Saturday, June 30, 2018

Magic orb

From Saudi Press Agency, the oblique palace version of the Trump - Salman phone call which Trump says resulted in agreement that Saudi Arabia would raise oil production by up to 2 million barrels per day:

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received a telephone call from President Donald Trump of the United States of America. During the meeting, they discussed the distinguished relations between the two countries, as well as discussing developments in the region and the world. During the call, the two leaders stressed the need to make efforts to maintain the stability of oil markets and the growth of the global economy, and the efforts of producing countries to compensate for any potential shortage of supplies. 

There's nothing about 2 million barrels, and nothing about any specific commitment on any country to do anything -- producing countries could just as well refer to the United States!

Among other things, Trump doesn't realize that if he creates an expectation that there is a 2 million barrel per day increase coming, which does not materialize, the price of oil will go ... up!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Princely stroll

William Windsor and Jordanian Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah take a casual-clothes walk through Jerash yesterday.

Photo via Petra.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Quote of the Day

Rana Foroohar in the Financial Times --

Two of the richest counties in America sit outside our nation’s capital, which is now stuffed with boutique hotels and top-notch eateries. There are 34 billionaires living within a 25-mile radius of the city. Even the fashion seems less dowdy to me that it used to be (though here I must be a superior New Yorker and say that it amazes me that you still occasionally catch women wearing toast-coloured stockings). All this might be good for those of us who must live or work in the beltway, but it’s terrible for making and enforcing good policy.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Up Yours Slobo

It's fascinating to watch the same "anti-establishment" Putin / al-Assad / Maduro fanboys who revel in ignoring, mocking, or denying MH17, Crimea, chemical weapons, indiscriminate bombing and artillery attacks, and social disaster brought about by economic lunacy suddenly get very upset at an image -- that of Swiss winger Xherdan Shaqiri symbolizing his Kosovar Albanian ancestry in a goal celebration. They may not like that decades after the original atrocities committed by their heroes (as Slobodan Milošević bizarrely was in the pre-social media era), the victims might get some cultural self-expression.

Image: Martin Divisek / EPA

Friday, June 22, 2018

Bobos in Deflection

In the FT, Rana Foroohar reviews Squeezed,  by Alissa Quart:

Quart is particularly sharp on behavioural psychology and the economics of class. In a chapter entitled "The Rise of 1 per cent Television," she charts the popularity of shows such as Downton Abbey, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Desperate Housewives, and Billions, all of which constitute a kind of "bling porn" that not only fuels anxiety among the lower 80 per cent of the socio-economic spectrum, but allows the upper 20 per cent to feel a sense of self-righteousness in relation to this profusion of greedy, narcissistic anti-heroes, culminating in our TV president.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

State versus children

Before there were screaming children at the US southern border, there was Iraq. This famous photograph is of Samar Hassan, then 5 years old in January 2005, whose parents had just been killed by US soldiers who treated their car as hostile when it approached a checkpoint. The photographer who took it, Chris Hondros, was killed years later during the Libyan war.

The New York Times did a great story in 2011 to find out what happened to Samar. Her circumstances were OK, but not great, and certainly no recovery from the disaster captured in the image.

If the trajectory of the country is that every so often, a child terrorized by its actions becomes the signature image, it's time to reflect on a fundamental problem. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Pacific Rim

Wall Street Journal on the personal dynamics at the G7 summit:

At one point, Mr. Trump brought up migration as a big problem for Europe and then told Mr. Abe, "Shinzo, you don't have this problem, but I can send you 25 million Mexicans and you'll be out of office very soon," according to the senior EU official who was in the room.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Killed in action in a country the Commander-in-Chief can't spell

They'll eventually correct it.

He does not want to wear the ribbon

Trump is the only leader at the G7 (plus EU) summit in Quebec who didn't wear the summit symbol badge. He's wearing the stars and stripes pin, and that's it. 

This one table explains why the media can't help helping Trump

TV Channel B

Cover Trump
Don’t Cover Trump
TV Channel A
Cover Trump
(-2, -2)
(0, -3)
Don’t Cover Trump
(-3, 0)
(-1, -1)

It's the Prisoner's Dilemma, adapted to the world of TV news competition. There are two TV channels, A and B. A's strategy is in the rows, and B's strategy is in the columns. The first number is A's loss, and the second number is B's loss. So (-2, -2) means A loses 2 and B loses 2 when they both cover Trump, etc.

Trump benefits from the endless media coverage, regardless of substance, so the cooperative solution would be to not cover Trump -- the lower right cell. It's still not an ideal world (after all, Trump is still President). But the problem for each TV channel is that if one of them decides not to cover Trump (e.g. A) while the other still does (B) -- the lower left column of the table -- then A loses all the viewers to B, because they still want the spectacle of Trump. The optimal strategy for each TV channel is therefore to cover Trump, even though the better outcome for A and B together is not to cover him!