Hands Off Estonia
Paul Krugman, a Nobel economist, has been taken to the woodshed by the president of Estonia. Stung by a recent New York Times blog post in which Krugman disparaged the economic policies of the tiny but plucky Baltic nation, Toomas Hendrik Ilves hit back on his Twitter account: “Let’s write about something we know nothing about & be smug, overbearing and patronizing: after all, they’re just wogs.” Not content with that rather harsh riposte, President Ilves—who was raised in the U.S.—tweeted a follow-up that was impressively ad hominem: “Guess a Nobel in trade means you can pontificate on fiscal matters and declare my country a ‘wasteland.’ Must be a Princeton vs Columbia thing.” (Krugman is a professor at Princeton; Ilves has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia. He tweets at @IlvesToomas.)
Sikh Transit Gloria Mundi
Britain’s tabloids went up in a great, collective yowl the day after a flotilla of boats bobbed down the Thames when it was learned that one of the guests on the queen’s own jubilee barge was a convicted sex offender. Harbinder Singh Rana, a Sikh community leader, was on board—standing just feet away from Her Madge—as a guest of Charles, a prince with a distinctly multicultural bent. Rana, who served time in jail in the 1980s for passing himself off as a doctor in order to perform intrusive examinations on a series of women, had been vetted and cleared by the queen’s security team. “I was given an invitation, and I attended,” he told the Daily Mirror.
Measure for Measure
The phrase “unrepresentative air-quality information” ought, by rights, to be regarded as soporific bureaucratese. It is, in fact, part of a Chinese rallying cry against the American Embassy in Beijing, which monitors ambient smog through an air sensor and posts the reliably insalubrious results on Twitter. Chinese officials, choking over this exposure of Beijing’s bad air, have dismissed the embassy’s information as not merely “unrepresentative,” but as being in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. An intensive study of that treaty by an international lawyer known to Newsweek confirms that the embassy’s air sensors are entirely lawful—however undiplomatic it might be to tell one’s hosts that their air is unbreathable.
Nettled by Nato
Nikolai Makarov is not a happy man. The chief of the Russian Army was recently in Helsinki, the capital of the former Russian vassal state of Finland, where he spoke his military mind before an audience of bemused Finns. Addressing the subject of Finland’s security strategy, General Makarov declared that “military cooperation between Russia and NATO is progressing well and is beneficial to both parties. In contrast, cooperation between Finland and NATO threatens Russia’s security.” Finland, he said, reasserting the old Muscovite droit du seigneur, “should preferably have tighter military cooperation with Russia” and should also cease to hold military exercises on its own territory. “Who are they aimed against?” he asked—without a trace of irony.
With Friends Like These
The Israeli Avigdor Lieberman is probably the least diplomatic foreign minister in the world, and his billing as such was enhanced last week during a speech in Jerusalem. Conflating two hypersensitive issues in a way that would have made Washington squirm—the killing by the Israelis of nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound boat and that of 24 Pakistani soldiers by the U.S.—Lieberman said: “The Pakistanis asked the U.S. to apologize, and the Americans said no way. So when [the U.S.] comes to us and pressures us to apologize over the Mavi Marmara [boat] ... sometimes even to best friends, you must say no.”
With Hamid Karzai’s term as Afghanistan’s president coming to an end in 2014, is it too fanciful to think of Zalmay Khalilzad as his successor? And with Barack Obama’s bellicose “droning out” of al Qaeda’s top echelons (most recently, Abu Yahya al-Libi), is it time to bestow on the American president his own nom de guerre: Abu Malia al-Amreekani (Father of Malia, the American)?