Monday, December 31, 2007

Not out with the old

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

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

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

New to you

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

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

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

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Spinners in uniform

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

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

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hot off the presses

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

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

Her skin is a different shade

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

Special interest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flypaper reverses polarity

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

It didn't Caller ID as "White House"

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

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

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

That real central front in the war on terror

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Romantic Ireland is something or other

When Christy Moore sang, a long time ago --

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

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

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


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

The angry male demographic

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

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

As if it was the most offensive thing in the world

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

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

Explanation here. Enjoy the day.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A quick Christmas scowl

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2007

Keyboarding to book victory

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

It's a long way to Limavady

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

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

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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Virtuous circle

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

I like to get our money back.

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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Even better than the real thing

Powerline's "Deacon" --

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

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

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

Ghost of disasters past

White House photo by Chris Greenberg

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

Slow news day

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

This one writes itself

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

Monday, December 17, 2007

Guinness for weakness

New York Stock Exchange

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

Chillin' at the Holidae Inn

George Bush sees the ghost of Christmas future --

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

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

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

This one goes up to 11

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

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The rooster crows

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

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

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

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Liquid bomb plot evaporating

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

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

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

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

Gun law

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the edge

Pentagon photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

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

Eurovision in Lisbon

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

This one writes itself

News item --

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


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

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

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


National Review's Michael Ledeen has a complaint --

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Don't mention the oil

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

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

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

Under Siege

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

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

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

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

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

Stairway, no Over the Hills

That Led Zeppelin list in full --

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

Whole Lotta Love
Rock and Roll

UPDATE: The Pseud's Corner entry --

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

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Our man in Baghdad, again

photo from MNF-Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Liking how it sounds in German

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

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

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

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

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

The appellation oft proclaim the man

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

They forgot the "Made in Iran" sticker

Photo: Multi-National Force Iraq Division-Central

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

Friday, December 07, 2007

Keeping in touch

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

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

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

Tomorrow's right-wing outrage today

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dick Cheney has a new catchphrase

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

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

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

Off their game

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

But it's not a War on Muslims

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

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

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

A nation once again

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

Turning the Gulf red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Three years to catch up

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

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

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

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

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

Decided on the field

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

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


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

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

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

Monday, December 03, 2007

Celtic Tiger latest

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

They hate us, our freedom, our values etc*

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

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

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

More wiping off the map

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

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

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

Pinko rag

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

Losing with grace

REUTERS/Francesco Spotorno; caption

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

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

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

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Note to Googlers

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

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

Ms. Lativa Ray-Alston (Guest)

Mr. Will Alston (Guest)

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

Saturday, December 01, 2007

It's genetic all right

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

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