Wednesday, January 31, 2007

For future reference

Since the SDLP has inconveniently only made a digital image of their now controversial newspaper ad available (background here), and thus does not have cut-and-paste capability, here are the key sentences from the ad --

Against the wishes of Tony Blair and John Reid, we made sure that the Policing Board showed Ronnie Flanagan the door. Against the wishes of Tony Blair and John Reid, we ensured that the Policing Board appointed Hugh Orde, and not a policeman from the old RUC order.

What they were doing: 2

Quite a bit of yesterday's evidence at the Scooter Libby perjury trial concerned his meeting with Judith Miller on 23 June, 2003 -- the meeting she initially "forgot" to tell prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald about (via Washington Post) --

"Deliberately and sometimes defensively offering her account in Libby's perjury trial, Miller told the jury that 'a very irritated and angry' Libby told her in a confidential conversation on June 23, 2003, that the wife of a prominent critic of the Iraq war worked at the CIA. Libby had told investigators he believed he first learned that information from another journalist nearly three weeks later -- the assertion at the core of the charges against him."

And in Iraq on that day? -

BAGHDAD - The United States announced new plans to pacify angry former Iraqi soldiers and create a new Iraqi army as two visiting U.S. senators said American soldiers could stay for more than five years.

American efforts to restore order in Iraq took another blow when an oil export pipeline, not in use since the U.S.-led war began on March 20, exploded near the Syrian border, in the third Iraqi pipeline blast this month.

[original post in this series]

No sympathy for the minority

Slate's Will Saletan is not quite pro-life, but he's definitely anti pro-choice, given his belief that they have somehow gone "too far" in their advocacy of abortion rights. One might think therefore that such a position would translate into a serious analysis of the issues facing parents of a severely handicapped child, given that one choice facing parents of such a child might be instead to have an abortion.

One would be wrong. In a bizarrely overlooked article in the Washington Post last Sunday week (overlooked at least according to technorati and Google's blogsearch), Saletan poured scorn on the decision of Seattle parents to prevent their severely handicapped child Ashley, who has a mental age of 3 months, from developing the physical features of puberty or adulthood. Now it takes about 10 seconds of reflection to see why the parents considered this: contemplate the care issues involved with a completely helpless teenager who has no idea what is going on. But for Saletan, it's just a lifestyle choice like others that ugly Americans might make --

We don't have to make the world fit people anymore. We can shrink people to fit the world ... In the long run, however, economic and ecological forces are going Ashley's way. Smaller people consume fewer resources, live longer and are cheaper to transport. They can fit in a Hyundai. Forty-five years ago, if you were six feet tall, you couldn't fly in a NASA space capsule. Now you can barely fly coach. Blessed are the short, for they shall inherit the Earth.

He even has the nerve to complain that Ashley's parents used criteria that were "not cognitive, [but] moral" when the key issue is her lack of cognitive development to match her physical growth. And it goes on --

Everywhere you turn, people are engineering their bodies to fit in. Chinese are lengthening their legs with surgery to raise their status and career prospects. American men are bulking up on steroids to look good at the gym. In the United States, 300,000 women receive breast implants each year. Some are having toes trimmed to fit fashionable shoes ... But if those are good arguments for shrinking people, or at least for removing some of their tissue, why stop with Ashley? We're facing an epidemic of patients who are physically and cognitively incapacitated, hard to lift, cancer-prone, extremely uncomfortable and incapable of bearing children. They're called old people ...

.... "The only additional care givers entrusted to Ashley's care are her two Grandmothers, who find Ashley's weight even more difficult to manage," the parents plead. But once you start changing people's bodies to make them easier to bear, it's that much easier to look at their caregivers the same way. So the bearers became burdens, and we lightened them. And they lived happily ever after.

Thus is constructed the worst slippery slope argument ever, on a foundation of a pathological lack of empathy. He'd make a fine loony pro-lifer.

[Some additional links: A similar version of the article was published in Slate, and did attract some commentary, but not much; Peter Singer had a much more sensible take on the case in the New York Times]

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

What they were doing: 1

We inaugurate today a new feature which will continue for the remainder of the perjury trial of Scooter Libby. It will juxtapose the summer 2003 priorities of senior White House officials, from the President on down, as revealed in their day-to-day activities during this period, with actual events in Iraq for that day. [The links to the latter will be from the RTE website, which is easily accessed for a particular past day]. Consider the 7th of July 2003 in then press secretary Ari Fleischer's diary --

1000 a.m. Haircut w/ Rocky ...
1200 p.m. Lunch with Scooter Libby

This would be the lunch at which they discussed being Miami Dolphins fans -- and Scooter's knowledge about Joe Wilson's wife. Anyway, in Iraq that day --

Officials from the CIA have said they believe Saddam Hussein's voice was on the recently released audio tape that warned of more bloodshed in Iraq and urged Iraqis to support resistance to US forces. CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said the quality of the tape aired last Friday by Arabic TV channel al Jazeera was poor, so that it could not be determined with absolute certainty that it was Saddam Hussein's voice. The former Iraq leader has not been seen in public since he was ousted from power on 9 April in the US-led war on Iraq.

In a related development, two more American soldiers have been killed in overnight attacks in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. A military spokesman said the first soldier died in a firefight with two Iraqi gunmen, one of whom was also killed. A second man died when an improvised explosive device went off.

In another incident, American troops shot dead two Iraqi civilians during clashes with guerrillas in the town of Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Witnesses said the troops opened fire on a vehicle carrying the two civilians after an American convoy was ambushed by guerrillas. Four US soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Wall Street says no

Or at least the Wall Street Journal says No to the path opened up by the Sinn Fein endorsement of policing in Northern Ireland. The editorial (subs. req'd) appears in the European edition and definitely reflects a conservative and unionist pessimism about the peace process (could they be chatting to Dean Godson before they write them?). Anyway, the essence is in the conclusion --

At the same time, the negotiations have given the IRA more credibility in the eyes of many voters. Participation in Northern Ireland's government would further cement the IRA's reputation as a respectable party. It would also help it in the Republic's general elections, which Dublin plans for May or June. Irish Prime Minister Berti [sic] Ahern says he would accept Sinn Fein's support for a minority government.

Pretty soon the IRA could be governing in the north and south of the island. It's hard to see how that bodes well for peace in Ireland.

It's understandable that they'd be confused about Bertie's stance on Sinn Fein support, because he did briefly feint in that direction before undoing it a couple of days later; hence his current position is that he won't take their support. Note also the editorial's assumption of 100 percent of equivalence between Sinn Fein and the IRA.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

It's like a canoe trip

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams advising members on how to handle what will be a fraught pre-election period in Northern Ireland --

In the meantime let's take the next wee phase nice and calmly.

Bad Neighbour

There's probably not much point in picking through the wreckage of a Dick Cheney interview (alt. link here), but here's one point in his latest, with Newsweek, where the only issue is whether he's lying or actually doesn't have a clue what he's talking about --

Q You've made the case that a collapsed Iraq would become a terrorist haven. The President has also said that. Al Qaeda is essentially --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Look at what happened to Afghanistan.

Q But al Qaeda is essentially a new organization in Iraq, a Sunni organization and it has this element of foreign fighters. Isn't there a reason to think that if there was full-blown civil war, the Shia would essentially beat them and neutralize that as being a hostile force as they take control of the country?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: What's the basis for that?

Q There are more Shia.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let's look at Afghanistan. In 1996, there were no al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That's when bin Laden moved in and found refuge there. A handful of Arabs, foreign fighters, if you will, subsequently opened up training camps, trained somewhere -- estimates range from 10,000 to 20,000 terrorists in the late '90s, developed a safe haven and a base of operations from which they blew up American embassies in East Africa, attacked the USS Cole, launched the planning and training for 9/11. That all took place in Afghanistan under circumstances that are similar to what you've just hypothesized about for Iraq.

Because missing in his answer is the fact that Osama set up shop in Afghanistan under the Taliban government, which was installed by then-and-now US ally on the War on Terror, Pakistan. In fact, hardly a day goes by without a reminder that the central front in the War on Terror always was, and is, Pakistan.

Small world

The Sunday Times (UK) roundup of an eventful week in the French presidential campaign notes that the comedian (Gérald Dahan) who extracted several phone gaffes from Ségolène Royal by claiming to be the prime minister of Québec is the same comedian who phoned Zinedine Zidane, claiming to be Jacques Chirac, and got him to agree that the French team should place their hands on their hearts during the playing of the French national anthem in Dublin before their World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.

Friday, January 26, 2007

We want Barabbas

One of the many weird elements to the blog row between The New Republic supremo Marty Peretz and various others (nicely summarised here by Brainiac) is Peretz's ability to tune out the core role of self-sacrifice in religious faith. Consider his ill-tempered response to the initial row --

I am grateful to Jonathan Chait for defending me against Matthew Yglesias' insinuation that I didn't really know that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been imprisoned (by the state) and murdered by a racist. This racist, James Earl Ray, was convicted by the state in a jury trial of his peers and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

What does Yglesias think would have happened to a nearly unimaginable Muslim Martin Luther King had he arisen in Iraq or Syria or Iran or Algeria or Taliban Afghanistan? Would he not have been killed by the regime? And had a jihadist killed him would not that pious person be a hero to his society?

My riff was actually based on a Yiddish proverb: "If God lived on earth people would break his windows."

The last bit is particularly bizarre, as the proverb is surely intended to be open to multiple interpretations. After all, one school of faith says that God did live on earth, although not at a time when people had windows. And of course the point of his time here on earth, as interpreted by Christians, is that only a few people were ready to accept his message (and maybe still only a very few people).

MLK for one surely drew comfort from parallels of Jesus with his own life, and reformers in any society, regardless of faith, must ponder the possibility of (unwilling) self-sacrifice for their cause. Yet Peretz is blind to the possibility that his absent Muslim hero would eventually succeed despite having his windows broken, or worse.

Not what they expected

It's the 100th anniversary of the opening of The Playboy of the Western World at the (old) Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Declan Kiberd has a (subs. req'd) account in the Irish Times of contemporary reactions to the play, beyond that of the infamous (and exaggerated) "riots" at the Abbey on the first few nights. For example --

The poet Philip Larkin downed a second gin-and-tonic during the interval of The Playboy at the Oxford Playhouse, decided that it was "all balls", and didn't go back in for the second half.

Anyway, allowing for home bias, the play still surely has relevance with its device of notoriety arising from a claim of murder, and Kiberd explains its more subtle mockery of Celtic hero myths, notably that of Cúchulainn. Incidentally, Kiberd doesn't pursue a fairly obvious link between one specific aspect of these myths that Synge was making fun of -- the appearance of multitudes of virgins at crucial times for the hero -- and the similar folklore that motivated the 9/11 hijackers. Thankfully, the observance of the anniversary seems more restrained than some other recent festivals (ReJoyce, anyone?) which hopefully will allow a little more time for contemplation of the play's meaning.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

New Orleans gets the Liverpool treatment

From Mark Steyn at National Review's The Corner --

Re: World's Smartest City [Mark Steyn]

Derb, I’m with you on New Orleans – welfare swamp enlivened by occasional transsexual hookers

calling to mind the column that was the beginning of the end of his sinecure at the Telegraph --

Ken Bigley [murdered Liverpool/Irish Iraq hostage] seems to have found contemporary Britain a dreary, insufficient place and I doubt he cared about who was Prime Minister from one decade to the next.

Had things gone differently and had his fate befallen some other expatriate, and had he chanced upon a month-old London newspaper in his favourite karaoke bar up near the Thai-Cambodian border and read of the entire city of Liverpool going into a week of Dianysian emotional masturbation over some deceased prodigal son with no inclination to return whom none of the massed ranks of weeping Scousers from the Lord Mayor down had ever known, Mr Bigley would surely have thanked his lucky stars that he and his Thai bride were about as far from his native sod as it's possible to get

Of course, Steyn is just following, re New Orleans, a trail blazed by Jonah Goldberg.

UPDATE: Unbelievable. Barely had Jonah's name been typed above when he steps in with additional "humour" --

Now That's a Slogan [Jonah Goldberg]

Mark describes New Orleans as a "welfare swamp enlivened by occasional transsexual hookers." I love it! I for one would pay top dollar for such a slogan on my license plate.

Don't remember the dead

Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has surely strayed well beyond his mandate with this comment, as reported in a loony column by Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal, a column predicated on the idea that "defeat" is something that can assessed without reference to the fundamental conditions on the ground in Iraq --

Our slide to a national nervous breakdown because of Iraq is not going unnoticed. Australia's foreign minister, Alexander Downer, has been visiting across the U.S. this week. "I've been pretty worried about what I've heard," Mr. Downer said in an interview. Walking on Santa Monica beach Sunday before last, Mr. Downer said he encountered a display of crosses in the sand, representing the American dead in Iraq.

"What concerns me about this," he said, "is that it's sort of an isolationist sentiment, subconsciously, not consciously, and that would be an enormous problem for the world. I hope the American people understand the importance of not retreating and thinking the world's problems aren't theirs."

To state the obvious, what business is it of Downer to interpret a memorial to the dead in California as a sign of national weakness, especially coming as he does from a country whose reverence for its military dead is so well known?

Tell it like it is

The successor to Operation Forward Together II in Baghdad has been announced. And it's not Bride of Operation Forward Together. It's Operation Imposing Law. Really.

UPDATE 15 FEBRUARY: In keeping with the trend of announcing operations long before their implementation, Operation Imposing Law only began yesterday, and the Times (UK) explains that there are already issues with its name --

The dispute coincided with US officials unveiling the official name of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Baghdad operation, ’Fahd al-Qanoon (Imposing Justice), in Arabic, although US officials call it Operation Law and Order.

The American concern being, presumably, that the former more accurate name implies that there was no law before the operation began.

FINAL UPDATE 18 FEBRUARY: A Pentagon news release announces the official name of "the latest iteration of the Baghdad security plan" as Operation Enforcing the Law, but (one more update) a MNF-Iraq news release avoids using its English name, sticking with "Fardh Al-Qanoon (the Baghdad Security Plan)".

The Pope's children live long and prosper

Today's New York Times returns to its favourite small European country -- the Republic of Ireland -- with a nice roundup of the demographic stresses and strains of rapid growth. The micro perspective is provided by a visit to east Meath, specifically the notorious situation with the lack of a proper primary school in Laytown. The macro perspective is provided by quotes from the usual suspects, including David McWilliams. One irony which we don't know if he's pursued is that his book title, The Pope's Children, should perhaps refer to the Polish immigrants as much as the native born Irish who crowded in as toddlers in the Phoenix Park all those years ago.

Too subtle

The relatively brief exchange between Mark Durkan and Tony Blair at PM's Questions yesterday --

Mark Durkan (Foyle) (SDLP): The report from the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland shows that a serial killer was protected by special branch and paid by the state for years. That would be a national scandal anywhere else. Does the Prime Minister accept that that collusion was a fact, not a myth? Is it not a disgrace that three former heads of special branch—Chris Albiston, Ray White and Freddie Hall—failed to co-operate with the police ombudsman’s investigation, although two of them have attacked her report and her office? Can Ronnie Flanagan, who presided over a culture of “anything goes, but nobody knows” be credible as chief inspector of constabulary? Will the Prime Minister rethink plans to install MI5 as continuity special branch in Northern Ireland, as that would put it beyond the reach of key powers of the police ombudsman?

The Prime Minister: First of all, although I agree with the hon. Gentleman about what has taken place, I completely disagree with his analysis of what MI5 is doing in Northern Ireland. It is simply not correct to say that it will have any role at all in civic policing. Secondly, we deeply and bitterly regret any collusion that has taken place, as we said at the time, and any impropriety on the part of anyone working for special branch throughout those years. However, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would want to acknowledge that as a result of the changes made some years ago, that cannot happen any more, and it is precisely as a result of the additional scrutiny that we now have that this matter has been uncovered and laid bare. It is important that we make sure that such things can never happen again. We must deal with those responsible, and that is obviously what we are doing
. [permanent link]

had more action in Durkan's question than Blair's answer. Durkan could never have named those special branch officers outside parliament, and Blair either missed or chose not to respond to his dig at MI5 ("continuity special branch"), making at least a rhetorical equivalence between MI5 and the renegade Continuity IRA.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Signs of life

Mostly just a link to a transcript of an interview of Dick Cheney by CNN's Wolf Blitzer this morning, notable for Wolf doing a better than usual job of standing up to Cheney -- and having to take some fire from Cheney for it --

[CHENEY] What you're recommending, or at least what you seem to believe the right course is, is to bail out [of Iraq] --
Q I'm just asking questions.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: No, you're not asking questions ...
Q All right, there's a lot of good questions -- let's move on to some other domestic issues. The whole notion of your long-time aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- he's in the papers, his lawyer now suggesting on opening day of the trial that he was basically set up by people in the White House to protect Karl Rove, the President's political aide. What do you make of this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Now, Wolf, you knew when we set up the interview you can ask all the questions you want, I'm going to be a witness in that trial within a matter of weeks, I'm not going to discuss it ...
Q We're out of time, but a couple of issues I want to raise with you. Your daughter Mary, she's pregnant. All of us are happy. She's going to have a baby. You're going to have another grandchild. Some of the -- some critics, though, are suggesting, for example, a statement from someone representing Focus on the Family:
"Mary Cheney's pregnancy raises the question of what's best for children. Just because it's possible to conceive a child outside of the relationship of a married mother and father, doesn't mean it's best for the child."
Do you want to respond to that?
Q She's obviously a good daughter --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I'm delighted -- I'm delighted I'm about to have a sixth grandchild, Wolf, and obviously think the world of both of my daughters and all of my grandchildren. And I think, frankly, you're out of line with that question.
Q I think all of us appreciate --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think you're out of -- I think you're out of line with that question.

Cheney also laid down guidelines for adjectives that he won't accept about Iraq --

Q But there is a terrible situation [in Iraq].
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, there is not. There is not. There's problems, ongoing problems, but we have, in fact, accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime, and there is a new regime in place that's been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off.

Finally, the unintended Spinal Tap moment --

One of the most dangerous jobs in the world is to be number three in the al Qaeda organization

Let them eat CO2

The day after George Bush's State of the Union speech, carefully written to sucker people into thinking he cares a little bit more about human-induced global warming, he fails the first test of seriousness: he has a staged photo-op today near Wilmington, Delaware -- just 90 minutes or so north of Washington, and easily accessible by train. So --

[deputy White House press secretary] MS. PERINO: All right, we have a short flight to -- we have a short flight to Delaware ... He will tour -- can you guys back these off just a little bit, thanks -- tour of DuPont Experimental Station. He will tour a greenhouse that will feature cellulosic energy research. He will make remarks. There's about 1,150 attendees -- mostly are made up of DuPont employees. Secretary Bodman is on the plane. He will introduce the President. Congressman Mike Castle is also on the plane.

At 1:00 p.m. today, the President will meet with -- I'm sorry, 1:10 p.m., the President meets with General Dan McNeil, incoming Commander for NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

So fly up to Wilmington for a stunt with a captive workforce audience, and then back to DC for meetings. And this on a day when --

the President signed an executive order that directs the federal government to lead by example in advancing the nation's energy security and environmental performance needs.

Leading by example, indeed.

The people who most need tax cuts

Juicy bits from today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) on the firing of Citigroup executive Todd Thomson, chief of its wealth-management unit --

[he] had used more than $5 million from his division's marketing budget to sponsor a new television program for the Sundance Channel, people familiar with the matter say. The program's hosts were slated to include CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo and actor Robert Redford ...

One costly installation: a working fireplace. Mr. Thomson justified the expense by telling associates it provided a dramatic spot for Mr. [Sandy] Weill -- who was then chairman and is now a consultant to Citigroup -- to hold occasional "fireside chats" with the firm's high-powered clients. Mr. Thomson's office on the 50th floor overlooked Central Park and sported a fish tank. It was known internally as the "Todd Mahal."

Inside the bank, Mr. Thomson's friendship with Ms. Bartiromo became an issue. When Mr. Druskin, then Citigroup's investment-banking chief, took his management team to a holiday dinner in 2005 at the ritzy Daniel restaurant, he spotted Mr. Thomson having dinner with the CNBC anchor, according to people familiar with the situation ...

In recent months, some Citigroup executives advised Mr. Thomson to reduce his contact with Ms. Bartiromo, a person familiar with the matter says. But he justified the outings as good for business because clients enjoyed access to the CNBC anchor, according to another person with knowledge of the matter.

Tension between Messrs. Prince [CEO] and Thomson grew late last year. One flash point was a business trip in November. Mr. Thomson arranged for Ms. Bartiromo to speak to Citigroup's private-banking clients at luncheons in Hong Kong and Shanghai. Mr. Thomson flew with a group of Citigroup employees to Asia, but flew back to the U.S. on the corporate jet with Ms. Bartiromo, a person familiar with the matter says. Kevin Goldman, a CNBC spokesman, says: "She asked permission from CNBC. She received it. And payment was arranged."

After the airplane incident, Mr. Prince ordered Mr. Thomson not to spend Citigroup money on anything involving Ms. Bartiromo, says a person familiar with the situation. Six weeks later, Mr. Thomson informed Mr. Prince he had signed up Citigroup to sponsor the Sundance Channel show featuring the CNBC anchor. That was the last straw to Mr. Prince, this person says ....

Mr. Thomson tapped his marketing money to make Citigroup's Smith Barney unit a charter sponsor, with Lexus, of Sundance's new environmental program, to be presented by Mr. Redford, a person familiar with the matter says. Ms. Bartiromo was scheduled to host a segment exploring the "financial aspects of environmental innovation in business."

Incidentally, one background issue is that Rupert Murdoch wants to set up a Fox financial news channel that would compete with CNBC. Since he and Fox News supremo Roger Ailes are unlikely to want to rely on the motley crew that appear on Fox News' abysmal financial shows now, Bartiromo could well be a hiring target.

UPDATE 26 JANUARY: A few more bits and pieces. This New York Times story, mostly about how CNBC is standing by their woman, notes that Citigroup executives got bumped off the corporate jet to make room for her -- which may explain some of the gleeful leaking that is going on. But the Wall Street Journal again has the better inside sources, adding this new anecdcote in Friday's paper --

Citigroup records show that Ms. Bartiromo flew on its corporate jets a few times, but Mr. Thomson tried but failed to get her on the jet on at least one occasion. More than a year ago, Mr. Thomson was entertaining some private-banking clients on a ski vacation at his home in the members-only Yellowstone Club resort near Bozeman, Mont. While there, he requested a Citigroup plane to fly Ms. Bartiromo to his house, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Citigroup official who was asked to approve the requisition rejected it. Ms. Bartiromo ultimately didn't make the trip, the person said. Ms. Bartiromo and Mr. Thomson declined to comment, according to the spokesman for both, Charles McLean.

Self incrimination

The latest in a series of IRA-related cases with interesting evidence, this one a continuation of one we had noted before where money was being laundered in a box of Daz --

[Irish Times, subs. req'd] The box had been opened and then resealed and refilled with washing powder. Gardaí also found a handwritten note which appeared to be a conversion table from sterling to euro. Mr Bullman's fingerprints were found on the plastic bag in which the Daz box was found.

A search of Mr Bullman's home found an investment bond in his name for €50,000, a sweet tin containing £870 sterling and a number of documents tied together with a ribbon which bore the words "Tiocfaidh Ár Lá" ["our day will come"].

.... Mr Bullman said he was at Heuston Station on his way to a Glasgow Celtic match but had changed his mind but another chef from Cork would tell the court that he and Mr Bullman travelled to Dublin to attend a catering exhibition, Mr Birmingham said.

Mr Bullman was asked during an interview about a name tag for the catering exhibition which said: "Jerry McCabe, Catering Officer, Garda Club" and he said it was " a joke in dubious taste" about the late Det Garda McCabe.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The laughs keep coming

On the other hand (see post below), one can always cope with the stream of fatalities in Iraq by thinking of wacky names for military operations --

American and Iraqi military leaders held a joint press conference at the Combined Press Information Center in the International Zone Monday via video teleconference to discuss Operation Turki Bowl.

Losing track

You know it's bad when there are increasing signs of exasperation in the latest press release from Multinational Forces Iraq --

For the sake of clarity, recent MNF-[West] personnel who have died are summarized below:

Friday: (1) - One Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5.

Saturday: (5) - Four Soldiers and one Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 5.

Sunday: (3) - Two Marines assigned to 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and one Marine assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Pacifying Ireland

The list of people who served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during and since the period covered by the report into police collusion with loyalist paramilitaries (1991-present) makes for interesting reading, not least in light of the apparent continuing ambitions of a couple of these people.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Trojan Horse

George Bush's desperate attempts to find some legs for the final two years of his presidency will manifest itself in tomorrow's proposals for "reforms" in the health insurance market. The reforms will include a pot of money to be made available to states to increase access to healthcare among the uninsured. With one catch, according to the White House Fact (sic) Sheet (alt. link here) --

To take advantage of funds under the Affordable Choices Initiative, States must take steps to make health insurance more affordable within their States, such as reducing benefit or premium mandates

i.e. states that dare set conditions on insurance premiums or coverage might not get any money. Now, they haven't said what the offending "mandates" might be, but if this reform was implemented, the Bushies would have an implement useful for attacking anything from a requirement that health insurance should cover birth control or abortion, to Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal of community-rated premiums i.e. that insurance companies must charge everyone the same rate for health insurance.

This merely confirms what Paul Krugman's NYT column (subs. req'd) said this morning -- that Bush's healthcare plan is, like the Iraq war, a product of ideologues who have found an ideal partner in his indifference to anyone less fortunate and connected than himself.


One interesting element of the reaction to today's revelations about collusion between police and loyalist paramilitaries in Northern Ireland (allegations which have circulated in fairly precise form for some time) is that bereaved father Raymond McCord, a unionist, has urged Sinn Fein not to endorse policing in the light of the report, presumably seeing some leverage over the government for his own case if Sinn Fein withhold their endorsement.


Amid some key details about the brazen Iraqi insurgent attack on a provincial governor's office from this New York Times story --

Iraqi officials said the gunmen disguised their intent with uniforms, American flak jackets, guns and a convoy of at least seven GMC sport utility vehicles, which are usually used by American officials in Iraq.

Karbala’s provincial governor, Akeel al-Khazaali, said at a news conference that the local police at a checkpoint on the city’s edge waved the vehicles through because they believed the convoy held important Americans. At other checkpoints, the police said, the vehicles sped through without stopping. In one case, some of the impersonators fired their weapons, and when they reached the provincial offices, they simply attacked.

The police in Babil said the disguises were imperfect — officers at checkpoints saw that the men were bearded, they said — but sufficient to get the gunmen through a crowded, heavily patrolled city without being stopped.

.... One sport utility vehicle had a sign on its back window warning drivers to stay back, in English and Arabic, the authorities said, a close copy of those used on some official American vehicles. They said a bag of civilian American clothing, guns and body armor had been found in the vehicles.

is the lesson that the US military is now paying the price not just for its laxity in monitoring its equipment, but in the habit of it and its contractors of firing on anyone who challenges or gets too close to one of their convoys -- thus conferring a key advantage on anything that looks like one of their convoys.

UPDATE 26 JANUARY: The Pentagon is lying about the circumstances of the raid, including its level of sophistication and how the US fatalities occurred.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Other priorities

Recalling that George Bush's Iraq surge was supposed to be complemented by reinforcements from the Iraqi side, note this item from a Multinational Forces Baghdad press release --

[MNF-Baghdad] Soldiers responded to an explosion northwest of the Iraqi capital Jan. 19, finding a mosque leveled.

Elements of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division responded to the location of the Al-Haja Mosque in the Saba al-Bor region after hearing an explosion and receiving a phoned-in tip from a resident stating the mosque was destroyed.

Upon arrival, the unit searched the remains and area surrounding the mosque, reporting no casualties. No Iraqi security forces were on site for the initial search.

Decline and Fall

Andrew Sullivan in today's Times (UK) --

One of my most treasured moments editing The New Republic in the 1990s was publishing a cover story by Camille Paglia on Hillary called “Ice Queen, Drag Queen”. Ah, those were the days.

Andrew Sullivan, in another remembrance --

One of my proudest moments in journalism was publishing an expanded extract of a chapter from "The Bell Curve" in the New Republic before anyone else dared touch it. I published it along with multiple critiques (hey, I believed magazines were supposed to open rather than close debates)

While today's column is a sort of recanting of the former, he doesn't follow the logic of the journalistic standards that it revealed to assess his Bell Curve evangelising, which is still a matter of Je ne regrette rien.

Double entendre

The Pajamas Media consortium, fresh from its recent success in reporting that Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei was dead (he popped up on TV a few days later), is now claiming that the murder of Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was an act of jihad --

[Michael Ledeen, approvingly quoting Charles Johnson] The assassination of Turkish-Armenian writer Hrant Dink is being universally portrayed as ethnic strife, a political act by Turkish nationalists against an Armenian critic. Call me Mr. Suspicious, but when I see the entire media monolith pushing an idea like that with so much enthusiasm, I start looking for the real explanation.

And the real explanation, as with so many of these media smokescreens, is jihad. Turkish-Armenian editor shot dead in Istanbul. NTV television said Dink had been shot three times in the head and neck.

Muharrem Gozutok, a restaurant owner near the newspaper, said the assailant looked about 20, wore jeans and a cap and shouted “I shot the non-Muslim” as he left the scene.

This little piece of essential information is now being excised from all wire service and media reports.

Ledeen lists several news stories that don't report this alleged outburst. As it happens, the Times (UK) has a relevant snippet --

His murderer fled, shouting, “I have killed an Armenian”, and levelled his pistol at passers-by who tried to stop him.

If one only went by the principle that the simple explanation is usually the right one, it surely makes sense that the murderer of a journalist who had made his name through the Armenian cause might mention that after committing his act. The Ledeen-Johnson conspiracy theory is also silent on the language of the statement, but "non-Muslim" is a strange usage for a case when Infidel or Crusader would surely have been preferred, and could well be a simply mis-hearing, then wilfully misconstrued, of "Armenian."

UPDATE: Ledeen adds another post, never mentioning the quote that was central to the first post's claim, and then confuses Armenian with Kurdish.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Take this job and shove it

So the day after Time-Warner fires 289 people, many getting the news by speakerphone, and including cuts at Time's Washington bureau, Andrew Sullivan announces that

After a wonderful year of growth and innovation at, the Dish is about to move to a new mother-ship, the We'll be moving in two weeks' time, when my current contract with expires. If it seems odd to leave a place that has been so good to me, and to the blog, that's because it is ... But every now and again, an offer comes your way that seems so right a decision makes itself.

that last bit sounding perilously close to those Bryan Adams lyrics. There seemed to be something strange afoot for a while, with Time having recently added a group politics blog whose contributors are all employees of the company. The timing of Sully's move cries out for an inside story, which one might have thought is what blogs are about.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Trinners on CNN

This CNN story, linked to a programme about terrorism advocacy in Britain that will air this weekend, has an extended video sequence from a debate at Trinity College Dublin's Philosophical Society from last October. It's odd to see the Dublin location line on a story about Britain but the participants in the debate may have felt free to make some of their more inflammatory statements outside UK jurisdiction.

Do they laugh as they write this stuff?

White House website --

America was founded on the principle that we are all endowed by our Creator with the right to life and that every individual has dignity and worth ... Among the most basic duties of Government is to defend the unalienable right to life, and my Administration is committed to protecting our society's most vulnerable members ....

NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim Sunday, January 21, 2007, as National Sanctity of Human Life Day. I call upon all Americans to recognize this day with appropriate ceremonies and to underscore our commitment to respecting and protecting the life and dignity of every human being.

In particular, they don't seem to know what unalienable means.

Carpathian crisis

18 months ago, we asked --

How can Brussels possibly make the judgement that Romania, capable of generating this level of unhappiness amongst its citizens, is just about ready to join the EU (except for the steel subsidies)?

Well, they meet the steel subsidy conditions, but they're still generating asylum seekers, as an EU member:

Nationals from EU member states, including some 220 Romanians who applied for asylum here [Dublin] over the past week alone, are not eligible to do so except in exceptional circumstances, Minister for Justice Michael McDowell announced yesterday.

This follows his decision to introduce an EU protocol governing the area, which takes effect from the start of this year. Included among the countries are Bulgaria and Romania, both of which became the latest members of the EU at the start of the year.

Incidentally, Romania's admission to the EU has also triggered latent political tensions in that country. It's possible that at some point the suits in Brussels realised that they'd let the enlargement process get too far along with Romania, but decided to cross their fingers and hope for the best.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Headline you'd never see in an English language newspaper

In Le Monde.


The Wall Street Journal politics blog gets a note from the WSJ reporter on Condi's plane, showing that there's no hiding from northern Europe's gales --

Despite near gale-force winds in London, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sticks to her dinner plans with Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and braves a nail-biter of a landing at Heathrow.

After her plane circled London for twenty minutes and was buffeted by fierce gusts on the way in, Rice comes back to needle the reporters travelling with her. “I just wanted to make sure the back of the plane was still here,” she said, adding that “it helps to believe in God.”

Operation New Phrase

Pentagon website -- A plus-up of Iraqi soldiers is a component of President Bush’s strategy to stabilize Iraq’s capital city and parts of western Iraq, senior U.S. military officials said during a Baghdad news conference today.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan, who was apparently drafting his post the same time as the above, attributes the phrase to a "military source", despite its appearance on a public website.

FINAL UPDATE: As seemed to be the case at the time (and which Sully missed), plus-up was specifically being used to refer to the increase in Iraqi troops. The phrase is still in use in that regard by the Pentagon, as the first failure to actually plus-up becomes evident (Peter Pace quote via Dan Froomkin).

Liberty, equality, fertility

It's always embarrassing when right-wingers become demographers. Leading the charge lately has been Mark Steyn, presenting the view that Muslims will "outbreed" the West, leading to doom. Fortunately, actual news does seem to make it into his bunker in New Hampshire and he's been forced to confront the latest increase in the birthrate in France, which is now up to 2.0 children per woman, very close to the replacement rate. His predictable, but nonetheless pathetic response --

Which country has the healthiest fertility rate? France.

Which country has the most Muslims? France.

He does not present a shred of evidence showing that it's French Muslims having a high relatively birthrate. And not that he's looking for it, but it won't be that easy to find since the French census does not collect information about religion.

There's another bit of dishonesty. He purports to support his thesis by presenting a list of France and "its neighbors" ranked by birthrate and proportion of Muslim population and show that they correspond. But what's the definition of "neighbor"? Well, it includes Austria and the Netherlands, which don't border France, and it omits the Republic of Ireland, which of course destroys his thesis because the Muslim population is tiny and yet the birthrate was until the latest release higher than France and is still among the highest in Europe.

Anyway, since he presents zero evidence for his thesis that only Muslims are having kids in France, we'll trump him with one anecdote. Segolene Royal has 4 children. Heh Indeed.

UPDATE 21 AUGUST: Here's a comprehensive debunking, from the Financial Times, of the Eurabia thesis. The essence: Muslim population in Europe is small (4 percent), their fertility rate is converging to that of their resident country, and the fertility rate in the source countries -- mainly North Africa -- is also converging to European averages.

Eye on the next job

At a time when one would think the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and Wales, Peter Hain, should be busy shepherding the fragile Irish peace process through from the Sinn Fein consultations on policing to the March elections, he instead finds time to enter the fray on the Indian mutiny over Celebrity Big Brother and to make the astonishing observation that George Bush is "right-wing." He must have a low opinion of the voters in the contest for the Labour party deputy leadership.

UPDATE: More on Peter Hain's silence during things he now claims horrify him.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Paris rumblings

One thing missing from this very interesting New York Times story about a botched Jacques Chirac initiative to send his foreign minister to Iran (an effort to dislodge the Lebanon crisis) concerns this individual --

It [the Iran feelers] had been developed inside Élysée Palace by Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, Mr. Chirac’s national security adviser. When Mr. Gourdault-Montagne met with Iran’s foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, on the fringes of a security conference in Bahrain last month, Mr. Mottaki suggested that Mr. Douste-Blazy visit Tehran.

Noteworthy because Chirac apparently plans to install Maurice Gourdault-Montagne as head of Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations (CDC), a huge state-owned financial asset manager and a classic sinecure for the country's political elite. So his time horizon may suddenly have grown very short, hence the willingness to take a risk on backdoor negotiations with Iran.

And speaking of French public officials with cushy jobs, the inevitable other shoe has dropped on the over-the-top left wing outrage about the ageless Johnny Hallyday relocating his tax affairs to Switzerland -- the comedy being supplied by politicians who have spent a lifetime with their snouts at the public trough fulminating about Johnny's rational behaviour.

And that other shoe -- Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal has apparently been using well structured tax avoidance herself, dumping her 3 residences into a holding company to avoid the wealth tax. The ability of French politicians to accumulate property on public salaries has always been a source of inspiration to their Irish counterparts.

UPDATE: In fairness we should note Sego's side of the story, that a bank required a holding company for one of the properties and thus it's not intended to avoid the wealth tax, which she does pay. Apparently her partner is going to sue one National Assembly member for libel, although one assumes that that the careful distinction between tax avoidance and tax evasion applies in this case.

Rights are messy

The National Review's Andy McCarthy, whose niche at The Corner is usually legal expertise --

The British government has an utterly ineffective process, called the "control order," for monitoring potential terrorist aliens who cannot be prosecuted because there is not enough evidence that can be used in court but also cannot be deported because of the UK's absurdly high restrictions against deporting aliens.

Wrong and wrong. Control orders can be used against UK nationals as well as resident aliens, and they exist not because of bars to prosecution or deportation alone but because British courts are still attached to that pesky principle, discarded by George Bush, that you can't detain people indefinitely without trial. They tried it in Northern Ireland and it didn't work. If McCarthy had his way, the British government would be looking into purchasing Sealand for the current subjects of control orders.

Humpty Dumpty

From George Bush's latest stop on his series of interviews to sell his surge --

MR. LEHRER: Is there a little bit of a broken egg problem here, Mr. President, that there is instability and there is violence in Iraq - sectarian violence, Iraqis killing other Iraqis, and now the United States helped create the broken egg and now says, okay, Iraqis, it's your problem. You put the egg back together, and if you don't do it quickly and you don't do it well, then we'll get the hell out.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, you know, that's an interesting question. I don't quite view it as the broken egg; I view it as the cracked egg --

MR. LEHRER: Cracked egg?

PRESIDENT BUSH: -- that - where we still have a chance to move beyond the broken egg. And I thought long and hard about the decision, Jim. Obviously it's a big decision for this theater in the war on terror, and you know, if I didn't believe we could keep the egg from fully cracking, I wouldn't ask 21,000 kids - additional kids to go into Iraq to reinforce those troops that are there.

But not for the first time, the irony is that it was the seeming inoccuous occasion that provided more insights into Bush's true thinking, this time his greeting of the 2006 World Series winners the St Louis Cardinals at the White House. What other losing streak might he have been thinking of when he said --

They say in baseball in order to become the World Series champ, you can't have losing streaks of over two or three games. (Laughter.) This club had losing streaks of -- one eight-game losing streak; another eight-game losing streak; and a seven-game losing streak -- which really speaks to the character of the baseball team, doesn't it? I mean, it's a team that -- (applause.) And I think it speaks to the character of the manager, Tony LaRussa, and his staff. (Applause.)

When you're on one of those losing streaks, it's easy to get down and to forget the goal. So, like, I'm sure the sports pages were a little rough on you for a while there, you know? How can they possibly endure yet another eight-game losing streak? Well, you endure it as the result of character and leadership.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Luck of the Irish

Wicklow man Derek Kelly has lost his case in a London court where he was being prosecuted for running games of chance -- in this case, poker -- without a licence. He organised games at the Gutshot club and had two systems for collecting fees from the games. His defence was that poker is a game of skill, not chance, but this seemed to rest on trying to stretch the notion that poker requires good gambling strategy, which it clearly does, into a claim that thus it's not really gambling at all. Of course when James Bond plays chemin de fer, it's an opportunity to tell us something broader about his skills, nerve, and basic understanding of French. But like all good gamblers, he knows when to quit. Kelly, who possibly courted the prosecution as a publicity stunt, did not.

Let them eat cake

In this Charles Murray article (alt. WSJ subs. link) returning yet again to his favourite theme -- the consequences of innate (and, according to him, inheritable) differences in intelligence -- he never cites a single specific source for his claim that a dominant determinant of educational outcomes is a one-dimensional, rankable individual characteristic called 'g.' He also wilfully confuses the propensity for academically tracked secondary education, which does seem to vary across students, with the propensity to acquire basic reading and numeracy skills -- which he seems to be arguing may not exist among 40 percent of the primary student population.

UPDATE: More via Brad DeLong. And [2nd update], this Niall Ferguson tirade from the Sunday Telegraph has points of interest in between the polemics; note in particular his observation that low measured educational attainment seems be an English-speaking country phenomenon. Note clear what Murray would make of that one.


Tuesday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) notes that American law firms are beefing up their London presence at the tacit urging of the Office of Fair Trading. The OFT views their aggressive civil lawsuits against firms accused of price fixing as an effective remedy for the practice, which has only been a crime in Britain for a few years and is still rarely enforced.

This marks an apparent change in strategy for the UK government, which had previously pursued dubious extradition cases at the behest of the US government, where the latter felt it could make a case that the alleged price fixing by UK firms affected US consumers. Hence the case of Ian Norris.

The UK government has now apparently balked at the potential implication of this case that price fixing might always have been a crime, even before there was relevant legislation, because it could always be repackaged as conspiracy to defraud. Yet it seems that it is inviting in US legal expertise to make the same implication in civil, rather than criminal court.

UPDATE 26 JANUARY: The government will soon have to take a position on whether American prosecutors get to retroactively criminalise actions taken in the belief they were legal in the UK. Norris has lost his High Court appeal and can only now go to the House of Lords and maybe the European Court of Human Rights. And [26 MAY] a verdict in the Norris appeal is imminent.1

FINAL UPDATE 7 JUNE: One person has managed to beat the new extradition regime: Beatrice Tollman, but only on grounds of ill-health. The dubious principle that underlies all these extraditions remains unchallenged.

1He got leave to appeal; his case is now pending before the House of Lords

The rope was too long

The Times (UK) explains how the Iraqi executioners botched the hanging of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Whatcha lookin' at there, Karl?

A little more from George Bush on how he saw the Saddam execution video, an anecdote that expands his knowledge of computers beyond "the Google" a little bit --

BUSH: Not really. Not really. I was satisfied when we captured him [Saddam]. I'm just not . . .revenge isn't necessarily something that causes me to react. In other words, I'm not a revengeful person. I'm glad he received the justice that was due.
PELLEY: I'm curious. How did you see the video?
BUSH: Internet.
PELLEY: You called it up on the internet and watched it?
BUSH: Somebody showed me parts of it. Yeah. I didn't wanna watch the whole thing.
PELLEY: Well, you keep saying "parts of it." What do you mean you didn't wanna watch the whole thing?
BUSH: I wasn't sure what to anticipate beyond the yelling and stuff like that. And I didn't . . .
PELLEY: You didn't wanna see him go through the trapdoor.
BUSH: Yeah. Yes. I didn't.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

There's a lot of icing on that cake

The text of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis motion to endorse policing in Northern Ireland contains 1042 words, just a few of which pertain to the mechanics of how the party will work within the policing structures. The risk is that the rest of it has enough content to provoke those on the other side whom it's meant to appease.


In today's Sunday Times (UK), Andrew Sullivan offers a pronouncement about the 2002-03 over about whether to remove Saddam Hussein --

In war and in politics unexamined axioms are always dangerous. That much we learnt from 2003. The axiom driving policy then was that Saddam Hussein had WMDs. On that unquestioned assumption, all the debate rested. And yet the axiom was false.

This will come as news to the many people who didn't think Saddam had WMDs, and to those who thought the purpose of getting UN weapons inspectors in was to find out whether he did.

Anyway, Sullivan's main point (as he has been arguing recently) is that US withdrawal from Iraq would be a good thing because it provoke a cathartic all-out war in the Middle East. It's really that simple. Among the many problems with this axiom, if you will, is that such a war would be bad for al Qaeda --

But if America withdrew from Iraq and a Sunni-Shi’ite war took off, the narrative of the long war would inevitably change. It would go from Islam versus the West to Islam versus itself. Escalating conflict in the Arab Muslim world would only be fully explicable in terms of the Sunni-Shi’ite split.

Instantly, Sunni Al-Qaeda would have a serious enemy close at hand: Shi’ite Iran. Think of this not as a “divide and conquer” strategy so much as a “divide and get out of the way” strategy. And with deft handling it could conceivably reap dividends in the long run.

Yet who would be weakened by such a war, even assuming it could be contained from a distance? Regimes that, in the words of a political sage --

half of which are governed by the military and the other half of which are governed by the sons of kings and presidents; and we have a long experience with them. In both categories, you find many who are characterised by hubris, arrogance, greed, and unlawful acquisition of money.

The words of Osama bin Laden -- who could watch the big war on TV from the safety of Pakistan.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Enemy of the court

For anyone who is curious, here is the relevant section from a Wall Street Journal quasi-editorial (subs. req'd) by Robert Pollock, which was a key part of an apparently coordinated attack by the Pentagon, Republican party operative Monica Crowley, and the Journal, on the ability of Guantanamo Bay detainees to obtain legal representation --

Guantanamo detainees don't lack for legal representation. A list of lead counsel released this week in response to a Freedom of Information Act request reads like a who's who of America's most prestigious law firms: Shearman and Sterling; Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr; Covington & Burling; Hunton & Williams; Sullivan & Cromwell; Debevoise & Plimpton; Cleary Gottlieb; and Blank Rome are among the marquee names.

A senior U.S. official I spoke to speculates that this information might cause something of scandal, since so much of the pro bono work being done to tilt the playing field in favor of al Qaeda appears to be subsidized by legal fees from the Fortune 500. "Corporate CEOs seeing this should ask firms to choose between lucrative retainers and representing terrorists" who deliberately target the U.S. economy, he opined.

As the New York Times notes, there's a particular disengenuousness in the anonymous quote Pollock uses, since it was clearly Pentagon official Charles Stimson. Note also that George Bush regularly appoints people from these firms to positions in his administration, such as here, so Stimson might want to take his complaint to his boss.

Incidentally, the article also lifts from a Pentagon news release last year that the detainees love Harry Potter books -- thus making everything else about the camp OK.

UPDATE: The WSJ offers a forum for an op-ed critique of what was essentially a scheme between Pollock, Stimson, and Monica Crowley to manufacture some "outrage" -- Harvard Law professor Charles Fried (subs. req'd) responds:

It may just be that Mr. Stimson is annoyed that his overstretched staff lawyers are opposed by highly trained and motivated elite lawyers working in fancy offices with art work in the corridors and free lunch laid on in sumptuous cafeterias. But it has ever been so; it is the American way. The right to representation does not usually mean representation by the best, brightest and sleekest. That in this case it does is just an irony -- one to savor, not deplore.

It is no surprise that firms like Wilmer Hale (which represents both Big Pharma and Tobacco Free Kids), Covington and Burling (which represents both Big Tobacco and Guantanamo detainees), and the other firms on Mr. Stimson's hit list, are among the most sought-after by law school graduates, and retain the loyalty and enthusiasm of their partners. They offer their lawyers the profession at its best, and help assure that the rule of law is not just a slogan but a satisfying way of life.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Red flag

One reason why Gerry Adams should have perhaps been a bit suspicious about the statement that Ian Paisley was supposed to release on New Year's Day in support of his moves to endorse policing was that the statement contained a matter-of-fact reference --

The words needed are those contained in the Ard Chomhairle motion.

Because Paisley had fairly recently objected to the such usages ("I cannot pronounce these so-called Irish words; I am an Ulsterman"). Was the text was written by a handler and never cleared with Paisley first?

Left unsaid

Consistent with an earlier occurrence, the press release from Multinational Forces Iraq, while mentioning the raid in Kurdistan in which 6 Iranians were arrested, never mentions that the people were Iranian or that they were apparently in a consulate at the time of the raid.

On the dole in the Green Zone

In a bizarre inversion of the frequent claim of conservatives from about 2003 to early 2006 that Iraq was no more dangerous than any American city, future presidential candidates Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich pop up in Friday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; alt. free link) to argue that New York City's experience with welfare reform is a useful model for Iraq --

There are many lessons from the successful welfare reforms in New York City that can be readily applied in Iraq. In the early 1990s, New York City suffered an average of 2,000 murders a year while more than 1.1 million people -- one out of every seven New Yorkers -- were unemployed and on welfare. Too many neighborhoods were pervaded by a sense of hopelessness that came from a combination of high crime, high unemployment and despair. "Workfare" proved an excellent method to change this destructive decades-long paradigm. It required able-bodied welfare recipients to work 20 hours a week in exchange for their benefits. In the process, we reasserted the value of the social contract, which says that for every right there is a responsibility, for every benefit an obligation.

As many as 37,000 people participated at a single time, working in the neighborhoods that most needed their help, cleaning up streets with the Sanitation Department, removing graffiti from schools and government buildings, or helping to beautify public spaces in the Parks Department.

More than 250,000 individuals went through our Workfare program between 1994 and 2001, and their effort helped to visibly improve the quality of life in New York City. Many of them moved on to permanent employment. This change from welfare to work did as much as the New York Police Department Compstat program to keep reducing crime. A similar model can work in Iraq.

There is an opportunity not only to increase employment by rebuilding roads, houses, schools and government buildings, but also to engage the Iraqi people to participate in laying the foundation for a civil and prosperous society.

Leaving aside their isolation of New York City's improvements from Bill Clinton's booming economy, national welfare reforms, and demographic changes, note that the same logic -- forcing changes in behaviour with time-limited benefits -- could be used to argue that it's the Iraqi government, not its people, that needs to get on its bike, with the threat being a US withdrawal unless things improve.

Caught by the fuzz

The RTE news report noting that --

Northern Ireland's Assets Recovery Agency, which was modelled on the Criminal Assets Bureau, is no longer to exist as a separate entity. The agency will merge with the Serious Organised Crime Agency in London

doesn't really capture the full extent to which the instrument of seizing assets of organised crime is being abandoned, since the merger with London is not with the UK Assets Recovery Agency, but with a division of the police. The Assets Recovery Agency is being abolished. A true cynic might interpret the move as a nod to recalcitrant nationalist or loyalist gunmen that a move into normal gangsterism might be a tad more lucrative than before, but we're not that cynical.

UPDATE 18 JANUARY: The Agency does find time for one more Irish-related asset freeze before being subsumed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The peasants are revolting

George Bush's first appearance before the troops in 2007 was just a rehash of his failed campaign stump speech from last year, with a few paragraphs of last night's "augmentation" mixed in. And proving yet again that he's learned nothing, he got right to explaining why his war is unpopular --

You know, I knew that right after the attacks [9/11], the American psyche being what it is, people would tend to forget the grave threat posed by these people. I knew that. As a matter of fact, I was hoping that would happen so that life would go on. But the fortunate thing for this country is that those who wear the uniform have never forgotten the threat. You understand the stakes.

i.e. it's the shallow peoples' fault -- and he knew right away they'd be shallow -- for not seeing the link between invading Iraq and preventing the next 9/11.

He also explained why it's important to have his twin daughters out partying and not lifting a finger in support of his war in Iraq, that war that other shallow people don't understand --

Some units are going to have to deploy earlier than scheduled as a result of the decision I made. Some will remain deployed longer than originally anticipated. I will work with you and the Congress to provide all the resources you need in this war on terror, and that means good equipment and training, good housing. I understand full well, if you're family is happy, you're happy. The same thing in my house, by the way. (Laughter.)

Maybe that's why he sleeps so well.

Bush speech

In the latest speech outlining what should have been done in 2003, George Bush used the following construction to argue against withdrawal --

And we concluded that to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear the country apart, and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale.

Revealing the increasingly shakily-founded Heathrow bomb plot last summer, Scotland Yard said it --

was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale

So clearly the usage is doing the rounds in the terrorism business, although in Bush's case the unimaginable happens if troops leave, while in the UK case it happens with the troops already there. Both of course share a lack of understanding what "imagine" means, especially in Bush's case, where the "unimaginable" scenario is quickly followed by pundits citing precedents like Bosnia and British India.

In another part of the speech, Bush said

Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties.

Or, as he said to the CIA briefer who came to his vacation home in the summer of 2001 to warn about impending Bin Laden terrorist plots in the US---

All right. You've covered your ass, now.

Finally, one component of the new new plan is --

The Iraqi government will appoint a military commander and two deputy commanders for their capital.

Two deputies. One for each side of the river. The map is being implemented.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Providing a sneak preview of what promises to be one of the diplomatic set-pieces of the year, Dick Cheney went to Jamestown, Viriginia today to mark the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement -- the full celebration coming when Lizzie and Phil will join George and Laura there in May. But it was no less bizarre for being predictable to see Cheney trot out the English tradition stuff,

A year before that -- on July 30th, 1619, just a few steps from this sanctuary -- the first representative assembly in the new world was called to order. Indeed, so much of what defines our country -- its language, legal traditions, and institutions -- have roots in the community that rose in this corner of Virginia. English liberty and law, private property, the spirit of free enterprise, and commerce -- all of these are part of the Jamestown legacy

when the Administration of which he is a part has trashed those traditions by ignoring the current representative assembly, dumping habeas corpus, reintroducing detention without trial and torture, not to mention piling up levels of debt that would horrified the prudent settlers. And especially worth noting in the context of Virginia is the case of the state's Anglican parishes, so old that they were founded as part of the Church of England, now deciding that they'd rather be governed by a bishop in Nigeria. 400 years is a long time.

Full and frank exchange of views

Irish airline Ryanair seems intent on testing the limits of a public relations strategy that involves harsh criticism of one's critics -- even when those critics are the politicians that the airline ultimately depends on for goodwill in the performance of its business. And this strategy is coming right from the top, as the statements are all vintage Michael O'Leary. Today's attack is on the present Chancellor and future PM (for how long?) Gordon Brown --

using the environment to steal more taxes from ordinary air passengers

which follows yesterday's knockabout fun with Irish Opposition proposals for a second Dublin airport --

stupidity ...a scandalous waste of money

and last week's mixed metaphor onslaught against UK Environment Minister Ian Pearson --

We are the greenest airline in Europe but you know being savaged by a dead sheep - as we were by this minister this morning - is like water off a duck's back.

Leaving aside the fact that he has at least a partial point on each of his criticisms, it may also be a clever strategy to make the passengers feel better with the barebones service, since at least they are not being individually mocked by him.


The Wall Street Journal editorial page (subs. req'd), celebrating in its own way the 5th anniversary of Guantanamo Bay, finds a problem with the War on Terror -- the case of withdrawn Bush judicial nominee, William Haynes, the top legal architect of the Pentagon's detention and interrogation policies:

Republican officials said yesterday that four controversial appeals-court nominees have asked the White House to withdraw their names from Senate consideration. Among them is William "Jim" Haynes II, whom President Bush first nominated to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, on September 29, 2003. Call him the latest casualty in the war on terror.

Ahead of the game

In the seemingly never-ending revelations about one-time media magnate Conrad Black, the latest is that he was doing the old chat-room pump-and-dump all the way back when it was cool, in 1998 --

Among the details was an anonymous posting in 1998 on a Yahoo!Finance chat room devoted to Hollinger asking about the stock. Black asked the company's investor relations vice president to respond and he wrote a typically vague draft reply, noting strict government rules regarding disclosure.

Black urged the executive not to be so "strait-laced" and that his draft message "makes us seem like jerks." Black subsequently posted his own anonymous message blaming short- sellers and aimed at lifting the stock price.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Mission creep

Today's White House Press Briefing by Tony Snow contained the usual litany of straw men ("was Winston Churchill responsible for the Blitz?"), unintentional truths ("We need a sock puppet for this now"), groaning attempts at comedy ("Does Martha have a hip-hop ring tone? ... Play that funky music, white girl"), and an invitation --

MR. SNOW: ... You know that the "Mission Accomplished" banner was put up by members of the USS Abraham Lincoln [May 2003]. And the President, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn't he? He said it was the end of major combat operations, but he did not say it was the end of operations. Instead, he cautioned people at the time that there would be considerable continued violence in Iraq, and that there would be continued operations for a long period of time. That single episode has been more widely mischaracterized than just about any aspect of the war.

Q We can debate whether the sign should have been there, whether the White House should have not had it there, but the fact is he stood under it and made the speech.

MR. SNOW: You're right, after people had been on a 17-month deployment, and had said "Mission Accomplished" when they're finally able to get back to their loved ones, the President didn't say, take down the sign, it will be bad. Instead what he did is he talked about the mission. And I would direct you back to the speech he gave then

So OK. Here's the speech. The accompanying photos are also worth a look, as the now infamous Mission Accomplished banner is essentially invisible. One interesting thing about the speech is its lip service to the remaining tasks in Iraq relative to the attention given to al Qaeda -- reflecting both Bush's packaging of Saddam as an ally of al Qaeda and the sense in 2003 that the war on terror was supposed to be against al Qaeda. Now it's against Shiite militias in Baghdad. It's been quite a journey.


Emerging late night in the Monday news cycle -- the US has nuclear powered submarines snooping around off the coast of Iran, and is taking advantage of whatever the Ethiopians smoked out in Somalia.

Short Straw

Whereas George Bush sends his parents to an anniversary celebration in post-coup Thailand, the conundrum of who to send to the inauguration of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua -- yes, Mr Sandinista himself -- is solved by sending the Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt on his behalf, a man who has nothing to do since avian flu didn't happen.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Regressive taxation

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's salary is paid by the taxpayers. While it's already tough to swallow the amount of spinning that thus takes place on the taxpayer dime, he's carrying it to a new level with his appearance at this event --

Claiming the Future
Speakers include:

Jeb Bush, Tony Snow, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Boehner, John Bolton, Rich Lowry, John O’Sullivan, Kate O’Beirne, Mark Steyn, Laura Ingraham, Kathryn Lopez, Robert P. George , Maggie Gallagher, Ramesh Ponnuru, Ed Whelan, Marvin Olasky, James Woolsey, Jerry Taylor, Ward Connerly, Byron York, Jonah Goldberg, Rob Long, Pat Toomey, Ralph Reed, Ryan Sager, Mark Krikorian, Cliff May, Tamar Jacoby, Charles Murray, John Miller, Rick Brookhiser, Bill Kristol, Terence P. Jeffrey, Michael Steele, Abigail Thernstrom, Mona Charen, Ed Gillespie, Andrew McCarthy

Topics include:

Debates on the war in Iraq, the role of the Religious Right, immigration, and energy policy; panels on foreign policy, social issues, domestic policy, small government, and quotas, blacks, and the GOP.

Join fellow conservatives, leading writers, and top policymakers in a frank debate and discussion of the state of the movement.

i.e. a bunch of people who feed at the institutional/pundit trough -- and one dude, Tony Snow, who works for the US government. Admission is $225 a head. Is participating in what is in effect a fundraiser for a private institution in his job description?

Note also that awkwardly placed comma: "and quotas, blacks, and the GOP," implying that "blacks" is a stand-alone topic for the event. Is this part of the White House outreach to minority voters [or, adding, that blacks only arise in the context of "quotas"]?

Hasn't it been that way since the invasion?

An awkward but revealing sentence construction from an editorial in Monday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; alt free link) --

We aren't generals, but on the first point there are many serious people who believe success is still achievable in Iraq. They include retired four-star General Jack Keane and military historian Fred Kagan, who recently worked with some of the military's brightest officers to suggest a plan to secure Baghdad under the auspices of the American Enterprise Institute.


Tony Blair's only semi-viable excuse for taking over a week to comment on the botched execution of Saddam Hussein is that he's been so tied up with the latest hitch in the Northern Ireland peace process that he hasn't had time to think about Iraq. His efforts extend to a special opinion piece in Monday's Irish Times (subs. req'd) urging Sinn Féin and the DUP to act on what he assesses they already believe. The tilt of his argument clearly indicates that he views the Sinn Féin stance as the more fragile of the two at the moment --

In particular, I recall time and again being told that the IRA would never decommission; they would never give up violence; they would never commit to exclusively peaceful means. But they have done all these things. Sinn Féin has demonstrated one of the most remarkable examples of leadership I have come across in modern politics. It has been historic and it has been real.

For better or worse, Blair's approach makes for an interesting contrast with that of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who apparently hasn't initiated a conversation with either Gerry Adams or Ian Paisley in over 2 months. It's not clear whether Tony and Bertie have coordinated their indulgent/play hard-to get act.

UPDATE: The slide into pop psychology continues. After Tony's affirmation of Gerry's contribution, Gerry says that Ian Paisley just needs some "space".

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Media Notes

Two items of interest to Irish readers in today's New York Times. First, this about Dublin's traffic problems and the lack of action compared with more radical solutions in other European cities; Copenhagen is the counterexample. One lack of context: the arduous commute used as the main example in the story is to Lucan -- the epicentre of Liam Lawlor's rezoning shenanigans. The second is a long first person magazine article, recounting the writer's discovery and pursuit of the revelation that her occasional babysitter turned out to be the "Naas Nurse."

UPDATE: In what may be a coincidence and unrelated to the "Naas Nurse" (Noreen Mulholland) but is an intriguing development, someone living in Northern Ireland has come forward to claim that they participated in 6 assisted suicides at a hospice in Dublin in 1997-98. One possibility is that renewed attention on Mulholland's case has shaken some other consciences.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Court Jester

Saturday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd; alt. free link) contains an interview of soi-disant humorist P.J. O'Rourke by Joseph Rago -- the latter having just survived the blog onslaught that occurred when he described blogs as "Written by fools to be read by imbeciles." Anyway, O'Rourke seems to have become the thinking man's Dennis Miller, in which semi-informed bar stool utterances become the basis for deep policy prescriptions, most of which happily coincide with the policies of George W. Bush. In the midst of his various analyses, there is the Irish Question --

I have no idea if some societies, anthropologically speaking, aren't really suited for democracy. I don't think that's true. But there certainly are societies that just love to fight. Northern Ireland, for instance. You couldn't stop that problem because they were having fun -- they were really, really enjoying themselves. It would still be going on full-force today if the sons of bitches hadn't accidentally gotten rich. What happened was, more and more people started getting cars, and television sets, and got some vacation time down in Spain, and it wasn't that they wanted to stop fighting and killing each other and being lunatics, but they got busy and forgot.

Mixed in with all these questionable assertions (note the absence of any role for the hard men having worn themselves out) is the possibility that he's confused Northern Ireland with the Republic, where the story of sudden gains in wealth is much more applicable.

The article also implies, reflecting the interviewer's previous concerns, that O'Rourke's act was funnier before a certain class of New Media adopted it --

When Mr. O'Rourke set out into the world after a youthful Maoist phase (it was, after all, the '60s) there was an element of novelty to his insouciance, and his beliefs, like the larger movement of which he was a part, constituted their own kind of insurgency. Now, all that was fresh and scandalous then has become the stock-in-trade of every other pundit, blogger and radio-show bore, while the right has also made its own establishment -- and correctness, of any kind, cripples humor.

The apparent consequence of bloggers stealing his method is that he's been forced to read Adam Smith in search of novel material, which is maybe not a bad thing since he seems to have believed in 2003 that an Invisible Hand would magically look after reconstruction in Iraq.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Using the letterhead one last time

For the second time in just over a week, the National Review's Cliff May is posting dodgy source material at The Corner. This time --

Oklahoma City Bombing [Cliff May]

An Al-Qaeda connection? A congressional committee suggests there was.

This claim is an old chestnut of the neocons; sometimes the bombing is connected to Saddam Hussein and sometimes to al Qaeda. No evidence for it has ever been produced. May's evidence -- a link to a PDF file. Open the file and it's billed --

Chairman’s Report
Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House International Relations Committee The Oklahoma City Bombing: Was There A Foreign Connection? Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R - CA)

This report reflects the views of the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and its investigators, and has not been approved by a vote of the subcommittee or the full International Relations Committee.

One has to work back to Rohrabacher's website to see the release date of December 26th, when he was Chairman of the subcommittee only by inertia, with Congress in recess and a new Democratic majority coming to town yesterday. And as the disclaimer makes clear, the actual report has zero status as a Congressional report -- it's just his opinion with his now defunct title at the top.