Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The news magazine demographic

From the US Dept of Justice complaint describing the alleged Russian "espionage" ring and in particular the segment relating to the journey of "Richard Murphy" back to Moscow with a particular computer; Murphy would buy a US-Milan plane ticket and then in Milan get a fake Irish passport in the name of Eunan Doherty for his laundered journey to Moscow. But of course he would need to able to recognize his handler in Milan ...

Password [Handler] - "Excuse me, could we have met in Malta in 1999" ... [Murphy's reply] "Yes indeed , I was in La Valetta, but in 2000" ....

[Murphy's] recognition sign: "Time" magazine in [his] hands, (title to be seen from outside).

Sign of danger:
"Time" magazine in [his] left hand (title to be seen from outside).

Think carefully about how you carry your print publications in public. Someone could be watching.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sepp Blatter must go

This one will need updating.

For a start, here's the officiating team at England -- Germany:

Ref: Jorge Larrionda
Linesmen: Pablo Fandino, Mauricio Espinosa
4th Official: Martin Vasquez

All from Uruguay.

Not clear yet who most obviously missed the goal.

... on the other hand, if we're naming names, then Gareth Barry and John Terry should be implicated in England's catastrophe too for their roles in 3rd and 4th German goals. And now that we think of it, Terry was at fault in the first one also.

Good God. Argentina vs Mexico. Our officials are mostly Italian --

Ref: Roberto Rosetti
Linesmen: Paolo Calcagno, Stefano Ayroldi
4th Official (who is the one who could actually see replays): Jerome Damon.

Remember fans, the unaccountable and incompetent FIFA was on display for everyone to see in the Thierry Henry handball against Ireland.

Photo: REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Friday, June 25, 2010

The land of milk and honey and soccer

It's always interesting to see what other material can break through the dominant pro-Israel content at the blog of Commentary magazine. Usually it's Barack Obama's declining poll numbers. But today Jonathan Tobin revels in a supposed dilemma for American soccer fans, who, it is said, must choose between the trendiness of the sport and the nationalist tensions brought to the fore by international competition --

While I wish the American World Cup team well, as I would any endeavor in which my fellow citizens represent our country, the business of wrapping team sports in national flags is sheer humbug ... It is far better to leave this nonsense to the denizens of Old Europe, unstable South America, and the despotic Middle East, whose one democracy, Israel, is not allowed to compete against its neighbors in soccer but must instead play against the powerhouses of Europe to get into the World Cup, and thus has never been allowed to participate.

What's revealing about this is the cultural gulf between Israelis and the group who would claim to be their staunchest supporters. Now maybe in strategic matters they are, but on the simple matter of wearing the team colours and wanting them to do well in competition against other countries, Israel is just another country, being which is what one assumes the ultimate objective for Israel actually is.

To the practical matters: it's not true that Israel has never qualified for the World Cup. They played in Mexico 1970. Furthermore, is Israel hurt by having to play through European qualifiers to make the competition? It's not clear. If they weren't in UEFA, they would have to play out of an Asian group where the distances are huge and there are can be some very difficult matches against unfamiliar opponents.

Example: New Zealand clinched World Cup qualification in a playoff against Bahrain. By contrast, Israel is grouped with countries that are not very far away and whose players they know well from club football, since many of their best players ply their trade in Europe anyway.

And is there a penalty to being a small country in the European qualifiers? Well, other than the western usual suspects, the 3 countries coming out of the European groups were Slovenia, Slovakia, and Serbia, all of which have population in the same range as Israel.

In short, if you're looking for evidence of a giant prejudicial conspiracy against Israel, soccer isn't the place the look. Don't ruin it for everyone.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Out, damned ball

Thierry Henry, perhaps with the ball a little stuck to his hand out of guilt, after France's lone World Cup goal today versus South Africa.

Photo: REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Different job, different times

European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, in a New York Times interview --

Mr. Barroso said: “I was surprised by those remarks. They don’t conform to the facts. The distance Turkey started to show” from NATO partners and the West “started with the invasion of Iraq and the pressure put on Turkey by the previous U.S. administration” of President George W. Bush.

Above, Mr Barroso, then as Portuguese president, hosting the Bush-Blair war council on Iraq in the Azores, right before the invasion in March 2003. Not only did he not voice any qualms then, 3 months later he popped up in the White House to say --

Now you [George Bush] are taking great risks in the Middle East peace process. Let me congratulate you for that initiative, for re-energizing the peace process. I think the United States of America and Europe -- Portugal being a European country -- we have a lot to do together and I am very much looking forward to this opportunity to discuss with you, and always with the spirit of friendship that exists between the Portuguese and the American people, discuss all these ideas.

And we'll stand by you, because I think that what you have been doing is really great achievement. We have won the war, now we all have to win the peace. And I think that we are going to reach that goal.

One irony: the new Barroso, who recognizes the role of Iraq in damaging US-Turkey relations, is the right one. But this blind spot remains strong among most American conservatives, who strain for other explanations of the Turkish alienation even when it's staring them in the face.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Le Coq-up Sportif

So a truly classic day for French soccer at the World Cup. The players on strike, and then the French referee Stéphane Lannoy makes multiple errors in the Brazil versus Ivory Coast match. Kidding around with Luis Fabiano about him having handled the ball before he scored was the symbolic low point, but the injury reports still have to come in. If soccer had an actual governing body, something might be done about it.

Heckuva job, FIFA

Franck Ribery and Thierry Henry walking to the team bus after the players abandoned their training session in apparent protest at the fallout from Nicolas Anelka's row with Raymond Domenech.

Remember, it was ultimately Swiss bureaucrat Sepp Blatter's choice as to whether France or the Rep. of Ireland would appear in the World Cup.

Photo: REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Not to mention the duty free shop

The good news is that for the latest installment of New York Times pundit Tom Friedman from his visit to Turkey, he's not relying as so often in his past travels, on the taxi ride from the airport for material to enlighten us all.

The bad news? He's getting inspiration without even leaving the airport --

All you have to do is stand in the Istanbul airport and look at the departures board for Turkish Airlines, which flies to cities half of which I cannot even pronounce, to appreciate what a pulsating economic center this has become for Central Asia.

The worse news is that this airport-based journalism, and his actual meetings that did take place in Turkey, are leading him to think of Turkey as Dubai-on-the-Bosphurus, and not to question why this large democratically-run country has become alienated from the USA, other than, in his view, the deleterious effects of being denied EU membership. In particular, like pundits of many stripes contemplating this puzzle, there is no mention of the role of the war in Iraq.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Come back Bono's family to Ballyjamesduff

Bono --

It [Bloody Sunday] was a day when my father stopped taking our family across the border to Ulster (sic) because, as he said, the “Nordies have lost their marbles.”

If you need an explanation ...

Let the next bow row begin

Saudi King Abdullah is visiting the USA after his G20 visit to Canada.

One assumes that he'll meet Barack Obama. Body language will be watched closely.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

When the IRA was fab

Not so long ago we noted the anger being displayed by American pro-Israel commentators against Ireland, most recently in connection with broad Irish support for the blockade-busting Gaza flotilla. So it's only fair to note a post by Commentary's Jonathan Tobin, who seems genuinely troubled by the falling out between the two countries. He goes through the version of Irish history known to all, where Liam Neeson, ably assisted by Julia Roberts, took on the Empire before being done in by a skulking Alan Rickman (the most mischievous piece of Neil Jordan casting ever, but that's another story).

But seriously --

Michael Collins, who led the IRA against the Brits during the 1918-1922 “Black and Tan War,” accepted partition of the country as the price of peace and Irish independence in the South. He paid for this with his life when IRA extremists assassinated him. But the peace he made stood the test of time. By contrast, the Palestinians, who are cheered in the Irish Republic, whose independence was bought with Collins’s blood, have consistently refused to accept a partition of the country or to make peace with Israel under any circumstances.

Three points. First, we really don't know what Collins' ultimate plan was. But it seems clear that he viewed the specific border between the Free State and the Six Counties as being up for grabs, and there was indeed a "border war" to change it. In fact, this forgotten episode resulted in a relatively recent frisson in the British media, when it was discovered that once-rising Labour star Ruth Kelly was the granddaughter of a man who was interned on a prison ship for participating in that campaign.

Second, Liam Neeson notwithstanding, Michael Collins was a terrorist. As far as Britain was concerned. So in embracing Collins, Tobin needs to take on the question of terrorism in the foundation of Israel and by extension how today's terrorists might be tomorrow's you-know-what. You're on the slope already.

But third, this Partition business. It's a fair point. One of many recent bust-ups in the blogosphere was over Jeffrey Goldberg's assertion that the critical Palestinian error was not taking partition in 1948. And it's true -- it's not what the Collins "stepping stone" logic would have recommended. 62 years later, it's not clear what the upside to that decision has been. So maybe the Michael Collins moment for the Palestinians has passed, although he never seems to go out of style.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

One out of three ain't bad

From Dail Eireann confidence debate in Taoiseach Brian Cowen --

Ruairí Quinn (Lab) -- The republican Oliver Cromwell gave advice to a decrepit, corrupt and now defunct government and Parliament in Westminster many years ago. I offer it to the Taoiseach: “In the name of God, go”.

The Taoiseach: I am not corrupt, Deputy Quinn.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Case Study

There's a nice example of extreme disingenuousness from Commentary's Jonathan Tobin, who discusses the West Bank's semi-official boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements, while referring to this as a boycott of Jewish goods. From his perspective, you get some nice historical slyness with that sleight of hand.

Someone is mischief-making

Statement from Saudi Press Agency --

Prince Turki bin Abdulaziz told Saudi Press Agency that the alleged letter to him circulated by some media and internet sites was nonexistent and fabricated by enemy parties wishing to spread confusion and excitement.

The statement comes context-free so one is left to speculate why it was necessary, but the Google leads to this story --

Saudi Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has warned the country's royal family to step down and flee before a military coup or a popular uprising overthrows the kingdom.

The letter is unclear about whether the supposed uprising will be for more or less Islamic strictures than are currently the case, but the main issue with the letter appears to be its dodgy sourcing to an Egyptian news agency and then its propagation by a semi-official Iranian news outlet.

Too many suspects on this one.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Farewell then Celtic Tiger

Not that it's news given the economic disasters of the last 3 years, but it needed some kind of official milestone. So what was once a supply-side nirvana of low taxes, light-touch regulation, running the European Union, pundits beating a path to our door to find out the secret, owning half of Manhattan, Dubai, Sofia, and of course London is in 2010 symbolized by ...

Michelle Morrison, the wife of singer Van Morrison, has told a court in a sworn statement that she has no confidence that her neighbours would plant trees ro screen their 'Celtic Tiger-style house' from hers.

Appropriately, it's now just a phrase that means godawful big and ugly.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

You can't get there from here

View Larger Map

For some reason, right-wingers think it's hilarious that some Israelis have floated the idea of a "reverse flotilla" to Kurdistan (sic) or Armenia (already an independent state).

Good luck with that boat journey, dudes. Just get a map before you go.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Most annoying people ever

It's been clear for a while that the active role of Irish people in the Gaza flotilla has come to the attention of Israel's American defenders. Michael Rubin a few days ago saying that the Republic should prove its non-hyprocrisy by opening its borders to everyone. And National Review's Jay Nordlinger, not bothering with the arguments at all --

Ireland as a whole is a nasty little state, where Israel is concerned. Strange, because they were such friends of the Jews during World War II, huh?

Of course Israel still has its Irish friends. In extreme cases, some have found that the flag above is fairly easy to adapt to such causes, since it already has a 6 sided star in it.

But what's particularly strange about the fury against the Irish on the Palestinian issue is that it's all anger about peaceful forms of protest. Marches, flags, statements. Yes, you can go to a protest and find some strange conjunctions. Just like you could at a US Tea Party rally. Even the Rachel Corrie crew didn't put up any resistance once they knew the game was up. Yet with the rhetoric they attract, you'd think they were terrorists.

Which raises another point. Boycotts. Because they might end up as the most damaging form of protest about Israel's policies in the territories. Note the escalatation of rhetoric against it: the Palestinian boycott of goods produced in the Jewish settlements is "economic terrorism." Not to mention cultural terrorism. Ireland had a lot of that type of terrorist in the 19th century.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Land of 5 billion welcomes

National Review's Michael Rubin (previously seen in the Irish context taking on Mary Robinson) thinks he has a devastating retort to Ireland's rhetorical activism on behalf of the Gaza flotilla and in particular the Rachel Corrie ship which is still en route to Gaza --

Ireland cooperates with the Schengen Agreement, signed in 1985, which has since expanded to create a common European area with stringent visa controls at its collective borders. But if the Irish government in its postmodern wisdom believes that its own arbitrary notions of social justice trump border policing, customs, and inspections, perhaps it’s time that Ireland stopped policing its own frontiers. No more passport control or customs checks at the Dublin airport, or at coastal ports. After all, Ireland faces only a flood of economic migrants from the developing world, certainly no existential threat.

Ireland is not a Schengen country. Nor is the UK, with which the country has a Common Passport Area. So just on the facts, he's wrong.

But even the broader analogy is ludricrous. There's nothing in the Gaza-bound cargo that would be denied admission to Ireland (in fact, the Rachel Corrie cargo was inspected in Ireland before it left). And as for "border policing, customs, and inspections", the Gaza flotilla was not at any border, nor was it subject to police or customs inspection.

But most of all, isn't a tad disproportionate, shall we say, to claim that any country which criticizes the Israeli raid on the flotilla should prove its bona fides by dismantling all its border controls?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

So easy a caveman could do it

Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti on Turkey's role in the Gaza flotilla fiasco --

The trend that few have noticed is that these elements are pulling Turkey out of the Western alliance structure and toward the Middle East. The break began in 2003 when the Turks denied the U.S. Fourth Infantry the ability to invade Iraq from the north.

So the breakdown in relations with Turkey began over the invasion of Iraq.


Later --

Since 2005, Americans have been worrying about Iran's ambitions for regional hegemony. Maybe it's time we started worrying about Turkey's regional ambitions as well. The Turks ruled the region from 1453 to 1922, after all. A renascence (sic) of Turkish power, in an Islamist guise, would cause all sorts of troubles no one can anticipate.

So after nearly 9 years of the Global War on Terror, a conservative begins to wonder if the restoration of the Caliphate could be closer than we think.

Somewhere in Afghanistan, a man laughs.

UPDATE: Bonus tunnel vision from Robert Pollock in the Wall Street Journal --

What's more, Turks remain blind to their manifest hypocrisies. Ask how they would feel if other countries arranged an "aid" convoy (akin to the Gaza flotilla) for their own Kurdish minority and you'll be met with dumb stares.

Another country did organize an aid convoy for the Kurdish minority in Turkey. It's called Kurdistan i.e. the effectively autonomous Kurdish provincial government in Northern Iraq.

It would be nice if conservatives woke up to the link between the US invasion of Iraq and the slow disintegration of traditional US Middle East policy, but it's not likely.

Commentary and dissent not merged

A selection of quotes from the blog of Commentary Magazine over the last couple of days --

Jennifer Rubin -- The “sick addiction” to the Democratic Party prevents the majority of American Jewry from recognizing who their true pro-Israel allies are.

Jonathan Tobin -- As with the case of Israel’s December 2008 counterattack on terrorist strongholds in Gaza after years of ceaseless missile attacks on its southern towns and villages, today’s naval confrontation offers American Jews a stark choice. They can back Israel or Hamas.

Particular bizarre about the 1st quote is its reverse Marxist mode of analysis -- that voting based on economic and social factors is an opium that prevents American Jews from seeing their "true" allegiance to Benjamin Netanyahu's version of Israel.

UPDATE: More Jennifer Rubin --

There is a single question that every individual, group, and nation must answer. To borrow from the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman: if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.