Monday, December 31, 2012

Experts need a new year's resolution

Story on Washington Post website around 3PM US eastern time, New Year's Eve --

The blood clot that has put Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the hospital is probably in her leg and is most likely a consequence of resting after the concussion she suffered from fainting 21 / 2 weeks ago.

By 5PM, doctors had revealed that the clot is in fact in her head.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

High Tea Party

 New York Times article today on the future of the Tea Party, which apparently is going to involve crypto-secessionism and conspiracy theories about UN treaties --

surveys of voters leaving the polls last month showed that support for the Tea Party had dropped precipitously from 2010, when a wave of recession-fueled anger over bailouts, federal spending, and the healthcare overhaul won the Republicans a majority in the House.

Above is what's widely considered as the crystallizing moment of the Tea Party, with the financial news channel CNBC's Rick Santelli leading highly paid Chicago securities traders in a rant against relief on negative equity mortgages -- the kind of thing that a post-property crash economy might need.

The Tea Party as a political movement -- as opposed to it being the latest manifestation of the paranoid strain in American politics -- always had more to do with the preferences of the economic and financial elite than one particular set of policies. With conservatives again circulating a CNBC video clip to rally the cause, this time of Maria Bartiromo supposedly winning an argument with a Democratic senator over the fiscal cliff, bear in mind CNBC's core constituency and thus the credibility of any "populist" credentials emerging from it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

That's why compassionate conservative was a thing

It's probably best to let Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association wallow in their end-of-year irrelevance as they've done themselves so much damage just by speaking, but one thing may be worth noting about LaPierre's Sunday morning TV performance: the man is dripping with prejudice against mentally ill people:

We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed. We have no national database of these lunatics. 23 states, my ... however long ago was Virginia Tech? 23 states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. And a lot of states are putting none. So, when they go through the national instant check system, and they go to try to screen out one of those lunatics, the records are not even in the system. I talked to a police officer the other day. He said, "Wayne," he said, "let me tell you this. Every police officer walking the street knows s lunatic that's out there, some mentally disturbed person that ought to be in an institution, is out walking the street because they dealt with the institutional side. They didn't want mentally ill in institutions. So they put them all back on the streets. And then nobody thought what happens when you put all these mentally ill people back on the streets, and what happens when they start taking their medicine." We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that's got these monsters walking the streets.

Now he'll say he's only talking about the actual spree killers of the world but since we only find who the spree killers are after the fact, his preferred world is one where anyone with mental illness should be committed, if necessary against their will, and even in treatment cannot be considered to safe enough to walk the streets.

It's remarkable that the NRA has managed to select its oft-boasted 4 million members without any of them having a friend or relative who would be subject to such restrictions.


National Review's John Miller has a complaint --

Merry Christmas from Stanford
The prestigious university proves that the smartest people do the dumbest things: It has hired an atheist chaplain.

Which is just wrong. The original San Francisco Chronicle story from which this predictable OUTRAGE inaccuracy sprang was quite clear --

Hired in July by the Humanist Community at Stanford, a nonprofit group independent of the university, Figdor is one of 18 "professional leaders" at the Office of Religious Life who typically work with sectarian student groups that pay their salaries. A graduate theological degree is required for the job, and the leader is entitled to office space on campus, a parking spot and a Stanford e-mail address. The leaders guide students in whatever way is needed, whether offering advice or organizing events. 

But in what's been a thin War on Christmas, it was too good a non-story to pass up.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

When is a lobby group not a lobby group?

Answer: when it's the National Rifle Association. The above is clipped from the NRA's 2010 disclosure (Form 990) as a tax-exempt entity, and it reports zero dollars spent on lobbying. It does spend large amounts on its own salaries (Wayne LaPierre shows as receiving $960,000 in compensation in 2010), consulting firms, and various services related to stirring rage among its members about dark plots to take away their guns. They are not, yet, as fussy about the lobbying distinction as they are about the difference between automatic and semi-automatic weapons.

Friday Night Video

With its melding of themes of rebellion and gun culture, Green Day's Last of the American Girls probably wouldn't survive a National Rifle Association popular entertainment cull. Luckily, Green Day and its video characters are clearly sane compared to the NRA.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The lunacy will be televised

Today, 21 December 2012, the National Rifle Association just had a collective mental breakdown on national television. The centerpiece was a proposal for a new armed national militia sponsored by them to patrol every school in the country. Here's the transcript. The usual disclaimer check against delivery doesn't do justice to the insanity of the real thing. To set everyone's mind at ease, Wayne LaPierre said, inter alia,

And does anybody really believe that the next Adam Lanza isn't planning his attack on a school he's already identified at this very moment?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

George and Dick's excellent adventure

The perfect metaphor for what happened to visions of a US-allied and Texas Tea-spouting Iraq after the 2003 invasion --

Several Middle Eastern traders said they had been approached by small UAE-based companies offering a type of fuel oil dubbed in the market as "Iraqi special blend" that included a combination of different fuel oil blends from the Middle East, or with an origin described as Iraqi. The specification indicates this is a cocktail of products blended in storage tanks and usually offered from the quiet Gulf port of Hamriyah and bunkering hub Fujairah mostly via ship-to-ship transfers (STS), trading sources said. "This Iranian fuel oil, disguised as Iraqi origin, has been flooding the market in Fujairah and depressing both cargo and bunker premiums in September," said a Middle East-based trader.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Someone determined to strike Benghazi

Perhaps the most damning sentence in the unclassified version of the independent US State Department review of the attack on the Benghazi consulate --

The Board found that there was a tendency on the part of policy, security and other U.S. government officials to rely heavily on the probability of warning intelligence and on the absence of specific threat information. The result was possibly to overlook the usefulness of taking a hard look at accumulated, sometimes circumstantial information, and instead to fail to appreciate threats and understand trends, particularly based on increased violence and the targeting of foreign diplomats and international organizations in Benghazi.

The dots were, and are, still not being connected.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Inside job

The photo shows George Bush signing the portentously named but no less pernicious Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Bill of 2005. The law gave the gun industry -- manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and trade associations -- blanket immunity from civil legal actions intended to hold them accountable for having maximized the availability of guns, regardless of consequences. For current political purposes, note Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell smirking as the bill is signed. 2005 was probably the peak of the Bush madness --he's been reelected and Iraq was not yet obviously a disaster -- but we're still stuck with the legislation rammed through in those political bubble years.

Monday, December 17, 2012

We don't "move on"

In the media coverage of the Newtown massacre, there's an understandable focus on the number of children killed. As there should be. There's not enough focus on how this is yet another attack by the decentralized network of spree killers with a disproportionate number of female casualties, but that's for another day. The above picture is of Christine Greene, who was murdered aged 9. A neighbour had taken her to see a public meeting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords when the event was attacked by Jared Loughner. Just a reminder that we've had child victims of the spree killer network -- and its support infrastructure -- before last Friday.

It's not fair when the target needs more than one bullet

Robert VerBruggen at National Review's The Corner is in the running for the most sociopathic conservative reaction to the Newtown massacre. Here's his previous submission. Now today's:

I am doubtful that these reforms would do much to curb gun violence. An “assault weapon” fires at the same rate as an ordinary semiautomatic rifle, and the .223-caliber ammo in Lanza’s rifle is banned for deer hunting in some states on the grounds that it’s too weak. High-capacity magazines sometimes stop shootings by jamming, and shooters are often (though not always) able to change magazines without incident.

This is a masterpiece of faux concern and faux passivity. Larger magazines help stop spree killers because they might jam! Spree killers aren't even using the biggest bullets they could use! Taking together with his previous post, note the worldview that the environment under which citizens can -- to use the recent examples of where the decentralized network of spree killers has struck -- meet their elected representatives, go to school, church, or shop, should be determined in part by whatever minimizes the effort on the part of animal hunters.

UPDATE: More on this very strange person from Slate.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Every column a college essay

Ross Douthat in his New York Times column today --

But if the ideal of the Good Place, the lost Eden or Arcadia, can stir up the residue of religious hopes even in hardened materialists, the reality of what transpired in the real Newtown last week — the murder in cold blood of 20 small children — can make Ivan Karamazovs out of even the devout. In Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s famous novel ...

March 2010The narrative of the Iraq invasion, properly told, resembles a story out of Shakespeare ...

July 2012 (Aurora Colo. masssacre): In the process, his crime has probably also solidified the Batman movies' status as a cultural touchstone for our era of anxiety. Every human society has feared the anarchic, the nihilistic, the inexplicably depraved. But from the Columbine murderers to the post-9/11 anthrax killer, from the Virginia Tech shooter to Jared Lee Loughner, our contemporary iconography of evil is increasingly dominated by figures who seem to have stepped out of Nolan's take on the DC Comics universe: world-burners, meticulous madmen, terrorists without a cause.

March 2012: No, this was where the Tebow story was always destined to end up. Denver was his Galilee; New York will be the Roman Colosseum. Or to be pop cultural rather than scriptural: Denver was District 12 in Suzanne Collins’s Panem, and the Meadowlands will be the Hunger Games arena.

[cont'd every column for next 20 years]

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Also covered by the 2nd Amendment

National Rifle Association website, retail area.

It's not fair when the target tries to run

At National Review's The Corner, Robert VerBruggen defends the spree-killer weapon of choice, the semi-automatic:

In hunting, a semiautomatic gun reduces the recovery time between shots, which is especially helpful during drives, when the targets are running.

Franchise competition

There are many possible points of discussion of the Newtown, Conn. massacre. One is the possibility that the sequence of spree killers are competing with each other: the bar for outrage is being raised with each attack. A high school. A mosque. A temple. A congresswoman. A shopping mall. A cinema. And now an elementary school. And each one with a supportive infrastructure of information, money, and access to guns and tactical equipment to support the raising of the bar next time.

Didn't we just have a big debate about whether and how long it took to refer to the Benghazi consulate attack as terrorism? Yet the word "tragedy" is preferred for what is clearly a decentralized and competitive terror network operating within the country.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great timing

On Friday December 14, 2012, Charles Cooke at National Review's the Corner sees a big problem in an American classroom.

The problem being complaints about Christmas carols being sung in school. Tell that to the parents in Connecticut.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Leviathan is for wimps

Some Wall Street Journal opinion page musings on the proper role of the state from economists Edward Prescott and Lee Ohanian --

High tax rates—on both labor income and consumption—reduce the incentive to work by making consumption more expensive relative to leisure, for example. The incentive to produce goods for the market is particularly depressed when tax revenue is returned to households either as government transfers or transfers-in-kind—such as public schooling, police and fire protection, food stamps, and health care—that substitute for private consumption.

Tell us who we are

Ian Paisley Jnr in the UK House of Commons debate yesterday on the flag riots in Northern Ireland --

In giving meaning to the words in her [Secretary of State for NI] statement, that nobody can be in any doubt about the Government’s support for the Union and its flag, will she go to Northern Ireland at her earliest convenience and reiterate again and again the view that Ulster’s Britishness is not diminished whatsoever?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A short time ago in a region very very close

John McCain speaking in Bahrain today --

This is the perception in Syria, where everything that people said would happen if we did not intervene has now happened because we have not intervened -- growing radicalization, sectarian conflict, the collapse of the state, and now the spectre of chemical or biological weapons being used.

Note that his list of supposed consequences of the US not intervening in Syria describes exactly, in reverse order, the results of the McCain-supported US intervention in Iraq.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Iran assisting dissident Irish republican extremists

The three stages of Improvised Explosive Device with Explosively Formed Projectile origin stories --

1. So complicated to engineer, only the Iranians could be helping Al Qaeda do it.
2. Technique so generally known that Syrian insurgents could be teaching themselves.
3. So simple, even the Irish can do it.

Or else, if phase 1 is reinstated, we have Hezbollah-on-the-Foyle.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fill in the blanks

The summary diagram above is from a document issued yesterday by European Council President Herman van Rompuy, Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union -- a title that will come as news to those who thought they'd signed up to EMU in the 1990s. Anyway, among the revealing things about the diagram is that as it moves from top to bottom, from actions in areas of finance, budget, economics, to political accountability, it gets less specified, to the point where the accountability line calls only for "commensurate progress": there are no specific actions at all.

Maybe after they're done getting us to genuine EMU, they'll work on that accountability thingy.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't mention the war

Statement from Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University --

CAMBRIDGE MA. -- Felipe Calderon MC/MPA 2000, HKSEE 2003, the outgoing president of Mexico and a Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) alumnus, has been named the Inaugural Angelopoulos Global Public Leaders Fellow at the Kennedy School, it was announced today by HKS Dean David T. Ellwood. He will begin the Fellowship in January 2013. Calderon is nearing completion of a six-year term as Mexican president, serving as the nation's second democratically elected president since the end of the Institutional Revolutionary Party's 70-year hold on power. 

He is credited with having boosted the nation's economic development as a pro-business, pro-free market leader and having made significant reforms to the country's environmental, immigration and health care policies. During his presidency, Mexico hosted the United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP-16) global climate change talks in December 2010, and the G-20 meetings in July 2012, for which Calderon served as Chair.

Er, wasn't there some other stuff going on in Mexico during his time as President?

Once they stop being sheep, they're ours

John Yoo -- George Bush's torture lawyer -- tries to explain why Asian-Americans voted so overwhelmingly for Barack Obama:

It may be because Asians, like Jews when they first emigrated, have congregated in cities, which are run by Democratic-party machines who may demand a certain level of “loyalty,” shall we say, to compete for city business or to deal with city licenses. To the extent Asians then seek to leave the cities through education and entering the professions, they move into other areas controlled by the Left.

Irish roulette

At National Review's The Corner, Katherine Connell purports to clear up some of the alleged confusion that surrounds the implications of the Savita Halappanavar case for the abortion debate in the USA --

He [Ta-Nahesi Coates] is mistaken that a consistent pro-life position requires that abortions be viewed as “murders.” The law recognizes multiple types of homicide for a reason, and in the circumstances Coates is discussing there is clearly no malicious intent.

What doctor would want the words "homicide" and "malicious intent" following him or her around after a crisis abortion decision, even if the politicians decide that in such cases there would be homicide but not with intent?  Note to pro-lifers: a system of OK, we'll take a look at these medical murders after the event and tell you which ones we'll let you away with is probably not going to be enough comfort to the doctors who have to decide these things on the spot.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

In which we agree with the Islamists

Gulf Daily News (Bahrain) -

The Keeping Up with the Kardashians star is visiting Bahrain for the first time to officially open the new Millions of Milkshakes franchise at The Walk Bahrain in Riffa on Saturday, in association with Sevens Holding SPC. She [Kim Kardashian] will fly in for the one-day visit after attending a similar launch party in Kuwait. Her planned visit has sparked anger among Islamist legislators, who submitted an urgent proposal at the end of Tuesday's parliamentary session, where they referred to Ms Kardashian as "an actress with an extremely bad reputation". However, the proposal was dismissed because other MPs quickly dispersed the chamber, forcing parliament chairman Dr Khalifa Al Dhahrani to end the session without voting on the issue.

The headline on the story is "Star's visit is big boost for Bahrain," which may mean that things in Bahrain are worse than commonly believed.

On the other hand, there should be major relief that she is not going as US cultural ambassador to Bahrain. We'll let State Dept spokesperson Victoria Nuland explain --

MS. NULAND: I do have a little something on this. So we had a Bahraini entity that approached the Embassy about cosponsoring a visit by this guy [Andrew W.K.], who I take it is pretty popular there in Bahrain. That was initially approved. And then when more senior management at the Embassy took a look at this, the conclusion was that this was not an appropriate use of U.S. Government funds. 
QUESTION: Is that – did – and would they – the government would have paid for his trip over there, had it – 
MS. NULAND: I don’t know what the details of our sponsorship were to be. 
QUESTION: Can you explain why it was – was it – I mean, his – was it that – it was decided that it was inappropriate to send someone over there to Bahrain to represent the United States whose hits include Party Till You Puke and things like that? (Laughter.) Is that why it was decided it was inappropriate? 
 MS. NULAND: Thank you for sharing that. I think -- 
 QUESTION: Is that why? 
 MS. NULAND: I think the conclusion was, when they looked at the body of his work, that we didn’t need to be part of this invitation. I’ll leave it -- 
 QUESTION: Got you. And just hold on. And just to make clear, it was – the invitation was actually never extended to him? MS. 
NULAND: Frankly, I don’t have the details. There may have been some preliminary conversations with him, but he is not going to be going to Bahrain on the U.S. Government’s dime.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's fine and well you're looking

Online newspaper headlines this morning screamed that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was "clinically dead."  Here's the King today  doing a good job -- for a dead person -- of sipping Arabic coffee with Crown Prince Salman. Do Syrian and Iranian propaganda outfits really have nothing better to do than spread dodgy rumours about the Saudi royals?

Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Take that, Québec

From the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer announcement that Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney is to be the next Governor of the Bank of England --

Mr Carney was born in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, Canada in 1965. As a Canadian citizen he is a subject of Her Majesty The Queen.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The new Whitey tape

This blog has obtained exclusive must-credit access to the original versions of the Susan Rice talking points file for her now notorious September 16 interviews after the Benghazi consulate attack. We have excerpted the key section above.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Success has many fathers

Irish Minister of Finance Michael Noonan speaking at a Thanksgiving lunch in Dublin --

This [USA-Ireland} friendship was evident this year as Ireland welcomed some 35,000 American visitors to Dublin in September for the American football match between Notre-Dame and the US Navy. [I have been told that Notre-Dame has gone on to have a fantastic season and currently sit undefeated and as top seeded team. Perhaps Notre-Dame should consider opening each season in Dublin! There is no doubt that other teams will be looking at Notre-Dames season and trying to replicate the success – including the trip to Dublin - and I am sure that an exclusive and long term deal could be agreed for the “fighting Irish.”

Arab Spring accessory

The National newspaper (Abu Dhabi) --

Guy Fawkes masks have been banned from (UAE) National Day celebrations amid fears that people could wear them to symbolise opposition to the state."Legal action will be taken against anyone wearing the masks during the celebrations," said a security source.

Friday, November 16, 2012

She had more to her life than that

The above very questionable headline on a Wednesday AP story about Savita Halappanavar has through the wonders of news wires and syndication followed the underlying story all over the world. To state the obvious, she didn't show up at the Galway seeking an abortion. She showed up sick and pregnant

Monday, November 12, 2012

A leg up

George W. Bush White House announcement, April 29, 2008:

The White House today announced that thirty two outstanding men and women from across the country have been selected as National Finalists for the White House Fellows Program - the nation's most prestigious program for leadership and public service. The National Finalists represent a diverse cross-section of professions, including business, medicine, law, non-profit sector, media, state government, finance, and education. Additionally, four branches of the military are represented among the National Finalists. A complete list of the National Finalists appears below. 

The White House Fellows Program was founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. This non-partisan program offers exceptional men and women first-hand experience working at the highest levels of the federal government. Fellows also participate in an education program consisting of roundtable discussions with renowned leaders from the private and public sectors. Following the Fellowship year, Fellows are expected to repay the privilege by contributing to the country as national leaders and public servants. Selection as a White House Fellow is highly competitive and based on a record of remarkable professional achievement early in one's career, evidence of leadership potential, a proven commitment to public service, and the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute successfully at the highest levels of the federal government. ... 

2008-2009 White House Fellows National Finalists and Hometowns ... Paula D. Broadwell, Associate Director, Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies at the Fletcher School, Tufts University; Bismarck, ND

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Business got personal

Interesting account in the Wall Street Journal of why the US stock market was so hard hit yesterday: many traders had gone heavy into stocks in anticipation of a Romney victory --

Jerry Harris, chief investment officer at Sterne Agee in Birmingham, Ala., which manages $17 billion in assets, was among those who had placed bets on Mr. Romney winning the election. Mr. Harris had put money into some health-care stocks on Monday and Tuesday, predicting they would get a bump. While some health-care stocks rose, others sold off. Mr. Harris now regrets his move, though he said the damage to his portfolio was minimal. "It wasn't a big risk, but I did the two [trades] with the deliberate intention of thinking we'd get a boost out of stocks if Romney won," he said. On Wednesday, Mr. Harris said he told himself: "You've been caught leaning. You know better than to have strong opinions before an event like that." The selloff surprised Thomas Lee, stock-market strategist at J.P. Morgan, who before Tuesday had called for a postelection rally through year-end no matter which candidate won. "There were probably more people than we realized hoping for a Romney win," he said.

Especially noteworthy is that while you'd normally think of these big speculative bets as being based on hard analysis, the positions were driven -- as their chastened holders admit -- by a hope that Romney in, along with a revealingly cynical assessment as to which equities would benefit (health insurance companies, banks, and energy companies).

There's already the question of how Karl Rove was able to rustle up so much in campaign contributions for Romney on what turns out to have been a futile bet. Now we know it was not just the campaign chequebooks that were caught by the fever.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

The sash his father wore

British PM David Cameron doing an Obama-style bow to Saudi King Abdullah in Jeddah today today as he received the sash named for Abdullah's father, Abdulaziz (Ibn Saud).

Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Sometimes a crest is more than a crest

So, the Paul Ryan ancestors are from Kilkenny and he is invited there next year, according to the Irish Times.

Since Everything Must Have Meaning, the Kilkenny city crest therefore represents the fortresses to which the rich would retreat under a Romney-Ryan presidency, with the main source of employment being the troops needed to invade other countries and generally keep order.

We recommend that Ryan entertain Kilkenny next year with tales of how great austerity is.

Grace of Allah

About the most precariously held up highway overpass you'll ever see, the aftermath of a massive explosion in eastern Riyadh yesterday when a fuel truck hit one of the pillars, killing at least 22 people and injuring hundreds.

Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cupla Focal

Boarded up store in Rockaway, Queens, NY.

Photo by Shannon Stapleton, Reuters (part of slideshow).

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Flooding in cities is complicated

A taxi parking lot in Hoboken, NJ. When the scale of the failures during Hurricane Katrina became evident, one of the most persistent right-wing talking points was that the city of New Orleans had unused school buses that it allowed sit in a lot and get flooded when they could have been used for an evacuation. The argument never, er, held water, but it circulated nonetheless. The above illustrates the scale of the problem. If a private company standing to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in flood damage and lost revenues couldn't organize getting its cars out of a lot ahead of a flood, how was a city supposed to mount a massive evacuation of hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged people, with a storm that got much less advance billing than Sandy?

Photo: Charles Sykes, AP.

They're sandbags full of money

Outside the Goldman Sachs HQ in Lower Manhattan (photo: New York Times).

Saturday, October 27, 2012

There has to be an Islamic angle

New York Times on the US East Coast storms -- The full moon on Monday could cause even greater flooding because tides would be at their peak.

Mother Nature is a mad scientist

Tropical Storm Sandy around 9pm GMT Saturday night.
Photo via US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Welfare Queens in McMansions

Conservative economists Kevin Hassett and Aparna Mathur at the American Enterprise Institute write in the Wall Street Journal to take on the various pesky studies that show a big increase in inequality i.e. in the share of total income accruing to the richest households. After some vague doubt-raising about statistics (in which they never explain how the issues they complain about specifically affect the studies they are disputing), the AEI team gets to their killer point --

Yet the access of low-income Americans—those earning less than $20,000 in real 2009 dollars—to devices that are part of the "good life" has increased. The percentage of low-income households with a computer rose to 47.7% from 19.8% in 2001. The percentage of low-income homes with six or more rooms (excluding bathrooms) rose to 30% from 21.9% over the same period. Appliances? The percentage of low-income homes with air-conditioning equipment rose to 83.5% from 65.8%, with dishwashers to 30.8% from 17.6%, with a washing machine to 62.4% from 57.2%, and with a clothes dryer to 56.5% from 44.9%. The percentage of low-income households with microwave ovens grew to 92.4% from 74.9% between 2001 and 2009. Fully 75.5% of low-income Americans now have a cell phone, and over a quarter of those have access to the Internet through their phones. 

In other words, Chinese Communism has reduced American poverty: with their factories churning out home electronics resulting in glut-pricing, the access of everyone, including the poor, to these goods has increased. Which is as true of poor people anywhere as in the USA -- remember when American politicians would take helicopter flights over Baghdad and proclaim that Iraq must be doing well because of all the satellite dishes?

In any event, having spent the first part of their article complaining about data problems with other studies, you'd think they've approached their own data source with a somewhat questioning perspective. The above is an important table from their source database (US Department of Energy Residential Energy Consumption Survey). According to it, most households with total income below US$40,000 a year are not receiving any assistance with food or housing -- for example, of the households with income below US$20,000 a year, 2/3 are not getting food assistance ("food stamps") and 80 percent are not getting housing assistance. But a big chunk of the low income group has at least 6 rooms in their homes. Note to Washington DC think-tank economists: US$20,000 per year is not a whole lot of money.

In short, something ain't right with this data. There are households in the measured low income groups that don't have the typical profile for being poor, which likely means that they are not. One possibility is that it's picking up people immediately post-college and retirees, who will have low measured income but assets. But actual poor people living the high life as they nuke a packet of ramen noodles? Probably good enough for a President Romney to proclaim that they are doing just fine.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not even trying

New York Times --

Angola Fund Set to Invest Oil Revenue in Businesses ... The Angolan fund, which will focus on investments in Africa’s booming hotel industry and large infrastructure projects, seeks to wean the economy from oil, a finite resource, to a more diversified and sustainable base, said José Filomeno de Sousa dos Santos, a son of President José Eduardo dos Santos, and a member of the fund’s board ... The fund’s elegant offices, a few floors down from the oil industry services company Halliburton, are decorated with raw silk wallpaper, designer furniture and black lacquer fittings.

So the oil money will be managed by the President's son from the same building that Halliburton is in.

Heckuva job.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 54th parallel

Wall Street Journal --

Seoul to Study Irish Reunification Model

Ireland has a reunification model? The Irish Times had a more sober story linked to the same visit, which referred to the topic as a cross-border peace model.

The WSJ story discusses the peace-advancing role of the Republic removing Articles 2 and 3 of the 1937 Constitution. Another relevant lesson might be in seeing that the structure of an eventual agreement has perhaps already been agreed some time back, but it's up to the people who rejected it then to wait until they're sure they can be in charge after accepting it:

North Korea in 1985 halted change in several documents and its propaganda, helping to facilitate meetings in the late 1980s that ultimately produced an inter-Korean pact in 1992 known as the Basic Agreement. It placed inter-Korean dealings within a "special interim relationship stemming from the process toward unification" rather than as sovereign nations. Most elements from that deal have been abandoned, though officials from the two Koreas occasionally call for its revival.

It's the Korean Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gulf Squid

Reuters --

Aabar's disposal of its stake in Daimler early this month was triggered by a failed derivatives deal underpinning the Abu Dhabi investment firm's purchase of the shares, sources familiar with the matter said ... The story of Aabar's Daimler stake underlines how some Middle Eastern investment firms entered derivative deals to finance acquisitions during the region's asset market boom several years ago, only to find the transactions mostly benefited the investment banks involved ... Aabar, also an investor in major corporations such as commodities group Glencore and Italian bank UniCredit, bought 96.4 million Daimler shares, or 9 percent of the company, at 20.27 euros per share in March 2009. It entered derivative transactions, mainly collar trades and put options, to finance the acquisition. The derivatives were sold by Goldman Sachs, the sources said.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Self Indictment

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi during a speech in Venice today --

Allow me to mention, in particular, the work carried out by the Financial Stability Board – the organisation over which I had the honour of presiding between 2006 and 2011 – on the regulation of the financial markets.

He must be expecting a close election

Mitt Romney names all 15 Arab-Americans who support him. They're the ones who managed to overcome being told that their culture is deficient, that the Palestinian problem is a waste of time, and that US policy in the Middle East should be whatever Bibi Netanyahu wants at that particular time.

Friday, October 12, 2012

And the Nobel Prize in Self-Parody goes to

Today's Nobel Peace Prize award to the European Union is final proof of the descent of the European elites into a self-regarding delirium. Because the one thing the EU project hasn't lacked is self-esteem, and the awarding of prizes to each other. Here's European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso giving the Charlemagne award to someone, but who awards what to whom is beside the point when you're at this level of pomposity.

I'm so old that I can remember when Private Eye awarded the Bore of the Year award for 2 straight years to the Exchange Rate Mechanism of the European Monetary System.

That joke isn't funny any more.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Niche tourism

UAE official news agency --

The Foreign Ministry has urged citizens not to travel to Libya for hunting purposes due to the unstable security situation there. Director of the Department of Citizens Affairs at the Foreign Ministry Issa Abdullah Al Kalbani said that the measure has been taken as part of the government's keenness to guarantee the safety of its citizens.

There's a trend of going from the Gulf to Libya for hunting?

UPDATE 30 March 2013: The identical warning is issued for Iraq.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Futile gesture alert

From the decisions of the European Council of finance ministers meeting in Luxembourg yesterday, the part which allowed some slight relaxation of the conditions under which the Portugal bailout operates --

The United Kingdom abstained from the decision.

The decision would have gone through regardless of how the UK voted, and it's technically on the hook for some of the money being lent to Portugal.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Eurozone's first leather jacket

IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi at the Eurozone finance ministers' meeting today in Luxembourg.

Photo: Council of the European Union.

Not likely in Baghdad

From what is being billed as Mitt Romney's keynote foreign policy speech today, at Virginia Military Institute --

We saw all of this in Benghazi last month—but we also saw something else, something hopeful. After the attack on our Consulate, tens of thousands of Libyans, most of them young people, held a massive protest in Benghazi against the very extremists who murdered our people. They waved signs that read, “The Ambassador was Libya’s friend” and “Libya is sorry.” They chanted “No to militias.” They marched, unarmed, to the terrorist compound. Then they burned it to the ground. As one Libyan woman said, “We are not going to go from darkness to darkness.”

Barack Obama's conservative critics have a remarkable ability to go straight from the obligatory ridicule of America "leading from behind" in Libya to anecdotes like the above. The flaw is in not going the next step and asking whether there is a link between the fact that the USA didn't invade Libya and held back its weapons after the initial NATO attack with the still high esteem in which the USA is clearly held among ordinary Libyans. It just doesn't fit the narrative.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Back to basics

David Cameron in pre-conference Sunday Telegraph interview --

What was interesting about Ed Miliband’s speech is there was just nothing about what needs to be done. You know, lots of attacks on wealth creation, but no ideas about how to create it. Lots of attacks on business, but nothing to stimulate it. Lots of talk about what was wrong in the economy, but not a word about the deficit. I thought it was rather an empty vessel, signalling right, but actually turning left.

Questions to the Prime Minister (John Major), 19 January 1993 --

Mr. [Barry] Field : Does my right hon. Friend welcome the publication of the highway code today ? Will he ensure that copies are made available to Opposition Members, some of whom seem to be stuck on a roundabout, uncertain as to which exit to take, while others seem intent on overtaking their leaders on the inside, while we on the Government side look forward to a major road ahead ? 

The Prime Minister : I should like, if I may, to try to respond to that testing question. I very much welcome the publication of the new highway code. I am bound to say that it does seem to me extremely important that the Leader of the Opposition [John Smith] perhaps should study it. He might learn, after his proposals this morning, that he should not signal right when he is turning left.

Headline bait

Cri de coeur

Tomorrow, Real Madrid will play Barcelona and Inter Milan will play AC Milan.

In the USA, the TV rights to both matches are owned by Al Jazeera Sports, operating as BeIN Sport USA.

The channel is essentially a dish-only outfit, despite various promises of cable distribution. Cost appears not to be an issue: the channel would like to be more available. It just isn't happening.

It looks like skills in unofficial Internet viewing will have to be revived. Qatar made me do it.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Because that relationship worked out so well

The European Central Bank had one of its few non-Frankfurt board meetings in Slovenia yesterday. That context led to a strange question to the ECB President Mario Draghi at the press conference --

We are in Slovenia, at the spot where George W. Bush had his first ever summit with Vladimir Putin, after which Bush said he looked into Putin’s eyes and could see his soul and knew this was a man he could do business with. I was wondering if there was any such moment today between you and Mr Weidmann [Bundesbank president]? 

Draghi: I would like to know from you who is Putin and who is George W. Bush? 

Question: I leave that to you.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Workers are investors too

Interesting Christopher Caldwell interpretation in his FT column of the failed lockout by National Football League owners of the referees --

The 121 referees at the pro level had no obvious gifts that made them superior to the tens of thousands of college and high-school officials who would, presumably, do anything for their jobs. NFL owners soon discovered how little complex labour markets have to do with this kind of “common sense” ... The 122nd-best referee in the country was not interested in losing his own enviable job (probably working college football) for a few weeks replacing the 121st in the NFL. When the league locked its employees out, it had to descend thousands of names down the list.

This is certainly a pleasing tale for capitalists in general, since it implies that those pesky proletarian referees were indeed replaceable at lower wages, it was just that the owner-capitalists went the wrong way about it. For example, if they had offered permanent contracts to the nearly-as-good referees, they could have gotten them to come in instead of the fans-in-referee-uniform that they actually got.

Well, maybe. But there are some problems with that interpretation. First, if you've locked out the top 121 referees in the country, then you don't just need referee number 122. You need referees ranked 122-242. Hands up who would like switching from listening to the top 121 music singles in the country to singles ranked 122-242? I thought so.

Second, Caldwell's story implies that it's just a narrow gap between a NFL referee and the man who almost could have made it and is refereeing college games instead. But is it? The crucial point is surely the gulf in talent among the players in a college and professional game; by design, the players who make it to professional are in the top few percent of all college players, who in turn are in the top few percent of all players in the country. Indeed, what turned out to the signature fiasco of the replacement referees -- the botched touchdown decision in the Seattle-Green Bay game, was due to the high talent level of the players involved, who could manage complicated sporting feats faster than the normal eye could see in real time. Sorting that out needs special talents among the referees.

A few weeks ago, the frontman for the refs on the lockout, Ed Hochuli, did a quick Q&A with the New York Times Sunday Magazine --

READING Rules. Lots of rules. N.F.L. referees have casebooks with literally thousands of play situations. We have tests every week that take five hours to finish. I study every day. When things happen on the field, I can’t stop and look it up.

In other words, he invests a huge amounts of time in his job. This doesn't fit with the, say, Mitt Romney idea of investment: he's not a Job Creator, he's not putting up finance capital, and the return on his investment is not taxed like a capital gain. But it still makes him far more productive in his job than the owner fantasy of the disposable walk-on who could replace him. 

Friday, September 28, 2012

Not expecting too many protests over this one

Saudi Press Agency -- Medina, Dhu-AlQa'dah 12, 1433, September 28, 2012, SPA -- Ministry of Hajj explained that Hajj's organization and its instructions not to allow the entry to the Kingdom for those who don't comply with terms and requirements of the entry visa to Saudi Arabia to perform the Hajj. These terms require women under age of 45 years to be accompanied with a male sponsor during the pilgrimage journey and that is stipulated in the woman's visa or her sponsor regardless of nationality. This rule is applied to all women in general who want to get an entry visa to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj, the spokesman of Hajj Ministry Hatim bin Hassan Qadhi confirmed in a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). The statement came in response to news circulated by media quoting President of the Nigerian Hajj Mission as saying that a group of Nigerian Hajj women arrived in the Kingdom to perform the Hajj were denied entry at the airport and flew back to their home country.

We're going to party like it's 1959

Mitt Romney complaining that the current US growth rate is less than that of Russia and China. Countries who Mitt Romney also thinks will be mocking us from their vantage points in outer space.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

If "nucular" was an image

Apparently Bibi Netanyahu, at the UN today, is demanding that American policy towards Iran be determined on the basis of a Tom and Jerry style bomb with a flame at the end and a red line drawn where he wants the real bombs to start falling on Tehran.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New definition of chutzpah - on Yom Kippur

Despite being asked not to do so by Phil Lynott's mother, the Romney-Ryan campaign is still using The Boys Are Back in Town on campaign stops. Here it is yesterday in Ohio

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ground Control to Major Rom

From Mitt Romney's Space Policy  --

Today we have a space program befitting a President who rejects American exceptionalism, apologizes for America, and believes we should be just another nation with a flag. We have been put on a path that cedes our global position as the unequivocal leader in space. The Russians are leading in human spaceflight right now. The Chinese may someday look down at us from the Moon.

Contemplate for a moment the juxtaposition of a document claiming that America needs the technological and scientific leadership of the world in terms of space with its motivating observation that the Chinese might "look down" on America from the Moon.

If the issue is just the Chinese looking down at us from the Moon, wouldn't it be cheaper to just send some Americans in a ship beyond the Moon to look down at them?

Photo of turtles all the way down: Wikipedia user Pelf.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A rock they don't want to lift

Reuters story says that US politics is setting the timeline on when we get the next EU/ECB/IMF report on Greece --

"The Obama administration doesn't want anything on a macroeconomic scale that is going to rock the global economy before November 6," a senior EU official told Reuters, adding that previous troika reports had also slipped ...A U.S. official said the United States had made clear to European officials that it wanted to avoid any "downside" economic surprises because of the fragile U.S. recovery, but denied that it had anything to do with the U.S. election. Several sources in Germany described those conversations with their U.S. counterparts and said the message had been that the Americans didn't want surprises before the election ... But one source said EU leaders' motives went beyond macroeconomic stability. They also had political reasons to avoid rocking the boat before the U.S. election. "As far as European leaders are concerned, they don't want Romney, so they're probably willing to do anything to help Obama's chances," said the source, an EU official involved in finding solutions to the debt crisis. The problem for Obama is that if Europe's leaders are seen, implicitly or otherwise, to be working to bolster his re-election chances, it could provide ammunition for the Romney campaign. European leaders have repeatedly been accused of acting too slowly and in a confused way to resolve the crisis, with a knock-on negative impact on the United States. If they are now seen to be allying with Obama, it could dent his popularity.

It may be true. But it's a strangely written story. From anonymous quotes to outright political speculation at the end. Nice job of the reporters buying a few pints for whoever the talkative official was.

But anyway, is it that the EU is under orders from the White House to delay this report-to-end-all-reports, or is it that they already know what's going to be in the report -- Greece needs billions more in aid -- and are looking for any excuse not to lob that political bomb into European, not American, politics?

Because light touch regulation worked so well for Ireland in banking

Facebook's privacy policies are regulated outside North America by Ireland, because that's where it has its non-US operations based. With that background --

An Austrian-based group of student activists, europe-v-facebook, which has succeeded in extracting some concessions on privacy from Facebook, said the law had been waived for the tech group. "The Irish ODPC (office of data protection commissioner) says that Facebook has not fully implemented the suggestions and that further work has to be done, but there seem to be no consequences or fines for not complying with these suggestions," said the group in a statement.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

We got both kinds, Jews and Christians

NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory to the aforementioned Bibi Netanyahu, in the same passage where he calls him Leader of the Jewish people --

I think this is a very important point because you say you don’t want to interfere in the election. There are tens of millions of Americans who are watching that speech, who hear that rhetoric, who hear that charge, who may not understand the complexities of this issue. You are the leader of the Jewish people. You say this is not a partisan issue. You get billions of dollars from direct foreign investment from this country, hundreds of millions of dollars from Americans, Jews and Christians alike from this country.

Netanyahu blames George HW Bush for Saddam invasion of Kuwait

Bibi on NBC's Meet the Press --

Conversely, when there was no American red line set before the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, and maybe that war could have been avoided.

Was it really the job of the USA to explain carefully to Saddam that No, they were not going to let him keep Kuwait if he decided to invade it?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Don't tell the Eurozone

Wall Street Journal --

SÃO PAULO, Brazil—Brazil said it would liquidate Banco Cruzeiro do Sul SA,  the third small or midsized lender to fail in two years. Although the bank is Brazilian, some of the biggest losers may be in the U.S. Cruzeiro sold much of its $1.8 billion in bonds to overseas investors in recent years amid optimism for growth in big emerging markets like Brazil. Analysts expect the quest to recover a portion of the money to be lengthy. Most customer deposits will be covered by the country's deposit-insurance program ...

Still, the authorities have won some praise for letting the bank go under, following the rescue of Banco PanAmericano, in which the depositor fund put up a large amount of capital as part of a sale to Banco BTG Pactual SA. A number of market participants have fretted that the move sent a wrong signal and that no matter what the problems, investors would be bailed out. "I see one positive from this liquidation, as it shows that there cannot be impunity," said Paulo Petrassi, a fund manager at Leme Investimento, who manages 235 million Brazilian reais in bonds and equities. "Looking ahead, the signal is positive in terms of regulation." 

It's the position of the European Central Bank, at least as regards Ireland, that bondholders in busted banks can't lose even a cent.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Don't mention the Arab Spring

This is probably for future reference at best but the picture shows Lagan Valley DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson meeting the Bahrain Minister of Interior on Wednesday, in Bahrain. His brother Kingsley was also apparently present. It's possible that Sheikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa was getting advice on dealing with sectarian strike from Ian Paisley's party. Good luck with that.

The emergency scapegoat

Many people have read over the last couple of days about the making of the "Innocence of Muslims" and the alleged role of 100 Jewish donors in putting up the US$5 million to finance it. So today we were thinking ... hadn't the first news stories we read about this referred to 100 Jewish doctors? That's what Google thinks too, as above. So was it just a mis-spelling of "donors" or was the initial claim of the supposed Sam Bacile that it really was Jewish doctors financing the film? If it was the latter, the cartoonish yet historically laden claim of a Jewish doctors plot to cause unrest would be a further indictment of the motives of this film. Which would be consistent with the notion of the blogger in Los Angeles who first became aware of the film that there was anti-Semitic motivation behind it.

At this stage, it seems safe to say that the conservatives who have adopted the cause of whoever was behind the film are in bed with some fairly strange people, what appears to be an expatriate provocateur element among Egyptian Coptic Christians. They're not doing any favours to their brethren who actually have to live in Egypt.

UPDATE: Interesting account from PBS Media Shift blog of how the entire early accounts of Sam Bacile were dodgy.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Maybe we should invade Morocco

There'd always been a point of curiosity as to how Republicans would have behaved had it been President Al Gore on September 12, 2001. Well on September 12, 2012, we know for sure: they would have dispensed with any of that pesky sympathy for the bereaved/national unity business and gone straight to saying it's all the President's fault. Above we have Paul Ryan speaking in Green Bay yesterday indicating that the problem was the absence of a "peace through strength" strategy and a president that in public statements communicates weakness and equivocation to "adversaries." In the Wall Street Journal, it's Liz Cheney with a similar line of attack --

Nor do our adversaries any longer fear us. Ask the mobs in Cairo who attacked our embassy, or the Libyan mobs who killed our diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Ask the Iranians, who make unhindered daily progress toward obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The basic problem with this reasoning is that by its own logic, the ability of the US to intimidate "bad guys" should have peaked in 2003-2004, with 2 seemingly successful invasions under George Bush's belt. Instead it saw the, yes, weakness, of getting pulled into two prolonged insurgencies and the emergence of Al Qaeda 2.0, some later edition of which likely carried out the Benghazi attack. Note by the way the willful confusion of the Cairo mob with the Libyan militias in much of the post-Benghazi commentary from the right. Their prescription seems to be that the US should invade some Arab country, but only when it could look tough doing so.

World government

There is not likely to be a more definitive demonstration of the inability of the American right to see world events through anything other than a parochial politicised lens than Senator Norm Coleman on the PBS News  Hour last night defending Mitt Romney's statements on the Cairo and Benghazi embassy attacks of 11 September 2012 (at the 6:30 mark in the video):

And, Ambassador [Nicholas Burns], is the Middle East doing much better today than it was four years ago? I don't think so. I don't think Egypt is doing better. I don't think that Iran is further away from having a nuclear weapon. I don't think the Israeli prime minister is more confident in American support.

Apparently it's the job of an American President to make Egyptians better off than they were in the last US election cycle. Also, the claim that the transition from dictatorship to democracy has not made them better off. Freedom!

Saturday, September 08, 2012


The German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has a big decision on Wednesday. Let's hope their resemblance to the Stonecutters doesn't undercut the seriousness of their decision making. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Thick as a brick

It's always tempting when analyzing the ability of Bashar al-Assad like his father before him to hang on to power in the face of widespread opposition and revulsion at his tactics. Adjectives like "wily," "intelligent," "calculating," and so on easily lend themselves to the analysis.

Then you read that Bashar al-Assad's e-mail password was 1234. Then the snipers, tanks, helicopter gunships and jets that he has unleashed in his own people don't seem wily, intelligent, or calculating. It's just what he is, brutally stupid and effective only until he runs into opponents willing to presume he's that stupid.

Good luck Russia and Iran with your only Arab friend.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

It's pronounced Tin Lizzy

Irish Times --

Mr Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan arrived onstage last week at the party’s national convention in Florida to the strains of The Boys Are Back In Town – a hit penned by Lynott. Philomena Lynott, a best-selling author and curator of her son’s legacy, rejected the use of her son’s music by the Republican Party. She said: “I am really upset at Philip’s music being used in a political way that he himself would not have approved of. As far as I’m concerned, Mitt Romney’s opposition to gay marriage and to civil unions for gays makes him anti-gay, which is not something that Philip would have supported.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

AC/DC didn't sing Hey Big Spender

So Paul Ryan told so many lies last night it seems to have surprised even the people who were expecting lies.  Here's an implied one that needs more attention:

In Congress, when they take out the heavy books and wall charts about Medicare, my thoughts go back to a house on Garfield Street in Janesville. My wonderful grandma, Janet, had Alzheimer’s and moved in with Mom and me. Though she felt lost at times, we did all the little things that made her feel loved. We had help from Medicare, and it was there, just like it’s there for my Mom today. Medicare is a promise, and we will honor it. A Romney-Ryan administration will protect and strengthen Medicare, for my Mom’s generation, for my generation, and for my kids and yours.

The chart above is from a recent US Alzheimer's Association report which shows the total projected cost of Alzheimer's care by major components including Medicare and out of pocket. It sure sounds like from his remarks above that Paul Ryan was promising to find all that money for Medicare and to cap per person out of pocket expenses. Yet Ryan's actually Medicare plan only indexes current costs to general inflation, ignoring the demographic and cost factors that drive diseases like Alzheimer's.

The beard of understanding

Tom Friedman --

Excuse me, President Morsi, but there is only one reason the Iranian regime wants to hold the meeting in Tehran and have heads of state like you attend, and that is to signal to Iran’s people that the world approves of their country’s clerical leadership and therefore they should never, ever, ever again think about launching a democracy movement — the exact same kind of democracy movement that brought you, Mr. Morsi, to power in Egypt.

President Morsi, having ignored Tom Friedman and gone to Tehran to speak directly to the Assad-backing Ayatollahs --

"We should all express our full support to the struggle of those who are demanding freedom and justice in Syria and translate our sympathies into a clear political vision that supports peaceful transfer (of power) to a democratic system," Morsi said in his opening statement. Morsi slammed Assad's rule, saying that the world had a "moral duty" to stand with the Syrian people in their struggle "against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy." He said having a democratic system in Syria "reflects the desire of the Syrian people for freedom, justice and equality and at the same time protects Syria from entering into a civil war or being divided by sectarian clashes."

The easy thing would have been to stay away and earn favourable headlines in the American media. Instead he showed up and told it like it was.

Update: According to this Al-Arabiya story (easily run through Google Translate), Iranian state television provided a doctored translation of Morsi's speech, replacing Syria references with Bahrain, changing the name of Arab Spring to Islamic Awakening, and taking out references to various Caliphs (a theological issue).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So it was just a German racket

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi writing in Die Zeit today --

The debate is taking place because the euro area has not yet fully succeeded as a polity. Currencies ultimately depend on the institutions that stand behind them. When the euro was first proposed, there were those who said it would have to be preceded by a long process of political integration. This was because sharing a currency would imply a high degree of joint decision-making. Member countries would be a “Schicksalsgemeinschaft” and would need strong common democratic underpinnings.

Who amongst us could have forgotten those times in 1990s when we were assured that the single currency would work because after all it was a Schicksalsgemeinschaft?

Incidentally, the phrase means "community of fate."

Further incidentally, does it seem like we need more German capabilities lately?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


The screen backdrop as Mitt Romney officially crossed the delegate threshold at what sounded like a sparsely attended nominating session in Tampa.

Photo: REUTERS/Mike Segar

Monday, August 27, 2012

German for beginners

Angela Merkel's man on the ECB Board Jörg Asmussen speaking in Hamburg today:

Kolumnen von Zeitungsherausgebern und Online-Bloggern; offene Briefe von Professoren; am eigenen Interesse orientierte Analysen von Marktteilnehmern in Deutschland und weltweit: es fehlt nicht an Untersuchungen, Bewertungen, Szenarien von scheinbar unabwendbaren Katastrophen, und Ratschlägen, was „die Politik“, oder einfacher noch, „die Zentralbank“ doch bitte zu tun, oder zu lassen habe.

It translates as: And we would have gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for you pesky bloggers. And professors.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Not in Cavan anymore

One of the stranger juxtapositions (see signpost) near the scene of the Empire State building area shooting in Manhattan today.

Photo: Getty Images via Wall Street Journal.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Since Julian Assange is fishing for causes

He could add to his list of free speech grievances that Samir Nasri was booked for his end of Ramadan festival (Eid) greeting to the Islamic world after he scored the winner in Manchester today.

Photo: Phil Noble, Reuters.

That Julian Assange embassy balcony speech in full

Assange:  The following people are to be released from their captors: In Northern Ireland, the seven members of the New Provo Front. In Canada, the five imprisoned leaders of Liberte de Quebec. In Sri Lanka, the nine members of the Asian Dawn movement.

Crowd/media: What the f***? 

Embassy staffer: Asian Dawn?

Assange: I read about them in Time magazine. 

[Actual source for the above quote. And if you really are seeking a transcript, it looks like Russia Today is taking time out from Syrian propaganda to get a copy]

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Don't mention the war

Saudi King Abdullah shakes hands with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Islamic Solidarity Summit in Jeddah -- even as they scheme against each other via a proxy war in Syria.

Photo: Saudi Press Agency.

Germany still makes stuff

This New York Times photograph tells a story, or at least can have a story projected upon it. It's of two workers at a specialized valve factory in Frankfurt. The business is doing well and one reason it does well is because of the Euro -- many of its customers are abroad so it's a small business that benefits from the advantage of a common and/or "competitive" currency. But anyway, about the photo: two men, black t-shirts, one sleeveless, tattoos, earrings, tough-looking individuals. In any other country, they'd be typecast as "working class" with all those connotations. But it's Germany. They have a manual skill that's needed in a small business that's making money. So their entire life trajectory and prospects are different from what the class term implies.

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is popping up next to workers in overalls claiming that he's going to make their lives better, but that Europe is not the way to do it.