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Wednesday 23rd May 2018
A cartoon from illustrator, Cagle.
According to David Pogue at The New York Times Apple's iPhone matches most of its hype. E-mail is fantastic. Incoming messages are fully formatted, complete with graphics; you can even open (but not edit) Word, Excel and PDF documents. The Web browser, though, is the real dazzler. This isn’t some... more...

Normal service will be interrupted

... and then resumed as soon as possible. This is the "second email" that was promised for Friday (only slightly late). As stated then, I'm not sure how long the disruption will last, but only so long as it takes to clear the backlog of work building up around me. For starters there is the miscarriage of justice investigative article that has been mentioned in dispatches a few times, as well as a couple of other freelance bits and pieces that need attention. I had hoped to be able to write them, and continue to produce the daily email, but it is not possible, even without the ongoing back pain that also has to be dealt with. I regret having to do this. I love putting TDB together, but that is part of the problem - there is no end of material out there to sort through, and so other things tend to be neglected.

Subscriptions: The mailing list has not been updated for some months now, and a couple of people have made contact trying to pay for renewed subscriptions. Thank you, but just hold off for a while yet. Once the decks have been cleared, and I can get back to TDB full time, then that side of things will be attended to. When TDB is once again a comprehensive, reliable, quality daily service, then you will have to pay for it.

If all goes well, things will be back to normal in about two weeks. There may be the occasional update in the meantime, otherwise, see you then.

Wayne Sanderson/The Daily Briefing

They shot the messenger

Breaking the Abu Ghraib scandal is just one of the many historic scoops for which Seymour Hersh can claim credit. This latest article, in a less dramatic way, may be as significant as any of them. Hersh reports on the fate of Major General Antonio Taguba who investigated the scandal (he was got, but of course). In the process he reports that the worst of the scandal has yet to be revealed (Taguba said that he saw “a video of a male American soldier in uniform sod*mizing a female detainee), that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were authorised at the highest levels, and that they have never been fully investigated. "Rumsfeld was particularly concerned about how the classified report had become public. “General,” he asked, “who do you think leaked the report?” Taguba responded that perhaps a senior military leader who knew about the investigation had done so. “It was just my speculation,” he recalled. “Rumsfeld didn’t say anything.” (I did not meet Taguba until mid-2006 and obtained his report elsewhere.) Rumsfeld also complained about not being given the information he needed. “Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.” As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, “He’s looking at me. It was a statement.”"

Seymour Hersh/The New Yorker

Break with the crazies

Anatole Kaletsky has always seemed like a relatively mild-mannered and conservative economic columnist, so this one came as surprise. Kaletsky describes the Bush Administration as belligerent, irresponsible and incompetent (hard to argue with any of that) and wants incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown to break with it. "Mr Brown must decide whether to remain a silent but active partner in this madness, whether to retreat quietly like the Italians, Poles and Spaniards or to develop a third and genuinely courageous option. This is to positively forestall further disasters by breaking publicly with the Bush Administration and trying to develop a genuine European alternative to the suicidal American-led policies, not only in Iraq, but also in Israel, Palestine and Iran."

Anatole Kaletsky/The Times

Have progressives won the culture wars?

Michael Kinsley doesn't say so explicitly in this column, but you don't need to read too much between too many lines to get that message. Kinsley says the ban on gays in the US military seems quaint to young people in a way that segregation now seems to their parents. On this issue, Kinsley says, conservatives are on the wrong side of history. What he doesn't go on to say, but could have, is that conservatives are also on the wrong side of history on climate change and the Iraq invasion. If the happiness debate (of which the family/work concern is just one part) gains wider social and political traction, what will be left of the great neo-liberal, neo-conservative agenda of the past couple of decades? "Kids grow up today with gay friends, gay parents, gay parents of friends and gay friends of parents. If only blacks and whites were as thoroughly mixed together in society as gays and straights are. Kids are also exposed constantly to an entertainment culture in which gays are not merely accepted but in some ways dominant. You rarely see a reality show without a gay cast member, while Rosie O'Donnell is a coveted free agent and Ellen DeGeneres is America's sweetheart. The notion that gays must be segregated out of the military for the sake of our national security must strike Americans younger than, say, 40 as simply weird, just as we of the previous generation find the rules of racial segregation weird. (O.K., run that by me again: they needed separate drinking fountains because ... why?)"

Back to the gays in the military issue, and Jon Stewart reports on the attitude of the current crop of Republican candidates for the US presidency in 2008, and comes up with the wonderful line: "The only thing worse than an al Qaeda attack would be a gay man stopping that".

Michael Kinsley/Time

The war on peak oil

The average American soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan consumes around 70 litres of petrol each day, the US Defence Department is the world's biggest oil consumer - 340,000 barrels (14 million gallons) every day, greater than the total national consumption of Sweden or Switzerland. So what happens if the price rises dramatically, especially if 'peak oil' hits? Michael Klare, professor of Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College considers some of the options, one of which he says explains those permanent bases in Iraq. "But there is also a more sinister approach that may be far more highly favored by senior officials: To ensure itself a "reliable" source of oil in perpetuity, the Pentagon will increase its efforts to maintain control over foreign sources of supply, notably oil fields and refineries in the Persian Gulf region, especially in Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This would help explain the recent talk of U.S. plans to retain "enduring" bases in Iraq, along with its already impressive and elaborate basing infrastructure in these other countries."

Michael Klare/Tomdispatch

Iran upset by Rushdie knighthood

Good! Even better, why not ban gongs for grovellers among the great and good and use all Queen's Birthday Honours to send similarly appropriate messages? "His book The Satanic Verses offended Muslims worldwide and led to Iran issuing a fatwa in 1989, ordering Sir Salman's execution. Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the decision to praise the "apostate" showed Islamophobia among British officials. "


Do you need an iPhone?

Probably not, but given what David Colker has to say about it, there is a fair chance lots of people want one. "the promise of iPhone is that it will be the first to get the whole package right. Or even near-right. Other phones can e-mail, but the iPhone ditches the standard pixie-sized keyboard for one that is larger and on a touch screen. Other phones show the Web as text. The iPhone is designed to present it in all its graphics-rich glory. (This is not just a nicety; a full-fledged Web is far easier to navigate.) Other phones with loads of features are bulky enough to pass for rapper bling. The iPhone is sleek. And most important, although there are phones that sport music and video players, the player aboard the iPhone is an iPod, the wildly successful device that was a watershed for personal technology."

David Colker/LATimes

Nature red of tooth and claw

... saw this one a few weeks back, but only realised it had become an internet event after hearing it discussed over dinner with friends a couple of nights back. The miracle of the whole thing is the buffalo calf apparently survived the ordeal, after about five minutes in the clutches on the lions and/or the crocodiles. Thought these big cats killed their prey almost instantly?


Paul wins

Paul Potts has won "Britain's Got Talent", announcement here. At the link below, Paul's winning semi-final performance, "Time to say Good-bye".

But nothing beats the magic of his first round performance, Nessun Dorma - an amazing voice coming from the down-trodden car phone salesman in the cheap suit is pretty irresistible.

Paul Potts/YouTube

Begging for a BJ

... a spoof on the Mastercard ads. May be best not to open at work, and certainly keep the volumne down if you do.


Capitalism, democracy and totalitarianism

At the link below, Patricia Cohen ponders the nature of the connection between capitalism and democracy. "Then, just after the Iraq war, "there was a mini-burst of optimism" that capitalism was leading to democracy after all, Mandelbaum said, with three popular uprisings in the Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan and elections in Gaza, Lebanon and Egypt in 2005. The optimism quickly fizzled. Now some scholars argue that a free market can actually undermine democracy. "Capitalism doesn't necessarily lead towards democracy at all," Scott said. "The one thing that you can say is that capitalism is going to relentlessly produce inequality of income, and eventually that is going to become incompatible with democracy.""

In the Toronto Star, Gore Vidal on why the U.S. is not a democracy. "Well, if you want to see any of the founders, read the federalist papers. Any one of them looks like he's near apoplexy, he's about to have a stroke when he's talking about the people. They hate the people. They want the people out of government. Their idea of bad government is Pericles in Athens. And that's just, you know, forbidden country for our founders. They were Republicans, and they wanted a republic based on Rome, secretly based on slavery and based on imperial progress elsewhere in the world. So from the beginning, we've been imperial. From the beginning, we've missed the whole point of the republican effort to create a republic in this brave new world."

In the New Statesman, Robert Service, author of "Comrades: A World History of Communism", responds to criticism from the left. "All this I mentioned repeatedly in my book, but it was not quite what one reviewer, the Guardian's Seumas Milne, wanted. He denied that I stated that communist leaders unleashed a drive towards industrial and cultural modernisation. Next, he alleged that I followed a "neoconservative" agenda. He also maintained that the so-called "revisionist" school of Soviet history was not getting a fair wind in the western media."

The Washington Post notes that the world now has a monument to the victims of communism. "The Victims of Communism Memorial is a bronze "Goddess of Democracy" statue. It is a replica of a replica -- a reproduction of the papier-mache statue that Chinese students modeled on the Statue of Liberty and carried into Tiananmen Square during pro-democracy protests in 1989. The memorial was 17 years in the making."

Adam Michnik in the New York Review of Books on the Polish witch hunt against former communists. "The goals of Poland's peaceful revolution were freedom, sovereignty, and economic reform, not a hunt for those who may have served the Communist secret police years ago. If a hunt for police agents and informers had been organized in 1990 when the democratic revolution began, neither the dramatic economic reforms of former Finance Minister Leszek Balcerowicz nor the establishment of a state governed by law would have been possible. Poland would not be in NATO or the European Union."

Two articles from the journal, Democratiya. Michael Ezra on Hannah Arendt and her critics. "Arendt and her supporters believed that many of the critics had misread, misrepresented, or misunderstood what she was saying in Eichmann in Jerusalem. To a certain extent they may be correct, but it is clear that if so the misinterpretations were widespread and were not confined to the critics. Robert Berman, in a positive review of the book, actually inferred that 'Eichmann…. rather liked Jews.'[74] Arendt had said no such thing; nevertheless she was 'delighted' with that particular review, 'the most perceptive and… most intelligent review that appeared.'[75]"

And, Claude Lefort explores the concept of totalitarianism. "Nonetheless to limit oneself to this analysis would be to neglect another task of Communism and Fascism: that of the incorporation of individuals into a collective body, the absorption of the many into the One. While the organisation is concerned with the project of artificially building the social, taken to its extreme but already present in the modern world, where it accompanies the rationalisation of diverse spheres of activity, notably the political, economical and religious, the task of incorporation is concerned with a more substantialist ideal. Once more, it is the Party with the new characteristics it has acquired which reveals to us the sense of the totalitarian dynamic."

Patricia Cohen/International Herald Tribune

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