...Views from mid-Atlantic
17 April 2004

What does it take to become a writer? If Joseph Epstein is the man of whom that question is asked, you know you're going to be charmed by his answer. "Three things, I answered: first, one must cultivate incompetence at almost every other form of profitable work. This must be accompanied, second, by a haughty contempt for all the forms of work that one has established one cannot do. To these two must be joined, third, the nuttiness to believe that other people can be made to care about your opinions and views and be charmed by the way you state them. Incompetence, contempt, lunacy - once you have these in place, you are set to go." That's just the first paragraph, there's a lot more.

The Iran of today, says Victor Davis Hansen, is the fruit of Jimmy Carter's appeasement in 1979. "The twentieth century should have taught the citizens of liberal democracies the catastrophic consequences of placating tyrants. British and French restraint over the occupation of the Rhineland, the Anschluss, the absorption of the Czech Sudetenland, and the incorporation of Bohemia and Moravia did not win gratitude but rather Hitler's contempt for their weakness. Fifty million dead, the Holocaust, and the near destruction of European civilization were the wages of "appeasement" - a term that early-1930s liberals proudly embraced as far more enlightened than the old idea of "deterrence" and "military readiness".

"So too did Western excuses for the Russians' violation of guarantees of free elections in postwar Eastern Europe, China, and Southeast Asia only embolden the Soviet Union. What eventually contained Stalinism was the Truman Doctrine, NATO, and nuclear deterrence - not the United Nations - and what destroyed its legacy was Ronald Reagan's assertiveness, not Jimmy Carter's accommodation or Richard Nixon's detente."

Khidir Hamza was the dissident Iraqi nuclear scientist who played an important role persuading Americans to go to war in Iraq. His credentials appeared impeccable because he claimed to have headed Saddam's nuclear programme before defecting in 1994.

After the war, Dr Hamza was rewarded, to the distress of many Iraqi scientists, with a well-paid job as the senior advisor to the Ministry of Science and Technology. Appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority, he had partial control of Iraq's nuclear and military industries.

It was not a successful appointment, according to sources within the ministry. Dr Hamza seldom turned up for work. He obstructed others from doing their jobs. On 4 March, his contract was not renewed by the CPA. It is now trying to evict him from his house in the heavily guarded Green Zone where the CPA has its headquarters.

WH Auden was living proof that singing and poetry are closely related. The Guardian this morning calls his career one long effort to get his writing as close as could be to the condition of music. "'All music is good except the boring kind,' he said, quoting Rossini. He hated only the middlebrow. His mission was the culturally subversive one of marrying the high and the popular, and poetical-musical eclecticism was his means."

The Israeli historian Benny Morris has enemies in both the Palestinian and Israeli camps, because he has a knack for articulating what neither side wants to hear. In 1998, when he published his first book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949," he and his fellow 'new historians' were well known as radical peaceniks. Mr. Morris - who had served as an artillery officer in Lebanon during Israel's invasion - was even jailed briefly in 1988 for refusing to serve in the West Bank.

It was that year that Morris shook the Israeli public by arguing that the textbook story of Israel's origins was a lie. In his book, he said that Israel - and not the Arabs, as generations of Israelis had been taught - was largely responsible for the flight of 700,000 Palestinians from Jewish-controlled land in 1948 and for blocking their return when the fighting stopped.

Now, in the updated version of the book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited published by Cambridge University Press in January, Mr. Morris argues that the history of Israel's war for independence is even darker and more complicated. The New York Times says that Morris was able to draw on newly released archives from Israel's military and its cabinet. He claims that while there may have been no "agreed, systematic policy of expulsion" in 1948, "'transfer' was in the air, and the departure of the Arabs was deeply desired on the local and national levels." Perhaps more shocking, he also documents instances of small-scale massacres and a few cases of rape.

At the same time, Mr. Morris has also uncovered evidence that Arab leaders did more to encourage a Palestinian exodus than previously thought.

The Atlantic has more.

16 April 2004

Assassins in Baghdad have killed the first secretary at the Iranian Embassy, just as Iranian diplomats were travelling to Najaf to help mediate between US troops and Muqtada al-Sadr's gunmen. There has been a lot of buzz doing the rounds about Iran's behind-the-scenes role in this pre-US handover violence in Iraq. First secretaries, as I remember the way embassies work, are traditionally right up at the very sharpest end of the stick if there's any funny business going on. Think somebody might have reneged on a politically-abandoned promise?

This story in the Los Angeles Times is worth reading for the headline alone. But the subject - the earliest reliable evidence of creative symbolic thought - is a draw as well.

Is he wiggling? Course he is. Pledging to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq a matter of hours after the terrorist bombing in Madrid was the political equivalent of a fisherman hooking the seat of his own pants. He'll learn.

It's the case of the naughty biscuit tin, or No Shit, Sherlock, or else! Only in England.

I don't know why people are making such a big deal about this. It's a simple question of the nature of political constituencies. Blair's is such that he can't afford to back Sharon. Bush's is such that he can't afford not to. That's the way democracy works.

The Christian Science Monitor reports on just how hard it is to price art. Maybe the reason Gloria Goodale never gets around to describing the process directly is a reflection of just how much hocus there is in that pocus. I'm not sure it matters, as long as it's always the same amount. Know what I mean?

The UN's Human Rights Commission has passed, by a single vote, a resolution censoring Cuba for human rights abuses. The BBC leaves little doubt in its coverage about whose side it was on: "Many developing countries," said Elizabeth Blunt, "resent the kind of motion passed against Cuba, convinced it is a tool used by the rich and powerful - particularly the US - against countries they do not like."

While the BBC's Elizabeth Blunt does note that there was a bit of a punch-up after the vote, during which one man was knocked to the ground, she apparently failed to notice that the puncher was a Cuban delegate. The Washington Times made no such mistake, if that's what it was.

GRANMA, of course is not amused, and says nothing about the punch-up. At the end of the day, though, one has to remember what caused the matter to come to a vote in that forum in the first place. Jailing 75 people for little more than thinking the wrong thoughts is an abuse of human rights, no matter how hard it is spun, and Cuba thoroughly deserved the sanction.

15 April 2004

Jamie Gorelick, the 9/11 Commission member fingered by John Ashcroft on Tuesday as the architect of the information wall between the FBI's intelligence gathering and crime fighting operations, is taking some heavy licks this morning from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, among others. Both newspapers wonder how on earth she was made a member of the commission in the first place. Fair question.

A team of international forensic investigators is preparing to blow the lid off the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq when they present new evidence of corruption at an upcoming congressional hearing that directly will implicate world leaders and top UN officials, according to Washington-based Insight magazine.

"Investigators, led by Claude Hankes-Drielsma and the KPMG accounting firm, currently are in Baghdad sifting through mountains of Saddam Hussein-era records seized from his Oil Ministry and the State Oil Marketing Organization that detail payments by Saddam to his legions of foreign friends and political supporters."

The magazine suggests that one of these friends, also a friend of French President Jacques Chirac, may have been a beneficial owner of a Bermuda-registered company that was awarded vouchers for 47.2 million barrels of oil.

Daniel J Mitchell, the Heritage Foundation's McKenna Fellow in Political Economy, has been busy this week. In the Washington Times this morning, he says the US's complicated tax system needs a complete overhaul, and people need to stop trying to blame Bermuda and the Cayman Islands for having better tax laws.

And over at the Heritage Foundation, he gets a little more specific about what he thinks needs to be done in the way of improving the tax sysem. In the international arena, he says, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts improved U.S. competitiveness. "But it is important to realize that the United States lags in certain areas. The United States, for instance, imposes the second-highest corporate tax rate of any developed nation. America even has higher corporate tax rates than socialist welfare states like France and Sweden. The 35 percent corporate income tax rate (40 percent including the average of state corporate tax rates) puts U.S.-based companies in an unenviable position - especially since this high tax rate applies to income earned in other nations. This is why some companies have re-chartered in (or inverted to) jurisdictions like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda that have better tax law. While the Bush tax cuts have improved overall U.S. competitiveness - which is why our economy is doing better and creating more jobs than Europe - the corporate tax system is a glaring exception."

The Palestinians are furious that President Bush has backed Ariel Sharon's plan to leave some settlements in the West Bank, and to deny Palestinian refugees the right to return to land now part of Israel. It's a slap in the face, they say. I agree. After sitting on their hands for the last six months, threatening anything that moves with death and destruction, unable or unwilling to do anything to move the peace process forward, it's a well-deserved and overdue slap in the face.

Max Singer, who is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies of Bar-Ilan University in Israel, worries that President Bush might be expecting too much of the UN in Iraq. The Arab bloc, he said, will frustrate his every hope.

"The Arab countries," he says, "have clear interests that they will use the UN to promote: that Iraq not be led by Shia Arabs; that Iraqi Kurds not be given federal and human rights; that there would be no free press or justice system. All these innovations would be embarrassing to the other Arab countries. These countries also want to continue to use the Palestinian issue to distract attention from failing to serve their citizens and in resisting US efforts to eliminate support for international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction." They'll be supported by the UN administration and countries like France and Russia, who are interested in making sure there is no independent Iraqi government that might expose the foreigners who profited from Saddam's regime, or who helped corrupt the UN oil-for-food programme.

Here's an idea whose time has come...really. It's a pizza that rolls up into a cone and can be munched on the move. Buy stock in this company!

Blogs, says the Christian Science Monitor, are hip, influential and now number maybe 2 million. Except for a tiny number that have gained prominence, "all this techno-chattiness remains just that: an immature form of communication that has yet to gain traction with the general public, experts say. Most are moldering in cyberspace, updated only sporadically or abandoned completely. But out of this fervid experimentation are coming some new forms of communication that are already influencing public discourse." I don't think the writer, Gregory M Lamb, quite gets it, yet. Less molder and more influence would be more like it.

Arthur Miller, the New York Times says this morning, is writing up a storm - "stacking plays like firewood", as the paper puts it. "It sounds absolutely crazy," Mr. Miller said, "but in one way or another you can adopt a character, take him to heart — and like him, even perversely, against your better judgment. Didn't Plato deal with this problem, that basically art is amoral? The artist's ability to embrace whatever he is interested in often contradicts his own opinion."

Theater, Miller said, is an aural art, and "if you can hear a character speak after you've left him, that's the beginning of it all."

My friend Mr Oni is back at the Oni Blogger, after a six-month hiatus. He's focusing more, it seems, on the Japanese rock scene, and has opened a new internet radio station, called Live365 - Radio Fighto! that plays Asian music, punk and Indie rock. Cutting edge stuff, worth checking out. But a tip - the software won't download while you're using a pop-up blocker, and seems a little buggy with Netscape.

Peggy Noonan thinks President Bush got a lift in his press conference the night before last, from members of the press who were "so clearly carrying water for the left/liberal establishment...so clearly carrying water for the preening and partisan hacks who dominate the 9/11 commission...that the media nullified their hostility." Writing in the Wall Street Journal (registration required), Noonan says "They could have done some damage to the president with a grave and honest spirit of enquiry. Instead, they played left-wing Snidely Whiplash. They almost twirled their mustaches, and I don't mean only the women." Good. Not nice, but good.

14 April 2004

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said yesterday that the violence and anarchy sweeping Iraq will prevent the world body from re-establishing a major presence in the country anytime in the near future. What a wally! No one should be in any doubt that turning Iraq over to the pacifying abilities of the United Nations would be about as effective as asking hens to sort out a den full of foxes.

The UN's Commission on Human Rights, as this Washington Times piece by a Hoover Institution research fellow reminds us, is a perfect example of why the organisation will never be able to function, as presently constituted, as an effective world policeman. Five of the nations which make up this body, charged with protecting human rights around the world, are from nations described by Freedom House as among the world's 15 most repressive nations. Eight other member states are described by Freedom House as "not free".

The consensus on President Bush's press conference last night seems to be that his performance was "unapolagetic", which in the context of the fight against terrorism is a positive, but in the context of his leadership of the United States is a negative. He seems to find it difficult to be other than autocratic, distant and hostile to dissent in these exchanges, which is not a good thing in any leader, forget about the leader of the free world.

Pity he couldn't have his lines delivered for him by someone like John Gielgud, the centenary of whose birth is noted by Simon Callow of the Guardian today. Lee Strasberg said of him that "When Gielgud speaks, I hear Shakespeare think," which must be the ultimate compliment for an actor.

On the page, what President Bush had to say makes great sense. He did a particularly good job of characterising what is actually happening in that country - "The violence we have seen is a power-grab by these extreme and ruthless elements. It's not a civil war. It's not a popular uprising. Most of Iraq is relatively stable. Most Iraqis by far reject violence and oppose dictatorship. In forums where Iraqis have met to discuss their political future, and in all the proceedings of the Iraqi Governing Council, Iraqis have expressed clear commitments. They want strong protections for individual rights. They want their independence. And they want their freedom."

And he articulates the reason the coalition must be steadfast well - "Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. We must not waver.

"The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorists who take hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew."

But his delivery is such that he seems almost to ask for the hostility implicit in one reporter's question - "One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9/11, you never admit a mistake..."

I found this story in the Telegraph this morning disturbing. It suggests that Sir Jeremy Greenstock, until a month ago Britain's man in Iraq, and Paul Bremer, the US man in Iraq, don't like each other. It suggests that under Sir Jeremy's leadership, the British in Iraq were pursuing goals which the Americans felt were cutting across their lines. In its editorial, I thought the Telegraph pulled its punches this morning. This is not the time, and Iraq is not the place for this kind of one-upmanship. Who has the more sophisticated view is entirely beside the point. Allies in this kind of enterprise need to agree a common policy and stick to it. Smartasses need to be jumped on, hard, and I hope Tony Blair will do just that.

What a shame! The New York Times (registration required) reports this morning that New York's once-bustling flower district is disappearing. "Where once there were more than 60 flower wholesalers," the newspaper says, "there are 32, according to Gary Page, president of the Flower Market Association, a trade group.

"Battered by real estate pressures, a tough economy and other adversities, the wholesalers and a number of flower retailers huddle mostly along 28th Street between Seventh Avenue and Broadway amid import-export companies, wholesale accessories outlets and sidewalk pocketbook vendors." Unless the vendors can find a way to beat the trend, it's only a matter of time before the district disappears.

On this day in 1865, President Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. He died the following day. Tonight, Richard J Carwardine, a professor of American history at Oxford University, is to receive the 2004 Lincoln Prize in New York for his 2003 biography of the 16th President. In the Wall Street Journal this morning, he writes about his book and why it can be easier for a Brit to write about Lincoln than an American: "...in some respects British and American perspectives really are different. Providing more than physical distance, the ocean makes it easier to achieve a degree of emotional detachment. In the case of Lincoln, a British historian may find it less of a problem than an American to peer through the veil of myth and iconography that inevitably surrounds the Union's Savior, Great Emancipator and First Martyr. My biography aspires to such detachment, naturally, though some may think that my own cultural background of Welsh political Liberalism and Nonconformist religious conscience - in indirect descent from Lloyd George - has inflected my approach.

"Certainly I take very seriously Lincoln's moral relationship to power...What strikes the neutral reader is the tenacity of Lincoln's ethical convictions: his meritocratic faith; his belief that no one's opportunities for self-improvement should be limited by class, religious beliefs or ethnicity; his repugnance for slavery as a system that denied men their chance of moral and economic self-fashioning; his unwavering commitment to a Union freighted with moral value, as a democratic model; and his determination that the Union should not be lost on his watch. Lincoln's moral understanding of the demands of power was not founded on a conventional Christian faith. But the evolution of his religious thought, his quest to understand divine purposes during the war, his Calvinistic frame of reference, and the ease with which he rooted his arguments in scripture, make it essential to take his religion seriously."

13 April 2004

United Press International is suggesting that 2004, despite all the turmoil in the Middle East, may also go down in history as the dawn of the second Space Age.

Whoops! Art Buchwald has given away our most sensitive secret, down here in tax dodgin' country. Now the whole world knows that the grandest holiday of our year is April 15, the day Americans have to file their taxes. We decorate the capital, he says, with banners, such as: "Bermuda Welcomes Tax Dodgers," "Taxation Even WITH Representation Is Still Tyranny" and "No Matter How Much Money You Have, in Bermuda You Can Bank on It." Someone should ask him how many times he's been down here. I can say no more.

Reuters reporter Jason Szep looks at the mountain of work that faces Pakistan's Government as they try to rein in the tribes who live in the remote region near the Afghan border. Nearly the size of Belgium, the barren, 10,200-square-mile Federally Administered Tribal Area is a haven for al Qaeda and fundamentalist Taliban forces accused of attacks on U.S. troops across the Afghan border. Establishing control would be a major step forward in denying the terrorists safe haven, but it is a step that will be risky for Gen. Musharraf, who blames two attempts on his life in December on militants hiding in the area and faces vehement accusations by hard-line Islamists of pandering to the United States in the tribal territories.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has apologised for a federal marshal's erasure of tape recordings made by two journalists during a speech he gave last week. He says it had nothing to do with him. Call me cynical, but I think he's telling porkies. The US Marshal in southern Mississippi isn't backing away from his claim that "The justice informed us that he did not want any recordings of his speech and remarks." That left Scalia without so much as an inch of wiggle room. Rather than admit he made a mistake, he took the easy way out and blamed the agent.

The executive director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America is pointing a finger at the Washington Post this morning, in an article published in the Jerusalem Post. "It buries or omits events in which the 'cruelty' of the Palestinian war against Israel engulfs the lives of its own young, and it passes over lightly the truth that a supposed 'spiritual' leader wrought death and destruction," claims Andrea Levin.

The Turin shroud hoax seems to have gained new life this morning, after Italian scientists report finding another "ghostly image" on the back of it. The fact that radiocarbon dating puts the age of the cloth of the shroud at more than a millennium after the crucifixion doesn't bother anyone who wants to believe in its authenticity. One group suggests that a miracle reset the fabric's carbon clock. Another says that all three tests were wrong. A third says samples sent to the labs for testing were taken from the wrong cloth.

Edward Luttwak, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes about the difference between the world's impression of what is going on in Iraq and the reality with some skill. "In spite of all this, the Mahdi militia of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is likely to be defeated quite soon and at a low cost in casualties for the coalition, simply because most Iraqi Shiites recognize that Mr. al-Sadr is an irresponsible trouble-maker, while his Mahdi militia is full of petty criminals and has few competent fighters.

"But the defeat of Mr. al-Sadr will have a high political cost: the acceptance of the authority of Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani over the Shia population in general, resisted until now because Ayatollah al-Sistani wants an Islamic democracy, with much more Islam than democracy, and because he wants all power for the Shia majority, with no minority safeguards for the Sunnis or Kurds."

The other effect of this little revolt is undoubtedly going to be a reorganisation of the new Iraqi police and army, elements of which "declined" to get involved in the fighting. Senior American military officials declined to call these refusals mutinies, saying they were "leadership failures". I'd say they may re-think their policy of refusing to use ex-officers from Saddam Hussein's armed forces.

Meantime, just in case you really did think the whole of Iraq was engulfed in the fire and smoke of fighting, Aljazeera is happy to report that a new car showroom has opened - in Baghdad, I think, although the story isn't clear. Seems to be doing a brisk trade.

12 April 2004

The American Daily Standard is speaking, in advance of his visit to the US later this week, of the courage of British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Poor man's been absorbing such punishment in Britain, for his support for the war on terror, that he needed the mojo power of a holiday in Bermuda to help him catch hisself, as people here might put it. An admiring Irwin Seltzer, director of economic policy studies at the Hudson Institute, suggests Blair's skills and Britain's troops may be good enough to obviate the US need for other friends. Mr Seltzer suggests: "Blair has to tread warily this week, of course. He is leaning against making any set-piece speeches, lest he seem to be interfering in the American elections. But he will hold press conferences. And, not in fact being Bush's poodle, he will urge the president to adopt a more conciliatory tone towards allies, potential allies, and even the Europeans who are hostile to him. It is a good guess that a bit less Donald Rumsfeld and a bit more Colin Powell would suit him just fine. Best of all would be a European tour by Condoleezza Rice, whom the cynics in the Blair entourage see as useful because she is a black woman, and whom the Prime Minister admires for her clarity of vision and expression."

There have been many reports in the last few days suggesting that the insurgency in Iraq is being led, or backed, by one group or another with dark designs on thwarting American efforts. Without access to intelligence reports, it's a bit of a guessing game to decide which, if any, of these reports might be correct. Caroline Glick's article in the Jerusalem Post suggests Hizbullah and what she calls Iran's mullocracy are backing Moqtada al-Sadr. There are lots of little straws in the wind at the moment that suggest she might be right, this Washington Post story containing one of them. American negotiators are reportedly trying to persuade al-Sadr to go temporarily into asylum in Iran to avoid the humiliation of being arrested by US Forces in Iraq, which seems to fit in with the theory.

British anxiety about the meaning of the term multiculturalism, says Sir Bernard Crick, chairman of the Living in the United Kingdom group, probably started with the publication of a report in the year 2000 entitled The Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain. "It was a bit of a dog's dinner," he says, "huge and verbose. There were incautious assertions that Britain should become 'a community of communities', as if all groups and their customs should be equally respected, and as if groups should determine the rights of their members. 'Group rights' is a tricky concept, especially for women in traditional groups. 'Human rights' is preferable.

"Rhetorical rather than precise language made multiculturalism sound in some sections like 'separate but equal'. And in other sections 'Britishness as much as Englishness' had 'systematic, largely unspoken, racial connotations'. So our history needed 're-imagining to take account of the inescapable changes of the last 30 years'...If we recognised that we have been both a multinational and a multicultural state since 1707 - something that neither Parekh nor Phillips give weight to - we would have a firm base for an understanding of a multiculturalism that is unthreatening to the pre-Windrush English majority."

The Chicago Tribune has published a two-part special report on efforts by two private Chicago institutions, the Field Museum and the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation, to secure the preservation of Peru's Cordillera Azul. It's a pristine area of some 5,225 square miles, now being turned into a National Park. As the Tribune notes in the first part of the report, if the plan works, it will be "a rare victory over the relentless human assault against the equatorial rain forests of Africa, Asia and South America, where commercial interests big and small kill off an average of 125 square miles of forest every day. The second part of the report is here.

President Bush met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek at his Texas ranch on Sunday and talked, no doubt, about ways in which Egypt has assisted and will continue to assist in the war against terrorism. But as the Christian Science Monitor reports this morning, Egypt is a hole in Middle-Eastern waters into which the United States has poured more than $50 billion in aid since 1975. Egypt uses the money to keep its government afloat, but does little with it to encourage the political and economic reform the US feels is needed in that country, and others in the Middle East, to dampen the appeal of radical Islam. Think the two men might have talked along those lines, as well?

Ex-FBI Director Louis Freeh is due to go before the 9/11 Commission tomorrow, and is likely to be given something of a difficult going-over by its members as the man responsible for, among other things, the ultra-secretive culture that made the organisation neglect to share information about terrorism with its own staff, forget about other intelligence-gathering agencies. But Freeh is no fool. He does a little advance work on his testimony in a Wall Street Journal op ed (you'll need to register) this morning, in which he speaks of the budget shortages he faced...in 2000, for example, the FBI asked for 864 new staff at a cost of $380.8 million, and got five people at a cost of $7.4 million. He suggests the US should have formally declared war against terrorism earlier than it did.

What he says in the WSJ, he has said before. This New Yorker article, published in 2001 mentions, in addition to the difficulties Freeh highlights in his op ed, that the organisation also had problems working with law enforcement agencies overseas. "Freeh noted in his retirement statement that during his tenure the Bureau has more than doubled its overseas presence - with new offices in cities from Moscow to Cairo. But the F.B.I. has had problems abroad, because most foreign police have never worked with the Bureau. The problems were especially acute with the Saudis, who had previously been reluctant to share evidence. Nearly a month before the bombing, the Saudis had beheaded several suspects who were being held in connection with the 1995 bombing of an American-run military compound in Riyadh - executing them before the F.B.I., despite entreaties, had had a chance to interview them."

11 April 2004

Remember those stories about Mideast terrorist groups opening offices in Foz do Iguacu, a remote corner of Brazil? The Brazilians are laughing. They figure that's about all they can do.

As advance men for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon arrive in Washington to prepare for his meeting on Wednesday with President Bush, Israeli Defence Force Chief of Staff Lt Gen Moshe Ya'alon says he still believes weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq.

The Washington meeting is going to be important to Israel. Sharon will deliver a letter, in which he will reiterate Israel's commitment to the road map peace plan and to Bush's two-states vision, emphasizing that Israel's planned steps under the separation plan are consistent with the road map.

In his own letter, President Bush is expected to state that the US will not ask Israel to withdraw to the 1949 cease-fire lines. The determination of borders, he will say, should take account of "demographic realities" on the ground. Bush's letter to Sharon will also contain the following:

A reiteration of America's commitment to Israel's security and to the preservation of its strategic qualitative edge.

A statement of commitment to the road map, and to the prevention of other diplomatic initiatives.

Recognition of Israel's right to self defense and its right, as need arises, to carry out anti-terror operations in areas from which its forces are to be withdrawn.

A declaration that Palestinian refugees can be absorbed in the future in the Palestinian state, just as Jewish refugees from Arab states were absorbed in Israel.

A BBC television programme being aired in Britain tomorrow suggests that the Bacardi rum family, whose business is headquartered in Bermuda, has been linked to international terrorists, assassination attempts and a plot to overthrow Fidel Castro. In a rare interview, former Bacardi chairman Manuel Cutillas rejects suggestions any member of his family was involved in an airline bombing. "Of course, it's totally false," he said. "I am against any and every act of terrorism. There are no justifications for an act like that.'"

However, the Guardian claims he admitted that individual family members may have done things he did not know about. The newspaper quotes him as having said: "I really object to considering the Bacardi corporation and the Bacardi family as one. Members of the Bacardi family, acting independently and of their own free will, might have done whatever."

A debate about the extent to which immigrants from other cultures ought to be expected to substitute British culture for their own has been touched off by some remarks made last week by the chairman of the British Commission for Racial Equality. Immigrants needed to integrate more, and adopt "core British values", he said. In this Guardian article, immigrants from a variety of cultures give their views on whether Trevor Phillips is right or not. Many of them said, as you would expect, that they saw no contradiction between their adopted culture and the one they were born into. One of those commenting mentioned something interesting - Britain's Chinese communities, though as numerous as those from the Indian sub-continent, rarely feature in debates about race. And the Chinese person invited to comment, the chairman of Soho's Chinatown community centre, did buck the trend by saying this: "If you leave your own country you have to be prepared to integrate. Every Chinese person has the intention to go mainstream. For some of the older generation it can be difficult to do this because of language barriers. But it's the main objective to get their children to go mainstream."

One of Trevor Phillips' predecessors at the Commission adds to the debate by saying a greater effort needs to be made in Britain by tackling racism, especially in Britain's mad-dog press.

Meantime, on a peripheral issue in the US, social theorist Thomas Sowell has just published a new book called Affirmative Action Around the World. He suggests that experience has shown that wherever ethnic preferences have been used to engineer a more desirable social balance in a community, "they have led to intergroup hostility, dishonesty, and further proliferation in spite of manifest failure." This review is from the magazine Commentary.


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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