Saturday, September 07, 2019

Goya / Hogarth

Ingram Pinn in the FT is another level of cartoon mastery, but given the reference period for his Jacob Rees Mogg caricature, here's our previous attempt to relate Goya's contemporary, Hogarth, to Brexit.

Quote of the Day

Henry Mance in the Financial Times on Trump business school:

Third, Mr Pence showed no initiative. "I'd love to stay at your golf course," he could have told Mr Trump. "But I have a better idea. Why don't I — and my taxpayer-funded entourage — stay at a rival Dublin golf course, then leave one-star reviews on TripAdvisor?" For all these reasons, I fear Mr Pence won't feature in the Trump MBA module on succession planning.

Monday, August 26, 2019

The other phone call

You wouldn't know it from the US State Department, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo phoned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Sunday; there is much more publicity about Pompeo's call to Benjamin Netanyahu.

In the Beirut phone call, "Pompeo stressed the need to avoid any escalation."

Whatever attack took place in Lebanon, took place on Lebanon

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Brazil searches Trump's tweets

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian warplanes are dumping water on the burning forest in the Amazon state of Rondonia, responding to a global outcry over the destruction of the world’s largest tropical rainforest, according to a government video.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Automatic partner

From Boris Johnson's letter to Donald Tusk --

This Government will not put in place infrastructure, checks, or controls at the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. We would be happy to accept a legally binding commitment to this effect and hope that the EU would do likewise. 

This is the critical point. Compliance with any trade deal that the UK signs with a non-EU partner will entangle the border -- unless the partner country doesn't care about the leaky bucket in the middle of the deal. And the EU will face the same considerations on its own trade deals with other third countries. Unless Boris has some further elaboration of his proposal ready, it looks like the UK would have to provide assurances to other third countries that Ireland consents to the border obligations created by such deals -- which of course, Ireland is free not to do!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

When the eye of the needle is wide

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Quote of the Day

David Allen Green in the Financial Times:

But still the finality of a potential departure ("no-deal Brexit) is not fully recognised. The airlock door will slam shut on the astronaut and there is no easy way back into the spacecraft. This brutal finality is written into the Treaty on the European Union itself, the highest form of EU law which neither inconvenience nor wishful thinking can gainsay.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Epstein Supremacy

Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times,  January 2019:

But Twitter isn't just ruining the media's image. It's also skewing our journalism. Everything about Twitter's interface encourages a mind-set antithetical to journalistic inquiry: It prizes image over substance and cheap dunks over reasoned debate, all the while severely abridging the temporal scope of the press.

At the time, he was talking about the Covington outrage cycle (remember that?). But his point is perfectly illustrated by the Epstein suicide, where every political reporter and writer is using Twitter to elevate the conspiracy theories,  even while ostensibly downgrading them. 

And Donald Trump,  who knows that his Twitter audience includes writers and reporters, stokes the fire perfectly. The result, as Manjoo says, is not just the attention to the event but the skewing of journalism about it to engagement with the cranks and trolls. 

Friday, August 09, 2019

The problem is not just the Trump fund raiser

Amanda Hess in the New York Times last year, on the contorted messaging of I Feel Pretty:

And SoulCycle, prominently featured in "I Feel Pretty," frames the fitness craze as a moral imperative: "With every pedal stroke, our minds clear and we connect with our true and best selves."

SoulCycle's philosophy is a hair away from Renee's own delusional body transformation. As Ms. Widdows notes, the beauty ideal is so pervasive that it is internalized in many women, who are haunted by idealized visions of their own bodies — fantasies of how they might look after undergoing extreme diets or cosmetic procedures. But because nobody can ever achieve perfection, we instead begin to fetishize the striving for it — spinning on bikes and slathering on lotions. So even after Renee experiences her awakening to self-acceptance, she ends up right back at SoulCycle, this time having completely swallowed the "I'm doing this for me" line. 

Sunday, August 04, 2019

Sometimes Chris was correct

Saturday, August 03, 2019

Palestine on the verge (5 decades ago)

Time Magazine cover, 13 December 1968

Britain on the verge (4 decades ago)

Questions to the Prime Minister, 3 April 1979 [Hansard]

Mr. David Atkinson 
Will the Prime Minister take time today to go into the Library and read page 505 of volume 6 of the "Collected Works of Marx and Engels" where he will see a list of the 10 preconditions necessary for any country to be ripe for a Communist takeover, seven of which have already been satisfied in this country, largely through his Government's policies? Will he give a pledge to the country and the House that he will support the next Conservative Government in reversing that trend? 

The Prime Minister (Jim Callaghan)
I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on getting as far as page 505. I wish that his question had shown a more percipient understanding of the erudite conclusions reached by Karl Marx, some of which are apposite in the present state of development of our world.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Black Swan

Wolfgang Munchau in the FT:

The probability [of no deal] was at no point anywhere close to zero. It increased when Boris Johnson emerged as the winner of the Conservative leadership contest. But it never made sense to attach ultra-low probabilities to a legal default position.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Islam in the White House

The best moment of Donald Trump's chaotic media Q and A during the visit of Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan --

PRESIDENT TRUMP: [...] And we just came out, Mr. Prime Minister, with tremendous economic numbers for the United States — the best we’ve ever had. We’ve got the best economy we’ve ever had. And I think we can shift some of that over to Pakistan. We should be doing tremendous business together. So, I look forward to it. 


Monday, July 08, 2019

As if something makes 2003 significant

From U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speech to Christians United for Israel:

In Iraq, Syria, and other countries in the region, the last remnants of ancient Christian communities are at near-extinction because of persecution from ISIS and other malign actors.  And just one example: before 2003, there were an estimated 1.5 million Christians living in Iraq.  Today, sadly, almost a quarter of a million.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Salute to America*

Among the various problems with the Trump 4 July address last night was that its version of American history ignored the country's indigenous population.  They appear only obliquely,  in references to an untamed continent and a wild frontier. 

Saturday, June 29, 2019

They left out "Hope"

The image that is used by Saudi Press Agency to link to all stories about Crown Prince MBS visit to Korea during his Asia / G20 trip.

Trump should get one made for his Call Me Maybe friend, Kim Jong-un. 

Sunday, June 23, 2019

About that West Bank - Gaza corridor

Media reports are leaping on a single sentence in the Deal o' the Century narrative:

Additional investment will finance the development of a transportation corridor directly connecting the West Bank and Gaza through a major road and, potentially, a modern rail line.

But in the list of projects accompanying that main report, there is no such project listed. Instead there is this:

Construct a transportation network connecting Gaza to the West Bank, which could fundamentally change the Palestinian economy. Features could include an interurban rail line linking many of the major cities of Gaza and the West Bank for rapid urban transport, mass transport stations near urban centers, and connections to regional railways such as the Jordan railway project. This connection will occur in stages, with an interim solution planned for implementation within two years.

There are many ways this could be done without the building of a dedicated, land-using direct link between the West Bank and Gaza.

Quote of the Day

Simon Kuper in the Financial Times on the Oxford domination of Tory politics and a potential resemblance to the Cambridge educated spies of the 50s and 60s:

The Cambridge Five were given roles of responsibility because they possessed elite CVs and came across as archetypal British gentlemen (partly through displays of eccentricity in hairstyles, drink and dress). They pursued their utopia for decades, ignoring all evidence that contradicted it and looking down on the rest of the establishment for its unimaginative thinking. When the spies were finally exposed, British trust in the establishment suffered a lasting dent.

Admittedly, the comparison between the Cambridge and Oxford sets isn't entirely fair: though both betrayed Britain's interests to the benefit of Moscow, the Brexiters didn't mean to.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Understatement of the Day

From the White House release of the economic component of the Israel - Palestine Deal o' the Century:

The Palestinian people routinely encounter logistical challenges in the West Bank and Gaza, impeding travel, stagnating economic growth, reducing exports, and stunting foreign direct investment.

Thursday, June 06, 2019

Quote of the Day

In the Financial Times,  David Pilling on Sudan:

Protesters have vowed to continue their struggle. The odds are stacked against them. The youth of Sudan, and much of Africa, has a faith in liberal democracy and peaceful protest that has all but evaporated in much of the world. This is a bad era in which to be a democrat without a gun.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Words not being read

From the closing statement of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit held in Mecca, and chaired by Saudi King Salman --

The Conference affirmed its rejection of any proposal for a peaceful settlement that does not conform to the legitimate and inalienable rights of the Palestinian people as recognized by international legitimacy and is incompatible with the internationally recognized references to the peace process, foremost international law and United Nations resolutions. ...  The conference confirmed the adoption and support of the vision of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his address to the Security Council on 20 February 2018 calling on international actors to engage in sponsoring a multilateral political track with the aim of launching a credible peace process under international auspices aimed at achieving peace.

Somehow the Trump Administration's reading of the situation is that there is an alternative path to a settlement that doesn't involve any of the above. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Israeli politics: All-Media Apology

[Idea from Private Eye]

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
An Apology

In common with all other media outlets in recent months, we may have given the impression that Benjamin Netanyahu was in some way a political genius who was a worthy victor of the Israeli general election. Headlines such as "He's David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meir, and Moshe Dayan rolled into one," "Bismarck of the Middle East," "Election victory is equivalent of Six Day War for Bibi" and "Is Bibi the Messiah?" might have reinforced the view that were in some sense in awe of Mr Netanyahu's skills. 

We now realize, in the light of the collapse of government formation and a new election in September, that Bibi is in fact somewhat incompetent and prone to exaggeration and motivated mainly by the narrow self interest of him and his family. Our headlines this week such as "Bibi and wife headed to adjacent jail cells," "35 seats when 61 needed for majority returns to haunt Bibi" will, we hope, go some way to correcting any misunderstanding to which our thousands of previous news stories and opinion articles may have given rise.

Leader of "Israel Our Home" Party, Avigdor Lieberman
An Apology

In common with all other media outlets in recent months, we may have given the impression that Avigdor Lieberman was in some way a dangerous ultra-nationalist who represented the worst of Israel's shift to the right. Headlines such as "Back in the USSR," "Lieberman demands all Arabs move east of the Tigris river," and "He wants nothing more than to crush the Church of the Nativity under the wheels of a Russian tank"might have reinforced the view that we in some sense viewed Lieberman as a bizarre byproduct of Soviet migration to Israel who was determined to start an all-out war to expand Israel in every direction.

We now realize, in light of the collapse of coalition negotiations due to Lieberman's insistence on inclusion of the Orthodox in a conscription law, that he is in fact the true custodian of a secular Israel. Our headlines this week such as "Lieberman the toast of Tel Aviv" and "Get a White Russian for The Dude Lieberman" will, we hope, go some way to correcting any misunderstanding to which our thousands of previous news stories and opinion articles may have given rise.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Quote of the Day

Speech today on the anniversary of the Israeli withdrawal from south Lebanon in 2000, by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah:

Imagine if there had been no resistance in Lebanon, and if there had been no liberation in 2000,  one would have thought that if the Israeli occupation army still controls our land in southern Lebanon to a minimum today, would not we now have seen Mr. Trump guide southern Lebanon or a large part of southern Lebanon to the government of the enemy, as given by Jerusalem and as given by the Golan, as the West Bank will give it and as given by its predecessors in 1948? 

Is he wrong? 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

New exploding turban cartoon outrage

That's a caricature in Saudi newspaper Okaz accompanying an opinion article discussing Iran's possible motives in the still murky attacks on Gulf shipping in the waters off the UAE. 

Quote of the Day

From the film Brüno --

For the second time in a century, the world had turned on Austria's greatest man just because he was brave enough to try something new.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Quote of the Day

In FT weekend,  John McTernan reviews a few Corbynism books:

[Labour] Centrists had forgotten the old motto of the Labour party's organisation department — "The Victory of Ideals must be Organised".

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Bad breeding

Prior to the Kentucky Derby tweeting, the last time Donald Trump had shown this much interest in horses was when he was dabbling in the anti-vaccine cesspool. 

Bobos in Dublin

The New York Times Sunday Travel section hails the authentic cocktail bar scene in Ireland --

The growing popularity of craft cocktails has spread well beyond Dublin, and its rise could have stifled the unfussy fun of Ireland’s bar scene. And yet, the opposite is true. Instead of a gruff doorman with a clipboard outside a cocktail bar, visitors can expect the warm welcome, conversation and personality inherent to Ireland’s best pubs at this new generation of bars. “What Irish people tend to hate is pretension,” said Stephen Teeling, the distillery co-owner, adding that such affectations crept in during the country’s economic boom years, “but it’s not us.”

Ireland's (pre-2009) economic boom is to Ireland what the 2003 US invasion of Iraq is to "anti-establishment" posers everywhere -- everyone defines themselves in terms of not being that sort of thing, even when by an objective standard, they're doing something just as ridiculous (tripping over themselves to buy €15 cocktails, or supporting Baathist dictators, respectively).

A pint of Guinness will cost about half of one of these cocktails, and it's still your only man. 

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Bobos in Belgrade

Branko Milanovic --

When I arrived in the United States, coming from the worker-management world of Titoist Yugoslavia, I was somewhat surprised how Americans took the strongly hierarchical, quasi dictatorial relations in the business world as fully “normal”. I was half expecting that workers would have a say in the choice of their “managers” (actually, for a long time, I could not even figure out who exactly is a “manager”) but of course they did not. The promotions were made by cooption or even direct appointment of lower echelons by the higher echelons. And of course, the management was selected by the owners themselves. So the system was entirely top-down: the top selected the down it liked to have. It was remarkably similar to the political system from which I came. There too the Central Committee coopted its new members; these selected their replacements and so forth down to the lowest level of Communist Party cell. Formally speaking, American companies were organized like the Communist Party. In both cases, to paraphrase Bertold Brecht, the leadership selected their employees, or their citizens. In one case the dictatorship was in the social sphere, in another in the work sphere.

This point is important. There is a further implication. The similarity of the Communist Party and American companies was reflected in the shared emergence of a managerial class; these were very complicated entities without internal market signals, and it takes a lot of managerial capacity to run such organizations. And those people emerge as a class with their own interests.

"The New Class" as the Yugoslav dissident (eventually) Milovan Djilas labelled them.

There is a lineage from the realization of 1950s Communism that something new had emerged, to noticing the same feature of large corporations in "the West," to the rise of an upper middle class in Europe and North America organized around credentials, consultancy / management / professions, to the Peak Bobo presidency of Barack Obama. And the backlash, the reveling in ignorance and the ostensible appeal to "physical" work of Donald Trump and his fellow strongman populists. Who are neither strong, nor populist, but anyway.