope for return fire if we're airing speculative rumours (just go look at a few of the theories about the George W.-Condi-Laura nexus) and the Hillary gossip is likely to sit as a few neglected links at Slate.

UPDATE: Slate being owned by the Washington Post may explain why the Post is using the same tactic regarding "rumours" that Barack Obama is Muslim.

FINAL UPDATE: Maybe Kaus should link to this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Let the scrubbing begin

The White House website is one of the few good things about the Bush administration. It has a very clean layout, easy to find things, and mostly accurate transcripts are posted extremely promptly.

But now. The news page used to have a very nice box on the left called "News by Date" with all the material organized by month since January 2001. So one could focus an open-ended search very quickly once you knew what period you were looking for. For example, finding out exactly what Bush's demands to Saddam were right before the invasion was just a scroll through the March 2003 pages. However, the links to months prior to 2006 have been removed from the current website. All the underlying material is still there and of course the search engine still works. But what's gone is the ability to do a chronological survey of Bush's statements and positions without some extra work.

One crude fix is to type the url
[year as 4 digit number, month as 2 digit number]. There is some chance the policy is not intentional as sometimes the original full menu of months does display, so there may be a html/Javascript innocent explanation for what is going on.

This is as good a time as any to make our recommendation that the first order of web business of the Clinton or Obama presidency should be to leave all the current website material untouched, because referring back to Bush's positions and precedents is going to be an important part of keeping the press corps reminded of what they accepted in the Bush years.

One more Tony Blair loose end

Apparently the NatWest Three are taking a plea bargain, as soon as today in Houston. They had little choice. Read this Houston Chronicle report for a recap of how they were screwed by the UK government: testimony given voluntarily to a government agency, and leading to no action, passed on to the US government and then used as the basis of a criminal indictment which was then pursued by extradition under anti-terrorism legislation, with a trial in Houston where the mere mention of Enron is prejudicial, and trial preparations that were dragging on and on with little prospect of cooperation from UK witnesses that the three would need. So at this point, little option but to take a plea, hope for a short sentence, and get home. With Gordon Brown's run of luck, some aspect of the deal with likely rebound badly on him.

UPDATE: It's confirmed. A guilty plea on one count of wire fraud (e.g. the fact that some of the e-mails or faxes crossed American wires) and 37 months jail time -- with possibility of smaller time if they can serve it in the UK and benefit from UK parole rules.

FINAL UPDATE: Tim Worstall explains why the procedures seem a bit dodgy even with actual terrorist suspects, and Martin Wolf (FT) goes even further than we would in describing the dilemma facing the three as judicial torture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local suppliers

The French rioters have guns. But are they Islamo-guns? --

Patrice Ribeiro of the Synergie police union said rioters this time included "genuine urban guerrillas," saying the use of firearms — hunting shotguns so far — had added a dangerous dimension.

France has a huge hunting lobby and shotguns are easier to obtain than the stylized image of European gun laws that holds sway in the US would suggest. No point in looking for complicated global jihadi networks when simple explanations are available.

Hamlet without the Prince

OK so we're a bit short of material so let's go to the last refuge of the blogger -- soccer. It's been announced that the football associations of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland have agreed to play a "Celtic Cup" in a league format beginning in 2009. We should be thankful it's not called the Braveheart Cup. It doesn't take long to spell out why it's an atrocious idea. It's only being considered because all four teams, and England, failed to qualify for the European Championship next year in Austria-Switzerland, and the idea was apparently finalised over a few too many bottles of nice South African wine in Durban (since all the associations were there for the world cup qualifying draw).

Yet England, notwithstanding the tentative support of Gordon Brown for the idea, have wisely backed out of making it an Islands Cup. If you've all fallen short of international standards by failing to qualify for a benchmark tournament, you don't raise quality by playing each other. And most of all, the Celtic rivalries are not natural ones. The key feature of the similar tournament in rugby is that even when one of the teams is terrible, there's always the chance of beating the Sassanaigh -- who won't be in this one. With a bit of luck, there'll be one tournament in 2009 and then one or more of the teams will have qualified for the World Cup in 2010 and won't want to play it again. Note also that more serious ideas, such as merging the football associations in the north and the republic, are not being considered.

Monday, November 26, 2007

She was in charge of foreseeing 9/11

From a New York Times article about Condi Rice's bid for a legacy with the Annapolis conference; it should be noted that the article is by NYT journalist Elisabeth Bumiller who will soon have a book to flog about Rice and is probably annoyed that Glenn Kessler already his similarly-themed book out and being reviewed --

Ms. Rice, who had heralded the [Palestinian] election as a symbol of the new stirrings of democracy in the Middle East, was so blindsided by the victory that she was startled when she saw a crawl of words on her television screen while exercising on her elliptical trainer the morning after the election: “In wake of Hamas victory, Palestinian cabinet resigns.”

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s not right,’” Ms. Rice recalled. When the crawl continued, she got off the elliptical trainer and called the State Department.

“I said, ‘What happened in the Palestinian elections?’” Ms. Rice recalled. “And they said, ‘Oh, Hamas won.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, Hamas won?’”

Thus, the policy making process in the leader of the free world.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Media barons speak

The House of Lords Communications Committee has just released minutes of meetings that they held in the US with media proprietors, editors, pundits, and blogger(s) in September. The main nuggets from the minutes are reflected in this BBC story but it's worth dwelling on a couple of points.

First, in the same discussion where Rupert Murdoch states frankly that he sets the editorial line of The Sun and the News of the World but is constrained from doing so with The Times, he makes the same distinction between the New York Post (where he does set the line) and the Wall Street Journal -- which at that point he had just about acquired. He's clearly chomping at the bit to take control of the Journal, but lest there be any doubt over the coming election season as to where a NY Post editorial came from, now we know.

He was also fairly lacerating about Sky News, although his proposed solution of making it more like Fox News is alarming --

He believed that Sky News would be more popular if it were more like the Fox News Channel. Then it would be “a proper alternative to the BBC”. One of the reasons that it is not a proper alternative to the BBC is that no broadcaster or journalist in the UK knows any different. Mr Murdoch stated that Sky News could become more like Fox without a change to the impartiality rules in the UK. For example Sky had not yet made the presentational progress that Fox News had.

The thing is -- he has a point. Particularly when one is stuck in a furrin hotel room with Sky News as one of the few TV options, the sparseness of its rolling news format becomes apparent. The tenth go-round of the latest Maddy/Margate-type story is no more enlightening than the first. But of course what Murdoch wants is these same stories -- all the better to keep the masses distracted -- but blended in with a steady stream of bloviators working from one political/cultural "outrage" to the next, with outrage being defined as something not in line with the Murdoch political agenda.

Speaking of Fox News, the committee also spoke to Roger Ailes. It was mostly the usual shite but there is his account of the 2000 presidential election --

Just before the 2000 presidential election they ran a story that they knew would damage George W Bush’s campaign. The Bush campaign even asked them to hold the story. They were the only news organisation to get hold of the story (which related to Bush having been caught driving under the influence of alcohol 16 years previously). Therefore they decided it was news worthy and ran it. Following their coverage Bush dropped by five points and Ailes believed that Fox News was probably responsible for the run off in Florida.

In such a close election, any one thing can be picked out as decisive. And this particular claim of Ailes has been around the block before. One thing is for sure: if George Bush was so ungrateful to Fox News for bringing him within a few hundred votes of losing in 2000, he has a strange way of showing it.

Why does the New York Times hate Thanksgiving?

And thus America? Was there a dinner table in the land where someone did not say "Did you see that New York Times article about how to carve a turkey?" Here it is. Its supposed virtue is that it recognises the fact it's difficult to carve a roast turkey in situ on the plate. But, in a concession to the soft bigotry of low expectations, it therefore recommends breaking off the key bits of the turkey and "carving" them into large steak style "slices".

It's accurately described as a "butcher's method" because indeed that's why a butcher is behind the raw meat and not the delicatessen counter -- he's not a slicer. So you end up with what one fellow diner described as resembling halibut steaks -- minus the flavour. More fundamental is the failure to recognise that turkey doesn't actually have that much that flavour, and thicker slices of it just means more bulk that needs to be accessorised. The traditional thin slices works because the fork can be loaded up with cranberry, spuds, and whatever other sauces the chef has cooked up.

If we take this method to its logical conclusion, then what's the point of smoked salmon slices, since they're also difficult to do? Coming soon, one speculates, the sushi bagel with cream cheese.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An inconvenient, omitted truth

National Review neocon (but we repeat ourselves) Michael Rubin does a daily roundup of news from Iran. Here are the two most recent. You'd wade through a lot of links and never know that the favourite neocon bogeyman, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, was strongly attacked by an establishment newspaper, almost certainly with the approval of the Supreme Ayatollah. Because acknowledging that would mean that the whole narrative of the Iranian government as a unitary entity bent on regional and global destruction would become difficult to maintain.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The lastest Thanksgiving bird -- Turduckin'

The latest good news from Iraq --

A series of mortars later struck the U.S.-protected Green Zone, Iraqi police said. The attack coincided with the celebration of Thanksgiving but there were no immediate reports of casualties in the heavily fortified area, which houses the U.S. Embassy, thousands of American troops and contractors, and Iraqi government headquarters.

About 10 blasts were heard in central Baghdad just before 5 p.m., and a huge plume of black smoke rose into the sky as the sun was setting. The U.S. government public address system in the Green Zone also warned people to "duck and cover" and to stay away from windows.

[original bird here]

Finally some good news about immigrants

In the context of England's exit from the European Championship --

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimates that World Cup 2006 boosted coffers by about £1.25bn through extra sales of food and drink, and products such as flat-screen televisions, replica shirts and flags.

The BRC predicts that the boost from Euro 2008 will only be half as much as the World Cup because the home nations are not involved.

"There is a diverse range of nationalities in Britain, so there will still be people supporting countries involved," said Richard Dodd from the BRC.

i.e. the country now has so many people who are from other countries that there'll still be lots of interest in the tournament even with the national team not involved.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pretend you didn't know that

There are various ways that contempt-of-court bars on media reporting can seem silly, but in the case of the weirdly truncated accounts of the life of Peter Tobin being given regarding the reasons for the house dig in Margate, it requires people forgetting why the name seems familiar, because up until March of this year, he had been subject of a high profile case in Glasgow. All of a sudden, that history can't be mentioned anymore.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hillary Clinton's Irish fundraiser

It's in Ballsbridge tonight, €1,600 a head admission, with featured guest Bill Clinton. One point of curiosity attaches to the admission arrangements for non US-citizens, who are not eligible to make campaign contributions. Apparently this is being done through bundling or pairing with a US citizen -- presumably the latter works by finding a US citizen who has not exceeded a contribution limit, which we believe is $2000. One wonders if the US citizen gets to pocket the difference between the €1,600 and whatever number of dollars it's actually worth when remitted.

Friday, November 16, 2007


In addressing the 25th anniversary gala for the Federalist Society, George Bush complained about the Senate's ability to filibuster his nominees to lifetime judge positions --

Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act on many of my other nominees. At times it has imposed a new and extra-constitutional standard, where nominees who have the support of the majority of the Senate can be blocked by a minority of obstructionists.

The choice of words is therefore the same as the White House terminology for condemning General Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan --

MS. PERINO: I'm going to let her [Benazir Bhutto] have her own definition. What we -- we can only support, as the United States, constitutional measures, measures that are within the constitution. These extra-constitutional measures that President Musharraf has undertaken, starting late Friday night, are deeply disappointing and not something that we can support.

Thus in Bush's mind, there's no difference between suspending the constitution (Pakistan) and an independent branch of government defining its own rules of conduct in matters in which the US Constitution is silent. An additional twist is that Bush's complaints about activist judges in his partisan speech mirror exactly those of Musharraf in justifying his de facto coup.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Accidental truth-telling

In the debate on National Review's The Corner about the latest boosterish study of trends in US income inequality --

[Kate O'Beirne]

Jonah - One of my favorite polling results helps to explain why class warriors meet with litttle success when they take aim at the "top 1%" to force them to pay their "fair share." A CNN/Time Magazine Fall 2000 poll asked respondents whether they were among the wealthiest 1% of Americans - "Yes," said 19 percent. God Bless us - we think we're way more successful than we are.

Thus people are opposed to taxation of the rich because they mistakenly believe that it will affect them -- a finding presented without a hint of irony. The deeper point is that the 1 percent have done an excellent job of convincing an additional 18 percent that they are all the same.

In view of current events in Belgium

Trinity College Dublin Long Room poster collection

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Attention underpaid history professors

Or others in a similar situation. If you were at a graduate school in the USA between 1996 and 2005, and were over 25 in 1996 and have been filing US income tax returns every year, and made e.g. under $15,326 (in 2005 dollars) in one year in grad school and made $52,000 a year in 2005: you're being cited by the Wall Street Journal (subs req'd, alt. free link) as an example of upward income mobility in the USA, since you've jumped three quintiles in the income distribution.

The underlying source is a US Treasury Department study. The Journal also exults in evidence that there's a lot of volatility at the top end of the income distribution, with lots of people being super-rich in terms of income for one year only. That's a strange argument for them to make, since if being rich is just a matter of one lucky year, what's so wrong with taxing the rich more than everybody else?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remarks of Lord Laird

Note: We reserve the right to pull or alter some material from the below. Here's a permanent link to the original unaltered material.1 The context is here.

Lord Laird: My Lords, I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss some actions that concern Northern Ireland. There can be no doubt that almost everything has changed in Northern Ireland over the past 15 years. Most of the change is for the betterment of the Province’s people and I applaud those who have contributed to bringing about the massive improvement. However, dark clouds still remain not too far from the centre of political life in Northern Ireland. Terrorism of all types has not gone away, even if it has been much reduced. Recent tragic events have brought home in true relief the problems that still remain.

One major difficulty is that the Army Council of the IRA is still intact and active. Many of the major units of that organisation are still in operation. Another difficulty is that the plot unveiled by a former Minister of Justice in the Republic, Mr Michael McDowell, is still ongoing. The plot—I referred to it two years ago in your Lordships’ House—is the takeover of the Irish Republic’s main establishment by placing in its ranks IRA supporters as sleepers or moles. Mr McDowell indicated that the republican movement has already placed people in the top positions of authority: the PM’s office, the police force, the army, major sections of the Government and the media.

Recently strange things have happened, such as the hard line taken by the Republic’s Government against Protestant schools and the ban by the Irish Rugby Football Union after almost 90 years on British symbols at appropriate Irish international rugby matches. All this runs contra to the new atmosphere we all want on the island. In the case of rugby I, along with many in Ulster, am sickened at the introduction of politics into sport. I plead with the IRFU officials to introduce a policy of total equality for all in their dealings with the supporters and players and, by so doing, to remove politics.

One of the most serious incidents has too many shades of the past for us all: the brutal murder of Paul Quinn. It resulted from a dispute between Paul and a son of Vincent Traynor, a local IRA chief. Paul Quinn and some other youths from the area were involved in activities that did not go down well with the senior republican leadership in South Armagh, especially as this new breed of republicans is defying the leadership. It is now quite clear that Vincent had oversold the case against Paul.

Several weeks ago Traynor asked the republican leadership, including Peter and Patrick Quinn from Bog Road—no relations—who run most of the illegal fuel laundering plants in South Armagh for the IRA, to have Quinn executed. After consultation with PJ Carragher and his son Michael, the well known murderous sniper, Thomas “Slab” Murphy, the Provisionals’ commander in the area, Sean Gerard Hughes, known as “the Surgeon”, and James McArdle, permission for the execution was given. Almost 20 republicans were present at the murder as executioners, lookouts, drivers and so on. The eight or nine who conducted the execution were dressed in boiler suits and wore surgical gloves. All were IRA or former IRA members. It took almost half an hour for Paul to die. Every major bone in his body was broken. During the execution he cried for mercy.

Following the murder and the outcry from all parts, a meeting took place in Cullyhanna on Friday 2 November. Although “Slab” Murphy did not attend, a trusted lieutenant was there to speak on his behalf. To quell local discontent, and under pressure from the top, “Slab” offered to put a large amount of cash into the Cullyhanna area in the hope that buying people off with blood money would stop a rift between republicans in South Armagh. The involvement of the republican leadership in South Armagh in the planning, commission and now cover-up of this murder means that it is directly implicated. “Slab” also ordered that no one in the community was to speak to the Garda or PSNI. He was taking full responsibility for the incident because his close associates were involved.

Having felt that they had to blame someone, on 9 November, Friday night past, six armed IRA men went to the home of Vincent Traynor and forced their way in, but Vincent was not there. For the past week Vincent Traynor has been guarded by the police quick reaction force based at Crossmaglen and Newtownhamilton PSNI barracks. Responding to the visit, the QRF was at his house in a matter of minutes, but the IRA gang had gone. Vincent Traynor is now considered to be number one on the IRA hit list because he talked the leadership in South Armagh into the situation that saw the brutal and savage murder of Paul Quinn.

The blame for the murder and the subsequent situation has to lie with the IRA. The IRA veterans of South Armagh want to bring into line the young republicans of the area who are openly defying the leadership. Given those activities, “Slab” Murphy should have his bail in the Republic revoked, as he is now involved in the intimidation of witnesses. At his next court appearance, he should be held in custody while papers for his extradition to Northern Ireland are prepared.

Extreme republicans close to the IRA Army Council are trying to suggest that Paul Quinn’s family is being manipulated to create anti-Sinn Fein propaganda. This is not so. I have been contacted by a number of people and groups from the area who would not normally consider me as a friend asking that the police remove and prosecute those involved, and get them off the streets.

To clarify the situation, if any charges as a result of this murder are brought before the Irish courts, I have not influenced a potential jury by my remarks. It must be remembered that any court without a jury would be a special court. Both Governments need to deal with this type of criminal activity. To brush it under the carpet, as seems to many to be taking place, is just a short-term solution. The island of Ireland will never be at peace until illegal activities are tackled in full and equality is in total operation.

1 The remarks began at 7.02pm during the debate on the Queen's Speech.

Imbalance of power

One thing that the apparent success of the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign highlights -- despite his character flaws -- is the bizarre view of Europe that is taken as read amongst Republican presidential candidates and thus their electoral base. This Crooked Timber post has a related theme, but consider also the opinion page of today's Wall Street Journal where Mark Helprin describes a Germany that many Germans would have difficulty recognising: one where the old strategic headache of a two-front war has returned, this time consisting of the old enemy Russia expanding from the east, and a new enemy, the global jihad including Iran, targeting Germany with nuclear weapons knowing that Germany has no way of responding --

But, more importantly, the variations in European attitudes and capabilities vis-à-vis responding to terrorism or nuclear blackmail are what make Germany such an attractive target. Unlike the U.S., France, and Britain, Germany is a major country with no independent expeditionary capability and no nuclear weapons, making it ideal for a terrorist nuclear strike or Iranian extortion if Iran is able to continue a very transparent nuclear policy to its logical conclusion. Though it is conceivable that after the shock of losing Washington or Chicago, the U.S. -- or Britain after Birmingham, France after Lyon -- would, even without an address certain, release a second strike, it is very unlikely that, even with an address certain, any nuclear power would launch in behalf of another nation, NATO ally or not, absent an explicit arrangement such as the dual-key structure during the Cold War.

Looking at Germany, then, Iran sees a country with nothing to counter the pressure of merely an implied nuclear threat. Jihadists see the lynchpin of Europe, easy of access and inadvertently hospitable to operations, that will hardly punish those who fall into its hands, and that can neither accomplish on its own a flexible expeditionary response against a hostile base or sponsor, nor reply to a nuclear strike in kind. Thus the German government should be especially nervous about cargos trucked overland from the east.

That's a representative sample. Germany is held hostage to the fact that Iran could nuke Berlin and no other country would respond. He proposes a massive expansion of NATO's mandate to become an explicitly anti-Russian alliance and formal adoption of a retaliatory nuclear strike war strategy by Germany. And in the shorter-term, George Bush's beloved missile interceptor system.

It's all doomsday fantasy stuff. But it gets taken seriously and represents an important dynamic in the election season. The only bit of good news is a sign that level-headed people at the Pentagon are losing patience with it.

One Musharraf tentacle

Here's one our posts from a few months ago about the mysterious case of Saud Memon. The Wall Street Journal has done some follow-up (subs. req'd) and seems to have established the following facts --

Memon was wanted in Pakistan in connection with the murder of Daniel Pearl and possible links to al Qaeda, including their alleged WMD program.

He fled to Mozambique and then to South Africa.

He was detained in South Africa, almost certainly by the CIA, and then transferred to an unknown detention facility, possibly in Afghanistan.

After the vaunted enhanced interrogation techniques got him to confess to an impressive range of crimes -- many already claimed by others -- he was transferred back to Pakistan, whose investigators then applied their own enhanced interrogation techniques.

Some combination of the two "we don't torture" experiences, his conditions of detention, or his own ill-health resulted in him catching multiple infectious diseases.

For some reason, possibly that he had become the subject of a "disappeared" court case in Pakistan, he was dumped out of custody outside his home, and died a few days later, though not before putting in an appearance at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was looking into his case.

George Bush's friend President Musharraf in effect abolishes the Supreme Court, ensuring that Memon's case and others like it will disappear -- and removing the irony that the Pakistani legal system was doing more to help track him down than the system of his American jailors.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Armistice Day

God gets called on to do a lot of stuff about wars. But Dick Cheney's Arlington speech includes an especially unusual request --

May God keep us truly grateful for everything that you've [veterans] done.

The risk apparently is that other priorities might distract the rest of us not just from serving in wartime, but from remembering, without God's help, that other people were willing to do it.

UPDATE: God is helping Cheney with apostrophes --

Remarks by the Vice President on Veteran's Day

Nobody could have foreseen ....

On her way out to the "western white house" for her boss's summit with Angela Merkel, Condi Rice did an interview with the Dallas Morning News. To its credit, the paper came armed with serious and sustained questions. Perhaps the most interesting concerns the period immediately after the overthrow of Saddam when the occupation of Iraq was put in the charge of the Pentagon and not, contrary to the earlier practice, the State Department. Condi is in an especially awkward position on that one, having advised the decision at the time but now in charge of the department that she then thought wasn't up to the job that she wants it to do now. So let the spinning begin --

So the truth of the matter is this country, the United States, really did not have a structure that worked particularly well for the transition from war to peace, the kind of -- we tended to think of things, there's war and there's peace. The military does war and the civilians do peace. And that's not the case. Many, many, not just Iraq and Afghanistan, but Haiti and Sudan and Liberia are all places where you find that this is more of a continuum. And so we tried in Bosnia and the Balkans to do it kind of with an international presence. Well, that worked variably. Kosovo still doesn't essentially have an economy. Bosnia-Herzegovina still isn't a real state in the way that it functions. It has three presidents. Three presidents! It has three police forces and three armies. (Laughter.) But you know, but this idea that somehow the Balkans -- we stopped the war, but the transition hasn't worked all that well ...

Now, what I think we've come to now is a recognition that you need structures that better integrate military and civilian capability. You need structures that permit large-scale civilian deployment, and we don't really have them ... And so the new structure that the President proposed in his State of the Union is something called a Civilian Response Corps, which is a civilian capability to sort of look like the National Guard capability so that you could actually sign up Americans. Let's say there's a former prosecutor or former assistant DA here in Dallas who would like to spend a year serving in Afghanistan or Iraq or Haiti or someplace doing rule of law and justice training.

The obvious problem with this is the fact that in countries like Iraq, they don't speak English, and the idea that some dude sitting around in the US with spare time on his hands can just head over there and start training people in Arabic is preposterous. There is a particular part of the US government that has people with technical specialties and language skills: the, er, State Department! So here's how Condi deals with that one --

QUESTION: One of the things that the State Department -- one of the assets that the State Department did have in 2003 was a very capable Foreign Service -- Arabic-speaking, very knowledgeable about Iraq as well as the rest of the region. They were swept aside in this decision to hand over those responsibilities to DOD.

SECRETARY RICE: That's not true.

QUESTION: Well, we've reviewed quite a few interviews on this and --

SECRETARY RICE: You know, people -- it's very interesting because that was not the assessment at the time, that State Department could somehow do this. It just wasn't the case. And yes, there were people -- I would, by the way -- who knew Iraq? Well, I planned with a lot of those people and it turns out we actually didn't know Iraq very well -- the Iraq that had existed from '91, after the first Gulf War, until 2003. I don't remember anybody knowing the degree to which the Oil-for-Food program had completely made dysfunctional agriculture in Iraq. Because if you have a food basket and you're giving people food through the Oil-for-Food program, then there isn't an agricultural market for goods. So agriculture had completely collapsed. I don't remember anybody knowing that.

Condi therefore claims that neither she or anyone around her knew that giving out free food tends to be bad for local farm producers -- a recurring theme of the food aid debate for about the last 30 years. Indeed, the concern that free food destroys local production was one of the (misguided) rationales for Britain's botched famine relief policies in Ireland in the 1840s. The depth of Condi's ability to be shocked by well known issues never ceases to amaze.

Culture of death

Carefully dumped into the weekend news cycle by the US military in Iraq --

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq – Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley was found not guilty Nov. 8 on three specifications of premeditated murder during a general court martial at the Camp Victory court house.

Hensley, a sniper and the scout platoon sergeant for 1st Battalion, 501st Airborne, was on trial for the deaths of three Iraqis during missions that took place April 14 and May 11 in Jurf as Sakhr, and April 27 in Abu Shemsi.

Hensley was found guilty under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for wrongfully placing an AK-47 rifle with the remains of the Iraqi man who died during the May 11 mission. He was also found guilty under UCMJ Article 89 for disrespect to a superior commissioned officer.

Hensley was sentenced to 135 days, a reduction in rank to sergeant and received a letter of reprimand.

These are incidents in which unarmed Iraqis were shot dead even as the US troops apparently had time to determine who they were. And in which weapons were planted on them to make them look like insurgents -- whether the weapons were in fact "bait" remains a matter of dispute.

One hopes that letter of reprimand doesn't dog Hensley's future career.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Planned Spontaneity

Paul Quinn from south Armagh was beaten to death across the border in Monaghan, apparently after falling out with local goons whose exact relationship to the IRA is not clear. Baron John Laird has announced that on Monday, he will use parliamentary privilege in the House of Lords to name those believed responsible. The names have already allegedly appeared in graffiti around Quinn's home town and on social networking websites.

Now the Houses of Lords and Commons can make pretty much any rules they want for what is said in the houses, but announcing ahead of time that you intend to use the special privilege to skirt around a legal investigation is a dodgy move. For one thing, one could argue that the purpose of the privilege is to allow free debate in the strict sense of the word, meaning that as an issue is being discussed, no one should feel constrained for being in the moment and letting the debate flow. But in this case there's no debate. He's just going to do it, regardless of what is actually said on Monday.

An added problem is that the crime occurred outside the UK, with the possibility that any prosecution could be in the Republic of Ireland. It's not clear how an Irish court would handle a defence claim of prejudicial information that originated in another country.

Needless to say, despite the above reservations, we'll be Hansarding away on Monday to see what happens!

UPDATE: See here.

A light bulb flickers

George Bush, with Angela Merkel in Texas --

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm now going to go feed the Chancellor a hamburger. (Laughter.) Right here, Crawford, Texas. No, well, I mean back over there. Thank you all.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: Obviously, for me, as a person who originally came from Hamburg --
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: -- it's even more important.

What oil crisis?

REUTERS/Jim Young; caption

One might have thought that a Merkel-Bush summit taking place on a weekend of essentially $100/barrel oil might make a nod at fuel efficiency. One would be wrong.

Mos Espa aids the insurgency

Image from Star Wars official site

Now that it's apparently officially acknowledged that Iraqi insurgents are not getting Explosively Formed Penetrators from Iran, a new and more dastardly possibility beckons. That they are getting them from a galaxy a long time ago and far far away. Compare Watto's hat with the deadly weapon.

Friday, November 09, 2007

As stuff happened

White House photo by Eric Draper

Former commissioner of the New York Police Department, Bernie Kerik, will be indicted for corruption today. It's important to remember that Kerik did stuff after leaving the NYPD and before being nominated to head the federal department of homeland security. Like being put in charge of training the Iraqi National Police, in the fateful year of 2003. Here's a little from the event associated with the picture above, where Kerik reports back to his boss --

THE PRESIDENT: .... First, I want to welcome Bernie Kerik to the South Lawn, and to the Oval Office. We just had a fascinating discussion about what he did in Iraq, what he saw in Iraq. He can speak for himself. But let me characterize it this way, that he went to help the Iraqis organize a police force. He showed up at times of chaos and confusion. Because of his leadership, his knowledge and his experience, he was able to stand up a police force in Baghdad in a very quick period of time. I think he told me opened up 37 different precinct stations -- 35 different precinct stations. They activated and trained 35,000 Iraqi police force. And that's important because the ultimate solution to the security issues in Iraq is for the Iraqi citizens to manage their own affairs.

Bernie went there and made a big difference. And for that our nation is very grateful. We appreciate it a lot.

Kerik showed himself to be a loyal Bushie, because this event came right after the administration was forced to fall back on the construction "weapons of mass destruction related program activities" given the absence of any actual WMD in Iraq. Kerik had his answer

And I read some of the articles about this, about Dr. Kay's report today, in my opinion, there was one weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, and it was Saddam Hussein

Kerik's remarks are worth reading in full, since they reveal a 9/11 endowment of self-righteousness that probably had him convinced he was doing nothing wrong in the activities that got him indicted. But when people look back trying to figure out how Iraq went so wrong, having a cult-of-9/11 crony like Kerik in charge of building up the police force will be part of the answer.

This part is right

The part where Karl Rove, writing in today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; alt. free link) as a former (sic) adviser to George Bush --

A party that wins control by that narrow margin can quickly see its fortunes reversed when it fails to act responsibly, fails to fulfill its promises, and fails to lead.

But since it's Rove peddling White House talking points, what he means is not George Bush's 540 vote victory in winning the presidency in 2000, (or 1 vote, if you count the Supreme Court margin), but --

The Democratic victory in 2006 was narrow. They won the House by 85,961 votes out of over 80 million cast and the Senate by a mere 3,562 out of over 62 million cast.

The main obstacle to the Democrats achieving anything since 2006 has been a constitutional system that leaves Rove's boss in the chief executive position long after his public support has collapsed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

He's a commander guy

George Bush (to Pervez Musharraf) --

You can't be President and head of the military at the same time.

This is an easy for one Musharraf. He doesn't even have to compare himself to Abraham Lincoln. He can compare himself to the Commander-in-Chief, George Bush.

UPDATE: Jack Cafferty raised Bush's remark with Wolf Blitzer on CNN this evening. Blitzer tried to make the best of Bush's gaffe, arguing that he was referring to the Pakistani analog of the position of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff rather than Commander-in-Chief. But as Cafferty pointed out, in the US system, the Joint Chiefs chairman takes his orders from the President. If Bush has a complaint about the US constitutional system, which puts an executive president as commander-in-chief of the military, he should say so.

Chicken, meet roost

White House photo by Kimberlee Hewitt

When you endorse "pro-democracy" street protests as a legitimate way of changing a government, you can't then be surprised when there's a round 2 of these things where you might be in a more awkward position. Whether it's Benazir (in a typical stunt) promising to lead a march from Lahore to Islamabad, or Georgians fed up with what their Rose Revolution brought them (in the form of Mikhail Saakashvili, above), or Hezbollah in Lebanon. There's more to democracy than opportunistic branding and support of one particular faction that at a point in time look like the right people to be in charge.

UPDATE: An almost parody of the above line of protestor-choosing by Powerline's Hindrocket --

Georgia is a very different case. That country's government is pro-western and progressive; it accuses Russian intelligence agencies of coordinating the protests in an effort to destabilize, and re-assert control over, Georgia. My guess is that's probably true, and the protesters are, essentially, the bad guys.

Fear the grape

White House photo by Chris Greenberg

When is the last time that two teetotalers, or at least two soi-disant teetotalers, did a White House toast?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

He mentioned the bisque

At the White House, Nicolas Sarkozy is at last getting the lobster that he didn't get in Maine, while reading the guest list requires seeing a lot of "honorables" before people like Dick Cheney and Ed Gillespie. The protocol people forgot that Rachida Dati's exact title includes Guardian of the Seals, and it's an interesting choice of Sarko to have her there along with Rama Yade (above). Condi might have some competitition in the dress sweepstakes.

We'll have to figure out how (possibly former) Mets pitcher Tom Glavine made the cut. The future Bush in-laws, via Jenna (the Hagers) will be there too, although the father-in-law's surname is currently mis-spelled ("Spouse of Mr. John Hagar")1.

UPDATE: watertiger works through the pictures.

1Since corrected

Not enough troops

What's wrong with this statement from Multinational Force-Iraq? --

TIKRIT, Iraq – A U.S. Sailor was killed as a result of injuries sustained from an explosion while conducting operations in Salah ad Din Province Monday.

The Navy fighting land wars. Incidentally, here's an interesting line from the Financial Times explaining one of the many sources of disenchantment in the Pakistani army --

US officials say it is making senior officers reluctant to pursue actionable intelligence if there is a high risk of failure. "The image of the military as a professional force, capable of confronting India, is very important to them and this affects their willingness to take risks in the tribal areas," says one.

An army intended for use in wars against countries being bogged down in a war on terrorists. It's the same for Israel -- and the US. It's not just that the GWOT is stupidly named. Its underlying activities are stupid, not least when one's vaunted military ends up looking like the "weak horse", if you will.

UPDATE: A little more on the dead sailor -- Bewley was permanently assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, Oak Harbor, Wash.

Bomber Harris, all is forgiven

The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens (subs. req'd; alt. free link) has a defence for George Bush's desire to torture terrorist detainees -- that it's not as bad as the firebombing of German cities or the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II. Leave aside all the other problems with this argument. If George W. Bush is, like Churchill and FDR, engaged in all-out war against totalitarian enemies and he thinks he needs to torture a few people to advance the greater good, why doesn't he come out and say so? The torture debate is of course driven by moral questions. But it's fueled by Bush's word games, a fuel he could remove by simply saying in plain English what he wants to do.

Don't tell the CPVPV*

New York Times processology on the resignation of Citibank CEO Charles Prince, a move that required winning over key Citibank shareholder Prince al-Waleed and his Kingdom Holdings company --

A week ago yesterday, Mr. Weill, Citigroup’s former chairman and chief executive, took the Citigroup jet to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to meet with Prince Walid. He flew there, according to a banking industry official briefed on the situation, to persuade the Saudi prince that it was time for Citi’s chief executive, Mr. Prince, to leave. Prince Walid called up Mr. Prince and told him about the conversation, this person said.

Michael S. Klein, the co-head of Citigroup’s investment bank, also headed to Riyadh on another Citigroup jet early last week with other bankers to celebrate the successful introduction of Kingdom Holdings, the prince’s publicly traded company.

At the home of Kingdom’s finance chief, a dozen or so bankers and Kingdom Holdings’ executives and directors sipped cocktails and enjoyed Middle Eastern foods while informally discussing the issue of Mr. Prince’s performance, according to people briefed on the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

*Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice

Monday, November 05, 2007

Where does he find these people?

Out with Karen Hughes, and now, in with Torie Clark --

The President intends to nominate the following individuals to be Members of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy ... Victoria Clarke, of Maryland, for the remainder of a three-year term expiring 07/01/09.

Source for photos of Hughes and Clark

So complicated only the Iranians can make it

The above shaped copper plate is an Explosively-Formed Projectile, a key ingredient of armor-piercing improvised explosive devices in Iraq. When George Bush discerns that his ranting about Iran's nuclear capability has no credibility, his PR team pivots and brings up Iran's supposed dominance in the supply of EFPs to Iraq. The story from Multinational Force Iraq accompanying the above picture concerns the manufacture of EFPs and other lethal devices in Iraq. Iran is never mentioned.

It gets repetitous saying it, but the other ingredient of IEDs is just all the Saddam-era conventional weapons that George Bush's war plan failed to secure after the invasion.

UPDATE: A rapprochement of the US military in Baghdad towards Iran is in evidence: the 9 Iranian detainees have been released, reflecting a broader determination that Iran has clamped down on supplies to the Shiite militias.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

One person to watch the bill

Harvard economics professor Greg Mankiw doing some interpretation in the New York Times of various accepted talking points about the American healthcare system:

STATEMENT 1 The United States has lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than Canada, which has national health insurance.

So he sets out to show that it doesn't mean what it appears to mean. Part of the explanation is higher murder and accident rates in the US. But then --

Americans are also more likely to be obese, leading to heart disease and other medical problems ... The causes of American obesity are not fully understood, but they involve lifestyle choices we make every day, as well as our system of food delivery ... Infant mortality rates also reflect broader social trends, including the prevalence of infants with low birth weight ... The rate of teenage motherhood, according to the [Baruch college economists] study ($), is almost three times higher in the United States than it is in Canada ... The bottom line is that many statistics on health outcomes say little about our system of health care.

So note the trickery. In assessing the contribution of the different healthcare systems to overall health, he's excluding the contribution of the public health system to the different outcomes.

Americans have worse health because some are fatter and some are born with low weight at birth. Why might that be? How about poorer maternal health, more pregnant women with bad health insurance coverage, and -- together with the issue of obesity -- worse diets for parents and children. And that gets into the even bigger problem. Private incentives leading to bad public outcomes. Surely Mankiw knows what that is.

Who's telling Americans to eat healthier diets? A marginalised Surgeon-General and a Food and Drug Administration that has to fend off the lobbyists with every move. And who bears the costs of bad diets? Lots of people, but in a dispersed and not easily organised way. And who's telling Americans to eat less healthy diets? Turn on the TV or open a magazine. It's big money.

With national healthcare, there is one single entity that sees all the cost: the government, because it's paying for it. Then the playing field between public health and the food industry is a bit more level and the levers for reaching some of the people on the fringes on the system are wider than they are now.

For one thing, countries with single payer health systems seem to understand that contraception in secondary schools is not just grist for the mill for talk radio ranters, but something that actually improves public health. Saving everyone in the country a little bit of money. It's called a "collective action problem". It might even be on the syllabus at Harvard.

UPDATE: Additional links on the Mankiw piece (after the self-reference, go to the economistsview one).

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Birds of a feather

It might be hard to tell who wrote these words --

WHEREAS some members of the judiciary are working at cross purposes with the executive and legislature in the fight against terrorism and extremism thereby weakening the Government and the nation’s resolve and diluting the efficacy of its actions to control this menace;

It's not a Bush speech. It's General Musharraf's proclamation of emergency rule.

Heckuva job

White House photo by Tina Hager

So now Pakistan, the place that actually had nuclear weapons when George Bush invaded Iraq, is under emergency rule.

More images of George Bush's emphasis on personalised diplomacy here.

Friday, November 02, 2007

How little we know

A truly cryptic press release via Multinational Force Iraq --

SOUTHWEST ASIA - Three Airmen were killed Nov. 1 while performing combat operations in the vicinity of Balad Air Base, Iraq.

All three were assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Balad AB.

Not a hint of an explanation as to what US Air Force investigative personnel were doing in what sounds like ground operations near their base. Even stranger is their affiliation within the USAF. Here's more about that Office of Special Investigations --

The Air Force Office of Special Investigations has been the Air Force's major investigative service since Aug.1, 1948. The agency reports to the Inspector General, Office of the Secretary of the Air Force.

OSI provides professional investigative service to commanders of all Air Force activities. Its primary responsibilities are criminal investigations and counterintelligence services.

And OSI's own press release on the 3 deaths is a little bit different --

11/2/2007 - SOUTHWEST ASIA -- Three Airmen were killed Nov. 1 while performing federal law enforcement operations in the vicinity of Balad Air Base, Iraq.

Very odd to specify that it was a law enforcement and not simply a military operation, in which they do occasionally find themselves. Something about this is very fishy.

UPDATE: There is now a more extensive news release giving the names of the deceased and includes the details that one was a civilian and they were killed by an IED.

The real sacrifice

No more words from Bush or Cheney for this week -- it's too painful -- but take a look at this transcript of a Dick Cheney interview with a sycophantic right-wing radio host in Dallas, Mike Gallagher. The first half of the interview is focused on Gallagher's view of who has a tough job. It's not the soldiers fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's Bush, Cheney and Condi Rice, who have to tolerate people saying mean things about them. And it's Dick Cheney, who has to contemplate a world where he won't have limousines and advance preparatory teams when he's no longer VP. Gallagher really thinks that's a sacrifice.

Gallagher has sacrificed himself, though not by going to fight in Iraq --

Q As I was being frisked today, I thought, boy, there is hoorah. There is. (Laughter.)

So Cheney's security detail frisked his biggest fan in Dallas. That's trust.

Cave man

George Bush, with his favourite backdrop (troops) --

Our enemies see the changes underway, and they increasingly fear they're on the wrong side of events. Osama bin Laden -- who has to hide in caves because the United States is on his tail -- understands, has said publicly that al Qaeda's recent setbacks are mistakes -- the result of mistakes that al Qaeda has made. In other words, he recognizes the inevitable -- that the United States of America and those who long for peace in Iraq, the Iraqi citizens, will not tolerate thugs and killers in their midst. (Applause.)

He doesn't see the irony in quoting Osama's admission of mistakes, an admission that Bush would never make himself. And being "in caves" has not stopped Osama from issuing his messages -- one reason being that he's probably not actually in a cave --

Lieutenant-General Asad Durrani, former head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), said news of outsiders' presence travels fast in the tribal areas and it would be hard to keep it secret for years.

"In the countryside or in tribal areas ... it's difficult to hide yourself because there people live ... and operate in a manner in which finding out about unusual presence is very important," Durrani told Reuters in an interview in London ... Durrani said an urban centre could provide a better refuge.

"Why not a big city? Anywhere in Pakistan, Afghanistan. Anywhere outside the region where it is easier to keep cover," he said. "These are the places where you can hide yourself much better."

It's easier for Osama to hide when the Commander-in-Chief of the people chasing him is fixated on his alleged location as of December 2001. The guy who never makes mistakes.


Here's a really bizarre column from Charles Krauthammer. It's propagating the talking point that Argentina electing its first lady as president is a harbinger of Hillary Clinton's political future. The issue for Krauthammer is the return of Bill Clinton to the White House. But this leads him to sloppy phrasing --

We have never had an ex-president move back into the White House.

which needs the qualifier "as an ex-president" added to it, since Grover Cleveland served non-consecutive terms as president. Then there's the insistent spelling of Juan Peren. Did no one check the font in Perón?1 There's the mischievous word-dropping --

The cloud hovering over a Hillary presidency is not Bill padding around the White House in robe and slippers flipping thongs.

Has to get a Monica mention in there somewhere. But mostly it's just Krauthammer's blindness to the fact that the US is becoming more like Latin America -- in rising inequality, militarist populism, and the view of constitutions as subservient to the whims of the president.

1The Post finally corrected the spelling, which was noticed elsewhere.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


Does George Bush really think it's a good speech line (at the Heritage Foundation) to tell Congress to be more responsive to Osama bin Laden than MoveOn.Org or Code Pink?

Bush also seemed to be claiming that the US should have invaded eastern Europe after the Budapest, Prague, or Gdansk uprisings.

UPDATE: More on Bush's speech. It's strange that he thinks one of his recycled election rally speeches from 2006 is still good material.

Michael Flatley eat your heart out

No one seems to have a perfect quality video of the event, but this one gets the essence: Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Jonathan Papelbon doing an Irish jig by way of Riverdance at the celebration of the team's World Series victory. Music from the Dropkick Murphys.