Thursday, September 30, 2004

Leave out the middle 'S' for Strategery

A typo from Andrew Sullivan makes for a nice unintended commentary on the gap between the chaos in Iraq and Dubya's attitude to it:

The evidence is accumulating that the inurgency - fostered by Baathist thugs, al Qaeda murderers, and other Jihadists - is gaining traction

Note: typo since repaired.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The battle for Irish-American votes

Longtime readers of this blog will know that one of our recurring themes is the dissonance between the prominent Irish-American presence in the Bush political and media operations and the ideological ties between the Bush operation and Ulster Unionism. Thus for someone like Ed Gillespie, Republican National Committee chairman, his family background in Irish-American South Philadelphia is a nice veneer for elitist policies, and the Famine provides a good hook for selling Dubya's tax cuts -- but then there's Dubya's visits to Ian Paisley's favourite university, and David Trimble's appearances at certain policy institutes and in certain newspapers.

However, it looks like the tensions introduced by this straddle have produced a Bilbo Baggins moment (when he wants to hold the ring again, just for one last time) for the (American) Republicans. Richard Egan was previously the US Ambassador to Ireland, and since coming back to the US, has reverted to what got him the Ambassador job in the first place -- being a funder and fundraiser for Dubya (and Ralph Nader, but that's another story).

Anyway, the seemingly harmless bimonthly magazine Irish America has pissed Egan off. Their offence was to publish side-by-side the Kerry and Bush positions on Northern Ireland, and simply by virtue of having put some thought into it, it seems that the Kerry position ended up looking a lot better than Dubya's. This has generated a letter from Egan (which is not online yet, will link when it is), which clarifies his role as an enforcer for Dubya, as the Irish Times reports (subs. req'd):

... Mr Richard Egan ... has warned the publisher of Irish America magazine she had "better think twice before trying to influence American politics" as "the Irish are not the only ones with long memories" ... In his letter Mr Egan asked whether the magazine favoured American or Irish interests. "During my time in Ireland I witnessed increasing anti-American sentiment, particularly in the media," he wrote.

"It had little to do with Northern Ireland, but NI was a means to commence disdain for America by blaming our inability to rectify the disparate and often dysfunctional behaviour by those parties that initiated and continue to be responsible for this tragic situation."

This was "not unlike other internal world conflicts in which it seems everyone expects America to solve", he went on. "When we try we are criticised, and when it appears we are not trying we are also criticised."

The letter doesn't specify who the "dysfunctional" parties are, but doubtless given the love-in with Trimble, he means the Shinners. But most bizarre is the charge of dual loyalties levelled at an American magazine whose publisher and most readers would be US citizens. It would seem that if there was one thing that Egan learned in Ireland (and he pronounced himself bored by the assignment), it was the idea of adapting the old Home Rule is Rome Rule slogan as a tool to keep wavering influential Irish-Americans on the right side.
When does he get tossed into the fiery chasm?

Given that Mickey Kaus has made it acceptable to lift features from Private Eye and allow them to be presented as one's own, we're not doing much damage by paying homage to the esteemed organ's Lookalikes feature. So -- has anyone noticed the startling resemblance between Christopher Hitchens and Smeagol -- and that's before we start talking about how their lust for the precious twisted them beyond recognition by their earlier selves.

Monday, September 27, 2004

And what about the chair with the electric zapper?

Proving that 1960s Bond films never go out of style, this description from today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) of a typical board meeting of Hollinger International (aka the expense account of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy):

Board meetings were brief, casual affairs, according to minutes and directors. They were usually held at Hollinger's New York offices, which are hidden behind a poorly marked wooden door. From a pop-up computer screen in front of his chair, Lord [Conrad] Black controlled the room's lights, sound and window blinds, which he would alter during board meetings, according to one attendee.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

An old person's idea of a blogger

The New York Times Sunday magazine writes about political bloggers. In the 24/7 media operation that is BOBW, we will be commenting early and often. We're still on the first page and seeing Mickey Kaus credited with the invention of fire, splitting the atom, and, oh yeah, a Columbus like voyage into blogging. And there's a special piece of rubbish in this sentence:

but on his blog [Kaus] evolved into an exasperated Larry David basket case of self-doubt and indignation, harassed by a fake "editor" of his own creation who broke in, midsentence, with parenthetical questions and accusations.

He created that fake editor thing? We've been reading Private Eye for many years now and that's one of their staples. Here for instance in a recent issue is their Glenda Slagg column (who has some Maureen Dowd characteristics, but that's for another day):

[incoherent thoughts about football star Wayne Rooney] Go on Roodeney! Buzz off! Your career is definitely on the ‘wayne’ geddit? He does but only if he pays for it?? Geddit?!?!(You’re fired. Ed) ...

[completely opposite incoherent thoughts about Rooney] Hats, trousers and condoms off to the future of English football!?! Hip, Hip, Hoorooney!!? >(You’re fired. Ed) ...

[on to the education system] You know what’s more important than G.C.S.E!!??! You guessed it, S.E.X.??!? And I got plenty of that!!?!(You really are fired. Ed)

And this blog's other world, R Morgenstern, tells us that they were doing that editor thing on her college newspaper even back in the day when Kaus probably was some kind of liberal.

And Wonkette the cover girl for this story?


UPDATE: No need for our own post about the Wonkette-centrality of the NYT piece; others aren't happy either. Here. And showing that he's still annoyed 2 weeks later, Daily Howler.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Brussels becomes Troy

It's one of those bits of news that sounds like a cure for insomnia ... Greece ... budget deficit statistics ... Stability and Growth Pact ... the euro. But it's nonetheless a startling reflection on the effectivess of European Union institutions, and thus perhaps part answer to the question of why the EU can look so dithery compared the US.

So if you can stay awake, here's the situation: to join the european single currency, aspiring countries had to stay below certain thresholds for annual government borrowing and total debt. And once in the currency union, as 12 countries are, the same thresholds apply on pain of financial penalties.

But it was revealed this week that the Greek government was cooking the numbers to avoid the financial penalties, and probably cooked them sufficiently that they should not have been admitted to the euro currency union in the first place.

It's a clear sign of the decline of classics education that we have searched through many news stories, and can find no references or word play on Greek mythology -- not a single "Beware Greeks bearing statistics." And yet how could one resist in the face of lines like this:

"The decision to admit Greece was based on the best information available at the time," said Gerassimos Thomas, the [European] commission's spokesman for economic affairs. "That decision won't change."

We're sure that the Trojans would happily have accepted that the decision to admit that damned horse was based on the best information available at time time, too.

UPDATE [27 Sep]: One headline writer finally gets around to the obvious reference; in a Wall Street Journal Europe editorial (subs. req'd):

A Trojan Horse?

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Dubya boosts the demand for Latin

There's only so much the White House transcribers can do when Dubya has to speak without a script; so at this morning's news conference with the Iraqi PM:

Our strategy is to help the Iraqis help themselves. It's important that we train Iraqi troops. There are nearly 100,000 troops trained. The Afghan (sic) national army is a part of the army. By the way -- it's the Afghan [sic] national army that went into Najaf and did the work there.
And there's a shortage there since the IRA ceasefire

This is one of those sentences that ends up sounding not quite right:

A spokesman for the U.S. Homeland Security Department said [Yusuf] Islam [the former Cat Stevens] was sent back to London because of his "activities potentially related to terrorism."
If it's Thursday, we must be neutral

We suppose that if one is determined, it's possible to find links between any two news items, no matter how disparate. So today's offering in that genre is prompted by the latest twist in the UK-US hostage crisis in Iraq. As widely reported, the two American hostages have already been murdered, and the sequence of events shows that the kidnappers' bloodlust is not clouding a very calculated attempt to strain the UK-US alliance -- at the level of public opinion rather than amongst the political leadership.

Anyway, the latest twist is the revelation today that the British hostage, Kenneth Bigley, has a claim to Irish citizenship because his mother is Irish. It is thought that this may help his case with the kidnappers. Upon seeing this, we were reminded of the amazing life story of Margaret Kelly, who died aged 94 last week. As all the obituaries explained, besides being the matron of the Paris dancing girls phenomenon, she and her Jewish husband had some very tricky scrapes in Occupied France.

Because she had grown up in Liverpool, she was interned as a British citizen until the Irish Ambassador got her out, by virtue of her birth in Ireland. She then paid bribes to keep her husband's identity concealed until the end of the Occupation. And in the same genre of story, but with a less ominous downside, is the case of Spike Milligan and his rescue from documentation oblivion by his Irish father.

So let's hope something similar works for Ken Bigley. But there is a problem. The presumption behind this new ray of hope is that the kidnappers won't see the Irish Republic as part of the coalition. But leaving aside any other issue, that's going to depend on their standards for coalition participation. Because in fact the Republic severely skirted its traditional neutrality policy by allowing Shannon airport to be used as a transit point for the US military. It's still going on. As we noted over a year ago, it seems that we were part of the Coalition list maintained in Colin Powell's head. We wonder if this is what it will take to bring home to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that his talent for obfuscation, which so often seemed to be an electoral virtue, does have a cost.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Irish boy band linked to Islamist terrorism!

It's just what David Trimble said would happen: the complacent attitude to the IRA in the Irish Republic is an example of the slippery slope that leads all the way to al Qaeda. And, courtesy of the geniuses at the US Department of Homeland Security, we now have not just general proof of this assertion, but specific new suspects in the War on Terror: the members of boy band Boyzone. Don't be fooled -- behind those innocent faces designed to please the teenage squealers lies the brains of a devious scheme to channel funds to al Qaeda.

It works as follows: Boyzone has huge hit in Ireland and Britain with song "Father and Son." This is a cover version of a song by Cat Stevens. Cat Stevens is now known as Yusuf Islam. Yusuf was on a United Airlines flight from London to Washington -- which had to be diverted to Bangor Maine when it was discovered that someone on a terrorism watchlist had made it onto the flight: the aforementioned Yusuf. The Homeland Security people are sticking to their position that he's on a national security watchlist and will be put on the first flight back to the UK. So it must be true, right? The royalties from Father and Son could conceivably have supported terrorism.

The Trimbleites must always have been suspicious that the colours of Irish nationalism and Islam are both green. Clearly, the colours don't lie.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Spinning the no-fly zone

We used to do more posts about the Wall Street Journal online editorial page, Opinionjournal. But as it got ever more hysterical and spin-driven, there didn't seem to be much point anymore. There probably still isn't. But they provide an egregious example of selective quotation today.

As part of their critique of John Kerry's Iraq speech on Monday, they set up a supposed contradiction between Kerry's claim that Saddam's Iraq was not a centre of international terrorism, and irrefutable evidence of the contrary in their minds, drawn from Colin's Powell infamous vial-waving speech at the UN in 2003. By the way, does anyone think Powell himself is still proud of that speech? And even James Taranto has to give the relevant quotes the curate's egg treatment:

[Opinionjournal] Kerry pleaded Saddam's case that "Iraq played no part in September 11 and had no operational ties to Al Qaeda":

...[quoting Kerry] Secretary of State Powell admits that Iraq was not a magnet for international terrorists before the war. Now it is, and they are operating against our troops.

Yet here's what Colin Powell said to the U.N. on Feb. 5, 2003:

Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, an associated in collaborator of Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda lieutenants...When our coalition ousted the Taliban, the Zarqawi network helped establish another poison and explosive training center camp. And this camp is located in northeastern Iraq.

But what they are leaving out is what Powell said a few sentences later:

Those helping to run this camp are Zarqawi lieutenants operating in northern Kurdish areas outside Saddam Hussein's controlled Iraq.

As others have repeatedly explained, Zarqawi's camp was based in the northern no-fly zone, which the US and Britain could have bombed anytime they wanted, so the mystery is why they didn't [see for instance Brad DeLong's explanation and links here]. We need a word for when spin blows back in one's face.

UPDATE (23/9): It's clear that the WSJ is going to give this Zarqawi-Saddam link a new push, with careful phrasing necessary to cover the huge hole in the story. In an editorial today (subs. req'd), they say:

It's worth remembering that Zarqawi had fewer qualms about the secular Saddam, with whom he worked visibly enough to be cited in Colin Powell's February 2003 U.N. presentation.

Yes, that really helps solidify the link...they were cited in the same speech!
Iraq: Not as bad as Occupied France

The bar gets ever lower for judging the success of Dubya's project in Iraq. One rightwing hack approvingly quotes another right-wing hack [one of the non-wrestling Goldbergs] saying:

Churchill didn't conduct World War II perfectly every time either. Dunkirk wasn't the sort of thing that happens when the war goes swimmingly.

Two things to note. First, the tendency of American conservative opinion writers to aim for a writing style that in their mind is matched to Gin and Tonics at the Club with the rest of the colonial expats.

And second, the predictably dubious command of history underlying this amazingly low benchmark: Churchill was Prime Minister for at best one month when Dunkirk happened, so it's preposterous to see it as reflective as a strategic mistake on his behalf. He had no time to plan, unlike with Dubya's war of choice. And anyway, in the ability to evacuate so many troops who could be used against the Nazis later, Dunkirk was not the debacle that amateur historians and professional neocon spinners make it out to be.

UPDATE: Jonah Goldberg's Dunkirk analogy is so flawed that even Andrew Sullivan, busy sucking up to his VRC buddies, had to repudiate it.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Hawker Stalker: More of the pint-sized pundit

Once again, he's in all blue. A trend?

* Coming up 30th St in Georgetown this afternoon spotted a scruffy-chinned George Stephanopoulos in blue shirt, jeans, walking two very small dogs--so small they almost masked how compact he is. Normal-looking wife and baby gave him away, though.
Washington's Belfast follies

There are at least two bad ways to run the War on Terror. One is to make up strategy as you go along. The other is to repeatedly draw the worst of strategies from previous Wars on Terror. There's already ample evidence of the first approach from Dubya but now -- as we warned months ago -- Northern Ireland is coming along to bolster the second. And in case the Northern Ireland musings to which we draw your attention seem outside the mainstream media and policy circles, don't expect it to stay that way; remember that flypaper began a piece of warblogger rubbish (that the war in Iraq was good because it was attracting the world's super-terrorists to Iraq to be killed) but before long was showing up as respectable mainsteam opinion.

And so it is with Northern Ireland. We drew your attention before to how the infamous "torture memos" drafted by Dubya's lawyers relied on the human rights cases brought against the British government in the European Court of Justice in the 1970s. Now comes internment. It's all so predictable. Michelle Malkin puts it into circulation with a book tied in with cable news channel appearances. The book is analytically shoddy, but that doesn't matter -- the idea is now in play. So for instance, the Crooked Timber blog catches someone seeing Michelle's analysis of internment of Japanese-Americans in WWII, and upping the ante with Northern Ireland in the 1970s:

[Crooked Timber excerpt from a linked article] Great Britain's [sic] indefinite internment policy, formalized in 1973 following the recommendations of a famous report authored by Lord Diplock on the situation in Northern Ireland, was allowed to lapse in 1980...Though his reform [sic] proposal...made preventive detention a matter of administrative, not judicial, oversight, the new policy reasserted civilian control and included due process safeguards. No less a figure than the secretary of state for Northern Ireland made initial detention determinations. Within a period of 28 days, an administrative official would then review each case with the option to extend the detention.

This account is so pathetic that it has us wondering if the author is actually a Sinn Fein plant so skillfully does it embarrass the kind of policies than the Shinners would oppose. If you know anything about the north, try to contain your laughter as you see the glowing references to Diplock (whose name is normally associated with the use of non-jury trials in the north), and the idea that internment had safeguards because it was placed in the hands of administrative officials. Yes folks, the original Securocrats.

And we're supposed to be impressed that the Secretary of State had to sign off on these things. Technically, Dubya and Rummy had to sign off on a whole bunch of stuff related to the Gitmo and Abu Ghraib detainees, but of course they were nowhere to be found in the chain of responsibility when things went pear-shaped. But when you're done laughing, remember: this kind of idiocy is influential in the US right now.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

So Dublin must be equivalent to Tehran, then?

Where does Karl Rove get the idea that there's an analogy between Northern Ireland and Dubya's War on Terror? A few weeks ago, we had the spectacle of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble professing mystification about this question, even though, the answer is essentially: because, David, you told him. Perhaps the peddlers of the analogy had to lie low for a little while after that embarrassment, but Mark Steyn can't be held back any longer. He's at it again in today's Sunday Telegraph, house organ of the old world branch of the VRC.

He begins with one of the standard VRC points -- the liberal media has managed to squelch the astonishing news that most Iraqis are not dead, and therefore that Dubya's invasion is going brillliantly. And what about those parts of the country where there is trouble? Well, as Mark has said before, it's just like the UK, with Northern Ireland as the most troublesome part. But he takes it up a notch with this allusion:

Do you remember that moment of Fallujah-like depravity in Ulster a few years ago? Two soldiers were yanked from a cab in the wrong part of town and torn apart by a Republican mob. A terrible, shaming episode in the wretched annals of Northern Irish nationalists.

We had noted this comparison at the time of the Fallujah incident, but what comes through as much as anything here is Mark's sheer laziness -- somewhere in the back of his head he knows that there was some incident in Belfast that sounded a bit like the Fallujah mob, but he couldn't be bothered to look it "a few years ago" (when it was actually nearly 20), "two a cab" (which leaves out all the details of how they wound up in the cab). [all explained in our linked post]

In fact we suspect that the only reason the original Belfast incident is fresh in Mark's mind is because the Northern Irish legal system finally just managed to get a conviction in the murder of the solicitor who had successfully represented one of the accused members of the Belfast mob -- a case that raises the spectre of collusion between reactionary paramilitaries and the security forces, which is a likely scenario for a near-term Iraq. But that's not the kind of cheery prospect Mark would want to talk about.

If there's anything new in this column, it's the further evidence that Mark's sheltered life in the welfare program for Canadian hacks (= Hollinger International) has made him such a useless pundit on terrorism issues. Because when he tries to argue that most of Britain was able to function oblivious to the troubles in Northern Ireland, he's either factually wrong or hopelessly shallow (unless, as Andrew Sullivan seems to argue when he links to the column, Steyn is just being his usual funny self; Atrios is not amused though). On the part where he's just wrong:

The Sunni Triangle, meanwhile, looks like being the fledgling Iraqi federation's Northern Ireland for a while to come. That's a pity. But, if you can quarantine it, the difference between it and the rest of the country will become starker, month by month.

The notion that terrorism was quarantined in Northern Ireland will come as news to residents of Birmingham, Manchester, and London, just to pull three most of the obvious ones out of the last thirty years.

His more general claim is that people still do stuff in countries where there is terrorism. Mark thinks this is because terrorism can be easily isolated. But it's because people adapt to it. Israelis still get on buses and go to restaurants. Baghdad's citizens go back to the market that was bombed a few days beforehand. People in Belfast still go out for pints. It all looks very jolly viewed through the Fox News prism, but that doesn't make it another offering at the Adoration of the Dubya.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Headline watch: One track minds?

From the New York Times website this morning:

Fashion & Style: When Gender isn't a Given
(story about parents dealing with intersexed newborns)

and a few inches--er, sorry--later:

Automobiles: Design: Your New Baby: A Boy or a Girl?
(story about car makers targeting men and women with different models)

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Maybe he means the liberal attitude to plagiarists

So maybe we're overdoing the Andrew Sullivan criticism, which is really the province of Sullywatch. But there's just too much material. Today:

I remember back when I was editing [The New Republic]...[anecdote that of course he gets wrong]...and we were running a liberal opinion magazine.

We've noticed that even our sophistamacated European friends do indeed walk around with the idea that the New Republic is a "liberal" magazine. But it just ain't so -- it really has a niche in what our other world referred to a few days ago as "counterintuitive" "journalism," but let's just reach back into Google history and see what we find about the mag under Sully's editorship:

When The New Republic devoted almost an entire issue (10/31/94) to a debate with the authors of The Bell Curve, editor Andrew Sullivan justified the decision by writing, "The notion that there might be resilient ethnic differences in intelligence is not, we believe, an inherently racist belief."
Tim Collins is Shrill

A brief clarification for the uninitiated: Shrill is the favourite word of Dubya's defenders for those critics of the substance of his policies. As far as we can recall, economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman was the first recipient of the word, for daring to point out back in 2000 that Dubya's tax and spending plans didn't add up and that huge public debt would be the result. Shrill indeed. But anyway, as with other words sometimes seen as abusive, being Shrill is now a badge of honour -- Brad DeLong is helping keep track of such things.

So: Tim Collins is shrill. Who? The British Army officer who made a stirring speech to his regiment just before the war in Iraq, a speech so good that:

It was said that the US President even had a copy of the speech pinned to the wall of his White House office.

Indeed, Tim became the toast of the vast rightwing conspiracy, especially its ex-Canadian/Unionist wing. But now he's talking freely about his impressions of the Iraq war 18 months on from the big speech, and he's not happy:

[interview with Radio 4] "There was very little preparation or thought for what would follow on after the invasion itself," he said.
"Nature abhors a vacuum and so do politics. If you knock something down you must be prepared to put something in its place or live with the consequences."
He said the evidence pointed towards the invasion being a "cynical war" inevitable to vent anger on Saddam Hussein's regime, with no regard to the consequences for Iraqis.
"In which case it's a form of common assault," he said.

Which is all exactly right. Looks like Dubya might have to do some redecorating.

UPDATE: It's official. With additional links.
As one would provide for an idiot

Economists like to talk about revealed preference: that the amount of money spent on something provides an indicator of its true value to the spender. So from the annual report of News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch's vehicle for global media domination, this Wall Street Journal story gleans (subs. req'd):
The annual report listed Fox News Channel Chief Executive Roger Ailes as earning a total salary and bonus of $7.1 million in fiscal 2004, making him one of the highest-paid executives within the company...Mr. Ailes earned more than other operating executives detailed in the report, including Mr. Murdoch's son Lachlan, who is deputy chief operating officer and who earned $4.1 million in salary and bonus.

So Rupert had the choice of paying huge sums of money to the man at the fulcrum of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy, or his own flesh and blood, and his judgement about where the money would be best spent is clear. One can only hope that the money is mistakenly wired to the other, non-bald, non-repulsive Roger Ailes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

A blind spot for the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy

It's been a weird few days on the campus of American University in Washington DC. And weird in the way that normally should have resulted in a frenzy of commentary from the usual suspects by now, about those crazy politically correct college kids being so intolerant of others. First, Michelle Malkin, internment advocate, saw her campus talk being cancelled, and a campus prayer room was vandalised.

So, time for the VRC to do a cut and paste from their previous rant about the last vestiges of Stalinism being found in the ivory tower, right? Errr... No. Because the Malkin talk got canned on orders from Republicans, and the vandalised room was used by Muslims. So for instance, Andrew Sullivan finds time on Tuesday amidst a self-reported attention-deficit haze to link to a report of anti-Semitism in Sweden, but misses an example of religious intolerance in his own sometime hometown [and, by the way, Sullivan never does follow-up linking when apparent incidents of anti-Semitism in France to which he gleefully links turn out to have been rather more complicated than first appearances; but that's for another day].

And as for Malkin, the college Republicans wanted to hear her, but were leaned on by the national party, who didn't want her message disrupting Karl Rove's pitch to key ethnic voting groups two months before the election. So neither incident really makes for a good week of yelling on Fox News.

We have a broader point. We've noticed from our interactions with seemingly sensible people that there's a pernicious bit of osmosis going on, the line of thought that "of course Dubya is terrible but Kerry is such a bad candidate" (Sullivan again, and Mickey Kaus being two arch-exponents). Just remember -- Kerry is working against a media that is only interested in amplifying events that fit a script. Things like vandalised prayer rooms, right-wing squelching of free speech, dead Iraqi civilians -- it never happened. The candidate is fine. It's the media veil he's trying to pierce that's the problem.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Prince Bandar comes through for Dubya

[Wall St Journal, subs. req'd] SAUDI ARABIA SOUGHT to regain some control of oil markets, promising to make available 800,000 barrels a day of new oil by the end of the month and to keep pumping crude vigorously.
All the news that's fit to allude to

We've been hestitating to weigh in on the latest round of Shalitiana, partly because, well, we don't really care, partly because we know a little too much about the backstory. And the central issue does fall under the BOBW purview: namely that nasty mainstream journo habit of leaving much to read between the lines, reader be damned. We've noted it here and here in the case of the New York Times' prudishness, as well as that of the subtitlers who work for Le Journal. Now comes the Times announcement of Plagiarist Nonpareil Shalit's wedding, in the primo top-of-the-column-left-of-vows spot. As Sullywatch points out:

... clearly the only reason we can think of that Ruth Shall-Not-Eat’s wedding made the top spot in the Times was the bride’s notoriety as a repeat-offending journalistic outlaw ... the very thing which the text so circumspectly omits.

Yes, once again, only the cognoscenti are in on the joke. But what we have a problem with, in all of the blog commentary, is the suggestion that Ruthie slept her way to the top (or is it the middle?). From Steve Gilliard:

Now, why did Shalit have such a charmed career? Because she and her sister Wendy were, for lack of a better phrase, f*ckable. Nobody cared what Shalit wrote as long as they could hop in bed with her. ... While Wendy made a point of her virginity, Ruth, well, that wasn't the issue with her. She was cute, and that caused a lot of "sympathy" in Washington. Print newsrooms, as a rule, are a room full of ugly, male and female. Wearing makeup will get you noticed. Mini-skirts? Jesus, that's enough to get you a line of boyfriends, age appropriate or not.

Okay, so Ruthie may have had a lot of sex in the '90s; well, didn't we all? But "f*ckable"? Cute?!?! Please. Do you not remember her trademark black lipstick? Yes, she had a bizarre charm and faux innocence that enthralled certain lesser males, to be sure, but no one ever called her much of a looker. Her success had much more to do with bad management by then-New Republic Editor Andrew Sullivan (who we can be just about certain never slept with her); his and others' appetite for "counterintuitive" "journalism"; and Shalit's own keen aggressiveness combined with the ability to turn a phrase on deadline (mentions of profilee tucking into a plate of pan-fried trout a double bonus). It can be confusing, we know, but just 'cause she's a girl, it doesn't mean her only talent is sex.
Would anyone like a gmail account?

e-mail P O'Neill from the link above. We'll see what we can do.
How long before the Toledo Mudhens angle in the Abu Ghraib scandal?

As we've noted before, the seemingly excellent relations between the Irish Republic and the USA under Dubya's Presidency are likely related to the marked similarities between Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Dubya: a shared ability to mangle the English language, and an uncannily similar approach to scandals, in which they display a studied naivete concerning things that they must have known about, and then any actual investigation is deferred to interminable committees and tribunals which at some later point will produce vast reports and pursue many tangents, by which time the public will have safely moved on to other issues.

Dubya still has a few things to learn from Bertie in this regard, who has been carefully kicking scandals into touch (=Tribunals of Inquiry) for ten years. One such tribunal has now reached its reductio ad absurdum, as today's Irish Times reports (subs. req'd; non-subs. link here):

The Moriarty tribunal is to begin hearings tomorrow into the £4 million purchase of the Doncaster Rovers football ground by Mr Denis O'Brien in 1998.

The tribunal is inquiring into the matter because the English solicitor involved in the purchase, Mr Christopher Vaughan, wrote a letter at the time to Mr Michael Lowry, in which he said he had not until then appreciated Mr Lowry's involvement in the deal.

So somehow, an investigation of political corruption in Ireland has turned into something about one piece of correspondence related to the sale of a lower division Yorkshire football club's ground? Truly a masterpiece of misdirection by Oirland's ruling class.
Sign of the times

What kind of crazy mixed up world do we live in when Michigan's most idiotic resident, hack rocker and right wing caveman loon Ted Nugent, makes Private Eye's Pseuds Corner (the mag's excerpts of supreme pretentiousness)?

[link active till Thursday 16 Sep] The guitar licks that I milk out of my instrument are as spontaneous as a good shit. I am constantly reminded of my deep spiritual connection with Mother Nature so when I pick up my guitar it’s like Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters propelled through the accessibility of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, and the inventiveness of Jimi Hendrix.
The Times

Read this, and remember that this man rocks for Dubya.

Monday, September 13, 2004

A chocolate donut with some of those little sprinkles on top

From today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd):

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. said its auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, refused to complete a review of the company's financial statements for the latest quarter until an outside law firm hired by the company's board is finished performing "certain additional procedures" requested by the auditors.

What's not clear is whether the auditors are unhappy with some technical accounting procedure or the quality (poorly glazed, not hot?) of their free KK donuts.
Dr Evil is from there for a reason

When the young men of Ireland and Britain went to the Continent in their hundreds of thousands in 1914 to fight for the rights of plucky little Belgium, one wonders if they would have reconsidered knowing how little their courage would count for a few generations later. Because ruthless Belgian beer conglomerate Interbrew (one of those names that has the same vibe as Omni Consumer Products) is consolidating its brewing operations in the Islands and in doing so is closing some landmark breweries.

On the block a month ago was the Belfast brewery that produces Bass Ale, and last week the crazed Belgian slashers announced that Boddington's historic operation in Manchester is also to close. The inevitable hastily organised public campaign to save the breweries seems doomed to fail. Interbrew is apparently undeterred by the prospect that its actions cut into key Oirish tastes, as personified by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, whose favourite pint is Bass and favourite football team is Manchester United. As we noted a while ago, Bertie was under pressure from Northern politicians to lobby to save the Belfast plant and his equally vital Man Utd consituency may look for similar help regarding the Boddington's brewery.

We also couldn't help but note that the Mancunian opposition made the following drinking allusion, presumably unintended, in their rallying cry:

Beer drinkers in Manchester are not going to take this lying down.

But anyway, underlying Interbrew's decisions is the simple fact that beer marketing has changed -- and whether the change in tastes or in marketing came first, we don't know. But with yuppies pushing each other out of the way in the rush to overpay for a pint of Stella Artois (Interbrew's own staple), and the proliferation of tasteful hard liquors named, for example, after mundane towns in Meath, why should the suits be bothered with stodgy old ales and their expensive-to-maintain historic buildings? We almost find ourselves with a little respect for the Irish Republic's primary beer landlord, Diageo, which has so far avoided similar ideas regarding the Guinness brewery in Dublin.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Vanity Fare
or, We Read It So You Don't Have To

A dynamic young woman makes her way through the elaborate customs and costumes of high society, morality be damned.... And that's about as far as you'll get making any enlightening parallels between Mira Nair's new film and Paris Hilton's Confessions of an Heiress, now in bookstores. If the very sight of Hilton's creepy soft-core-clean-shaven-vaselined-mannequin look is too much for you, we offer an excerpt:
Here's how I survive really long trips: I love to buy as many gossip magazines as possible, and start the trip by reading everything in the world that's recently been written about me. Then I take a nap, wake up, read scripts, check my e-mail, review personal notes, and write in my diary. It's nice to be in a place where my phone isn't ringing. ... If I get really bored, I'll pop on my pink mini iPod and reread a Vogue. I'll always discover a dress or pair of shoes I didn't notice before.
We have seen hell, and it is life as Paris Hilton. The only thing that makes the book worth picking up is the whiff of hatred in nearly all references to her slightly less skanky, but larger-nosed sister, Nicky--think of it as a print version of "doing a Lynndie."

Monday, September 06, 2004

Maybe that's when Howie was taking his pee break?

Stuck for information over Labor Day weekend (or perhaps pre-boiling a column so he and the Mrs. could make that one last jaunt to Rehoboth), Howard Kurtz really sticks it to the media elite today. Or, once again, seems-to-stick-it-but-doesn't-really-have-the-goods. (You mean, news networks put political operatives on the air? Really???) Apart from not seeming to understand the difference between a journalist and a pundit, he also must have missed the BEST moment of the Republican convention. Turning to that good ol' chestnut of the worn-out columnist, the "awards" list, he writes:

Most Confrontational Moment: When MSNBC's Chris Matthews kept pressing Sen. Zell Miller during a remote interview, drawing this response: "I wish I was over there, where I could get a little closer up into your face!"

Okay, so a 21st century U.S. Senator pretty much challenges someone to a duel on national television, and that's NOT the moment you choose to write about?

Enjoy the beach, Howie.

Friday, September 03, 2004

So when is the invasion of Alsace-Lorraine?

Perhaps a reflecting a fatigue factor in comparing Dubya to English leaders, Andrew Sullivan puts a new one in the mix. Which maybe reflects his admiration for some je ne sais quoi features of Arnold Schwarzenegger:

BISMARCK + WILSON: The whole package [Dubya convention speech] was, I think, best summed up as a mixture of Bismarck and Wilson. Germany's Bismarck fused a profound social conservatism with a nascent welfare state. It was a political philosophy based on a strong alliance with military and corporate interests, and bound itself in a paternalist Protestant ethic...Bismarck's conservatism also relied, as Bush's does, on scapegoating a minority to shore up his Protestant support. Protecting the family from its alleged internal enemies is an almost perfect rallying call for a religiously inspired base.

Bear in mind that this comes in the context of Sully's general admiration for Dubya, with a rupture only occurring over Dubya's support for a constitutional ban on gay marriage. All the other stuff, it seems, could be overlooked. But look at Bismarck's biography, and see the militarism, the cultivation of expansionist nationalism and German exceptionalism, and of course think what it had turned into two generations later -- this is what one of Dubya's defenders think of him.

Also interesting is Sully's apparent equation of Bismarck's anti-Catholicism with Dubya's anti-gay stance; this mingling of gay and Catholic identities is a favourite strategy of his when wanting to distance himself from the Republican party. By the way, as for that reference to Wilson, we think Sully means Woodrow and not Harold. But with his hot-cold attitude to Dubya these days, you never know.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Lagan doesn't flow into the Hudson

The plot thickens. A few hours ago we had our lengthy post about David Trimble's WSJ op-ed piece, busy drawing analogies between the British battle against the IRA and the War on Terror (WoT). But now we wonder if Trimble was relying on the low profile of the WSJ op-ed page in Ireland to sneak through a few valentines to his VRWC friends with some material that he knew would sound dodgy before an audience more familiar with the Northern Ireland conflict.

Because, courtesy of a tip from a loyal reader (Go Wolverines!), we see that Karl Rove was offering his own thoughts on IRA/WoT, and Trimble has balked. The context is Dubya's recent glimmer of realism (since shut off) that the WoT is not winnable. His spinners have concocted a hasty explanation for this gaffe, which is that when the USA wins, there won't be a peace treaty. Rove tried another tack on Wednesday in the more easily linkable Washington Post:

[Wash Post, quoting Rove] This is going to be more like the conflict in Northern Ireland, where the Brits fought terrorism, and there's no sort of peace accord with al Qaeda saying, 'We surrender'

As it turns out, Trimble is attending the Republican convention, so he was tracked down for a quote:

[Trimble] I'm not altogether clear about what exactly he's getting at...Al Qaeda is quite a different terrorist organization to those in Northern Ireland. It's perfectly reasonable, I suppose, to draw some parallel in that the war on terror will probably take a long time just like it did in Northern Ireland, if that's what he meant.

So: Trimble is confused about what Rove might mean in making a comparison between the WoT and the IRA, on the same day that Trimble has a published article for Rove's target audience called "The Lesson of Northern Ireland." He's surely hoping that, to the extent anyone in Ireland is paying attention to his NYC trip, it'll be what shows up in the Post and not the WSJ that counts. More broadly, how many nationalist-leaning Irish-Americans know about Dubya's ongoing game of footsie with Ulster Unionism?
Six Counties over Texas

One of the overseas branches of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy checks in today. David Trimble, leader of the Ulster Unionist party, and likely head of an operational Northern Ireland government (if they had a government) writes in the Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) about how Dubya's War on Terror could be informed by the war on the IRA. This is the same David Trimble whose previous such analogy to the Northern Ireland conflict, delivered during a St Patrick's Week visit to Washington, was predicated on the assumption that the 11-M Madrid bombings were the work of Basque separatists. So he's clearly an expert, like Canadian hack Mark Steyn, who also pushes the IRA/Q line.

Still, Trimble does operate with at least a bit more of a brain than the average stateside Dubya booster, so one point in the article is the fair one that the IRA ended up making considerable concessions in the (stalled) Northern Ireland peace agreement, due he says to tactical success in combatting them by the security forces. Nationalist politician Seamus Mallon has quipped that the 1998 peace deal was "Sunningdale for slow learners," as indeed one looks hard to see what was different about the collapsed 1974 peace accord of that name and the current one.

Trimble interprets this to mean that the only usable strategy against terrorism is to bring in the securocrats, but backing this is a pretty dodgy view of Irish history, and in particular the complete absence of any grievances that might have underlaid the terrorism problem. In an early pleasing nod to his American readers, he describes the IRA goal as a "Celtic Cuba," apparently oblivious that Cuba itself is somewhat Celtic through emigration from Galicia. And that's only the beginning of his pile of shite:

I am not suggesting that the IRA was defeated by firepower alone. On the contrary, after the disaster of "Bloody Sunday" in Londonderry [sic] in 1972, British policy shifted toward an intelligence-led approach and to "Ulsterisation," the concentration of security force operations and responsibility in local hands -- if only because of the need for personnel steeped in the local culture.

How does this new "Ulsterisation" strategy relate to the period 1922-72, when the discriminatory Unionist government of Northern Ireland had huge autonomy in local security policy involving many fine "personnel steeped in the local culture," such as the B Specials -- which is what brought an exasperated London back into the picture in the first place?

Later he turns to the idea that Dubya squandered global sympathy for the US, post 9-11.

Let me give the example from Ireland [sic], a European country with familial ties to America. After 9/11, the newspaper of the fastest-growing political party in Ireland, Sinn Fein, editorialized that the U.S. had effectively brought the attack upon itself through its "imperialist" foreign policy. Irish public opinion was massively against even the war in Afghanistan. The notion that a more sensitive, conscience-stricken U.S. policy would generate more support in international councils is a delusion.

Tricks here that only a spinner could love..."fastest growing" used to sidestep the low level of Sinn Fein support in the Republic, which is then made his single source of a blanket assertion that Irish public opinion was against the war in Afghanistan. We've noted before about how the VRWC has had to rewrite the immediate post 9/11 overseas attitudes to the US and Trimble is at it again; note also the insertion of the pleasing spin word sensitive, anchor of one of Dick Cheney's latest lies about John Kerry. With the sustained love-in between Ulster Unionists and Dubya, we wonder: just what has Trimble been promised in a second Dubya administration?
Death: It's a Good Thing

Andrew Sullivan is back from his month in the hammock. Which is excellent news, because of the renewed reason for multiple visits per day to Sullywatch, your one-stop shop for all things Sullivan-bashing related. Strangely enough, Sully's quasi-sane increasing revulsion at the Republican convention slightly reduces the need for commentary (although the consistency of his comments this week with the remainder of the campaign is yet to be seen), but things are as loopy as ever with his views on the War on Terror.

He's done a couple of posts now on the reaction in France to the two journalist hostages in Iraq and the kidnapper's demand that France repeal its headscarf law; what has been remarkable has been the unanimity of French opinion that the law cannot be changed in face of such a demand. But for Sully, it's all vague allusions to an Islamist fifth column in France waiting to rise up once France gets tough with the Arab world. And then there's those hostages:

If the Jihadists take the war to France now, we may get the Western unity that has so far eluded us. And that can only be a good thing.

In Sully's War on Terror, the body count rises faster than in an Arnold Schwarzenegger film. Let's hope Rise of the Machines is not his benchmark.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

He's not the one with the *** text messages

This Wall Street Journal article (subs. req'd) does a mostly creditable job discussing the big sports news from England -- the transfer of Wayne Rooney (aka Roonaldo) from Everton FC to Moneychest Utd. Now, longtime readers of the blog will note that we have stayed almost entirely away from discussing big player transfers in European football, following a probable excess of Beckham related postings last year. But, (we did say mostly creditable)this line in the story is surely a blunder:

The precedent doesn't look good: European Premiere [sic] League clubs have been on a superstar buying spree that hasn't really paid off. Real Madrid's recent purchase of Michael Owen has been somewhat of a disappointment

Michael Owen joined Real Madrid from Liverpool about 2 weeks ago, and so far has played one match, in which he came off the bench and set up the winning goal for the real Ronaldo. So it's probably meant to be a reference to David Beckham, who's had one year to be declared a disappointment. So to compound the anguish of Liverpool fans, Owen is now being confused with Bonking Beckham.
A two and a half hour tour

At first, it's an innocuous sounding story -- three men rescued from a sinking trawler in the Atlantic close to County Mayo. But then, thanks to the Irish Times news update (subs. req'd) we learn a little more about what the boat was doing there in the first place. It seems that it was to be the lynchpin of a floating parish, where the parish would be wherever the bishop, or possibly "bishop," wanted it to be:

The boat, The Patriach, was owned by controversial priest Bishop Michael Cox, who had intended to consecrate it for use as a 'floating' church. The crewmen were...two and a half hours into their journey when the fire broke out.
Speaking to this afternoon Bishop Cox said he had intended to consecrate the boat.
"I had hoped to travel around the coast with it and challenge the abortion ship. I heard there is going to be a move to bring the ship here", he said
Bishop Cox said he was a member of the Mater Dei, Mother of God Order which he claimed had its headquarters in Birr, Co Offaly. Singer Sinead O'Connor is a high-profile member of the order.

Indeed, it appears that Ireland has developed something of a comparative advantage in eccentric priests recently. We're not sure how Sinead's membership of this particular order relates to her "Mother Bernadette" stint a while back. The "abortion ship" to which the bishop refers is a Dutch ship used by an abortion rights group which sails to European countries with restrictive abortion laws, creating a legal headache because of the jurisdictional ambiguity.

We're not sure what exactly the bishop had in mind for the Dutch, had his own vessel proven seaworthy, but Ireland was about due for another round of marine high-jinks after the fiasco of Reality Show-on-Sea last year.