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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

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End of the Road (Map)

The sheer folly of the Middle East roadmap was underscored by the bombs which went off today:

A suicide bomber blew himself up on a Jerusalem bus early Sunday, killing seven people and wounding at least 12 others, and another bomber blew himself up on the outskirts of the city, according to police.

With the best intentions, which Arafat clearly does not have, there is next to no chance that Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian terrorists are going to give up sending homicide bombers into Israel. Which, in turn, means that the Israelis are not going to do a single thing to implement the road map.

It is over before it begins. All due to the refusal of the Palestinian leadership and its radicals to recognize the vital need to end the homicide bombings.

Fall out from passive smoking report

I note that the City of Vancouver and the Province of British columbia have not unbanned smoking in light of the British Medical Journal's report - cited below - that the link between passive smoking and disease "may be considerably weaker than generally believed".

Tome Utley, writing in the Telegraph is as sceptical as I am about the triumph of the smoke Nazis in their quest to use health arguments to ban smoking from public places:

In all the brouhaha over the report in the BMJ, the only intelligent comment that I have read came from the British Thoracic Society, whose spokesman described the paper as "yet another piece of evidence in the difficult debate on passive smoking". All I ask is that people should be a bit nicer to smokers, until somebody can produce convincing evidence that we are harming anybody but ourselves.
link the telegraph


But where is the UN Resolution?

U.S. and British marines today combed Kenya's borders with Somalia and Sudan and monitored Western targets here in the capital as fears of an attack by a suspected al Qaeda operative caused nervousness at airports, embassies and foreign residences.

In what was described as a low-key but serious mission, an undisclosed number of troops were deployed to Kenya from posts in Djibouti and elsewhere around the Horn of Africa.

In Nairobi, home to more than 50,000 Westerners, U.S. Marines in plain clothes could be seen in the vicinity of embassies and so-called soft targets, including foreign residences clustered in several upscale neighborhoods and an outdoor shopping center frequented by Westerners. More than 1,800 U.S. troops are operating in the Horn of Africa as part of an anti-terrorism task force.
link washington post

There must be very hard intelligence on Kenya. Interesting that the Marines and the Brits were able to get into the country without a ruckus being raised by the anti-war folks. But that will be coming up in a moment or two.

The big divide

Melanie Phillips writing in the Daily Mail observes:

But while fighting over this non-event, the government is about to agree to a document which will destroy British self-government altogether. The European constitution, to be formally unveiled next month by the former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, turns the euro into a sideshow. Indeed, if we sign up to this constitution, then all the issues that now preoccupy us -- David Blunkett versus the judges, asylum, foundation hospitals, the public services ? will become quite irrelevant. The constitution will reduce Cabinet ministers to Brussels flunkeys, and Parliament to the status of Westminster regional council. For it is not merely that a few of its articles are unacceptable. It is fundamentally inimical to very concept of self-government. If Mr Blair signs up to it, our nation’s independence will be destroyed.
link melanie phillips

It is just now dawning on the easily distracted chattering classes in England that Labour is about to adopt a constitution for Europe which will ensure that the House of Commons will be reduced to a talking shop. Quietly, without a great deal of consultation or public input, the Europhile Labourites are hitching their wagon to a doomed attempt to unite Europe. And attempt which will impose a new order of government which actually has power.

Power enough to make laws on social policy, public health, the environment and energy. Power enough to abolish British Common Law.

Barely a whisper of debate in England.

Svend nominates ISM for Nobel

Poor Charles at Little Green Footballs couldn't believe it; but anyone who has followed Svend's career could not be surprised:

A member of the House of Commons of Canada, Svend J Robinson, has sent a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Committee nominating the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), a pro-Palestinian activist group, for the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize.

The nomination was confirmed to the Jerusalem Post on Friday night by Jake Wilson, an aide to Mr. Robinson.

In his letter of nomination to the Nobel committee, Robinson, who is the MP for Burnaby-Douglas and the international human rights advocate for the New Democratic Party of Canada, said that the ISM's contribution to advancing the cause of peace in the Middle East was "without parallel".

"This organization's selfless efforts to promote peace and protect the lives of innocent civilians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict clearly merit international recognition," wrote Robinson.

It really does not matter to Svend that ISM was the last stop of the British homicide bombers on their way to Mike's place. Nothing matters to Svend other than his certainty that the Israelis have no right to defend themselves against terrorist thugs. It is just the way the man is made. Too bad the voters of Burnaby Douglas don't throw him out: amybe next election.

Colby on Steyn

The groundless "MARK STEYN FIRED" meme simply will not die. Most everyone is starting to clue in that there's been no actual announcement nor indication that he's been fired, and that the National Post is telling everyone who asks that he has not been fired. But somehow there remains a fog of doubt in the air.
link colbycosh

It may be that the "Steyn fired" meme is groundless. But it is a reflection of the incredible disappointment many people feel with the rudderless National Post that even Steyn's editor, Natasha Hassan's denial does not finish the rumour off.

Part of what makes a really good newspaper is the expectations of its readership. A great newspapers readers are delighted by its good decisions and so anticipated the best. But a newspaper in decline's readers - The Post's, The New York Time's - quickly begin to expect that things will go from bad to worse.

The Post's death spiral really began a number of years ago when it cut back its arts and books coverage. It conceded to the Globe and Mail. Dumping, or whatever it has done with Saturday Night, was the next step. Instead of putting resources into a potentially attractive magazine the Post and Canwest cut its losses.

Losing the founding editor - in two steps no less - further shook confidence and lost the Post David Frum. (I am not a huge Frum fan but he is very readable and very well wired. He added class to the lineup.

In this context the idea that Steyn was fired, was leaving, was not going to write for the Post no more, no more made a horrible sort of sense. Bad to worse....Figures.


Four car bombs exploded in the Moroccan coastal city Casablanca today, leaving several people dead or wounded, security officials said. Moroccan security officials said there were burnt-out vehicles at the four sites near consulates and restaurants in the centre of the city, Morocco's economic centre.
link toronto star

Al-Qaeda? Have to bet it is given this:

U.S. and British officials are reporting a wave of electronically intercepted "chatter" among suspected terrorists that points to new attacks in the Mideast, East Africa and Asia. The officials say the "chatter" may be even more definitive than that prior to Monday's car bombings in Riyadh.
link voice of america

McDonalds fights, really

My own basic analysis of McDonald's restaurant penetration into European countries shows a negative correlation with IOTF obesity data. In other words, the more McDonald's restaurants per 10,000 people, the fewer people are overweight. Simple statistical analysis shows that the over 6,500 McDonald's restaurants in Europe are associated with 4 percent fewer overweight women and 2 percent fewer overweight men than if they did not exist. My analysis is preliminary and in any case proves nothing, but it is indicative that fast food has little to do with overall obesity rates. If fast food were the main cause of weight gain, we would expect to see the UK and France, with high fast food penetration, being the most obese. Yet it is Greece that has the most obese population, with over 70 percent of adults clinically overweight, while the country has few McDonald's restaurants.
tech central

Roger Bate takes on the prevailing assumption that the availability of fast food is correlates to rising obesity. It is interesting to note - especially after taking my 12 year old to MickyD's for lunch - that issues such as exercise and culture play as big a role in obesity as that fat filled hamburger.

Like all correlations in raw form this need as much salt as a super sized fries; but the issue of obesity is much more about general overeating and under exercising than any particular food category. Eat five pounds of healthy fat free pasta a day while watching the NHL playoffs and you'll be big as a house in no time.

Bates point is that it is senseless to litigate over obesity. I think he's right.

Smoke gets in my eyes

And that would be about it according to a new and much criticized study by epidemiologist James Enstrom of the University of California, Los Angeles' School of Public Health.
Enstrom and Kabat focused their work on 35,561 people who had never smoked but had spouses who did. The scientists reviewed the histories of the participants from 1960 to 1998 and found no significant increase in their death rate for coronary heart disease, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
link salt lake city tribune

Lots more work to do on this but the science bewhind smoking bans for public health reasons has always struck me as a bit suspect. The concentrations of smoke in your average bar envikornment are radically lower than the inhaled smoke of it patrons. Numbers like
The World Health Organization and other health agencies have concluded that second-hand smoke carries heightened risk for such diseases, on the order of a 20 percent increased risk for lung cancer and a 30 percent increase for heart disease
have never made much sense unless the smoke density the non-smoker is exposed to is extrodinarily high.

Needless to say the smoke nazis are all over the report citing, inter alia, the fact some of the money for the research came from the tobacco industy...


Desert Storm

posted as a comment at Little Green Footballs

Three things:

1) Saudi Arabia and the House of Saud have been financing terror and schools for terror outside the Kingdom to try and keep a lid on their internal terrorist problem.

2) Parking the SUV is a good idea but a better one is opening the Iraqi oil taps wide and helping a nation with a chance rather than 6000 princes with none.

3) The Saudis are in worse economic shape than all that oil suggests: believe it or not they have been running deficits for a decade.

At this point the initial terror attacks are directed at foreigners - as the price of oil drops and the Saudi deficits go up, the terror will be directed at the princes. At some point it will make sense to toss the House of Saud, run serious anti-terror operations and put Saudi under trusteeship.

That point is coming closer. When Iraq is up and pumping look for $15.00 a barrel oil. That busts the Saudi regime. If the terror the Saudis thought they had exported comes home that is another step closer.

Mea culpa isn't cutting it now and won't later. The real Desert Storm is just beginning.

Dead can Dance

Surfing away I ran across a little section of The Times I had never seen before "Latest Wills" under Court and Social:
Robert Oskar Lenkiewicz (painter), of Plymouth, Devon, left estate valued at £4,788,733 net. He left money to purchase an annuity of £1,043 for life for Leslie Ryder (subject of the painting No more cider for old Les Ryder, of Plymouth, Devon; he also left money to purchase an annuity of £1,000 for life for Belle Pecoroni, of Totnes, Devon; he released Barbican Rooms from the balance of a debt of £21,224; he left property and land known as The Green Hut, Shaugh Prior, Dartmoor, to daughters Thais Aurora Lenkiewicz and Chaya Sahara Lenkiewicz, both of Plymouth; he left £8,000 to Aury Shoa ?to repay the sum. . . which he advanced to me by way of a loan interest-free many years ago?; he also left Aury Shoa an early oil painting of Aury Shoa in his youth. He left paintings to six sons and five daughters. He left books and paintings to the Lenkiewicz Foundation Trust and a share in his estate to the Lenkiewicz Foundation ?to use for its general charitable purposes?.

A lovely reminder of just how odd the English are.


Just put in 175,000 wildflower seeds with the able, if distracting help of my two and a half year old gardening assistant. I got the seeds off the net from Jeff was a great guy and when I didn't get the seeds for a couple of weeks - due to Canada Customs, about which more below - he sent along another quater pound gratis.

Canada Customs, in the spirit of free trade and e-commerce, charged $1.75 in GST and, more to the point, a $5.00 "handling charge". For what! The contents and their value were clearly marked on the package. If they thought it was contraband - and why would someone send pot from the US to Canada - they should have had at least some probable grounds. Which they didn't. So what it actually is is a tax on ecommerce.


Steyn not gone?

Colby Cosh points out that no one has been able to substantiate Mark Steyn's firing. Certainly his reponses to reader's letters have been pretty hard on management; but the Post itself is saying "Mark will be back".

He also suggests that "you guys are really so hot for reasons to hate the Aspers, how about the fact that they fired Lawrence Martin, the Prime Minister's unauthorized biographer and most dogged critic, a year to the day after they bought their stake in the paper?"

Actually, I rather like the Aspers - but I am pretty convinced they are at the bottom of a very steep learning curve when it comes to newspapering. So far, at the Southam papers and the Post they have not demonstrated a notable willingness to learn.

If they have fired Steyn for financial or political reasons, or both, then they have lost a really interesting writer. Columnists are not as the economists say fungible - they are, or should be, the very opposite. Steyn has a unique voice and losing it would weaken an already much diminished paper.

Steyn not gone

From Kathy Shaidle's site:

Got this email last night:

Dear Ms. Shaidle,

It would be somewhat unorthodox to rehire someone who has not been fired. I am Mark's editor (have been so since the paper was launched four and a half years ago) at the National Post and his biggest fan. Mark is currently travelling in London, Paris and the Mideast and won't be filing for most of this month.

Natasha Hassan, Comment Editor, National Post

We'll see.

Indeed we will...


More Mark

The forced march of the National Post into the ranks of the mediocre picked up pace with news of the firing of Mark Steyn one of its star columnists.

The Post's new owners, Canwest, made their fortune running border stations in Canada. Essentially they took American hit television shows, stripped out the American commercials and sent them to a grateful, if dumb, public. The Aspers, or to be more exact, Izzy Asper made a ton of money at this.

Lord Black, founder of the National Post, decided several years ago to sell his Canadian newspaper empire. In the heady days of convergence, remember that, the Aspers could not wait to form the iron triangle of television, internet and newspapers. They paid over the odds for the Southam papers and had to take on the money losing National Post as well.

Now Izzy is a Liberal. A right wing Liberal whose demolition of a Trudeau era Finance Minister's first budget (The Benson Iceberg) is a must read for anyone seriously concerned about how badly the Left Liberals have and are continuing to screw Canada's economy, but a Liberal none the less. Even his support for Likud in Israel does not temper his long time association with the Liberal Party.

Mark Steyn is many things but he is not an admirer of the Liberal Party,

As for our diseased Dominion, like the Chinese our leaders behaved true to form. When something bad happens in Canada, the priority is to demonstrate how nice we are. After September 11th, the Prime Minister visited a mosque. After SARS hit, the Prime Minister visited a Chinese restaurant. Insofar as one can tell, Chinese Canadians seem to be avoiding Chinese restaurants at a somewhat higher rate than Caucasians. But, while it may have been blindsided by the actual outbreak of disease, the Canadian system is superb at dealing with entirely mythical outbreaks of racism. I think we can take it as read that if a truck of goulash exploded on the 401 killing 120, the Prime Minister would be Hungarian folk dancing within 48 hours. Personally, I’d have been more impressed if he and Aline had had a candlelit dinner for two over a gurney in the emergency room of a Toronto hospital. That’s the issue ? not Canadian restaurants, but Canadian health care.
link mark steyn

Mark does not just criticize Canada's natural ruling party - he makes fun of them. In column after column Steyn has held Chretien, Graham and the excretable Ms. Copps up to public, personal ridicule. He gets his facts straight and then laughs at the pretences of the great and the good.

Worse, Mark has regularly skewered the reigning mythologies of multiculturalism and multinationalism which are the bedrock of the Liberal Party's hegemony over the ethnic voters of Toronto who ensure the Liberal Party's continued election. He has been known to question the wisdom of bi-lingualism, gun control and the happy, happy, nice, nice Canadian self image.

Even worse than that - Mark can be laugh out loud funny, truly insightful and truthful. Plus he can get work outside Canada.

Izzy made his bucks getting television licences in the world of regulated television. It was money made by avoiding controversy and, most importantly, never offending a Liberal government. After all, who was issuing those licences?

The very qualities which made Izzy such a brilliant television mogul are almost exactly the opposite of those qualities which make for a brilliant newspaper proprietor. Television is about "this season". It is about pumping the hits and ignoring the misses. It is about no viewer loyalty and no pre-requisites.

Newspapers are all about readership. Paid subscriptions.

Izzy's competition in the television business was restricted to the CBC and, sometimes, another Canadian network. His viewers had no choice: if they wanted to watch an American show that Canwest owned they had to watch a Canwest station.

The competition in the newspaper business is not for a single day's newstand purchase - it is for committed readers. Readers who buy the National Post daily and often exclusively. As I have written before, it cost a fortune to capture one subscriber but once you have him the last thing you want to do is lose him.

To keep subscribers newspapers have to have a point of view and the National Post did. It was not, however, a point of view the Liberals much liked. But in the key toronto market, the Liberals were already reading the Toronto Star so Black had to set out to capture a different psychographic. Which he did using intelligent, funny collumnists like Mark Steyn.

Firing Steyn, losing Frum, cutting back arts and books coverage, producing the most boring Saturday section in the country: each mistake loses readers. Lose enough and the Post folds.

Izzy Asper is too smart not to know this - so another explaination is needed.

On spec here's one: part of the Asper's deal with Black for the acquisition of the Post apparently was that they had to keep the paper going or pay a large penalty. There may, however, have been an out - namely if the circulation fell beneath a certain target number the penalty was waived.

If you want to shed circulation the fastest way possible firing Steyn is a mighty fine start.

Saudi Civil War

via Little Green Footballs

Daniel Pipes is hated by the pro-Palestinian, pro arab Left simply because he knows five times as much about everything as they do. His short article in today's Wall Street Journal does more to illuminate the origins of the Saudi mess and the rise of bin Laden than CNN will manage in a month.

Saudi Arabia's origins lie in the mid-eighteenth century, when a tribal leader named Muhammad Al Saud joined forces with a religious leader named Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab. The first gave his name to the kingdom that (with the exception of two interim periods) still exists; the second gave his name to the version of Islam that still serves as the kingdom's ideology.


Osama bin Laden, a Saudi who spent formative years in Afghanistan, is the leading representative of the Ikhwan movement today. He wants to depose the corrupt and hypocritical Saudi monarchy, install a Taliban-like government, evict non-Muslim foreigners, and return women to the harem. His vision has real appeal in Saudi Arabia; it's widely reported that in a fair election, he would handily defeat the current ruler, King Fahd.

Thus, the recent violence in Riyadh ultimately reflects not just a hatred of Americans but a titanic clash of visions and a struggle for power; in this, it recapitulates the civil war of the 1920s. Is Saudi Arabia to remain a monarchy that at least partially accommodates modernity and the outside world? Or is it to become the Islamic Emirate of Arabia, a reincarnation of the Taliban's completely regressive rule in Afghanistan?
link daniel pipes

Steyn gone, Post to follow

Glen Reynolds via Tim Blair asks the question "WHAT kind of idiot newspaper editor would fire Mark Steyn?"

In the increasingly grey pages of the National Post Steyn was a bright and always readable splash of colour. I agree with, on a good day, about half of what he says but he is always funny and delightfully caustic. He also has a genuinely international perspective.

The Post and its owners have rocks in their heads.

More later.

Winds of Change

It goes without saying that those responsible, those who poisoned the minds of the bombers, those who are planning to become bombers, must be tracked down and crushed ? remorselessly and utterly. But crushing them will not be enough. The environment that produced such terrorism has to change. The suicide bombers have been encouraged by the venom of anti-Westernism that has seeped through the Middle East’s veins, and the Kingdom is no less affected. Those who gloat over Sept. 11, those who happily support suicide bombings in Israel and Russia, those who consider non-Muslims less human than Muslims and therefore somehow disposable, all bear part of the responsibility for the Riyadh bombs.

We cannot say that suicide bombings in Israel and Russia are acceptable but not in Saudi Arabia. The cult of suicide bombings has to stop. So too has the chattering, malicious, vindictive hate propaganda. It has provided a fertile ground for ignorance and hatred to grow.
link arab news

When you ride the tiger the trick is getting off.

The Saudis have for far too long paid protection money to the mullahs, financed Islamofascist madrassas and pretended that suicide bombings were somehow heroic. Defeated in Isael, Iraq, Afghanistan and America the mullahs are going after soft targets at home. Which means the Saudis either have to follow the advice of the Arab News edorialist and acknowledge they have a problem or they can pretend they don't and ensure the fall of the regime. Their choice.

The real target

Al-Qaeda would seem to be responsible, directly or indirectly, for the multiple bombings in Riyadh. This is not surprising as bin Laden has always had the House of Saud in his sights.

The fact seems to be that bin Laden and the Islamofascists hate America but they are really furious at Saudi for allowing itself to become so completely dependent upon Western and, more especially, American, technology and expertise. The worst things in the world for these medievalists the West's technologies. While they are willing to use the internet and cell phones to conduct jihad; the objective of that jihad is the elimination of Western pollution from the Holy lands of Islam.

It is not surprising that the first shot of the anti-House of Saud Al-Qaeda offensive has been directed at the quarters of the foreign community which essentially provides the technical expertise to keep Saudi Arabia going. It was, despite twenty foot walls, a relatively soft target. But it is also a marvelously symbolic target.

The Western enclaves which can be found throughout the Gulf States symbolizes just how crippled the Arab civilization has become. You may remember the scene towards the end of Lawrence of Arabia when, having driven the Turks from the region, the Arab sheiks meet in either Damascus or Bagdhad - I forget which - only to collapse in the face of the technical issues providing water, electricity and sanitation presented. Not much has changed since Lawrence wrote Seven Pillars save the price of oil. To have phones, medical care, electricity and all of the rest of the mod cons the Arabs have had to import foreign workers.

The humiliation of technical incompetence is exacerbated by the reality of military impotence and the threat of the West's overwelmingly attractive culture.

If you are a mullah convinced that the ideal world was lost several hundred years ago when the Caliphate fell, the rise of the West, technically, economically and culturally is unbearable. How can it be? How can Muslims have fallen so far behind?

Having no answers to the hard questions, the mullahs and the terrorists look for the soft option of destroying the symbols of their humiliation: the World Trade Center, a nightclub and now a foreign quarter. It is deadly on a small scale and utterly insignificant historically. While the terrorists are killing scores of the innocent, the coalition of the willing was able to free 20 million Iraqis in a little over a month. Which side do you suppose history is on?

The real targets in Riyadh, New York and Bali have been the disaffected Muslim world. The objective of the attacks has been to show defiance in the face of the almost certain envelopment of the decadent Islamic illusion by the thriving Western ideals of democracy, liberality and freedom. The mullahs are running scared and as they run they will do some damage. But they are running away from the future. A fact not lost on the now silent Arab street.

Robin Cook Repines

Robin Cook, ex-Foreign Secretary, is all of the things which Clare Short is not: lucid, convincing, measured and able to behave tactically from a position of deeply held principle. I think he was wrong to resign over Iraq but his reasoning was impecable and consistent with his long held position on multi-lateralism. His analysis of Short's "shock and awe" rhetoric and dotty emotionalism is a wonderful read in The Independent.


What's playing on the Arab Street

via intstapundit
Even as nearly every other popular Arab singer was still bewailing U.S. "aggression"?the inevitable term?against the Iraqi people, Nawal had publicly congratulated Iraqis on getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime. That she was able to break with the Pan-Arabist line on the war (that is, that the whole Arab world had been under attack by Western imperialism) which had totally subsumed the region's pop culture, while not paying any price in popularity, suggests that the region's long-rigid ideological binds may be loosening. The Pan-Arabist paradigm model is not only in apparent disarray at the top of the cultural ladder among journalists, essayists, and political reformers who are offering alternative narratives, but the same seems to be true at the cultural bottom as well, where in the short term it probably matters more.

According to a Kuwaiti newspaper, "Nawal said that when she watched the joy in the eyes of the Iraqis after they broke free of Saddam Hussein's regime, she realized how much in need they were of freedom and a chance to live in a democratic country." She wished Iraqis the chance to live in peace, and hoped their new beginning is one that will prove to be prosperous and happy.
link reason

Reality is setting in on the Arab Street. The house of illusion which is pan-Arabism was shattered by the road race to Baghdad. From popcult to editorials the Islamic world is waking up to the stark reality of a failed civilization. Change is coming.

Mass Grave in Iraq

There are plenty of people withering on about the absence of actual weapons of mass destruction so far in Iraq.

If there is never a WMD found this fully justifies the mass hostage rescue by America, England and Australia.

Iraqis have uncovered what is thought to be one of the largest mass graves found since the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.

BBC correspondent Barbara Plett says the remains of up to 3,000 people had been found so far, and the total uncovered could be as many as 15,000.

The grave was found in the small village of al-Mahawil, located near the city of Hilla, about 56 miles (90 km) south of Baghdad.

Among the remains are thought to be the bodies of political prisoners killed after a Shia Muslim uprising against Saddam in 1991 but also entire families.
link bbc

Still some bugs...but

This is what I want the blog to look like...well, almost. Now it is just a matter of going through the syle sheet and getting type and headers right. Once again, thank God for w.blogger. This would be a nightmare with the standard Blogger software.


I had been thinking of doing a redesign of the blog...blowing up the template by accident allowed me to focus on what worked and what didn't. This seems to be a good start.

Blogger Madness

Template problems. Big ones...grrr


France ready to go to the Congo

Chirac is poised to drop the fabled French rapid reaction force into the Congo. Apparently there is no great need for several dozen Security Council resolutions or sending Blix off to look at the alledged machetes of destruction.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno told the Security Council last week that he had sent some 700 troops, mainly from Uruguay, to the area but this number was insufficient. A more sizable force was need in Ituri and its main city of Bunia, according to his speaking notes obtained by Reuters.

He asked for a "coalition of the willing" and France on Monday expressed interest, the envoys said.
link reuters alert

If the situation in the Congo was not so desperate it would almost be tempting for the US or England to exercise a veto...But just as in Iraq there are kids being hacked to death daily. If France shows willing then godspeed.

Short Times

The English, when they want to plant the barb, do it better than any other English speaking people. The Times headline reads "Suicidal blast in Commons: no one hurt", the text manages to skewer short with a few well chosen pieces of commentary on her over passioned, marvelously self-centered, resignation speech:

Slowly the crescendo built. ?I am ashamed that the UK Government has agreed to the resolution being tabled and shocked by the secrecy and lack of consultation.? No one cheered. Straw raised one ironic eyebrow.

Then came a flickering steel threat: ?There will be time to spell out the details of these arguments and to discuss the mistakes that were made . . . we are entering rockier times?

Short was now almost the colour of her brick-red suit. The very future of the globe was at stake. ?International development is vital,? she said. ?The biggest threat to the future safety and security of the world.? And now the world would have to struggle on without her. ?I am very sorry to be put in a position where I am unable to continue in this work . . . I apologise to those in the developing world who told me I had a duty to stay.?

There was a collective intake of breath, but Short was rolling, unstoppable, a moral juggernaut, a solipsistic shooting star, so far over the top she could no longer see the ground.
link the times

Great fun. Ms. Short will not be missed - unfortunately she will not disappear either.

Al Qaeda hits the Homeland

Quoting AP reports:

RIYADH - Three explosions rocked the Saudi capital of Riyadh late Monday, including one caused by a car packed with explosives that crashed into a residential compound housing westerners, causing casualties, Saudi security officials said.

It is a fair guess that the explosion was caused by Al-Qaeda. While it was directed at foreigners there is no reason to beleive that the House of Saud will not be next. In fact, there is some reason to hope it will simply to get the Al-Qaeda money spigots actually turned off at source.

Short Shifts - About time

Clare Short managed to remember to resign today. According to the Washington Post she cited "legal reasons" for the resignation,

Short's main objection was a legal one: She said that under international conventions governing military occupations, the United States and Britain did not have the authority to establish an interim Iraqi government or set the terms for adopting a new Iraqi constitution. Only the Security Council had such authority, she said.

But she also objected to the way the draft resolution was developed, contending that Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and a handful of advisers had secretly negotiated the draft with the Bush administration without consulting her and other cabinet colleagues. She accused Blair of reneging on personal assurances to her that he would seek a U.N. mandate to establish a legitimate Iraqi government.
link wapo

Ms. Short, who seems to share political opinions and a hair dresser with the novelist Ms. Drivel, accuses the big bad - and surely she simply forgot to add tasteless and vulgar - Americans of bullying the Security Council. Tsk, tsk.

The Left Labour rump gains another sob sister - Blair's secret delight allowed the Cabinet to praise Short as they consigned her to the weepy backbench. The rest of the government moved on. Perhaps Ms. Short can get a gig with an NGO mucking around in Africa.


Steyn Unplugged

A wonderful interview with Mark Steyn over at It's all good but I loved his slagging of Margaret Drivel's rant...

On the more general point, it's a snob thing. When Margaret Drabble raged the other day about how she hated Bush and Rumsfeld and Coca-Cola and burgers, many patrician Tories would agree wholeheartedly, at least on the last two. And once you've decided that Coke and burgers are unspeakably vulgar it's a small step to feeling uncomfortable about Bush's hokey invocations of God and love, and from there to not being entirely on board with Rummy's go-ahead-make-my-day shtick with Boy Assad. American conservatism is much more populist than British conservatism or what passes for conservatism on the Continent. There are simply no equivalents to, say, the gun nuts or the religious right in Britain or Europe. You can imagine what American conservatism would be like without those big grass-roots forces, and in Britain it is. link