Friday, December 13, 2019

Geoffrey Cox was right

House of Commons 25 September 2019

This Parliament should have the courage to face the electorate, but it won't, because so many of them are really all about preventing us from leaving the European Union at all. But the time is coming, Mr Speaker, when even these turkeys won't be able to prevent Christmas.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

There is always a line from The Godfather

The UK election result calls to mind Clemenza's reference to "pain in the ass innocent bystanders." 

Sunday, December 08, 2019

That guy in Riyadh

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's tweet of concern about the Pensacola shooting refers to a phone call that he had with Saudi Arabia "Foreign Minister al-Saud." This is nonsensical. The foreign minister is a prince and like many in government, shares a descent from the founding al-Saud family -- hence the name of the country! 

Could he not even be bothered to use one of the minister's more specific names, like Faisal bin Farhan? Perhaps his mind was too preoccupied with the aborted but no less bizarre stunt where he was going to bring Bibi with him to Morocco

Quote of the Day

From superbly illustrated interview with Edna O'Brien in the Financial Times --

Her stories are studded with sparkling encounters. “I asked Beckett that once,” she says, when she thought I’d asked her about God. “He said: ‘Hang on, hang on, the bastard doesn’t exist . . . ’ ”

That man again

One thing that London Bridge attacker Usman Khan and Pensacola mass-shooter Mohammed Al-Shamrani had in common was an affinity for the writings of Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaki [the alleged social media posts by al-Shamrani include a quote from al-Awlaki].

This shows -- again -- that whatever about the various brands of ISIL, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remains a potent and long-lived driver of radicalization.

And again points to the serious flaws in the US strategy against al-Awlaki, from embarrassing disclosures about his personal life to assassination of him and family members. An alternative world where al-Awlaki had been persuaded against violence, or not elevated to mythical status by his assassination? We just don't know. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Here, there, and everywhere

During the US Vice Presidential "surprise" visit to Iraq, Mike Pence gave a short address to US military personnel at Erbil Air Base in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. During the address, he mentions that he's at Erbil Air Base 10 times. It's a sure sign of a rushed and cobbled-together visit -- was it meant to be Trump? -- that the speech has to be peppered with references to where it is taking place. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Lawyer, Mayor, Salesman, Spy

It's been clear for a while that Donald Trump's circle of confused old men, himself included, is an easy target for a Russian intelligence operation. Sure there will be a lot of inconsistencies in their research on their theory that Ukraine framed Russia, since it's a ludicrous theory, but then again a good spy will know how to keep the information flow tempting, as George explained to the Minister in Tinker, Tailor --

MINISTER (Appalled) Witchcraft's intelligence is genuine! It's been gold! 
SMILEY Just enough glitter, amongst the chicken-feed.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

All Souls Brexit

Lionel Barber in the FT with a brilliant reflection on Brexit; one highlight --

Several Eurocrats interviewed for this article agreed that the Brussels summit in December 2011 marked a turning point for British diplomacy. France and Germany were battling to secure agreement on a “fiscal compact” to buttress the eurozone after the global financial crisis. In the early hours of the morning, Cameron, without forewarning, produced demands to protect the City of London and threatened a veto if he was rebuffed. European leaders, including Merkel, were outraged. They saw this as a domestic gambit to appease Eurosceptics on a matter of singular importance to eurozone members. So they simply ignored Cameron and secured an agreement among themselves, outside the EU treaties. The UK’s bluff had been called.

One implication of this is that the 2012 Irish referendum to ratify the fiscal compact -- needed precisely because it was outside the EU treaties -- was a bigger deal than perhaps realized at the time. If that referendum had failed, Cameron would have been rescued from his isolationist stance on the compact and the momentum towards his own doomed Brexit referendum would have slowed. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

Old guys in diners, Damascus edition

Bashar al-Assad --

As for Trump, you might ask me a question and I give you an answer that might sound strange. I say that he is the best American President, not because his policies are good, but because he is the most transparent president.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Halloween Brexit

David Cameron, who started the whole mess, in Riyadh meeting King Salman on the day that Britain was supposed to leave the EU.

Photo: Saudi Press Agency

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

No quid pro quo, right?

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Word Choice

Donald Trump, announcing the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,  carefully thanked the nations of Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Russia. Not the governments.  

Monday, October 21, 2019

Not caught sitting down

Jordan's King Abdullah (with his son Hussein), perhaps having learned well from Donald Trump's experience 3 days beforehand, not to look like Nancy Pelosi is standing up to him.

Photo: Petra (Jordan News Agency)

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Brexit quote of the day

Terminator 3 --

John Connor : No, you shouldn't exist. We took out Cyberdyne over ten years ago. We stopped Judgment Day. 
Terminator : You only postponed it. Judgment Day is inevitable.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Donald Trump travel guide

His description of the car and motorcycle collision that has become a diplomatic incident:

I believe it was going down the wrong way, because that happens in Europe.  You go to Europe and the roads are opposite.  And it's very tough.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Perfidious Albion

One minor question amid the much bigger Brexit questions -- is the transparently obvious Tory strategy to blame Ireland and Germany for a disorderly Brexit named Project Devil Eire or Project Asgard

Thursday, October 03, 2019

The Unionist veto

Financial Times --

Steve Baker, head of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, said he would support the new deal if the DUP followed suit. “On the union it's clear to me we don't have a right to trump the DUP,” he said.

All of Brexit and all of United Kingdom politics has been defined down to the position of one small  regional political party on one probably unworkable proposal. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

There is always a tweet

The selfie of doom

That's Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri's famous selfie with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince MBS and Moroccan King Mohamed VI ("M6"), in Paris in April 2018. It hasn't been a good couple of days for the trio.

M6 was supposed to go to Paris for Jacques Chirac's funeral but couldn't due to a heavy lung infection.

Saad Hariri saw the world find out via the New York Times and the intrepid South African tax system about his bizarre US$16 million payment to a Cape Town bikini model.

And MBS had to navigate a lot of barbed remembrances of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

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