Wednesday, April 29, 2009

We will not forget you, Jimmy Sands

From the Durban II (UN anti-racism convention) declaration --

... Recalls that the Holocaust must never be forgotten ...

UPDATE: A similar usage appears in Durban I (page 12).

The Sherpa Oligarchy

Matthew Yglesias --

Amid a serious economic crisis, Congress has still not confirmed Obama's appointees for several key Treasury posts. To be sure, not-yet-confirmed appointees have some capacity to do their jobs on an unofficial basis. But they lack legal authority, and are unable to represent the administration in dealings with foreign governments, state governments, members of Congress, or business leaders. This is a real handicap to the government's ability to conduct important business ... A big part of the problem is that the U.S. simply has an outrageously large number of political appointees running the executive branch. Most democracies operate more the way we run our military, with the vast majority of senior administrative posts in the hands of career professionals. Overall policy direction is set by a relative handful of politicians and political appointees, who have some discretion over which career people fill which slots.

Let's consider the biography of a someone who is a product of system that would meet Matt's preferences --

Sir Gus O'Donnell took over as Cabinet Secretary on 1 August 2005. Prior to that, he was Permanent Secretary to HM Treasury (July 2002 – July 2005). Before that he had been Managing Director, Macroeconomic Policy and International Finance since 1999. From 1998–9 he was Director of Macroeconomic Policy and Prospects, and from 1997–98 was the UK's Executive Director to the IMF and World Bank.

He has also been Head of the Government Economics Service, the UK's largest employer of professional economists, since 1998. Gus O'Donnell studied economics at the University of Warwick and Nuffield College Oxford.

So he's an economist with impeccable educational credentials who's been in or around the table of every critical economic policy that the UK has made since 1997. Decisions which have worked so spectacularly well that he gets to stay in his job now and keep the show on the road. And he's the one who complained about the lack of counterparts at the US Treasury making the G20 preparations harder for him and his fellow technocrats in the other 19+ countries. And while senior bank executives and bank shareholders lose their jobs and their shirts, he and his fellow technocrats all get to keep their jobs and indeed with the increased role of government post-crisis are even more powerful than before.

Under the US system, we get new suits in those jobs with a new President, and they have to be confirmed by Congress. It's not such a bad system.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

These frauds are so sophistamacated

Securities and Exchange Commission press release --

The SEC alleges that Rusciano altered the account statement by "whiting out" the word "excess" in the "excess equity" field on the account statement to make it appear as though the hedge fund's account had approximately $64 million, when in fact the account had less than $7 million.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jumpy nation

On the same day as the fake Air Force One "photo-op" over Manhattan, the White House had to convey the following --

Statement from Ricardo Alday, Spokesman for the Mexican Embassy to the United States of America:

"Mr. Felipe Solís, Director of Mexico’s National Anthropology Museum died on April 23rd, a week after he welcomed Presidents Obama and Calderón at the Museum. He died of complications of a preexisting condition and not of swine flu."

We're about due for another anthrax scare.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Iraq is still complicated

Not that anyone paying attention to Iraq thought that it was en route to stability, but in a tell-tale sign of a deteriorating security situation, a newly named group of "bad guys" has emerged (as if imaginary figures becoming real wasn't enough). For a while the once evilest Special Groups had been joined by a local branch of Hezbollah. But now they have more company --

Coalition forces arrested six suspected members of the [Mahdi Army] JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade and killed one suspected network criminal early Sunday in Al Kut.

In an operation fully coordinated and approved by the Iraqi government, Coalition forces targeted a network financier, who is also responsible for smuggling weapons into the country to support JAM Special Groups and Promise Day Brigade.

Coalition forces approached a residence believed to be the location of the suspect, as forces approached the residence an individual with a weapon came out of the home. Forces assessed him to be hostile, and they engaged the man, killing him. During the engagement, a woman in the area moved into the line of fire and was also struck by gunfire. A Coalition forces medic treated her on site, but she died of her wounds before she could be evacuated.

As one can tell from the press release, it's written to head off criticism of the civilian fatality. But it also appears to be the first mention of the "Promise Day Brigade". Which highlights another bit of blowback. Back when the surge was the greatest military strategy of all time, Moqtada al-Sadr's loss of control of the Mahdi Army was seen as a good thing. But now it appears that the lack of central control is generating volatile off-shoot militias. If Northern Ireland is any guide to the rhetoric, we'll soon be encouraged to the pleased if the militias start fighting each other.

For follow-up

From Louise Richardson's New York Times review of Michael Burleigh's Blood and Rage --

In several instances, Burleigh seems to lose his critical faculties altogether in order simply to be offensive. Rather than arguing the quite reasonable point that the discrimination against Catholics in Northern Ireland under the Stormont government was not egregious and was better than the treatment of blacks in the American South, he writes: “Protestant friends of mine from Dungannon say that they often dated Catholic girls, who tended to be more feminine than the butch Unionists. Unlike the U.S. Deep South, they could do this without fear of being lynched.” He then goes on to miss the point about the Catholic civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. For the first time Catholics were claiming rights within Northern Ireland rather than demanding the overthrow of the state, and it was the inflexible government’s blindness to this opportunity — and the consequent emergence of violent republicanism — that had such tragic consequences for the province.

The free first chapter excerpt of the book is heavily devoted to the Irish Question.

The law enforcement approach to terrorism

National Review's Andy McCarthy, determined to free himself of any burden of evidence linking different terrorist groups and political regimes that George W. Bush didn't like --

There is no evidence that the Taliban was complicit in 9/11. They were giving safe-haven to al Qaeda, just like Sudan did before them, but they were not involved in carrying out 9/11, the Cole attack, the embassy bombings, or other specific attacks ... Yet, despite the absence of Taliban complicity in specific al Qaeda attacks, we are at war with the Taliban because we recognize a terror network cannot function without the help of coconspirators who provide all sorts of assistance but are not involved in executing specific plots. The "specific plots" business is a red herring, and it's essential that the public understand that.

The specific reason for the war with the Taliban is that they harbored Osama bin Laden not just before 9/11, but after it. They were given the opportunity to turn over Osama and they didn't take it. It's what a prosecutor might call "harboring a fugitive" or "accessory after the fact" but why bother with such niceties when the evidence free zone of hypothetical networks linking all the supervillians is much more fun?

Guns and people kill people

A Glenn Reynolds blog item from last week --

2 SHOT DEAD at gun-control rally.

Quality right wing pro-gun snark, right? Except that it was a 6 year old case from London concerning a shooting at a nightclub event that had been organized as a result of earlier shootings that were connected to the mentioned one [an update to the post appeared well afterwards noting its chronological irrelevance]. Feuds have a habit of continuing like that.

So how about a blog post consisting of

2 POLICE SHOT DEAD at gun club?

Because that's what happened to 2 Okaloosa County Florida deputies today who encountered a suspect in a domestic violence call at a gun club. No doubt Glenn Reynolds would think that the pairing of the murder of police with a gun club is unfounded and in poor taste. So why did he endorse a similar connection in the London case?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

You can be the captain/I will draw the chart

On and after January 22nd, 2009, conservatives became horrified at the idea of the government deciding which corporate CEOs keep their jobs and which corporations get told what to do. Example: the sacking of GM CEO Rick Wagoner --

Mickey Kaus --

After visibly defenstrating GM CEO RIck Wagoner, and moving to replace the board of directors, won't Obama now "own" the GM problem? If the company shuts down in the near future, costing tens of thousands of blue collar jobs, it will be under executives implicitly or explicitly chosen by Obama. It will be Obama's failure, not simply GM's failure, no?

Jonah Goldberg --

GM is now Obama's company. If it closes, it will be on his say-so. But Obama is a politician, not a CEO ... Of course, the good news is that being a law professor and community organizer totally prepares you to run huge white elephant multinantional corporations.

Mark Steyn --

The descent into corporatism will doom America: The government is not competent to pick winners and losers, and will mire us in long-term Continental-style economic stagnation if it persists.

Aside from anything else, it should be disturbing that GM appears to have evolved into what Canada calls a "Crown corporation" without its nominal owners having any say in the matter.

But we now know that Obama is in the ha'penny place compared to what was going on in the latter days of the Bush Administration --

[Wall Street Journal] NEW YORK -- Then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson threatened to remove Bank of America Corp. Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis and the bank's board of directors if the bank backed out of its merger with Merrill Lynch & Co. last year, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said.

In a letter to members of Congress on Thursday, Mr. Cuomo said his investigation into the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank's merger has found that Mr. Paulson told Mr. Lewis on Dec. 21, 2008, that the government "could or would" replace the bank's management and its directors if the bank exited the deal.

Bank of America/Merrill has a lot of Daddies. None of them seem too happy about it.

Nice timing

Trying to use daily stock market movements as an instrument to bash Barack Obama hasn't worked out very well for conservatives. Using Iraq is not so good either --

A Dog Not Barking [Jay Nordlinger]

Friends, have you read much about Iraq lately? I mean, in the news, and in the opinion columns (assuming there is a distinction)? For years, Iraq dominated our news and our commentary. But I have seen very few items about Iraq in recent weeks, or months.

Is it because George W. Bush is no longer president? Was Iraq simply a club with which to beat a hated president? (Hated by many who give us the news.) Is it that the Iraq War has been — dare we use the word — won? But weren’t we promised that the Iraq War was unwinnable?

Today's Iraq news --

BAGHDAD – Suicide bomb blasts tore through crowds waiting for food aid in central Baghdad and inside a roadside restaurant filled with Iranian pilgrims Thursday, killing at least 78 people in Iraq's deadliest day in more than a year.

The toll — at least 31 dead in Baghdad and 47 to the north in Diyala province — follows a series of high-profile attacks this month blamed on Sunni insurgents. The violence highlights potential security gaps as Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead role from U.S. forces in protecting Baghdad and key areas around the capital.

Today's other Iraq news --

BAGHDAD – At least 87,215 Iraqis have been killed in violence since 2005, according to a previously undisclosed Iraqi government tally obtained by The Associated Press. Combined with tallies based on hospital sources and media reports since the beginning of the war and a review of available evidence by the AP, the figures show that more than 110,000 Iraqis have died in violence since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

The Health Ministry death tally, provided by a government official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the data, counts deaths from the beginning of 2005 until Feb. 28. It excludes thousands of people who are missing and civilians who were buried in the chaos of war without official notice.

One definition of an "unwinnable" war might arise from a cost-benefit analysis looking at the number of locals that get killed "winning" it.

UPDATE: Nordlinger acknowledges his bad timing but then agrees that the real good news from Iraq is the arrest of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi -- without acknowledging the mystery of how the Iraqis are detaining an imaginary figure. Who's been paying attention to news from Iraq?


One thing that seems to have motivated the logic of torturing suspected al Qaeda detainees is that they were supervillians, who could resist normal techniques and might even escape detention. Which is preposterous.

But there is one sense in which some al Qaeda suspects are indeed supervillains: their capacity to disappear just as the dragnet is about to close, and even rise from the dead.

First we had the botched anti-terror operation in northern England with an alleged link to the allegedly deceased Rashid Rauf. But even more bizarrely, Iraqi police now claim to have detained Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. This person proved so frustrating to US forces in Iraq (after several reported captures and deaths) that they eventually declared him to be imaginary.

Except the Iraqis now have him in custody [alternative link]. What precautions does one need to take when detaining an imaginary figure?

UPDATE: The Iraqis are sticking to their story; Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh told AFP that Baghdadi's real name is Ahmed Abed Ahmed and that he is a 40-year-old former officer in the Iraqi army. The depiction of him as fictitious came when the US was desperate to show that the insurgency was mostly driven by foreigners.

FINAL UPDATE: The Islamic State of Iraq releases a tape with a voice consistent with earlier Abu Omar al-Baghdadi tapes saying that he is still at large.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Farewell then Table 1.8

This table disappeared from the IMF's Global Financial Stability Report. The backstory is here and here are Irish economists digging into the row. Apparently there is stuff that newly empowered international watchdogs still aren't supposed to say.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some stupid with a flare gun

There doesn't seem yet to be any official translation of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rambling speech to the useless "Durban II" conference in Geneva. But here's a UN summary of a key sentence -- a sentence not referred to in the official news agency (IRNA) coverage --

Following World War Two, many proponents of racism resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the ambiguous and dubious question of the holocaust.

"Pretext", "ambiguous", "dubious". Cue the row over how these translate from Farsi. But it doesn't look good.

The only good news is that he could actually lose an election.

UPDATE 21 APRIL: Things get interesting. We relied above on the UN account of what Ahmadinejad said, which in turn relied on their English translator. But it appears that he never spoke the words "ambiguous and dubious". These were in his prepared remarks, but not delivered. This was picked up by the French translation which followed the golden rule ... check against delivery. Of course the likelihood remains that the written speech is what Ahmadinejad believes. Anyway, the result is that the passage we quoted above from the UN account is gone. It now says --

Two, many proponents of racism resorted to military aggression to make an entire nation homeless, on the pretext of Jewish sufferings and the abuse of the question of the holocaust. They sent migrants from Europe, the United States and other parts of the world in order to establish a totally racist government in the occupied Palestine.

Describing Israel's 1947 Jewish population as "migrants from Europe" is, shall we say, an understated description of why they're not in Europe any more --

JERUSALEM – Hanita Leshem's parents handed her over to a Christian family in Ukraine in 1941, when she was just a year old, to save her from the Nazi troops murdering the Jews there.

Leshem, now a 69-year-old grandmother living in Jerusalem, never saw her mother and father again.

On Tuesday, she stood among other child survivors as Israel marked its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day honoring the 6 million Jews who perished at the hands of the Nazis — including her parents.

Leshem was raised by two Christian families and spent some time in a Polish orphanage before she moved at age 7 to what later became Israel, where she was adopted. For decades, she was unable to track down the names of her biological parents. But after exhaustive research and a trip to her hometown near Lvov, she finally learned in 1995 that she was born Isabela Waldbaum, the only child of Ella and Leopold.

A special theory of interest and money

Greg Mankiw --

At one of my recent Harvard seminars, a graduate student proposed a clever scheme to do exactly that. (I will let the student remain anonymous. In case he ever wants to pursue a career as a central banker, having his name associated with this idea probably won’t help.)

Imagine that the Fed were to announce that, a year from today, it would pick a digit from zero to 9 out of a hat. All currency with a serial number ending in that digit would no longer be legal tender. Suddenly, the expected return to holding currency would become negative 10 percent.

That move would free the Fed to cut interest rates below zero. People would be delighted to lend money at negative 3 percent, since losing 3 percent is better than losing 10.

That gets filed under too clever by half. If the central bank announces that one in every ten dollars will be worthless in a year's time, anyone selling anything now bumps up their prices by ten percent to compensate for the average loss in value in a year's time [Think about what happens if everyone decides to wait till a year minus one day to do this, and so on].

Thus there is an immediate 10 percent loss on the value of all money holdings. But then what? If this is just a one-time scheme, then prices after the year has passed will fall (since money no longer has a risk of disappearing) and now the return to holding money once the initial jump has happened is positive. You wait to spend -- the exact opposite of the policy objective!

In short, why do we need complicated schemes that need some tricky mathematics to figure out when the government has simple things it can do, like more fiscal expansion or more purchases of government debt? Perhaps they sound like things that conservative economists can't be "for" -- while money confiscation schemes are fine. It's a strange world.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

All wrong all the time

Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen has perfected the rhetorical technique of dumping large amounts of faux-authoritative detail to make it seem like he has refuted an argument.

When he hasn't. The recurring issue in his extended screeds is whether al-Qaeda detainee was a super villain and whether CIA torture caused him to reveal useful details to investigators. Thiessen keeps affirming both but reporters who look at the actual evidence and talk to actual people involved in the case find otherwise.

Here's the latest installment today from the New York Times where the steady downgrading of Zubaydah's importance relative to the initial hype is noted, but also that the interrogation techniques were escalated long after he had given up any useful information. These were the interrogations that led Bush's lawyers to parse whether "pain and suffering" were single or joint concepts.

Apart from anything else, Thiessen is relying on old information, from the time when Bush was selectively releasing classified information into his speeches to justify his policies. But don't look for him to stop using 2006 talking points to refute 2009 evidence.

Licence to Predict

Before most people were aware of Iceland's mysterious and meteoric businessmen, that was a central plot line in Die Another Day. A few films later we got Quantum of Solace, far-fetched hokum about resource-greedy plotters trying to work up a military coup in Bolivia.

And now the news about the bizarre Balkan-Irish "mercenaries" who wound up dead in Santa Cruz. Since there's much that is yet unexplained about the La Paz events, the truth could still be stranger than fiction.

The grownups are in charge

With no fanfare, no days of anguished pundits discussing what could happen when they meet, no press briefing fulminations about the Tehran-Caracas axis, Barack Obama meets Hugo Chavez and shakes his hand.

Job done.

AP Photo/Marianna Kambon, Summit of the Americas, Pool

Thursday, April 16, 2009

But George Bush was the Pope's best friend

From the torture memos -- remember these lines were written by suits in the Bush Department of Justice [this is the August 2002 Abu Zubaydah memo]:

... As we explained in the Section 2340A Memorandum, "pain and suffering" as used in Section 2340 is best understood as a single concept, not distinct concepts of "pain" as distinguished from "suffering." See Section 2340A Memorandum at 6 nJ. The waterboard, which inflicts no pain or actual harm whatsoever, does not, in our view inflict "severe pain or suffering." Even if one were to parse the statute more finely to attempt to treat "suffering" as a distinct concept, the waterboard could not be said to inflict severe suffering. The waterboard is simply a controlled acute episode, lacking the connotation of a protracted period of time generally given to suffering. ..

It gets worse --

Based on the information you have provided us, we believe that those carrying out these procedures would not have the specific intent to inflict severe physical pain or suffering. The objective of these techniques is not to cause severe physical pain. First, the constant presence of personnel with medical training who have the authority to stop the interrogation should it appear it is medically necessary indicates that it is not your intent to cause severe physical pain.

The doctors weren't just assisting in the torture -- their presence was deemed to make it legal.

TARP World is complicated

Is JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon racist? Unlikely. But he's showing his lack of familiarity with the politics with which firm is now entangled via the financial sector bailouts, of which his firm was a major beneficiary --

Dimon, calling money received through the Troubled Asset Relief Program “a scarlet letter,” and “the TARP baby,” said on a conference call today that the New York-based bank is awaiting guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department. “We could pay it back tomorrow,” he said.

He's doing wordplay on Tar Baby, which --

In an interview, Toni Morrison said the following of its use in her book, in an acting of reclaiming: "Tar Baby is also a name, like 'nigger,' that white people call black children, black girls, as I recall…

Image from Wikipedia

About that withdrawal from Iraq

Multi-National Forces Iraq press release --

FORWARD OPERATING BASE DELTA, Iraq – Conducting a partnered nighttime police operation when unable to see can make any mission difficult. Soldiers from the 772nd Military Police Company, realized these challenges when they discovered their Iraqi partners didn’t have flashlights.

“During a night patrol, we went out there to do a checkpoint and quickly realized it was very difficult to do it without flashlights,” said Sgt. Glen MacDonald, 1st Squad, 2nd Platoon, 772nd MP Co., “We had to use ours but they didn’t have any at all.”

MacDonald reached out to people in his home state to see if they could help. “I have some friends that work for (a hardware store), and I made some contacts through my wife, and they went up their chain-of-command to the manufacturer. They donated 36 flashlights,” said MacDonald.

We learn that the Iraqi police don't have flashlights. Some American civilians donated three dozen and now they do. 6 years after the invasion. We'd say Mission Accomplished but it's just pathetic at this point.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

No votes means no representation

One of the signs at this Tea Party protest in Lansing Mich. says "The Federal Reserve is a private bank that owns America". Given the exploding balance sheet of the Fed and its strange structure, that's hardly the most bizarre sign that appeared at any tea party protest.

But it does raise a question. There was a Presidential candidate last year warning about the unrestrained power of the Fed. He also warned about the growth in federal debt and the increasing power of the state. His name was Ron Paul and he was shunned by the Republican party establishment and even many self-styled libertarians, who viewed him as a distraction. Yet 6 months later, a platform a lot like his is supposedly energizing the masses. So where were the tea party enthusiasts back then?

Here's Glenn Reynolds --

So why vote for the guy you know can’t win [Ron Paul or Ralph Nader]? I know, I know–you want to move the party in the direction of Truth, Justice, and the American Way. But this is wishful thinking. The reason that those of us on the fringe–libertarians, Greens, socialist workers, or what have you–do not have more representation in government is not because there is some structural problem with the American political system, like a lack of IRV or minority party candidates. The reason we don’t have more representation is that most people just don’t agree with us. Oh, I know you can find a poll that says that voters want national health care, a guaranteed income, a carbon tax, or lower government spending. But voters like lots of things in the abstract. When you get down to the specifics of raising their taxes and restricting their choices, they tend to get balky. The Democrats cannot move significantly closer to Nader, nor the Republicans to Ron Paul, without losing more voters in the center than they gain on the fringe.

So Ron Paul didn't get enough votes because most people don't actually agree with him and the parties have captured the center. But now tea parties sweep the nation with no big election due for 18 months. What does it say when the ahead-of-time prognosis from one of the movement's media boosters is so bleak?

Photo: AP/Al Goldis

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Expenditure Freedom Day

"Tax Freedom Day" was a lame political stunt at the best of times but its shallowness has been exposed this year. The claim of the Tax Foundation is that the designated date each year represents the first day of the year that the fruits of average income are not going to the government, if you assume that the first claim on each year's income flow goes to the total tax burden. It's essentially just the overall tax burden as a share of the economy times 365. That's the number of days per year you're working for the gummint.

It's intrinsically flawed. The long-term tax burden is determined by the level of government spending, not the level of taxes. George W. Bush managed to make tax freedom day earlier because he was borrowing to pay for so much of his extra spending --even though that borrowing represents future taxes. But in a bit of poetic justice, Barack Obama, $2 trillion deficit and all, has also gotten an earlier Tax Freedom Day. So what are those tea party types whingeing about? One wonders if the Tax Foundation will suddenly realize that the concept needs to be adjusted, or would that be too brazen?

He was that crazy

Tom Maguire says that Tom DeLay never said that the teaching of evolution contributed to the Columbine massacre. Paul Krugman says that he did. Strangely, while Tom Maguire will provide many links to what he says are people misquoting DeLay, he never tells you what DeLay actually said. The closest he gets is a link to the Crossing Wall St blog, which provides lots of context for DeLay, but never says what DeLay actually said. Which is odd, because it's one of those things you can look up --

Congressional Record: June 16, 1999 (House)]
[Page H4364-H4414]

Mr. DeLAY. Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the gentleman from Florida yielding me this time.
Mr. Chairman, I just think it is sort of ironic that the very ones that wanted us to come straight from the Senate with a bill to the floor with no consideration are now complaining because there was not enough consideration.
Mr. Chairman, I just want to say that the truth will make us free if we admit what the truth is. Every once in a while, I read something or hear something that blows away all that smoke that clouds a particular
. A letter written by a Mr. Addison Dawson to the San Angelo Standard-Times is just such a statement. In fact, after I make this statement, I do not think anybody else needs to speak. We just need to vote.

He then read the letter that blamed, inter alia, the teaching of evolution for school gun massacres, having endorsed its elements jointly and severally as the quote above makes absolutely clear.

Some day we'll write a post that we've always wanted to write, outlining a Grand Unified Theory of Right-Wing Lunacy which shows that the ultimate target is always Charles Darwin. Charles Darwin made the masses think for themselves about why the world is. He's never been forgiven for it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

You'll never beat the Irish

National Review's Mark Steyn finds a strange Ruth Bader Ginsburg claim --

She also offered a theory about why after World War II nations around the world started to create constitutional courts with the power to strike down legislation as the United States Supreme Court has.

“What happened in Europe was the Holocaust,” she said, “and people came to see that popularly elected representatives could not always be trusted to preserve the system’s most basic values.”

Steyn notes that the timeline, beginning with Austria in 1920, doesn't fit this theory. But here's one of the most reslilient examples of judicial review: the 1922 constitution of the Irish Free State (whose mechanisms are embedded in the modern 1937 Constitution) --

Article 64.

The judicial powers of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) shall be exercised and justice administered in the public Courts established by the Oireachtas by judges appointed in manner hereinafter provided. These Courts shall comprise Courts of First Instance and a Court of Final Appeal to be called the Supreme Court. The Courts of First Instance shall include a High Court invested with full original jurisdiction in and power to determine all matters and questions whether of law or fact, civil or criminal, and also Courts of local and limited jurisdiction, with a right of appeal as determined by law.

Article 65.
The judicial power of the High Court shall extend to the question of the validity of any law having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. In all cases in which such matters shall come into question, the High Court alone shall exercise original jurisdiction.

Article 66.
The Supreme Court of the Irish Free State (Saorstát Eireann) shall, with such exceptions (not including cases which involve questions as to the validity of any law) and subject to such regulations as may be prescribed by law, have appellate jurisdiction from all decisions of the High Court. The decision of the Supreme Court shall in all cases be final and conclusive, and shall not be reviewed or capable of being reviewed by any other Court, Tribunal or Authority whatsoever: Provided that nothing in this Constitution shall impair the right of any person to petition His Majesty for special leave to appeal from the Supreme Court to His Majesty in Council or the right of His Majesty to grant such leave.

Among the many interesting things about this Constitution is that it was written for a Commonwealth country. But it'll take a better historian than here to determine where the idea of constitutional review by the courts came from.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

A musical outrage

As was implied in the New York Times review of the musical Rock of Ages, the musical makes the following categorization --

In 1987 on the Sunset Strip, a small town girl met a big city rocker and in LA’s most famous rock club, they fell in love to the greatest songs of the 80s. It’s ROCK OF AGES, an arena-rock love story told through the mind-blowing, face-melting hits of JOURNEY, NIGHT RANGER, STYX, REO SPEEDWAGON, PAT BENATAR, TWISTED SISTER, POISON, ASIA, WHITESNAKE and many more

The problem of course being the inclusion of Journey with the worst excesses of glam/hair "metal", which, apart from anything else, came well after Journey's dominance of the airwaves. Now of course one could argue that they pioneered the rock ballad but that's like blaming Led Zeppelin for She's My Cherry Pie. And it's doubtful any hair metal band could even write an intricate song like Don't Stop Believing, let alone perform it live.

Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A tale of two summits

The London Metropolitan Police seem to have been planning for a G20 summit that could end like the ASEAN summit in Thailand, abandoned today after protestors stormed the conference venue, forcing the leaders to be evacuated by helicopter.

But that's in a country reeling from financial crisis and with an unpopular prime minister operating in a shadow of a popular predecessor.

AP Photo/David Longstreath

Friday, April 10, 2009

Thursday, April 09, 2009

But did he bow?

The shadow US Secretary of State, Bill Clinton, visits the recuperating Crown Prince Sultan in New York.

Hopefully he writes a good after-action report for the US Secretary of State, whoever she is.

Leave the woman, take the mobile

Arab News -- JEDDAH: A Shariah court here has approved the divorce of a young Saudi woman in her 20s whose husband sent her an SMS text from Iraq saying he had divorced her.

The husband, who is in Iraq to participate in what he described as “jihad,” also telephoned two of his friends who witnessed his marriage and told them that he had divorced his wife ...

The judge approved the divorce and told the woman that she did not have to go through the iddah (the post-divorce waiting period stipulated by the Shariah) as the marriage was not consummated.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Retooling corporate tax avoidance

There was a supplemental budget in Ireland today. Much more analysis here. But one measure might merit some scrutiny from overseas governments. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan said --

I also mentioned the increased importance globally of intellectual property. Accordingly, I propose to introduce a scheme of tax relief for the acquisition of intangible assets, including Intellectual Property as a means of supporting the Smarty Pants Economy.

This could mean a lot of things. But foreign multinationals already park their intellectual property with Irish subsidiaries so that they attribute as much of their income as possible to the low tax Irish jurisdication. No doubt HM Revenue and the IRS have been taking a close look at that arrangement, perhaps arguing that it needs to be justified in terms of Irish research capabilities. But the new measure sounds like an added wheeze whereby companies could buy intellectual property, get a tax deduction for the purchase AND pay the low corporate tax rate on the income from the property (e.g. royalties from software or pharma).

Just don't call us a tax haven.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

Keith Hennessey -- who sat in top economic advisory positions in the Bush White House for 6 years as the financial time bombs ticked -- is unhappy that the commitment to "free markets" which appeared in the November G20 communique was not replicated in the April successor. One might have thought that a crisis brought about by rampant finance capitalism would not be a great time to be hyping free markets but there you go. And anyway, who was it back in November who needed reassurance about the power of free markets? --

Those of you who have followed my career know that I'm a free market person -- until you're told that if you don't take decisive measures then it's conceivable that our country could go into a depression greater than the Great Depression’s.

That would be Hennessey's boss, George W. Bush!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

They grow up so quickly these days

This is Federico Macheda, who scored the winning goal for Man Utd vs Aston Villa in Ferguson Injury Time at Old Trafford today.

He's listed at 17 years old. Here's a photo of him celebrating the goal. For comparison, consider the young Wayne Rooney, whose teenage exploits seem to be forgotten once he became a cog in the AIG-sponsored machine. Another visage comparison: AC Milan's emerging star Pato is 20.

So what's our point? If Macheda is 17, he's a mature 17.

UPDATE: His age is crucial in making him old enough to benefit from EU employment laws but young enough that Lazio couldn't sign him to a professional contract while they trained him.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The police compare notes

What exactly happened at the pre-summit G20 protests in London is still being sorted out. But there's a notable precedent for the police tactic of trapping protesters: the infamous Pershing Park protest in Washington DC in 2002. In that case, the police blocked in protesters -- and anyone else who happened to be around -- and arrested them all for an illegal march. The tactics achieved their intended purpose -- intimidation -- but later turned into a legal fiasco for the city. The new wheeze is apparently just to trap the protesters without ever actually arresting them.

UPDATE: One problem with the tactic of penning in protesters is that you have forcefully herd in anyone who happens to be around, like Ian Tomlinson.

TV isn't real

Mark Steyn and Glenn Reynolds are complaining that the police don't immediately rush into buildings as the latest of the crazy man with gun situations evolves --

What's the point of calling 911 if they arrive within two minutes and then sit outside for the rest of the day to "make sure it's safe"? [Steyn] ... Plus, police lameness? “Police said they arrived within two minutes. . . . Police heard no gunfire after they arrived but waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers.” Jeez. [Reynolds]

A moment's reflection might lead to the conclusion that the police don't like to rush in all guns blazing when they don't know who or what they are dealing with, but the complaining is particularly poorly timed given --

PITTSBURGH – A man opened fire on officers during a domestic disturbance call Saturday morning, killing three of them, a police official said. Friends said he feared the Obama administration was poised to ban guns.

Three officers were killed, said a police official at the scene who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Police spokeswoman Diane Richard would only say that at least five officers were wounded, but wouldn't give any other details.

Incidentally, the gunman had issues --

Police did not immediately release the gunman's identity, but his friends at the scene described him as a young man who thought the Obama administration would ban guns.

One friend, Edward Perkovic, said the gunman feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon." Another longtime friend, Aaron Vire, said he feared that President Obama was going to take away his rights, though he said he "wasn't violently against Obama."

The point is that when you have a gun regulation system which puts guns in the hands of crazy people, there's only so much the police can do. They're not social workers and they're not James Bond.

The revolution will be advertised

Andrew Sullivan posts an embedded video link to "World Pillowfight Day". Which sounds all urban spontaneous ground-level twitterized masses and stuff. Except that as the title of the video clearly indicates, it's sponsored by Absolut vodka, which is owned by Diageo-style conglomerate Pernod-Ricard. Don't forget to take off your suits before reaching for the pillows, dudes.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Liverpool FC for sale again?

They always seem to be for sale. But now 50 percent owner Tom Hicks, big pal of George Bush, is in debt default on his US sports team interests. What asset could he sell to keep the banks happy?

Was there a bow?

The Right is "outraged" (see also fauxrage) that Barack Obama appeared to bow before King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. They even try to distinguish it from the infamous George Bush handholding. But here's an official Saudi Press Agency photo of their bilateral meeting in London at the G20. It's a straight handshake. The photo evidence of the supposed bow looks it came from a group session. Hypothesis: the leaders were assembling for the start of the Buckingham palace reception and hilarity ensued (note Sarko smiling in the background). But no formal bow. At worst a goofy one. [multiple video]

UPDATE: Note for instance the supposed row between Silvio Berlusconi and the Queen. And did Bush's necklace from King Abdullah come with a bow?

FINAL UPDATE: One thing to keep in mind -- the people pushing the bow hysteria are the same people who pushed the Obama teleprompter shite.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Canada slighted again

Barack Obama with Gordon Brown today --

So I am pleased that my first meeting overseas as President is with Gordon Brown, just as I was pleased to host him in Washington shortly after taking office and I know that we both believe that the relationship between our two countries is more than just an alliance of interests.

The photo is Obama in Ottawa to meet Stephen Harper on 19 February. Some combination of the eagerness to massage Brown's ego and a definition of Canada as not being "overseas". Lake Ontario begs to differ.

Back to spuds

One sometimes wonders if official menus are being used to make oblique commentary on the current events. At a state dinner for Silvio Berlusconi, the White House served Ponzi wine. For Jamie Oliver's working dinner feast for the G20 tonight, the dinner will include Jersey potatoes. That is, potatoes with origin in Jersey, where the humble tuber and cattle used to be the main events. Before the fields got ripped up to build villas and offices for the tax dodging individuals and corporations setting up shop there. Is Gordon Brown sending one of the Queen's posessions a message?