Monday, December 13, 2021

The UEFA Champions League draw

 The easy response to the fiasco will be a lot of "You had one job" dunks on Twitter. UEFA had outsourced the technology for the draw for a third party service provider that really did only have one job. And that's the problem -- no one had checked whether all the individual one jobs that people had to do added up to a coherent draw. It's what "management" used to be about. Adam Smith famously titled a chapter of The Wealth of Nations "The Division of Labour is limited by the extent of the market." Now it's limited only by extent of the incompetence. 

Sunday, December 12, 2021

System Barra

One of multiple news sources:

PAMPLONA, Spain, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Severe flooding in Spain's Navarre region submerged cars and houses and killed at least one person on Friday as heavy rains from Storm Barra caused rivers to burst their banks.

But wait: how did a storm that formed near New Brunswick last Sunday, struck Ireland on Tuesday (named as Barra), and then headed into the North Sea supposedly never to be heard of again, cause severe rains in northern Spain on Friday? And why is it still called Barra, which is not in the naming rotation of the Spanish Met Office? 

Because this is what happens when you name unpredictable complex winter low pressure systems. 

Storm Atticus

At some point, after Kentucky gets through all its funerals, there will need to be an assessment of public awareness of the dangerous weather that was to unfold on the night of 10 December. One thing to note is that there was considerable attention on a winter storm, named Atticus under the non-official naming system of The Weather Channel (long time readers of this blog will know our complaints about the naming of winter storms). 

But the storm was seen as a snow event in the Great Lakes. It would have been better to see it as a system that was spawning various complex disturbances as it interacted with air flows in the mid-section of the Continental USA. That doesn't lend itself to the shorthand description of storm, hence the risk of applying the naming system for hurricanes to winter low pressure systems. The National Weather Service short-range public discussions are very careful to talk about systems, but local governments and media may not have understood it the same way.

For now, God save Kentucky. 

Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Storm Finbarr

There is no reason to name North Atlantic low pressure systems. None. There are several of them active at the minute. One of them -- now called Barra -- happened to hitch a lift from New Brunswick to Ireland via the jet stream. The speed at which it crossed the Atlantic and got to prominence among the other Ls on the pressure chart illustrates why the phenomenon is so different from summer tropical systems that make a leisurely trip across the Atlantic from Senegal and can be observed for a week before they strike land. Anyway, watch out for flying objects in Ireland today, as you would for any high wind event, even ones that never to rise to the level of a trendy HiCo name. 

Saturday, November 20, 2021

There's no word in French for Bobo

 Financial Times on Eric Zemmour --

His extraordinary rise since he emerged as a putative candidate in the summer is down to a Trumpian genius for picking simple themes that resonate with voters and an equally Trumpian insistence that the country is going to the dogs, all with an intellectual flavour and a smattering of history to appeal to the French middle class.

Noteworthy here is the implication that what distinguishes him from Trump is the manner of appeal to the middle class. While no one would ever use the word intellectual to discuss Trump's appeal, he and Zemmour share an instinct that the middle class is especially susceptible to polarization. Culture wars need an appetite for information, questions, and time to engage in those activities ... and that's what the middle class has. 

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Not Strange Brew


With all the Eric Clapton antics, it would be too easy to riff on Strange Brew as a song about vaccines, so here instead is the Strange Brew precursor, a blues classic called Lawdy Mama that had circulated since the 1930s before being adapted by Cream first in this version and then reworked as Strange Brew. 

Friday, November 12, 2021


 Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, used his Martyrs' Day speech to make clear that it's not respectful to Yemenis to impute external factors to the Houthi military situation --

Where is the Saudi suspicion at this point? He may have a suspicion and he has talked about it on more than one occasion. He imagines that the one who leads the fronts in Yemen is Hezbollah, and they are leaders of Hezbollah, and that these victories that are achieved are caused by Hezbollah, and the defeats inflicted on it are caused by Hezbollah, and all of this Illusions in illusions that have no basis in truth. The victories in Yemen were made by Yemeni leaders, Yemeni fighters, Yemeni minds, Yemeni wills, Yemeni faith, Yemeni wisdom, Yemeni miracles, and divine victory for Yemen.

Friday, November 05, 2021

How Heathers foretold the 2021 US election results

 JD: People will look at the ashes of Westerburg and say; "now there's a school that self-destructed, not because society didn't care, but because the school was society."

Saturday, October 09, 2021

Pandemics with representation

 From Financial Times article on the relaxation of UK quarantine restrictions --

Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tourism Association, said that despite the changes announced on Thursday foreign visitors would still be put off by the laborious form filling and cost of testing. “There is now a real aversion to coming to the UK because of these restrictions. These regulations are almost entirely designed around the needs and wants of British voters wanting to go from the UK on holiday. Visitors wanting to come to the UK are off the agenda at the moment,” he said.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Quote of the Day

 Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times --

Social media’s mutation from Speaker’s Corner to Gin Lane roughly tracks the smartphone’s conquest of BlackBerry. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Defunct strategist

 From the excellent Washington Post recounting of the collapse of the Afghanistan government as seen from Kabul and Washington DC, amid the usual suspects for these things (DC people on holidays), there's this insight into former President Ghani:

... told aides ... that the government just needed six months to turn the situation around ... "We're fighting there so that we don't have to fight here," he would insist ..

These (6 months, there / here) are the classic catch-phrases from the mid-2000s War on Terror. 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

We'll fight them in the apps

 Wall Street Journal, 9 August (when things were just getting dire in Afghanistan) --

[President Ashraf] Ghani has been issuing wildly optimistic statements as government control collapsed in much of the country in recent weeks. On Saturday [7 August], as the Taliban began seizing provincial capitals, he held a lengthy conference on reforming the attorney-general’s office and then another meeting on implementing digitization reforms in the country’s public administration.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

Curragh Mutiny


Today's All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship semi-final between Limerick and Waterford has been delayed until 5.30pm due to major delays on the M7 in Kildare. A lorry carrying a number of hay bales is understood to have struck a flyover bridge, scattering a number of bales onto the road in the process.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

We are so close to the singularity

Financial Times on protests in Paris: 

Staunch Communists marched with supporters of the far-right Rassemblement National party and some from the gilets jaunes movement against a new law making Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for healthcare workers and requiring a health pass for anyone wanting to enter public places such as restaurants, bars and high-speed trains.

But it will be war, specifically Russian wars, that eventually brings them together. 

The NYT paragraphs that nobody read

This was in the article before the Friday Morning Freak out article: 

"Still, when the virus tries to snake down into the lungs, immune cells in vaccinated people ramp up and rapidly clear the infection before it wreaks much havoc. That means vaccinated people should be infected and contagious for a much shorter period of time than unvaccinated people, Dr. Lund said.

"But that doesn't mean that in those first couple of days, when they're infected, they can't transmit it to somebody else," she added.

To stop the virus right where it enters, some experts have advocated nasal spray vaccines that would prevent the invader from gaining purchase in the upper airway. "Vaccine 1.0 should prevent death and hospitalization. Vaccine 2.0 should prevent transmission," Dr. Tal said. "We just need another iteration."

Thursday, July 29, 2021

In a very real sense, aren't we all Credit Suisse?

From the already legendary law firm report into the Archegos fiasco --

Both Co-Heads [of Prime Services] were double-hatted with numerous responsibilities, and inundated with management information, underscoring the overall mismanagement of the business.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Quote of the Day

"Imagine Ricky Gervais’s fictional firm in The Office trading up from the Slough Trading Estate to a one-day-a-week meeting room off Piccadilly."


Ulster says what now?

Ian Paisley MP in the latest House of Commons discussion of Brexit as applied in Northern Ireland: 

I must say for the record that I do not care what the Dublin Government think about this—I do not care at all. All these Pavlov dogs from academia and some political parties are salivating at supporting the EU and what it needs, but none of them has put their shoulder to the wheel to try to solve the business problems unfortunately created by the protocol.

Friday, July 16, 2021

German floods

 Important context here from Karsten Brandt (use Google translate). Climate of course the major factor but so also an apparent breakdown in the civil defence and emergency alert systems. 

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Quote of the Day

 Janan Ganesh in the Financial Times -- 

There is just one threat to English as the world’s lingua franca, and it is not Mandarin. It is not even the (overrated) potential of translation technologies. It is the language’s own descent into bullshit.

About that swimming pool

A neologism: Gom-bling -- an ostentatious display of wealth with Irish characteristics, such as might be designed by today's version of the Gombeen Man. See, e.g., the Skypool in Embassy Towers, with Ballymore as the developer. 

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Irish leftist nationalism, explained

 And, in case they delete it, here's the screenshot:

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Quote of the Day

Philip Stephens, Financial Times:

By prioritising a hard Brexit for England over border arrangements for Northern Ireland, [Boris] Johnson put economics on the side of Irish nationalism.

Basildon Man

 Financial Times --  

Exchange group Euronext has completed its €4.4bn purchase of Borsa Italiana and will concentrate its operations in the EU by moving its computer servers out of the UK. ... The takeover, formally cleared by regulators on Thursday, means Europe’s largest listing venue will move the computer hardware on which deals on exchanges across the continent physically take place, from Basildon in Essex to Bergamo .. Many have spent millions on superfast cables and microwave radio networks and towers so they can race in milliseconds between trading venues in Slough, Basildon or central London and Frankfurt to execute trades. “It seems like Brexit gets harder and harder as it gets done,” said one trading executive who declined to be identified. However he said ICE had been one of the more expensive providers. “The move will be costly short-term but in the long-term it will be beneficial as [Italy] will be cheaper,” he said.

So one thing that Brexit has found out: Britain was expensive, but affordable by being in the EU. Once out, costs become more of a factor.  

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Already Gone

 It's fine to do the "Prince Philip was an immigrant!" discourse if Twitter is your level. But people with a column at their disposal really should do better. Philip was also an immigrant from a different Europe -- one that was no longer on the map when he was born -- that of the multinational empires. World War 1 had destroyed these empires, and replaced them multi-ethnic nation states, that would then go on to destroy each other in World War 2. And what emerged from that was a Europe where borders corresponded more to "national identity," and a Europe with its Jewish population mostly killed or displaced. So rather than the easy layups, how about a reflection on which Europe was better, for whom, and why Philip's life story is more than validation for comfort-zone bourgeois opinions? 

Friday, April 16, 2021

Tonight I'm Gonna (Rock You Tonight)


Friday, April 09, 2021

Live Action Role Playing, Belfast edition

Financial Times -- 

Residents watched the action [riots[ from cars parked six deep in a retail park separated from New Lodge by high railings. “It’s like Netflix,” said one man in his sixties, adding that he had spent the previous nights bingewatching US crime drama Quantico. Some brought snacks. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Imagine how Ireland would be doing against an unpartitioned Luxembourg

 LuxembourgPartitionsMap english.png

By Spanish_Inquisition - LuxembourgPartitionsMap_english.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

There they go again

 Reuters on the latest surge in regime killing in Burma / "Myanmar" --

"Russia is a true friend," Min Aung Hlaing said. [Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is the the junta leader]

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Under Siege 3: Suez Sand


Cool soundtrack to the Egypt "MENA" on-the-scene video of the Evergreen / Ever Given situation.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

His most brilliant stunt yet

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi, c.1500, oil on walnut, 45.4 × 65.6 cmBenjamin Netanyahu will be in Abu Dhabi later today. He is meeting Mohammed bin Zayed and Israeli media rumour has it that Mohammed bin Salman might show up as well. 

How could Bibi top that? By appearing with the allegedly in Abu Dhabi but long not seen Leonardo painting, Salvator Mundi

UPDATE: Bibi's bag of tricks didn't include an airspace clearance from Jordan.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Is there a moment?

It's understandable that people are interested in #TheMoment, that one time when they realized that Covid-19 was going to be something really big and disruptive.  But maybe the focus should be more explicitly on the retrospective aspect: not a moment that was immediately evident, but something that stuck in your mind when you saw it, but its significance only became apparent later. Here's an example, from RTE one year ago tomorrow:

Meanwhile, a healthcare expert from the Royal College of Surgeons said the urgency of Covid-19 merits the cessation of government formation talks and for political leaders to instead focus on national planning to deal with an outbreak of the virus here. Professor Sam McConkey, Associate Professor of International Health/Tropical Medicine at RCSI, ... also said that an '"open, transparent national discussion" should take place to decide upon "acceptable levels of social control and social distancing" as Irish people are not used to being told what they can and cannot do. He said the spread of the virus onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and across northern Italy showed that efforts to contain the spread had failed. He said the "draconian measures" of mass quarantine and social distancing in China seem to have reduced the spread of the virus so Ireland needs to consider how best to approach an outbreak here.

At the time, this seemed jarring. All the discussion was around individual or a small number of cases. Prof McConkey was warning of the possibility that the disease was not contained and radical measures like in China might have to be considered, despite their seemingly shocking nature. It would still be many weeks before this level of alarm permeated the general debate. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Song for a year into the pandemic


George Harrison and Leon Russell - Beware Of Darkness - Live Madison Square Garden 1971 [link if embed doesn't work ]

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Curiosity and the cat, etc.

 US House Member Marjorie Taylor Greene in her otherwise patently insincere apology for believing crazy stuff today (via WSJ) --

“I was allowed to believe things that weren’t true and I would ask questions about them and talk about them and that is absolutely what I regret,” she said Thursday, wearing a “Free Speech” mask.

Note: she's admitting that "asking questions" was her gateway to believing crazy stuff. It's a case study in faux-scepticism. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Saturation Coverage

Dr Mike Ryan, WHO Executive Director for Emergencies at the weekly Covid-19 media briefing yesterday,  when asked about the China expert visit:

The visits will include the Wuhan Institute of Virology, other labs, the Hunan market, early responders, hospitals in which the first clusters of cases occurred. It's a very busy schedule and I also wonder; sometimes the media accompaniment of the teams is much larger than the international and Chinese team put together

Don't mess with the Protocol


Thursday, January 28, 2021

The afterlife

Saudi Arabia Future Investment Initiative press statement --

Others scheduled to participate include ...  Lord Grimstone of Boscobel; Minister for Investment at the UK Department for International Trade; ... and Anthony Scaramucci, Founder & Managing Partner of SkyBridge Capital.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

He also is Mermaid Man in one Spongebob episode

A classic detail from the superb FT recounting of the last year in Brexit: 

To while away the tedious hours in Brussels, Frost and his exhausted team would sip whisky at the UK ambassador's ­residence. "There was one night we were discussing our favourite Batman — Frosty could only think of Adam West," says one British official. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Irish Blood, English Heart

From the truly bizarre White House 1776 report, where it sounds like reactionary American conservativism meets rant overheard at Irish bar in Washington DC --

British monarchs not only disputed one another’s claims to the throne but imposed their preferred religious doctrines on the whole nation. Gruesome tortures and political imprisonments were common. The Puritans proclaimed a “commonwealth” which executed the Anglican king. The executed king’s son proceeded to supplant the “commonwealth,” but because his brother was suspected of being Catholic, Protestants expelled him in the so-called  "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 that installed the Protestant monarch of the Netherlands and his wife as England’s king and queen.

Monday, January 11, 2021


There was an article briefly posted on the White House website which purported to blame state-level Covid-19 related business restrictions for the bad payroll numbers in December. The article has disappeared (here's the busted link). Blaming states for their attempted mitigation of uncontrolled spread  of a virus whose impact was constantly minimized by the President is ... interesting.  

UPDATE: It's reposted, but the headline message has been changed. The headline does not blame the states ("December job losses driven by state-enforced shutdowns"), it is now attributed to industries. 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Late to the party

There is attention of the "that's unexpected!" variety on the Wall Street Journal editorial calling for Donald Trump to go, preferably via resignation. The problem is, the editorial is rubbish.  It's not worth line by line analysis. But it starts: 

The lodestar of these columns is the U.S. Constitution.

But then it goes on to complain that some people say the 6th of January events prove he was unfit for office all along. Which it rebuts by reference to the 63 million votes that he got in 2016. Except that ... Hillary Clinton got more votes! If the metric is votes, he wouldn't be in office in the first place. So you can't say that your lodestar is the Constitution and what about his millions of votes -- they are constitutionally irrelevant.

The Constitution does not have a fit and proper test for the Presidency. So conduct in office surely matters -- that's what impeachment is there for.  So now their complaint is that the Democrats "abused the process" in 2019. Remember how the constitution is their lodestar? It says nothing about something "abusing the process" by applying it -- it's for Congress to decide what merits impeachment. 

The most that they can bring themselves to say about Ukraine is Trump was "ham-handed." But the only reason it didn't translate into Senate conviction is that some Senators (most notably Susan Collins) decided that he had learned his lesson from it. Which his phone call to Brad Raffensperger showed otherwise. 

This editorial is more about easing the consciences of people jumping off the Trump bandwagon at this late stage. But there's no way such a logical shambles has broader significance. It's not news. 

Monday, January 04, 2021

Putting the ME in media

Just one of the astounding exchanges in the Trump Georgia election phone call (transcript via Wall Street Journal) --

MR. RAFFENSPERGER: Well, Mr. President, the problem that you have with social media, they can – people can say anything. 

PRESIDENT TRUMP: No, no, this isn’t social. This is Trump media. It’s not social media. It’s really not. It’s not social media. I don’t care about social. I couldn’t care less. Social media is big tech. Big tech is on your side, you know? I don’t even know why you have a side, because you should want to have an accurate election. And you’re a Republican.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Quote of the Day

Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism (1927):

This is the function that the liberal doctrine assigns to the state: the protection of property, liberty, and peace. The German socialist, Ferdinand Lassalle, tried to make the conception of a government limited exclusively to this sphere appear ridiculous by calling the state constituted on the basis of liberal principles the "night-watchman state." But it is difficult to see why the night-watchman state should be any more ridiculous or worse than the state that concerns itself with the preparation of sauerkraut, with the manufacture of trouser buttons, or with the publication of newspapers. 

Context: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing a new layer of eligibility proof and associated penalties for when a vaccine is given out of "priority." The night-watchman state would seek to vaccinate as many people, as quickly as possible.