Thursday, May 10, 2007
Euphemism of the Day
John McCain's national political director, Michael P. Dennehy, will step away from day-to-day duties at the campaign....
Thank god for the headline "Political Director Steps Down" or I would have completely misunderstood this one.
If I heard that a coworker had "stepped away from day-to-day duties," I would assume that either (1) the worker had received a promotion into management and would no longer be seen on the shoproom floor, (2) the worker was no longer a regular employee but had gone on contract, or (3) the worker had been polished off by management, who didn't want us to think anything extraordinary had happened when we noticed that the colleague had gone missing.
But never would I have thought it meant that the person had simply resigned!
Hats off to the staff writer (or writers) of the McCain campaign for producing what is truly the Euphemism of the Day!
Euphemism of the Day (5/5/07)
New conflict-of-interest allegations against Wolfowitz
According to reporters for the Financial Times, a classified Pentagon report has surfaced saying that—
Mr Wolfowitz told Pentagon investigators he enlisted the help of a World Bank employee with whom he had a “close personal relationship” in “activity supporting the war” in Iraq when he was deputy secretary of defence.
This is likely to be viewed as a violation of bank rules by the World Bank’s board, according to bank officials.
The name of the World Bank employee was blacked out in the report, but how many World Bank employees could "Wolfie" have been dating?
Bank officials said the board was also assessing possible conflicts of interest in 2003 when Ms Riza entered into a contract with a company that provides logistics, intelligence and advice to the Pentagon.
E-mails show the company entered into the contract at the direction of Mr Wolfowitz and following a recommendation by state department officials, including Elizabeth Cheney, daughter of Dick Cheney, US vice-president. The Pentagon investigation was carried out in 2005 as Mr Wolfowitz was leaving the defence department to join the bank.
Beatrice Edwards, of the government accountability project, a non-governmental organisation, said that based on Mr Wolfowtiz’s account, Ms Riza’s work in Iraq “constitutes a violation of World Bank rules”.
It would appear that Ms. Riza is qualified to assume almost any position.
• Another "free-market" lie exposed—that deregulation of electricity has been good for consumers. "If we trace the long road of electricity deregulation to its source, we find the main culprit is the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). For nearly two decades, this little-known executive agency has been steadily and stealthily undermining the consumer-friendly electricity regulatory framework built during the New Deal."
• It looks as if the Army has been lying to Congress again. They don't want to buy Israel's Trophy, a high-speed interceptor that can shoot down rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), which could be mighty useful in Iraq. No, they want Raytheon to build a system from scratch "as part of the biggest procurement program in Army history, the $200 billion Future Combat System (FCS)." Well, the generals will need a place to park their butts when they retire. I would recommend jail, but they'll probably end up at Raytheon.
• The Vermont secessionist movement is growing—slowly. Fourteen percent now want to form an independent republic.
• Former Republican Congressman Joseph McDabe, charged with exposure of sexual organs, has entered a plea of "not guilty." There was a misunderstanding perhaps. "'He walked up and he exposed himself and started to masturbate. I couldn't believe that this gentleman, who looked like a kindly older gentleman was doing this,' said one victim, who asked to remain anonymous." [Previous post here.]
Translation Problem of the Day
Focus Magazine said Saturday it removed Olmert's statements about blitzing Iran with thousands of cruise missiles due to translation problems.
And it goes on to say—
Olmert had been quoted as saying Tehran's controversial nuclear program could be knocked back by years using a 10-day barrage of precision cruise missiles. The Israeli government issued a statement Saturday calling the quotes in accurate [sic].
YNetNews said Focus agreed and removed the quotes.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Olmert had been speaking off the record; however the statements caused some consternation among Likud members who feared public-relations damage.
I wonder which words the magazine didn't understand: "thousands"? "cruise missiles"? "10-day barrage"?
Or maybe it was "off the record."
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
A different view of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq
Patrick Cockburn, correspondent for The Independent, is back in Iraq and has written a summary of current conditions there that should be read by everyone.
His understanding of the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq is a bit different from the common wisdom and makes more sense than anything I've read on the topic—
Many Iraqis ... see sectarianism as the work of the Americans. This is not entirely fair. Sectarian differences in Iraq were deeper under Saddam Hussein and his predecessors than many Iraqis now admit. But in one important respect, foreign occupation did encourage and deepen sectarianism. Previously a Sunni might feel differently from a Shia but still feel they were both Iraqis. Iraqi nationalism did exist, though Sunni and Shia defined it differently. But the Sunnis fought the U.S. occupation, unlike the Shia who were prepared to cooperate with it. After 2003, the Sunni saw the Shia who took a job as a policeman as not only a member of a different community, but as a traitor to his country. Sectarian and national antipathies combined to produce a lethal brew.
To suggest an offended nationalism (or patriotism) as a major contributor to the conflict contrasts sharply with the typical portrayal of Sunni aggression toward the Shias: (1) Ancient enmity reaching back to the death of Mohammad when Islam bifurcated into Sunni and Shia, (2) the anger of a ruling minority at the loss of privilege, and now (3) a proxy war between predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran. Instead it places disagreement over the presence of occupying troops as the principal root of the Sunni-Shia conflict.
If Cockburn's thesis is correct, it may also illuminate the Shia conflict between SCIRI (Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq) and Moqtada al-Sadr. SCIRI's leaders fled to Iran during the regime of Saddam Hussein while Moqtada al-Sadr remained in Iraq. SCIRI accepts the American occupation for now while Sadr has resisted it from the start.
Based on this analysis Cockburn concludes—
The U.S. occupation has destabilized Iraq and the Middle East. Stability will not return until the occupation has ended.
Iraq through the tea leaves
Over a year ago I suggested that if the U.S. announced a timetable for withdrawal, it would "leave the Iraqis so stunned, at least temporarily, that they might be able to find some unity at the prospect...."
I still believe that, though the formulation was a great simplification. Of course, to be more specific is to hold a tea-leaf reading on the future of Iraq—or at least of that geographic area currently masquerading as a country.
But someone's gotta to do it, so here's a possible scenario if the U.S. should make a speedy (and complete) withdrawal from the land:
- The Iraqi "government" will collapse and Sadr's Mahdi Army will again be the mainstay of social services in Baghdad and in the Iraqi south.
- Moqtada al-Sadr will attempt to reconcile his forces with all Iraqi Sunni forces (other than al-Qaeda) that have been fighting the Americans.
- If Sadr is successful in forging such a coalition, the primary struggle to emerge in the non-Kurdish portion of the country will be between this non-aligned coalition1 and the SCIRI forces.
- SCIRI, weaker in the face of such a coalition, might then join to avoid further Arab conflict. If so, an Iraqi Arab coalition would be formed.
- This Iraqi Arab coalition would then have to contend with the Iraqi Kurds.
- The Arab-Kurdish facedown could result in a two-state division of Iraq or in a very loose two-state federation.
In short, it looks like everything the Bush administration has been trying to avert.
Naturally regional and global interests will attempt to control, or at least influence, this process. Although they aren't likely to be any more successful than the Americans, they could repeat the American mistake of disrupting it.
Loyalty Test of the Day
Any Iraqi officer who hasn't been assassinated or targeted for assassination is giving information or support to the insurgents. Any Iraqi officer who isn't in bed with the insurgents is already dead.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Poem of the Day
What day is it?
It's a lifetime
We love each other and live
We live and we love each other
And we don't know what life is
And we don't know what day it is
And we don't know what love is.
—Jacques Prévert, Paroles
The above is a Simply Appalling translation of this—
Quel jour sommes-nous
Nous sommes tous les jours
Nous sommes toute la vie
Nous nous aimons et nous vivons
Nous vivons et nous nous aimons
Et nous ne savons pas ce que c'est que la vie
Et nous ne savons pas ce que c'est que le jour
Et nous ne savons pas ce que c'est que l'amour.
Economic Indicator of the Day
... falling border apprehensions may be an early predictor of where the economy is headed. —Faye Bowers writing in "What's US economy's future? Ask illegal immigrants."
This conjures up a scene in the Oval Office. Karl Rove rushes in with the latest figures from the Border Patrol: "Mr. President, It looks like we have a problem. Immigrant arrests have dropped."
... Americans should prepare for rough economic times ahead, says Dawn McLaren, a research economist at Arizona State's business school.
For the past decade, Ms. McLaren has been tracking the relationship between border apprehensions and economic growth. Every time apprehensions declined, the economy slowed about 12 months later, she found. "About a year before a recession, or a down cycle, there was a slowdown in the number of arrests" on the border.
The connection is straightforward: New illegal immigrants hold some of the economy's most marginal jobs, which are some of the first to be left unfilled when a slowdown looks imminent....
McLaren and her colleagues now use the numbers of apprehensions as one tool in their matrix of indicators to predict where the economy is headed.
Why, you can even look at the effect by sector—
Since the end of 2005 ... apprehensions have fallen again. By April of last year, the trend was firmly established and indicated ... that the economy would slow down this year. Indeed, the Department of Commerce reported on Friday that the economy grew only 1.3 percent for the first quarter of this year, the worst performance in four years. One key reason: a slump in the housing market, which is the biggest employer for foreign-born Hispanic workers, according to the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.
I love economics. I'm hoping to apply what I learn there to my tea-leaf reading.