Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Vanguard

As Janice Turner put it in the Times (UK) today, one of the mysteries of the last few weeks of the economic crisis has been Where's the Rage? Perhaps the answer to the question comes in the energy sector wildcat strikes in the UK and the Waterford Crystal sit-in in the Republic.

One interesting aspect of these actions is the causes that attach themselves to them. British unions are understandably concerned that the wildcat strikes have attracted a BNP element, but Brian at Slugger makes the point that will have occurred to people with long memories, the role of the power strikes in the collapse of the Sunningdale government in Northern Ireland in 1974.

Anyway, in the Waterford sit-in, the workers are flying the Starry Plough. It's run up the pole about 1m40s into this RTE story (or here, 1st item). Note a couple of things. First, their flag is the original 1916 version, and not the later and more usual flag which essentially abstracts to the constellation. Second, if you look closely at RTE's footage, the flag appears to be upside down. That may be an insight into why the version based on the plough went out of style. Most people have never seen one.

UPDATE: In Brian Cowen's hypocritical tribute to Tony Gregory, he said --

Tony Gregory had a strong interest in Irish history and he had a deep affinity for James Connolly who was a central figure in the republican and labour tradition from which Tony hailed.

Connolly's Irish Citizen Army had championed the cause of Dublin's working class during the 1913 Lock-Out. At Tony's funeral, the blue and white of the Starry Plough flag - the same flag which is synonymous with the Citizen Army - draped Tony Gregory's coffin on his final journey to Balgriffen Cemetery.

Here's Tony's coffin. Note that it's the "modern" plough and stars flag, not the Irish Citizen Army flag as above. This is what happens when the Soldiers of Developers pretend to be real socialists.

Backing the right horse

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney presenting then candidate Obama with a Steelers jersey. There is now speculation that Obama will name Rooney as US Ambassador to Ireland. It'll also be interesting to see how Obama handles the St Patrick's Day festivities, as it's a ritual in dire need of new thinking. For one thing, the obligatory bowl of shamrock is Waterford Crystal, where things are not so good these days. Maybe the White House could roll the shamrock, the naming of the ambassador, and the Superbowl team visit to the White House into one.

UPDATE: Dan Rooney thanked President Obama first in his victory speech.

Photo by Jason Reed, Reuters


The New York Times has a very interesting story which tries to figure out who in the Bush administration made the decision to withhold a US-funded exit poll that showed challenger Raila Odinga winning the December 2007 Kenyan presidential election over incumbent Mwai Kibaki. The disputed election led to riots and an eventual power-sharing government.

One possibility not explored is that the Bushies were reluctant to acknowledge that exit polls could be used as part of the evidence against a declared election outcome. Because of course, that's part of the case against George Bush's declared victory in the 2000 Florida vote.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reading is stimulating

Powerline's "Hindrocket" --

The International Monetary Fund projects that the U.S. GDP will contract by 1.6% in 2009, canceling out a modest 1.1% growth in 2008. That's not good, but it's better than the IMF predicts for any developed country other than Canada. The IMF projects Germany's GDP to be down 2.5% this year, France's 1.9%, the U.K.'s 2.8% and Japan's 2.6% ... If the IMF is right, one effect of the current global downturn will be to increase the economic gap between the U.S. and rivals among the developed countries. At the same time, the IMF projects less developed economies (like China's and India's) to continue to gain on the developed world.

All of which offers more evidence that the hysteria currently being whipped up in Washington over the alleged need to add another trillion dollars in federal debt is overstated, at best.

This is a case where one needs to read the actual IMF forecast --

Consequently, unlike the November WEO Update, the new projections incorporate a substantial fiscal expansion. Specifically, fiscal stimulus in G-20 countries in 2009 is projected to be 1.5 percent of GDP. Deficits are also expected to be boosted by the operation of automatic stabilizers and the impact on revenues of sharp asset price declines, as well as the costs of financial sector rescues.

In other words, the Fund assumed a discretionary package of 1.5% of GDP for all of the world's large economies in addition to a lot of budget deterioration due to the crisis. US GDP is about $14.4 trillion, so the assumed stimulus for 2009 is about $216 billion. The consensus Congressional Budget Office estimate is that the US stimulus will amount to $169 billion up to 1st October 2009, and a chunk of $356 billion that would come in the following 12 months. If we guess that one-quarter of that $356 billion is coming at the end of 2009, then the total 2009 stimulus is $258 billion.

Thus the IMF forecast that he uses as proof that the Democratic package isn't needed assumes that something very like the Democratic package passes -- and soon! Among the mistakes he's making is using multi-year cost estimates in the context of the IMF's one year forecast. It's the type of mistake one makes when politics is trumping analytical motivation.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of America

An emerging trend in the early stages of the conservative opposition to Barack Obama is an apparent proliferation of news-release-ready organizations ready to take on the administration in name of Catholic teaching.

Here's National Review's Maggie Gallagher alerting everyone to a new group called Moral Accountability (.com). It's spearheaded by Princeton professor Robert ("Robby") George, recipient of a Presidential Citizens Medal from George W. Bush. The apparent goal of the group is to create rhetorical and intellectual pressure around prominent Catholics (and other Christians) who aren't so keen on the rendering unto Caesar element of what Jesus taught about church-state relations i.e. Catholics who lack enthusiasm for legislating Catholic moral teachings.

And here's K-Lo alerting everyone to the "outrage" of a Catholic college inviting Bill Ayers to speak, courtesy of a press release from the "Cardinal Newman Society" whose apparent mission is to protect the Catholic character, as they see it, of Catholic educational institutions around the USA. One might have thought that the idea of a university, if you will, would be to be open to all forms of intellectual engagement, but of course Bill Ayers is not just any "outrageous" visitor, but one who can be linked to Barack Obama.

So anyway, do the two instances above herald a wave of Catholic-themed astroturf groups pursuing a thinly disguised political agenda? While it's too soon to tell, it's not too soon to note that despite these groups' focus on moral clarity, they have no opinion on Pope Benedict de-excommunicating the Holocaust-denying bishop. Speaking of which, what would Michael Rubin say if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad endorsed the bishop?


That Barack Obama did his first Presidential interview with al-Arabiya (transcript) has attracted a lot of attention and reignited speculation about the specific site implicit in his campaign promise to give a major speech from a "Muslim capital" within the first 100 days of his Presidency. In the realm of probably useless speculation, it's worth noting that the only Muslim leader mentioned in the interview was Saudi King Abdullah in the specific context of the King Abdullah peace proposal to Israel.

As Matthew Yglesias has noted, this is the same peace offer that New York based Max Boot has ridiculed as unworkable, while Israeli President Shimon Peres says it has potential.

But anyway, it's worth paying more attention to the speech King Abdullah delivered at the Arab League summit in Kuwait a couple of weeks ago. The speech is unusual for its blunt criticism of the state of Palestinian and Arab unity and even the inevitable denunciation of Israel managed an interesting twist on the debate about proportionality --

The murderers and their accomplices have forgotten that the Torah says: “an eye for an eye”; it never says an entire city for an eye.

So don't rule out that in a Rovian gambit of taking on the opposition on their territory, Obama decides to make his big speech in Riyadh. He could then send the rightwingers crazy with speculation that he's en route to Mecca!

UPDATE: Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Fouad Ajami interprets the interview as reassuring to Arab autocracies and claims that Obama has dumped the Bush of Arabia idea that externally imposed power can bring liberty. Ajami attributes intellectual support for the Bush idea to Sam Huntington. But here's the FT's Christopher Caldwell arguing that Huntington didn't believe that.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Time to get back to making stuff

A few days ago National Review's Mark Steyn highlighted a section from a Matthew Parris op-ed in the Times (UK) --

This recession is not a failure of market economics. It is a reassertion of market economics after a decade in which we paid ourselves more than we were producing, and funded it precariously and temporarily by complicated credit instruments that it took a while for the market to rumble.

Others also took note. The full Parris column is a good read and heaps deserving ridicule on Gordon Brown in particular. But Steyn is back today taking note of another Times (UK) article --

Across the UK as a whole, government spending now accounts for 49% of the economy. And look at these regional variations:

Southern England: a mere 36% of the economy is government spending;
Northeast England: 66.4%;
Wales: 71.6%;
Northern Ireland: 77.6%.

As The Times notes:

"The state now looms far larger in many parts of Britain than it did in former Soviet satellite states such as Hungary and Slovakia as they emerged from communism in the 1990s, when state spending accounted for about 60% of their economies."

Big government is where once successful nations go to die.

It's worthwhile considering the link between these observations. Where is the share of government spending in the UK economy smallest? In the part of the country which was devoted to most fiendishly creating that debt mountain that Parris was complaining about. And while Northern Ireland has a special factor i.e. The Troubles accounting for the high share of government, the other parts of the UK were not helped by being priced out of the things they used to do by the financial boom.

Priced out specifically by the exchange rate, jacked up to high levels in the early 1980s by Maggie Thatcher partly in the belief that export manufacturing was a unionised dinosaur, and then maintained there by the ability of London's financial services machine to pay the bills even as many of the industries that the UK used to have went into decline. Necessitating an increased role for government. Recall also that the "strong dollar" obsession, likewise detrimental to manufacturing, was a hallmark of the Reagan era adopted enthusiastically (although with less credibility) by his successors.

There's a broader point here. Many of the crisis response critiques, such as those from Parris, are interpreted as saying that the problem is that government got too big. But the clear reading of the last two years is that it was the financial sector that got too big. That's where some real crowding out was happening.

UPDATE: Martin Wolf sheds more light on how it was the US and UK financial sectors that got so large.

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's not like the movies

Former George Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen got called on his assertions about the efficacy of Bush's intelligence policies (in which he referred as Barack Obama as the most dangerous man to occupy the Oval Office) by the Washington Post's Dan Froomkin. Consider just one aspect of Thiessen's responding claims --

Zubair then provided information that led to the capture of a JI [Jemaah Islamiah] terrorist leader named Hambali—KSM's [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] partner in developing the West Coast plot. Their strategy was to used Southeast Asian operatives, since KSM knew we would be on the lookout for Arab men.

Told of Hambali's capture, KSM identified Hambali's brother "Gun Gun" as his successor and provided information that led to his capture.

Hambali's brother then gave us information that led us to a cell of 17 JI operatives that were going to carry out the West Coast plot.

The "West Coast" plot was the intended use of Richard Reid style shoe-bombs to blast open cabin doors and then fly the planes into buildings. No discussion of the feasibility of flying a plane after an explosion, let alone who would do the flying. Note that he never explains how many of the 17 JI operatives were pilots. Likely because the answer is 0.

While Hambali stays in Gitmo because of the Executive Decision style fantasies of people like Thiessen, he could have been tried for the very real crime of the Bali bombing by Indonesia or Australia. Is the unstated logic for keeping him locked up that letting him out would be too embarrassing?

Because he doesn't have enough outlets

At National Review's The Corner, Peter Wehner with an apparent scoop --

Bill Kristol will be heard from again and again, above all, of course, from his current perch at The Weekly Standard, but also, I gather, from a new perch at the Washington Post (where he will have a monthly column), as well as from his seat at Fox News and in other venues. He is easily among the most intelligent, creative, and articulate conservative voices in America—a fact, upon which I would be willing to bet a large sum of money, is what troubled the Times ... That is a tribute to both the rightness of Kristol’s views and his unwillingness to temper them for the sake of the Times. Unlike, say, the Washington Post under the leadership of Fred Hiatt, at the Times, real intellectual diversity is something to be avoided.

UPDATE: Politico also has the unsourced story.

Who's the daddy?

Gordon Brown today will apparently return to an atrocious metaphor --

LONDON (AFP) – Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday the financial crisis must not be an excuse to retreat into protectionism and instead be viewed as the "difficult birth-pangs of a new global order".

In a speech, he will urge countries to avoid "muddling through as pessimists" and "make the necessary adjustment to a better future and setting the new rules for this new global order", according to his office.

At least the speechwriters had the sense to avoid New World Order. The cool bloggers have had fun with "neo-Hooverite" interpretations of the financial crisis and related ideas that the crisis is a response to excess and requires liquidation to repent for the past sins. But is it any more sensible to view the crisis as a necessary and perhaps even, eventually joyous, pathway to a better future?

The crisis was avoidable. Gordon Brown was around the top policymaking tables for the last 10 years while it was not being avoided. The output of the birth pangs carries his DNA.

UPDATE: Brown, apparently sensitive to the charge that he had 10 years to do something about the crisis, claims that he warned about it 10 years ago! Of course, any good speechwriter puts in a few CYA paragraphs to cover various eventualities. The question is not what Brown said, but what he did (see also Guido's quote establishing that what Brown meant was spreading the UK approach to regulation everywhere else).

FINAL UPDATE: David Cameron confronted Brown on the "birth pangs" quote in Questions to the PM. He got in a line about "death throes" but as usual with Gordon's bluster, couldn't make much headway otherwise.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The blow-ins

This business about Pope Benedict de-excommunicating the Holocaust denier bishop Richard Williamson is one of those strings that when pulled, produces a tug in the most interesting places. Here's the Times (UK) religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill (who's been all over this story from the start) --

Williamson is a former Anglican who went to Winchester and Cambridge. He is thought to have been influenced in his conversion to Catholicism by the late Malcolm Muggeridge and he was received into the Catholic church by the Irish missionary priest, Father John Flanagan.

Muggeridge plays an important role in the recent intellectual history of the American right, and in particular in the emergence of a Catholic wing of the neocons. His trajectory from left to right mirrored that of the original 1930s neocons (Trotskyites as they were then) and his conversion to Catholicism also had parallels in the USA -- not least to Fr. Richard John Neuhaus who died recently, a death taken sufficiently seriously by the Bush White House to merit a special statement (the only other bereavements during the recent period getting such statements involved another priest and a cat).

Note in particular the role of National Review's William F. Buckley in triangulating this socio-cultural scene. Note also these interesting remarks from Christopher Hitchens about the possibility that Muggeridge was anti-Semitic. And if you haven't had enough noting, note the link between Neuhaus and the attempts to market the Iraq invasion as a Catholic just war.

So anyway, the Williamson affair is going to be very awkward for the conservatives. It's a reminder that for all the attempts to assert a natural right-wing alliance of Catholics, Jews, and Evangelicals, each of the participants in such an alliance bring some baggage. There hasn't been a word so far from National Review on the Benedict decision, and yet Kathryn Jean Lopez found time a few days ago to suggest that Washington DC's Catholic Cardinal shouldn't have been at the Barack Obama National Prayer Service given Obama's views on abortion.

If anything requires the Catholic hierarchy taking a stand, shouldn't it be the Holocaust?

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan is immersed in the debate.

FINAL UPDATE: After several Catholics-bash-Obama posts, K-Lo realized she'd better say something about the Holocaust denying bishop. With the help of a few quotes from a source in Rome -- it's all legalisms and technicalities. Moral clarity, how are ya? The conclusion from her Rome source is remarkable --

The atrocities of the Third Reich are not a matter of theological opinion but of historical record. A bishop has no special competence to opine on these matters

Culture of life, indeed.

Note for Bush bloggers

All the links to the White House website during the Bush years don't work anymore. But they can be saved. In the web address, replace www.whitehouse with georgewbush-whitehouse.archives and the links will work. Example: if you're looking for the quote where Bush said he'd leave town with his head held high, it used to be [] and now it's here. Three cheers for the US National Archives. Now, if only there was a Blogger utility that can do a find-replace for the links on every post at once?

Once a Yes man, always a Yes man

New York Times analysis of the leadership crisis at Bank of America following its disastrous takeover of Merrill Lynch --

Still, the Bank of America board, whose ranks include the mayor of Spartanburg, S.C.; a retired general, Tommy R. Franks; and the former chairman and chief executive of Lowe’s, has offered up no signals that it has lost confidence in its leader.

Tommy Franks was George Bush's top general for the invasion of Iraq, got a Presidential Medal of Freedom early on in the still unwon war, and felt strongly enough about George Bush's leadership skills to campaign for his reeelection in 2004, barely out of his uniform. And whatever experience his career gave him in invading countries, it's didn't give him much in finance.

Could it be that his never-disagree-with-the-boss approach to Iraq was his single qualification to be on the board of Bank of America?

Friday, January 23, 2009

A loan by any other name

Ideas for nationalizing banks are all the rage. One question though: after a nationalization of banks, what would be the rationale for not nationalizing insurance companies? The balance sheet of a company like Aflac doesn't look much better than some of the banks being identified as candidates for government takeovers: thin on capital relative to all the things that could go wrong with their assets. Without a convincing rule for where to draw a line, bank takeovers would just be more of the ad hockery whose track record is already not so good.

True colours

An excerpt from The Corner that speaks for itself --

It’s not even the end of inauguration week, and Obama is already proving to be the most dangerous man ever to occupy the Oval Office.

— Marc Thiessen was chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

Getting to the truth

Here's an interesting Associated Press report on reaction in Europe to Barack Obama's order to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and the secret CIA facilities; note the perspective from Ireland (and Joe Costello of the Labour Party) as to whether the move will dislodge any secrets about Shannon's role in the rendition-detention regime. It probably seems like a low priority now with the economic crisis in Ireland, but the alternative candidates for the Fianna Fail leadership have stints on their CVs as Minister for Foreign Affairs, which is where the three monkeys approach to Shannon dominates.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barack Obama doesn't need economic advisers

Because apparently all he has to do is follow Gordon Brown. Here's Gordon to David Cameron during PM's questions today --

I believe that the indication that President Obama has given in the past few days that he will take the fiscal stimulus action that we have taken, and action in relation to banks in the way that we have done, shows that the world can work together to deal with the problem.

It's an especially amazing claim given that Gordon's initial approach to the banking crisis -- although praised to high heaven by Paul Krugman -- was just capital without any asset resolution or day-to-day managerial control, and the equally vaunted fiscal package in the Pre-Budget Report already looks like a dead duck. Maybe President Obama might want to take up these claims of Gordon when they meet in London in April.

Make him listen

It seems that one effect of the Obama presidency is already apparent: better punditry. Here's Maureen Dowd making exactly the right comparison of Obama's blistering but implicit criticisms of George Bush in his inauguration speech --

After thanking President Bush "for his service to our nation," Mr. Obama executed a high-level version of Stephen Colbert’s share-the-stage smackdown of W. at the White House correspondents’ dinner in 2006.

With W. looking on, and probably gradually realizing with irritation, as he did with Colbert, who Mr. Obama’s target was — (Is he talking about me? Is 44 saying I messed everything up?) — the newly minted president let him have it

Indeed, Obama's speech has triggered outrage at National Review's The Corner (Jay Nordlinger, Yuval Levin), which raises the question: when do these people think that it's OK for George Bush to have heard criticism of himself?

He was not a Prime Minister, so there was no parliamentary gauntlet. He did the bare minimum of news conferences, which in any case are a stilted Q&A format that can be easily filibustered (the same problem with the 2004 debates). All his set-piece speeches were before selected audiences. There've been so few times when he's had to directly confront a sustained critique -- and his lousy body language when it was happening shows that he's not good at it.

So in the glorious US constitutional system, two people got to the situation of George Bush sitting down and listening to how bad he was: a comedian (transcript), and the guy who took over from him 8 years after he started the job.

Heckuva job, Founding Fathers!

Never live for the sake of another man

Over at National Review's The Corner, Jonah Goldberg's critique of the Obama inauguration speech is strange ---

the line that grated on me most came from the bit about service and sacrifice. He said:

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

No, “they” didn’t. Slaves certainly didn’t endure the lash of the of the whip out of a sense of service and sacrifice for us. That is one of the reasons slavery is so evil; it isn't voluntary. Suffice it to say that if that line had come out of a different man’s mouth it would not be nearly so well-received. Nor did those immigrants make their sacrifices for “us.” They made them for themselves, for their own pursuit of happiness, for their families.

This thinking allows no room for the possibility that people act for the benefit (or indeed the preservation) of the next generation. Everyone is just out for themselves, even the slaves. George Bush's fiscal policy -- with its massive debt dump onto future generations -- makes a lot of sense from that perspective.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Fantasy Life

From a Pentagon news story about the departure ceremony for George Bush at Andrews Air Force Base --

The crowd roared as the former president and vice president made their dramatic entrance into the hangar. The rousing sounds of the “Air Force One” movie theme rung out as the huge hangar slowly opened, revealing the huge blue-and-white presidential aircraft glistening in the sunlight.

As the article later quietly explains, Bush's days with an actual AF1 were done by that point.

UPDATE: Bush wore an Air Force One jacket on the final flight.

The Inauguration

[more recent posts 1st]

11. The final update: video of Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction [transcript]. Slowly building to a radical close. Superb stuff.

10. Heh: Some Republicans, of course, stayed in Washington. John Feehery, a strategist and former top congressional aide, said he and his wife planned to walk from their Capitol Hill home to the ceremony if they could find a baby sitter for their young son. "I accepted the will of the American people and I'm willing to work with this administration," he said.

A frequent political commentator on CNN and MSNBC, Feehery seemed not in great demand on this day of Democratic celebration. "I might be doing Irish TV," he said a bit sheepishly.

9. Bush at Andrews Air Force Base: he saluted the guard who met him at the helicopter steps. The salute made no sense all the times he did it as President: a salute is given to a higher ranking officer, and he was the commander-in-chief. But now it's just an idiotic leftover stunt.

8. The Bush White House website is already down! They need to save that material. Bush did a lot of his misdeeds in plain sight.

7. There's the Hussein!

6. No that's not Lord of the Dance. It's a Shaker hymn.

5. The more important oath - the one that got Biden in and therefore Cheney out.

4. Barack H. Obama. H?

3. Why does Bush still have the beady-eyed look after 8 years?

2. Hey George -- how does it feel that the new guy's wife is taller than you?

1. There couldn't be a better comic lead-in to the event than the news that Dick Cheney pulled a muscle in his back while lifting a moving box at his new home in McLean Virginia and so will attend the ceremony in a wheelchair as a precautionary measure. Two things in particular -- the somewhat Freudian nature of the mishap and the way it puts into stark relief the gulf between the Republican fetishisation of manual labour and their own lives. Dick Cheney hasn't done a day's work that didn't involve paper-pushing in 40 years. But he doesn't trust anyone else with his stuff (wasn't Joe the Plumber available?). He also appears to have no plans to move back to his "home state" of Wyoming.

Monday, January 19, 2009

How the Irish became black

Remarks of Bono at "We are One" Lincoln Memorial Inaugural concert

Introduced by Sam Jackson

Let Freedom Ring! On this spot where we are standing, 43 years, 46 years ago, Dr King had a dream. On Tuesday that dream comes to pass. [Pride, including black power salute]

Not just an American dream, also an Irish dream, a European dream, an African dream, an Israeli dream, also a Palestinian dream

Let Freedom Ring (x3), every village, every hamlet, every city, Let Freedom Ring!

What a thrill for 4 Irish boys from the Northside of Dublin to honour you sir the next President of the United States, Barack Obama in choosing this song to be part of the soundtrack to your campaign and more besides [City of blinding lights]

Luckily, blessings not just for the ones who kneel, Luckily.

Thank you America

Barack Obama remarks.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sunday thinking cap

Why was Paul Krugman against capital injections for banks when Japan was doing it but for it when Gordon Brown was doing it?

UPDATE: Prof. Krugman spells out his opposition to the "bad bank" idea here and here, but the same arguments would apply against capital injections and asset insurance.

It's in the culture

Proving that at least one musical genre responds to current events, N.E.R.D. with a stock market crash-themed video.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The deception sprints to the finish

Amid of flurry of Friday news dumps (with more expected this weekend), the US Treasury has issued an announcement of financial sanctions which makes it sound like it has struck the neocon mother lode: an alliance between al-Qaeda and Iran.

It's headlined "Treasury Targets Al Qaida Operatives in Iran" and it names 4 such operatives: Mustafa Hamid, Muhammad Rab'a al-Sayid al-Bahtiyti, Ali Saleh Husain, and Sa'ad bin Laden (yes, one of those bin Ladens). There's a brief bio for each person and then an extensive description of their alleged activities. But here's the thing. Each section ends the same way --

In mid-2003, Mustafa Hamid was arrested in Iran along with other al Qaida members and associates ... Bahtiyti reportedly was arrested by Iranian authorities in mid-2003 ... Husain was detained by the Government of Iran in early 2003 .. He was arrested by Iranian authorities in early 2003. As of September 2008, it was possible that Sa'ad bin Laden was no longer in Iranian custody.

So that's it. 4 operatives, all with histories in Pakistan or Afghanistan, who wound up in a country with long borders with Pakistan or Afghanistan, and then were detained by the Iranians. Only the bin Laden son (of which there are many) might be on the loose, and if so, might not even be in Iran. The entire exercise seems to have the sole purpose of getting "al Qaeda" and "Iran" into the same press release, and so provide fodder for the pundits to claim that there is a link. One minor point: the Treasury official in charge of this charade, Stuart Levey, will apparently be acting Treasury Secretary until Tim Geithner is confirmed. God forbid that mistakes on tax returns interfere with the marketing of the War on Terror.

End of the world: new details available

Iran in general and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in particular have featured prominently in neocon obsessions about their plans to bring about the revelation of the Hidden Iman via a global apocalypse.

So the neocons should be freaking out about this photo of Ahmadinejad taken in Doha, Qatar, today Tehran yesterday before heading to Doha Qatar today where he was a surprise guest at an emergency Arab summit called to discuss the crisis in Gaza. Behind him is a sentence from the Old Testament and the Koran: "is not the morning nigh?". The sentence comes from the section of the holy books that deals with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the escape of Lot's family from it, except of course for Lot's wife who looks back at the city and is turned into a pillar of salt.

In an additional twist, given Ahmadinejad's claim that there are no gay people in Iran, those events are also critical to the Islamic perception of homosexuality, since a mob that shows up outside Lot's house the night before the destruction shows no interest in his virgin daughters. Strangely enough, with all this imminent doom, George Bush is on a 4 day vacation.

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Was 9/11 God's will?

George Bush might think so. Early on in his widely ignored farewell address (given with 5 days in a tumultuous world still left in his Presidency) --

Fellow citizens: For eight years, it has been my honor to serve as your President. The first decade of this new century has been a period of consequence -- a time set apart.

Those last four words stand out as a bit precious for a political speech and sure enough, they have a history. He used them before in his 2004 State of the Union --

in a subtle reference to religious texts that refer to divine service as a time “set apart,” he said: “Having come this far, we sense that we live in a time set apart.”

So maybe the nation was in divine service the last 8 years, or more likely, he was. There's also an echo of one of the strangest right wing talking points about 9/11, that it was an Epiphany. Bush always speaks about his confidence in the judgment of history. But it's God's judgment that he's surest about.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Florida 2000 still hurts

Dick Cheney, during a lie-packed interview with Jim Lehrer on PBS (which others will debunk more carefully) --

And I think there were some people out there who questioned the legitimacy of our administration, given the way the Florida recount ultimately turned out.

There was no Florida recount. That was the problem.

UPDATE: Another Cheney interview, for the semi-official Fox News Agency, seems to lay the rhetorical groundwork for some torture and surveillance pardons, as well as for Scooter Libby.

He is the decider

The White House won't comment on the latest -- and fairly definitive -- accusation of torture in Guantanamo Bay. The reason is laughable --

Q I had a question about Gaza -- but on the issue of [Mohammed al-]Qahtani, can you just define the term "command influence" -- what the issue --

MS. PERINO: I'm sure there is a legal definition of it, but as I understand it, the Commander-in-Chief should not be commenting on cases where the government is bringing a case against a detainee. It would be inappropriate to do so from the White House. DOD is running the interrogations and the detainee trials -- tribunals, as we call them, military tribunals -- and so it's appropriate that we keep that over there. And Geoff Morrell* put out a statement last night and I'd refer you to that.

The claimed logic being that since George Bush is, as he constantly reminds us, Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, he should be commenting on a "trial" in which those armed forces are judge, jury, and executioner. But how does a policy of no comment change the fact that George Bush is, as he constantly reminds us, Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces which is running trials in which those armed forces are judge, jury, and executioner? An imaginary wall between the White House and Pentagon doesn't do much. That's precisely the reason not to be running these tribunals in the first place.

*She seems to mean Bryan Whitman.

Entropa - Ireland

Here's an annotated image of the Ireland element of the Entropa installation in Brussels; other country depictions have been a source of controversy but the Irish one seems faithful to the self-assigned mission of the artists to mock national stereotypes (it appears to be sheepskin with bagpipe attachments).

The brochure attributes the Irish piece to John O'Connell, but news accounts claim that the entire installation was done by a 3-man Czech team led by David Černý and not 27 artists as originally claimed.

UPDATE: It's not clear from a photo of the actual installation whether the Ireland element is the same as in the brochure (from where the image above comes). Which calls into question whether the Czechs ever verified that what was being hung in Brussels corresponded to what their brochure said.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guests of the nation

The Pentagon and White House are mounting a final PR offensive to defend Guantanamo Bay before the new administration comes in. Here's Dick Cheney from an interview with Bill "Dice" Bennett today --

Q ... The papers are reporting this morning that President-Elect Obama may, on the first day or first week, close Guantanamo. Good decision, bad decision?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it's a bad decision. Guantanamo is sort of a symbol I guess to the left in this country and maybe to some of our critics overseas. But the fact is it's a very well-run facility. The Red Cross is down there all the time checking on it; reporters are free to go down, members of Congress and so forth, to look at it and see what kind of facility it is. And the fact is it's first-rate.

The other key thing that people forget is that we've got a couple hundred very bad actors down there. We've been through, several times, a scrub of the population in Guantanamo. And a good many more have been returned than we still hold, have been returned to their home countries. Now, out of that group, some number has, in fact, gone back onto the battlefield against us.

So we've not been, I think, especially harsh in terms of the judgments we've made. We have let some people go, and we erred a bit on the side obviously of -- in letting the wrong people go on a few occasions. But now what's left, that is the hardcore.

Leave aside the many questionable assertions and focus on the Cheney claim that they can't release more people because some of the already released people have subsequently engaged in terrorism. Further leave aside the issue of whether it was Gitmo itself that produced the desire to engage in terrorism. The Pentagon has given some numbers:

The Pentagon said on Tuesday that 61 former detainees from its military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appear to have returned to terrorism since their release from custody.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said 18 former detainees are confirmed as "returning to the fight" and 43 are suspected of having done in a report issued late in December by the Defense Intelligence Agency.

No details have been provided. One telling detail would be the country to which the detainees were released. Because there's been a de facto policy that "friendly" countries get their detainees out while "unfriendly" or "awkward" ones don't. Friendly meaning in particular countries in the Gulf -- from where former detainees might have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan to take up the struggle.

So the real issue is that once you've decided to lock people up potentially forever, you lose any rational basis to decide if you're going to let any of them out. And thus criteria like diplomatic awkwardness start to matter, even if they don't help in predicting the likelihood of being a terrorist.

Once there's a specific date by which the place has to be closed, as there will be when Barack Obama takes office, minds will start to concentrate on the actual individual characteristics of each detainee, and not the crock-of-shite "evidence" used to lock them up and whether or not one of Cheney's oil buddies lobbied to get some of them out.

UPDATE 23 JANUARY: Note the relevance of the above to the case of Said Ali al-Shihri, alleged 2nd in command of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula following his release from Gitmo. He is a Saudi national released to Saudi Arabia. It's strange how a failure of a release under the Bush policy is being used as an argument against a policy change!

1/20 will change everything

White House statement --

The President today declared an emergency exists in the District of Columbia and ordered Federal aid to supplement the District's response efforts in support of the 56th Presidential Inauguration.

The President's action makes Federal funding available to the District of Columbia.

OK so bureaucratically there's a reason for this. The city may need money to help with all the extra costs. But is this the kind of thing you start thinking about the week before the event? And is this a record for declaring an emergency before a fully predictable event has happened? In another omission, the emergency declaration makes no reference to the already catastrophic traffic.

Gaza: Mission Accomplished

Tony Blair, taking time out from the Gaza crisis to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, whose previous winners include George Tenet, General Tommy Franks, and Paul Bremer -- for victory in the Iraq war (December 2004). Maybe it was a relay.

UPDATE: The actual medal citation for Blair mentions Afghanistan and Iraq but also Kosovo (intervention which Bush in effect opposed at the time) and Sierra Leone. That Blair no doubt sees a philosophical linkage between the Sierra Leone and Iraq interventions is critical to understanding how jumped aboard the Bush adventures.

FINAL UPDATE: In a McCain like tic, Blair was fiddling with his ring finger.

One bubble for the road

US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke speaking at the London School of Economics today (the appetizer for Jonah Goldberg's visit in a couple of weeks) --

The Committee [of the Fed] takes its responsibility to ensure price stability extremely seriously, and throughout this period [since 2007] it remained closely attuned to developments in inflation and inflation expectations. However, the Committee also maintained the view that the rapid rise in commodity prices in 2008 primarily reflected sharply increased demand for raw materials in emerging market economies, in combination with constraints on the supply of these materials, rather than general inflationary pressures.

He needs to blame China and India for high oil and food prices, because the alternative explanation is that all the easy credit that the Fed and other central banks were creating financed a speculative frenzy in those commodities, drove them through the roof in the first half of 2008 -- and so made the subsequent recession worse.

Speaking of chairman of the Federal Reserve, is Gordon Brown still claiming that Alan Greenspan is one of his advisers? He hasn't mentioned him much recently.

Truly, madly, deeply deluded

George Bush to his farewell Cabinet meeting --

We also reviewed our record, and this administration has had a good, solid record. I'm very proud of it. I tell people I leave town with a great sense of accomplishment and my head held high.

Politics is a battlefield

A question prompted by the emerging details of the first official Barack Obama inauguration event --

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) – Denzel Washington, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Stevie Wonder are among the stars who will participate in Sunday's inaugural opening celebration, which will air live on HBO.

"We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial" is the first of official events sponsored by the Presidential Inaugural Committee for Barack Obama's inauguration.

With a title like that, where's Pat Benatar?

Also, in an explicable scheduling choice, it clashes with the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game.

Monday, January 12, 2009

You finally see the truth, that a hero lies in you

George Bush --

I've thought long and hard about Katrina -- you know, could I have done something differently, like land Air Force One either in New Orleans or Baton Rouge. The problem with that and -- is that law enforcement would have been pulled away from the mission. And then your questions, I suspect, would have been, how could you possibly have flown Air Force One into Baton Rouge, and police officers that were needed to expedite traffic out of New Orleans were taken off the task to look after you?

So his regret about Katrina is not the botched response, the thousand deaths, the fact that New Orleans still hasn't recovered: it's that the first response that the White House came up with was the Louisiana as flyover country photo-op. That Super President didn't land and inspire people with his appearance. Even when he screws up, it's always about him.

Which people, exactly?

George Bush's valedictory news conference --

I mean, I had a lot of people -- when I went out to Midland that time -- say, what the heck are you doing? Those people up East caused the [financial] problem

Bono in the New York Times

Ideally one would include in any discussion of the attitudes prompted by hearing Frank Sinatra sing My Way the fact that Sid Vicious really influenced how many people think of that song. Bono did not. But there is also the fact that Bono probably drinks in places full of well off customers, so maybe the dry cynicism of Frank rather than the in your face defiance of Sid was the dominant trope.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Historical reference

It's interesting that the Vatican is not going for the usual "he was misquoted/mistranslated" on the reference of Cardinal Renato Martino to Gaza as being like a concentration camp but the follow-up approach should the controversy continue might be to note the original usage of the term from the Boer War, where it makes for an interesting benchmark with Gaza. Very difficult to do without the inflammatory language, but also a reminder that the Germans got propaganda value in WW2 from being able to say that the British had done "it" first.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Back at the scene of the crime

An interesting little nugget from US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley's valedictory (as he sees it) speech with Q&A at the Center for Strategic and International Studies --

I was in the transition from President Ford to President Carter, and I must say I was surprised -- I stayed on with the new team for about three weeks, and all the vaunted secure filing cabinets in the Old [Executive Office Building] EOB were empty. There was not a single piece of paper that was transitioned to the new team. And I've always thought this was very -- not good governance at its best.

The specifics of the transition in terms of paperwork would have been overseen by Gerald Ford's chief of staff.

That would be Dick Cheney.

He lies like a rug

George Bush has repeatedly praised his decision-making powers concering the choice of a rug when he moved into the White House and used it as an index of his wise decision-making more generally and that of Laura. But now it turns out that Laura is not actually much of a decider when it comes to rugs, as we found out today when she unveiled the George W. Bush china -- the new pattern that the Obamas will be stuck with along with all the other appointee cronies when they move into the White House.

Here's Laura talking about the rug --

But it was very complicated to design and then to have these rugs built, which are more complicated than you might guess, to first to do the designs, to settle on the designs, to settle on the yarn colors. It included a lot of strike-offs, just like with the china being sent back and forth from the mill in North Carolina, the carpet mill that made these carpets, or the Lenox, or Anna Weatherley, where they would strike-offs, we would look at them, we would tweak them, we would say that doesn't do, we're going to have to do something else. And so it ended up being a very long and complicated process.

If this amount of time was going on a rug, no wonder the White House seemed so passive when an actual crisis hit. One other bit of news from Laura's session with the media about the china --

Q Mrs. Bush, what will you do on the night of January 20th? You'll fly back to Texas?

MRS. BUSH: That's right. We'll fly back to Texas, and we'll end up at our ranch with a number of friends who will be going with us, who will be there with us that night to spend the first night at home there. So that will be fun.

And then a few days after that, whenever it's -- the painters have finished, we'll move -- I'll move -- the moving vans at our Dallas house and move in there.

In other words, their stuff is being shipped to the new place in Dallas, not "the ranch", and Laura is going there ahead of George to meet the trucks. She can't get out of the political prop fast enough. And away from George?

Won't get fooled again

So Tom Friedman, Bernard Lewis, Christopher Hitchens, Reuel Marc Gerecht, Bill Kristol, Bibi Netanyahu, and the Wall Street Journal all detect the hidden hand of Iran in the Hamas war with Israel. So hidden that they all assert it without producing a shred of evidence that it's actually the case. Haven't we been here with this crowd before?

UPDATE: Some reality-based reporting on the Iran-Hamas linkage.

He's still around

Buried in one of George Bush's fin de siecle appointment stuffers ("President George W. Bush today announced his intention to appoint 45 individuals") is --

The President intends to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, for the remainder of two-year terms expiring 05/03/10:


Jason Sehorn, of California.

Oh yeah, that dude. The star cornerback for the New York Giants, husband of Angie Harmon, and, as a couple, part of the much needed glamour at the 2004 Republican Convention (remember this was the one with Zell Miller snarling at Chris Matthews) --

Tonight to recognize two men who embody the American spirit of bravery and sacrifice. Their heroic feats earned them our nation's highest military award, the Medal of Honor.

SEHORN: Some say that playing football takes courage - but it's just a game. Nothing compares to the valor of these men. These are America's heroes. They know the price of liberty. And they support President George W. Bush.

HARMON: The first sailor to earn the Medal of Honor was John Williams of the USS Pawnee during the Civil War.

When the ship's flagstaff fell, the wounded captain held the splintered remains in his hand, keeping the flag aloft and rallying his men.

SEHORN: The Medal of Honor represents the highest aspirations of our country, a duty that demands sacrifice, honor drawn from character...

HARMON: And a country where the flag is lifted high, and freedom still reigns. SEHORN Tonight we honor the bravest of the brave ....

HARMON: We thank you both for your service to America, and to the cause of peace and freedom in the world. And we join you in supporting a leader of courage -- a President building a safer world, and a more hopeful America.

It's hardly necessary to point out the farce of a presidential ticket with two draft dodgers on it wrapping themselves in military heroism. Or to wonder what precisely was the message: Vote Bush-Cheney, and you too can be like Angie 'n' Jason?

But anyway, George hasn't forgotten the favour. Perhaps Barack Obama should task him with figuring out how to reduce those awful ACL and MCL injuries.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

One of those Purple Hearts

George Bush, consistent with his belief that the First Family suffers the most --

I want to thank you [Admiral Mike Mullen] for honoring Laura, who's been a fabulous First Lady. (Applause.) The military gave her the Distinguished Service Award -- a lot of friends from Texas think she deserved the Purple Heart. (Laughter.)

Worse than Iraq

Here's a typical statement from Multi-National Forces Iraq (i.e. the US military) --

BAGHDAD — Insurgents launched nine indirect fire attacks into neighborhoods in the Iraqi capital 12-13 July as Iraqi and Coalition Forces continue to seek out and destroy these cells ... "Whether they are aiming at Iraqi and Coalition Forces or at civilians, these sorts of attacks endanger all Iraqis," said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, official spokesman for the Multi-National Division - Baghdad and the 1st Cavalry Division.

"Indirect fire attacks pose a significant threat to all citizens," Bleichwehl said. "Identifying and destroying the insurgents who use such tactics is the focus of many of our operations."

Interesting fact #1: "Indirect fire" is the military term for mortars. It gets across that it's not a particularly accurate weapon since it's not "directly", if you will, aimed at anything.

Interesting fact #2: The Israeli attack on the UN school in Gaza (Jebaliya) used mortars.

UPDATE: If Israel can so quickly name the Hamas fighters it was targeting in the school, why could it not use more selective weapons than artillery shells against them?

Monday, January 05, 2009

One for the road

White House --

President Bush will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, and former Prime Ministers Tony Blair of the United Kingdom and John Howard of Australia, on Tuesday, January 13th, in an East Room ceremony. The President is honoring these leaders for their work to improve the lives of their citizens and for their efforts to promote democracy, human rights and peace abroad.

All three leaders have been staunch allies of the United States, particularly in combating terrorism. And their efforts to bring hope and freedom to people around the globe have made their nations, America and the world community a safer and more secure world.

How intensive can those Gaza peace efforts be if the Quartet Representative, i.e. Blair, is making plans to be in Washington next week? Or is that week the de facto deadline to Israel to have wrapped something up in Gaza -- just as the Bush-Blair meeting in the summer of 2006 was the implicit deadline to Israel in Lebanon, before things went pear-shaped?

On the other hand, John Howard probably has a fair bit of time on his hands.

UPDATE: Blair is also so busy with the Gaza process that he has time to attend Nicolas Sarkozy's financial crisis meeting in Paris later this week.

FINAL UPDATE: John Howard is the mysterious occupant of the White House guest quarters, Blair House, keeping Barack Obama out of it -- and, as a result, the source of traffic chaos in Washington given the street closures around Obama's hotel.

Kristof gets results

Should we be concerned that the US National Security Adviser has enough time on his hands that all he seems to do is issue statements arguing with the New York Times? Here is Stephen Hadley today complaining about the NYT's Nicholas Kristof, who wrote a clearly well-briefed column over the holidays on how the administration was resisting severe sanctions (such as a telecom and naval blockade) of Sudan to alleviate the Darfur crisis. Bush is now suddenly in a rush to get a UN mission airlift completed, with 2 weeks left in his Presidency. Part of the desperation of Bush is that he has partly packaged his legacy as Bush of Africa (since the Bush of Arabia dog won't hunt), so anything that tarnishes that is big trouble. For his self-image.

Does Gaza not have cats?

Official White House statement -- as the White House works to block a ceasefire in Gaza:

The President, Mrs. Bush, Barbara, and Jenna are deeply saddened by the passing of their cat India ("Willie"). The 18 year-old female black American Shorthair died Sunday, January 4, 2009 at home at the White House.

When Barbara was nine years old, she named India after the former Texas Ranger baseball player, Ruben Sierra, who was called "El Indio." When Barbara and Jenna moved away to college, India, affectionately called "Kitty" by the family, stayed at the White House with the President and Mrs. Bush.

India was a beloved member of the Bush family for almost two decades. She will be greatly missed.

Perhaps Blair House, the mysteriously unavailable guest house when Barack Obama needed it, is now needed for Willie's wake.

Note: as owner of the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush traded Ruben Sierra for Jose "Juiced" Canseco.

UPDATE: Islamists website notices the Bush grief over the dead cat.

He's more upset about the after-hours drinking part

There was something strange about today's Irish Times story on property developer Sean Dunne: it relied entirely on quotes from the New York Times profile of him. As if they feared there was litigious content in it, at least for the Irish media. Now this --

Developer Seán Dunne has clarified remarks attributed to him in the New York Times. The paper quoted him as saying that, if the banking crisis continued, 'I could be considered insolvent'.

But in a statement, Mr Dunne's office said the developer had been misquoted. His office said the quote given to the newspaper was: 'With countries, banks in almost every country and legends of the banking world for over 100 years going bust in the current credit crunch, I would not bet against myself or anybody else being taken out. However, if it does happen, I would like to think that my conservative gearing prior to the credit crunch and the location and quality of my assets present as good a buffer as is possible.'

Mr Dunne's office also said the interview did not take place at 3am in Doheny & Nesbitt's pub in Dublin, but for 12 hours over two days.

His official quote has the clear ring of a written statement, and not something that might have been said over the course of a conversation.

The strange thing is that it's not clear there's anything really wrong with the statement he is now disowning. Banking crises can make solvent people insolvent. That's why they are so bad. The issue appears to be that he, or the New York Times, broke an Irish taboo.

The hits keep coming

Dick Cheney is a funny guy. Unintentionally. He did a live interview on Face the Nation (CBS) with Bob Schieffer. A few tidbits --

Q Do you think, on reflection, that in fact we did have a bad plan [in Iraq]? ...

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we could debate that forever, and we may well. I think that the original campaign was masterfully done, in terms of the small, fast-moving forces you say that achieved our initial objectives of taking down the regime and capturing Baghdad. That was a masterful performance ... So I would chock that up to miscalculation. I'm not at all sure that having had 400,000 or 500,000 troops there would have achieved the objective we're talking about there. What we finally did, what finally sort of got us across the goal line here, was the surge the President decided upon, coupled with the counterinsurgency strategy.

It's nice of Dick to use an (American) football analogy. He would have us believe that things in Iraq had gone so brilliantly up to the end of 2006 that all that was needed was one last bit of heroism from the quarterback, George Bush, lunging for the goal line like Bart Starr in the 1967 Ice Bowl.

Dick also has an interesting counterfactual for how things could have been done better in the Iraq planning --

The question of how we moved forward, you can debate about whether or not we had the right structure in place, for example, was -- would we have been better off with setting up a government in exile, with exiled Iraqis and getting that organized and in place before we went in, and then turning it over to them.

This is a close relative of the Bush-Rice claim that Iraq only went wrong because America was too high minded to install another strong man after Saddam. But the talk of a "government-in-exile" brings up the name of Ahmad Chalabi, who was of course advocating precisely to be head of a government in exile and thus be installed once Saddam was out of the way. You don't hear much about Chalabi any more. Dick clearly has some regrets about that.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

They can't blame Václav Klaus for this one

Expectations for mishaps during the Czech presidency of the European Union Council had focused on its Eurosceptic president, Mr Klaus. But his hand is nowhere to be found in this embarrassing statement issued today by the EU presidency --

Official EU Presidency Statement concerning the situation in the Middle East

The only official standpoint of the Czech EU Presidency concerning the actions of the Israeli ground forces in the Gaza Strip.

I would like to apologise for the misunderstanding which occurred on 3 January 2009 about the reaction of the Czech Presidency to the actions of the Israeli ground forces in the Gaza Strip according to which the operations were seen as an act of self-defence. The only official standpoint of the Czech Presidency is the following:

"It is not surprising that the Israeli forces have launched land operations in the Gaza Strip. There were indications that Israel had been considering this step. But even the undisputable right of the state to defend itself does not allow actions which largely affect civilians. We call for the facilitation of humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, and in accordance with the position agreed by the EU Foreign Ministers in Paris on the 30th December 2008 we call for the establishment of a ceasefire."

An earlier statement by a Czech spokesman quickly found its way to jubilant conservative bloggers. Are the Czechs going to tell us what happened?

Friday, January 02, 2009

Disproportionate, indeed

Bush loyalist Michael Gerson in the Washington Post --

There is no question -- none -- that Israel's attack on Hamas in Gaza is justified. No nation can tolerate a portion of its people living in the conditions of the London Blitz -- listening for sirens, sleeping in bomb shelters and separated from death only by the randomness of a Qassam missile's flight.

The death toll in the Blitz, 1940-41, was 43,000. During the V-rocket bombings in 1944, about 9,000 died. Note that Gerson appears to have confused the Blitz with the rockets.

He then goes on to complain about other people not understanding the meaning of disproportionate.

More French than the French

Occasionally American conservatives profess a love for the ideas of the French. Nuclear power. The Battle of Algiers. And the gold standard, or its post Depression successor, fixed exchange rates. Here's today's Wall Street Journal enlisting Nicolas Sarkozy in the cause --

Now Nicolas Sarkozy and others want a new Bretton Woods. In a speech to the European Parliament in October, the French President said that "the monetary system should be rethought [within] fixed exchange rates." For our money that's about the best economic insight Mr. Sarkozy has offered.

Except that's not what he said. He said --

Nous devons porter l'idée d'une nouvelle régulation. L'Europe doit proposer ces idées et elle les proposera ... Que le système monétaire soit repensé entre des taux de change fixes et pas de taux de change entre les monnaies.


We must promote the idea of a new regulatory system. Europe must propose these ideas, and it will do so ... The monetary system has to be rethought, between fixed exchange rates and no exchange rates at all.

Sarko was not calling for a system "within fixed exchange rates" but between fixed rates and no rates at all i.e. unrestricted floating. So a standard call for exchange rate stability, albeit with his own preference more towards the fixed end, no doubt. But it's funny how the same conservatives who recoil at the notion of "world government" in most circumstances want the full global apparatus that would go with a global regulated currency system.

UPDATE: It's not clear where the WSJ got its translation, since it's not what Sarko said in either language, but an obvious chopping of the sentence before its final clause. Here's one contemporaneous account that does use the WSJ wording, right down to the square brackets -- from a Lyndon LaRouche blog.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

They're both very athletic

Fox News just did a report (around 16:40 GMT) on how the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has introduced a slight relaxation of its policy on gifts, allowing amateur college athletes to receive souvenir packages that can be valued at up to a few hundred dollars for participation in bowl games. It's a balance between allowing the students to get a tiny percentage of the cash bonanza that surrounds these games without worsening the creeping professionalisation of the sports.

Except that the Fox News reporter doing the story referred to the organization as the NAACP -- the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the 100 year old civil rights group. Could it be that Fox News has its wires crossed about who the typical athlete receiving these gifts might be?