Monday, April 30, 2007

The trumpet in one hand and the rifle in the other

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer

The caption for the above Pentagon photo says --

Marine Sgt Austin Hunt, a trumpet player with the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band and a member of the Tactical Air Control Center security force in Al Asad, Iraq, plays morning colors outside the center, April 10, 2007

But what's most interesting about the associated story is the subtext: that troop shortages in Iraq are sufficiently severe that the Marines are now putting troops who would normally be on band duty into frontline security jobs. As Sgt Hunt says, "All Marines are riflemen," but that doesn't change the fact that George W. Bush is still pursuing a war in Iraq without even enough troops to properly implement his very selective surge, let alone perform full-scale peacekeeping for the entire country.

[Note: this trend has been underway for a while]

That's the question, isn't it?

National Review's Andrew Stuttaford --

When the Red Army arrived in Estonia in 1944, it did so as a conqueror, not a liberator.

They conquered the Nazis and kept the Baltic states. Unfair, harsh, illegal. But not the worst outcome.

Our own two eurocents on the Estonian crisis is that yet another chicken has come to the roost -- a de facto policy of NATO, with the US in the driving seat, to irritate Russia by expanding to its borders. The European Union has allowed itself to go along for the ride -- which one reason why there still should be value to being a non-NATO country within the European Union, such as the Republic of Ireland. But that would require an Irish government more willing to speak up when the EU is being pulled into geopolitical machinations for which it is not designed.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


For possible future reference, this is the Times (UK) story being widely cited in the US as the source for the claim that Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi was the planner of the 7/7 bombings, and even claims a link to last year's Heathrow liquid bomb plot. Yet no mention is made of these claims in the BBC story, which also hints that it had some off-the-record briefing behind it. Nor indeed in the Pentagon's news release. So who , if anyone, is briefing the Times, and why? One fishy section --

But the Security Service, which has previously sent officials to question detainees at Guantanamo Bay, may not have the opportunity to question him directly.

The Government’s recently adopted position in favour of closing Guantanamo Bay is likely to act as a bar on agents travelling there. British Intelligence would have to rely on relaying questions it would like asked by American interrogators.

Sounds like someone has an axe to grind re opposition to Gitmo.

Scandal karma

In a resignation that had imminent indictment written all over it, the "effective immediately" exit of Randall Tobias from the US Agency for International Development "for personal reasons" was quickly revealed, in classic Friday news way, to be connected into an investigation into an escort service. The White House hasn't had time yet to block Tobias searches of their pages, and one event that pops up is Bush's July 2003 nomination of Tobias to his previous position as Global AIDS Coordinator. Bush took questions at the event, including --

Q Mr. President, a posse of small nations -- like the Ukraine and Poland -- are materializing to help keep the peace in Iraq. But with the attacks on U.S. forces and the casualty rates rising, what is the administration doing to get larger powers, like France and Germany and Russia, to join the American occupation there?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, we'll put together a force structure who meets the threats on the ground. And we've got a lot of forces there, ourselves. And as I said yesterday, anybody who wants to harm American troops will be found and brought to justice. There are some who feel like that if they attack us that we may decide to leave prematurely. They don't understand what they're talking about, if that's the case.

Let me finish. There are some who feel like -- that the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on. We've got the force necessary to deal with the security situation. Of course we want other countries to help us -- Great Britain is there, Poland is there, Ukraine is there, you mentioned. Anybody who wants to help, we'll welcome the help. But we've got plenty tough force there right now to make sure the situation is secure.

It's a sign of how bad things are for Bush that the entrails of completely unrelated imbroglios are now entangled with each other.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Blog neologism of the day



Tony's near-abroad

Tony Blair, whether wittingly or not, interfering in domestic politics of the Republic of Ireland --

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has been invited to address the joint Houses of Parliament at Westminster on 15 May.

Mr Ahern will be expected to reflect on the Northern Ireland peace process and the changed relationship between Ireland and the UK.

A date that will likely be right in the middle of an election campaign. On the other hand, given Bertie's attention to handshake politics, it may well be that the date was chosen so as not to keep Bertie away from an actual campaign, in which case it provides a further hint about Bertie's timing leaning towards June. But it doesn't change the fact that he's been giving a massive platform and PR stunt while seeking re-election.

UPDATE: Here's the Downing Street statement:

27 April 2007

Tony Blair has invited Irish Taoiseach [is there any other kind?] Bertie Ahern to address Members of both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday May 15 to mark the restoration of devolution to Northern Ireland.

Mr Speaker and the Lord Speaker have agreed to host the event in the Royal Gallery at the Palace of Westminster.

The date of May 8 for the restoration of devolved Government to the Province was confirmed after a historic meeting between the leaders of the DUP and Sinn Fein last month.

One other bit of intrigue: will Tony have announced his own date by then?

UPDATE: It's 9 days before the Irish election.

The would-be Professor Cheney

Dick Cheney, giving the graduation speech at Brigham Young university in Utah --

And my career in politics itself was an unplanned enterprise. On the day of my own graduation from the University of Wyoming, I had no ambitions of holding higher office. If you'd asked me at the time what I planned on doing, I could have described in some detail what the next 10 years would be like. First would be graduate school, then wrapping up that Ph.D., and down the road, with luck, a faculty position at a university. It all worked out very differently. Within a few years, Lynne and I were living in Washington, D.C., and beginning a journey in government and public life that neither of us had ever imagined.

Dick graduated from college in 1965, just as the Vietnam war (which he supported) was reaching a new level of intensity. The above thus describes the infamous "other priorities" that kept him from going to help fight the war himself. That would be left to suckers like John Kerry.

For those keeping score, Dick had already accumulated 3 Vietnam deferments by the time his story reached the point where he dreamed of graduate school. His dream of graduate school got him his 4th deferment in 1965, and his wife getting pregnant right after the Pentagon got rid of deferments for able bodied childless men got him his 5th. With Vietnam decisively out of the way for him (when he got to age 26), he soon moved to Washington, interned for Richard Nixon, and got his first real job with Don Rumsfeld. Thus the prequel to the nation's current disaster in Iraq.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Sufferers-in-Chief

Since the White House is not providing a transcript of Laura Bush's interview on NBC's breakfast show Today, here is the relevant excerpt. The interview, with Ann Curry, aired on the 25th of April but was taped earlier in the week. The opening discussion is between Matt Lauer and Curry about the interview --

CURRY: I also asked Mrs. Bush about other challenges her husband is facing. [tape begins]

You know the American people are suffering...

Ms. BUSH: Mm-hmm.

CURRY: ...watching...

Ms. BUSH: Oh, I know that...

CURRY: ...this war.

Ms. BUSH: ...very much. And believe me, no one suffers more than their president and I do when we watch this, and certainly the commander in chief who has asked our military to go into harm's way.

CURRY: What do you think the American public need to know about your husband?

Ms. BUSH: Well, I hope they do know the burden of worry that's on his shoulders every single day for our troops. And I think they do. I mean, I think if they don't they--they're not seeing what the real responsibilities of our president are.

CURRY: It must be hard for you to watch him in this?

Ms. BUSH: Well, it's hard. I mean, of course, it's absolutely hard.

Here's the video.

UPDATE: Dan Froomkin also has the words and associated commentary.

Is this Ireland?

We don't know. It appeared on National Review's The Corner this morning, posted by John Derbyshire --

A friend sent the attached picture, with the following message:

"We've all seen the faces of those ravaged by the floods of Sri Lanka & New Orleans. This award-winning photograph of the recent flood waters rising in Ireland captures the horror & suffering there. Please keep these people in your thoughts & prayers."

It's looks fishy. "Recent flood" Where and when? Why no location or date on the photo? And many things look wrong. There's no tradition of outdoor drinking stands in Ireland (although of course there is outdoor drinking). The men are drinking from bottles and small glasses, not pints. And the look is so stereotypical that it can't be Irish, at least not today's Ireland. This photo has circulated on the web, apparently as a chain e-mail with text very much like Derb's friend supplies. Putting together some of the background colour schemes with the general look and major news over the last few years, we think it's Romania.

A festive May Day

White House; caption

May Day 2007 will not only be Veto Day, but also the anniversary of Mission Accomplished Day, Loyalty Day, and Law Day. This year's theme for Law Day has yet to be announced.

UPDATE: The Law day proclamation is sneaked out on a Saturday, and was clearly chosen to avoid the awkwardness of last year's celebration of the separation of powers --

The theme of this year's Law Day, "Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy," highlights the importance of teaching our young people about the vital role they can play in our democratic society. We all have a duty to help our youth become responsible citizens by promoting the virtues that sustain our democracy and fostering a deeper understanding and respect for our Constitution and laws.

FINAL UPDATE: The Loyalty Day proclamation was issued late on the 30th, and the New York Times editorialises about Law Day.

Potemkin Bus

The Republic of Ireland's state bus company, Bus Éireann, made a splashy announcement yesterday about high frequency double-decker bus service to Dublin from the surrounding counties. The service won't actually be up and running until next year. Could it be that an election approaches? And anyway, there was still the little matter of getting one's hands on one of those new long-distance double-decker buses to show at the announcement --

Bus Éireann borrowed a double-decker coach from Northern Ireland bus company Translink yesterday, covering it with Bus Éireann stickers for the announcement of the expansion by Minister for Transport Martin Cullen.

At least they've moved on from photoshopping in voters with pictures of the leader [here
s the original photoshopped picture].

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pledge Goal 36,000

The hackery does not end --

The President intends to nominate James K. Glassman, of Connecticut, to be a Member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors for the remainder of a three-year term expiring 8/13/07 and an additional three-year term expiring 8/13/10. The President also intends to nominate Mr. Glassman to be Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

This dude. His media ethics have been on display at Tech Central Station. The nomination appears to be Bush's response to the fact that he couldn't get the horse dude in the job.

UPDATE 11 DECEMBER 2007: Glassman was confirmed for the above position and now, bizarrely, is nominated for Karen Hughes' public diplomacy job.

We don't know the half of it

There are tantalising hints in the BBC reporting on an Official Secrets Act prosecution of just how crazy things were behind the scenes as the Iraq catastrophe unfolded in early 2004. The two men charged are civil servant David Keogh and MP's researcher Leo O'Connor; the former leaked notes from a Bush-Blair summit to the latter, who forwarded it to his MP, who raised the alarm about having received classified material.

One revelation from the notes has effectively been confirmed by its non-denials -- that George Bush (likely egged on by Dick Cheney) wanted to bomb al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar. But consider other issues that have popped up in testimony, presumably right before the court goes into closed session to protect the evidence:

Sir Nigel Sheinwald [PM's foreign policy adviser] said: "It was a difficult period (in the Iraq war). Those of us who were involved believed at the time that it was the most difficult period facing the coalition since the original conflict in 2003, and for a variety of reasons.

"The security situation had deteriorated during the course of March and April [2004]." There were "particular concerns" about violence in Fallujah [note: events that began with this] and the rest of the "Sunni triangle" as well as the militias led by Moqtada al-Sadr, he said.

"The level of violence in Iraq went up considerably over that period. There was international controversy about the violence and the performance of the coalition forces at the time." There was also concern about the kidnapping of Western contractors and the decision by the Spanish to pull out.

Since none of these issues has actually been resolved, it would be nice to know what proposals were being discussed at the time to deal with them. Anyway, little of these doubts surfaced in public speeches of Bush or Cheney from that time. In fact it's interesting that the 2004 campaign was already in full swing at that point, because this apparently figured into the goals of the alleged leaker -

On Monday a statement by Mr O'Connor to police was read out in court, in which he said that the memo was a powerful document. He said Mr Keogh wanted to get it into the public domain to influence elections about to take place in the United States.

Mr O'Connor told detectives Mr Keogh did not like President Bush. The court heard that Mr O'Connor told police: "Something along the lines of 'The man's a madman' was said (by Mr Keogh).

"At the time it was the run-up to the American elections. I think his view was to get this document into this domain."

While his effort was worthy, he perhaps didn't realize what he was up against: the propaganda machine that is the US presidency under Bush, with the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth still to come.

He must be seen to lead

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, explaining why George Bush is working on a media stunt to accompany his veto of the Iraq war supplemental funding bill -- something that everyone knows he will veto, and something that he claims will veto as quickly as possible:

MS. PERINO: But, obviously, the President has said he's going to veto it, and I think that it's important that the American people see him doing it.


UPDATE: Because, Bush will need some distraction from the reminder of what he was doing on May 1, 2003, the new veto most likely falling on May 1, 2007.

Our leaks and their leaks

Powerline's "Hindrocket" --

Reading British newspapers can be refreshing, in part because of the intelligence-related leaks that they report. Here in the U.S., there is only one kind of leak from the CIA and other intelligence organizations: those intended to damage the Bush administration. It seems that British spies have a different agenda, as their leaks are more often designed to alert the British public to the severity of the threat posed by Islamic terrorists.

[BBC] The UK's counter-terrorism chief has said leaks could "put lives at risk". Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke of the Metropolitan Police said people who did divulge sensitive information were "beneath contempt".

He made the comments in a speech, but did not specify where the leaks came from. Instead he used a recent anti-terror investigation in Birmingham as an example of when information was leaked to the media.

One source of divergence between Clarke and Powerline is that the former is not assessing every activity by whether or not it's beneficial to George W. Bush.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The George Bush summer of protest tour

This year it takes in -- Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Italy, the Vatican, Albania, and Bulgaria. The visit thus includes both countries that are planning on hosting Bush's Euro-Star Wars project, and the pop-in on Benedict promises to be a particular media circus, as the Pope has inexplicably not revised his just war doctrine to be in line with the Global War on Terror.*

Incidental comedy value, on a day when he yet again threatened the veto the will of popularly-elected legislature on the Iraq war, springs from Bush's statement on the Syrian elections --

Elections are not rituals conducted for their own sake. The goal of any free, transparent, and democratic election is to allow people to have a say in how their country is governed.

*For more on the Bush versus Pope notions of just war, NYT online paying customers can read this.

Strong leader

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters; caption

His popularity surged when he stood by the building that had been attacked by enemies of the state. But then he redistributed the nation's wealth towards a favoured few, and launched what was supposed to be a quick war in a Muslim country -- a war that drags on with a precariously installed loyalist government to this day. And that's just George W. Bush!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Literary interlude

There are just a few hours more of the opportunity to listen to this year's winner of the UK National Short Story Prize. It's the The Orphan and the Mob by Julian Gough, and its plot gets going with the need for a toilet break by the hero, attending an interminable speech by a Fianna Fail minister to a loyal crowd in Tipperary. It was read in abriged form by Conor Lovett on Radio 4 last Tuesday (17th), and the audio file only stays up for 7 days. Gough, originally from Galway, was interviewed on Today this morning.

UPDATE 29 APRIL: A pleasant surprise -- Radio 4 has another audio file with the story.

FINAl UPDATE 25 JULY: Gough is interviewed in one section of this edition of Front Row (link good for another 5 days).

Music interlude

At about the 18 minute mark, this BBC Radio 1 live music show features an unexpected and excellent cover of Amy Winehouse's "I'm no good" by the Arctic Monkeys. The Internet versions of the BBC music programs seem to be carefully designed with very coarse forwards-not-backwards navigation, so those of you in a hurry will have to use the +15 minute button and wait.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

French election running post

Turnout could be 87 percent!

[Le Monde] Selon les estimations des instituts de sondage Ipsos et IFOP, la participation pourrait atteindre 87% au 1er tour de la présidentielle, soit son niveau le plus élevé sous la Ve République (AFP)

While results come, nice photo slideshow from Yahoo news.

Media election sites: France 2; Le Monde.

Interesting choice of backdrop for the Sarko victory speech -- a countryside, all green image. No cities there.

On the extreme left, a dreadful result for the Communist Party of France -- under 2%, and less than half of what one of the three Trotskyites, Olivier Besancenot, got.

With the chance now to compare the speeches of the top 2, Sarko's is much better; Sego's speech is earnest but wooden.

The overall sense at this point is a massive migration from the fringe to the center: note that the top 3 positions this time around each increased their share by around 10 percentage points relative to 2002.

One of Sego's applause lines: an emphasis that there will be a new referendum on the EU Constitution, unlike Sarko's proposal of a mini-treaty.

FINAL UPDATE: At least one person in the world thinks our relevant contribution to an Atrios comment thread was funny.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Infusion of terminology

George Bush and his surrogates already (probably unwittingly) use two bits of IRA lingo: sentences of the type "they only have to be right once, we have to be right always", and now the description of big bomb attacks in Iraq as "spectaculars" (e.g this quote ascribed to Gerry Adams). So can it be long before the de facto partition of Baghdad, a plan which has been apparent for some time, sees the new wall around the Sunni enclave east of the Tigris described as a Peace Line?

UPDATE: The term of art for the walls is currently gated community.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Because it's no longer parody?

A sliver of insight into the minds of people in Bush's base -- such as National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez --

I was sitting near a man this morning who was reading the paper edition from cover to cover. I assumed he was reading the Washington Post or something, but sure enough it was The Onion. And he never cracked a smile. Weird things happen here in D.C., I tell you.

For example, The Onion back 7 years ago, with their version of Bush's 1st inauguration speech --

"The gap between the rich and the poor may be wide, be there's much more widening left to do. We must squander our nation's hard-won budget surplus on tax breaks for the wealthiest 15 percent. And, on the foreign front, we must find an enemy and defeat it."

Prescient. Too real to be funny.

The equivalence of haircuts and war

An interesting comparison between the New York Times and the Financial Times. The former, a very serious newspaper, gives another go-round to crumbs from the Drudge table -- that Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards got an expensive haircut in Beverly Hills. Perhaps the NYT is unaware that candidates spend a fair bit of time on television, with the camera mostly pointed at their heads.

Then, after referencing another hoary chestnut of the right, a Bill Clinton haircut also in Los Angeles, an editor must have asked the reporter, Adam Nagourney, for a balancing story. So he offers this one about John McCain, which he presumably also saw on the Internets --

Senator John McCain, a Republican hopeful, was captured on camera in South Carolina on Wednesday when he was asked about sending “an air-mail message to Teheran.”

“Remember that old Beach Boys song ‘Bomb Iran?’ ” Mr. McCain asked and burst out with the first three notes of “Barbara Ann,” with slightly different words. “Bomb, bomb, bomb,” he sang.

Proceeding now to Friday's Financial Times, we find a longer story, only devoted to the McCain gaffe, which does after all pertain to desire of a presidential candidate to start yet another war in the Middle East. The FT reporter even did some actual research about McCain's improv, noting that it's a well-known parody that first circulated in 1979 -- something that Nagourney couldn't be bothered to look up.

One possibility is that Nagourney's reporting is driven by hair envy, because compared to John Edwards, he (seen above) doesn't have very much it. It's good to know that the political season is in the hands of such grounded people.

UPDATE: Nagourney is also peddling the hair tale on the NYT's politics blog, and the Times just can't help itself -- an entire Maureen Dowd column about the hair.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vietnam again

George Bush today, responding to what was either a screened question or one that came from a loyalist, returned to the topic of Vietnam-Iraq analogies which had led him to a strange pronouncement last year -- that one obstacle in Vietnam was that it was fought by a conscript army that didn't understand the stakes. He perhaps had been warned enough to stay away from that elaboration, but left the thought out there --

A major difference as far as here at home is concerned is that our military is an all-volunteer army, and we need to keep it that way. By the way, the way you keep it that way is to make sure our troops have all they need to do their job, and to make sure their families are happy. (Applause.)

He really should be asked why he thinks this is the case, and why an Army that is close to breaking point at its present troop levels doesn't need the infusion of manpower that a draft would provide -- if winning the war is as important as he says it is.

There is another issue that has clearly been debated within his circle: how to respond to the simple point that the US withdrew from Vietnam without victory, in the face of predictions of a regional implosion if they did so, and yet both countries are probably better off for that decision. All that's changed is that the domino theory now refers to Islamism and not Communism, but the doom-mongering is the same. So here's what they came up with --

I want to remind you that after Vietnam, after we left, the -- millions of people lost their life. The Khmer Rouge, for example, in Cambodia.

That's pretty shaky. Cambodia was destabilized by the US strategy in fighting its futile war in Vietnam* (ask Christopher Hitchens), and when the Khmer Rouge psychopaths finally went too far, it was the Vietnamese who got rid of them. And the US continued to recognize the exiled KR rump as the legitimate government of Cambodia, to the disgust of most of the world. Anyway, speaking of Hitchens, it's especially brazen of Bush to be using Indo-China outcomes as a justification for his Iraq policy, with Henry Kissinger advising him on the latter.

Of course, this came in a Q&AQ session where he also said

As I've told you, on the rug -- the reason I brought up the rug was to not only kind of break the ice, but also to talk about strategic thought.

Don't ask.

UPDATE: More extended thoughts on the Cambodia-Iraq analogy.

* See also this NYT review of Robert Dallek's Nixon and Kissinger book, which makes clear that it was the unnecessary prolonging of the Vietnam war that destabilized Cambodia, not withdrawal.


Barbara Oakley in today's New York Times, in the context of Virginia Tech --

Consider that Britain’s national experiment with gun-free living is proving to be a disaster, with violent and gun crime rates soaring.

That's a claim that really needs some numbers. Here is the UK Home Office's most recent annual crime statistics publication. It covers up to mid-2006 and earlier years. See Table 2.04. England and Wales had 765 homicides in the 2005/06 year. This was down from the earlier part of the decade. The total of all serious offences had increased sharply and then fallen over a similar period. The main ban on guns was in 1996. So the timing is not right.

Comparable US statistics are not that easy to come by. But here's the FBI report on crime in major cities which covers the first half of 2006. They don't make the addition that easy, but the numbers show about 4,200 murders for that half year, covering cities with a population of about 77 million people. So you don't need to get detailed data on rates to see the difference. Hardly the ingredients of an unfolding British "disaster" on gun crime.

UPDATE: Through the miracle of Google, Prof. Oakley has been in touch to cite her source: this article from Reason magazine. Interestingly, it's from 2002, which clearly corresponds to a particularly bad period in the crime statistics noted above. Here's news of the latest crime figures.

For use on Sunday

For those of you who've wallowed in the American election experience of embargo-breaking releases of exit polls before voting has ended or actual vote counting has begun, this French journalist-blogger is planning to break the media embargo on reporting of early poll numbers for the 1st and 2nd round of the presidential elections, beginning on Sunday evening.

UPDATE: He changed his mind -- he'll respect the embargo. Which is just as well because his site has crashed.

You journalists all look the same

Thursday's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) takes note of the coincidence of the widespread campaigning by journalists on behalf of kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston and a National Union of Journalists (NUJ) call for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Anyone reading the Journal editorial would get the impression that the latter boycott is the NUJ's only direct response to the kidnapping, whereas nothing in this Guardian story, which seems to have kicked the row off, made that link, and a later NUJ statement (helpfully reprinted at Harry's Place) clarified that the boycott call emerged from just one aspect of the NUJ's relations with Palestinian journalists and was in fact intended as a protest against the war in Lebanon last year.

But leave aside the Dave Spart style buffoonery of the NUJ boycott and the WSJ's hackish repackaging of it. The phrasing of the WSJ criticism of the boycott fairly clearly implies that the Journal thinks that the NUJ and the BBC are the same thing, most notably the concluding paragraph --

Meanwhile, Mr. Johnston's condition and whereabouts remain unknown, a grim reminder of what goes on in the Palestinian territory that Israel abandoned in 2005. Maybe if Mr. Dear [NUJ general secretary] and his fellow-travelers had paid more attention, they would have thought twice about stationing their colleague in harm's way.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Killers are weird

And patient. On the day before tax day (in fact a day that everyone assumed was tax day), the Virginia Tech killer went to a post office?

Also, he navigated through two loopholes in Virginia gun law; he waited at least 30 days after his 2nd gun purchase, just in case anyone might cross-check his name against gun purchases before he made his move -- Virginia law mandates destruction of gun purchase records provided to the authorities after 30 days. He also managed to purchase guns despite having been treated for mental illness. The strange structure of his first gun purchase -- apparently on the Internet for pickup at a pawn shop -- may have been a trial run to see whether he was on a barred list without having to visit too many people.

What's he up to?

Why is George W. Bush making a bunch of amendments to courts-martial procedures (which as Commander-in-Chief he can do), the bulk of which seem to be focused on adding a new crime of killing an unborn child, where --

the term "unborn child" means a child in utero, and the term "child in utero" or "child who is in utero" means a member of the species homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.

There are exemptions to cover medically necessary procedures including abortion, but with this crowd one always wonders what the sub-text is. This order, which may well just be intended to set up a stunt announcement regarding his supposed protection of unborn life in the military, comes on a day when 183 members of the species homo sapiens were blown to bits in Iraq.

UPDATE 25 APRIL: A legal source tells us that the amendments are required by Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004, also called "Laci and Conner's Law" (108th Congress, HR 1997, signed on April Fool's Day). The strange thing is, this law's section 3 made provisions for the military justice system and yet these were only just inserted into courts-martial procedures 3 years later. Bush has made at least 2 alterations to courts-martial procedures since there (here, here). Did they forget?

Whose rights to infringe?

With today's emphasis from the Virginia Tech aftermath being on the documented mental state of the killer, is the USA ready for a world in which being mentally ill could be a bar to certain activities (such as purchasing a gun) or even grounds for detention without having committed a crime? Look at the trouble that the British government is having with its Mental Health Bill, which would impose related restrictions -- and that's in an environment where worrying that mentally ill people can walk into a shop and buy guns is not a problem.

UPDATE: There is in fact some confusion about whether Cho should have been able to buy a gun, because of his documented psychiatric problems.

Garrison Government

REUTERS/Bob Strong; caption

In what's as apt a commentary as any on the capabilities of the Iraqi government on yet another day of mayhem in Iraq, note the nervous peeking out of the watchtower, the tattered remnant of the Iraqi flag, and the same symbol from the flag painted on the tower. The visible script means "is great," the continuation of the sentence beginning with "God" -- which can't be seen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ahead of, not above, the fray

The Washington Post is very nice to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino --

Although many elected leaders and advocates have already used the tragic [Virginia Tech] shooting as a reference point for the nation's ongoing debate over gun control laws, Perino declined to be drawn into that discussion. "Today is not the day," she said.

Indeed today is not the day -- because she had gotten into the debate nearly as quickly as Glenn Reynolds yesterday:

As far as policy, the President believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed.

In its combination of platitude (who's against all laws being followed?) and frat-boy reading of the Constitution (is there really an absolute right to carry guns?), the White House had already made its contribution to the "debate", like those other unnamed leaders and advocates mentioned by the Post.


National Review's Jonah Goldberg on the Virginia Tech killer --

He was a South Korean here on a visa.

No. He was a US permanent resident ("Green Card"). A green card is not a visa, and green card holders do not need a visa to enter the United States.

[Incidentally, as US residents, green card holders can purchase a gun, as the VT shooter did, as long as they don't have any felony convictions.]

Birds of a feather

Today's New York Times, in the course of a story explaining yet another Iraq connection in the Paul Wolfowitz ethics imbroglio at the World Bank, includes the detail --

Victoria Toensing, a lawyer representing Ms. Riza, said this evening that Ms. Riza went to Iraq as a volunteer and took a leave of absence from the World Bank, paying for her own benefits while she was on leave.

That would be long-time Republican party operative Victoria Toensing, who most recently had been doing the lead blocking, despite all available evidence, on the claim that the White House had deliberately leaked classified information about CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity in revenge for her husband's weakening of the Saddam WMD evidence.

There is also a potential media ethics issue presented by Toensing's presence on the legal team. In the last few days, the Wall Street Journal has published two vitriolic editorials defending Wolfowitz (1st, 2nd), even though the information already in the public domain already far exceeds the standard they applied for their Clinton scandal-mongering in the 1990s [Chris at Crooked Timber also notes their peculiar interest]. Among the sentences in the later editorial --

Paul Wolfowitz, meet the Duke lacrosse team.

An equivalence (based on a false accusation of rape in an investigation that never went to trial) that could only exist in the minds of regulars on the right-wing cable news circuit. Such as that occupied by occasional Wall Street Journal op-ed contributor, Victoria Toensing.

The Journal editorials, relying heavily on carefully selected sentences* from the Bank's weekend document dump on the Wolfowitz matter, even read like a advocacy brief that, say, one's lawyer might prepare. Given the incestuous connections in this whole business, the Journal really should make clear to its readers whether its editorials reflect the input of Ms Toensing.

UPDATE: Interestingly, this later editorial, drawing from what was presumably a private communication to Shaha Riza, specifically rebuts any presumption that they might have gotten the material from her lawyer.

FINAL UPDATE 8 MAY: The 2nd WSJ editorial mentioned above turns out to have relied on an off-the-record briefing by Wolfowitz's aides, a briefing that has now become a source of controversy in itself, since the information was false.

[*Further explanation of the carefully selected sentences, such as those being used by Christopher Hitchens also to defend Wolfowitz]

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gun lust

Glenn Reynolds was quick on the draw with this analysis of the Virginia Tech shootings --

These things do seem to take place in locations where it's not legal for people with carry permits to carry guns, though, and I believe that's the case where the Virginia Tech campus is concerned. I certainly wish that someone had been in a position to shoot this guy at the outset ... And reader John Lucas, who works with a Virginia law firm, emails that Va. Tech is a "gun-free zone." Well, for those who follow the law. There was an effort to change that but it failed: "A bill that would have given college students and employees the right to carry handguns on campus died with nary a shot being fired in the General Assembly." That's unfortunate. [sentence added later] Had the bill passed, things might have turned out differently, though we'll never know now.

It's not clear which is more pathetic: his assumption that any bad guys would be taken out in a single shot without any crossfire when everyone pulls their weapons at the first sign of trouble, or the assumption that the bad guys wouldn't simply change their tactics knowing that other people might carry guns. Such as by getting bigger guns.

Untroubled by such logical concerns, Reynolds quickly resumed normal service with a light-hearted post making fun of John Kerry. Incidentally, George W. Bush hosted an event last October on prevention of mass shootings in schools, in which gun control was not on the agenda. But church-state separation was.

Tax day 2007

Which the Wall Street Journal marks with an op-ed by former Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer. Ari offers a predictably dishonest diatribe (subs. req'd) in which he complains about the share of total taxes being paid by rich people without mentioning the share of total income being made by rich people. Ari might want to look into the share of total taxes paid by rich people in Brazil or South Africa, which is unfairly high too! One specific example of his spinning --

A taxpayer who makes $1 million a year pays $14,500 in Medicare taxes while a worker who makes $10,000 a year pays $145. But when they retire and visit their doctors or go to the hospital, Medicare reimburses both an equal amount of money. That's a pretty big redistribution of income and a pretty good deal for the low-income worker.

Note that when selecting among the payroll taxes, Ari picks the relatively low Medicare (elderly health) tax that applies to all income and not the larger Social Security (the equivalent of UK National Insurance) which is capped at $90,000 -- a nice deal for the millionaires. But leave that aside. One unanswered question permeates the article: if being on low income is such a great deal, would any of the rich victims of the snouts in the fiscal trough want to swap places with them?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Position isn't everything, it's the only thing

Without meaning to sound too much like Mickey Kaus, it's remarkable that the New York Times' Adam Nagourney can write an entire article on the dynamics of being a presidential primary campaign frontrunner without mentioning the actual policy positions, let alone the tactics, of the mentioned candidates.

Thus what we get instead is a It's Good to be the Frontrunner, Except When It's Not analysis, which has nothing to say about its supposed hook to the current race in the difficulties of John McCain -- those being hard to discuss without mentioning his uneasy relationship to George W. Bush, his base, and the spectacle this presents to the wider public: someone more in favour of Bush's project in Iraq than Bush himself is, but who always pulls back from a decisive rupture from Bush when the opportunity presents. That's more complicated than just having once been the presumptive winner of the race.

Everyone except me

Michael Ledeen at National Review's The Corner, amidst a series of posts whose methodology could be used to prove the existence of an imminent attack on Earth by Martians --

I remain convinced that when all is said and done and we finally unravel all the threads in the vast winged conspiracy that constitutes the terror network, we will find most everyone involved.

Friday, April 13, 2007

The pop-in

The caption for the above White House photo says --

President George W. Bush drops by a meeting between National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley and France's Minister of the Interior and Regional Development Nicolas Sarkozy at the White House Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2006

Sarko is likely the next President of France and by all accounts asked for the meeting with Bush. Consider now this BBC story about a Bush meeting with Gordon Brown today --

Sources close to the chancellor told the BBC the meeting with the president was completely unplanned. Mr Brown was in a scheduled meeting with US national security adviser Stephen Hadley when President Bush appeared and said they should talk.

i.e. the exact format as the Sarko meeting, except that the spin from Gordon's camp* is that he didn't ask for the meeting and there's no photo. When it's highly plausible that the format is in fact Bush's way of meeting likely future leaders who have asked for a meeting with him.

[A related implication is that Guido needs to has updated his map to include 1600 Pennsylvania Ave]

[* and Gordon himself -- "I happened to be at the White House meeting the National Security Advisor yesterday and President Bush happened to drop in at the meeting."]

UPDATE 25 APRIL -- Brown's story now even less credible. Bush is meeting with the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne today (linked to a malaria initiative), further suggesting a formal White House structure or being careful not to take sides in overseas politics. It's unlikely that a chance meeting in an office would be viewed as needing such balance.

FINAL UPDATE: Toby Harnden says that the Osborne meeting was hyped, as he was just one attendee at the malaria event, but also --

That's why the 40-minute "drop-by" with Brown was carefully pre-arranged last week - to smooth the way so there's no "Colgate moment" when they have their first appearance together as leaders.

[via Iain Murray]

A side note on the Wolfowitz affair

US State Department

Back when we were guest blogging at Rising Hegemon, we wrote this post about what was then Paul Wolfowitz's biggest headache: a feud with the Bank's Board over his budget and strategy. This dispute rumbles on, now drowned out by the ethics dispute.

One of the strangest aspects of it is the serial leaking of confidential Bank documents to Fox News, which has added to the original leak with this new report based on an e-mail speculating that China might cease borrowing from the Bank if its corruption guidelines became too stringent. As with the earlier leak, the story is carefully designed to obscure the motives of the leaker. But how much distance can there be between Fox News and some of the circle who came in with Wolfie?

The law firm of Williams and Connolly (lawyers to Dick Cheney, inter alia) have been assigned to find the leaker. Incidentally, the investigation is being handled on the Bank side by Ana Palacio. Seen above in a previous career. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

UPDATE: An apparently minor glitch in the investigation, as Williams and Connolly had represented Wolfie in his contract negotations with the Bank. But as their representation of Cheney indicates, in legal terms Washington is a small place. For example, one thing that links White House scandals across administrations is the legal teams e.g. Scooter Libby was once Marc Rich's lawyer, recalling a row that clouded the last days of Bill Clinton.

FINAL UPDATE 12 JULY: The Fox News leak investigation was "inconclusive" and will not be pursued any further by the Bank.

The invisible woman

Dick Cheney, again in Chicago and this time to sycophantic interviewers, Don and Roma Wade, WLS 890-AM --

Q What can you tell us about the war czar position? We understand the White House is thinking about establishing a war czar. Is there anyone whose name we should recognize being considered?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what it is, it's really a coordination role. The basic chain of command is going to continue to run, obviously, from the President, the Secretary of Defense, and down to our commanders in the field. But there are a lot of activities with respect to what we're doing over there that require coordination between various agencies -- State and Defense and a lot of our domestic agencies that have roles over there in trying to help establish, for example, a good judicial system for the Iraqis. And pulling all of that together we think requires somebody here in Washington who would report directly to the President, and then have the authority to make certain everybody is delivering what they promised to deliver on time, and in effect, sort of ride roughshod, if necessary, over the bureaucracy to make sure we get the job done.

There's not much reading between the lines to see that a dispute that has rumbled since the middle of 2003 -- who's actually of charge of US operations in Iraq -- has not been resolved. In the fifth year of the war. The job description sounds like something that needs to be done either by the President himself, or his National Security Adviser. It's thus a dispute that was supposed to have been settled with Condi Rice as the answer. The rest is history.

UPDATE: Similar thoughts on the "war czar" via Dan Froomkin. And [final update 16 April] a damning assessment from one person who was asked if he was interested in the job.

The unmitigated gall

Dick Cheney, the dude put in the White House by a margin of 537 votes in Florida in 2000 -- and that's after losing the popular vote and without a Florida recount -- said today in Chicago:

for the first time since 1995 the Democratic Party now controls both the House and the Senate. It was, in retrospect, a narrow victory. A shift of only 3,600 votes would have kept the Senate in Republican hands, and a shift of fewer than 100,000 votes would have maintained Republican control of the House of Representatives.

Incidentally, accompanying Dick on a transparently partisan visit to a convention of true believers (the Heritage Foundation), Dick did an opening shout-out to his favourite political operative: his daughter Liz ("My daughter, Liz, is traveling with us today. (Applause.)"), one-time overseer of a huge neocon slush fund, and now an occasional contributor to the "liberal" Washington Post.

Repeat Offender

Conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt had a scoop of sorts yesterday when interviewee Mark Steyn revealed to him that he'd been canned by The Atlantic Monthly as their obituary writer --

MS: Well, the Atlantic and I have had a falling out ... So I probably shouldn’t be talking about this on air, but you know, I, as the Australian foreign minister said to me in another context, there’s no really off the record conversation with me, and so I’m happy to tell your guys, if you ask me a straight question, we’ve had a falling out ...I don’t know what they’re running instead. Maybe they’ll run an obituary of me, and that will nicely round out the whole business. But that’s ...Well, we had a bit of a clenched teeth showdown, and that’s the way it goes.

Steyn thus only mentions that there was a row, and hints that it was not with owner David Bradley, so one can only wonder there was some repeat of events that led to his exit from the Daily Telegraph that began with the spiked column about Liverpool and Ken Bigley.

Anyway, Steyn's fans seem to think that there was some particular virtue in the way he wrote the obits, when all he was doing was applying the more English style, where colourful anecdotes and a bit of speculation are allowed. In fact, the anedcote cited by National Review's Peter Robinson from the Atlantic's obit for John Profumo as an example of classic Steyn is little different than the one that appears in the Times (UK) obit. So maybe the Atlantic figured that they could get someone else to rework the Times and Telegraph obits. Or maybe, as Hugh Hewitt slyly implies, there was some link between Steyn's departure and the arrival of Andrew Sullivan --

HH: That’s the worst trade, that’s Steyn for Andrew Sullivan, since the Indians sent Chris Chambliss and Greg Nettles to the Yankees for people you’ve never heard of. I can’t believe that, but I’ll leave it at that.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's all bad

Reuters TV courtesy of Al Hurra; caption

In the above video sequence, al-Hurra TV was interviewing an Iraqi MP when this morning's explosion took place in the background. The American-backed al-Hurra, recently the target of a right-wing campaign for the emergence of supposed bias in its coverage, couldn't have been complying any more with its mandate than by being in the parliament building and showing legislating in action. And their cameras capture a bomb attack. If that's not a commentary on the futility of finding that good news in Iraq, what is?

Not his job

George Bush, on the bombing of the Iraqi parliament cafeteria

My message to the Iraqi government is we stand with you as you take the steps necessary to not only reconcile politically, but also put a security force in place that is able to deal with these kinds of people.

Did anyone tell George that the bombing happened inside his "heavily fortified Green Zone?"

UPDATE: Via Andrew Sullivan, the area is apparently actually protected by American military contractors. The essence of George Bush's military-industrial complex right there.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Briefly Noted

John Kay in yesterday's Financial Times (subs. req'd), essentially saying that an independent Scotland would be able to shed its "colonized by wankers" attitude that the 26 counties on the neighbouring island managed to do --

The economic case for separatism is that it removes the focus of grievance and the source of subsidy and makes Scotland again responsible for its economic destiny. The most relevant parallel is that of Ireland, although the implications are not simple. Ireland needed 60 years of independence to throw off the culture of victimhood. Only after Ireland joined the European Union did it turn its back on generations of politicians drawn from the stage set of Irish history, from the austere, romantic, impractical Eamon de Valera to the charming roguery of Charles Haughey. But, ultimately, Ireland did: and in the last two decades, it has been western Europe's success story.

Scotland starts in a stronger position than did Ireland. It should be easier to shed the baseless sense of victimhood of the Scots than the well-founded sense of victimhood of the Irish. With Scotland (unlike Ireland) there is an entrepreneurial history and (like Ireland) a diaspora ready to participate in economic revival. In the hope that hard-headed Scots would take much less than half a century to discard the culture of complaint and the romantic appeal of apocryphal history, I would be tempted to cast a vote for the Scottish National party on May 3.

Much to digest there, especially in the last paragraph. Clearly the man hasn't seen Braveheart (or maybe he did and wasn't impressed). Note also that the Republic joined the EU in 1973 but the worst of Haughey was yet to come.

Interestingly, to the extent that people used to think that Ireland did have an entrepreneurial history, they would have located it in Ulster, now (for many reasons) an economically depressed part of the island (both sides of the border), whereas other parts of the island, supposedly distracted by Papacy, now boom. Which maybe just goes to show that the line from culture to economics is rather jagged, as Henry at Crooked Timber was explaining in another context. Nevertheless, Kay's argument -- that independence ultimately enforces "ownership" of national destiny -- is one that is likely to get ever more prominence as globalization erodes other sources of cultural difference.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Another a la carte Catholic

On Easter Sunday, the Republican theologian (yes, in America there are such things), Michael Novak was still riding the high from having attended the Easter liturgy at Saint Matthew's Cathedral in Washington and wanted to signal the deep spirituality of it all --

It is not the human performance, in other words, that ought to hold our attention, but the real abandonment and cruel suffering of Christ on the Cross, in a demonstration of how much the Lord loves us, despite our faults and our miseries and our own emptiness.

Fine. Step forward to today where Novak is now discussing the views of the man that Catholics accept as offering the final word (as final as faith can be) for us humans regarding the teachings of the Lord --

Benedict XVI's Easter Sunday remarks in St Peter Square hit a low point, I would think. He said that "nothing positive comes from Iraq." This is a very skewed report on the realities on the ground. But it might mean that the message the Pope wanted to convey is that of the American Left: "Whatever the good or the bad achievements, it is time to get out." In other words, not an accurate description, but a prescription for the near future.

The rest of his post is an unintended comedy effort as he takes Benedict to task with the same tired warmonger talking point that most recently made John McCain look like an idiot -- that he's ignoring good news from Iraq. He concludes --

Do not, dear European friends, condemn nor trivialize these generous sacrifices.

So in the space of two days the church has gone from the inspiration of the sacrifice of Jesus to just another pesky liberal media outlet -- and a European one at that. Incidentally, Novak refers to his 2003 trip to to the Vatican which was designed to persuade the then Pope that George Bush's just war doctrine superceded that of the Pope's, so we might as throw in a link to our young blogger days discussing that farcical venture.

Just what the latest Ukrainian crisis needs

White House --

On Monday, April 9, 2007, the President signed into law:

S. 494, the "NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007," which reaffirms support for continued enlargement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); designates Albania, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, and Ukraine as eligible to receive assistance under the NATO Participation Act of 1994; and authorizes FY 2008 appropriations for certain military assistance for these countries.

Monday, April 09, 2007

George's Wall

Amongst the bizarre details from this Wall Street Journal account of George Bush's visit to the US Border Patrol in Yuma, Arizona, are the details of the opening ceremony for the new Border Patrol station --

With bagpipers leading the way, the green-clad honor guard marched the flag 100 yards or so to the plate-glass entrance, and the flag was soon flapping in the breeze. A surprised German shepherd barked occasionally, more or less in time with the kilted band, as it receded to the tune of “Scotland the Brave.” Then a local Border Patrol chaplain prayed for God’s blessing on the new station, as well as for the “Christian way of life.”

For one thing, isn't a tad odd at an event opening a facility dedicated to keeping people south of the border to have the music be an unofficial national anthem of another country?

"Bush wears a wire" theorists

REUTERS/Jason Reed; caption

Pay close attention to those trousers.

[no objects as obvious in the official WH photos]

The market ticker

With all the concern about real-time match fixing in cricket, it seems even odder to have the electronic advertising hoarding at the Fulham vs Man City match to be flashing "Next to score Joey Barton 12/1." So that all the match participants can see it. Luckily for such concerns, although not for anyone lured in by the ad (from Coral), Darius Vassell scored next.

Only in France

Financial Times --

Liberally scattered with references to great thinkers such as Rousseau, Schopenhauer and Seneca – the latter having been a particular inspiration to Mr Sarkozy – the interview was published in the April edition of Philosophie magazine, alongside a pull-out devoted to Hegel.

More chequebook journalism

Instapundit promotes this story from the Telegraph --

A STORY OF HEROISM DROPPED because the BBC found it "too positive."

[quote from Telegraph] The corporation has cancelled the commission for a 90-minute drama about Britain's youngest surviving Victoria Cross hero because it feared it would alienate members of the audience opposed to the war in Iraq. [end quote]

That says it all, doesn't it?

Well, it depends what the meaning of "all" is. The subject of the story, Private Johnson Beharry, is an incredibly brave person. He's also the answer to the question of whether there's a precedent for the Ministry of Defence's decision to allow serving military personnel to sell their action stories to the media, as with the 15 sailors and marines detained by Iran. There is, and he's the previous example.

Without knowing the full reasons for the BBC's backing out of the project, it's far too soon to identify a supposed lack of patriotism, imputed without evidence by the Telegraph, among the multitude of possible reasons for their withdrawal -- not least because the direction in which this essentially for-profit enterprise was headed might have given them cause for concern.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn, who probably saw the link on Instapundit, leaps to the same conclusion as the Telegraph story and mentions the current context of the sailors being allowed to sell their stories unaware that also applies to Beharry.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Migratory birds

Bill O'Reilly is speaking at the Philosophical Society of Trinity College Dublin next week. The Irish Times has an interview (subs. req'd). From the interview, he seems much more fixated on the traditional moral flashpoints than war on terror issues, so it may not generate quite the fireworks of a year and a half ago with Cliff May at the same venue. At least the phil has managed to display more sense in choice of provocative guest than the Oxford Union, which inexplicably picked reactionary right goon Jonah Goldberg to take the US side in the debate linked to the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement.

UPDATE: It's less and less clear what the Oxford Union expects to get from their debate, other than a shout-fest.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Going cheap in Tehran

In a detail that calls to mind the concluding sections of those old Private Eye Bore of the Year award ceremonies, the list of Iranian gifts to the captured British sailors includes --

A copy of Managing My Life, by Sir Alex Ferguson

He knows what he does

A little link/summary trickery from Andrew Sullivan --

Gifted Are the Poor

A scientific study finds that wealth is inversely correlated with intelligence in determining how best to spend a small amount of money.

Follow the link, which in turn has the option of another link -- and it's got nothing to do with intelligence. It's a lab experiment with a small group of people that relates to the differing incentives of rich and poor people to figure out patterns in return for tiny stakes -- 20p per run.

Guess what? Lower income people figure it out more quickly, because, as economists would hope, their marginal utility of income is higher.

The subtext here is Sullivan's commitment to the concept of a single dimensional innate and genetic characteristic called "IQ" -- which perhaps as a little Good Friday repentance, he decided to grant the poor a little more of.


One learns something from what gets mentioned first when an issue is under discussion. So in the course of what worked out very well for the White House -- a Good Friday news dump of a fairly bleak Second International Panel on Climate Change report, Sharon Hays from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy chose to put this into her opening statement at the press briefing --

I think there's a couple of additional facts to note, in terms of this projection of this range of future impacts, including the fact that not all projected impacts are negative.

In addition, the briefing mentions the word "adaptation" 16 times and "mitigation" not at all; the former mentions coming in a mix of questions and answers. In this context, adaptation means dealing with the consequences of global warming and mitigation means trying to prevent some or all of the occurrence of global warming. Guess which one George W. Bush is keener on?

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Yes, after 4 years with the archives link not working properly, some of the fonts in our template busted, and no blogroll, amongst other deficiencies, it was time for a blog upgrade. It's still being tweaked. Hopefully your eyes will adjust to the new (excessively) white background.

Take back the TV

This interesting and doubtless widely linked op-ed in the New York Times correctly identifies the role of record company idiocy in killing their market as they now watch the digital music revolution pass them by, but it could also have mentioned the industry's disastrous passivity in allowing MTV to control a key part of its marketing infrastructure -- the distribution of music videos. MTV (US) told rock fans a long time ago to go to hell, unless what they liked was on their current 5-10 song heavy rotation list, and even that gets played fewer and fewer times a day. Which is pretty much what the wasteland of FM radio did as well.

You can't sell new records when most of your market can't hear (or see) them. Notice that the MTV Empire does allow viewers to see lots of hip-hop videos through the widely available MTV Jams and VH1 Soul channels. Is there any rock act with the means of generating the buzz that a new Kanye West or Jay-Z video can create?

Speaking of crazy presidents ...

A demonstration from George W. Bush about how seriously he takes the Iraq war --

Before his speech, Bush stood in a dusty, rocky field as soldiers explained how they detect and disarm homemade bombs, called Improvised Explosive Devices. Bush operated a remote-control robot, playfully steering the device straight into a row of news photographers.

Fundamentalist president uses captive military personnel for propaganda

White House/Eric Draper

The Iranians have been known to do this kind of thing as well.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Time for a new precedent

Since 9/11 changed everything, isn't it time that it changed the interpretation of Article 2, Section 2 of the US constitution --

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

given George Bush's "Up Yours" to the Senate by appointing Swift Boat crony Sam "Foxy" Fox to be ambassador to Belgium? After all, a plain meaning of that section is that the vacancy must occur during the recess to be filled in this manner.

By the way, there's another possibility raised by Bush's action. He does have the power to call Congress into special session, which given the urgency he claims he attaches to the military funding bill, he could have done. Is it possible that he deliberately didn't call a special session precisely so that he could recess appoint the Senate confirmation rejects, for him a higher priority than expediting a funding bill for the troops?

UPDATE: A more promising technicality that may scupper Fox's appointment.

Holy Land accessories

Web Gallery of Art

From National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez, a typical I'm-mentioning-it-so-I-care more-than-I-claim gambit --

A reader asked me if it was especially offense (sic) that Catholic Pelosi went to Syria and wore a headscarf during Holy Week.

The above is Fra Angelico's Resurrection of Christ and Women at the Tomb. The women are wearing scarves.

[K-Lo had also promoted this Drudge-ready idiocy, and Mona Charen dives into the controversy a day late: "She had no business conducting her own foreign policy of course, but if she did have to go, she should have done so holding her uncovered head high as the representative of liberated, western womanhood."]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

All at sea

Here's some Bush-quality legal analysis by Andy McCarthy [via Andrew Sullivan]. He's writing about the British captives in Iran and joins others in arguing, contrary to the Geneva Conventions, that they are prisoners of war. Amid the veneer of legal expertise, consider this section --

Under Article 2, [the Conventions] apply in "all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them." (Emphasis added.) Even if Iran had not for years been abetting the Iraqi insurgency against coalition forces, the seizure itself was an armed conflict on the high seas between two Geneva signatories -- had it not been, the Britons would not have been captured.

Note that he's trying to slip the Iranian seizure into that "any other armed conflict" clause even though the UK itself has never claimed that the incident was an example of, or put it in, armed conflict with Iran. But the booby prize is clinched by his rhetorical flourish of describing the "conflict" as being on the "high seas" when the dictionary tells us ---

1. the sea or ocean beyond the three-mile limit or territorial waters of a country.
2. Usually, high seas. a. the open, unenclosed waters of any sea or ocean; common highway.
b. Law. the area within which transactions are subject to court of admiralty jurisdiction.

Note that the only issue in the dispute is whether the sailors were in Iraqi or Iranian territorial waters.

UPDATE: A similar mistake from Powerline's Deacon, who is supposed to be a lawyer -- " the seizure of British sailors minding their own business on the open seas". And [final update] -- Dick Cheney!

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's important that if you get into the business where you reward that kind of behavior, there will be more of that kind of behavior. Once people start taking hostages, or kidnapping folks on the high seas, and then are rewarded for it by getting some kind of political concession or some other thing of value, that would be unfortunate.

[Recall that McCarthy is the same person who stealthily changed his position on whether US permanent residents have habeas corpus rights under the Military Commissions Act]

Let the excuses begin

Here's a meme that will require further monitoring: the implicit or explicit claim that George W. Bush might be spurned by the electorate despite having been a brilliant wartime president. It's an issue that his flatterers will confront as they try to reconcile their comparisons of him to Churchill with the latter's loss of the 1945 election. So National Review's Mario Loyola says (in the course of despairing that present day Britain won't declare war on Iran) --

True enough, Britain is given to bouts of world-weary fatalism—a similar once hit Britain after World War II, and swept Churchill out of office.

Soon enough, we predict, we'll be hearing more explicitly that contemporary assessments of Bush don't matter, because, after all, even the great Winston lost in '45. Given Bush's perverse attitude to democracy, it might even be a badge of honour. Except that Bush won't have the chance to lose an election (his detachment from electoral incentives being part of the problem).

Anyway, Churchill's loss would have more to do with being out of step with an electorate that had shared the sacrifices of war and wasn't ready for pre-1939 business as usual, particularly as regards the social safety net.

Indeed, if Karl Rove were truly Machiavellian, he might have designed the Iraq war precisely so as to involve no current sacrifice by most Americans (paid for by borrowing and fought by an all-volunteer army and mercenaries) -- and therefore prone to no collectivist lurch whenever the war actually ends.

The Official Decent Left

It's interesting for historians of the IRA to contemplate why Christopher Hitchens would write (in Slate) --

There is nothing in the latest Northern Irish agreement that was not easily available to both sides way back in 1967 or '68.

and therefore not accept the more conventional and famous dating by Seamus Mallon of the current agreement as "Sunningdale for slow learners".

The Sunningdale Agreement was implemented in 1974. Here is one one useful item in divining Hitch's agenda. Any parallels with Hitch's current positions on the Middle East are a matter of pure speculation.

UPDATE: Can't resist another look at Hitch's slyness. He writes --

The British laws of libel forbid me to tell what I heard when I was a young reporter in the pubs and back streets of Belfast, but I'll put it like this: Both Paisley and Adams know very well of things that happened that should never have happened.

Now who would Hitch the Younger, then the radical leftie, have been chatting to in the Belfast pubs and hearing tales about Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley?

Make him stop

The low point of George Bush's news conference just now was his claim that only if the country continues to use cheap but polluting fuels would it be able to afford the costs of cleaning up the associated pollution.

The a la carte flying experience

It used to be that when the topic of Ireland's contribution to the global aviation industry came up, a nation could proudly point to the world's first duty free shop (at Shannon). But now a new achievement beckons, courtesy of Ryanair and Aer Lingus: an ever expanding self-parody of pay-for-everything flying. With ticket prices already quoted to exclude various taxes and "fees", and steep charges for what used to be within one's checked baggage allowance, Aer Lingus has one-upped Ryanair again and is imposing charges for pre-assigned seats. According to Tuesday's Irish Times (subs. req'd), the charge will be up to 15 euro (presumably 10 pounds) per flight, with pre-assignment of any seat costing at least 3 euro. The airline claims that there will still be an option to get any remaining seat at check-in, with no additional charge.

Now to a fundamentalist economist, this all perhaps sounds like ingenious extraction of value from something that the passengers want. But economists might be equally concerned with what this does to the notion of competition, which surely requires that the quoted price for a product actually mean something comparable across airlines. Increasingly for passengers dealing with the two airlines, it doesn't: the ticket "price" is a notional amount that when combined with the airlines' definition of taxes and fees gets you the worst seat on the plane, with no bags, but a free "not our fault" if anything does go wrong with the trip. Comparison shopping, made more difficult anyway by the de facto requirement to purchase from a proprietary website, is meaningless.

One might have thought that the Irish government, attuned to the costs of being on an island, would have a somewhat vigorous view on these antics. So far that's not the case.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The devaluation of language

The Wall Street Journal puts the headline "First they came for the Jews" on an opinion piece arguing that the prosecution of pro-Israel lobbyists for receiving leaks of classified information about Iran is a violation of their free speech rights. This being the same Wall Street Journal editorial board that had screamed for prosecutions for leaks of classified information that concerned illegal activities of George W. Bush.

The warmongers look west

If there was ever any doubt that National Review's Michael Ledeen wants a US war with Iran, consider this analysis that he offers of the current state of al Qaeda --

I think there is a case to be made for the view that al Qaeda as such no longer exists. Its shattered remnant limped into Iran after the liberation of Afghanistan, and the top leadership has operated from Iran ever since. At a minimum, Zawahiri et. al. (I think bin Laden died of his medical problems some time ago; we haven't seen him on video for something going on three years) are subject to an Iranian veto. Al Qaeda may now be an integrated component of the Iranian terror network: Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad, Revolutionary Guards/Qods Force, Hamas.

Nowhere does the post mention Pakistan, nor explain how all the evidence that al Qaeda remains alive and well on the Pakistan-Afghan border is consistent with his theory. Incidentally, Charles Krauthammer also managed to write an entire column on central fronts in the war on terror without mentioning Pakistan so there appears be a new blind spot amongst the neocons.