Sunday, November 24, 2019

Here, there, and everywhere

During the US Vice Presidential "surprise" visit to Iraq, Mike Pence gave a short address to US military personnel at Erbil Air Base in the Kurdish Region of Iraq. During the address, he mentions that he's at Erbil Air Base 10 times. It's a sure sign of a rushed and cobbled-together visit -- was it meant to be Trump? -- that the speech has to be peppered with references to where it is taking place. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Lawyer, Mayor, Salesman, Spy

It's been clear for a while that Donald Trump's circle of confused old men, himself included, is an easy target for a Russian intelligence operation. Sure there will be a lot of inconsistencies in their research on their theory that Ukraine framed Russia, since it's a ludicrous theory, but then again a good spy will know how to keep the information flow tempting, as George explained to the Minister in Tinker, Tailor --

MINISTER (Appalled) Witchcraft's intelligence is genuine! It's been gold! 
SMILEY Just enough glitter, amongst the chicken-feed.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

All Souls Brexit

Lionel Barber in the FT with a brilliant reflection on Brexit; one highlight --

Several Eurocrats interviewed for this article agreed that the Brussels summit in December 2011 marked a turning point for British diplomacy. France and Germany were battling to secure agreement on a “fiscal compact” to buttress the eurozone after the global financial crisis. In the early hours of the morning, Cameron, without forewarning, produced demands to protect the City of London and threatened a veto if he was rebuffed. European leaders, including Merkel, were outraged. They saw this as a domestic gambit to appease Eurosceptics on a matter of singular importance to eurozone members. So they simply ignored Cameron and secured an agreement among themselves, outside the EU treaties. The UK’s bluff had been called.

One implication of this is that the 2012 Irish referendum to ratify the fiscal compact -- needed precisely because it was outside the EU treaties -- was a bigger deal than perhaps realized at the time. If that referendum had failed, Cameron would have been rescued from his isolationist stance on the compact and the momentum towards his own doomed Brexit referendum would have slowed. 

Friday, November 01, 2019

Old guys in diners, Damascus edition

Bashar al-Assad --

As for Trump, you might ask me a question and I give you an answer that might sound strange. I say that he is the best American President, not because his policies are good, but because he is the most transparent president.