Friday, November 16, 2018

Ulster Volunteer Farce

From the House of Commons debate on the UK withdrawal agreement --

 Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP) 

I stand here with a heavy heart and great sadness. Does the Prime Minister recollect the biblical story of Jacob and Esau, in which Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of pottage? Does the Prime Minister see the similarity in that she is attempting to sell my children’s and grandchildren’s birthright and my constituents’ rights to be British for a despicable and shoddy deal? As Rudyard Kipling said: “Before an Empire’s eyes The traitor claims his price. What need of further lies? We are the sacrifice.” Prime Minister, we will not be your sacrifice. We will not agree to give backstop control to the EU or to the Republic of Ireland over Northern Ireland—never.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

How we got here

Maureen Dowd in the New York Times today --

Naomi Wolf told Bill Clinton, and later Al Gore, they should present themselves as the Good Father, strong enough to protect the home (America) from invaders.

It must have taken a lot of effort from the NYT editors to get her not to mention "earth tones" -- a ridiculous detail from her linked 1999 article which encapsulated the trivia of the media coverage of that election. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Schism needed

In his justification for his favourable stance towards Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia MBS, Tom Friedman explained as follows:

It had to do with how I defined our most important national interest in Saudi Arabia since 9/11. And it is not oil, it’s not arms sales, it’s not standing up to Iran. It’s Islamic religious reform, which can come only from Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam’s holiest cities, Mecca and Medina.

And that becomes his basis for saying that whatever the complicity of MBS in the Khashoggi murder and his eventual fate in royal power politics, that agenda has to continue.

So the analysis is that the state is the means to reform the religion.

Among the revealing sights in the news today is a long list of obsequious statements from "official" Islamic bodies praising the way that the government of Saudi Arabia has handled the Khashoggi revelations (e.g. Muslim World League, Organization of Islamic Cooperation).

So is the problem that the religion has contorted the state, or that the state has contorted the religion?

Friday, October 19, 2018

Inside job

The credibility of the burst of late night announcements from Riyadh about the Khashoggi case -- timed for the Friday news dump cycle in the USA -- is somewhat affected by the fact that the head of a committee looking into the need to restructure the general intelligence agency is ... Crown Prince Mohammed!

Minor update: also on the committee is Ibrahim al-Assaf, one of the former ministers caught up in the Ritz-Carlton swoop last year. 

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Now we are getting somewhere

Late night statement from Saudi Arabia Minister of Interior:

His Highness also affirmed that what has been circulated with the existence of orders to kill him (Khashoggi) are lies and baseless allegations towards the government of the Kingdom, which upholds its norms and traditions and is in compliance with international laws, conventions and conventions.

That is a carefully crafted American PR firm style denial. It is not denying Jamal was killed. It is denying an order to kill him.

UPDATE 19 October: Confirmation on the importance of the word "orders:" Reuters story that there were no specific orders to kill, but there is a standing order to return critics to Saudi Arabia. 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Kanye's World





Kanye West made his own news yesterday (the transcript is captivating) so there's probably been enough said about him. So here instead is one of his occasional collaborators, Lupe Fiasco, from 2006. When George W. Bush was President.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

The cold war in Istanbul will not remain cold very much longer


Now, in re Jamal Khashoggi, where exactly would the Saudis have gotten the idea for a brazen hit, just murky enough to be deniable, but just transparent enough so that everyone who needs to know knows what you did?

Above: Crown Prince MBS visits Vladimir Putin at the start of the World Cup. 

Quote of the (Kavanaugh) Day

Pierre Bourdieu, The Force of Law (1987) --

When combined with the specific effects of professional training, such a background helps to explain that the magistracy's declared neutrality and its haughty independence from politics by no means exclude a commitment to the established order. The effects of such unanimous tacit complicity become most visible in the course of an economic and social crisis within the professional body itself. Such a crisis arises, for example, in an alteration of the mode by which the holders of dominant positions are selected. At such a moment, professional complicity of the sort just discussed collapses. Certain newcomers to the magistracy, by virtue of their position or personal attitudes, are not inclined to accept the traditional presuppositions defining the magistracy. The struggles they undertake bring to light a largely repressed element at the heart of the group's foundation: the nonaggression pact that links the magistracy to dominant power. To this point the professional body is held together in and by a universally accepted hierarchy and consensus concerning its role. But increasing internal differentiation leads to the body's becoming a locus of struggle. This causes some members to repudiate the professional pact and to openly attack those who continue to consider it the inviolable norm of their professional activity.

Friday, October 05, 2018

His offer is this

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in an interview with Bloomberg News --

Bloomberg: It does seem to be his [Trump] opinion that the kingdom should pay more for its security. So do you agree with that? 

 MBS: Actually we will pay nothing for our security. We believe that all the armaments we have from the Untied States of America are paid for, it’s not free armament. So ever since the relationship started between Saudi Arabia and the United States of America, we’ve bought everything with money.

Up the Republic, Slight Return

From Brett Kavanaugh's bid for a few Hail Marys as penance for all his yelling last week --

Our independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic.

That bizarre sentence appeared in Donald Trump's original introduction of Kavanaugh as the nominee, so now we know where it came from. Bizarre because, for a group -- conservative lawyers -- that insists in the intrinsic meaning of words, it makes no sense to refer to a republic as having crown dimensions of anything.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Bobama

New York Times on the premium music tour style pricing for Michelle Obama book events --

Anand Giridharadas, the author of “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” a critique of modern philanthropy, said the Obamas should not be held to a higher standard than other former public officials who have made money after holding office, but he added that he was still taken aback by the planned rollout. “As the first African-American president and first lady, I am very wary of arguments that they should not do something everybody else was allowed to do,” Mr. Giridharadas said. “But an arena with tiered seating is a powerful metaphor for everything they presumably want to destroy. What this illustrates to me is that cashing in has become our common culture in a way we don’t realize. It’s the water in which we’re all swimming.”

To understand what's happening here, you don't need to look any further than a case of the resolution of Status Income Disequilibrium.

They don't make them like they used to

A classic New York City obituary in the New York Times for Anne Russ Federman. More social history in this than you'd get in entire books.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Quote of the Day

In the FT,  Henry Mance wonders if the sudden change in style at the Daily Mail could happen in other newspapers:

As for the Financial Times, you'll know the revolution has come when you receive the first ever How To Spend It: Lidl Edition. 

Saturday, September 08, 2018

What happened in Islington didn't stay in Islington

The news of the separation of Boris Johnson and Marina Wheeler makes it worth recalling that, had that separation happened 3 years ago, Brexit, or at least the disorderly version of it, might not have happened at all. Because, as David Allen Green has pointed out, the obsession with the European Court of Justice seems to have metastasized within the Johnson - Wheeler household!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The check is in the mail

From the Gulf coalition statement accepting very limited responsibility for the botched air strike in Yemen that hit a school bus --

The Joint Committee will be mandated to consider granting voluntary assistance to those affected in Yemen by contacting the legitimate Yemeni government to determine the identities and names of those affected so that they can be assisted in accordance with the procedures.

The casualties occurred in a rebel area. How will compensation sent through the "legitimate" government get to them?

Fake News

This blog has been approached by advocates for a McCain - Lieberman presidential run in 2020 to use the slogan "Best of Both Worlds."

Monday, August 27, 2018

The idiot dissenters


Yes, we posted on this same topic 5 days ago but it doesn't get any less outrageous. Today, a UN panel investigating the Rohingya atrocities in Myanmar recommended that there are sufficient grounds to investigate the Myanmar military leadership, including commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing, for genocide.

Here is the aforementioned general in a very jolly meeting in Moscow last week with the Russian minister of defence, Sergei Shoigu. A particular "outrage" cohort obsessed with events in Israel/ Palestine and the rightness of Bashar al-Assad snored through this event.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Common Factor

Very good Financial Times analysis of why Australian politics has such high turnover at the top --

Rupert Murdoch’s stable of News Corp Australia titles wield immense power in the country, which some critics blame for destabilising Mr Turnbull and previous Labor governments. The rise of social media and the 24-hour news cycle have ramped up the pressure on political leaders and intensified criticism, denting their image and undermining trust among the electorate. 

Of course, Murdoch is present at the scene of deep polarization and personalisation of politics in other countries too ...

The needy President

Remarkable description of the Trump mood at the White House on Tuesday night from the Wall Street Journal --

He learned of Mr. Cohen’s guilty plea and Mr. Manafort’s conviction aboard Air Force One on his way to a campaign rally in West Virginia Tuesday and returned to the White House that evening in a “rotten” mood, further irritated by what he felt had been a flat audience, according to people close to the White House. His frustrations were amplified by the fact that his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, is golfing in Scotland this week, people close to the president said

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Heroes of the anti-establishment


From Russian Ministry of Defence website: Defenсe Minister of the Russian Federation, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu at a meeting with the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing.

That would be the same armed forces of Myanmar that engaged in massive forced displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslim population of Myanmar.

But this will do nothing to stop the adulation of Russia from a certain kind of free thinker who judges causes only by the roles of certain other countries in them.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Don't hold your breath

There was a news conference today in Riyadh to report on the progress in investigations by the Saudi Arabia/ UAE/ recognized Yemeni government coalition of incidents during coalition attacks in the Yemeni war resulting in civilian casualties. The only update given for the school bus attack in Saada earlier this week was that a team has been appointed to investigate. The rest of the news conference gave updates on other incidents, beginning with one that occurred on ... April 2015. The most recent land incident addressed was in September 2017, and the report concluded with the findings about the attack on three ships in Hodeidah harbour in May 2018. The conclusion in that last case was that the ships were booby trapped and a legitimate target, and in all other cases except one, the conclusion was that given the presence of Houthi forces around the incident, the attack was legitimate no matter who was killed. And in the single case of admitted error (an air-to-ground missile attack on a car), the excuse is that the error was unintentional, whatever that means. 

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Quote of the Day

In the FT Weekend, Arthur Beesley returns to Ireland to look at the state of the Catholic church on the eve of the visit of the Pope and the memories of JP2 in 1979:

As for that first splendid papal visit, [Mark Patrick] Hederman suggests that, rather than some kind of a high-water mark for Catholicism, it can now be seen more as an act of self-preservation by church leaders. "The hierarchy knew this was in decline, and so John Paul II was brought in as a kind of last-ditch stand to stop the dyke from bursting. So it wasn't as if it was a triumphalist display of Catholic Ireland at its zenith. It was that they knew."

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

There goes another trade deal

Boris Johnson, before his current burqa-bashing days, giving a Brexit-boosterish speech in Bahrain in 2016 --

I don’t know whether our Kuwaiti friends want to claim credit for all City Hall’s policies – including the popular cycle superhighways which we are now extending but when you consider that we have 20,000 Gulf students in London and they are very welcome may I say, as are their fees when you think the academic exchanges, the cultural exchanges you can see why London is sometimes called the eighth Emirate. I think I may have made that up myself, but we’re proud of it. And of course we get the ball back over the net in our own modest British way - Brits pay 1.7 million visits to the Gulf every year.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

Quote of the Day

Financial Times, in the context of Jeremy Corbyn position on trade deals as influenced by Labour head of trade policy John Hilary:

A former trade policy analyst who worked alongside Mr Hilary during the 2000s said: "To call John's worldview Manichean would be to give it greater nuance and flexibility than was justified. In his mind there is only one mental compartment to put business or trade deals in, and it's one labelled 'exploitative capitalist bastards'."

Friday, August 03, 2018

But he'll make an exception for this one

Andrew Sullivan, whose silly season instincts are strong, has pounced on the Sarah Jeong "outrage." But here is describing his own writing philosophy -- in response to a charge of anti-Semitism:

I'm a writer who doesn't much care for political correctness, of policing discourse for every single possible trope or code that someone somewhere will pounce on as evidence of bigotry. I've gone out of my way as an editor and writer to stir things up - on race and gender and culture and sex - and I have never been one to worry excessively about the sensitivity of others.

Friday Night Slights

From Jeremy Corbyn's latest attempt to signal his position on tackling left anti-Semitism --

This has been a difficult year in the Middle East, with the killing of many unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and Israel’s new nation-state law relegating Palestinian citizens of Israel to second-class status.

Note that his definition of "Middle East" is within the territories of Israel, the West Bank, and the Gaza strip. It appears, therefore, to not include Syria.

Which does make it much easier to describe why it was a difficult year in the Middle East!

Photo of the Day


Jordan's King Abdullah takes a meeting with French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, wearing his military fatigues.

via Petra

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Non-transitive haters

Reuters --

As tensions peaked last week, Israel shot down a Syrian warplane that it said had strayed into the Israeli-occupied Golan and warned Assad’s Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements against trying to deploy on the Syrian-held side. But Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman sounded more upbeat on Thursday as he described an Assad win as a given. “From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule,” Lieberman told reporters during a tour of air defense units in northern Israel. Asked whether Israel should be less wary of possible flare-ups on the Golan - much of which it seized from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed in a move not recognized abroad - Lieberman said: “I believe so. I think this is also in Assad’s interest.”

It is going to be fascinating to see whether the self-styled contrarians who love Bashar al-Assad and hate Israel, and switch effortlessly between those two themes, will be able to reconcile themselves to Israel being, actually OK, with their beloved Bashar staying in power. If nothing else, easing the Israel hate in line with Bashar's modus vivendi would make their dual stances look a little bit less on the edge of anti-Semitic.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hair of the Dog

Vladimir Putin meeting Russian diplomats on Thursday --

With all the difference in views, we agreed [with Trump] that Russian-American relations are in an extremely unsatisfactory state. In many ways, even worse than during the Cold War. Of course, it would be naive to believe that the problems accumulated over the years will be resolved in a few hours. But no one expected it.

Donald Trump at the post-summit news conference --

But our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago. I really believe that.


Happening

Wall Street Journal ($) with the processology of the Trump flight home from Helsinki --

Bill Shine, the newly minted deputy chief of staff for communications and a former Fox News executive, voiced concern that the White House needed to provide a new TV image so that networks would stop broadcasting images of Mr. Trump's news conference in Helsinki, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Trump would heed that advice, making a televised statement from the Cabinet Room during a meeting with lawmakers that was originally supposed to be closed to the press. Mr. Shine didn't respond to a request for comment.

Which is a good example of the Fox News methodology and the role of visuals and assumed media laziness in it: TV will keep running the latest clip until ... they get another clip. Which would work fine if everyone was in "move on" mode. But Trump can't help himself, and Fox News is thus less able to help him. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If only there'd been someone there to speak for Ireland

Kate Hoey, in the House of Commons yesterday, one of the three Labour defectors forming the Tory government majority on the soft-Brexit wrecking amendments --

The right hon. Gentleman [Sammy Wilson, DUP] is quite right; there seem to be an awful lot of people who do not really understand what goes on at the [Irish] border now. Why would anyone who supports Northern Ireland even think of voting against new clause 37 tonight? The new clause clearly puts it out there that we want Northern Ireland to be treated the same way as the rest of the United Kingdom, so in voting against it, people would actually be supporting the Republic of Ireland.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Occupy Montgomery County

New York Times profile of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh --

But as with any nominee, Judge Kavanaugh and his supporters are carefully shaping his narrative for the diverse Senate and the broader American public: his mother the judge, not his father the lobbyist; his parents’ early struggles, not their second homes in the Florida Keys and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore; his service as a children’s sports coach and a Catholic volunteer, not his participation in some of the most bitter partisan fights in recent times. They do not let on that Judge Kavanaugh is by legacy and experience a charter member of elite Washington: His family’s government-centric social circle, his two summer jobs on Capitol Hill, his White House service, his golfing at the capital’s country clubs, his residence in one of the richest suburban enclaves in America. Nor do they note that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination is the culmination of a 30-year conservative movement to shift the judiciary to the right.

If you rely on liberal punditry for your world view, you might want to second-guess the Move along folks nothing to see here stance of those pundits on Richard Reeves' Dream Hoarders which was published around this time last year. Yes, we're repeating ourselves, but one topic that has been shuffled to the dark side of the moon is the path to high opportunity through the ranks of the upper middle class -- not the 1 percent -- and the political consequences thereof. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Question Point

Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times ($) theorizing that what makes a stereotypical "British" accent novel to the American ear is not the intonation per se, but the absence of uptalking/ upspeaking:

Upspeak in excess can be unlistenable. I have given up on an otherwise illuminating podcast about American politics because the hosts pile slanted sentence upon slanted sentence, sometimes ten in a row, each cresting a bit higher until the final words are lost on all but our canine friends.

He's too polite to say that he surely means the Vox Weeds politics podcast, a self-admitted den of Harvard-influenced uptalkers. 

Moscow Mailbag

Donald Trump might be feeling shy about asking Vladimir Putin to extradite the Russian agents named in Friday's indictment for the DNC hack. He had no such shyness in 2013 when he was demanding that Edward Snowden be extradited to the USA to face charges for the NSA leak, and he used multiple opportunities to link his demand for Snowden's return to Trump's own trip to Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant in November 2013. The above tweet is just one example. Incidentally, the Moscow trip is the one with the infamous allegation about that tape. But tape or no tape, can't Trump at least tweet a request for the extradition of the Russian government hackers?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

God Bless England

Donald Trump in the already infamous Sun interview --

We presented him with an England shirt when we interviewed him at the US Embassy in Brussels on Wednesday, ahead of the Nato summit. “Oh wow. I love gifts,” he said, happily obliging our photographer Paul Edwards by holding the personalised top up with a trademark grin. “You don’t hear the word England as much as you should,” he continued. “I think England is a beautiful name.”

Trump at the National Day of Prayer in May --

Jon and Richard, you are a living testament to the power of prayer. (Applause.) Your story reminds us that prayer changes hearts and transforms lives. It uplifts the soul, inspires action, and unites us all as one nation, under God. So important. And we say it here. You know, a lot of people — (applause) — they don’t say it. But you know what? They’re starting to say it more. Just like we’re starting to say, “Merry Christmas” when that day comes around. (Applause.) You notice the big difference between now and two or three years ago? It was — Paula, it was going in the other direction rapidly. Right? Now it’s straight up.

In his world, there are forbidden words like God, Christmas, and England, and that animates his politics, and no doubt, his supporters. 

That new Brexit plan in full

Er, that's it!

But seriously, that's figure 1 from the Brexit white paper chapter on institutional arrangements for the UK - EU relationship. An amateur Powerpoint chart with none of the boxes yet filled in.

Damascus Gate


The al-Assad / Maduro fanboys are so certain in their worldview that there's not much that could disrupt it, but one wonders if they ever do a moment's reflection on why, if Bashar al-Assad is so great, and Vladimir Putin is so great for supporting him, that Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin seem well aligned on where things are headed? Above, Netanyahu popped into the Kremlin on Wednesday before heading to the England v Croatia match. 

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy

If your view of American conservatism is that it's all driven by 1 percenters, then you're going to be a tad surprised that Brett Kavanaugh, Supreme Court nominee, is, in cash terms, broke. The incipient faux-scandal to cause a pothole for his nomination is that he's been running up revolving debt on a credit card to pay for, gasp, major league baseball tickets. But as we've gone hoarse (metaphorically) stating, if you think there's a political salience to the distinctive role of the upper middle class in American politics, then it's all completely unsurprising. Kavanaugh is asset-rich, cash-poor, and exhibit A for status-income disequilibrium, a Brooksian category with which much of liberal punditry refuses to engage. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Croatia




Brilliant cinematography in From Russia With Love as the train journey from Istanbul through eastern Europe is conveyed through station signs and alphabets, with Zagreb being the first one in the Roman script. A subtle way to convey the diversity of what was then one country, Yugoslavia.

Bobos in minivans

Liberal pundits have their blind spots. None is more obvious at the moment than their ability to pivot from ridiculing attempts to draw attention to the upper middle class as a group politically relevant to America's polarization (see the reactions to Richard Reeves and David Brooks) to being outraged at favourable media coverage of Trump's US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh drawing from his professors at Yale and his carpool parent friends.

Of course, if you're an actual Marxist, it's easy: Kavanaugh is simply a bourgeois tool of the all-controlling 1 percent whose own views and lifestyle are inconsequential.

But without that lens, you're looking at the politics and trying to figure out: how is it that amid all the possibilities and Trump volatility, the Ivy Leaguer, the diligent Catholic school parent with his own upbringing of "deferred gratification" parents, and yes, the reliable carpooler, came out of the mix? The horrible possibility is that it's the political power of that class that keeps them in the top layers of government even with severe cross-currents below.

UPDATE: The Tiger Mom (Amy Chua) endorses Kavanaugh on the basis of her daughter's (a Yalie) successful judicial clerkship with him!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Up the Republic

Donald Trump, capping what rolling news endlessly hyped as his Supreme Court "reveal," referred to the Constitution as "the Crown Jewel of our Republic." Which reveals that he doesn't understand that two words in there are direct contradictions of each other. 

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Pictures came and broke your heart


Not that we needed proof of Donald's Trump co-dependence with cable news, but he woke up this morning, like every morning, expecting to be the dominant topic, and he wasn't. So he had to find a way to enter the drama. 

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Her darkest hour

Financial Times on latest Theresa May sales pitch for her still unseen commercial borders plan --

An EU diplomat said Mrs May was asking her European allies to put pressure on other European leaders and Brussels to make sure her Brexit white paper was not rejected out of hand when it was published next week. “She wants to ensure it is not shot down straightaway,” said one EU diplomat. “She doesn’t want to be fighting on two fronts.”

Is it really a good idea to be presenting your tactical problem to a group including Germany in terms of the difficulties of a two-front war? Of course, if she wants to take that analogy seriously, you pick the front where you can score the more rapid victory first.


Monday, July 02, 2018

Middle class drinking

Bild --

Am Samstagabend hatte Merkel Innenminister Horst Seehofer noch ins Kanzleramt eingeladen. Bei Wasser (Seehofer) und Wein (Merkel) versuchten sie, in ihrem erbitterten Asylstreit eine Lösung zu finden.

Saturday night, Angela Merkel met with her turbulent Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to discuss the asylum crisis.

He drank water. She drank wine. 

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Magic orb

From Saudi Press Agency, the oblique palace version of the Trump - Salman phone call which Trump says resulted in agreement that Saudi Arabia would raise oil production by up to 2 million barrels per day:

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received a telephone call from President Donald Trump of the United States of America. During the meeting, they discussed the distinguished relations between the two countries, as well as discussing developments in the region and the world. During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy, and the efforts of producing countries to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies. 

There's nothing about 2 million barrels, and nothing about any specific commitment on any country to do anything -- producing countries could just as well refer to the United States!

Among other things, Trump doesn't realize that if he creates an expectation that there is a 2 million barrel per day increase coming, which does not materialize, the price of oil will go ... up!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Princely stroll

William Windsor and Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah take a casual-clothes walk through Jerash yesterday.

Photo via Petra.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Quote of the Day

Rana Foroohar in the Financial Times --

Two of the richest counties in America sit outside our nation’s capital, which is now stuffed with boutique hotels and top-notch eateries. There are 34 billionaires living within a 25-mile radius of the city. Even the fashion seems less dowdy to me that it used to be (though here I must be a superior New Yorker and say that it amazes me that you still occasionally catch women wearing toast-coloured stockings). All this might be good for those of us who must live or work in the beltway, but it’s terrible for making and enforcing good policy.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Up Yours Slobo


It's fascinating to watch the same "anti-establishment" Putin / al-Assad / Maduro fanboys who revel in ignoring, mocking, or denying MH17, Crimea, chemical weapons, indiscriminate bombing and artillery attacks, and social disaster brought about by economic lunacy suddenly get very upset at an image -- that of Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri symbolizing his Kosovar Albanian ancestry in a goal celebration. They may not like that decades after the original atrocities committed by their heroes (as Slobodan Milošević bizarrely was in the pre-social media era), the victims might get some cultural self-expression.

Image: Martin Divisek / EPA

Friday, June 22, 2018

Bobos in Deflection

In the FT, Rana Foroohar reviews Squeezed,  by Alissa Quart:

Quart is particularly sharp on behavioural psychology and the economics of class. In a chapter entitled "The Rise of 1 per cent Television," she charts the popularity of shows such as Downton Abbey, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Desperate Housewives, and Billions, all of which constitute a kind of "bling porn" that not only fuels anxiety among the lower 80 per cent of the socio-economic spectrum, but allows the upper 20 per cent to feel a sense of self-righteousness in relation to this profusion of greedy, narcissistic anti-heroes, culminating in our TV president.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

State versus children


Before there were screaming children at the US southern border, there was Iraq. This famous photograph is of Samar Hassan, then 5 years old in January 2005, whose parents had just been killed by US soldiers who treated their car as hostile when it approached a checkpoint. The photographer who took it, Chris Hondros, was killed years later during the Libyan war.

The New York Times did a great story in 2011 to find out what happened to Samar. Her circumstances were OK, but not great, and certainly no recovery from the disaster captured in the image.

If the trajectory of the country is that every so often, a child terrorized by its actions becomes the signature image, it's time to reflect on a fundamental problem. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pacific Rim

Wall Street Journal on the personal dynamics at the G7 summit:

At one point, Mr. Trump brought up migration as a big problem for Europe and then told Mr. Abe, "Shinzo, you don't have this problem, but I can send you 25 million Mexicans and you'll be out of office very soon," according to the senior EU official who was in the room.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Killed in action in a country the Commander-in-Chief can't spell

They'll eventually correct it.

He does not want to wear the ribbon

_DO_9283
Trump is the only leader at the G7 (plus EU) summit in Quebec who didn't wear the summit symbol badge. He's wearing the stars and stripes pin, and that's it. 

This one table explains why the media can't help helping Trump


TV Channel B

Cover Trump
Don’t Cover Trump
TV Channel A
Cover Trump
(-2, -2)
(0, -3)
Don’t Cover Trump
(-3, 0)
(-1, -1)

It's the Prisoner's Dilemma, adapted to the world of TV news competition. There are two TV channels, A and B. A's strategy is in the rows, and B's strategy is in the columns. The first number is A's loss, and the second number is B's loss. So (-2, -2) means A loses 2 and B loses 2 when they both cover Trump, etc.

Trump benefits from the endless media coverage, regardless of substance, so the cooperative solution would be to not cover Trump -- the lower right cell. It's still not an ideal world (after all, Trump is still President). But the problem for each TV channel is that if one of them decides not to cover Trump (e.g. A) while the other still does (B) -- the lower left column of the table -- then A loses all the viewers to B, because they still want the spectacle of Trump. The optimal strategy for each TV channel is therefore to cover Trump, even though the better outcome for A and B together is not to cover him!

Friday, May 25, 2018

On Norms

There are frequent references to how the Trump Presidency is characterized by "norm violations." Here is Josh Marshall arguing that the term has become a way to avoid addressing outright criminal or at least guilty-mind conduct. But what did violating norms ever mean? Here's German sociologist Niklas Luhmann in The Reality of the Mass Media on that exact topic (and, yes, we've quoted Luhmann before, in the belief that he's a genius) --

Norm violations are especially selected for reporting [by the media] when they can be accompanied by moral judgements, in other words, when they are able to offer an opportunity to demonstrate respect or disdain for people. In this regard the mass media have an important function in the maintenance and reproduction of morality. However, this should not be taken to mean that they are in a position to fix ethical principles or even just to raise society's moral standards towards good behaviour. No person or institution in modern society is able to do that - neither the Pope nor a council, neither the German parliament nor Der Spiegel. It is only wrongdoers caught in the act who demonstrate to us that such criteria are needed. It is only the code of morality which is reproduced, in other words the difference of good and bad, or evil, behaviour. The legal system is ultimately responsible for setting criteria. The mass media merely provide a constant irritation for society, a reproduction of moral sensibility at the individual as well as the communicative level. However, this leads to a kind of 'disembedding' of morality, to moralizing talk which is not covered by any verifiable obligations. The way morality is imagined and its ongoing renovation is linked to sufficiently spectacular cases - when scoundrels, victims, and heroes who have gone beyond the call of duty are presented to us. The receiver will typically align herself with none of these groups. She remains - an observer.

Now apply this insight, that the media treatment of norm violations is "moralizing talk which is not covered by any verifiable obligations" to the current political context in the USA. How did things get to the point where restraints on power were almost a play, a show, with standards that could only be verified when broken? That's quite a constitution you have there, America.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Quickly reconciled

Mark Dubowitz has been telling the Washington foreign policy community that on the Iran nuclear deal, he was a "fixer" not a "nixer" i.e. that he wanted to improve the deal rather than end it, and he has edged his predictions for what would happen now with all sorts of qualifications about whether Trump can successfully implement a new approach. As Peter Beinart points out, having done all the lobbying that could be done to kill the deal, he now claims that he never wanted it ended -- cynically recognizing the risk of being associated with a failed alternative that he enabled.

Anyway, here is in the opinion page of Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (writing with Richard Goldberg) --
America’s new strategy also presents European leaders with a choice: Either help curb all of Iran’s malign activities in exchange for major American economic and diplomatic concessions, or cast their lots with the repressive theocracy responsible for a 2012 terror attack in Bulgaria, and for the bloodshed in Syria that created a refugee crisis in Europe.

Does this sound like someone with regrets about the new course of American strategy? Instead, it sounds like someone who got what he wanted -- the ability to wage an all-out economic war against Iran, regardless of the direct and collateral damage.


Sunday, May 20, 2018

How to get on in society

Last year, Richard Reeves published a book, Dream Hoarders, arguing that the focus on the top 1 percent was distracting from the obstacles to mobility caused by the upper middle class. Liberal writers headed to the nearest keyboard to debunk Reeves (e.g. Mike Konczal in the Crimson-hued Vox) with the debunking taking the form of interpretations of charts of income and wealth distributions, while minimizing by assertion the significance of the cultural and class analyses in his book -- and indeed making the topics of culture and class a source of mockery when they were picked up by David Brooks.

It was therefore to the great annoyance of the debunkers that Matthew Stewart took another run at the Reeves argument in The Atlantic and this time it's Jordan Weissman who steps forward in the Crimson-hued Slate, again with the aid of income and wealth distribution charts, to debunk Stewart. And again refuses to engage with the social and cultural aspects of the argument, while allowing that there might be a bit of a point on housing and education capture by the upper middle class.

Anyway, the most telling omission in the Konczal and Weissman articles is politics. They take it for granted that the 1 percent, or the 0.1 percent, must be having an outsized gilded age influence on politics. But they don't want to extend that to pondering how the merely very wealthy -- but far more numerous -- upper middle class might be influencing politics, both in the issues and approach they champion, and in the reaction to that that is drawn from further down the income and wealth distribution.

It's only coincidental, but it's an especially strange week to have such a blind spot in your political analysis: the death of Tom Wolfe, who chronicled in real time the transition of an influential cohort from radical to, er, chic, and there are the numerous reflections on Paris 1968 and its American parallels, where the fact that this was an emerging consumerism associated with a new class is now taken as an initial given -- at least for people who care about the sociology of it all. How did that class rise from being in the streets in 1968 to dominate the professions and the political-cultural complex now?

But somehow, a certain type of economics has become a shield for a certain type of liberal from having to think about that question, because it is a question about class.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Liability

Texas Governor Greg Abbott uses a wheelchair because, in 1984, he went jogging after a storm and an oak tree fell on him and paralyzed him below the waist.

He sued the landowner and won a US$10 million settlement.

After the Santa Fe high school shooting yesterday, he was reduced to the usual NRA-friendly platitudes and simply dodged the question of the responsibility of the gun owner -- the shooter's father.

Why does he believe in accountability for landowners of fallen trees but not for gun owners of mass murder weapons?

Quote of the Day

Jo Ellison in the Financial Times:

One wonders whether the choice to wear a designer who melds a British artistic sensibility with a French house fabled for its classic silhouettes and minimal allure could mark the announcement of globally focused, pro-European tastes within the house of Windsor? It probably does. At least when it comes to clothes.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Handshake or handcuff


Above, Bashar al-Assad on an unannounced visit to Sochi today to meet his main backer, Vladimir Putin. There was no indication afterwards that Russia had used any of its leverage to extract new concessions on a political process for the conflict. Incidentally, despite the energetic efforts of the Al-Assad/ Maduro fanboys on Twitter, the booing at the Eurovision song contest on Saturday is probably a more reliable indicator of how Russia's foreign policy stances are viewed abroad. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Image problem

It's not among the top 10 things that's wrong with Israel's security forces shooting Gaza border protesters, but somewhere down that list is the fact that Israel's rationale for using lethal force doesn't hold together. Suppose that a few hundred or even a few thousand protesters were determined enough to break through the fence. Then they'd be ... in Israel, with nowhere to go, no support base, no logistics, just facing inevitable pursuit and capture. But what would be gone with their incursion is the psychological barrier, that Israel can literally and figuratively fence itself off from the Palestinian question. And that doubt, that fear of the hordes, justifies in Israeli eyes what by usual standards would be a disproportionate response. All the embassy gloating in Jerusalem can't remove that idea from people's heads. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Palestinian reality

In the New York Times Book Review, Ian Black's review of Anshel Pfeffer's biography of Bibi --

Netanyahu, in this view, has always seen the Palestinian issue as a diversion — a “rabbit hole” that misinformed Westerners insist on going down. 

It's a little strange how much that Matrix-influenced terminology -- red pill, rabbit hole -- has influenced the rhetoric of conservatives, but one possibility is that it's something that they've heard from each other as they compare notes on their true knowledge of liberal prejudice and the "real issues" in the Middle East.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Eurovision theory

Putin hacked it for Israel to make it up to Bibi for not keeping the Iranians under control in Syria. 

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Before the Kanye West revisionism

New York Times, Jesse Green's review of Summer, the Donna Summer musical --

It totally botches, for instance, her relationship with the gay community, which instantly embraced her on the radio and the dance floor for reasons the show doesn’t explore. Comments that Ms. Summer later made about God not creating “Adam and Steve” (let alone others she denied making about AIDS as a punishment for sin) left many gay men feeling betrayed — a betrayal they attributed to her resurgent Christianity. Rather than dramatizing this fascinating conflict head on, the musical brushes it aside as an ancient misunderstanding and uses Ms. Summer’s gay publicist as an alibi. (Singing “Friends Unknown,” she mourns his death to show she couldn’t have been homophobic.) It does not even mention her 1979 announcement that she was born again; she sings “I Believe in Jesus” instead.

Saddam and Bashar

In the weekend FT, Ben Judah mingles with Momentum to get a flavour of the movement from activists. In the studio with Aaron Bastani ---

Next topic: Syria. Is the Stop the War Coalition approach still working? What is "a left geopolitics"? Live-viewers are messaging in: "What we did in Mosul and Fallujah makes Douma look like a picnic." "100 per cent correct," says Bastani.

Note the logic: Iraq gives Bashar al-Assad a free pass for atrocities in Syria. And change that message to "What Bashar did in Aleppo and Homs makes Gaza look like a picnic." Same logic, different reaction.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Quote of the Day (3)

Via Orla Ryan (Financial Times) on the latest iteration of Ireland's decades-long abortion debate --

Whatever happens, perhaps Rhona Mahony [master of the national maternity hospital puts it most succinctly. "Terminations will continue," she says. "They have done since the beginning of time." 

Quote of the Day (2)

Alexandra Petri (Washington Post) on Donald Trump's bizarre Fox and Friends interview --

Stars spun into existence in the deep womb of the sky and burned out again, and planets rose and set, and at the end of the last age of men the great wolf Fenris rose from the deep and swallowed the Earth — and Donald Trump was still on the phone with “Fox and Friends” after calling in with a lot of opinions he wanted to share, against the best legal advice, and also probably the advice of his lawyers.

Quote of the Day (1)

Gail Collins (NYT) on Mitt Romney's struggling campaign for Senator from Utah --

First, he had to get the nomination in a state where he’s lived only a sliver of his life. Romney’s been trying to dig in, buying mansions in Utah (half his four houses are now there). This week he showed up for a Utah Jazz basketball game, eager to prove he was just one of the guys by wearing a Jazz jersey over his dress shirt.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

No chemical weapons used, so it's fine


Via Al Arabiya, a screen grab from a Russian video which appears to show Russian special forces, masked, guarding the Syrian military leadership at a recent appearance in Qalamoun. As the story explains, the video was not shown on Syrian TV, since it would highlight the dependence of the regime on external support, but appeared on Russian websites.

Robert Fisk is making no effort to debunk the reporting of on-the-ground Russian support to the regime, since no one is proposing that anything be done about it. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Move along folks

It's depressing to observe the media interest in certain events drop like a stone as follows:

  • The Toronto truck attack, once it was clear the suspect wasn't Muslim
  • The Nashville Waffle House shootings, once it was clear that the victims, and hero, were not white
  • The al-Assad/ Putin assault on Syrian cities, once it was clear there was no prospect of western countries doing anything about it.

Debate on shorter name ongoing

[Jordan Times] .... Jordanian National Campaign Against the Gas Agreement with the Zionist Entity  ... 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Image of the Day


Poster for the feature on Tunisian directors that will be held as part of the Directors' Fortnight running in parallel to the Cannes film festival next month.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Cheap eats

From the latest iteration of a USA nationwide E.coli outbreak apparently attributable to romaine lettuce, with the latest lead coming from Alaska --

State officials are responding to an outbreak of acute gastroenteritis caused by Escherichia coli (E.coli) O157:H7 bacteria in the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center in Nome. Eight confirmed cases have been identified to date. The recently discovered cases appear to be connected to a nationwide E. coli outbreak affecting at least 53 persons in 16 states and linked to romaine lettuce grown in Yuma, Arizona. .. No additional cases have been identified in Alaska outside of the Anvil Mountain Correctional Center. 

The outbreak was first reported as nationwide on April 10 and suspicion was on leafy greens from the start. And then a prison got a batch of greens. Interesting timing on the shipping.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Arab agency

First, on Robert Fisk's visit to Douma, ahead of OPCW. If the victims were suffering from "dust" inhalation, then that means that the building they were in was bombed by Russian or Syrian forces ... something that seems to happen a lot, despite Russia/ Syria denials that they target civilians.

Which brings us to the question of why Robert Fisk is only trying to debunk one particular type of regime attack (for example, does he have any views on what has happened to the Syrian healthcare system in rebel areas due to government attacks on infrastructure and personnel?). Anyway, the answer is that Fisk is only attempting to debunk one type of attack, because it's the only one that burnishes supposed anti-establishment credentials. If there's no prospect of a western response, then there's no need to debunk, because it's just a plain vanilla al-Assad atrocity.

Fisk's style of reporting does a lot of damage, especially for people whose own anti-establishment mentality locks them into believing him and contrarians like him, and even more especially people who are themselves in the establishment but want the credential of not being so. Here's Michael McDowell explaining the Syrian crisis to his Sunday Business Post readers --

Indeed, it was Qatar and the Saudis, acting back then as joint sponsors of an Islamist Sunni revolution, that started the Syrian civil war. 

This is a standard narrative for soi-disant contrarians, but it ignores the fact that actual Syrians began their own Arab Spring protests, which the regime turned into a civil war by brutally repressing them. Then the Qataris and Saudis got involved (and by the way, here's a post we keep having to go back to as a reminder that the Saudis had no intrinsic quarrel with Bashar until he started killing protesters). But for Fisk and McDowell, it's far easier to view the Arab world through the lens of endless western machinations than to allow a role for choices made by Arabs themselves.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Quote of the Day

There's a class of people giving a lot of their time on social media to claims about "false flags" and "crisis actor" interpretations of chemical weapons attacks in Syria -- people who would scoff at exactly that mode of analysis, and that terminology, when applied to crackpot theories about school shootings in the USA, but somehow don't make the connection to what they are doing in giving Bashar al-Assad the benefit of the doubt. So instead of getting sucked into their descent into troll bait, here's Henry Mance with a perfectly-timed column in the FT --

Anti-conspiracists must release our own irresistible theories. Let’s tell Jim, a local tennis coach, to tell others that Roger Federer is not the world’s best tennis player: someone is sedating his opponents in a scheme to increase national happiness. We should ask Samantha, a local actor, to point out that every new play in London’s West End is written by a so-called “James Graham” who must be a piece of advanced software. The conspiracies go on. Why do Underground trains always arrive marginally later than the arrivals screens promise? How did seagulls survive the 5G apocalypse?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Audience becoming more selective

Among the things highlighted by today's joint US-UK-FR military strikes on Syria: the extremely degraded quality of Russian diplomacy. In 2013, Russia had its cynical motivations, but it also had the ability to translate those motivations into a deal within the framework of international law. But in the week since the latest (of many) chemical weapons attacks, there was nothing coming out of the Moscow Ministry of Foreign Affairs except trolling and disinformation -- as if the same staff assigned to muddy the Skripal affair were simply reassigned to keep the al-Assad / Maduro fanboys on Twitter happy, but no substantive work got done.

Note: Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov has been in that job since 2004, and was Russia Ambassador to the UN for the 10 years prior to that. It's not just presidents who can be in the same job too long. 

Friday, April 13, 2018

Liberal Classism

David Brooks on the ridiculous new Jonah Goldberg book --

His conservatism is missing the bonding sentiments of Edmund Burke, and the idea that the little platoon of the family is nestled in the emotional platoon of the neighborhood and the emotional platoon of the nation.

That little platoon phrase is often pulled out of context from where it appeared in Reflections on the Revolution in France --

Turbulent, discontented men of quality, in proportion as they are puffed up with personal pride and arrogance, generally despise their own order. One of the first symptoms they discover of a selfish and mischievous ambition, is a profligate disregard of a dignity which they partake with others. To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country, and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.

Burke didn't mean just family. The little platoon was your place on society, and it was better if you didn't get notions about being above it. Conservatives have struggled with this for a while.


Sunday, April 08, 2018

Sublime to Ridiculous

Princeton Alumni Weekly on the course of visiting lecturer in theatre, Fintan O'Toole --

Students reflect on a play or movie each week and submit blog posts before class. Some potential class-discussion topics: Can the state prohibit people from burying the dead (as in Antigone); how are dead bodies portrayed differently in Hamlet vs. MacBeth; and how does the presence of a body throughout Weekend at Bernie’s bring a certain heaviness to an otherwise comedic film? Students will also act out scenes in some of the plays, with the opportunity to portray a corpse themselves.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Quote of the Day

"Social networks are a murky source”

Vladimir Putin, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, visiting the city of the Siberian mall fire disaster, where multiple accounts of what happened are proliferating. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Shiny Swan

New York Times on Egyptian Presidential election --

With the Irish bookmaker Paddy Power putting Mr. Sisi’s odds of losing at 1 in 500, most Egypt watchers are already looking past the vote that starts Monday to his next challenge: whether he can change the Constitution to extend his rule beyond the current eight-year limit.

Is there any reason for Paddy Power to quote odds on the Egyptian Presidential election other than to be cited in news articles as quoting odds on bizarre scenarios?

Friday, March 23, 2018

Running the tap and flushing while Irish


These are average monthly water and sewage bills for families in the indicated cities in 2015.

The Irish left has attached itself to the cause that the right equivalent number for Irish families is zero. And they shouted about it enough that they won.

Chart from Circle of Blue via Julia Norgaard

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Bombing while white

The Austin murderer "blew himself up" (New York Times, Reuters) while today's Kabul murderer was a "suicide bomber" (New York Times, Reuters).

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Custodian of the Crazy Brexiteers

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed Bin Salman meets Queen Elizabeth II in London -- without bowing!

Photo: SPA.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Neighbours


In Cairo on Monday, Coptic Pope Tawadros II meets with visiting Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman at St Mark's Cathedral.

Consider this meeting in light of (1) Saudi Arabia's conventional portrayal as hostile to Christianity and (2) the fact that Pope Tawadros refused to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence in January, despite the latter styling himself as a champion of Christianity in the Middle East. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Money for Oil

There's a lot of excitement about a potential Trump - Russia strand that runs through the partial privatization of Rosneft in which the Qatar Investment Authority was part of a group (with Glencore) that bought a 19.5 percent stake in the company. For example, in Slate, there's a shaky logical chain running from that deal to Jared Kushner not getting a loan from the Qataris later in 2017, orchestrating the June crisis in the Gulf, and later getting a loan from a Qatari-backed entity. The link back to the Rosneft deal is supposed to be through the Qataris, but the link back to Trump is supposed to be through a Carter Page angle to the Rosneft deal - which never happened!

Anyway, for the present purpose, the point is that the actual flows of money associated with the Rosneft deal are not clear. From the start, well informed Russians and outside analysts suspected that the deal was actually a round trip of Russian state bank cash into the Russian exchequer, with the Qataris and Glencore agreeing to put their name to the transaction in exchange for (1) a nice fee, (2) being pals with Putin, and (3) an understanding that the shareholding would eventually be placed with someone else.

Evidence for this interpretation includes that the two shareholders put up almost no cash for their stake. Instead, the money came mostly from a loan to them from an Italian bank, Intesa, which had trouble offloading the loan through syndication (because of sanctions) and eventually found a solution in the sale of the share to a Chinese company. To say the least, finding any simple Trump angle in such a convoluted transaction is not easy.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

War for oil

A couple of weeks ago there was a lot of intrigue around an encounter between Russian mercenaries in Syria and US armed forces; a combination of pro-Assad militias and the Russians ran into much tougher opposition (Kurdish militia backed by US) than they are used to (civilians and poorly organized rebels) and it ended badly for them. Amid much theorizing about what was the motivation for the botched attack (e.g. Putin thought he could embarrass Trump), the Financial Times has a much, much simpler explanation:

For now, some [Russian] businesses are using unconventional methods to position themselves in Syria. Mr Jawabra said Evropolis, a company linked to an ally of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is receiving revenues from Syrian oil wells in territory captured from Isis by a Russian private military contractor.

Fontanka, a Russian website, last year reported that mercenaries had secured deals under which they would receive a cut of income from oilfields they captured, but Mr Jawabra is the first official to confirm it.

"I don't know how many wells, and how big a cut they get," he said. "But there are others as well. It may be one model that helps get around the problem with the sanctions."

Note that the botched attack was on an oil facility. Thus, the Russian mercenaries in Syria need to capture oil to get paid. If you adjusted the labels on this mechanism (e.g. change "Russia" to "USA" and "Syria" to "Iraq), it might even be a scandal!

Wenger is doomed

The FT weekly lunch slot is with Chris Ruddy at Mar-a-Lago:

We walk down to the beachfront, past the president's quarters and some of the cottages built for club members. In the middle distance, a boy in an Arsenal shirt is kicking a football around — he appears to be the president's 11-year-old son, Barron.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Cargo ship diplomacy

From the latest Theresa May speechifying on Brexit --

First, our agreement will need reciprocal binding commitments to ensure fair and open competition. Such agreements are part and parcel of any trade agreement. After all, why would any country enter into a privileged economic partnership without any means of redress if the other party engaged in anti-competitive practices?

Because the means of redress in a typical trade agreement is simply to retaliate and ultimately suspend the agreement, since more intrusive but less disruptive means of redress is precisely what the UK says it doesn't want. This has already been pointed out to the government by their own technical analysis. 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Same as it ever was

From Emma, by Jane Austen (published 1815) --

(Emma speaking) “So obliging of you! No, we should not have heard, if it had not been for this particular circumstance, of her being to come here so soon. My mother is so delighted!—for she is to be three months with us at least. Three months, she says so, positively, as I am going to have the pleasure of reading to you. The case is, you see, that the Campbells are going to Ireland. Mrs. Dixon has persuaded her father and mother to come over and see her directly. They had not intended to go over till the summer, but she is so impatient to see them again—for till she married, last October, she was never away from them so much as a week, which must make it very strange to be in different kingdoms, I was going to say, but however different countries, and so she wrote a very urgent letter to her mother—or her father, I declare I do not know which it was, but we shall see presently in Jane’s letter—wrote in Mr. Dixon’s name as well as her own, to press their coming over directly, and they would give them the meeting in Dublin, and take them back to their country seat, Baly-craig, a beautiful place, I fancy. Jane has heard a great deal of its beauty; from Mr. Dixon, I mean—I do not know that she ever heard about it from any body else; but it was very natural, you know, that he should like to speak of his own place while he was paying his addresses—and as Jane used to be very often walking out with them—for Colonel and Mrs. Campbell were very particular about their daughter’s not walking out often with only Mr. Dixon, for which I do not at all blame them; of course she heard every thing he might be telling Miss Campbell about his own home in Ireland; and I think she wrote us word that he had shewn them some drawings of the place, views that he had taken himself. He is a most amiable, charming young man, I believe. Jane was quite longing to go to Ireland, from his account of things.”

Is Ireland any better understood in the elite classes in England now as Austen gently indicates was not the case then?

The storm with no name

The latest installment on the UK-Ireland weather service American import of naming winter storms: the blizzard hitting the countries is being referred to as Storm Emma, even though (1) there was no Storm Emma in the list of names for 2017-18 and (2) the low pressure system which is being named is not the feature that's causing all the snow.

Instead, Emma was named by the Portuguese weather service, and its collusion with an off-track Siberian jet stream is producing the blizzard.

Anyway, the American weather hype has moved on. Out goes named winter storms, and in comes impressive sounding weather physics. Thus, this weekend in the northeast will see an event due to Miller-B Cyclogenesis!

The Lavrov-Kerry Pact

Obama era National Security Adviser Susan Rice in a valedictory interview, January 16, 2017

We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.

New York Times story yesterday with  yet more revelations about Syria's continuing chemical weapons program --

Mallory Stewart, a former State Department official who was involved in the Obama administration’s efforts to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons program, said that there were always concerns that the Assad government had not listed all of its chemical weapons stockpile on its declared inventory of what it gave up. The report, she says, “confirms everything we’ve been saying.” “Certainly what we tried to do in the last administration is dismantle the entire chemical weapons program,” Ms. Stewart said, “which we know they never did.”