Monday, October 31, 2005

Olson on Fitzgerald

Ted Olson is a legal giant who knows at first hand the importance of the war on terror. He just tagged the prosecutor targeting the administration as a political hitman.

Olson's wife, Barbara, died on AA Flight 77, the one that hit the Pentagon - she talked with her husband on her cell as she flew to her death. Olson is a brilliant jurist, winning 20 of the 23 Supreme Court case he's argued.

Here's what he has to say about prosecutor Fitzgerald (WSJ, subscription).

The man he has indicted, Lewis Libby, was investigated, along with numerous others, to see whether someone violated a law prohibiting the intentional disclosure of the classified identity of a covert intelligence agent who'd served as such outside the U.S. during the five years preceding disclosure.

Apparently he committed no such crime -- at least the indictment doesn't charge him with that. Instead, Mr. Fitzgerald asserts, he misled investigators and grand jurors about conversations he had with reporters regarding Ms. Plame and her husband Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador engaged in a bitter dispute with the administration over its justification for the Iraq war.

If special prosecutors can be empowered to investigate allegations of conduct that isn't first established to be criminal, and to interrogate witnesses -- especially reporters -- about memories of distant conversations with sources regarding conduct that isn't plainly criminal, there is no politically motivated allegation that can't be turned into a criminal cover-up.

So, regardless of how one might feel about the administration or the war in Iraq, the circumstances of this prosecution, and the involvement of reporters such as Tim Russert as prosecution witnesses, ought to give us occasion to pause and consider the implications of Mr. Fitzgerald's redefinition of "Meet the Press."

If Olson says Fitzgerald is a political hitman, he is, and the administration can respond accordingly.

Beating Borkers, Porkers and Stalkers

The president has decided to play hardball with his enemies, which is great news for America and the world.

The President's Strategy

Like all successful managers, President Bush doesn't sweat the small stuff. Instead he focuses on these clear (but hard to achieve!) strategic goals:

1. Keep America safe by vigorously prosecuting the war in terror and encouraging the spread of democracy.

2. Keep the economy growing.

This makes eminent sense - a safe and rich America is much more able to solve its many problems than a defeated and poor one.

His enemies seek to draw him and his team into dissipating their time on non critical problems, so that he can't achieve his strategic objectives.

Hence the Borking of Miers by congressional conservative, who want the US out of Iraq, the Porking of the same group, who want to tie him up in endless budget negotiations, and his Stalking by Fitzgerald, who wants to make the administration spend its time defending past policies.

Over the weekend, the president has decided stay focused on his strategic goals.

The Borkers

For Brits unfamiliar with US history, "Bork" means:

"to destroy a judicial nominee through a concerted attack on his character, background and philosophy."

The process was invented by the killer Edward Kennedy for the 1987 Dem destruction of Robert Bork following his nomination for SCOTUS by Ronald Reagan. They even attacked his video rental history! Until a month ago, Borking was an exclusively Dem tactic, but the conservatives in congress just Borked Miers and told the president to give them a right winger.

The president had to decide whether to spend precious time negotiating with all the parties to find someone who would be confirmable (the Dems won't confirm a right winger). Or he could have committed the smallest amount of his time to the problem by giving conservatives their wish.

He's done the latter, nominating Samuel Alito, who:

...has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to that of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (search), for whom Alito once clerked.

Scalia is a right wing member of SCOTUS, much is hated by Dems, who will fight tooth and nail to Bork anyone who resembles him. Still, that's not the president's problem - the conservative critics have to fight this one, leaving the president to focus on the nation's priorities.

The Porkers

(Brit readers: Pork is the name for a common practice of US senators who cause Federal funds to be spent on useless projects in their own states).

A recent post quoted conservative critics complaining that the Federal government is spending too much and it's the president's fault. It's not his fault - spending bills comes from congress and all the president can do is veto items, which congress can override.

Accordingly, the most time-efficient tactic for the president is to simply veto every item he dislikes, tell the people why, and excoriate congress if they override him.

The Stalkers

Fitzgerald seems to have given up on getting Carl Rove, and is now focusing on tying up the vice president in lengthy hearings.

It's easy to see how the administration will deal with this - tie him up in legal knots and delay everything he does. Then in January 2009 use the presidential prerogative to pardon anyone he gets convicted. This has the virtue of following precedent (set by Clinton, of course).

They'll probably set up a special containment team to deal with Fitzgerald, with motions for delay, refusal to supply documents, claims of executive privilege. Lawyers are great at running up time and cost, so that should be easy.


With this policy, America and the world stays safe, and there's a chance that the next president will be Republican!

The End Of The Sand Hill Road

Sand Hill Road is the Palo Alto home to the big beasts of venture capital. They've belatedly realized that their business model for Internet startups is broken and are scrabbling to avoid ending up on the scrapheap. Isn't capitalism wonderful?

The WSJ reports (subscription):

Internet start-ups and venture capitalists are back in vogue in Silicon Valley. But now the two don't necessarily go together.

Consider Flickr, the innovative online-photo service launched by a small Canadian company early last year. Like many Web start-ups today, it was built on a dime: Husband-and-wife founders Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake used cheap software to construct the Flickr site, eschewing pricey computers. Some gear, such as computer storage, was "about 100 times cheaper" than it would have been even five years ago, says Mr. Butterfield. It cost only about $200,000 to pay salaries and get the site up and running, he says.

By last year, several top venture-capital firms were clamoring to invest in Flickr through its parent company, Ludicorp Research & Development Ltd. In December, Mr. Butterfield had a funding offer from Accel Partners of Palo Alto, Calif. But the entrepreneur decided instead to sell to Internet giant Yahoo Inc. for what people familiar with the matter say was about $25 million, significantly higher than the value Accel had put on the company and Accel's proposed investment.

It's a scenario playing out all over Silicon Valley -- and one with potentially big ramifications for venture capitalists. A new generation of Internet companies -- many offering online photo and blogging services or downloadable software for businesses -- have been built for a fraction of the cost just a few years ago

It's amazing the VCs missed this - together with other the entrepreneurs, I moved from VCs to self-funded businesses 8 years ago, here's why.

Trying to get VC funding eats up huge amounts of your time when you should be signing up Beta customers and building product. And in return for funding you, they make you to swap your stock with options (they take the stock), they take a board majority, and often invest in several of your competitors. Then if after 12 -24 months they decide your company lost the race, they pull the plug.

But, starting around 1997, you haven't actually needed a lot of cash to build a profitable software business.

You don't need offices or any of the overheads that go with them - you can inexpensively outsource payroll and accountants. PCs, servers and bandwidth are cheap, and one or two first rate developers working from home with modern software and components can build almost anything.

If you to concentrate on delivering real value to real customers, they then pay you! You don't need cash to ramp sales and support as the business takes off - instead you partner with one of the galaxy of burned out tech business that have sales and support in abundance, but lack product. They'll do this for margin.

Then you exit by a trade sale, like the Flickr folk (great job!).

No stock options - they don't work anyway thanks to Sarbanes-Oxley, no control-freak MBAs cluttering up the board - in fact, no board meetings! Just you and the developers working together like crazy to make your first customers ecstatic.

This trend is moving at warp speed and if you ride it, you'll get rich. Just sign up a pre-launch customer first, partner with a great developer, put all your cash in the business, and work 100 hour weeks for two years.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Tough Get Going

The Iraqi army is kicking Sunni ass, so after the December elections the coalition can move to facing down the next two dominoes - Syria and Iran (if it's still there). This tremendous achievement in just over 2 years compares with the 10 it took to train up an indifferent German army in much less hostile environment. Confirming that tough conditions breed tough armies.

Here's what's happened.

For generations, Iraq was dominated by Sunni Arabs because Sunni Arabs held most of the leadership posts in the army and police. Kurds and Shia Arabs were often the majority of the troops and beat cops, but they nearly always took orders from a hierarchy of Sunni Arab supervisors and officers.

The Sunni Arabs knew that the management and leadership skills necessary to run an army or police force were not easily acquired. It took years of training and experience. There was no way the Kurds and Shia Arabs could quickly replace those Sunni Arab officers and NCOs.

Thus Sunni Arab terrorists would drive out the foreign troops, especially the deadly Americans, and, then the Sunni Arabs would take over again. But then something very, very bad (for the Sunni Arab takeover plan) happened. Battalions and brigades of Iraqi troops began to show up, commanded by Kurds, Shia Arabs, and some turncoat Sunni Arabs, that could do the job.

Currently there are 207,000 Iraqi soldiers and police that are trained and equipped for operations. There are sufficient leadership to deploy 120 army and police battalions for combat operations. About three dozen of these battalions are well enough led to undertake security operations without American supervision.

Training a new army from scratch in modern warfare is incredibly hard for trainers and trainees. The US military has done a brilliant job and the Kurds and Shias have shown remarkable courage and diligence. Nobody has ever done anything like this before - the German army wasn't reformed until 1955, 10 years after WW2, and is still incapable of defending its country.

New York Lawyers For Hillary

Hot on the heels of the first Moonbat lawyer for New York comes another one working for a Dem victory.

"Withdrawing Miers put a Band-Aid on the rift," says George Conway III, a New York lawyer who is beginning to emerge as one of the new generation of conservative-activist leaders. "That rift now is healed and will be reopened only if he makes the same mistake twice -- then the Band-Aid will come right off."

He says some nationally prominent conservative leaders have privately dissented from most or, in some cases, all of the president's initiatives on a range of fronts. "It's a long, long list."

He says it includes expanding the federal government's role in education and the welfare state through Medicare drug benefits, encroachment on personal freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism, the decision to go to war with Iraq and what they see as mismanaging the war, not opposing the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance regulations, promoting a guest-worker program for illegal aliens and not fighting the principle of enforced diversity in the University of Michigan racial-preferences cases.

Quite reasonable list, except that keeping the economy growing through the worst attack on the US homeland ever, preventing a repetition, and confronting and defeating America's enemies does to take up a president's time.

Still, these conservatives should get what they want on Iraq - Hillary will withdraw as soon as they elect her!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Fitzgerald Changes History

The special prosecutor has decapitated the US administration, very neatly given that he's found no underlying crime. Glasses will be raised to him in Iran (for a while), France, Mexico, Russia, China, SCOTUS and George Galloway's pad.

The London Times:

...the indictment of Mr Libby by Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor examining the unmasking of CIA operative Valerie Plame, bodes ill for Mr Bush.

There is the specter of his Vice-President, Dick Cheney, being forced to take the witness stand. It will claim untold hours of Administration time and energy; likewise the continuing investigation into Mr Rove, Mr Bush’s senior adviser. The inquiry’s demands on Mr Rove have already brought the White House close to paralysis. During Mr Bush’s first term, little moved without Mr Rove’s say-so. And with him tied up with lawyers, little appears to be moving at all.

This is not a good time for Mr Bush to be distracted. His ambitious second-term domestic agenda of pension and tax reform is on life support. A bellicose and would-be nuclear Iran needs careful handling. Middle East peace is far from a reality.

The French are delighted because this gives them more than they ever dreamed of from their Niger yellowcake setup - more in a later post. With the administration tied in knots, there will be no change to US immigration policies and no Social Security reform. The Iranians, Russians & Chinese will continue their arms buildups unchallenged by the US and the Dems will stop a conservative getting on to SCOTUS.

George Galloway is safe. If the US tries to extradite him, a Brit judge will have to decide if he's going to face a civilized legal system. Galloway will point at Fitzgerald's leaks and abusive procedures, plus the 50-year jail sentences Fitzgerald has threatened Libby with. The Brit judge will conclude that this the same as an extradition to, say, Russia and nix it.

Fitzgerald has changed the world - not bad for a Brooklyn-born son of Irish immigrants.

Another Victory For SCOTUS Expertize

SCOTUS cited "international precedent" when ruling that 18-year old Americans could not be executed for murder, but they missed Saudi Arabia (hat tip LGF):

A 14-year-old Egyptian boy faces execution in Saudi Arabia after a flawed trial in which he was convicted for the murder of another child, Human Rights Watch says.

Oh well, the justices don't get to travel much.

Israel Should Not Delay

Iran wants to destroy the State of Israel, which means killing 5 million Jews. It faces just a wrist slap from the "International Community" while its nuke program continues with French and Russian help. Israel should take Iran down now, before it has nukes and while it still has a friendly US administration. If it waits for the next administration, that may well be a Democratic one which will feed it to the butchers.

The Iranian declaration of war:

TEHRAN -- President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, cheered by tens of thousands of supporters, yesterday stood by his call for Israel to be "wiped off the map," while Iran's foreign ministry sought to defuse a diplomatic storm.

I bet Iran "tried to defuse" it - they don't have the nukes yet!

Israel has a population of 6.3 million, of which 80% are Jewish, so that's 5 million Jews the Iranian government plans to kill - only a million less than the Holocaust. This is very achievable with nukes because Israel's population centers are crowded into a very small area - the entire country including the thinly-populated Negev desert is smaller than New Jersey.

Niccolo Machiavelli analyzed the similar multi-polar world of 15/16th Century Italy, and gives this advice:

War is just when it is necessary; arms are permissible when there is no hope except in arms.

There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.

Tardiness often robs us opportunity, and the dispatch of our forces.

However, he suggests waiting for maximum surprise. The mullahs will scatter and hide if they think there's a strike on the way, so it's best to wait until they are where they can be hit.

No enterprise is more likely to succeed than one concealed from the enemy until it is ripe for execution.

My suggested targeting uses about 75% of the estimated Israeli nuke arsenal, and is well within their delivery capacity (IRBMs, sub launched cruise missiles, long range F-15s). It will kill most of the population of Iran and severely contaminate large parts of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan .

It would be nice to wait until pinpoint weapons are available, but they are years off. And now there's a good chance the next administration will be Dem, which will hold the Israelis back while the Iranians get their first strike together.

So I'd go late this year/early next, after the Mullahs have returned to Tehran from their spider holes.

Russia Spends Its Petrodollars

High priced oil is speeding up the development of Russian ICBMs that will dodge the US BMD. Americans must hope the CCC (Cranky Congressional Conservatives) doesn't block the funds needed to counter it.

Here's the report, hat tip Missilethreat:

MOSCOW. Oct 25 (Interfax) - The Russian Strategic Missile Troops' step-by-step switchover to Topol-M land-based mobile missile complexes is to begin early in 2006, Strategic Missile Troops Commander Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov told Interfax.

Topol-M is a unique missile complex adapted to advanced missile defense systems. It is more mobile than other missile systems and is better protected from the enemy's reconnaissance.

It weights 47.2 tonnes and is capable of carrying a combat payload of 1,200 kilograms. Its range exceeds 10,000 kilometers. Three engines allow it to develop speed much faster than the previous types of missiles. Several dozen additional engines and control gear make its flight unpredictable for the enemy.

Topol-M's designers claim the system is absolutely immune to electromagnetic impulses.

I don't believe the last claim, but it's a very neat system. Instead of being stuck in vulnerable silos, its launcher is fully mobile. It uses solid fuel with a 15 year storage life, and goes through its entire boost phase in a few minutes (boost phase is the most vulnerable). Then it deploys multiple maneuverable warheads and decoys.

A few Topol-Ms will saturate the currently planned US BMD deployment, so more are needed.

It's a sobering thought - if the US gets a Dem Congress and President, they will scrap BMD and become wide open to Russian nuclear blackmail.

Friday, October 28, 2005

This Too Shall Pass

The AP moonbats salivate at another Martha Stewart hit - Libby is charged with perjury over a non-crime, as a proxy for the president and vice president.

Vice presidential adviser I. Lewis "Scooter' Libby Jr. was indicted Friday on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury in the CIA leak case.

Any trial would shine a spotlight on the secret deliberations of Bush and his team as they built the case for war against Iraq.

Libby, 55, is considered Cheney's alter ego, a chief architect of the war with Iraq. A trial would give the public a rare glimpse into Cheney's influential role in the West Wing and his behind-the-scenes lobbying for war.

The special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is said to be straight, but I don't think he is - he leaked this indictment all over the MSM last night and he's left Rove "under investigation" having had 2 years to make up his mind.

The result will be months of court hearings into which Fitzgerald will drag the president and vice president. All the CIA incompetents who got fired for letting 9/11 happen and screwing up the WMD intel will be called in to get their revenge.

Markets were set to tank the $ if Rove was indicted, so that hasn't happened. But with Fitzgerald holding a sword over Rove, they might pull the plug - we'll see what happens over the weekend.

The Saddamites

The final Volcker report on the oil-for-food scandal exposes the nations and individuals paid by Saddam to support him. Never forget and never forgive the corruption of the UN, France, Russia, and the individual crooks, including Galloway.

WSJ (subscription, my emphasis and ellipsis).

The Volcker report confirms that Saddam Hussein demanded, and got, some $1.8 billion in illegal surcharges, kickbacks and bribes from companies doing business in Iraq. It confirms that he steered billions in oil and humanitarian contracts to his politically preferred clients, particularly Russia and France, and smaller sums to agents of influence (or their associates) such as British MP George Galloway, French Senator Charles Pasqua, and Oil for Food director Benon Sevan. It confirms that Saddam did so under the noses, and frequently with the connivance, of the U.N. agencies entrusted to monitor the program.

The report...provides a list, which runs to 60 pages, of influential individuals or groups awarded lucrative oil allocations by Iraq because they "espoused pro-Iraq views or organized anti-sanctions activities." Here again, the range is astonishing. In addition to Messrs. Galloway and Pasqua (each of whom was given oil allocations of 11 million barrels), one finds the names of a pro-Iraq Vatican priest (2.5 million), the Palestinian Liberation Front (nine million), the French-Iraqi Amity society (11.8 million), Burma's forestry minister (27 million), the Orthodox Church of Russia (two million), and the Presidential Office of Russia (21.3 million).

Among the handful of Americans named by Mr. Volcker is Shakir Al-Khafaji (12 million barrels), a well-connected Detroit-area businessman who led a delegation of anti-war Congressional Democrats to Baghdad in September 2002 and who funded an anti-sanctions documentary produced by former weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

In case you've forgotten, the delegation was led by Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.), and included Rep. Jim Mcdermott (D-Wash.) and former senator James Abourezk (D-S.D.)

Mr. Volcker's report also provides useful insight into the role of BNP-Paribas, the French bank selected by the U.N. to handle the escrow account through which Oil for Food monies were processed, and from which the bank earned an estimated $173 million in fees. The result, writes Mr. Volcker, is that "BNP itself became an instrument for the payment of millions of dollars in illegal surcharges while doing little to detect or prevent such payments."

This should keep assorted attorneys general, state prosecutors and investigative magistrates in 60-odd countries busy for the next decade or so.

There's more detail on the individual Saddamites here.

Galloway is the man told the Brit soldiers fighting Saddam:

"The best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders."

Turns out he's a bit more of a traitor than Norm Coleman's committee said.

Days after a US Senate committee tracked a $150,000 (£84,000) payment to the MP’s now estranged Palestinian wife, the UN inquiry reported that (she) had earlier received a series of transfers totaling $120,000.

The Volcker report cited Iraqi Oil Ministry records showing that Mr Galloway received allocations of million of barrels of oil to support the Mariam Appeal. Allocations of more than 18 million barrels went to Mr Galloway directly or indirectly through his Jordanian friend Fawaz Zureikat, the report says. Mr Zureikat paid $434,000 to the Mariam Appeal.

Marc Rich, the felon pardoned by Clinton:

The report found that Marc Rich & Co financed oil purchases from Iraq and the associated kickbacks for the son of a French MP shortly after the company’s founder received a controversial pardon from President Clinton.

The family and office of the UN Secretary General who called the Iraq war illegal:

The report also contained details of an unexplained payment of 20,000 Swiss francs (£8,800) to the son of Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary- General.

Jean-Bernard Merimée, France’s former UN Ambassador, admitted receiving $165,725 in commissions on an Iraqi oil sale in January 2002 while serving as a special adviser to Mr Annan.

We should never forget and never forgive the corruption of UN, France, Russia, and the myriad of individual crooks.

A House Divided Cannot Stand

Lincoln used this quote from the Scriptures when speaking of the Civil War. Less eloquently, the moonbats are calling the President a "lame duck with a broken right wing" - hat tip Mike's America. They're right and the broken right wing doesn't get it.

Conservatives were heartened by yesterday's withdrawal of the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and say it has given President Bush a fresh start to unite his conservative base for the judicial, legislative and election battles to come.

The move ends a bitter family fight with his conservative supporters that Mr. Bush could ill-afford while he and his party were under fierce attack on a growing number of political fronts.

Actually, it's the Republican Party that "could ill afford these attacks" - Mr. Bush will be back in Crawford in 3 years, while his attackers need to persuade people to keep voting for them.

Brits have been through this. After the left wing of the Tory Party backstabbed Maggie, the party destroyed itself. Led by incompetents, it wrecked the Brit economy and the reputation of their party with it. The Labour Party has been the natural party of government ever since, and looks to stay that way.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

True Enemies of Freedom

Libertarians believe that the State is not their friend. But it does protect us against the tyranny of the majority, and that's worth a lot. An example is the Blair government's refusal to ban smoking in all public places as the anti-smoking lobby demands.

It's a messy solution:

The Government backed away from a total ban on smoking in public places last night after days of fierce wrangling between ministers ended in an uneasy compromise exempting private clubs and pubs not serving food.

But it's a darn sight better that a total ban, because:

A...survey of landlords by the association also found that 20 per cent of pubs would stop serving food in order to be exempt from a smoking ban.

Disclosures - I don't smoke and don't like inhaling smoke in planes, airports, cars and restaurants. But I expect pubs to be smoky.

The anti-smoking lobby argues that smokers don't have the right to create a smoky environment for non-smoking waitpeople in pubs. But that's disingenuous, since it's easy to require that smoking establishments only hire smokers.

The lobby's alternative plea is that the state should decide what's in the interests of smokers, because smoking causes them health problems and premature death, and the resulting costs are picked up by the Brit National Health Service. This argument doesn't stand up.

Smokers do die early - I think by about 10 years. Brits get a state pension of about £6,500 a year, so ignoring inflation a smoker saves the state £65,000 in pension payments. Plus smokers pay a lot of tax. All the search engines are broken at the moment, so I have to guess the numbers. Assume each smoker consumes one pack a day, and pays £3 per pack in tax, then over a smoking lifetime of 50 years, that's £55,000. So in total the Brit state gets £120,000 from the average smoker.

Having seen the NHS in action on relatives, I doubt that the rather basic healthcare that it provides the elderly adds up to anything like £120,000 per person. So smokers are better for state finances than non-smokers!

Finally, we live in a free society, and if we choose dangerous lifestyles that effect only ourselves, that's nobody else's business.

Libertarians should take comfort that the state stops them being bullied by zealots.

Critics Have Wish Granted

They’ve got what they wanted.

Harriet Miers (search) withdrew her nomination to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice Thursday in the face of strong criticism from President Bush's most conservative supporters, who say she doesn't have the qualifications or experience necessary to serve on the nation's highest court.

With his credibility shot, the President has to focus on just getting just any Republican pick for SCOTUS approved before 2006 - after then there’s a good chance the Dems will make the choice.

His first problem is to identify a candidate who won't be mobbed, either by the conservatives who opposed Miers, or any other group attracted to the blood in the water. He’ll ask the Majority leaders of the House and Senate to agree a candidate who has the support of all Republicans in both houses.

He should ask them to run background check on their candidate to make sure they haven’t chosen another Kennedy or Souter (two SCOTUS judges with impeccably conservative credentials who went despotic when they had their jobs-for-life).

He’ll then ask Tom Frist, the Senate Majority Leader, to confirm with his Democratic opposite number that the Dems won’t filibuster the Republican choice. Since they’re bound to if he’s anywhere right of Ted Kennedy, the President will than have to ask John McCain, the leader of
the gang of 14, if the 7 Republicans in his group will support a Senate override of a filibuster of this candidate. If McCain won't give support, the president will have to lock McCain and the two majority leaders in a room and only let them out when they've agreed a compromise candidate.

This whole episode has eliminated the president’s credibility, and is bound to increase fears for the economy, Iraq etc. The markets agree – today the Euro is up 2 cents and Sterling is up 1 cent.

My guess is that this will play out to the advantage of John McCain and Hillary Clinton, and that they will be the candidates in 08.

A Nickel Ain't Worth A Dime Anymore

Peggy Noonan in Opinion Journal agonizes that the US is doomed, bringing to mind Yogi Berra's observation above. She’s wrong, but reminds us that many of our so-called elites are poorly informed, decayed and technically ignorant . We just need to make sure that we continue to be none of the above.

She fears that US elites have given up trying to solve the world's problems, quoting Teddy Kennedy (uncle of the killer - my ellipsis):

'I'm glad I'm not going to be around when you guys are my age… Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.' gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

I can see three reasons why a smart person like Noonan is depressed, but none are valid.

False Information

The 16,000 or so in the lefty MSM promote a false world-view by concealing our strengths and victories, maximizing our weaknesses and failures, and concealing the awfulness of our enemies. This happens every hour of every day, and cumulatively saps the morale of the poorly informed. Here are two recent drips of poison, both designed to hide the advent of democracy in Iraq.

Condi The Demon

On being called out by Michelle Malkin, USA Today claimed a processing error. Actually they carefully hacked the image to give readers a negative view of Condi. Nobody who saw the image will read the USA Today retraction, so their poison got through.

Burned Bodies

All the media ran this story, claiming US troops desecrated of the dead rather than followed normal rules of hygiene. They did not report the
burning alive of an American civilian, hat tip LGF:

The mob grew more frenzied as the gunmen dragged the two surviving Americans from the cab of their bullet-ridden lorry and forced them to kneel on the street.

Killing one of the men with a rifle round fired into the back of his head, they doused the other with petrol and set him alight. Barefoot children, yelping in delight, piled straw on to the screaming man's body to stoke the flames.

The MSM suppressed this because it would make Americans more likely to support harsh action against barbarians.

2. Decayed Elite

Brit elites became pessimistic after WW1, advocating pacifism and a withdrawal from colonies. With US help they avoided ending up in a Nazi terror-state, but did pull out of all their colonies, consigning millions to mass-murder by corrupt dictators. The south what is now called Zimbabwe was a big exporter of food under the Brits, now they starve.

From personal observation, many of the US elite have gone down the same path, notably the Universities and state-employed professionals. In 2003, an excellent way of stopping conversation at a Washington dinner party was to remark that you supported the Iraqi war. These people were Federal employees or otherwise lived off the Federal Government.

The good news is that the US has many other optimistic elites, and has not suffered the 1 million dead the Brits and their Empire did in WW1. The readers and writers of the conservative blogosphere are a good example of a healthy elite!

3. Technical Ignorance

Brit and American schooling is
not terrible, but not stellar. The problem is that their growing economies have encouraged smart kids to aim at lucrative jobs such as law or finance, rather science and engineering.

So many of our elites are technically ignorant. Which is a shame, because without some basic grounding in statistics, games theory, information theory, physics, chemistry and engineering, they have no conception of how the simplest things in our societies work – the supply chain to their local supermarket for example.

This leaves them open to “doom manias” – global warming, bird flu, DDT poison etc. They feel helpless in the face of nature, and become pessimistic

From an engineering perspective, these problems are quite soluble, for example:
- Oceans full of trash? Sweep them, the way we do our streets!
- Too much CO2? Extract and calcify it!
- Nuke threats? Build BMD!

So the good news is that the US and UK still have plenty of smart engineers and face no environmental problems that can’t be fixed.

Bottom line, the world will go on getting cleaner, richer, safer and more complex. We just need to educate our ourselves to deal with it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Galloway and Perjury

Galloway says he's innocent of giving false evidence to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee, and that he's ready to face trial in the US. It's likely he'll face trial in the UK as well.

The full Senate report is available here (halfway down page). It presents bank records showing that a close colleague of Galloway received commissions from the sales of oil under the Iraqi oil-for-food program, and that on receiving each of these he transferred money to Galloway's wife (they've since split) and Galloway's political vehicle.

The proofs given for linkage between the oil-for-food payments and the payments to Galloway's wife and vehicle are multiple Iraqi documents, and witness statements including one by Tariq Aziz, Saddam's foreign minister. The documents seem proven valid, but the statements need to be tested by cross examination.

If they stand up, then Galloway could claim that he was unaware of his wife's transactions, and that payments to his political vehicle did not constitute payments to him. To clear that fence, he'd have to discredit the people who say that he solicited the oil-for-food money.

So he has a difficult task, but not altogether impossible.

The UK dimension concerns the libel action Galloway won last year against the London Daily Telegraph.

Maverick MP George Galloway, who accused by a newspaper of being in the pay of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, was awarded substantial libel damages by a judge.

George Galloway, expelled from Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party last year for his vehement opposition to the Iraq war, will receive 150,000 pounds, the judge ruled Thursday.

Galloway, 50, who had denied what he called the "outrageous and incredibly damaging" claims by the Daily Telegraph in April 2003, described the verdict gleefully afterwords as a "judicial caning" for the paper.

Last time a Brit politician perjured himself in a libel suit, he ended up in jail for 18 months, bankrupt, his marriage and family broken and generally destroyed:

June 8, 1999

Ex-Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken is behind bars in a south London prison after he was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

The former Conservative MP admitted both charges earlier in the year, following the collapse of his libel case against The Guardian and World in Action.

His crime was to bring a libel action against the Guardian newspaper, making just one statement that the Guardian was able (by skulduggery) to prove was false. There was a fuss about the skulduggery but Aitken went down.

With this precedent, things look bad for Galloway if the Daily Telegraph chooses to claim perjury. It now has a heap more evidence than it had in the original trial.

So Galloway could get to sample jails on two continents.

The World Without Iran

During a Tehran conference called "The World without Zionism" the Iranian president said he wants to wipe Israel of the map. In the civilized world we call this a "declaration of war", so in the spirit of fair and balanced rebuttal here's my suggested targeting for IDF pre-emption.

The declaration:

Iran's hard-line president called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" and said a new wave of Palestinian attacks will destroy the Jewish state, state-run media reported Wednesday.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (search) also denounced attempts to recognize Israel or normalize relations with it.

"There is no doubt that the new wave (of attacks) in Palestine will wipe off this stigma (Israel) from the face of the Islamic world," Ahmadinejad told students Wednesday during a Tehran conference called "The World without Zionism."

Ahmadinejad also repeated the words of the founder of Iran's Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini (search), who called for the destruction of Israel.

"As the Imam said, Israel must be wiped off the map," said Ahmadinejad, who came to power in August.

There's no point in waiting around until Iran and its allies (UN, France and Germany) manage to nuke Israel, so here's my suggested targeting:

1. Communications Infrastructure

20-megaton EMP weapon airburst 100,000 feet over Yazd.

2. Decapitation

The mullahs will hide in the general population - use UAV track and strike

3. Tehran nuclear and missile program offices

40*200-kiloton airbursts at 10 km centers.

4. Nuclear Facilities

Bushehr nuclear reactor: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Anarak uranium mine and nuke waste disposal: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Arak heavy water production, research reactor.: 500-kiloton ground burst

Ardakan uranium mill: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Bushehr nuclear reactor: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Chalus suspected nuclear weapons development facility: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Darkhovin suspected underground nuclear weapons development facility. Five sequenced 500-kiloton ground-penetrators.

Esfahan reactors, nuclear research and uranium conversion: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Fasa nuclear research: 500-kiloton airburst.

Gchine uranium mine and mill: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Karaj nuclear research: 500-kiloton airburst.

Natanz: Uranium enrichment: 500-kiloton airburst.

Saghand uranium mines: 200-kiloton ground burst regional contaminator.

Tabriz suspected nuclear weapons research facility. 500-kiloton airburst.

5. Missile launch sites

Shiraz region: 64*200 kiloton airburst.

6. Regional Centers

Up to ten of the 30 regional capitals will survive the above. Destroy each with 200-kiloton airbursts.

That should about do it, with plenty of Israeli nukes left over for anyone else who's feeling lucky.

Why Brits Elect Incompetents

Blair is good example of the Brit preference for incompetent pols - he thinks vouchers are great, but lacks the executive skills to overcome bureaucratic opposition. Another example is the opposition Tory party which is set to elect a leader with zero management experience against a man with plenty. This stems from Brit class prejudice with its distrust of professionalism - they only accept competent managers (Churchill, Maggie) when times are really tough.

Choice in education is a no-brainer, but state services are controlled by suppliers (e.g. teachers' unions), and it's hard to prize their fingers off the controls. So we get this (my emphasis):

Schools will be free to reject the Government's ambitious plans to "transform" the education system and abolish "traditional comprehensives", a long-awaited White Paper made plain yesterday.

In a foreword to the White Paper, Mr Blair said he had learned from other countries' experience of school choice. The two successful examples he cited were Sweden and Florida, in both of which parents are offered a voucher worth the cost of their child's education which they are free to "spend" in either state or independent schools.

It was not an option offered by the White Paper.

The suppliers won.

Brit managers successfully coerce balky employees every day, although it isn't easy.
Established bureaucracies have years of experience resisting change, exemplified in Yes Minister, and Yes Prime Minister. Overcoming these tactics requires skill, cunning and brutality, and takes years to perfect.

Unlike the US, where presidents usually learn management running businesses then States (GWB, maybe Arnie), Brit pols go straight from school to law practice (zero executive content) to politics to running the country. Blair
exemplifies this - after a brief spell as a lawyer, at age 30 he became a full-time pol and has been one ever since:

Born 1953...studied law...becoming a lawyer specializing in trade union and industrial law in 1976...began his political career in 1983, when he was elected to the British Parliament as a member of the Labour Party.

The careers of the two candidates to run the Tory party are illuminating (my ellipsis).

David Cameron - front runner

Born 1966...graduated in 1988 with a first class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics...worked for the Conservative (Tory) Research Department between 1988 and 1992...became a Special Advisor to the Conservative government...then the Home Office (Department of Interior). Between 1994 and 2001 he was the Director of Corporate Affairs (not what you think, but not line management) at (entertainment company)...(elected to Parliament in 2001).

He may be a great pol with sound policies, but with this resume I'd never hire him as a senior exec.

David Davis - losing

Born 1948...leaving school his (grades) were not good enough to secure a university place...worked as an insurance clerk and became a member of the Territorial SAS in order to earn the money to retake his examinations...won a place at Warwick University (Molecular Science/Computer Science)...London Business School (Master's Degree in Business)...Harvard University (Advanced Management Program)...worked for (sugar manufacturer) for 17 years rising to become a senior executive having saved a failing subsidiary in Canada...elected to Parliament in...1987.

Great resume - achiever, SAS, science degree like Maggie, MBA, Harvard, good management experience.

He can console himself that when the Brits next hit the wall, his time will come.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Best Way To Give

There's a better way than charity to help unfortunates in corrupt countries - use our armed forces to get help to the people who truly need it. The tsunami showed the way.

Sky News reported in June, hat tip muppetlord:

Six months on from the tsunami a new report has warned that aid is not reaching the people who need it most.

Oxfam says landowners and businesses are being prioritised in the rebuilding process at the expense of low profile, poverty-stricken communities.

In a high trust society that would make sense - rebuild the jobs first. But in the low trust, corrupt societies hit by the tsunami, the landowners and businesses are the corrupt ruling elite.

Sky News also shows that the US and Australia know how to give aid the right way:

Many of the countries that promised money to help rebuild after the Boxing Day tsunami have so far failed to honour their pledges, according to the United Nations.

Australia was the worst offender. Its government promised £236m but donated only £17m - just seven percent.

The US, the world's richest nation, has given £72m - despite George Bush saying he would give nearly £200m in aid.

Of course Sky News is just counting cash, not the cost of the huge military efforts mounted by the US and Australia. They were first to arrive and they turned the situation around. The late lamented Diplomad has excellent detail on what they achieved,here, here, here, and here:

In these times of gentleness and political correctness, we all must acknowledge that we're all special in our own way. We each do what we can best do. Americans and Australians are good at saving lives and the world; the UN is good at asking for money and going to conferences. We're sure both talents are equally valid; we shouldn't judge one better or worse than the other.

So no US or Australian taxpayer dollars vanished into into the Swiss bank accounts of the elites, and the suffering poor were rescued and fed. The Brits should try this.

Game Over

George Galloway superficially resembles the Brit appeasers who sucked up to Hitler before WW2. But they did it either for a misplaced sense of patriotism or to avoid another terrible war. Whereas according to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee, Galloway did it to the mass-murderer Hussein for money, so he's toast.

Among the subcommittee's findings:

• Mr. Galloway personally asked for and received from Mr. Aziz and others eight allocations from 1999 to 2003 for the rights to 23 million barrels of oil.

• Amineh Abu-Zayyad, Mr. Galloway's wife, received $150,000 in the summer of 2000 from Fawaz Zureikat, the Jordanian businessman Mr. Galloway acknowledges was his business representative in Baghdad.

• The Mariam Appeal was given at least $446,000 in bank transfers from Mr. Zureikat. These transfers and the one to Mrs. Abu-Zayyad came almost immediately after Mr. Zureikat was paid commissions for deals he brokered under the oil-for-food program.

• Two unidentified oil traders interviewed by the subcommittee said Mr. Zureikat met with them in summer 2000 and that it was made clear to them that the Jordanian was marketing Iraqi oil on Mr. Galloway's behalf. The deal fell through.

• Mr. Zureikat also paid more than $1.6 million in illegal surcharges back to the Saddam government, which demanded bribes from those receiving favorable oil-for-food deals. The Senate investigators said it was highly unlikely Mr. Galloway did not know of the kickbacks, but found no direct proof of his involvement.

In an appendix tucked at the back of the report, it also alleges that Mr Galloway "knowingly made false or misleading statements under oath to a British court" during his successful libel trial against the Daily Telegraph.
Many Brits assume that US justice system is like their own - lefty judges, wrist-slap sentencing, massive presumptions of innocence, big emphasis on the rights of the accused. They're not ike this at all - they work through a painfully bureaucratic process of establishing if there is a case to answer. If they find one, they act quickly and brutally - as Galloway is about to find out.

Iraqi Gets Constitution Before MSM Gets Grim Milestone

The Iraqis have agreed their constitution, and AP is mad.

Iraq's landmark constitution was adopted by a majority in a fair vote during the country's Oct. 15 referendum, as Sunni Arab opponents failed to muster enough support to defeat it, election officials said Tuesday. A prominent Sunni politician called the balloting "a farce."

I wonder if the "prominent Sunni politician" is named al Gore? Anyway, next paragraph, AP goes for the meat:

The U.S. military also announced the deaths of two Marines in fighting with insurgents last week in Baghdad, bringing the number of American service members killed in the war to 1,999.

That Marine unit must have really irritated AP - if 3 rather than 2 had gotten themselves killed, it could have headlined "Grim Milestone, Farcical Iraqi Constitution Passed". Still it puts a brave face on things:

However, some fear the victory, which came despite a large turnout by Sunni Arabs in an effort to defeat it, could enrage many members of the minority and fuel their support for the insurgency.

Now they're below the funny ad break in Fox News pages that 99% of their readers don't read past, so they slip in:

The vote on the constitution was 78.59 percent in favor of ratification and 21.41 percent against, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq said.

Carina Perelli, the U.N. elections chief, praised a "very good job" with the audit of results by election officials and said "Iraq should be proud of the commission."

We all know that a UN Election Observer is not a rock of objectivity, but AP thinks they're Pillars of Truth, so this must have really hurt.

A comment a while back asked me why I regard the MSM as enemies of freedom. This is why.

A PostScript on Those Levees

The MSM assailed the President for saying "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees", claiming that many had forecast that a Cat 4 or 5 would overtop and then possibly breach the levees. As usual, he was right and the MSM was wrong.

Here's the Washington Post (Brit readers - it's a bit left of the Guardian & is read mostly by Federal employees), pontificating on September 2nd:

The hardship and suffering that attended Hurricane Katrina when it lashed the city Monday morning had devolved by yesterday into something between a disaster zone and a state of nature: Officials said thousands may be dead; shots reportedly were fired at a rescue helicopter and a hospital trying to evacuate its patients; trash fires burned and fecal matter befouled the city; looters and carjackers, some of them armed, have run rampant. Bodies floated in the toxic water that covered four-fifths of the city, and corpses were filmed amid the refugees around the downtown convention center, where thousands of people awaited buses to evacuate them. The heat, the lack of plumbing, and the prevalence of human waste and garbage posed a growing risk to public health.

Oddly enough, that all turned out to be wrong. Still it presses on:

It is simply not true, as Mr. Bush said yesterday, that nobody "anticipated the breach of the levees." In fact, experts inside and outside of government have issued repeated warnings for years about the city's unique topography and vulnerability, and those warnings were loudly and prominently echoed by the media both nationally and in Louisiana.

This was wrong too - some people had forecast that the levees would be overtopped by a big enough storm - Cat 4 or 5 - and a smaller number had suggested that overtopping might then lead to levee breaches caused by erosion. But, as far as I can find out, nobody forecast that the floodwalls which contain the two canals would be breached by a mere Cat 3, without being overtopped. Which the Washington Post yesterday admitted is what happened (my ellipsis):

Experts now believe that Katrina was no stronger than a Category 3 storm when it roared into New Orleans, and Congress had directed the Corps to protect the city from just such a hurricane.

"This was not the Big One -- not even close," said Hassan Mashriqui, a storm surge expert at LSU's (louisiana State University's) Hurricane Center. He said that Katrina would have caused some modest flooding and wind damage regardless, but that human errors turned "a problem into a catastrophe."

Investigators already have rejected the initial explanation offered by (Army) Corps (of Engineers) officials in the hurricane's aftermath that massive storm surges had overtopped and overwhelmed floodwalls on the 17th Street and London Avenue canals on the north side of town.

Investigators in recent days have assembled evidence implicating design flaws in the failures of two floodwalls near Lake Pontchartrain that collapsed when weakened soils beneath them became saturated and began to slide. They also have confirmed that a little-used navigation canal helped amplify and intensify Katrina's initial surge, contributing to a third floodwall collapse on the east side of town. The walls and navigation canal were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the agency responsible for defending the city against hurricane-related flooding.

This may explain why the head of the ACE never replied to an email I sent him 4 weeks back asking what exactly the Bush administration stopped him doing to protect New Orleans.

Design errors happen all the time, and I've made my share, so this isn't something to gloat over.

But it again illustrates the absolute technical ignorance of the MSM. It doesn't don't know a levee from a floodwall, or an overtopping from a collapse, and didn't even notice that Katrina was not a particularly big storm.

Exhausted Charity

The UN weasel who accused the US of being a "stingy" aid-giver now wants his own private emergency aid fund. Which raises the issue of why the world is not sending aid to Pakistan earthquake relief at anything like the level they pitched in for the Tsunami. I think its because the Tsunami, Katrina and 7/7 have taught donors that their money will end up in the pockets of the corrupt UN, dictators or terrorists, and that the MSM reports of disasters can't be trusted.

The weasel (WSJ subscription):

The United Nations is spearheading the launch of a $500 million Global Emergency Fund to be used by aid agencies at the earliest possible moment, wherever and wherever a crisis strikes. The Fund's goal is simple: within 72 hours, provide aid workers with sufficient funding to jump-start lifesaving relief operations when most lives are on the line.

I sure that John Bolton will listen sympathetically.

Europeans regularly accuse the US government of not spending enough money on aid - they always use a % of GNP comparison, which shows - say - Iceland gives 2% of their GNP (10 sheep), whereas the US gives a stingily 0.14% ($18 billion). Plus they ignore private donations because in socialist Europe, people are so highly taxed that they don't do charity. Finally, the US pays to keep world peace, and that doesn't come cheaply.

All of which is why the US and Australia bailed out the Tsunami victims before the UN had managed to locate decent local 5 star hotels.

So why the comparatively small response to the Pakistan quake? Part is compassion fatigue - we all have just so much empathy. But there are four much more important reasons.

1. We Don't Like Corruption
We haven't forgotten that Oxfam had to pay the Sri Lankan government $1 million to get its aid to help the Tsunami victims.

2. We Don't Like Terrorists
The quaked part of Pakistan harbors al Queda, and Pakistani schools trained the 7/7 bombers. We don't want our donations to go to people who want to kill us.

3. We Distrust The MSM
After Katrina, we don't trust the MSM to accurately report disaster. It wouldn't surprise me to find that they've overstated the earthquake casualties by orders of magnitude.

4. We Don't Trust The UN
After all the scandals.

All of which has poisoned the well for the folks in Pakistan.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Joy Of Liberation

A Brit poll of Iraqis shows shows that 65 per cent of them support attacks against our troops. This is actually a pretty low percentage - 60 years after we liberated them, about 99.9% of Germans and French cheer, simper, or chortle at every report of a coalition soldier's death.

The poll, run by Brit Military Intelligence (oxymoron), found out that (I've edited it for clarity):

• Forty-five per cent of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified - rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province, reducing to 25 per cent in British-controlled Basra;

• 82 per cent are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops;

• less than one per cent of the population believes coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security;

• 67 per cent of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation;

• 43 per cent of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened;

• 72 per cent do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

Which is a reminder why we are in Iraq. We want them to become a democracy so we don't have to nuke them or any of their neighbors. If they end up a peaceful while hating us as much as everywhere else we've liberated, that's OK.

The Brits have been doing this longer than the Americans, and will have heaved a sigh of relief to find that the Iraqis are just the same the rest of the motley crew of nations they've shed blood and treasure to civilize.

Incidentally there are only three nations that don't hate us for liberating them: the Dutch (because they sort of run the UK), and the Italians (who sort of run the US), and the Danes (who are very smart and brave). If you don't believe me, read Bill Bryson's splendid Travels In Europe.

Buying Freedom

Lefties are staging a "day of action" to mark the 2,000th American death achieving victory in Iraq. Their freedom to dishonor the valiant dead was bought at a higher price.

LGF reports:

SILVER SPRING, Md., Oct. 22 /U.S. Newswire/ — Peace Action joins with other anti-war groups in a nationwide day of action around the 2,000th unnecessary death of an American soldier in Iraq. Peace Action affiliates, along with allied anti-war groups and coalition partners, are planning an array of events around this grim milestone.

In WW2 about 265,000 American were KIA - 19,000 in the Battle of the Bulge, 8,000 Iwo Jima.

These men were the peace activists' fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers. I wonder how they would judge their descendants?

Smart Brazilians

Brazilians, who live with the second highest gun death rate in the world just - amazingly - voted not to leave the guns to the criminals and corrupt cops.

AP is shocked!

Brazilians soundly rejected a proposal to ban the sale of guns in a national referendum Sunday, striking down the bid to stem one of the world's highest firearm murder rates following a campaign that drew parallels to the U.S. gun control debate.

"They ask the question: 'Do you feel protected and do you think the government is protecting you?' and the answer is a violent no," said political scientist David Fleischer of the University of Brasilia.

The AP moonbats don't explain how disarming the innocent would stop felons from shooting even more of them - they obviously things this guy is a total retard:

"I don't like people walking around armed on the street. But since all the bandits have guns, you need to have a gun at home," said taxi driver Mohammed Osei, who voted against the ban.

Smart guy.

Those Poor Chickens

The bird-flu plague is ravaging Europe:

Shining a light on seamy (probably French) parrot-pushers:

The sale of imported wild animals, including birds, is believed to be the biggest illegal trade in the EU after drugs and guns.

Exposing innocent Brit-birds to the horror of Survivor reruns :

Mr Bennett said it was also time to consider whether to poultry farmers should bring their birds indoors, a measure that could have a devastating effect on the 'free-range' industry.

Exposing impressionable Swede-birds to whimsical Swedish interior decor:

Sweden has detected bird flu in a dead duck west of Stockholm and advised farmers to keep birds indoors.

And revealing a surprising Macedonian penchant for post-modern irony:

Macedonia sent a dead chicken for tests in London on Friday.