Monday, December 31, 2007

Not out with the old

George Bush manages to get in one last signing statement for 2007 -- these are statements which accompanies legislation that he signs in which he outlines which part of that legislation he won't be obeying. This time, if the Democrats had any sense, the talking point should be "Why does George Bush hate Darfur refugees?" --

Today, I have signed into law S. 2271, the "Sudan Accountability and Divestment Act of 2007." ... This Act purports to authorize [US] State and local governments to divest from companies doing business in named sectors in Sudan and thus risks being interpreted as insulating from Federal oversight State and local divestment actions that could interfere with implementation of national foreign policy. However, as the Constitution vests the exclusive authority to conduct foreign relations with the Federal Government, the executive branch shall construe and enforce this legislation in a manner that does not conflict with that authority.

There's no reason to believe that 2008 will be any different.

New to you

From a New York Times assessment of Benazir Bhutto's influence in Washington --

Last week, Mr. Siegel said, he e-mailed Ms. Bhutto to tell her he had heard that their publisher, HarperCollins, was pleased with the book the two had just turned in, “Reconciliation: Islam, Democracy and the West.” He received a happy response from Ms. Bhutto by BlackBerry. “Which we called her ‘crackberry’ because she was so addicted to it,” Mr. Siegel said.

Isn't it someone's job -- either Siegel, the writer of the article, or its editor -- to make it clear that it's not like these people actually came up with that term themselves for the addictive Canadian device?

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Spinners in uniform

The Pentagon website still carries a week-old story "reassuring" soldiers that delays in Congressional funding won't mean any layoffs in the department of defence, but makes no mention of how George Bush's end-of-year veto will delay the implementation of a pay raise for soldiers which was due on New Year's Day.

UPDATE: On New Year's Eve, there is finally a Pentagon announcement about the vetoed pay raise.

FINAL UPDATE: In fairness to the Pentagon, this story straightforwardly notes that the veto is adversely affecting army recruitment because of the uncertainty it created about bonuses.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hot off the presses

A little link guesswork finds the Sunday New York Times book section review of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism.

UPDATE: The link is now live on the NYT webpage so the frisson of an early read is gone.

Her skin is a different shade

Who knew that France took beauty pageants so seriously? Today brings news of a bizarre compromise in which the holder of the title "Miss France", Valérie Begue, will not represent France in the Miss World contest because of, in Krusty's words, that thing with what's-her-name, click click, you know, nudge nudge wink wink, so apparently the runner-up in the national contest, Miss New Caledonia, Requillart Vahinerii, (above) will take her place internationally.

Special interest

George Bush has announced, on the afternoon of the last working day of 2007, that he will veto the bill that gives a pay raise to soldiers along with other defence policy matters.

Misleading accounts of why the veto is being used will say that it's to protect assets of the new Iraqi government from being seized as part of lawsuits against the Saddam Hussein era government.

In fact it's to protect only those assets of the new government being held in the United States, where the lawsuits have jurisdiction. Thus what is being protected is not the assets themselves, which could be moved to pounds or euros in a flash, but the profit margin that accrues to US banks (and, implicitly, the US government) from these assets being held in dollars.

If one was looking for a signal that the administration is more panicked that it lets on about the move of financial assets out of dollars, this would be it. Of course there's also the simple explanation that Wall Street profits get higher priority than military salaries.

UPDATE: A White House Fact (sic) Sheet never mentions that only Iraqi government assets held in the US are affected.

FINAL UPDATE: Bush left it so late to veto the bill that technically it's a pocket veto, where the bill lapses by not being signed rather than being explicitly vetoed.

Flypaper reverses polarity

The Wall Street Journal's lead editorial (subs. req'd; alt. free link) is about Benazir Bhutto's murder --

With the jihadists losing in Iraq and having a hard time hitting the West, their strategy seems to be to make vulnerable Pakistan their principal target, and its nuclear arsenal their principal prize.

Apparently the idea for al Qaeda to hit Pakistan -- their home base -- never occurred to them until now. Indeed, it only occurred to them after the success of the surge. An additional complication is that the whole point of the Iraq adventure was once flypaper -- that it would draw all terrorists into a losing battle on that front, relieving the rest of the world of terrorism. It would appear that the terrorists have exercised their option to return home and resume normal service from there.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It didn't Caller ID as "White House"

At the "western" White House, also known as the Bush "ranch", it's the substitute press briefer revealing that Pakistani president Musharraf couldn't be bothered talking to George Bush this morning --

Q Why is it taking so long to set up a phone call between President Bush and President Musharraf? Isn't he just able to --

MR. STANZEL: Actually the first time we reached out to him, President Musharraf I understand was talking with reporters.

That real central front in the war on terror

An impossible to parody statement from Rudy Giuliani on the Benazir Bhutto murder concludes --

We must redouble our efforts to win the Terrorists’ War on Us.

UPDATE: Making a valiant effort to take the self-centeredness up to 11, Mike Huckabee --

The terrible violence surrounding Pakistan’s upcoming election stands in stark contrast to the peaceful transition of power that we embrace in our country through our Constitution. On this sad day, we are reminded that while our democracy has flaws, it stands as a shining beacon of hope for nations and people around the world who seek peace and opportunity through self-government.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Romantic Ireland is something or other

When Christy Moore sang, a long time ago --

A cousin of mine goes potholing,
A cousin of hers loves Joe Dolan.

it got something vague yet right about Joe's increasingly selective appeal (as indeed the entire song is a brilliant summary of VIP/celebrity Ireland at that time). But Joe was still going strong many years later until he shuffled off this mortal coil today. Perhaps a case where, without the nostalgia factor, the old clips will just look a bit embarrassing, at least to the new sophistamacated Ireland.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


The Christmas Day fiction on the New York Times op-ed page is from Roddy Doyle and the poetry is by Paul Muldoon. Somewhat strangely, the Muldoonian wordplay is actually easier to make sense of than the mysterious Doyle story, which has no resolution.

The angry male demographic

The Wall Street Journal does a story on political blog trolls. It exaggerates the sense in which trolls have anything substantive to say, since the troll basically exists to pick a fight with a baseless statement.

And they seem to be disproportionately conservative. The baseless statements are easier to find.

As if it was the most offensive thing in the world

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

Explanation here. Enjoy the day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A quick Christmas scowl

A BBC story citing the case of stranded Heathrow passenger1 --

It is the second Christmas Eve in a row he has been stuck at Heathrow, on both occasions he has been on his way from Los Angeles to Budapest.

Can it really be that, seeing what happened last year, that going via Heathrow was the best way to get from LA to Budapest?

1 The sentence has been pulled from later versions of the story

Friday, December 21, 2007

Keyboarding to book victory

Much has been written already about Jonah Goldberg's oft-delayed and oft-subtitled Liberal Fascism. But now there's an associated blog. There's no material yet besides the cover image, a setup that is symptomatic of the book itself. One word of caution -- don't buy the book from the link at the site, where they want $27.95 for it. It's going for $18.45 at Amazon. Laughs a plenty, even if unintentional, once he starts "responding to some of the critics" as he promises he will.

It's a long way to Limavady

Gordon Brown with a strange assembly of places where the British armed forces will be serving over the holidays --

But I think particularly today when it is Christmas you remember men and women who are separated from their families, who are working in the most difficult of conditions, sometimes in the theatre of Iraq, sometimes in Afghanistan, sometimes of course in the Falklands, or in Northern Ireland or in other parts of the world where we still have a presence.

So the list comes across as saying that Northern Ireland, which is of course part of the UK, is actually somewhere far away like the Falklands or just another of those places where Britain "still has a presence". In Gordon's mind, with the Martin-Ian love-in going so well, are they already gone?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Virtuous circle

One off-the-cuff comment from George Bush during his year-end press conference provided a little insight into how he thinks about global financial flows. He was asked about the trend of investments by overseas wealth funds (East Asia and the Arab states of the Gulf) in Wall Street financial institutions. Before the cliches, he said

I like to get our money back.

His framework is thus that the Gulf and Asian countries have money because of US purchases of oil and manufactured goods, and thus that it's "our money" which has to return to the US.

There's a sense in which he's correct (meaning that there's an actual economist getting through to him) because the US global spending spree has to be financed by other countries. But it's packaged in way that means that huge foreign borrowing is of no concern to him, since it's all just "our money".

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Even better than the real thing

Powerline's "Deacon" --

First, [Mike] Huckabee overlooks the fact that George W. Bush, though not a preacher, is a born-again Christian. If Republicans like [Rich] Lowry wanted to keep Christian conservatives at arms-length why did they support Bush so firmly?

George Bush is not a born-again Christian. He was raised Episcopalian (Anglican) and now occasionally attends a Methodist church in Washington. He lapsed from Episcopalian and resumed as Methodist. That's not "born-again". That's just after a while looking for a new church. Born-again should only refer to a profound experience -- essentially an awareness as an adult of the true meaning of the sacrament of baptism, which is of course lost on people at the age they normally receive it.

But the skill of the Bush campaign was to leave out there the statement that he was "born-again" without ever making any attempt to correct it, as a dog-whistle to evangelical voters. Powerline has thus proved Huckabee's point, in that this time the evangelicals want an actual evangelical candidate.

Ghost of disasters past

White House photo by Chris Greenberg

He so wanted to grab his 9/11 bullhorn for the occasion.

Slow news day

Actual extended news segment just now on MSNBC with topic on screen bar: "Britney Spears' sister is 3 months pregnant".

This one writes itself

[Washington Post] ... the smoke appeared to be concentrated in or near the ceremonial office of Vice President Cheney.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Guinness for weakness

New York Stock Exchange

The Dow was down 175 when a person in a pint costume helped ring the closing bell.

Chillin' at the Holidae Inn

George Bush sees the ghost of Christmas future --

Bush spoke at the Yak-A-Doo's restaurant inside a Holiday Inn [in Fredericksburg Va.].

The White House wanted to keep the flavor of the local Rotary meeting, so there was no banner or backdrop. Bush was not even introduced; he just showed up, drawing a round of applause. The Christmas music being piped was not cut off until someone pointed that out.

The president watched silently as club members offered a truncated version of their normal business routine, offering the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer.

This one goes up to 11

It's funny, if unintentionally so, that the newly Murdoched Wall Street Journal editorial page can boast in one editorial (subs. req'd) --

Over the past decade, millions of Americans have joined the once highly exclusive club of six- and seven-figure earners. Some 304,000 Americans earned $1 million or more in annual income in 2005, compared to 110,000 in 1996 and 176,000 in 2000.

but complain in the editorial below (also subs. req'd) that no-one seems to be noticing that inflation is rising so that dollar numbers don't mean quite what they used to. "Money illusion", they call it. Indeed.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The rooster crows

National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez, in the context of Mitt Romney's Mormonism and the view of some evangelicals that it's not Christian:

I remember the first time it was explained to me at a Concerned Women for America conference that I am not a Christian because I am Catholic. At the time I wondered why we — my pro-life, conservative CWA friends and I — couldn't just strengthen our political alliance on issues we agreed on and go our own ways Sunday morning (or whenever).

This is not just getting religion out of politics: it's agreeing to the claim that the essence of your religion is a lie for the sake of a political cause. If faith is allowed to drive your political beliefs, shouldn't it drive who you politically associate with?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Liquid bomb plot evaporating

When the story about the alleged plot to blow up transatlantic flights using liquid bomb ingredients smuggled aboard at Heathrow first broke -- in the run-in to the 2006 election season in the US -- the man whose name kept coming up in the plot was Rashid Rauf, a British citizen who was in Pakistan at the time. Bit by bit the details of the charges against him seemed to weaken.

An extradition request by Britain for him was most recently only based on a murder charge unconnected to the bomb plot, although of course he could have been questioned about more things once he was returned to the UK. As of now though, he won't be questioned about anything. Because, he has "escaped" from police custody. Pakistani police seem to suspect collusion between him and his guards.

Given the role of this plot of the mythology of counter-terrorism -- it's constantly cited an example of international cooperation achieved through US surveillance techniques -- why is it that just when some concrete information is about to come into view, it unravels?

UPDATE 8 SEPTEMBER 2008: The plot is looking even more like vapour at this point. A trial with 8 accused, only 3 convicted, and none of an imminent plot to blow up airlines. So the question keeps coming back: why was Rauf arrested in the first place? Any future juries would like to know.

Gun law

From the New York Times, a little by-the-way insight into how people with good credentials can get locked out of jobs under George W. Bush --

Then, in the summer of 2006, the White House called. The person the administration had hoped to nominate as chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the nation’s primary bank regulator, was suddenly proving unacceptable. (According to the Washington rumor mill, that choice, Diana L. Taylor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s companion and, at the time, New York’s superintendent of banking, was nixed by the National Rifle Association, presumably because of Mayor Bloomberg’s antigun stance.)

So the NRA gets a veto over financial sector jobs. Not exactly what panicked financial markets probably want to hear.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2008: The alternative candidate, Sheila Bair, is doing a pretty good job.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the edge

Pentagon photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

It's not clear whether this is a uniquely Scottish practice, but is having cans of Red Bull available (centre of table, and clearly visible) at a meeting of defence ministers in Edinburgh (Bob Gates and Joel Fitzgibbon, above) really such a good idea?

Eurovision in Lisbon

AP photos by Armando Franca (of the smug Irishmen) and Paulo Duarte (of the untouched port).

There's not much sign that the European Union realises that the recurring orgies of junketing besuited self-congratulation is part of what alienates people from it. Does anyone know what the point is of having the 27* foreign and prime ministers shake hands with each other after having signed the treaty? Bertie Ahern and his non-relative namesake Dermot have surely done enough of that by now.

But still, one refreshing sign of a spirit of mischief is the Portuguese setting the table for Gordon Brown knowing he wouldn't show up.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This one writes itself

News item --

WASHINGTON - Country singer Alan Jackson and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair make guest appearances in the newest White House doggie video on the Web.


The Wall Street Journal editorial page (subs. req'd) looks at the bombs and sees -- support for the policies of George W. Bush:

Americans have been fortunate not to have been struck on their homeland since 9/11, even as so many other nations have. If our furious domestic debates over "torture" and terrorist wiretapping are an indication, many Americans seem to assume that this kind of immunity will continue and has nothing to do with U.S. antiterror policies since September 11. Algiers is a reminder of the dangers in making such assumptions.

It's unclear therefore whether they think that Algeria isn't doing enough "torture" or just not the right kinds of "torture". But seriously, Algeria is a more a reminder of the dangers of being physically closer to Islamist terrorism. It also doesn't say much about the deterrent effect of the war in Iraq that the culpable group in this case chose to rename themselves after Al Qaeda.


National Review's Michael Ledeen has a complaint --

As for the provision of weapons to “Bosnian Muslims,” this was one of the Clinton Administration’s most scandalous undertakings. We enabled the Iranians to smuggle weapons into the Balkans in violation of formal international agreements (CIA at the time was within a hair of accusing the White House of carrying out a covert action without legal approval), and it enabled the mullahs to set up a substantial terrorist-training network through which many of the most infamous killers, including some involved in the 9/11 attacks, passed in the eighties and nineties. I wouldn’t hold that up as a great example of “tactical cooperation.” More like “American stupidity combined with Iranian murderous cunning.”

His complaint about independent activities reflecting a common support for Bosnian Muslims (is there another Serbophile on the right?), along with a few extrapolations linking Iran to 9/11, stands in contrast to his own participation in a transaction directly linking Iran to illegal weapons sales by the US: the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't mention the oil

From the newly released list of foreign gifts to top US officials in 2006 --

Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra gave Bush an 11,000-dollar Cartier Santos Dumont watch in April 2006. The Thai military toppled Thaksin's government in September 2006. But oil-rich Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev trumped that, giving Cheney a Breguet watch estimated at 25,300 dollars, while Saudi King Abdullah gave Rice a white gold and diamond set -- necklace, earrings, bracelet and ring -- valued at 20,000, said the US State Department.

The Saudi king gave Cheney the most expensive present on the list, which the US State Department is required to make public under US law -- a 55,000-dollar, 18-karat white gold, ruby and diamond jewelry set.

Under Siege

Powerline's Hindrocket (with a nod and wink from Instapundit) --

[quoting a news item] A law enforcement official says the deadly rampages at a megachurch and a missionary training school were believed to have been carried out by the same person—Matthew Murray, a 24-yeare-old suburban Denver man who "hated Christians." [end quote]

It is perhaps worth noting that the toll in Sunday's shootings exceeded the combined total in all "hate crimes" against Muslims in the six years since September 11.

By this logic, it is perhaps worth nothing that the toll in the Virginia Tech killings, which reflected a hatred of wealthy people, exceeded the combined total in all "hate crimes" against Christians since three days ago.

UPDATE: Murray's pre-killing rants appear to draw extensively on the Columbine pair (as did the Virginia Tech shooter) illustrating that there is a dangerous Columbine-admiring sub-culture and rendering even more spurious a comparison to hate crimes against Muslims. In fact one might look at the spate of shootings and say that America has a Colorado problem.

Stairway, no Over the Hills

That Led Zeppelin list in full --

Good Times, Bad Times
Ramble On
Black Dog
In My Time of Dying
For Your Life (first time ever played live)
Trampled Under Foot
Nobody's Fault but Mine
No Quarter
Since I've Been Loving You
Dazed and Confused
Stairway to Heaven
The Song Remains the Same
Misty Mountain Hop

Whole Lotta Love
Rock and Roll

UPDATE: The Pseud's Corner entry --

Page dispensed powerchords like an aged Thor lobbing down thunderbolts for kicks.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Our man in Baghdad, again

photo from MNF-Iraq

The featured story today on the website of Multinational Force-Iraq begins as follows --

Throngs of Iraqi key political leaders gathered at the home of Abid Hassan Saloom in Sadr Yusufiyah Dec. 6 to discuss the future of Iraq.

The theme of the meeting was “Put the Law Back in Iraq” and it was attended by a multitude of prominent community leaders, Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi Army officials. Of note were Dr. Ahmed Chalabi, former leader of the Iraqi National Congress, Sheik Somar, Yusufiyah nahia council president, 4th Iraqi Army Brigade commander Brig. Gen. Ali Jassim Mohammed Hassen Al-Frejee, Sheik Halal Al Hemdawni, as well as representatives from the Mahmudiyah council and the chief of the Mahmudiyah Iraqi Police.

An estimated 1,000 leaders from various sectors listened to several speakers talk about what it will take to achieve a safe, secure Iraq and discuss other reconciliation issues and the rebuilding of Iraq.

That's the besuited Chalabi in front of the banner and speaking into the microphone. We're not sure why his title is former leader of the INC (an organization that used to be in the doghouse with the US military) and not his current title of director of services for the Iraqi government. Anyway, doesn't a dude who can rally such a broad coalition around a catchy election-ready slogan sound like a perfect candidate for a new Prime Minister of Iraq?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Liking how it sounds in German

Given the speed at which Nazi analogies produce "outrage" in defenders of George W. Bush, consider this one from Iran hawk John Bolton -- a man who George W. Bush saw fit to be the US Ambassador to the UN --

Der Spiegel magazine quoted Bolton Saturday as saying the aim of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), contradicting his and President George W. Bush's own oft-stated position, was not to provide the latest intelligence on Iran.

"This is politics disguised as intelligence," Bolton was quoted as saying in an article appearing in next week's edition.

Bolton described the NIE, released Monday, as a "quasi-putsch" by the agencies, Der Spiegel said.

To his German audience and indeed to anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of the Weimar Republic, his choice of word will have resonance to Hitler. Is John Bolton accusing the US intelligence agencies of being Nazis?

The appellation oft proclaim the man

How bizarre that the horse Keiren Fallon was riding in the race which led to a failed A-sample drug test was named Myboycharlie.

They forgot the "Made in Iran" sticker

Photo: Multi-National Force Iraq Division-Central

The US military in Iraq showcases a batch of Iranian rockets, example above, turned in by Iraqi civil defence forces. Thus providing another installment in the mystery of why those Iranian weapons are always so conveniently labelled in English. Also strange is that just a few days earlier, the US military announced the seizure of a a 200-pound AH-3 Chinese practice bomb without any indication that this was part of Chinese support for the insurgency.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Keeping in touch

National Review's arch Anglospherist, John O'Sullivan --

Spain's socialist prime minister, Mr. Zapatero, was the center of a throng. He looks amazingly like Mr. Bean, the comic character invented by British comedian Rowland Atkinson

He's also unaware how silly it seems to be pursuing a comparison of Zapatero with Mr Bean when the moniker seems set to stick indefinitely to Gordon Brown.

Tomorrow's right-wing outrage today

In an episode that may warrant an entry in the War on Christmas, Irish state broadcaster RTE has confirmed that it had concerns about running an ad for the Catholic retail chain Veritas because the ad contained the word crib.1 [Irish Times, subs. req'd; BBC]

However, RTE denied a claim that it had banned the ad, instead having suggested to the church that the ad's text needed to be reviewed by the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) to see whether it complied with a ban on "advertising directed towards a religious end".

So is this another installment in the endless march of Godless secularism? Not really. For one thing, the controversy, such as it is, seems driven by everyone deciding on their own interpretation of the rules and then complaining about it rather than asking someone who might actually know. In particular, RTE took it upon themselves to decide that mention of the word crib might amount to commercial proselytising, and the Catholic bishops took it upon themselves to be offended by this and not actually ask the BCI to clear the ad:

a spokeswoman for the BCI confirmed that it had been contacted by Veritas, but had not been asked for its advice on the advertisement in question. "We haven't issued a deliberation on it," she said. "We haven't been asked to give a view and haven't seen sight of the advertisement."

But how much less fun would be the 3 minutes to clear the ad compared to the well-matched pair of the DIY 1905ers at RTE and the under siege mentality of the Church?

1In one point of confusion for our American readers, crib translates as creche whereas cot translates as crib.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dick Cheney has a new catchphrase

"Long Pole." He used it twice in an interview with the Politico:

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been sort of the long pole in the tent, if you will, in terms of the opposition we face ... The long pole in the tent in terms of developing nuclear weapons, traditionally, historically, has been developing fissile material, either highly-enriched uranium or plutonium.

The interview is also noteworthy for the narrative frame of the questions, in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is described by the interviewers as "partisan" and "stridently anti-war", a usage which in theory but not in practice allows for one to be "partisan" and "stridently pro-war". Like Cheney.

Off their game

Here's another sign that the spinners are not quite so much in control of the White House as they used to be. We're at that time of year where George Bush blames every bad thing on the failure of Congress to give him the authority to spend yet more borrowed money on the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan. In past cycles the spinners have suggested that the failure to pass a budget has endangered troops. White House press secretary Dana Perino was setting up this line last week --

And the President is going to go to the Pentagon today -- as I told you this morning, they're going to talk about a variety of issues ... Of course, they're going to be talking about the budget, as well. So that's why the meeting is scheduled for over an hour and a half. The President will make a statement afterwards.

But I hardly see that as taking the gloves off, because they've [Congress] had the [budget] request, they've seen how wonderfully our troops are performing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this money is for the day-to-day operations that is needed to fight the war on terror. And this includes bullets, body armor, the MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protected) vehicles that will help protect them.

So the next step was going to be to say that the troops were more exposed to ambush risk. There's a problem though -- the Marines don't want more MRAPs:

Improved conditions in Iraq and a desire to remain a light, mobile force caused the Marine Corps cut its order for mine-resistant, ambush–protected (MRAP) vehicles, a decision that included careful assessment of its effect on safety of deployed forces, the commandant of the Marine Corps said here [Washington] today.

The Marine Corps has asked the Joint Requirement Oversight Council to cut the number of MRAP vehicles earmarked for the service from 3,600 to 2,300.

In fact if you read the rest of that story, it's not even clear that they want what's currently coming off the assembly line.

A year ago, the White House would have said that the order was cut because of the delay in funding. The military men are trying to regain control.


It's a sign of the times that when George Bush says "all options are on the table" he's referring to Dick Cheney's fantasy of bombing Iran, whereas when Gordon Brown makes exactly the same usage, he's referring to the possibility of having to nationalise Northern Rock.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

But it's not a War on Muslims

Ed Gillespie, who once argued for Bush's tax cuts on the ground that Irish famine victims would have wanted them, was required to make disclosures about his lucrative lobbying career when he returned to the White House as a top adviser to Bush. Among the clients mentioned --

Republika Srpska — the mini-state of Bosnia's Serbs

This is another of those weird instances when the Serbs show up on the radar screen as a cause of the American right; see Mark Steyn. It's especially awkward that the de facto goal of the Bosnian Serb enclave is secession from the Bosnian confederation and unification with Serbia, a model that the administration surely doesn't want to be planting in the minds of Iraqis. Unless the price was right.

A nation once again

Clearly Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness aren't especially worried about the appearance of offering rich property developers advance word that they'll get their planning permission no matter what -- despite cosy links between developers and politicians being at the crux of the Republic's political scandals, and now it seems at the crux of the Labour (UK) funding scandal as well. Anyway, it's Donald Trump who's the beneficiary on this occasion.

Turning the Gulf red

Writing in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; alt. free link), neocon Max Boot has found a solution to the Iran problem -- even though the US intelligence agencies now say that they are unclear on what the problem is. He wants the 6 Arab states of the Gulf (the GCC) to launch a military strike against Iran's nuclear program. It's that simple:

The GCC states boast 627 combat-capable aircraft vs. only 286 for Iran, and most of the GCC aircraft are much more advanced. The GCC is well-supplied with modern American fighter-bombers -- F-15s, F-16s, F-18s -- and they are buying more top-of-the-line hardware all the time. Iran, by contrast, is still reliant on F-4s and F-5s acquired by the shah three decades ago, supplemented by a few more modern Russian and Chinese fighters.

Even though Iran has also been acquiring surface-to-air missiles from Russia, either the UAE or Saudi Arabia has, at least on paper, an air force capable of dealing the Iranian nuclear program a devastating blow. Of course a Gulf air armada would take heavier casualties than an American one. Gulf pilots do not have the full panoply of surveillance and electronic warfare systems needed to totally suppress air defenses. Nor do they have the "bunker buster" munitions needed to take out deep-buried facilities ... Some of the weaknesses of the Gulf air forces, such as lack of bunker busters, could easily be remedied by purchases from the American arsenal.

The U.S. is making those very kinds of transfers to help the Israeli Air Force develop its long-range strike capacity. We take for granted that Israel, a state of 6.4 million people with a GDP of $140 billion, could successfully attack nuclear sites located 1,200 miles away. Yet we ignore the possibility that the GCC states, with a combined population of 39 million and a GDP of $522 billion, could do at least as good of a job, operating from bases located in some cases less than 100 miles from Iran. (Iran's population is 65 million; its GDP $193 billion.)

Note the specification that the countries would have to "purchase" the bunker busters even though they would be carrying out the preferred American policy -- that military-industrial complex ain't free, you know. Boot also has his numbers wrong, as his GDP calculation for the Arab states appears to reflect only the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and his population numbers include the large expatriate populations of the Gulf states, who are not really relevant when you're thinking about military capacity.

He also links this supposed untapped military potential to claims he said he heard that privately the Arab states are keen on a military strike, but he never names a single source. Most likely because it's bluster. This wouldn't be a 1967 war. Once attacked, the Iranians would deploy significant retaliatory capacity and would wreak havoc not just in the shipping lanes of the Gulf but the massive oil installations along it. He also ignores that his Arab military alliance contains one Shia majority state (Bahrain) and two with significant Shia populations (Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) who wouldn't be especially excited about what would be easily billed as a Sunni-Shia war.

In short, it's lunacy. Unfortunately, it's probably finding a favourable audience with Dick Cheney.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three years to catch up

Today the US military in Iraq announced they had positively identified the body of Stumpy Pepys Abu Maysara who was killed in an operation near Samarra two weeks ago. Mentioned in his case history is this --

Maysara fought against the Government of Iraq in Fallujah in 2004 and was reportedly one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s senior advisors. On Nov. 29, 2004, Maysara was captured by Coalition forces in Fallujah, using the name Muhammad Wasim Abdullah Halabi, also known as Abu Assim. He had in his possession a forged Ministry of the Interior identification card with the name Ahmad Ibrahim Karim, also known as Abu Ibrahim.

That would be the second battle of Fallujah. For those trying to keep track, the first battle in April 2004 was when the US invaded the city after four Blackwater guards were ambushed and killed and their bodies filmed on a bridge outside the city. The Iraqi government balked at the destruction and the invasion was aborted, but the US went in again in November and flattened the place.

But the tentacles of the bad guys into the Iraqi government were sufficiently strong that Abu Maysara was released despite being captured. The news release does not provide an estimate death toll for his activities in the three extra years that he got.

UPDATE 26 DECEMBER: Another Fallujah alum, Abu Abdullah, was killed around the same time.

Decided on the field

It's easy to mock soccer for its 1-0 scorelines, or for the evil twin of 1-0: the 0-0 draw. But here's one thing about soccer. It's not like American football where decisions made at the sideline entirely determine the outcome of the game --

[Ravens-Patriots] [Baltimore] defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called a timeout just as the defense held on fourth down in the final Patriots drive


[Redskins-Bills] [Coach Joe] Gibbs pointedly blamed himself for the loss. Lindell’s winning field goal was from 36 yards. Gibbs had called a timeout a split-second before Lindell made a 51-yard attempt, then called another timeout as Lindell set himself to kick again. But the Redskins (5-7) received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for calling consecutive timeouts in an attempt to freeze the kicker.

“I should know the rule,” Gibbs said. “I can’t blame that on somebody else.”

When there are no timeouts, they can't be messed up.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Celtic Tiger latest

In which a solicitor, who already in addition to his busy legal career had a huge property portfolio, now also apparently had a sideline in wedding limos. The business has just been shut down.

They hate us, our freedom, our values etc*

Or maybe not. The Key Judgments section of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Iran ("Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities") is out. This is the bit of the overall classified document that George Bush used to selectively leak. It was clear something was up when the White House rushed out a defensive-sounding statement about it without any link to the actual document -- which is moderate and restrained. Here is perhaps the biggest problem for the White House:

Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.

So after all the talk about hidden Imams and crazy Presidents, the Iranians turn out to be policymakers who do some rational calculations. More so than the specific status of nuclear weapons development in Iran, this undercuts the entire philosophy that has driven US policy towards Iran -- that they are inherently unbalanced and dangerous.

More wiping off the map

DOHA (Reuters) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a summit of Gulf Arab leaders on Monday that any security problem in one country would spill over to neighboring states.

"We welcome peace and complete security without outside influence," Ahmadinejad told the heads of the U.S.-allied member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council in Doha, Qatar.

"Any security problem that could happen in one country will have a negative effect on the security of all countries," he said in the televised speech, in which he referred to the region as the Persian, not Arabian, Gulf.

Pinko rag

It's a shame that the normally excellent Financial Times feels the need to give op-ed space to Karl Rove to bash Hillary Clinton, and the lack of editing is evident in such usages as "Hillarycare" -- a standard loony American right talking point that will be lost on many of the FT's international readers.

Losing with grace

REUTERS/Francesco Spotorno; caption

If Hugo Chavez had won his constitutional referendum by the same margin as which he lost it, the US would have accused him of rigging the result. So it's an extra special weasel moment for this statement from the State Department --

U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns ...told reporters in Singapore. "In a country that wants to be a democracy, the people spoke, and the people spoke for democracy and against unlimited power."

Didn't they just show that it already is a democracy?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Note to Googlers

The new standard for Washington political journalism is that once a rumour is "out there", it's true if it's not denied or if it's denied it feeds the rumour. Then anyone interested in following up the Times (UK) airing of rumours about Condoleezza Rice and therefore curious about Condi's guests at the Kennedy Center Honors this evening --

The Honorable (Secretary) Condoleezza Rice, Ex Officio Trustee, The Kennedy Center, Secretary of State, Department of State

Ms. Lativa Ray-Alston (Guest)

Mr. Will Alston (Guest)

needs to know that Ms Ray-Alston's name is mis-spelled on the guest list. Her name is Lativia, which quickly leads to the information that she is Condi's cousin. Nothing to see here folks.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's genetic all right

Above, Jacob Weisberg, Slate "editor" who allowed Will Saletan's IQ shite to appear in the crimson-hued rag, James Watson, who at least has the excuse of age for having awakened the IQ-race crowd from their slumber, and Charles Murray, who had made the previous run at the issue with The Bell Curve.

One wonders whether their flirtation with the idea of IQ as being determined by the race gene has any link to one aspect of their own appearance being clearly genetic -- that classic male pattern baldness.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Becoming the story

Dumped into the Friday afternoon cycle is this cryptic post on National Review Online from editor Kathryn Jean Lopez concerning material that appeared on their military blog, preposterously named "The Tank". The issue is that one of the bloggers on The Tank, W. Thomas Smith, was forced to acknowledge that his accounts of witnessing various Hezbollah activities were incomplete: giving the impression of being eye-witness accounts, but in fact cobbled together from eye-witness accounts, extrapolations, assumptions, and other unspecified sources' accounts of what they had seen.

This is the kind of "reporting" that has launched a thousand right-wing "outrages" when its subject matter is insufficiently good news from Iraq (e.g. Bilal Hussein). But even stranger than the quasi-apology is Smith's defence of his methods and actions in "reporting" on Hezbollah --

Speaking of wild, my detractors have claimed that my “public cowboying” — writing openly about carrying weapons, photographing Hezbollah facilities and stealing flags from Hezbollah strongholds — has endangered all reporters in Lebanon. They argue that Hezbollah fighters might assume, based on my reports, that any Western reporter could be armed and hostile to their interests.

Frankly, I'm not concerned with what Hezbollah assumes. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, funded, trained, and equipped by the Islamic (Iranian) Revolutionary Guard Corps. My responsibility is not to concern myself with how Hezbollah perceives me, nor do I feel any compulsion to court them. They are the enemy as far as I’m concerned. My responsibility is to deliver the facts to my readers, which I have always done and will always do.

Now, am I a “cowboy?” Perhaps I am bit of a cowboy. I did, after all, snag a Hezbollah flag while I was there. Was that Thomas the journalist snagging the flag? Hardly. That was Thomas the Marine. And that's part of who I am, which I suppose makes me part cowboy. But that’s something my detractors will just to have to live with, because that’s not going to change.

So he's in Lebanon, under the auspices of the National Review, and announcing not only he's there to report on Hezbollah as "the enemy" but seeking to directly provoke them. Smith lives in a state where if you shoot someone on your property who was stealing stuff, no one would bat an eyelid. So what will National Review's complaint be if Smith gets hurt in one of his future pranks against Hezbollah? What explanation will they offer to another reporter who gets hurt on the assumption of Hezbollah that he's another Smith character? And what is their liability if Smith, who apparently totes a gun in his trips around Beirut, hurts someone else? Someone has a blogger ethics problem.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan noticed, although he's more focused on the New Republic payback angle (exhaustively documented by Glenn Greenwald) than the ongoing ethics problem. As Sullivan points out, Smith never links to his original disputed posts. They are here and here.

FINAL UPDATE: Via a later Sullivan post, someone on the ground who's had a problem with Smith's methods from the start.

ONE MORE THING: K-Lo finally follows up, on The Tank and not at The Corner, with what essentially amounts to "We apologize to those facts that took offense". It now seems that K-Lo only owned up in the first place because the people who were disputing Smith's reporting for 6 weeks could get nowhere with National Review directly and so took the story to Tom Edsall.

Gordon loses Khartoum

This business about the teddy. A few weeks ago there was the Zoe's Ark affair next door in Chad. A French NGO developing a freelance adoption business in which children who are allegedly orphans from Darfur but may in fact have been from poor families in eastern Chad are shipped to France -- the NGO is probably breaking multiple laws in Chad and France and now they sit in jail awaiting trial. Regular protests outside the jail demanding justice and in principle one could see the point of the protestors since the activities of Zoe's Ark touch so many sore points in African history -- Europeans coming in and doing what they think is best, even if it includes moving people thousands of miles from their homes.

But there was something slightly fishy about the protests. They looked organized. There was always a well-dressed protestor available to speak fluent French to the assembled hacks. Meanwhile when the TV crews would head to one of the villages where the children came from, the attitude of the families who had been misled into providing children for the scheme was much more shrug of the shoulder and measured. And like most people in Chad, they didn't speak much French.

So now in Khartoum another protest. And protestors available with fluent English for the assembled hacks. If they can get that worked up about a teddy, maybe the Zoe's Ark thing is not such a big deal. Something that the French might keep in mind if they contemplated springing the NGO people out of jail and bringing them home. Especially since they are the ones that keep the government of Chad in power anyway.

Anyway, the point of this rambling post is a hypothesis: that the protests over whatever the latest outrage is aren't benighted villagers. It's the local elite.

Why Gordon Brown is in trouble

American pollsters. From the Financial Times --

Mr Brown’s problems can be traced to the moment on the morning of October 5 when Stan Greenberg, Labour’s US polling consultant, flipped open his laptop and gave the prime minister his verdict on the likely outcome of an autumn poll. “He said the PM would win but that his majority could be as high as 40 or as low as 20,” says one of Mr Brown’s aides.

It has never been explained what comparative advantage American pollsters posess in understanding the quite different electoral dynamics of UK politics. Using them to determine the timing of election is especially bizarre, since this is a decision point that is irrelevant in the US, with its fixed terms.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

War on Arteries

From the White House Christmas party menu --

Crispy Chicken-Fried Steak Fingers with Creamed Pan Drippings

Someone also needs to alert Bill O'Reilly, assuming he's attending, that if the fried food doesn't give him a heart attack, the description of the event as a "holiday reception" certainly will. Why does the White House hate Jesus?

Building behaving suspiciously

Some terminology from Multinational Force Iraq --

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq – A house-borne improvised explosive device was destroyed near Maderiyah on the afternoon of Nov. 25.

Soldiers from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division were conducting a foot patrol in the area when they found an abandoned house with copper wires extending out of a window.

The more usual VBIED (vehicle-borne) makes sense because after all the vehicle is carrying the bomb. But a house? Maybe the traditional term booby-trap doesn't sound scary enough.

Remember the Beagle

An illustration of how the American right views everything through their culture war lens -- the National Review's John O'Sullivan citing the good points about new Australian Liberal Party leader Brendan Nelson --

He supports the teaching of intelligent design in schools if the parents want it

Pining for the 90s

Slate's Mickey Kaus is wondering why it is that rumours about Hillary Clinton having a lesbian affair with a staffer are not circulating widely in the USA. Among the reasons one could offer is that the rumour is baseless, apparently based on the observation that one of Hillary's close-knit circle is, nudge nudge wink wink, a woman! Anyway, Kaus has constructed a perfect circle of undeniability so that the rumour is true no matter what Hillary says --

In the new Webby post-Lewinsky world [the rumour is] more likely to surface, which makes the subsequent denial all the more important. Contrary to popular belief, it's not impossible to issue a denial so convincing that even gossip-addicted bloggers drop a juicy rumor ... The trouble for Hillary is that when it comes to sex rumors she and her husband (unlike, say, John Edwards and his wife) have no credibility. They threw that away when the philandering charges they righteously denounced in 1992 and 1998 turned out to be basically true

Over a few sentences he has two links to the Times (UK) which itself only reported the existence of the rumour and didn't have a shred of evidence for it. But check out the logic: the rumour is out there, so if she doesn't deny it, it might be true, except that if she does deny it, no one will believe her.

But anyway, is the rumour really out there? What it lacks is the key ingredient of the Clinton scandal-peddling of the 1990s -- a direct link between a British hack willing to run with the story and right-wing outlets in the US sufficiently Clinton-obsessed to run regular stories beginning with the clause "London's Sunday Telegraph is reporting that ..." Because that was the 1990s trick: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Conrad Black-owned Telegraph would type up the latest shite, and then the American Spectator, Washington Times and Scaife-owned newspapers would get it into circulation in the US citing the Telegraph as their source.

But now that circle is gone. Evans-Pritchard is not on the US beat, it's a post-Black Telegraph, Clinton's impeachment burned more Republicans than Democrats (anyone remember Bob Livingston?), and even George Bush ran against the "politics of personal destruction". Add to that a sense that there's plenty of scope for return fire if we're airing speculative rumours (just go look at a few of the theories about the George W.-Condi-Laura nexus) and the Hillary gossip is likely to sit as a few neglected links at Slate.

UPDATE: Slate being owned by the Washington Post may explain why the Post is using the same tactic regarding "rumours" that Barack Obama is Muslim.

FINAL UPDATE: Maybe Kaus should link to this.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Let the scrubbing begin

The White House website is one of the few good things about the Bush administration. It has a very clean layout, easy to find things, and mostly accurate transcripts are posted extremely promptly.

But now. The news page used to have a very nice box on the left called "News by Date" with all the material organized by month since January 2001. So one could focus an open-ended search very quickly once you knew what period you were looking for. For example, finding out exactly what Bush's demands to Saddam were right before the invasion was just a scroll through the March 2003 pages. However, the links to months prior to 2006 have been removed from the current website. All the underlying material is still there and of course the search engine still works. But what's gone is the ability to do a chronological survey of Bush's statements and positions without some extra work.

One crude fix is to type the url
[year as 4 digit number, month as 2 digit number]. There is some chance the policy is not intentional as sometimes the original full menu of months does display, so there may be a html/Javascript innocent explanation for what is going on.

This is as good a time as any to make our recommendation that the first order of web business of the Clinton or Obama presidency should be to leave all the current website material untouched, because referring back to Bush's positions and precedents is going to be an important part of keeping the press corps reminded of what they accepted in the Bush years.

One more Tony Blair loose end

Apparently the NatWest Three are taking a plea bargain, as soon as today in Houston. They had little choice. Read this Houston Chronicle report for a recap of how they were screwed by the UK government: testimony given voluntarily to a government agency, and leading to no action, passed on to the US government and then used as the basis of a criminal indictment which was then pursued by extradition under anti-terrorism legislation, with a trial in Houston where the mere mention of Enron is prejudicial, and trial preparations that were dragging on and on with little prospect of cooperation from UK witnesses that the three would need. So at this point, little option but to take a plea, hope for a short sentence, and get home. With Gordon Brown's run of luck, some aspect of the deal with likely rebound badly on him.

UPDATE: It's confirmed. A guilty plea on one count of wire fraud (e.g. the fact that some of the e-mails or faxes crossed American wires) and 37 months jail time -- with possibility of smaller time if they can serve it in the UK and benefit from UK parole rules.

FINAL UPDATE: Tim Worstall explains why the procedures seem a bit dodgy even with actual terrorist suspects, and Martin Wolf (FT) goes even further than we would in describing the dilemma facing the three as judicial torture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Local suppliers

The French rioters have guns. But are they Islamo-guns? --

Patrice Ribeiro of the Synergie police union said rioters this time included "genuine urban guerrillas," saying the use of firearms — hunting shotguns so far — had added a dangerous dimension.

France has a huge hunting lobby and shotguns are easier to obtain than the stylized image of European gun laws that holds sway in the US would suggest. No point in looking for complicated global jihadi networks when simple explanations are available.

Hamlet without the Prince

OK so we're a bit short of material so let's go to the last refuge of the blogger -- soccer. It's been announced that the football associations of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland have agreed to play a "Celtic Cup" in a league format beginning in 2009. We should be thankful it's not called the Braveheart Cup. It doesn't take long to spell out why it's an atrocious idea. It's only being considered because all four teams, and England, failed to qualify for the European Championship next year in Austria-Switzerland, and the idea was apparently finalised over a few too many bottles of nice South African wine in Durban (since all the associations were there for the world cup qualifying draw).

Yet England, notwithstanding the tentative support of Gordon Brown for the idea, have wisely backed out of making it an Islands Cup. If you've all fallen short of international standards by failing to qualify for a benchmark tournament, you don't raise quality by playing each other. And most of all, the Celtic rivalries are not natural ones. The key feature of the similar tournament in rugby is that even when one of the teams is terrible, there's always the chance of beating the Sassanaigh -- who won't be in this one. With a bit of luck, there'll be one tournament in 2009 and then one or more of the teams will have qualified for the World Cup in 2010 and won't want to play it again. Note also that more serious ideas, such as merging the football associations in the north and the republic, are not being considered.

Monday, November 26, 2007

She was in charge of foreseeing 9/11

From a New York Times article about Condi Rice's bid for a legacy with the Annapolis conference; it should be noted that the article is by NYT journalist Elisabeth Bumiller who will soon have a book to flog about Rice and is probably annoyed that Glenn Kessler already his similarly-themed book out and being reviewed --

Ms. Rice, who had heralded the [Palestinian] election as a symbol of the new stirrings of democracy in the Middle East, was so blindsided by the victory that she was startled when she saw a crawl of words on her television screen while exercising on her elliptical trainer the morning after the election: “In wake of Hamas victory, Palestinian cabinet resigns.”

“I thought, ‘Well, that’s not right,’” Ms. Rice recalled. When the crawl continued, she got off the elliptical trainer and called the State Department.

“I said, ‘What happened in the Palestinian elections?’” Ms. Rice recalled. “And they said, ‘Oh, Hamas won.’ And I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, Hamas won?’”

Thus, the policy making process in the leader of the free world.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Media barons speak

The House of Lords Communications Committee has just released minutes of meetings that they held in the US with media proprietors, editors, pundits, and blogger(s) in September. The main nuggets from the minutes are reflected in this BBC story but it's worth dwelling on a couple of points.

First, in the same discussion where Rupert Murdoch states frankly that he sets the editorial line of The Sun and the News of the World but is constrained from doing so with The Times, he makes the same distinction between the New York Post (where he does set the line) and the Wall Street Journal -- which at that point he had just about acquired. He's clearly chomping at the bit to take control of the Journal, but lest there be any doubt over the coming election season as to where a NY Post editorial came from, now we know.

He was also fairly lacerating about Sky News, although his proposed solution of making it more like Fox News is alarming --

He believed that Sky News would be more popular if it were more like the Fox News Channel. Then it would be “a proper alternative to the BBC”. One of the reasons that it is not a proper alternative to the BBC is that no broadcaster or journalist in the UK knows any different. Mr Murdoch stated that Sky News could become more like Fox without a change to the impartiality rules in the UK. For example Sky had not yet made the presentational progress that Fox News had.

The thing is -- he has a point. Particularly when one is stuck in a furrin hotel room with Sky News as one of the few TV options, the sparseness of its rolling news format becomes apparent. The tenth go-round of the latest Maddy/Margate-type story is no more enlightening than the first. But of course what Murdoch wants is these same stories -- all the better to keep the masses distracted -- but blended in with a steady stream of bloviators working from one political/cultural "outrage" to the next, with outrage being defined as something not in line with the Murdoch political agenda.

Speaking of Fox News, the committee also spoke to Roger Ailes. It was mostly the usual shite but there is his account of the 2000 presidential election --

Just before the 2000 presidential election they ran a story that they knew would damage George W Bush’s campaign. The Bush campaign even asked them to hold the story. They were the only news organisation to get hold of the story (which related to Bush having been caught driving under the influence of alcohol 16 years previously). Therefore they decided it was news worthy and ran it. Following their coverage Bush dropped by five points and Ailes believed that Fox News was probably responsible for the run off in Florida.

In such a close election, any one thing can be picked out as decisive. And this particular claim of Ailes has been around the block before. One thing is for sure: if George Bush was so ungrateful to Fox News for bringing him within a few hundred votes of losing in 2000, he has a strange way of showing it.

Why does the New York Times hate Thanksgiving?

And thus America? Was there a dinner table in the land where someone did not say "Did you see that New York Times article about how to carve a turkey?" Here it is. Its supposed virtue is that it recognises the fact it's difficult to carve a roast turkey in situ on the plate. But, in a concession to the soft bigotry of low expectations, it therefore recommends breaking off the key bits of the turkey and "carving" them into large steak style "slices".

It's accurately described as a "butcher's method" because indeed that's why a butcher is behind the raw meat and not the delicatessen counter -- he's not a slicer. So you end up with what one fellow diner described as resembling halibut steaks -- minus the flavour. More fundamental is the failure to recognise that turkey doesn't actually have that much that flavour, and thicker slices of it just means more bulk that needs to be accessorised. The traditional thin slices works because the fork can be loaded up with cranberry, spuds, and whatever other sauces the chef has cooked up.

If we take this method to its logical conclusion, then what's the point of smoked salmon slices, since they're also difficult to do? Coming soon, one speculates, the sushi bagel with cream cheese.

Friday, November 23, 2007

An inconvenient, omitted truth

National Review neocon (but we repeat ourselves) Michael Rubin does a daily roundup of news from Iran. Here are the two most recent. You'd wade through a lot of links and never know that the favourite neocon bogeyman, Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, was strongly attacked by an establishment newspaper, almost certainly with the approval of the Supreme Ayatollah. Because acknowledging that would mean that the whole narrative of the Iranian government as a unitary entity bent on regional and global destruction would become difficult to maintain.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The lastest Thanksgiving bird -- Turduckin'

The latest good news from Iraq --

A series of mortars later struck the U.S.-protected Green Zone, Iraqi police said. The attack coincided with the celebration of Thanksgiving but there were no immediate reports of casualties in the heavily fortified area, which houses the U.S. Embassy, thousands of American troops and contractors, and Iraqi government headquarters.

About 10 blasts were heard in central Baghdad just before 5 p.m., and a huge plume of black smoke rose into the sky as the sun was setting. The U.S. government public address system in the Green Zone also warned people to "duck and cover" and to stay away from windows.

[original bird here]

Finally some good news about immigrants

In the context of England's exit from the European Championship --

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) estimates that World Cup 2006 boosted coffers by about £1.25bn through extra sales of food and drink, and products such as flat-screen televisions, replica shirts and flags.

The BRC predicts that the boost from Euro 2008 will only be half as much as the World Cup because the home nations are not involved.

"There is a diverse range of nationalities in Britain, so there will still be people supporting countries involved," said Richard Dodd from the BRC.

i.e. the country now has so many people who are from other countries that there'll still be lots of interest in the tournament even with the national team not involved.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pretend you didn't know that

There are various ways that contempt-of-court bars on media reporting can seem silly, but in the case of the weirdly truncated accounts of the life of Peter Tobin being given regarding the reasons for the house dig in Margate, it requires people forgetting why the name seems familiar, because up until March of this year, he had been subject of a high profile case in Glasgow. All of a sudden, that history can't be mentioned anymore.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hillary Clinton's Irish fundraiser

It's in Ballsbridge tonight, €1,600 a head admission, with featured guest Bill Clinton. One point of curiosity attaches to the admission arrangements for non US-citizens, who are not eligible to make campaign contributions. Apparently this is being done through bundling or pairing with a US citizen -- presumably the latter works by finding a US citizen who has not exceeded a contribution limit, which we believe is $2000. One wonders if the US citizen gets to pocket the difference between the €1,600 and whatever number of dollars it's actually worth when remitted.

Friday, November 16, 2007


In addressing the 25th anniversary gala for the Federalist Society, George Bush complained about the Senate's ability to filibuster his nominees to lifetime judge positions --

Unfortunately, the Senate has failed to act on many of my other nominees. At times it has imposed a new and extra-constitutional standard, where nominees who have the support of the majority of the Senate can be blocked by a minority of obstructionists.

The choice of words is therefore the same as the White House terminology for condemning General Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan --

MS. PERINO: I'm going to let her [Benazir Bhutto] have her own definition. What we -- we can only support, as the United States, constitutional measures, measures that are within the constitution. These extra-constitutional measures that President Musharraf has undertaken, starting late Friday night, are deeply disappointing and not something that we can support.

Thus in Bush's mind, there's no difference between suspending the constitution (Pakistan) and an independent branch of government defining its own rules of conduct in matters in which the US Constitution is silent. An additional twist is that Bush's complaints about activist judges in his partisan speech mirror exactly those of Musharraf in justifying his de facto coup.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Accidental truth-telling

In the debate on National Review's The Corner about the latest boosterish study of trends in US income inequality --

[Kate O'Beirne]

Jonah - One of my favorite polling results helps to explain why class warriors meet with litttle success when they take aim at the "top 1%" to force them to pay their "fair share." A CNN/Time Magazine Fall 2000 poll asked respondents whether they were among the wealthiest 1% of Americans - "Yes," said 19 percent. God Bless us - we think we're way more successful than we are.

Thus people are opposed to taxation of the rich because they mistakenly believe that it will affect them -- a finding presented without a hint of irony. The deeper point is that the 1 percent have done an excellent job of convincing an additional 18 percent that they are all the same.

In view of current events in Belgium

Trinity College Dublin Long Room poster collection

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Attention underpaid history professors

Or others in a similar situation. If you were at a graduate school in the USA between 1996 and 2005, and were over 25 in 1996 and have been filing US income tax returns every year, and made e.g. under $15,326 (in 2005 dollars) in one year in grad school and made $52,000 a year in 2005: you're being cited by the Wall Street Journal (subs req'd, alt. free link) as an example of upward income mobility in the USA, since you've jumped three quintiles in the income distribution.

The underlying source is a US Treasury Department study. The Journal also exults in evidence that there's a lot of volatility at the top end of the income distribution, with lots of people being super-rich in terms of income for one year only. That's a strange argument for them to make, since if being rich is just a matter of one lucky year, what's so wrong with taxing the rich more than everybody else?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remarks of Lord Laird

Note: We reserve the right to pull or alter some material from the below. Here's a permanent link to the original unaltered material.1 The context is here.

Lord Laird: My Lords, I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss some actions that concern Northern Ireland. There can be no doubt that almost everything has changed in Northern Ireland over the past 15 years. Most of the change is for the betterment of the Province’s people and I applaud those who have contributed to bringing about the massive improvement. However, dark clouds still remain not too far from the centre of political life in Northern Ireland. Terrorism of all types has not gone away, even if it has been much reduced. Recent tragic events have brought home in true relief the problems that still remain.

One major difficulty is that the Army Council of the IRA is still intact and active. Many of the major units of that organisation are still in operation. Another difficulty is that the plot unveiled by a former Minister of Justice in the Republic, Mr Michael McDowell, is still ongoing. The plot—I referred to it two years ago in your Lordships’ House—is the takeover of the Irish Republic’s main establishment by placing in its ranks IRA supporters as sleepers or moles. Mr McDowell indicated that the republican movement has already placed people in the top positions of authority: the PM’s office, the police force, the army, major sections of the Government and the media.

Recently strange things have happened, such as the hard line taken by the Republic’s Government against Protestant schools and the ban by the Irish Rugby Football Union after almost 90 years on British symbols at appropriate Irish international rugby matches. All this runs contra to the new atmosphere we all want on the island. In the case of rugby I, along with many in Ulster, am sickened at the introduction of politics into sport. I plead with the IRFU officials to introduce a policy of total equality for all in their dealings with the supporters and players and, by so doing, to remove politics.

One of the most serious incidents has too many shades of the past for us all: the brutal murder of Paul Quinn. It resulted from a dispute between Paul and a son of Vincent Traynor, a local IRA chief. Paul Quinn and some other youths from the area were involved in activities that did not go down well with the senior republican leadership in South Armagh, especially as this new breed of republicans is defying the leadership. It is now quite clear that Vincent had oversold the case against Paul.

Several weeks ago Traynor asked the republican leadership, including Peter and Patrick Quinn from Bog Road—no relations—who run most of the illegal fuel laundering plants in South Armagh for the IRA, to have Quinn executed. After consultation with PJ Carragher and his son Michael, the well known murderous sniper, Thomas “Slab” Murphy, the Provisionals’ commander in the area, Sean Gerard Hughes, known as “the Surgeon”, and James McArdle, permission for the execution was given. Almost 20 republicans were present at the murder as executioners, lookouts, drivers and so on. The eight or nine who conducted the execution were dressed in boiler suits and wore surgical gloves. All were IRA or former IRA members. It took almost half an hour for Paul to die. Every major bone in his body was broken. During the execution he cried for mercy.

Following the murder and the outcry from all parts, a meeting took place in Cullyhanna on Friday 2 November. Although “Slab” Murphy did not attend, a trusted lieutenant was there to speak on his behalf. To quell local discontent, and under pressure from the top, “Slab” offered to put a large amount of cash into the Cullyhanna area in the hope that buying people off with blood money would stop a rift between republicans in South Armagh. The involvement of the republican leadership in South Armagh in the planning, commission and now cover-up of this murder means that it is directly implicated. “Slab” also ordered that no one in the community was to speak to the Garda or PSNI. He was taking full responsibility for the incident because his close associates were involved.

Having felt that they had to blame someone, on 9 November, Friday night past, six armed IRA men went to the home of Vincent Traynor and forced their way in, but Vincent was not there. For the past week Vincent Traynor has been guarded by the police quick reaction force based at Crossmaglen and Newtownhamilton PSNI barracks. Responding to the visit, the QRF was at his house in a matter of minutes, but the IRA gang had gone. Vincent Traynor is now considered to be number one on the IRA hit list because he talked the leadership in South Armagh into the situation that saw the brutal and savage murder of Paul Quinn.

The blame for the murder and the subsequent situation has to lie with the IRA. The IRA veterans of South Armagh want to bring into line the young republicans of the area who are openly defying the leadership. Given those activities, “Slab” Murphy should have his bail in the Republic revoked, as he is now involved in the intimidation of witnesses. At his next court appearance, he should be held in custody while papers for his extradition to Northern Ireland are prepared.

Extreme republicans close to the IRA Army Council are trying to suggest that Paul Quinn’s family is being manipulated to create anti-Sinn Fein propaganda. This is not so. I have been contacted by a number of people and groups from the area who would not normally consider me as a friend asking that the police remove and prosecute those involved, and get them off the streets.

To clarify the situation, if any charges as a result of this murder are brought before the Irish courts, I have not influenced a potential jury by my remarks. It must be remembered that any court without a jury would be a special court. Both Governments need to deal with this type of criminal activity. To brush it under the carpet, as seems to many to be taking place, is just a short-term solution. The island of Ireland will never be at peace until illegal activities are tackled in full and equality is in total operation.

1 The remarks began at 7.02pm during the debate on the Queen's Speech.

Imbalance of power

One thing that the apparent success of the Rudy Giuliani presidential campaign highlights -- despite his character flaws -- is the bizarre view of Europe that is taken as read amongst Republican presidential candidates and thus their electoral base. This Crooked Timber post has a related theme, but consider also the opinion page of today's Wall Street Journal where Mark Helprin describes a Germany that many Germans would have difficulty recognising: one where the old strategic headache of a two-front war has returned, this time consisting of the old enemy Russia expanding from the east, and a new enemy, the global jihad including Iran, targeting Germany with nuclear weapons knowing that Germany has no way of responding --

But, more importantly, the variations in European attitudes and capabilities vis-à-vis responding to terrorism or nuclear blackmail are what make Germany such an attractive target. Unlike the U.S., France, and Britain, Germany is a major country with no independent expeditionary capability and no nuclear weapons, making it ideal for a terrorist nuclear strike or Iranian extortion if Iran is able to continue a very transparent nuclear policy to its logical conclusion. Though it is conceivable that after the shock of losing Washington or Chicago, the U.S. -- or Britain after Birmingham, France after Lyon -- would, even without an address certain, release a second strike, it is very unlikely that, even with an address certain, any nuclear power would launch in behalf of another nation, NATO ally or not, absent an explicit arrangement such as the dual-key structure during the Cold War.

Looking at Germany, then, Iran sees a country with nothing to counter the pressure of merely an implied nuclear threat. Jihadists see the lynchpin of Europe, easy of access and inadvertently hospitable to operations, that will hardly punish those who fall into its hands, and that can neither accomplish on its own a flexible expeditionary response against a hostile base or sponsor, nor reply to a nuclear strike in kind. Thus the German government should be especially nervous about cargos trucked overland from the east.

That's a representative sample. Germany is held hostage to the fact that Iran could nuke Berlin and no other country would respond. He proposes a massive expansion of NATO's mandate to become an explicitly anti-Russian alliance and formal adoption of a retaliatory nuclear strike war strategy by Germany. And in the shorter-term, George Bush's beloved missile interceptor system.

It's all doomsday fantasy stuff. But it gets taken seriously and represents an important dynamic in the election season. The only bit of good news is a sign that level-headed people at the Pentagon are losing patience with it.

One Musharraf tentacle

Here's one our posts from a few months ago about the mysterious case of Saud Memon. The Wall Street Journal has done some follow-up (subs. req'd) and seems to have established the following facts --

Memon was wanted in Pakistan in connection with the murder of Daniel Pearl and possible links to al Qaeda, including their alleged WMD program.

He fled to Mozambique and then to South Africa.

He was detained in South Africa, almost certainly by the CIA, and then transferred to an unknown detention facility, possibly in Afghanistan.

After the vaunted enhanced interrogation techniques got him to confess to an impressive range of crimes -- many already claimed by others -- he was transferred back to Pakistan, whose investigators then applied their own enhanced interrogation techniques.

Some combination of the two "we don't torture" experiences, his conditions of detention, or his own ill-health resulted in him catching multiple infectious diseases.

For some reason, possibly that he had become the subject of a "disappeared" court case in Pakistan, he was dumped out of custody outside his home, and died a few days later, though not before putting in an appearance at the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which was looking into his case.

George Bush's friend President Musharraf in effect abolishes the Supreme Court, ensuring that Memon's case and others like it will disappear -- and removing the irony that the Pakistani legal system was doing more to help track him down than the system of his American jailors.