...Views from mid-Atlantic
06 March 2004

Bjorn Lomborg, the Danish economist so vilified by the agony aunts of the scientific establishment for suggesting there is little empirical evidence to support the truth of many of the sacred cows in their environmental herd, has a new project. With the help of nine prominent economists, he wants to establish realistic priorities nations and non-governmental organisations can follow in tackling some of the world's environmental problems. "The basic idea is that there are lots and lots of problems in the world," Lomborg said in an interview in London. "We'd like to fix them all, but we can't, so here are the ones we should look at first." He argues that many efforts to alleviate the challenges facing poor countries fail because governments, aid groups, nongovernmental organizations and others interested lack such priorities. "Though the money available from taxpayers and donors in wealthy countries is limited, billions of dollars in development aid are simply wasted on problems that cannot be easily fixed," he says. Isn't he a breath of fresh air?

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has given a speech reiterating his belief that invading Iraq was the right thing to do, and articulating the central dilemma of the war on terror - that the old rules of war did not anticipate a struggle against a state without borders, and that new rules must be developed quickly to allow such a threat to be effectively dealt with. The Telegraph thought it was "a learned and honest justification of his reasons for going to war against Iraq."

You can read the text of it here.

There's nothing in the world like a spat between educated Frenchmen. On the one side, Bernard Pivot, ex-host of France's most popular literary TV chat show. On the other, Maurice Druon, octogenarian and former secretary-general of the Academie Francaise.

M Pivot on the subject of M Druon: "His great misfortune is that he would like the French language to be in his image: starched, outdated, reactionary, egotistical, haughty, sinister...Under his pen, French is like a Louis XIV chandelier. How could today's youth want illumination from such an antiquity?"

M Druon on the subject of M Pivot: He is "an organiser of literary circuses, a presumptuous showman, a parader of dancing bears."

If you admire their style, but can't quite dredge appropriate words out of that part of the English language which is under your command, there is help available to you on the web, in the form of curse generators. This one's an Elizabethan Curse Generator (Thou clouted elf-skinned canker-blossom!), this one's a Biblical Curse Generator (Woe unto thee, O ye sad Pharisee, for you will have more mother-in-laws than King Solomon!) and this one, in case you think the others are too polite, is an ISMS Olde English & Pirate Curse Generator (Damn thee to hell, thou grizzled, sour-faced wench!) I thought sad Pharisee was good, and might be especially useful for those involved in the debate about Mel Gibson's new film.

Canada's elegant Governor-General, Adrienne Clarkson, has some interesting thoughts about what makes Canada Canada and Canadians Canadian in this Financial Times interview. The country has branded itself, more forcefully and more successfully, she says, than any other major country, as a state with no particular character - ethnic, religious, political - except that of goodness. It is a Good Place - good-hearted, good to live in, good to come to.

05 March 2004

The American war on travel to Cuba seems to be growing more intense. Bermuda's government has been engaged in a peculiar flirtation with Cuba for some time now, a flirtation that conservatives here feel is pointless and damaging to our normally excellent relations with the United States. As part of the labour government's campaign, it announced last month that it had negotiated a fortnightly charter flight to fly from Spain through Bermuda to Cuba during the summer months. Presumably as a result, the US has announced plans to send Homeland Security inspectors to Bermuda to keep an eye on things.

A kingdom in western Uganda is looking for $5.5 trillion in reparations from the British government for atrocities alleged to have been committed between 1894 and 1899. "What they did is worse than what Usama bin Ladin or Joseph Kony (the leader of the brutal Ugandan rebel group the Lord's Resistance Army) have done," according to the speaker of the kingdom's parliament. AlJazeera says the Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom hasn't yet decided whether to file the lawsuit in a British court or in what the news agency calls the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It probably means the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

AlJazeera reports progress in the fight against terrorism - Yemeni government forces have arrested two suspected senior members of al-Qaida hiding with dozens of other suspects in a mountainous region in the west of the country. They were taken along with ten other suspected terrorists in the operation on Wednesday.

And in Cairo, Egyptian authorities have confirmed for the first time that they are holding in custody Muhammad al-Zawahri, the brother of Osama bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri. He's been in their custody for three years, evidently, but the Egyptians acknowledged that only on Thursday. Both of the brothers were sentenced to death in absentia for attacks inside Egypt some time ago, but Muhammad is evidently going to be tried again in some fashion.

The London Zoo has come to the rescue of a rare Bermudian snail which is being driven to extinction by ants and other snails. There are only 100 of them left, and 56 of those have been flown to Britain in the hope that a 'safety net' population can be bred and later reintroduced here.

Paul Greenberg of the Washington Times is a little cynical about Jean Bertrand Aristide's claims that he was hornswaggled into exile. "Saved by the bell, this bedraggled fighter now accuses the timekeeper of rigging the bout. That's just like Jean-Bertrand Aristide. That's just like Haiti, where even the shadows carry AK-47s." Nice one.

Columnist Robert J Samuelson looks at the future of the welfare state in an age of globalisation. "One great project of the late 20th century was the construction of vast welfare states in wealthy nations to protect people against the insecurities of the business cycle and the injustices of unfettered capitalism. One great question of the early 21st century is whether these welfare states, facing massive commitments to aging populations, will themselves create new insecurities and injustices. Comes now economic historian Peter Lindert, who has thoroughly probed the welfare state, with a surprising message: Relax."

He thinks welfare state governments will dodge crisis by a mix of benefits cuts and tax increases. I'm not so sure. One of the first signs of their trying to make adjustments to their new circumstances was the OECD's demands that low-tax jurisdictions stop competing with them. This little breakout of old-style economic imperialism seems to indicate a pretty weak will to undertake the needed reforms, and does not bode well for their ability to better face reality in the future.

The San people of the Kalahari desert are fighting against a Government that is determined to shift them to settlements elsewhere in the country. To increase the pressure on them, they've cut off their water supplies, closed schools and health clinics and stopped paying monthly pensions to the elderly and the disabled. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve was made a national park in 1961 specifically to protect the San's habitat and way of life. Now almost all of the country's San people live outside the park and cannot freely carry on their hunting and foraging traditions. The government says it is doing this because the San people's activities are "inconsistent with the status of the game reserve." Does that sound as much like nonsense to you as it does to me?

A story in the Independent back at the beginning of January suggests a motive that sounds a lot more likely.

The dog ate my painting? Art insurers hear some odd stories, and that one isn't the oddest by a long shot. Would you believe the Cornell box whose spirit escaped? How about the art movers who bolted an antique mirror to the side of their truck so it wouldn't break?

04 March 2004

The world's media are full of pictures of Prince Harry, this morning, working to assist the people of the little African mountain kingdom of Lesotho. He has been visiting projects that help people in need, including a clinic and home for traumatized children. He has also visited AIDS patients with a local doctor, seeing firsthand the effects of the pandemic estimated to have infected 31% of Lesotho's two-million people. Recently, I swapped links with a blogsite operated by Rethabile Masilo of Lesotho. Since I knew just about nothing at all about that country before meeting Rethabile on the internet, his On Lesotho blog has been an eyeopener. Have a look...there's a piece about Prince Harry's visit.

AlJazeera says the famously-fractious Arab League, which more or less collapsed under the weight of its differences at its last summit in March, 2003, is close to an agreement that would allow it to function again. Foreign Ministers of the countries involved are submitting their new plan to Arab leaders at a summit to be held in Tunisia at the end of March.

Students, scientists, teachers, reporters and the merely curious can locate any kind of Earth science data more easily and quickly than ever before, using NASA's Global Change Master Directory Web Site. The GCMD's 13 data set topics, updated daily, "provide summaries of the data sets and specific information such as data over time and location, a citation for the creator of the database, and direct links to data and services," according to this story in SpaceDaily.

As predicted, Caribbean countries have criticised the US and other Western nations, and the United Nations, for their response to the rebellion in Haiti. As a result, says Caricom leader PJ Patterson of Jamaica, they've decided not to take part in the multinational peacekeeping force being sent to that troubled country.

"It is impossible," says George Will, "to imagine Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy or Ronald Reagan doing anything like John Kerry leading a crowd chanting 'Send Bush to Mars!' Has any candidate ever gone further on anything dumber than John Edwards's three-hanky tear-jerker speech about a father losing a job?" The veteran political columnist is worried about the blurring that is occurring at the point where politics collides with the facts.

Meantime, the Washington Times is concerned that Mr Kerry's mouth may be running away from him. "While voters appreciate a good debate on policies," the paper says, "they are offended by relentless expressions of contempt for the man who sits in the Oval Office."

The British Labour Government's cack-handed attempts at judicial reform, together with Home Secretary David Blunkett's plans to cut the courts out of asylum and immigration appeals, have infuriated the Lord Chief Justice. Imagine how angry he must be to make this extraordinary statement: what the Government is doing could lead "to a loss of confidence in the commitment of the Government to the rule of law." The BBC's allegation that the Government exaggerated its Iraq dossier for effect pales by comparison. A loss of confidence in the Government's commitment for the rule of law is the sort of thing Robert Mugabe's Government in Zimbabwe might be accused of provoking, perhaps, but the British Government?

The Telegraph's legal editor, Joshua Rozenberg, says what was once unthinkable in Britain is coming true. "Unless Mr Blunkett is prepared to back down," he wrote, "he will go down in history as the Home Secretary who provoked the gravest constitutional clash this country has seen for more than 300 years."

Photographs? Forget 'em says the painter David Hockney. Paintings are better at telling the truth. Technical advances have allowed us to alter and distort photographs, Hockney says. "If photography is no longer blunt fact, why not accept that painting has equal status?

"War photography is as fictional as painting, but painting can express profound insights denied photography. The famous photograph of a Russian soldier placing the red flag over Berlin is an example: 'With the man putting the flag on top of the Reichstag - how did the photographer happen to get there first?' wonders Hockney. By contrast, Goya's image of the executions of May 3 1808 has a truth that transcends whether or not he was an eyewitness. Hockney thinks Picasso, when he painted his extremely anti-naturalist Massacres in Korea in the 1950s, was making this very argument against photography: instead of random glimpses of violence, Picasso's painting presents his understanding of the war."

What in the world is going on here? Nigeria claims that the chairman of Pakistan's joint chiefs of staff has offered to share military assistance, including how to acquire nuclear know-how. Just what we need.

Pakistan quickly denied the story, and Nigeria now says it was a typographical error... It's right there in the story, that's what they said.

Alain de Botton, author of The Consolations of Philosophy and The Art of Travel, is making a name for himself by shining a particularly intelligent light into unexpected areas of the human experience. In his new book, Status Anxiety, he looks at our anxiety about what other people think of us. The blurb says "Every adult life could be said to be defined by two great love stories. The first - the story of our quest for sexual love - is well known and well-charted. The second - the story of our quest for love from the world - is a more secret and shameful tale. And yet this second love story is no less intense than the first."

Perhaps someone in the British Government will send a copy to Clare Short, who seems to be losing the respect and regard of a good proportion of the British nation, and who needs to do some fairly rapid sorting-out in the desire for status department.

03 March 2004

The use of non-lethal weapons in crowd control is obviously more desirable than the use of lethal weapons. Yet despite the development of a number of promising technologies, police and armed forces move ridiculously slowly to update and upgrade their riot control gear and tactics. The US Marines, however, are testing one device in Iraq which shows promise. The Long Range Acoustic Device, or LRAD, allows earsplitting noise to be directed in a narrow beam, allowing individuals and small groups to be targeted.

This press release contains some information about the manufacturing company, just in case someone thinks it might make a good investment.

A Guardian writer observes that while green activists oppose genetically-modified crops on principle, it is difficult to understand what the principle might be, since they do not campaign against genetic modification of drugs. Lord Taverne, author of the article and a book,The March of Unreason, which treats the difficulties science is having at the hands of people like green activists in the 21st Century, is also chairman of Sense About Science, a pressure group whose aim is to "advance an evidence-based approach to scientific issues."

Over on this side of the pond, speaking of an evidence-based approach to scientific issues, the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics delivered a well-reasoned, robust defence of his group's work in the Washington Post this morning. He's angry about charges that the Council has been rubber-stamping President Bush's moral and political views. One newspaper apparently went so far as to compare them to the Taliban...although I can't quite work out how that simile's meant to work.

Ever wonder how the British Parliament, known for its ability to pounce upon and savage deserving officials, was going to deal with Tony Blair and his mates in the wake of Clare Short's allegation that British intelligence services spied on people at the United Nations? Here's Simon Hoggart's sketch of the scene.

You poor innocents! If I weren't here to guide you, you might never think to wonder why the British Highways Agency is being so kind to red squirrels in England. Today I can reveal the dark secret that lies behind this apparently innocent story. The British hate grey squirrels, which are belligerent bullies originally imported from the United States.

So! You thought this story was just a quaint sign of the English weak spot for animals? Nothing like it. Xenophobia and disdain for American bully-boys are the true, shameful roots of these sinister bridges. My friend David Kavanagh dishes the dirt.

It must have been something in the water, and if Mr Snapple's smart, he'll be off there like a shot. Academics in Nottingham have traced the mother of the great visionary William Blake, once surprised by a neighbour acting out with his wife the return of Adam to Paradise, to a village close to the birthplace of that other very naughty man, DH Lawrence. The Moravian Brethren came from the same area. That group revered women's genitalia as "a model of the chapel of God where husbands must worship daily."

After 58 years on the job, Alistair Cooke has written his last weekly Letter from America. True to form, the BBC ran the story before Cooke wanted it run.

When Cooke began, he sat in the BBC's control room, trying to learn from how others spoke. "What I learned is that they were dreadful broadcasters. They wrote essays, or lectures, or sermons and they read them aloud. And I suddenly realised there was a new profession ahead. Which is writing for talking. Putting it on the page in the syntactical break-up and normal confusion that is normal talk."

It was a style of broadcasting to which the BBC was unaccustomed. One of Cooke's early frustrations was that he had to allow BBC producers to edit his scripts before he delivered them, and they often insisted on changes that ruined the flow of the pieces. That's the first cousin of a dilemma that also faces all those poor souls who write copy for others to deliver - you write for John Gielgud, but who you get is Donald Duck.

Cooke also worked for the Guardian, among other publications. In 1968, the Guardian published an editorial about him: "Cooke is a nuisance," it said. "He telephones his copy at the last moment. He says that he will be in Chicago and turns up in Los Angeles. If all of his colleagues were like him, production of this paper would cease. But we think he's worth it."

He was. And then some.

Humanoid robots? Wake me up when they make 'em capable of mixing drinks and washing dishes.

The likelihood is emerging that a turf war between Hamas and Fatah, the two armed wings of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian crime and terrorism family, precipitated the murder of the journalist Khalid al-Ziban this week. The 59 year-old advisor to Arafat, who boasted that he was "Arafat's spy", was said to have had many enemies, including dissident members of Fatah. Last week he distributed a leaflet denouncing the "gangs of professional killers" he held responsible for an attempt on the life of a Fatah activist.

His murder came on the heels of attacks on the official Palestinian Authority television station, where armed men demanded jobs at gunpoint, and the land registration department, where others ordered clerks to transfer property to them.

02 March 2004

The National Journal, a non-partisan magazine that covers Washington politics and policy has rated John Kerry, based on his voting record, as the Senate's most liberal member, even farther to the left than the most famous liberal of them all, Ted Kennedy.

"On a scale that ranges from 0 to 100," the Washington Times reports, "Mr. Kerry compiled a composite liberal score for 2003 of 96.5, the highest in the Senate. He eclipsed proud liberals like Paul Sarbanes (94.7) of Maryland, Barbara Boxer (91.2) of California, Tom Harkin (89.3) of Iowa and the Senate's liberal lion, Edward Kennedy (88.3), his Massachusetts colleague. It was the fourth time in his 20-year Senate career that Mr. Kerry compiled a composite voting record that was unsurpassed in its liberalism by any of the other 99 members of the Senate."

Meantime, in Jerusalem, they just wish he'd stop saying whatever it is he thinks his audience of the moment wants to hear.

AlJazeera is reporting this morning that the assassination this morning of a Palestinian journalist working as an advisor to Yasir Arafat is part of a wider campaign of intimidation by Palestinian militants against journalists. Actually, Aljazeera didn't say it was a campaign by Palestinian militants, but they should have done because that is the case.

The Bermuda-based computer consulting firm Accenture has been given an $11 million contract in Illinois by the state governor, who is known for his tough talk on offshore tax havens. Governor Rod Blagojevich says Accenture won fair and square. "They pay Illinois taxes, they're going to help us create greater efficiencies and save the state $200 million. It's as simple as that," he said through a spokesman. It isn't quite...he might have apologised for buying into the over-simplified, cheap, politically-motivated smear against such companies in the first place.

More on the fate of that Murray literary archive I posted about yesterday. The National Library of Scotland thinks it can make a 33 million pound deal to keep it, with a little help from friends.

Hamoud Abdulhamid al-Hitar, a Yemini high court judge, is making a name for himself with his claim of 90% success in persuading terrorists to turn over a new leaf by means of theological dialogue. The basic idea is that Islamic militants simply have mistaken views of Islam that can be corrected through religious argument. If they can be convinced of their error, he says, they will turn their back on violence. He points to the 100 he has already "converted" as proof that it can work. Somebody should give him a television show...quickly.

This Globe and Mail story about the removal from office of Jean Bertrand Aristide of Haiti adds significantly to our understanding of the nuances of a difficult story. The Caribbean leaders who tried to broker a deal with Aristide in the weeks before matters came to a head are said to be angry at Washington and Paris for refusing to go to the aid of a democratically-elected leader who had asked for help. They are also angry at Canada, which has a good reputation in the Caribbean for being an honest broker, for standing by and doing nothing to mediate a solution more in line with the principles of democracy. Jamaica's Prime Minister, PJ Patterson, has called an emergency meeting of Caribbean leaders this week to discuss the situation.

The relationship between the US and the Caribbean is already in difficulty because of differences over the US's hard line on Cuba, among other things. This will inevitably make it worse. In truth, though, the Caribbean countries got their timing wrong. They were pushing a diplomatic solution to a problem in Haiti that had already deteriorated beyond the point at which it was capable of diplomatic solution.

Remember the breakdown of talks on a draft constitution for the European Union in December? One of the more intractable holdouts, Poland, seems suddenly to be softening its stand a little. Perhaps Europe has been embarrassed by the success of the Iraqi Government Council in overcoming really difficult problems to get agreement for that country's interim constitution.

Poynter Online, a site dedicated to helping journalists improve their work, has published the New York Times' new policy on how to handle confidential sources. This is the kind of grey area in which the media are apt to make it up as they go along, creating ad hoc rules that are often less stringent for important stories than they are for less important stories. It is a very broad subject, and policies that are truly comprehensive tend to be long and complex, as this one is. But all of them revolve around the core principle that, as the Times puts it: "The use of unidentified sources is reserved for situations in which the newspaper could not otherwise print information it considers reliable and newsworthy. When we use such sources, we accept an obligation not only to convince a reader of their reliability but also to convey what we can learn of their motivation as much as we can supply to let a reader know whether the sources have a clear point of view on the issue under discussion. "

01 March 2004

People all over the world are reading this morning that Bermuda's Government has decided to reopen the debate here about whether the country should cut its final, slender tie to Great Britain. It must be difficult for a world so convinced of the fundamental error of colonialism to understand why some countries should want to allow it to be perpetuated. Cut away the frothy arguments about loyalty to the country which gave us birth and what you're left with is an economic issue. We have no natural resources to fall back on. The people who live here have had their economic views honed by four centuries of trying to make a living out of nothing. Independence is expensive. Yes, Bermuda is a wealthy country, but it is wealthy in relation to the number of people who live here. Do the multiplication, plug the answer into some sort of global scale and you quickly realise that this is a country that needs to watch its phone bill.

Last time independence was on the table here, a referendum showed that 75% of those who voted were against it. That result was more than a little skewed by complicated internal political issues and was not a true reflection of local opinion, which favours independence much more than the result suggested. This time, the debate will centre around whether people feel our present government, which has a reputation for being oblivious to the size of the phone bill, can be trusted to properly manage the economics of independence.

AlJazeera says there's a campaign under way in Iraq, possibly a Baathist campaign, to murder Iraqi intellectuals, one by one. Despite suspicion about the Baathists, and despite it being a little difficult to see how murdering intellectuals could profit the coalition, this story nonetheless quickly deteriorates into a recitation of vague, glowering complaints against the behaviour of US forces. There is no sign, though, of whether that is due to an AlJazeera bias, or the bias of the Iraqis chosen for interview.

Everyone by now knows who won the Oscars, but who knows about the Razzies? Their founder, John Wilson had these words about the big winner, Gigli: "I don't care how medicated you are or what people you're watching it with, Gigli is just a pain in the posterior. It's one of those things that is, as opposed to enjoyably embarrassing, it's just skin-crawlingly embarrassing." Sylvester Stallone broke a record by getting an award for the 10th year running, including one for worst actor of the 20th Century.

Donald Lambro, chief political correspondent of The Washington Times, and a nationally syndicated columnist, suggests this morning that US radio broadcasts in the Middle East are "one of the great success stories in the administration's war on terrorism," having "deep, long-range implications for a freer and more stable Middle East." He's probably right. Radical Islam's Achilles tendon is its inability to deal with dissent and changes in the world's cultural values, just as inability to be honest in his tax returns made Al Capone vulnerable.

What keeps the Martian atmosphere and surface empty of life is hydrogen peroxide, according to a Space Science Institute-led astronomy team. Hydrogen peroxide is produced by the action of sunlight on water. Without it, that part of the Martian atmosphere taken up by molecular oxygen would jump to 10 percent. So...is there a chemist in the house?

The Washington Post is suggesting this morning that the Palestinian Authority's disarray is so pervasive that collapse is a real possibility. Mr Arafat, apparently, could care less. "Let it collapse," he is said to have told an American consultant, "It will be the fault of Israel and the Americans."

Harvard political scientist Samuel P Huntington, he of the "clash of civilizations" theory, is about to publish what the Los Angeles Times calls "an explosive new book" arguing that "continuing Latin American immigration could create a cultural clash between Hispanics and Anglos that would 'replace the racial division between blacks and whites as the most serious cleavage in U.S. society.' He warns that Mexicans, in particular, will increasingly refuse to assimilate into the mainstream and will create 'an autonomous, culturally and linguistically distinct and economically self-reliant bloc' in the Southwest. The U.S., he says, will be divided into two peoples, two cultures and two languages."

The swiftly-developing new military operation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to capture Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar would not have been possible some months ago. Officials are suggesting that what has made the difference is a change in the position of the Pakistani President, Pervez Musharraf, who had been extremely reluctant to allow US troops to base themselves in Pakistan. But following the visit by the CIA's director, George Tenet, to Pakistan last month, General Musharraf appeared more committed to dealing with the terrorists said to be hiding on his side of the border than he had been.

Seymour Hersh, in this long, fascinating article in the New Yorker, explains the deal that was made - the US pretending not to know the extent to which the Pakistani military had known about Abdul Qadeer Khan's clandestine nuclear bazaar, in exchange for permission to go into the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan to hunt for terrorists.

Hersh quotes one Pakistan insider as defining what kept Musharraf from allowing American troops in before in this way: He is truly on the American side, in terms of resisting Islamic extremism, but, he doesn't know how to be on the American side. "The same guys in the I.S.I. (the Pakistani intelligence services) who have done this in the last 20 years he expects to be his partners. These are people who've done nothing but covert operations: One, screw India. Two, deceive America. Three, expand Pakistan's influence in the Islamic community. And, four, continue to spread nuclear technology."

But that analysis seems depict Musharraf as more of a pawn in the game than he is, depriving him of credit he deserves. He is doing the right thing...perhaps not as quickly and as comprehensively as the rest of the world would like, but he does it nonetheless, and does it with a political skill that is unusual in someone with a military background. I suspect that history will recall that he played a key role in the war on terror, and showed great personal skill and courage in doing it.

29 February 2004

Remember what I said a couple of days ago about Prince Charles, that he's an embarrassing bungler in matters of architecture and science? He's at it again, bless him, bungling for Britain.

The British National Health Service is outraged.

So's the Telegraph.

The Methodist Church seems determined not to let the Church of England pull ahead of them in the We've-Completely-Lost-Our-Marbles stakes. They've launched a nationwide competition in Britain for the best suggestion for an 11th Commandment. Somehow, this is meant to make the Church more attractive to young people. The five best Commandment writers will receive a camera telephone as a prize.

That sound you hear is God, I guess, turning over in His grave.

There were two outstanding articles about actors published in the Guardian over the weekend. Michael Gambon is my choice of the best actor alive. He's not just a pretty face, either. In this interview, it is mentioned that he once said he used to be gay, but gave it up because it made his eyes water.

And this extract from the late Dennis Quilley's book, The Quilley Memorandum gives a few details of his friendship with Sir Laurence Olivier, which began like this:

"'Oh, my darling boy,' cried Olivier, grasping me by the shoulders, 'you really must call me Larry.' I paused, grinned sheepishly and said: 'I'll try.' I managed it, of course, and we became good friends."

In his final years in power, the New York Times says this morning (you'll need to be registered), Saddam Hussein's government systematically extracted billions of dollars in kickbacks from companies doing business with Iraq, funneling most of the illicit funds through a network of foreign bank accounts in violation of United Nations sanctions.

"Millions of Iraqis were struggling to survive on rations of food and medicine. Yet the government's hidden slush funds were being fed by suppliers and oil traders from around the world who sometimes lugged suitcases full of cash to ministry offices, said Iraqi officials who supervised the skimming operation."

I remember hearing the UN official in charge of the oil for food programme saying on television recently that it really didn't matter if money was being siphoned off because some of it really was benefitting the poor people whose lot was intended to be improved by it. One suspects that's the sort of exacting standard the UN applies to all its programmes, doesn't one?

The Washington Times seems as outraged as I am by the duplicity of presidential candidate John Kerry. "In the political boxing arena," the Times says, "Mr. Kerry can now claim the undisputed titles in two classes: flip-flopping and hypocrisy."

Meantime, an article on this subject that Bermuda's daily newspaper carried last week has been reprinted on the Heritage Foundation's website. I make no apologies for linking to it again, because it is a good piece. If you didn't read it the first time, read it now. You've got time. It's Sunday.


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

Article Archive

2003 Index


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