Monday, August 14, 2023

Rabaa Ten Years After

With human rights groups reminding us that there's been no accountability for the Rabaa massacre, it's also worth noting how this episode became a kind of credential for Al-Sisi's toughness among US conservatives, with Ted Cruz providing the most buffoonish example

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

It sounds better in the original French

 Ross Douthat has a nice column attempting an analogy between the Stuart rebellions in Britain and Ireland and the diffuse nature of populism today. But as with a past effort, he really should give in to the logic and acknowledge the primary of French politics for the templates of today. Especially this:

This specifically British story, in turn, is a type of the larger pattern of politics in Europe and the United States, where the gap between thriving capitals and struggling peripheries, between a metropolitan meritocracy and a nostalgic hinterland, has forged a right-wing politics that sometimes resembles Jacobitism more than it does the mainstream conservatisms of the late 20th century.

That's fairly close to a definition of Poujadism. And as the French example shows, the movement can fail but still trigger a realignment of the major political blocs.  

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Every day is No-Deal Brexit Day

[This is entirely a recycling of material from 18 months ago, but then again, the traffic situation in Kent is a recycling of material from 18 months ago.]

Scene: The English camp on the M20 in Kent, bound for #Dover or #Folkestone, and on to France.


O that we now had here

But one ten thousand of those men in England

That do work from home today!


What's he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:

If we are mark'd to tariff, we are enow

To do our country loss; and if to trade,

The fewer goods, the greater share of quotas.

God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

By Gove, I am not covetous for turbot,

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

Such outward things dwell not in my desires:

But if it be a sin to covet control,

I am the most offending soul alive.

No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England:

God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour

As one man more, methinks, would share from me

For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!

Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,

That he which hath no stomach to this traffic jam,

Let him depart; his passport shall be blue

And euros for convoy put into his purse:

We would not wait in that man's company

That fears his fellowship to be stuck with us.

This day is called the feast of No Deal Brexit:

He that outlives this day, and comes home ever,

Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named,

And rouse him at the name of BROCK.

He that shall live this day, and see old age pension,

Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

And say 'To-morrow is No Deal Brexit:'

Then will he strip his sleeve and show his Kent Access Permit.

And say 'This paperwork I had on No Deal Brexit day.'

Old men forget: yet all shall be forgot,

But he'll remember with advantages

What lay-by feats he did that day: then shall our names.

Familiar in his mouth as household words

Boris the king, Gove and Dominic,

Priti and Nigel, Rishi and Arlene,

Be in their flowing cups freshly remember'd.

This story shall the good man teach his son;

And No Deal Brexit Day shall ne'er go by,

From this day to the ending of the world,

But we in it shall be remember'd;

We few, we happy few, we band of lorry drivers;

For he to-day that looks for the nearest toilet with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition:

And gentlemen in England now a-bed

Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,

And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

That queued with us upon No Deal Brexit day.

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Ferry Across the Hudson

New York Times culture reporter Dave Itzkoff interviewing British actor Mark Rylance, this is the final exchange after Rylance spoke about how to it was in some ways easier for him to learn about American popular culture in England --

Itzkoff: This makes me want to take a trip to England and learn what I’m missing about American culture. 

Rylance: You could just take a day trip to New Jersey and get the same thing.

Monday, May 02, 2022

The French politics theory of everything

Ross Douthat in the Sunday New York Times --

Six years ago, under the pressure of Donald Trump’s insurgency, the G.O.P. split into three factions.

He goes on to describe the 3 factions: party establishment, "True Conservative" / reactionary, and populist / pugilist. 

This certainly has descriptive power. But did it begin 6 years ago, and is it more general? The division is very easy to map into the famous classification by René Rémond of the French right into Orléanist, Legitimist, and Bonapartist. The first looks for an accommodation with constitutional change and pushes market-oriented policies, the second is reactionary and dwells on perceived loss to social change, and the third looks to go forward, under an inspirational but combative and authoritarian leader. 

Douthat looks at various plausible consequences of the factionalism and the complications caused by Trump's occasional drifting between them. But he doesn't focus on the ultimate outcome in French politics: the weakening of political parties and the evolution of parties into personal vehicles. It might be better to think of the Republican party has already having broken up and at this point more of a logistics vehicle for soliciting opinions. But that would need a different kind of political analysis than the American public gets. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Kevin McCarthy will be fine

Why has there been no reaction to Kevin McCarthy saying one thing in public and another in private, in this case about whether Trump should have resigned in January 2021 after the Capitol Riot? This is usually presented as "hypocrisy," per this New York Times analysis. 

In fact, the public assumes a divergence between public and private statements, and considers the private statements to be true. 

It's all in Niklas Luhmann

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Kinahans hit the big time

 Here's a link to the latest action by US Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) regarding the "transnational criminal organization" consisting of the Kinahan Organized Crime Group. It will be seen as somewhat embarrassing in Ireland and UAE that it's gotten to this point; noteworthy in particular is that the gang members appear to have been able to establish local residency and companies in the UAE despite general knowledge of their activities. Perhaps they can compare notes with the newly arriving Russian oligarchs on how to work around these inconveniences. 

Friday, February 25, 2022

Sometimes a trade deal is just a trade deal

[Originally posted in 2014; reposting in light of Russian invasion of Ukraine]
Barack Obama, 10 November 2011 --

Russia’s World Trade Organization (WTO) accession would be yet another important step forward in our reset of relations with Russia, which has been based upon the belief that the United States and Russia share many common interests, even as we disagree on some issues. Whether cooperating to supply our forces in Afghanistan, securing nuclear materials, or achieving the New START Treaty, the United States and Russia have demonstrated the ability to produce “win-win” outcomes on security issues. Russia’s dramatic step today towards joining the WTO underscores our ability to cooperate also on economic issues of mutual interest.

[previous item in this series]

Peace through trade

[originally posted September 2016; reviving given the Russian invasion of Ukraine]

That was once the Obama Administration theory about how to get Russia onside. From Foreign Policy, May 2011; the context is that Russia was seeking to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO), but since admission of new members is by consensus, Georgia, which has territory occupied by Russia, could have blocked it --

... Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in France. A senior White House official told ABC News after the meeting that Obama has "personally been engaged in" the issue for months, and actually set up the Swiss negotiations and convinced both the Russian and Georgian leaders to attend. The senior official also compared the Georgians to the Palestinians, saying that, with regard to Georgia’s desire to end the Russian occupation, "[T]he WTO is not the forum in which to resolve this… like the Palestinians pursuing the vote at the U.N." "We think that Russian accession to the WTO will be good for the Russian economy, will be good for the U.S. economy, it will be good for the world economy," Obama said today. "And we are confident that we can get this done." There are also signs that senior administration officials have placed pressure on Georgia to make a deal ...

Bonus points for the Administration's then analogy between the Georgians and the Palestinians regarding how to resolve occupied territory!

Sunday, January 02, 2022


The Continental USA has a new winter storm according to the Weather Channel. It's named Frida. And here we go again. This "storm" is actually a weather system that is crossing the country on an approximately diagonal path. The weather conditions that it produces in a particular area depend on the ground and atmospheric conditions with which it interacts and there is no common thread except turbulence. But when you're competing with Covid case counts, you need a hook, and a named storm will have to do. 

Saturday, January 01, 2022


From the annual (if delayed) Maureen Dowd New York Times column where she hands the keyboard to her conservative brother Kevin --

That day was awful to watch because protecting the Capitol was our family business. My father was in charge of security for the United States Senate. He got summer jobs for me and all my four siblings at the Capitol when we were teenagers.

Monday, December 13, 2021

The UEFA Champions League draw

 The easy response to the fiasco will be a lot of "You had one job" dunks on Twitter. UEFA had outsourced the technology for the draw for a third party service provider that really did only have one job. And that's the problem -- no one had checked whether all the individual one jobs that people had to do added up to a coherent draw. It's what "management" used to be about. Adam Smith famously titled a chapter of The Wealth of Nations "The Division of Labour is limited by the extent of the market." Now it's limited only by extent of the incompetence. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

System Barra

One of multiple news sources:

PAMPLONA, Spain, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Severe flooding in Spain's Navarre region submerged cars and houses and killed at least one person on Friday as heavy rains from Storm Barra caused rivers to burst their banks.

But wait: how did a storm that formed near New Brunswick last Sunday, struck Ireland on Tuesday (named as Barra), and then headed into the North Sea supposedly never to be heard of again, cause severe rains in northern Spain on Friday? And why is it still called Barra, which is not in the naming rotation of the Spanish Met Office? 

Because this is what happens when you name unpredictable complex winter low pressure systems. 

Storm Atticus

At some point, after Kentucky gets through all its funerals, there will need to be an assessment of public awareness of the dangerous weather that was to unfold on the night of 10 December. One thing to note is that there was considerable attention on a winter storm, named Atticus under the non-official naming system of The Weather Channel (long time readers of this blog will know our complaints about the naming of winter storms). 

But the storm was seen as a snow event in the Great Lakes. It would have been better to see it as a system that was spawning various complex disturbances as it interacted with air flows in the mid-section of the Continental USA. That doesn't lend itself to the shorthand description of storm, hence the risk of applying the naming system for hurricanes to winter low pressure systems. The National Weather Service short-range public discussions are very careful to talk about systems, but local governments and media may not have understood it the same way.

For now, God save Kentucky. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Storm Finbarr

There is no reason to name North Atlantic low pressure systems. None. There are several of them active at the minute. One of them -- now called Barra -- happened to hitch a lift from New Brunswick to Ireland via the jet stream. The speed at which it crossed the Atlantic and got to prominence among the other Ls on the pressure chart illustrates why the phenomenon is so different from summer tropical systems that make a leisurely trip across the Atlantic from Senegal and can be observed for a week before they strike land. Anyway, watch out for flying objects in Ireland today, as you would for any high wind event, even ones that never to rise to the level of a trendy HiCo name. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

There's no word in French for Bobo

 Financial Times on Eric Zemmour --

His extraordinary rise since he emerged as a putative candidate in the summer is down to a Trumpian genius for picking simple themes that resonate with voters and an equally Trumpian insistence that the country is going to the dogs, all with an intellectual flavour and a smattering of history to appeal to the French middle class.

Noteworthy here is the implication that what distinguishes him from Trump is the manner of appeal to the middle class. While no one would ever use the word intellectual to discuss Trump's appeal, he and Zemmour share an instinct that the middle class is especially susceptible to polarization. Culture wars need an appetite for information, questions, and time to engage in those activities ... and that's what the middle class has. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Not Strange Brew


With all the Eric Clapton antics, it would be too easy to riff on Strange Brew as a song about vaccines, so here instead is the Strange Brew precursor, a blues classic called Lawdy Mama that had circulated since the 1930s before being adapted by Cream first in this version and then reworked as Strange Brew. 

Friday, November 12, 2021


 Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, used his Martyrs' Day speech to make clear that it's not respectful to Yemenis to impute external factors to the Houthi military situation --

Where is the Saudi suspicion at this point? He may have a suspicion and he has talked about it on more than one occasion. He imagines that the one who leads the fronts in Yemen is Hezbollah, and they are leaders of Hezbollah, and that these victories that are achieved are caused by Hezbollah, and the defeats inflicted on it are caused by Hezbollah, and all of this Illusions in illusions that have no basis in truth. The victories in Yemen were made by Yemeni leaders, Yemeni fighters, Yemeni minds, Yemeni wills, Yemeni faith, Yemeni wisdom, Yemeni miracles, and divine victory for Yemen.

Friday, November 05, 2021

How Heathers foretold the 2021 US election results

 JD: People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say; "now there's a school that self-destructed, not because society didn't care, but because the school was society."

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Pandemics with representation

 From Financial Times article on the relaxation of UK quarantine restrictions --

Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tourism Association, said that despite the changes announced on Thursday foreign visitors would still be put off by the laborious form filling and cost of testing. “There is now a real aversion to coming to the UK because of these restrictions. These regulations are almost entirely designed around the needs and wants of British voters wanting to go from the UK on holiday. Visitors wanting to come to the UK are off the agenda at the moment,” he said.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Quote of the Day

 Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times --

Social media’s mutation from Speaker’s Corner to Gin Lane roughly tracks the smartphone’s conquest of BlackBerry. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Defunct strategist

 From the excellent Washington Post recounting of the collapse of the Afghanistan government as seen from Kabul and Washington DC, amid the usual suspects for these things (DC people on holidays), there's this insight into former President Ghani:

... told aides ... that the government just needed six months to turn the situation around ... "We're fighting there so that we don't have to fight here," he would insist ..

These (6 months, there / here) are the classic catch-phrases from the mid-2000s War on Terror. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

We'll fight them in the apps

 Wall Street Journal, 9 August (when things were just getting dire in Afghanistan) --

[President Ashraf] Ghani has been issuing wildly optimistic statements as government control collapsed in much of the country in recent weeks. On Saturday [7 August], as the Taliban began seizing provincial capitals, he held a lengthy conference on reforming the attorney-general’s office and then another meeting on implementing digitization reforms in the country’s public administration.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Curragh Mutiny


Today's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final between Limerick and Waterford has been delayed until 5.30pm due to major delays on the M7 in Kildare. A lorry carrying a number of hay bales is understood to have struck a flyover bridge, scattering a number of bales onto the road in the process.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

We are so close to the singularity

Financial Times on protests in Paris: 

Staunch Communists marched with supporters of the far-right Rassemblement National party and some from the gilets jaunes movement against a new law making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers and requiring a health pass for anyone wanting to enter public places such as restaurants, bars and high-speed trains.

But it will be war, specifically Russian wars, that eventually brings them together. 

The NYT paragraphs that nobody read

This was in the article before the Friday Morning Freak out article: 

"Still, when the virus tries to snake down into the lungs, immune cells in vaccinated people ramp up and rapidly clear the infection before it wreaks much havoc. That means vaccinated people should be infected and contagious for a much shorter period of time than unvaccinated people, Dr. Lund said.

"But that doesn't mean that in those first couple of days, when they're infected, they can't transmit it to somebody else," she added.

To stop the virus right where it enters, some experts have advocated nasal spray vaccines that would prevent the invader from gaining purchase in the upper airway. "Vaccine 1.0 should prevent death and hospitalization. Vaccine 2.0 should prevent transmission," Dr. Tal said. "We just need another iteration."

Thursday, July 29, 2021

In a very real sense, aren't we all Credit Suisse?

From the already legendary law firm report into the Archegos fiasco --

Both Co-Heads [of Prime Services] were double-hatted with numerous responsibilities, and inundated with management information, underscoring the overall mismanagement of the business.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Quote of the Day

"Imagine Ricky Gervais’s fictional firm in The Office trading up from the Slough Trading Estate to a one-day-a-week meeting room off Piccadilly."


Ulster says what now?

Ian Paisley MP in the latest House of Commons discussion of Brexit as applied in Northern Ireland: 

I must say for the record that I do not care what the Dublin Government think about this—I do not care at all. All these Pavlov dogs from academia and some political parties are salivating at supporting the EU and what it needs, but none of them has put their shoulder to the wheel to try to solve the business problems unfortunately created by the protocol.

Friday, July 16, 2021

German floods

 Important context here from Karsten Brandt (use Google translate). Climate of course the major factor but so also an apparent breakdown in the civil defence and emergency alert systems.