...Views from mid-Atlantic
07 February 2004

Andreas Schiff has just recorded Bach's Goldberg Variations for the second time. The difference between the two recordings is not a matter of changed technique, but simply the 20 years of living he did between them. During the course of lunch at Nobu with Peter Aspden of the Financial Times, he said he wants, in due course, to record Bach's Art of the Fugue.

"These are the final thoughts of Bach. It is so great, I am in awe of it. There are things I played when I was young - Tchaikovsky's 1st Piano Concerto - that I am too old for now. It is a beautiful thing, but I am finished with it. But with Bach, Mozart, Schubert, you just keep delving deeper and deeper, because it is never 'done'. That's the beauty of it. You get closer, but you never arrive."

06 February 2004

Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry, who has been vilifying US companies that outsource, or move their headquarters to places like Bermuda, describing them as "Benedict Arnolds", seems to talk out of both sides of his mouth. A Washington Times story this morning reveals that "Sen. John Kerry intervened to keep open a loophole that had let a major insurer divert millions of federal dollars from the nation's most expensive construction project, then received tens of thousands of dollars from the company in the next two years, documents show."

The company involved was American International Group (AIG), which is said to have paid Mr. Kerry's way on a trip to Vermont and donated at least $30,000 to a tax-exempt group that Mr. Kerry had used to set up his presidential campaign. Company executives also donated $18,000 to his Senate and presidential campaigns, according to records obtained by the Associated Press.

I wonder if Mr Kerry realises that AIG is one of those Bermuda companies he says Americans should dislike so much.

Excellent editorial in the Washington Times this morning, suggesting that CIA Director George Tenet's speech to Georgetown University constituted "a vital first step toward returning rationality and realism to the public debate on intelligence and weapons of mass destruction." Irrationality had been introduced, it suggested, by the media's highly selective reporting of statements made by retiring weapons-hunter Dr David Kay.

Meantime, a Washington Post columnist, David Ignatius, has been talking to Jafar Dhia Jafar, who ran Iraq's nuclear programme from 1982 on, about why some intelligence estimates about WMD in that country were so out of whack with reality. He says it was the UN's fault!

There is a suggestion in the magazine Insight on the News this morning that investigators looking into the illegal outing of a CIA agent, Valerie Plame, are focusing on two of Vice-President Dick Cheney's staff, one of them his Chief of Staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

A Zimbabwean Supreme Court panel of judges has ruled that a Government requirement that journalists be licensed did not impinge on constitutional guarantees of free speech in that country. One of the judges dissented, saying all of Zimbabwe's media laws were a violation of free speech. I wonder how long he'll last.

Following the deaths of British soldiers serving in Iraq last year because of equipment shortages, Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has revealed that he scrapped warehouses full of military equipment because it was unused, and a drain on the taxpayer. He said that although some shortages were more widespread and serious than was thought to be the case at the time, the effect of those shortages was exacerbated by distribution problems.

Observers in Israel are suggesting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is unlikely, now, to be indicted in the bribery investigation known as "the Greek Island affair".

Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency points out that Abdul Qadeer Khan, who was pardoned yesterday for selling Pakistan's atomic secrets around the world, is "only the tip of the iceberg" and that more work needs to be done to unravel the network of nuclear baddies. He's right, of course, but Pakistan having pardoned the head of the network will have great difficulty punishing the people who were working for him. It is also a little odd to have Mr ElBaradei popping up like a Jack-in-the-Box at this stage in the game to remind people of their responsibilities. The entire nuclear black market developed while he seemed to be too busy schmoozing with some of the people who now turn out to be the baddies to notice what was going on. No wonder the US wouldn't deal with him.

Since the unravelling of the Pakistani link in the nuclear black market by Western intelligence agencies, it has become rather more obvious than it was a short time ago that Iran has been lying to the international community about the extent of its atomic programme. The US is said to be pursuing this through the European countries - Britain, France and Germany - that got the Iranians to make a partial admission about its nuclear programme some weeks ago. There is also word circulating this morning, unconfirmed yet as far as I have been able to tell, that Syria and Saudi Arabia were customers of Mr Khan and his crew. So this story has quite a distance to run yet.

While the nuclear arms black market story slowly develops, the British are engaged in an extraordinary frenzy of Keystone Kops-like activity, apparently so blinded by their lust for retribution for their involvement in the war that they are unable to understand its morality or significance, or see what has happened as a result of it.

The Wall Street Journal does, as usual, a very thorough job of sifting through the debate over weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in a hunt for significance, and points out that the results of George Bush's strategy on terrorism are quite stunning.

Filmmaker Errol Morris's The Fog of War is about Robert S McNamara, the automaton-like US Secretary of Defence during the Vietnam War. In an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, Morris said "There's a received view of McNamara, a King James version of him: the number cruncher, the statistician, the logic guy devoid of ethical and moral sensibility - who then belatedly came to thinking that war was wrong and cried, 'Boo-hoo, I see the error of my ways, I'm terribly sorry.' The problem with this view is that it's wrong."

Morris observes that it's highly unusual for a major American political figure of that time to be willing to come forward and delve into what he did and then explain what it means and why he did it. "He's always had a compulsive need to understand things he has done, things he's been part of," the filmmaker explains. The Fog of War is in the running for an Oscar as best documentary.

05 February 2004

One of Bermuda's four banks, the Bank of NT Butterfield and Sons, has bought Leopold Joseph, the private London Bank that counts the Rolling Stones, among others, as its clients. The Bermuda bank is to pay 51.5 million pounds for Leopold Joseph, which works out to an 11% premium on yesterday's share closing price.

Democratic Presidential hopeful John Kerry has been trying to fuel a sense of outrage among US voters against "Benedict Arnold CEOs" who, he says, move profits and jobs overseas by outsourcing and offshoring. That the United States economy must compete globally like any other economy as a result of the economic pressures of globalisation doesn't seem to have occurred to him. Neither has it occurred to him, apparently, that tax rates and regulation are areas in which healthy competition should be expected. Bermudians, who run an offshore financial services jurisdiction cleaner and more efficient than those of many first-world countries, get a bit short-tempered about being cast as some kind of ragged pirate whenever a company wants to set up here, as companies are perfectly entitled to do.

A piece in Fortune Magazine (you may be required to register) mocks the candidates for making it sound as if American businesses are a greater threat to America than Osama bin Laden is.

With a most obliging sense of timing, the Pakistani Cabinet has today confirmed yesterday's speculation by recommending that Abdul Khadeer Khan, the scientist who sold nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea, should be pardoned after his public apology and plea for mercy.

Archaeologists have unearthed the spectacularly rich tomb of a Dark Age Anglo-Saxon king - the most important discovery since the Sutton Hoo ship burial 65 years ago.

Excavations at Southend-on-Sea, of all places, revealed the intact tomb of an early seventh century Saxon monarch - almost certainly either Saeberht or Sigeberht, who were both kings of Essex in the Dark Ages.

The former director general of the BBC, Lord Birt, has launched a strong attack on the corporation, accusing it of blindly defending slipshop journalism. The Iraq dossier story, he said, should not have happened and should not have been defended.

Now that the BBC's mistakes are a hot topic in the UK, we can depend on hearing about them rather more than we might have done in the past. They have had to apologise to the Chief Constable of Humberside for editing a story in a misleading way, and are under attack by a Roman Catholic Archbishop for "rudeness and prejudice" against his church.

A timely editorial in the Telegraph this morning regrets the current British culture of resentment against "any form of excellence that cannot be translated into money or fame. This culture is utterly malign. A public figure may now be judged, not by his ability, experience or moral courage, but by his readiness to defer to fashion or prejudice. Lord Hutton is mocked for his meticulousness, while Greg Dyke is lauded for his bonhomie. Vulgarity has replaced virtue as the measure of merit." Well worth a read.

The health care system in Zimbabwe is collapsing, according to health care professionals there. "There's been an exodus of health care professionals from this country," one of them said. "And most of the rural health structures have been left under the supervision of nurses' aides who have nothing to treat patients with."

The human toll of such breakdowns, according to the New York Times (you'll need to register) is difficult to measure precisely, but the anecdotal evidence is "chilling".

04 February 2004

The military in Pakistan is thought to be sufficiently worried about what Abdul Qadeer Khan might tell a court about its involvement in selling atomic secrets on the black market that he's unlikely to be prosecuted. The country's President, General Musharraf, is expected to confirm in a few days that he will pardon Khan, who is revered as a national hero in Pakistan.

Wind power, according to this commentary in the Washington Times, ain't what it's cracked up to be. Wind farms are expensive, land-intensive, noisy and for their bird-killing prowess, they've been nicknamed the Cuisinarts of the air. In Britain, where their use is growing more rapidly than in the US, "The industry has tricked its way," suggests a senior fellow with an American think tank, "into unspoiled countryside in 'green' disguise by portraying wind farms as 'parks'. In reality, wind farms are more similar to highways, industrial buildings, railways and industrial farms. This wouldn't be a major consideration if it weren't that, because of the prevailing wind currents, the most favorable locations for wind farms usually are areas with particularly spectacular views in relatively wild places.

The United States has intervened in developing countries around the world 35 times since the Second World War, says this Los Angeles Times report. In only one case - Colombia after the American decision in 1989 to engage in the war on drugs - did a full-fledged, stable democracy with limits on executive power, clear rules for the transition of power, universal adult suffrage and competitive elections emerge within 10 years. That's a success rate of less than 3%."

The legendary reporter W F Deedes goes back to Belfast, years after he reported on the troubles there, and doesn't altogether like what he finds. There are no bombs going off, sure, but the same old bigotry isn't far beneath the surface.

Former CIA analyst and author Kenneth Pollack has published a lengthy exploration of how intelligence estimates of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction programme came to be so out of whack with reality. "Either late in 1995 or in 1996, "Saddam probably recognised that trying to retain his just-in-time capability had become counterproductive. The inspectors kept finding pieces of the programmes, and each discovery pushed the lifting of the sanctions further into the future.

"It's important to keep in mind that Saddam's internal position in this period was very shaky and he probably decided to scale back his WMD programmes, keeping only the bare minimum needed to rebuild them at some point. So, having decided to give up so much of his WMD capability, why didn't Saddam change his behaviour toward the UN inspectors and demonstrate a spirit of cooperation? Even after 1996 the Iraqis took a confrontational posture toward Unscom. The world inferred from this defiance that Saddam was still not complying with the UN resolutions, and the sanctions therefore stayed in place." It seems a sober, well-reasoned judgement.

DEBKAfile's analysis is more dramatic, and makes the interesting claim that Dr Kay has been politically influenced in the US to soften his claims that quantities of WMD smaller than would justify the use of the word "stockpile" had been exported from Iraq as the war started. "Since he began talking to the media," says DEBKA, "interested politicians have been rephrasing his assertions on the probable absence of stockpiles, by dropping the 'probable' and transmuting 'no stockpiles', to 'no WMD'. These adjustments have produced a telling argument against Bush's justification for war and a slogan that has deeply eroded public confidence in US credibility in America and other countries...In Israel too, opposition factions have seized the opportunity of arguing that if Israel's pre-war intelligence on Iraq's arsenal was flawed, so too was its evaluation of Yasser Arafat's role as the engine of Palestinian suicidal terror. The fact that intelligence was not flawed - UN inspectors dismantled missiles and Iraq fired missiles at Kuwait - is easily shouted down in the current climate."

Meantime, Janet Daley thinks the reason Prime Minister Tony Blair is having such difficulty with British public opinion is that he keeps going over the head of Parliament to take his message directly to the people. The trouble with talking "directly to the people, as opposed to parliamentarians," she says, "is that your words have to be very much simpler and your pitch more crudely compelling. The people do not have the time or the expertise for much subtlety or nuance. They need to be persuaded beyond doubt or ambivalence - and what that amounts to in practice is crass manipulation." I have every admiration for Janet Daley and her writing, but in this, she's looking under the wrong bed for explanations. The crudity of the pitch argument is away over the top. Having had some experience with public information in a Parliamentary democracy, I know that if you completely obey the "primacy of the Parliament' rule, you run the risk of not getting your message across at all. Governments in Bermuda have been tripping and falling over that truth for years. Talking to Parliament first worked in the days when Parliamentarians were the electorate's source for news. But that hasn't been true since Charles Dickens was a Parliamentary reporter for the Morning Chronicle.

Iraq's Governing Council has launched an investigation into reports that Saddam Hussein bribed people around the world with crude oil coupons. The story broke in a Baghdad newspaper, al Mada. Two days later, a spokesman for the Iraqi National Congress said "We have thousands of pages of Iraqi intelligence documentation which back up those lists." Once again, the complete list can be read here.

A professor of Middle East and International Affairs at Sarah Lawrence thinks Islamists are growing out of their 1990s habit of using religion to justify violence. Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, Fawaz Gerges suggests three reasons for this: "First, autocratic Arab regimes can no longer control the flow of information, thanks to satellite TV stations like Al Jazeera. The new media are challenging the status quo by telling what's happening at home and abroad.

"The second factor is the Arab world's profound socioeconomic and political crisis. Unemployment among young men and women is reportedly 78 percent in Egypt; 68 in Syria; 58 in Jordan; 45 in Tunisia. Not having a job means you can't get married, start a family, or have a decent life. So this profound social crisis is mobilizing - forcing - young men and women to play a different role than their elders did.

"Finally, Arabs see their world is being recolonized - you have very proud kids who feel outraged because their countries are being invaded, humiliated, and their religion conflated with terrorism."

03 February 2004

Military affairs analyst John Keegan, who has just published a book (Intelligence in War) on the usefulness of military intelligence in war, thinks the inquiries into intelligence failures in the lead-up to the Iraq War will serve little purpose. Critics of the British Government's September dossier, he says, "have taken the view throughout that intelligence can and ought to be perfect, and that the editing of the dossier's contents amounted to systematic falsification. Not only does that attitude reveal the critics' complete ignorance of how intelligence is collected and assessed, it also suggests that they have not bothered to read the dossier, included complete in the Hutton report."

And Mark Steyn applies his acid wit to the debate, saying "I was in favour of whacking Saddam pour encourager les autres. There was no sharper way to draw a distinction between the new geopolitical landscape and the September 10 world than by removing a man who symbolised the weakness and irresolution of 'multilateralism'. He was left in power back in 1991 in order, as Colin Powell airily conceded in his memoirs, to keep the UN coalition intact. Lesson number one: don't form coalitions with people who don't share your war aims."

Proof that the BBC needed reform was in its slanted reporting of its own failures, suggests Clive Davis of the London Times, writing this morning in the Washington Times. "How anyone at the BBC can have been caught off-guard by Mr. Hutton's report," says Davis, "is beyond belief. Watching events unfold over the past six months reminds me of one of those 'Looney Tunes' episodes where Wile E. Coyote runs headlong over a cliff and carries on, blithely galloping across the clouds, oblivious to the force of gravity. Sooner or later, reality catches up with him."

Across the pond, at the Guardian, Martin Kettle says the more you read of the scorn, prejudice and petulance of the anti-Hutton crowd, "the more you get the sense that the modern journalist is prone to behaving like a child throwing its rattle out of the pram because it has not got what it wanted...hats off to the Economist editorial that skewered Gilligan for a report that was 'typical of much of modern British journalism, twisting or falsifying the supposed news to fit a journalist's opinion about where the truth really lies. Some in the British media have described such journalism as brave. Sloppy or biased would be better words.'"

The US Army is being re-organised by Gen Peter J Schoomaker, the ex-commando who was brought out of retirement to be its Chief of Staff by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last summer. It looks as if he's tilting towards smaller "units of action" to make the Army more flexible and faster-moving. The significance of what's going on here is that Rumsfeld made much greater use of special forces during the Iraq war than I think has ever been made before. Traditionally, regular forces don't like using special forces because their trademark speed and aggression derives from their separation from ponderous traditional chains of command. Rumsfeld isn't going to allow himself to sacrifice those much-needed qualities at the altar of loyalty to what you might call the Moustache Petes of the armed forces. That was up on the wall the moment he put Schoomaker in the job.

You have to drill down through some really rather semantic detail to get to it, but this article in the Chicago Tribune about Henry Louis Gates, Jr's PBS series on African-American life contains some fascinating observations from the Harvard scholar.

A sample: "Don't get me wrong. I don't want to sound like Clarence Thomas or some right-wing person with a simple-minded bootstrap mentality, but unless there is a moral revolution and a revolution in attitude among our people, unless you decide to stay in school, learn the ABCs, not to get pregnant when you're 16, not to have a baby, not to run drugs, not to sell drugs, not to use drugs for Christ's sake, unless we do all those things, our people are doomed. We're doomed to have a relatively small black middle class and a huge black underclass and never the twain shall meet. So the book and the series are meant to be a wake-up call to America, but more especially to the black community, saying, 'Are we crazy? What are we doing here?' Flip Wilson used to have a routine: 'the Devil made me do it.' We can't just keep [saying], 'the white man made me do it.'"

Pakistan's top nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, is telling investigators that the Pakistani Army, including now-President of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, knew that he was helping North Korea with its nuclear programme. The army Chief of Staff knew of the assistance he provided to Iran. The Washington Post's story confirms the suspicion raised a few days ago in the Los Angeles Times that the military must have been involved. This follow-up adds more detail to their original conclusion.

The Germans are trying to get out from under their "catastrophic" association with France in opposing the Iraq war last year. This Telegraph story recalls that "Germany has long regarded a strong alliance with America as vital. But during the diplomatic battles over the war in Iraq Mr Schroder firmly allied himself to M Chirac in confronting the might of the United States and blocking United Nations authorisation for military action.

"Since then Mr Schroder has tried to repair relations with President George W Bush, signalling flexibility on a wide range of issues short of publicly recanting his opposition to war in Iraq. Yesterday, the sources said Germany was now likely to support the deployment of Nato peacekeeping forces in Iraq, albeit without the direct participation of German troops. Any such decision would mark a serious attempt to overcome the bitter transatlantic divisions over the war."

The EU and the US are close to an agreement that would allow consumers access to both the US Global Positioning System and the European Galileo system. That is particularly good news for Nato, whose members would otherwise have been forced to choose between the two for guided weapons systems.

02 February 2004

Why is it we can't get rid of the idea that there's a dastardly plot behind every door? An associate professor at Florida State University rootles around in our sick little relationship with conspiracies in the Boston Globe this morning.

As President Bush and Prime Minister Blair come around to accepting inquiries on their respective sides of the Atlantic into why intelligence agencies got it so wrong about Iraq's weapons of mass destructions, we are going to have to endure a positive orgy of experts grinding their various how-I'd-do-it-better points home. It may be, though, that too much is being expected of agencies which, down at the sharp end, aren't any fancier than people trying to winkle secrets out of other people who don't want them winkled out.

After years of hype, truly flexible data screens are going into commercial production. "Among the uses that manufacturers foresee for this truly revolutionary technology are "electronic newspapers that can be folded or rolled when not in use and then opened to display the latest news; flexible strips for store shelves that display constantly updated price and product information; and watch bands or bracelets that offer streaming news or other information."

The more things change, the more they stay the same. A currently-running Federal investigation into corruption in boxing in the United States suggests that "little effective reform has taken place in the 40 years since writer Jimmy Cannon described boxing as 'the red light district of sports'."

It was essential to achieving peace (such as it is, so far) in Northern Ireland that the British Government should come to understand that it would have to negotiate with the IRA. If there is to be peace in the Middle East, says a former British intelligence official who was involved in laying the foundations of the Good Friday Agreement, Islamist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad are going to have to be dealt with in a similar way.

More evidence this morning of the appalling state into which the British Armed Forces' stocks of equipment and supplies have been allowed to sink because of a public that wants to believe there's no need for armed force any more, and politicians too cowardly to stand up and say what a dangerous fairytale that is.

I daresay that if President Bush or Prime Minister Blair had seized control of an inquiry into telephone taps, break-ins and threats of violence against judges investigating a senior political figure, there'd be all kinds of hell to pay. Not in France, apparently.

The Financial Times claims this morning that corporate tax rates paid by multinationals based in the US will shrink this year because of outsourcing of back-office services and manufacturing to countries with lighter tax regimes. The process of globalisation, countries are learning, is going to force competition and reform in areas once considered off-limits, such as taxation...such as regulation.

New York City's Independent Budget Office says that recycling is more expensive than dumping...by quite a long shot.

"The Independent Budget Office's conclusion-that recycling cost the city about $35 million more in 2002 than conventional disposal would have-is so controversial that even before the new report was set to be released today, advocates of the recycling program condemned the analysis," the New York Times (registration required) said.

"'We believe this report is deeply flawed and have discussed these problems with the I.B.O.,' said Mark A. Izeman, a senior lawyer at the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is preparing its own report. 'Unfortunately, it appears that they have not changed their analysis.'"

One suspects that although the report refers specifically to New York City, this is a phenomenon that applies elsewhere as well...it certainly does here in Bermuda, to such an extent that recycling paper is simply not possible for us, and cans must be shipped to the United States to be recycled. That doesn't mean that not recycling is thought of as an option, though.

01 February 2004

The incomparable Nat Hentoff has been having another go at the American Library Association for its apparent indifference to the fate of 10 librarians "locked up in Fidel Castro's gulag for the next 20 years or more for making available to Cubans such serversive documents as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and George Orwell's 1984."

That's a bit of a mismatch, he says, with ALA's principles, as they were set out recently by the organisation's president.

"ALA and other library associations around the world," she wrote, "have a long-standing commitment to intellectual freedom and access to information. It is a fundamental value that is near and dear to the hearts of all librarians, library workers, and library supporters. . . . ALA stands committed to the freedom to read freely."

I guess she forgot to add that that was true only as long as the truth was convenient.

Alfred Lord Tennyson apparently had a great crisis of confidence about the construction of The Charge of the Light Brigade. As a result, he very nearly cut all the best bits out.

The Archibishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has written in an introduction to a guidebook for a series of exhibitions entitled Presence: Images of Christ for the Third Millennium, about the difficulty of representing the miraculous in art.

"What makes it absorbingly interesting to the theologian is that it is one way of expressing the central issue of all talk about Jesus Christ. To say that Jesus is God made flesh is, strictly, to say that you cannot represent God as something added to the flesh, or as 'flesh' somehow strained to extremity. This is simply to paraphrase the formulae of traditional doctrine: Jesus is complete in divinity, complete in humanity. To show divinity in such a context has just the same problems as to speak of it: it is not an added element in a compound but a characterisation of the whole. And thus it is speakable or tangible only as perceived in the changes it effects."

Iran has suckered Britain, France and Germany over its uranium-producing and enrichment activities, says the Washington Times, and will continue to do so if the rest of the world isn't prepared to get a little tougher with them.

David Kay, the recently-resigned head of the Iraq Survey Group, did not say what many people want to think he did about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. "Certainly," says the Telegraph, "he claimed there had been a major failure of intelligence which had misrepresented the situation. But he was specifically referring to large weapons stockpiles which he now thought were not there after all, and to the large-scale weapons programme which he said had been wound down after 1991...

"But Dr Kay was not saying Saddam was therefore no threat on the WMD front. On the contrary, not only did he say it was possible that smaller WMD stockpiles remained hidden in Iraq, but that 'right up to the end' the Iraqis were trying to produce the deadly poison ricin.

"They were mostly researching better methods for weaponisation,' he said. Not only that, Saddam had restarted a rudimentary nuclear programme. And he had also maintained an active ballistic missile programme that was receiving significant foreign assistance until the start of the war."

The Economist weighs in in a similar vein.

The Telegraph has published an editorial in defence of Lord Hutton, whose report so many in Britain are trying to dismiss as a whitewash. That newspaper feels, as I do, that Hutton got it just about spot on.

"It is preposterous", the newspaper says, "to present Lord Hutton as the villain of the piece. Had Mr Gilligan told his bosses in June what he later admitted to Lord Hutton then Mr Davies and Mr Dyke would still be in their posts and one of the nation's greatest institutions would not have been plunged into crisis.

"The events of the past week have spawned a gooey sentimentalism about the BBC and a host of lurid warnings about prospective dangers to press freedom. In practice, neither is in the slightest danger. The Corporation will reform its procedures, as it must, and continue its work under a new chairman and DG."

There are also signs this morning that Gilligan's faults are not entirely hidden from his masters. The BBC would have disciplined Gilligan if he hadn't left and, now that he has left, has refused him severance pay, because he will not give an undertaking not to discuss the Corporation's affairs in public.

Gilligan was brought into the BBC by Rod Liddle, then the editor of the Today programme, specifically to use tabloid tactics to shake things up a little. This Guardian piece suggests Liddle "wanted to make waves, rather in the manner of a national newspaper editor sticking two fingers up at the establishment."

Gilligan was a product of Sunday newspaper journalism, the Guardian says. "The Sunday papers are full of 'fliers' - stories based on often little more than a kernel of truth. Some of them turn out to be explosively correct; others deflate by Monday morning. This may make for headline-grabbing journalism but it is not the BBC way, where every story is meant to be double-sourced, preferably with on-air interviews to support it."

What Rod Liddle did in Britain, then, was the equivalent of drafting the National Enquirer's star reporter in to spice up CBS's 60 Minutes in the US. It might have been terribly entertaining to the British head-bashing classes, but from a business standpoint, it was an almost suicidally stupid move - guaranteed to pull the name of the BBC down into the mud. That Greg Dyke wasn't able to grasp that point means, quite simply, that he should not have been the head of the BBC.

M M Kaye, the Anglo-Indian author of The Far Pavilions, a dreamy romantic epic set in 19th Century India, has died at the age of 95. In many ways, the book was a page-turning blockbuster. But, as this Telegraph piece points out, "The Far Pavilions was also a detailed depiction of Mollie Kaye's own love affair with a country that she always referred to as 'home'. Every last detail, from the wildflowers that grew on the Himalayas to the complicated caste system, was informed by her own enchanted childhood, which she described as 'living in paradise'."

Edouard Vuillard, says the Observer, deserves a revival like no other French painter. He is a "master of the muffled and mysterious interior, of unspoken emotions, of the fathomless secrets of Parisians in their private apartments. Vuillard has been compared to Proust as well as Vermeer. There is that sense of time arrested, of the wide world excluded, of in-turned lives in intimate rooms, although Vuillard's people, like his interiors, are far more curious and perplexing. Yet he is often treated as second fiddle to his more famous friend Bonnard (women sewing, women concealed in the margins of pictures) as if their art really compares. What's worse, there hasn't been a retrospective since 1938, two years before Vuillard's death."


Art in Bermuda
Bermuda's Cuban Connection
Death of the Nation State
Helen Lives!
Joe Wilson and Michael Moore
Linton Kwesi Johnson's Dub Poetry
Me and Evergreen Review
Michael Howard's Vision
Miss Lou and Jamaican Patois
More Doomsday Nonsense
Mullah Nasrudin's Lessons
New York Dogs
OECD's Unfair to Competition
On Catullus
On Charles Ives
On Colin MacInnes
On Collecting Books
On Collecting Books - Part Two
On Gambling in Bermuda
On Napoleon
On Patrick Leigh Fermor
Race and Bermuda's Election
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Gift of Slang
The Limits of Knowledge
The Nature of Intelligence
The Shared European Dream
The US Supreme Court's First Terrorism Decisions
Useful Yiddish
Yukio Mishima's Death

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