...Views from mid-Atlantic
12 June 2004

Cuba seems to have thought twice about its ugly characterisation of the late President Ronald Reagan. It has disowned an editorial broadcast by "a radio station" on June 7 in which it was suggested that Reagan should never have been born. A piece published in the Government newspaper, Granma, on Friday says "President Ronald Reagan was a tenacious opponent of the Cuban Revolution, but Cuban revolutionaries possess a sense of ethics and honor that is incompatible with the idea of issuing critical judgements or attacks at what is a moment of profound sorrow for his family. That has been and will always be the conduct of the Cuban people and leadership."

They neglected to mention that it was not just any old radio station that made the broadcast, it was the official Government radio station. Nevertheless, the correction could not have been made in the absence of the sense of ethics and honour they mention, and that should be acknowledged with pleasure.

Michael Soussan's colleagues at the United Nations blamed the Security Council, and especially the United States and Britain, for the suffering of Iraqis and ignored evidence that Saddam was stealing food from his own people's mouths. They could hardly ignore the wickedness of Saddam's regime, he says, because UN staff could sense the terror in Iraqis they met, and saw for themselves the gilded excesses of the Ba'athist elite. But somehow that wickedness was taken as a given, then promptly smothered in a warm soup of moral relativism.

In Japan, they've made a room in which a perfect night's sleep can be guaranteed. There's a hitch, though. If you want one, it will set you back by 18,000 pounds - the equivalent of $32,500 or so.

British poet laureate Andrew Motion went to Normandy with his father, a D-Day veteran who had never talked much about his experiences. He kept a journal during the journey, which was published today in the Guardian.

"Like everyone born shortly after 1945, I saw the war flickering at the edge of my childhood. My father stayed in the Territorials, my TV screen was filled with soldiers, and so was my weekly comic (the Victor). But for all that, the fighting felt remote - all the more so because my father very rarely talked about it. I used to think this was his modesty and reserve - and so it was. Now I realise it was also because he didn't want the shadow of what he'd been through to fall across my own life. I've always been grateful to him for this, but I've also wanted to know his story. It's been one of the shaping paradoxes of my life."

11 June 2004

Michael Carlin, a current Fulbright Research grantee living in Madrid, says Spain was attacked by terrorists, because the country has become weak. Writing in the New Criterion, he says that "Unlike the US, Spain failed to grasp the civilizational importance of its first national tragedy of the twenty-first century. Because of this failure, there will surely be more such tragedies visited upon Spain. At the moment when Spain most needed vigorous national discussion, her intellectual class failed her, and the students allowed themselves to be used as the proxies of demagogues. A frightened electorate had no power to resist the loudest solution on offer. All of this suggests that the terrorists did not err in selecting the weakest wildebeest of the herd. In decrying the attacks, not a few commentators have argued that the Spanish electorate allowed terrorists to become actors in Spain's political life. This is to miss the forest for the trees: the terrorists saw in Spanish society the volatility and fractiousness that is the precondition for terror's effectiveness, and they took advantage of it with the foreseeable political consequences."

Since the mechanisation of agriculture began a few hundred years ago, more than 171 trillion pounds of carbon once trapped in the soil have been lost to the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide.

Rattan Lal is the author of an article published this week in Science on the subject, and director of the carbon management and sequestration center at Ohio State University. According to his report, improving the carbon content of soil could offset global fossil-fuel emissions by 5 to 15 percent each year.

"The potential of carbon sequestration in world soils - about 1 billion tons per year - is equal to the renewable energy produced globally during 2001," Lal said. "Carbon sequestration is an important strategy to mitigate climate change, which can neither be ignored nor over-emphasized...Keeping carbon locked in soil reduces how much carbon dioxide enters the atmosphere, and it also improves and sustains soil productivity."

Twenty engines from banned Iraqi missiles have been found in a Jordanian scrap yard with other equipment that could be used for weapons of mass destruction, according to a U.N. official. Does this story have legs? One hopes so. The implications are large.

The voice of John C. Yoo, a law professor at UC Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is like water in a desert of hysteria. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, he says the controversial memos analysing how the Geneva Convention, the 1994 Torture Convention and a federal law banning torture apply to captured Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, is not the effort to redefine torture and narrow prohibitions against it some say it is.

"The Geneva Convention does not apply to the war on terrorism," he says. "It applies only to conflicts between its signatory nations. Al Qaeda is not a nation; it has not signed the convention; it shows no desire to obey the rules. Its very purpose - inflicting civilian casualties through surprise attack - violates the core principle of laws of war to spare innocent civilians and limit fighting to armed forces. Although the convention applies to the Afghanistan conflict, the Taliban militia lost its right to prisoner-of-war status because it did not wear uniforms, did not operate under responsible commanders and systematically violated the laws of war...

"In the war on terrorism, Congress has authorized the president to use 'all necessary and appropriate force'. By exploring the boundaries of what is lawful, the administration's analyses identified how a decision maker could act in an extraordinary situation...Ultimately, the administration's policy is consistent with the law."

It may be a simplistic view to take, but I thought these two pieces were linked. This Guardian editorial speaks of Jacques Chirac's derision of George Bush's plan to reform Arab states with free elections, independent media and improved legal systems. Democracy, he says, is not a commodity capable of being exported. This piece in the Telegraph speaks of his refusal to dress casually, despite the oppressive heat and humidity in Sea Island.

That Guardian claims "it is always sensible to ask oneself: what is Mr Chirac's greater purpose." I think it's better to ask what alternative Mr Chirac had in either case...and it seems plain that there wasn't one that allowed him to retain the level of dignity he needs at the moment.

A deranged scientist branded by police as Britain's most prolific stalker was facing life imprisonment yestereday after being found guilty of targeting 200 victims. Richard Jan carried out a seven-year campaign of violence and terror against health officials, solicitors and many others he had wrongly regarded as part of a grand coalition of enemies. I thought it was a pity the Guardian didn't mention such salient facts as who this man worked for and what he did...his attitude seems somehow familiar.

Jacques Chirac can sneer as much as he likes at American hopes to export democratic reform to the Middle East, the very act of suggesting such a thing publicly has an effect, like lighting a match in a dark room. Yes, there has been a lot more talk than action as a result. Yes, many Middle East leaders probably hope this is little more than a bubble on the surface of an otherwise entirely calm sea, but there are one or two little signs that that may not be the case.

This week, Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani, approved the Gulf country's first written constitution. In Saudi Arabia last week, the government removed many of its restrictions on female employment and business ownership. And in Egypt, a new newspaper, Al-Mesri Al-Yom or Egypt Today, started publishing after months of wrangling over its press license. The stated goals of its publisher, Hisham Kassem, are right in line with US plans for a region where the media are typically muzzled, and the political opponents of existing regimes are often jailed. In Egypt, it is against the law to publish information that does not come from an official source. It is not a law that is often enforced, but it is a power held in reserve by the Government, and could obviously be used to shut Egypt Today down overnight. We'll see...

10 June 2004

A New York Post investigation has uncovered what it describes as a "plague" of over-the-counter degrees in Corporate America. The Post investigation uncovered 15 different chairmen and CEOs, 29 corporate board members and 40 other top officials of public companies who have burnished their resumes with diplomas and degrees from diploma mills.

This is particularly interesting to Bermuda, because recently, a newspaper here rather acutely discovered that a lecturer at the Bermuda College had been given his job on the strength of a PhD bought from one of these paper universities.

The Post found 18 such organisations operating. It said they are banned from operating in Oregon and Michigan, which have some of the nation's strictest laws against the use of diploma-mill certificates and degrees. But regulation is almost non-existent in Louisiana, Alabama, Wyoming and several other states, which many diploma mills now call home. Thanks also to the growth of the Internet, other mills have simply moved abroad, to places like Liberia, St. Kitts and the Seychelles.

More trouble for Kofi Annan at the United Nations. The Financial Times (you'll need to register, and the story disappears in two or three days, so read it now) reports this morning that an internal UN report has found that the organisation's staff are dissatisfied with procedures to deal with corruption, and fear reprisals if they report offences. The Secretary-General has acknowledged that their concerns are valid.

An American president who is described as an amiable dunce, virtually brain-dead, an unlettered, self-assured bumpkin, a reckless cowboy and a simple-minded ideologue? I know just what you're thinking, and you're wrong. That was the way the late Ronald Reagan was described during his first term in office in the '80s.

It's standing room only in Paris this week, at the exhibition of four schemes to replace the monstrosity that was built at Les Halles 25 years ago. "Since its completion, the Telegraph's Paris correspondent says, "Les Halles has failed to gain the slightest emotional purchase on Parisian hearts. Where once there stood elegant steel and glass pavilions housing the city's biggest food markets, there is now a subterranean shopping mall, capped by a bubbling glass roof and gardens thronged by junkies, winos and beggars." Parisians are obviously, and understandably, anxious to see it off as quickly as they can.

How long did the Hutton enquiry take to deal with the circumstances of the death of British WMD expert Dr David Kelly? Six months? By contrast, the Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday has so far taken six years. It has already spend 130 million pounds, and will probably spend 25 million more than that before it is over. The Telegraph, snorting a bit, points out this morning that "For the price of a tribunal, Londonderry could have been transformed. Apart from duplicating the Widgery inquiry, what will Lord Saville have achieved for the victims' families when he reports next year? Old wounds have been reopened; old scores settled. The only beneficiaries are the lawyers - and, of course, terrorists."

Baghdad's fallen in love with talk radio, an exercise in freedom that would have been unthinkable in Saddam Hussein's day. "This is a new concept for Iraq, and the Arab world, and fills a yawning gap," says a pumped-up Ahmad al-Rikabi, Radio Dijla's founder, who had been the head of the US-funded Iraqi Media Network but resigned, citing frustration at interference and bureaucracy. "We've quickly become a part of people's lives. It shows the desperate need of ordinary Iraqis to share and communicate their pains and joys," he said.

Even the Guardian seems to think the Labour Party's on its way to a third-place drubbing in the European Parliament elections today.

As if getting Iraq to the point of electing its own parliament weren't difficult enough, a UN expert has apparently recommended that it should use a system of proportional representation for its first attempt at a free vote, as opposed to the simple first-past-the-post system most democracies use. The Wall Street Journal (you'll need to register) thinks that isn't such a good idea.

"In Iraq especially, with its many ethnic divisions, the risks of such a system are huge. As much as possible we should be encouraging Iraqis to think of themselves as Iraqis rather than as Kurds or Arabs, Shiites or Sunnis. First-past-the-post elections in Iraqi neighborhoods, many of which are multi-ethnic, would help accomplish this. Where local elections have been held thus far in Iraq, voters have chosen pragmatic and secular figures rather than religious or ethnic extremists.

"By contrast, Ms. Perelli's nationwide proportional system will encourage voters and parties to separate themselves along sectarian lines. What's more, where constituency systems tend toward centrist politics as candidates seek a majority, proportional systems empower extremists who could never win outright in any single area but who can garner a significant minority of the vote. Look for the mad Shiite Muqtada al-Sadr, for one, to get elected under these rules."

I give this story space on Pondblog not because I enjoyed it, but in order to draw attention to the little shit masquerading as a journalist who wrote it - a man called Greg Palast. He didn't like Ronald Reagan, apparently, and now that he's dead, has written the kind of smear that anyone with a little imagination and a few facts could write about any leader, but that only a very, very few are low enough to put on paper. That the BBC - or any respectable news organisation for that matter - actually publishes this man's stuff is a rebuke to truth and the principles of journalism.

Another "scientific" study - this one claiming to prove the power of prayer - has been debunked. And the big question in the wake of this embarrassing story of fraud, is how on earth New York's Columbia University and the Journal of Reproductive Medicine allowed themselves to be used in this extraordinary way by a couple of well-known conmen. Many Americans, this Observer story suggests, "took the Columbia University research - announced in October 2001 after the terror attacks on New York and Washington - as a sign from God. It seemed to prove that praying helped infertile women to conceive.

"But The Observer can reveal a story of fraud and cover-up behind the research. One of the study's authors is a conman obsessed with the paranormal who has admitted to a multi-million-dollar scam. Daniel Wirth, now under house arrest in California awaiting sentencing, has used a series of false identities for several decades, including that of a dead child. Wirth is at the centre of a network of bizarre scientific research, often working with co-researcher Joseph Horvath. Horvath has pleaded guilty to fraud, has used a series of false names and is accused of burning down his house for insurance money.

"Many scientists are now questioning how someone with Wirth's background was able to persuade Columbia University Medical Centre to unveil his research in such a high-profile way. They also want to know why it appeared in the respected Journal of Reproductive Medicine, whose vetting procedures are usually strict. 'We are concerned this study could be totally fraudulent. It is an amazing saga,' said Dr Bruce Flamm, a clinical professor at the University of California."

The other question that needs answering, I'd say, is why it was a British and not an American news organisation that questioned what, with hindsight, seems a blindingly obvious piece of nonsense.

09 June 2004

This is Debka...intelligence, not fact...but it's just too good a story to miss! Seems the Iranians have made a bunch of nuclear facilities disappear, and are accusing foreign intelligence services of having made their existence up in the first place...including the photographs. If you're going to tell a lie, I guess, it's good to make it a big one. Who said that? That nice Mr Stalin? Or was it that nice Mr Goebbels?

Right back at the beginning of the Chinese cultural revolution...back in the day...I remember being in awe of the skill of the sloganeers upon whom Chinese polics rely - Crush and Strangle the Gang of Four! I thought was one of their best. You don't hear that kind of Wham! Bam! Batman stuff coming out of Chinese politics much any more...maybe they're all too busy making a buck. But I'd swear that the old Chinese slogan masters have been given new work, and a new lease on life, down in Cuba. This is very promising stuff! The editors at Granma need to give them their head a little on length, but you can see where they're going...

I don't know whether I'm sticking my toes into a big political fight or not, but I do want to pass on the claim made in the Los Angeles Times today that the ubiquitous hamburger is an LA thing...that is to say, LA owns it, LA is Burgertown, USA, and the rest are mere pretenders. "Those other towns that have been claiming to be the home of the hamburger had better rethink their boasts. I'm talking about you, Seymour, Wisconsin, Athens, Texas, and Summit County, Ohio," says writer Charles Perry. "And especially about you, St. Louis, Missouri. For decades the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair has been called the origin point of the hamburger, but as of right now that claim is out of the question." I expect that's not the last we're going to hear about that story...

With European Parliament elections being held tomorrow, the Telegraph is musing about how satisfying it would be to give Tony Blair a bloody nose. "Though Iraq is certainly a bad reason to sack Mr Blair, there is no shortage of good ones. He has presided over the greatest centralisation of the state, the greatest expansion of the bureaucracy and the greatest redistribution of wealth since Attlee. To feed this insatiable leviathan, taxes are raised, debts are incurred, economy and society are over-regulated, the constitution is overridden, crime and immigration are out of control. Above all, Mr Blair would abandon our currency and our constitution in favour of the European Union's substitutes."

Michael Howard, right on time, chimed in yesterday with a speech that sounded tough, but was really a little too slippery to qualify. "I want to see powers returned from Brussels to Britain. The existing powers that the EU has - or the acquis communautaire, as it is known in the trade - are not set in tablets of stone. Experience tells us that there are powers that Europe has that would be better exercised by national governments."

He says he wants reform from within, which is the usual refuge of those who want to take no action at all, and he refers passionately to the need for Britain to remain a nation state. He and his fellow Tories have been leaving signs all over the place that they are planning the sort of shift away from welfare stateism that indicates they know the nation state is in its death throes. They get nothing but applause from me on that score, but I do wish they would tackle Europe, and other issues, with a little more honesty than they seem to believe is politic.

Andrea Levy, a child of Jamaican immigrants to Great Britain, has won the £30,000 Orange Prize, Britain's biggest award for women's fiction, with her fourth novel, Small Island, last night. The book is described as "a grim exploration of England's past as the first wave of immigrants from Jamaica are shocked to discover that the 'mother country' is racist and austere." Earlier, the Telegraph had arranged for Levy to respond to readers questions, and published this piece.

Haaretz stresses today that if the Israeli Gaza pullout is to work, International involvement, especially that of G-8 states, "must not be satisfied with eloquent declarations. What is needed now is active involvement to help Egypt, the Palestinians and Israel promote the withdrawal plan. Adoption of the 'Gaza First' model is more than the start of a resolution of the local dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. It is an integral part of the effort to calm down the Middle East as a whole."

Officially, the response from the EU and Britain, anyway, has been cautious. But that's probably because the G-8 summit is expected to announce new Middle East initiatives during their session this week.

This is a guess, not backed up by any evidence whatever, but I'd say the BBC must be one of the most complained-about news organisations in the world and has been for years. Maybe, one of its directors figures, it needs the services of an independent ombudsman. Isn't that a wonderful idea! Who ever said the BBC's board members were a bunch of dummies?

So the lunatic who persuaded Prince Charles that nanotechnology was "grey goo" made up of little robots who were going to take over the world turns out to have been an American. Eric Drexler, who runs the California-based nanotechnology organisation the Foresight Institute, was the lunatic in question, and made his scenario known in a 1986 book, The Engines of Creation. He's changed his mind now, though. In a paper today in the Institute of Physics' journal, Nanotechnology, Dr Drexler and Chris Phoenix at the Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology in the US, report that a grey goo scenario is "unlikely". So will this dickhead be banned from ever publishing another book? Will Prince Charles be banned from ever reading another book? Unlikely.

Well...who could resist reading this story? About 1,000 adults in the United States, Canada, and Mexico who have become certified laughter leaders since July, 2000, through the World Laughter Tour Inc. Their motto is "Together we can lead the world to health, happiness, and peace through laughter." That's a roger, Major Tom.

Despite the terror attack in Madrid in March, and despite mounting evidence that terrorists consider them a soft target, European States are still preparing their defences at the slowest of rates. A declaration adopted by EU states last March set June as a deadline for the implementation of a raft of anti-terror measures but several EU governments have been very slow to make good on their promises. Germany, Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Malta and Slovakia have not yet adopted the Warrant, with Estonia saying it will implement it by 1 July and Slovakia by 1 August. France has implemented some, but not all of the measures.

With rebuke-like timing, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera said yesterday that the group of suspected Islamic militants arrested in Italy and Belgium may have been planning an attack on NATO headquarters or the European Parliament.

08 June 2004

A lack of prosecution witnesses and evidence is hampering efforts to prosecute Saddam Hussein, according to an article in the London Times, quoted by Al Jazeera this morning. "There is no proof to date that the ousted Iraqi leader is guilty of many of the atrocities which many are convinced he committed, it says. The newspaper suggested that none of Saddam's former colleagues would testify against him, and also alleged that the former president had hidden any written proof of his direct responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"Saddam was very clever at power-laundering, which meant that decisions were filtered down to junior levels, making it difficult to prove a direct line of responsibility", the newspaper's source claimed.

Brendan Conway, managing editor of The Public Interest, reviews Michael Ignatieff's new book, The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror in the Washington Times this morning. Ignatieff shocked liberals last year when, as a professor of human rights policy at Harvard, he supported the war in Iraq.

Conway judges that a "reasonable mind is hard at work here on a thoughtful ethics of antiterrorism that transcends pettiness and partisanship...The book is an extended rumination on how constitutional democracies should think about terrorism. But it is also an argument for controversial things like targeted assassinations of key terrorist leaders, effective interrogation measures - measures short of physical coercion or pharmacological inducement, but only barely - and even pre-emptive war against rogue regimes aspiring to obtain nuclear weapons. Liberal admirers will find much to object to in Mr. Ignatieff's antiterrorism counsel."

Mark Steyn has written a little remembrance of Ronald Reagan that mentions a line in his 1981 inaugural speech: "We are a nation that has a government - not the other way around." Steyn says this is a good way to weigh up the world. Across central and eastern Europe, from Slovenia to Lithuania to Bulgaria, governments that had nations have been replaced by nations that have governments - serving at the people's pleasure. He gives credit to Reagan and Margaret Thatcher for bringing the communist empire low, and pours scorn on those who try to deny their role.

The graceless squealing from Cuba (foremost among governments with nations) yesterday seems to confirm his view - an editorial broadcast over government radio said Reagan "forgot to take his worst works to the grave." And it also said of the 40th president: "He, who never should have been born, has died."

The New Yorker has upset Israel. A piece the magazine published a few days ago by Jeffrey Goldberg, entitled Among the Settlers: Will They Destroy Israel? is a less-than-flattering portrait of the settlement community. In a Jerusalem Post piece, though, Andrea Levin calls it sloppy, distorted and intellectually dishonest. "Among the Settlers, she says, "is one of those accounts that says more about its author than about its subject. It is a gaudy display of twisted Jewish assault on caricatured 'other' Jews, and intellectually dishonest generalizations about the representative significance of those 'others'. In occasional moments of professional integrity, Goldberg introduces facts - such as the very small percentage of settlers represented by his featured 'representatives' - and those facts demonstrate less the strength of a zealot threat to Israel than the weakness of Goldberg's zealot journalism."

Bloodaxe Books, the bastion of cutting-edge poetry publishing, has paired up with an arts centre, a literature promotion agency and something called a poetry performance company to organise a poetry tour with actors and music. Based on the poetry anthology Staying Alive, the tour will, it's envisaged, bring poetry to the people in 17 towns around Britain. Only trouble is, according to Christina Patterson of the Independent, it's bloody awful.

"One by one, they massacre them, these poems I love. Poem from a Three Year Old, a beautiful child's-eye view of the world that I'm used to hearing in Brendan Kennelly's own mellow, Irish tones, sounds like a spoilt rant from a particularly precious Home Counties child. What Every Woman Should Carry, a wry and touching poem by my friend Maura Dooley, is played for laughs with the full panoply of smiles, frowns and dramatic pauses. I pray that she won't hear it.

"Perhaps the nadir is an extraordinary rendering of (James) Fenton's charming gay love poem, In Paris with You. Tonight it's given a spectacularly literal-minded and heterosexual interpretation and, for some reason, a cockney accent. Sharp and Arbury writhe together on the floor, pausing for kisses, caresses and more. I'm in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,/ intones Sharp, his face hovering dangerously over Arbury's crotch. I'm in Paris with... all points south. / Am I embarrassing you? Yes, Mark, Sara-Jane and Pauline, I'm afraid you are."

All of a sudden, the Palestinian Authority has begun to engage with Ariel Sharon's plan of disengagement from Gaza. A three-member PA committee consisting of Chairman Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and perhaps Mohammed Dahlan, the PA's former minister of security, is being formed to oversee PA activities regarding Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. The new committee signifies much greater involvement by the PA - and Arafat, personally - in implementation of the Israeli withdrawal plan. Egyptian diplomats have been playing a big part in moving this process forward, and are still pressing Arafat to grant Dahlan a significant role in the panel. So far, the chairman has not conceded and the panel's composition, as well as the identity of the next interior minister who will be in charge of the security forces, has not been finally determined.

Egypt has been able to come up with a creative solution to the problem of agreements giving effect to the disengagement, according to this analysis in Haaretz. This involves a tripartite agreement: between Egypt and Israel, and between Egypt and the Palestinians. It allows Israel to avoid negotiating with Arafat, while, on the other hand, Israel will be committed to agreements reached with the Egyptians. "There will be joint teams to deal with the withdrawal but this will have no bearing on the regular ties between the countries," one senior Egyptian official thought. He foresees that, if the disengagement plan gains momentum, or if the sides at least arrive at some formulated agreements, "it may become possible to think about returning the Egyptian ambassador to Israel."

Today's Afghan government may be no better at protecting Afghanistan's historic treasures than was the radical Islamist Taliban regime, according to this report in the Christian Science Monitor. One Western diplomat in Kabul agrees that "There is corruption in this government, no question about it. But Mr. Karzai himself is determined to stop it, and he promises that he will be acting soon to remove corruption." But given Afghanistan's numerous challenges it is hardly surprising that protecting Buddhas is hot a first priority.

The G-8 summit at Sea Island, Georgia, begins today, and the American administration hopes that an appearance tomorrow at the summit by the new Iraqi president, Ghazi al-Yawer, will help dispel any doubts that European leaders might have about a proposed UN Security Council resolution concerning the continued presence of US forces in Iraq. A new G-8 plan to bring about reform in the Middle East is expected to be announced, and in Europe, it is being said that diplomats there have been able to prevail upon the US to give the document a more European flavour. The policy will deal with governance, democracy, rule of law, human rights, respect of minorities, rights of women, education and realising the region's economic potential.

During the months of negotiations leading up to the summit, the EU had voiced concerns that the original text imposed reform from the outside and that a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict did not play a big enough role.

07 June 2004

Classical music, says the Weekly Standard, is disappearing from public radio in the US. According to data from the trade group M Street Group, the number of noncommercial stations identified as "classical" has been cut in half since 1993, while the number of noncommercial news-talk stations has tripled. Data from the Public Radio Tracking Study, commissioned by public radio stations, tell the same story. From 1995 to 2002, the number of locally generated classical music hours on public radio declined roughly 10 percent, even as the number of public radio stations greatly increased; meanwhile, over the same period, the number of news-talk hours rose by more than 150 percent. As the tracking study researchers wrote in their report, with unseemly enthusiasm: "Local classical music just sits there, while NPR news-talk races ahead."

Writer Joel Mowbray thinks the New York Times, the State Department and the CIA might have been in cahoots over front-page stories dealing with Ahmed Chalabi's fall from grace. "To appreciate how surreal the stories in the New York Times were last week, consider the underlying facts. Mr. Chalabi is accused of telling Iran that the United States had broken its secret code. The kicker, though, is how U.S. officials learned that. According to the reporting of the New York Times, upon being told that his country's code had been compromised, an Iranian intelligence agent turned around and sent a message back to the mullahs that the United States had cracked the code - by using the cracked code."

"There's no doubt in my mind that Mugabe is preparing his party, leading his party into a quite serious offensive against the opposition and civil society which is designed to bring about total victory in 2005," says the editor of the weekly Zimbabwe Independent in the New York Times this morning. "If you look at the pattern of things since the 2000 referendum, you will see that this country is constantly being taken to the brink of anarchy as a political strategy to motivate the ruling party's supporters, to suggest a serious threat to the country; that the opposition is in league with external forces to bring down the regime."

Johann Hari is a columnist for the Independent - one of Britain's best young writers about things political. He interviewed the Dalai Lama last week, and said it was like watching "Buddha doing a live two-way on CNN". Hari's the only writer I've come across who hasn't felt he had to treat the Dalai Lama with as much unquestioning respect as he might God incarnate. As a result, he manages to convey a little of the calculation involved in maintaining that God-like image year-in, year-out.

If you're interested in reading more of his writing, Hari's got a website of his own that's worth a visit.

The World, says the Guardian, is a subtly different place the day after D-Day observances in France. "It was a reminder that for all the recent differences of the great powers, they are still bound together by a commonwealth of ideals indelibly linked to that epic moment in world history, June 6, 1944, a day that can literally be said to have changed the world. The television scenes yesterday of sunlight on the green lawns of Normandy and vistas of peaceful golden beaches spliced with archive footage of the traumatic landings 60 years ago provided their own vivid justification of what the war was being fought about." The Guardian doesn't say so, because to do so would be to go against its own anti-war bias, but I suspect it was tempted to add "and what the war against terrorism is being fought for today."

Just in case anyone is tempted to forget what a thoroughly unpleasant man Charles de Gaulle was, here's a little reminder. He was so upset that France had not been liberated by the French that as late as 1964 he refused to attend the ceremonies for the 20th anniversary. He refused to honour those Free French who landed at Normandy on D-Day and erased the unit's name from a list due to receive Liberation Day honours, on the grounds that it was under British command.

Nick Cohen of the Guardian has been banging on about the hijacking of the British anti-war movement by the Socialist Worker's Party for some time now. But in the New Statesman last week, he added a new layer to the story by suggesting that BBC journalists had been prevented by their editors from mentioning it. "Just before the war against Iraq," he wrote, "I began to receive strange calls from BBC journalists. Would I like information on how the leadership of the anti-war movement had been taken over by the Socialist Workers Party? ...The far left was becoming the far right. It had gone as close to supporting Ba'athist fascism as it dared and had formed a working alliance with the Muslim Association of Britain, which, along with the usual misogyny and homophobia of such organisations, also believed that Muslims who decided that there was no God deserved to die for the crime of free thought.

06 June 2004

I posted a little piece about Philip Glass last week, and was fortunate enough as a result to find two excellent new bloggers with an interest in music. Lynn S of Reflections in d minor says, of the URL she chose for her site, "Aeternam is Latin for eternal. 626 is the Koechel number of Mozart's Requiem (in d minor, of course). Latin is cool, Mozart is awesome, and it's nice to believe that some things are eternal - for example, good music."

Aworks specialises in new American music. Blogger Robert Gable describes himself as "a modest musical enthusiast whose current interests include American classical music, world soccer, and staying employed in the American economy." It's a good site, dealing with everyone from Cole Porter to John Cage. Among other things, he has a long, interesting and, since I was writing a piece about him last week, useful page on his site dealing with Charles Ives, who died 50 years ago last month.

Half of the VIPs invited by NBC to watch the Olympics live in Athens in August have opted not to go, according to PR Newswire. "Many of the bigwig advertisers and affiliate execs on the network's A-List fear the threat of terrorism. Others are unwilling to brave the notorious heat and traffic of the Greek capital, so they'll watch the games, instead, from the comfort and safety of Bermuda. The network will host them at an alternative viewing site - the luxurious Elbow Beach Hotel." American readers should relax - this should have no effect at all on their income tax bills.

The Economist takes a very long, very sceptical look at the Copenhagen Consensus, Bjorn Lomborg's project to set priorities for tackling the world's problems, and agrees, in the end, that it really did work. "Mr Lomborg is again to be congratulated for his intellectual entrepreneurship. If rich-country governments want excellent value in return for an increase in their taxpayers' dollars spent confronting global challenges, they could do a lot worse than look closely at the highest-ranked ideas from this exercise."

Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti was sentenced in Israel this morning to five consecutive life sentences and an additional 40 years in prison for his part in the murder of five civilians and for involvement in four terror attacks. Barghouti had a role in three shooting attacks that killed a Greek Orthodox monk near Ma'aleh Adumim in 2001, an Israeli near Givat Ze'ev in 2002 and three people at a Tel Aviv restaurant in 2002.

The Jewish news agency, JTA, seems to think that in being able to convict Barghouti, prosecutors may have set the stage for an even bigger prize: Yasser Arafat. It argues that Barghouti’s conviction shows that there is sufficient evidence to put terrorists behind bars using standard criminal procedures, and his acquittal on the other counts (a further 21 counts of murder were dismissed for lack of evidence) lends legitimacy to the argument that even Palestinian terrorists will get fair trials in Israel.

It may be suicide, but the Mars rover Opportunity is going in! NASA has decided the potential science value gained by sending Opportunity into a Martian impact crater likely outweighs the risk of the intrepid explorer not being able to get back out. So perhaps as soon as this week...


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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Aworks :: "new" american classical music
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