...Views from mid-Atlantic
03 July 2004

David Bromberg, who disappeared from the music scene back in 1980 to lean how to make violins, is back. He's hard to pigeonhole, singing bluegrass, blues, rock and folk music. But there is no question that he is a wonderfully talented and versatile guitar player who played with a long and diverse list of recording artists, including Bob Dylan, Chubby Checker, Tom Paxton and Jerry Jeff Walker, with whom he toured for a few years.

"With almost no radio airplay, no advertising and no new studio album in 15 years, Bromberg's support has been grassroots," says the San Francisco Chronicle. "And by all accounts, it's substantial. A fan-created site at davidbromberg.net keeps track of tour dates and other goings-on, while the American music movement spurred by the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Down from the Mountain tour has motivated new listeners to discover his work.

Engineers and robotics experts have finally figured out how Leonardo da Vinci's car was supposed to work, and they've had it running. Seems he forgot to include a driver's seat, though, and it only goes for 36 yards before it needs re-winding. Still...

Jeremy Seabrook, an Englishman who makes his living writing books and articles that blame the establishment for the lot of the poor and the downtrodden, blames colonialism for homophobia in former countries of the British Empire. Writing in the Guardian, he says "Work against oppression and violence has to rely to some degree on notions of 'universal human rights', although these are as much a matter of faith to this age as the divine prohibitions on illicit carnal knowledge were to the age of empire. But even more important than this, there has to be a collaborative and equal labour between activists of both north and south. Since both our past colonialism and our present globalisation are inextricably bound up together, so the work of emancipation can only be achieved jointly." That's as shallow and contrived a piece of silly nonsense as I've seen this year.

The critic Robert Hughes recently denounced him, by inference, in a lecture to the Royal Academy as a man responsible for a debased art world "swollen with currency". When a London warehouse burned, destroying more than 100 of his art works, no one in Britain had much sympathy. Instead, the fire was celebrated as an hilarious and deserved comeuppance for Saatchi and his "bloated, overpraised, overpaid proteges".

The man from the Guardian who interviewed him last week said he was a man "with more money than critical reservations," but still, wrote that: "I find it hard to get angry about Saatchi or the Saatchi effect. It's not as if anyone else is prepared to bankroll the British art boom that began in the late 1980s and is still going - despite all the evidence that no one is coming along worthy of comparison with Damien Hirst. Saatchi strikes me not as some manipulative monster, but a British eccentric."

A medical reporter who works for Canada's National Post has left the newspaper after it learned that stories he had written allegedly contained fabricated names and quotes. A note to readers on Page 2 of yesterday's Post said nine articles by Brad Evenson, a senior journalist at the paper who has won awards for his stories about medical research, contained false information. Neither the editor nor other Post executive would talk about the incident.

02 July 2004

Stop the presses! The Washington Post has published a little hymn of praise to the Bermudian national drink, the Dark and Stormy. Thanks to Stephen for pointing it out. Two little tips to those who are trying this for the first time. First, the type of rum is important. Myer's is a nice rum, but it's too light to be carrying a Dark and Stormy off. Gosling's Black Seal, which makes no bones about its molasses ancestry, is the real deal. Second, don't drink too many of these things. Not only do they pack a king-sized whallop, but if you have too much you'll also learn why mosquitoes won't bite rummies.

Columnist Thomas Sowell quotes that wonderful, beat old longshoreman/philosopher, Eric Hoffer, as having said, more than 20 years ago: "Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America." Sowell wonders why, noting that "it is not the downtrodden masses but the pampered PhDs who most vent their spleen at the country that protects and indulges them." These two pieces, entitled Ever Wonder Why? Part One and Part Two were written for July 4, but go ahead, peek.

China was a big winner in the UNESCO stakes this week, having one new site and two site extensions placed on the World Heritage List. The capital cities and tombs of the ancient Koguryo Kingdom of China were the new addition. The Imperial Palace of the Qing Dynasty in Shenyang of China's northeast Liaoning Province was included in the list as an extension to the Imperial Palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and three tombs in China's northeast Liaoning Province add an additional 338.34 hectares of protected area to the Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. People's Daily Online covers UNESCO's decisions comprehensively.

He wasn't the best-known poet in America, but he was acknowledged by some of best as an inspiration to them. Carl Rakosi died on June 24. "'Some people fade out of life, but Carl had a huge fight with death,' said his partner, Marilyn Kane, a former nun who fell for an 'intelligent man, a giant in life.' She said Rakosi was healthy until his final days...He raged against the dying of the light, resisting for as long as he could, until the evening of June 24, halfway to his 101st birthday. He wanted more of the present, another afternoon to listen to Beethoven or Bernstein, thumb through Chekhov or Joyce or sit in the park and marvel at nature."

There's a lot more about him and his writing at Modern American Poetry.

Bill Cosby, who raised a lot of eyebrows recently with his blunt advice to black families, is at it again. The San Francisco Chronicle says he told a roomful of activists on Thursday that black children were "running around not knowing how to read or write and 'going nowhere'. He also had harsh words for struggling black men, telling them: 'Stop beating up your women because you can't find a job.'"

The Los Angeles Times is carrying an op-ed piece written by an anonymous senior counterintelligence official at the CIA who served from 1996 to 1999 as head of a special unit tracking Osama bin Laden. The CIA allowed publication of this guy's forthcoming book, Imperial Hubris (Brassey's, 2004), in which he is also identified as "Anonymous". Interesting take. He says the way Americans see and interpret people and events outside North America "is heavily clouded by arrogance and self-centeredness amounting to what I called 'imperial hubris'. This is not a genetic flaw in Americans that has been present since the Pilgrims splashed ashore at Plymouth Rock, but rather a way of thinking that America's elites acquired after the end of World War II. It is a process of interpreting the world so it makes sense to us, a process yielding a world in which few events seem alien because we Americanize their components."

If the new Iraqi police and armed forces want some advice on how to deal with insurgents in that country, they could do a lot worse than listening to the Israeli Defence Force. I know, I know...

Jordan's offered help...their King's no slouch, either, I hear. Perhaps he might do a little relaying.

Both the Guardian and the Telegraph are covering a Parliamentary report released yesterday in Britain that excoriates Geoff Hoon and the Ministry of Defence for their lousy oversight of Britain's armed forces. The Guardian leads this way: "Britain's armed forces are undermanned, overstretched and risk being sent unprepared into new and dangerous operations, according to a cross-party committee of MPs. They accuse top policymakers including Geoff Hoon, the defence secretary, of setting too much store by hi-tech weapons systems and criticise them for refusing to answer 'reasonable and appropriate questions'. The Telegraph says "Ministers and civil servants were bluntly accused by the defence select committee of trying to make the threat match the money left after Treasury-imposed cuts."

Louis Menand of the New Yorker, a fine writer who I admire greatly, published what I thought was a rather thin and mean-spirited piece about Lynne Truss's book on punctuation, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. It all seemed to revolve around what he claimed were missing commas, but his was a pedantic argument not terribly interesting to anyone not on the New Yorker's desk. The Guardian agrees, in a bemused sort of way.

After a pair of attacks this week, security experts are recommending that internet users consider using a browser other than Microsoft's Internet Explorer, such as Netscape or Opera. Continuing to use Internet Explorer is 'like playing the lottery', said Johannes Ullrich, chief technology officer of the non-profit SANS Internet Security Centre. Although I'm a committed Netscape user, I'm not sure this guy's advice isn't a little over the top. IE's fine if you keep your anti-virus software up to date, and make sure you apply Microsoft's patches as they are issued. If you feel vulnerable, use a program other than Outlook to handle your mail. Most viruses use Outlook to disseminate themselves, so by using something else, you're breaking that connection without having to put yourself through hoops to do it.

01 July 2004

Mickey Mouse vs Michael Moore? It's a fair fight, I'd say.

China's People's Daily is turning one up for the books this morning, with a charge that the US is unfairly blocking Israeli companies from bidding on security contracts for the Beijing Olympic Games: "Military Attache with Israeli Embassy in China said that the United States has cancelled Israeli companies' bidding right for Beijing Olympic Games which otherwise is an opportunity. The road to Israeli companies' independent bidding has almost also been blocked in other areas. In his opinion, now the only opportunity for an Israeli company to participate in large project bidding is to act as a secondary contractor of giant international companies such as Siemens (China), US General Motor (China) etc.

"It is not surprising that the United States takes such an attitude. The United States has always been worried that Israeli products or services containing advanced US security technologies would be transferred to China."

The pending expiration of the ban on assault weapons in the United States has driven San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford into a spittle-clouded frenzy of fury and sarcasm. Here's a little taste: "To hell with logic and to hell with your kids' safety and to hell with even trying to prevent moron gangbangers and terrorist wanna-bes and imbecilic white supremacists from easily getting their hands on a nice AK-47 that can mow down a schoolyard full of tots in 10 seconds flat. Instead: Down with liberal scum who would take away our God-given right to bear nasty ultraviolent weaponry that no one anywhere can justify the existence of. Go, NRA!" Hey, the man's right...why shouldn't he perform?

The estimable Wall Street Journal columnist Claudia Rosett owns the UN Oil-for-Food story like Churchill owns 7 1/2-inch cigars. In this story for Fox News, she tells the story of how a $60,000 bribe paid to Saddam Hussein's regime by a Russian buying oil for a Swiss trading company didn't get what it was supposed to pay for. The complaint that resulted was the straw that's going to break some UN backs.

Half the world must be aware of Carla del Ponte's prediction on Tuesday that Radovan Karadjic would be turned over to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, of which she is chief prosecutor, by the last day of June. He wasn't, and I guess this must be the result. Nice to see a politician not too scared of his own shadow to take strong steps to solve a problem.

Another terrible story about the damage inflicted by fishermen on the population of the sea - I can't see much difference between this kind of murder and those being committed in Darfur, in the Sudan. The reaction of countries and organisations which could and should do something about it is certainly as pathetic. The Telegraph's metaphor is striking, and apt.

Britain has concluded that its three-nation alliance with France and Germany is, in effect, over after a series of rows between Tony Blair and the French President, Jacques Chirac. Ministers believe President Chirac has become impossible to work with, and one government source described him as a "rogue elephant". The strategy of "trilateralism" has now given way to limited ad hoc co-operation on specific issues.

Ken Russell says he discovered Tchaikovsky as a result of serving under a merchant navy captain "who made Captain Bligh of the Bounty seem like a water baby." But still, isn't The Music Lovers a little over the top?

"The result of all these diverse elements was a monumental tour de force ranging from the poignancy of the Pathetique Symphony, with its images of his mother's painful death through cholera and his own suicide, to the mad theatricality of the 1812 Overture, with the composer conducting his mindblowing work from a chiming onion dome atop St Basil's Cathedral, while in the Moscow streets below his brother Modest (Kenneth Colley) blows the heads off his rivals with cannon fire. Over the top, did someone say? Vulgar bombast devoid of fact?

"My reply is that great heroes are the stuff of myth and legend, not facts. Music and facts don't mix. Tchaikovsky said: 'My life is in my music.' And who can deny that the man's music is not utterly fantastic? So likewise the movie! I sought to honour his genius by offering up my own small portion of his courage to create."

Sometimes, life seems a constant assault by over-rich record companies, endlessly looking for new ways to glom a dollar. In Canada, they've been handed a little defeat. But don't think that's going to stop them for a minute. Their spokesman, one Mr Chisick, made a little speech. The Globe and Mail says "Mr. Chisick said that while on-line users have won the initial skirmishes with record companies, they have not won the war. The Internet is rapidly overtaking the CD as the dominant form of music delivery, he said, and record sales have plummeted. 'The music industry can't be expected to stand idly by and watch as entire generations of consumers treat music as a free commodity. The bottom line here is that somebody has to pay for the on-line use of music. Something has got to give, and it will.'" Asshole! I think I'd like to man a barricade, somewhere.

"There is something unmistakably Gallic about the Prouve sense of proportion, as if the pristine forms of Mies van der Rohe had been reinterpreted by Jacques Tati, the great French comedian of errors," says the New York Times. The little tropical house the Times features, capable of being folded up and carried off in an oversized valise, proves the point.

30 June 2004

Forget poetry. Forget music. Americans are known in the stars for their barbecueing skills, and as that time of year has arrived, food people all over the country are oiling up rusty skills in preparation for a season of creatively poking at coals. In California, multiculturalism has never shone so brightly, as this, this and this ought to demonstrate.

This op-ed about the state of Europe is written a little self-consciously by the assistant director of the Project on Global Economic Liberty at the Cato Institute. There's nothing self-conscious about her ideas, though, which are large.

Marian L Tupy quotes Milton Friedman as having said "there is a strong possibility that the Euro zone could collapse in the next few years because differences are accumulating between countries." She comments "It is feasible that, as a result of troubles with the common currency and rising costs of belonging to the EU, some members may decide that staying in the 'club' is not worth the candle. The potential EU breakup could destabilize the world economy. But it also could provide an opportunity to bridge the trans-Atlantic divide."

Then she suggests: "It is unfortunate that at the start of the 21st century, Europe and North America form two separate trading blocs. The Bush administration could rectify that situation by declaring that, in principle, the North American Free Trade Agreement could expand to include interested Europeans, thus transforming NAFTA into a North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement."

This is some not-terribly interesting stuff from the Washington Times this morning about an inheritance tax. The only reason I'm linking to it is that it was written by Pat Boone, of all people. Who knew?

In the 1980s, the American performance artist Laurie Anderson turned herself into...well, let's say a living bridge between the serious and the naive in art, because even though that doesn't nail it down, it's going to be convenient for me. Her single, O Superman, was a bit hit in Europe in that year, especially in Britain, and her arresting little commentaries on life, the universe and things, have been a part of a well-rounded cultural life ever since. Now, she's been asked to bridge a different kind of gap (see what I mean by convenient?) as NASA's artist in residence. "Here are these rovers up on Mars," she told the Washington Post. "You have robots up there looking for life, for water. Rovers are being trained to think like geologists, pick up a rock and crush it. One of the problems the JPL scientists are having is where the rock is and where the rover thinks the rock is. What is consciousness?" Aliens will have no chance.

The Telegraph's Harry Mount seems to be as much a Jennings fan as I am, and laments the British political attitudes that make him now so incorrect. He thinks Jennings' creator, Anthony Buckridge, had an extraordinary talent. "It's one thing to recreate a teacher in a book. To tap into the crooked frame of a boy's mind is an even rarer gift in the adult writer, whose mind has been bent into conventional shape by a million things: a completed education, sexual experience, having to pay the mortgage and do the shopping. This great mass of knowledge that comes with age may expand the mind; but it also squeezes out the emotional power of properly feeling things that comes with being a child."

Polly Toynbee, an artful dodger of a columnist if ever there was one, seems to be using Prince Charles in this Guardian article to smear British conservatives. "Whether he knows it or not," she writes, "whatever Prince Charles touches - and nothing now seems out of bounds - he distills an essence of British conservatism into a blue brew that blends heritage with herbalism and a dash of social hysteria. With his retro-architecture, his anti-science foundation promoting alternative medicine and his summer schools imbuing teachers with British culture, he is the hero of the backward brigade. He falls for every modern panic from Frankenstein food to 'grey goo' science fiction nanotechnology. His face seems to say it all, forever fixed in a rictus of regret, lugubriously lamenting some lost golden age he gleaned from the pages of Our Island Story. He is a Past Times catalogue personified, kitsch nostalgia in a kilt. Worse, he would despise Past Times because it isn't the real thing but vulgar suburban imitation: authenticity is everything, never mind the price. (Let them eat Duchy Originals!)

"Where does he find such astonishing confidence to dispense ill-informed admonitions and instructions to the government on any subject that takes his passing fancy? It comes from that certain knowledge that he speaks out for old blue Britain with all the same prejudices and predilections of his parents. He has appointed himself keeper of the land-owning values of the Countryside Alliance and anointed himself guru-bishop of the conservative view of nature."

Prince Charles certainly has views which stretch eccentricity from here to the doors of the nearest lunatic asylum, but to describe him as guru-bishop of the conservative view of nature, or anything else for that matter, is just Toynbee being as Toynbee as can be.

Robert Hughes, author of the hugely influential book about modern art, The Shock of the New seemed to contradict himself a little recently when he had a bit of a whack at Britart, the little branch of ideology-busting art that Charles Saatchi likes to collect. In this Guardian article, he seems to want to reconcile the two points of view: "Styles come and go, movements briefly coalesce (or fail to, more likely), but there has been one huge and dominant reality overshadowing Anglo-Euro-American art in the past 25 years, and The Shock of the New came out too early to take account of its full effects. This is the growing and tyrannous power of the market itself, which has its ups and downs but has so hugely distorted nearly everyone's relationship with aesthetics.

"That's why we decided to put Jeff Koons in the new programme: not because his work is beautiful or means anything much, but because it is such an extreme and self-satisfied manifestation of the sanctimony that attaches to big bucks. Koons really does think he's Michelangelo and is not shy to say so. The significant thing is that there are collectors, especially in America, who believe it. He has the slimy assurance, the gross patter about transcendence through art, of a blow-dried Baptist selling swamp acres in Florida. And the result is that you can't imagine America's singularly depraved culture without him. He fits into Bush's America the way Warhol fitted into Reagan's. There may be worse things waiting in the wings (never forget that morose observation of Milton's on the topo-graphy of Hell: 'And in the lowest depth, a lower depth') but for the moment they aren't apparent, which isn't to say that they won't crawl, glistening like Paris Hilton's lip-gloss, out of some gallery next month. Koons is the perfect product of an art system in which the market controls nearly everything, including much of what gets said about art." Poor old Mr Koons...I thought I really quite liked him.

The U.S. Army is developing tents and uniforms made from flexible solar panels to make it more difficult to track soldiers, says Wired. The magazine quotes Jean Hampel, project engineer in the Fabric Structures Group at the Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center, as saying the need to reduce the Army's logistics footprint spurred interest in developing lightweight solar panels. "We want to cut back on the things that soldiers have to take with them," including generators and personal battery packs, Hampel said. "In modern warfare, portable power for communications technology is every bit as important as firepower and manpower." I mustn't give away too much about my own military career, or its vintage, but I'd say it certainly beats having to pay bearers.

Blogging seems to be becoming a popular pastime in tiny Bermuda. There are ten in the Bermuda Blog ring, and now, A Bermuda Blog has joined the crowd, I guess as an independent for the time being. The blogger isn't giving his/her identity away, but says he/she has been "stranded" here for quite a while now. For those who don't know, living in a place 21 miles long and a mile wide, 600 miles out in the ocean, does tend to give you a bit of a Crusoe-ish outlook.

29 June 2004

The People's Daily says China overtook the United States as a recipient of foreign direct investment in 2003, as companies broadened their strategies in emerging markets. A report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development confirmed that the United States was the worst hit of its 30 industrialised member countries by the falling inflows of foreign direct investment.

Middle East commentator Fareed Zakaria likes a lot of the news now coming out of Iraq. In the Washington Post this morning, he mentions the fact that the interim government has the support of most Iraqis, that the international community is getting more involved and that money for the reconstruction effort is moving more quickly. But, he says, all this will mean nothing if Iraq's security problem isn't solved. And for that, the new Iraqi administration needs to talk to the insurgents.

Decades ago, when Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe rid the country of a racist, colonial government, a Los Angeles Times op-ed says today, he became an instant icon throughout Africa and much of the world. Today, however, Mugabe has become everything he once crusaded against - racist, despotic, unjust and incompetent.

"His decision last week to abolish commercial land - effectively annihilating property rights in his country - is only the latest symptom of Zimbabwe's steady economic implosion, from a modernizing African nation 10 years ago to a failed police state today. Inflation, near 600%, is soaring and laborers are starving. Cronyism and corruption are the country's only growth industries.

The Telegraphs seems to be tiptoing around this George Galloway story, because he has shown them in a lawsuit that he is prepared to be litigious about allegations he was being paid by Saddam Hussein for his support of the Iraqi government. This story leads on the fact that an enquiry has shown that he should have registered his public appeal for funds to help a sick Iraqi girl as a charity. It should have led on the fact that because it wasn't, documents about the Mariam Appeal - named after Mariam Hamza, a four-year-old leukaemia sufferer who was brought to Britain for treatment - have disappeared and no balance sheets or profit and loss accounts were kept. Unauthorised salary payments were made to two trustees, including Mr Galloway's wife, from the 1 million-pound fund, and Mr Galloway, who now sits in Parliament as an independent MP after he was expelled by Labour, also received money to cover expenses.

The Wall Street Journal complains this morning that the instant reading of yesterday's Supreme Court rulings on terror suspects is that they were, as the Associated Press asserted, "a setback to the Bush Administration's war against terrorism." The Journal thinks "it's more accurate to call them a modest but important victory for the Presidency."

I can't help thinking they're both wrong to be thinking so completely in such terms. The war on terrorism has created a huge field of legal imponderables, because the Geneva Conventions, and other protocols, do not cover warfare waged by people without a state, without a uniform, and without scruples. As a result, the whole canon of rules governing the rights of combatants and non-combatants that we inherited from World War II needs to be challenged and re-written. Whether individual cases are a victory or a defeat for the administration is beside the point. What counts is whether the courts are able to provide a proper new framework for the application of force, and for the protection of innocent civilians.

The British scientist, Professor Sir Colin Berry, is not a big fan of the 'precautionary principle', the idea that scientists, medical researchers, technologists and just about everybody else these days should err on the side of caution lest they cause harm to human health or the environment. One of the most common definitions of the precautionary principle is that put forward by Soren Holm and John Harris in their critique of it in Nature magazine in 1999: 'When an activity raises threats of serious or irreversible harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures that prevent the possibility of harm shall be taken even if the causal link between the activity and the possible harm has not been proven or the causal link is weak and the harm is unlikely to occur.' For Berry, according to Spiked Online, "this is one of the biggest problems with the precautionary principle - the notion that we could ever fully predict the outcome of an experiment or piece of research before it is complete, and that if we can't then we should play it safe. 'It doesn't allow for the unknown', he says. 'Or for taking a risk in order to do something potentially useful.'"

I wrote an article about this problem in Bermuda's daily paper last year.

There can't be many countries in the world that treat their armed forces as badly as Britain does. The Ministry of Defence seems to delight in cutting military funding to the very bone, to the extent that when troops are needed, it is not at all unusual to see them turn out with insufficient and substandard equipment. That was the case in Iraq last year, and more than one soldier paid for it with his life. Sir Max Hastings says the armed forces are now in for another round of cuts, these as a result of a commitment to buy too many Eurofighters, an aircraft he describes as a "redundant triumph of strategic bungling".

"The Treasury," he writes, "is entitled to be angry about the defence procurement scandal, and a scandal it is. But the right remedies are to appoint a competent defence secretary; to reform drastically the procurement and logistics process; and to find some way out of the Eurofighter nightmare, whose consequences will be with us for a generation. What must not be done is what now is being done: carve into the 'teeth' forces, to compensate for the follies of 81,000 civil servants employed by the Ministry of Defence. How many of them will be axed in the great savings drive? But that is the sort of question servicemen are never allowed to ask ministers or permanent undersecretaries."

The creator of the fictional British school-boy, Jennings, has died in Britain at the age of 92. Anthony Buckeridge wrote 25 Jennings books during his life, and 62 radio plays. The Guardian quotes David Rudd, an expert on children's literature, as having said Buckeridge's work should be reassessed. "I think he is extremely underrated," Rudd said. "He is like a children's Wodehouse. He created excellent characters, brilliant dialogue and inventive slang."

The Christian Science Monitor has published a long, slightly ill-disciplined round-up of comment on Iraq today. I say ill-disciplined because the story starts life as an explanation of the aims of various Iraqi insurgency groups, but ends as a sort of free-for-all compendium of comment, post-handover. It is no less interesting for that, however.

Jamaica, stung by the repatriation earlier this month of a large number of Jamaican criminals from jails in both Britain and the United States, seems to be making an effort to try to clean up its act. It has arrested a number of high-profile criminals, many of them wanted by law enforcement authorities elsewhere, and has warned that more arrests are to come. "As a result of closer collaboration with our international partners, with a greater flow of reliable intelligence and the introduction of modern technologies during the investigative stages, more arrests are to come," Prime Minister PJ Patterson said in a radio and television address recently. "These efforts are an expression of our unrelenting determination, working closely with our international partners, to go directly to the heart of the problem of crime and violence in Jamaica," he said.

28 June 2004

It was lucky for Saddam Hussein that the United Nations chose to ignore critics who warned that his regime was profiting from the Oil for Food program, designed to provide food and medicine for Iraqi civilians. The upshot was that the United Nations helped Hussein amass more money to lavish on himself, more money to use to suppress his people and more money to battle American and British forces trying, ironically, to uphold the UN peace treaty. "All this was possible because there was no outrage that Hussein flouted UN rules, says a San Franciso Chronicle columnist. "To the contrary, as Hussein robbed his people of money that was supposed to feed them, the American left and Our Betters in Europe called for an end to UN economic sanctions, on the grounds that the sanctions - not Hussein - hurt innocent children. In 1998, Hussein essentially expelled UN weapons inspectors from Iraq. No worries. In 1999, the UN Security Council lifted the $1 billion-per-90-day ceiling it had set on Iraqi oil exports, so that Hussein could sell more crude - and pocket more kickbacks. When Secretary of State Colin Powell urged the United Nations to 're-energize' its sanctions in January 2001, the very people who berate President Bush for having ignored Powell's advice on Iraq, well, they ignored Powell's advice on Iraq. They were happy to heap the blame on America, even as Hussein grew richer."

Former NYC supercop Bill Bratton, now Los Angeles Chief of Police, has been making good headway in his attempt to do for LA what he did for NY some years ago. The video of that cop bopping a suspect with a flashlight is going to set him back, but maybe not for long. He's a man with a mission - fixing America's race problem by fixing its crime problem. "What is it that keeps this country so on edge?" Bratton asks. "It's race."

Here's a worthwhile puzzle - if extra virgin olive oil, from the first pressing of the olives, only accounts for 10% of the world's output, why does it take up 50% of the shelf space in supermarkets? Not to beat about the bush...er, the tree...there is a suspicion that if ever anyone managed to invent a simple procedure to test the authenticity of extra-virgin, the shelves might suddenly look a great deal emptier. They have, and the betting is they will.

The past two years have seen little evidence that NATO still fits Webster's definition of an alliance as an "association to further the common interests of the members." The camaraderie on display at today's opening of the NATO summit in Istanbul notwithstanding, says the Wall Street Journal (you'll need to register)says "member states are stalling, forcing the Secretary-General to go begging for a chopper here and an airplane there. And as NATO fails to expand from Kabul, the security situation is deteriorating...The excuse offered by the Germans and French is that they disagree with the US on what constitute their common interests. But it is not plausible that Europe has less if a stake in pacifying terrorists and terrorist regimes than does the US. A more honest explanation is that America's security umbrella has allowed Europeans to underfund their military services to the point that even if there were a trans-Atlantic consensus, they would have little to offer."

In Britain, the Guardian says most of the opposition is coming from the French President, Jacques Chirac, who they claim is determined to thwart any deal that allows the US and Britain to claim that the alliance has a formal role in the disputed occupation.

And the Telegraph wonders aloud whether it is NATO's business to help the United States police the world. "The answer to this question," it says, "depends on whether you believe, as we do, that the war against terrorism is indivisible from the defence of democracy that inspired Nato's original defensive alliance." Good one.

Look for an announcement today that NATO has decided to "upgrade relations" with seven countries, including Israel, in a relationship defined as a "partnership." The "partnership" with Israel, Jordan, Egypt and other countries in the region will enable these states to strengthen military relations with NATO, and ensure that invitations are sent to foreign ministers and defense ministers, along with top military figures, to NATO meetings.

27 June 2004

American scientists have made a substance called amorphous steel, which is twice as strong as the strongest of the standard types, and resists corrosion better. They think they can make it in bulk for about the same as standard steel costs, so this is going to revolutionise the steel industry for sure. The company that holds the patents is publicly traded, and its name is in the story I linked to.

The hyena penis, says Stanford biology professor Joan Roughgarden, legitimizes intersex architecture. Nature, she claims, is more diverse than we give her credit for. "More than 300 species of vertebrates have sex with the same gender. There are gay sheep and lesbian lizards. Some animals change gender or have more than one type of male or female," she says in her new book Evolution's Rainbow -- Diversity, Gender and Sexuality in Nature and People. Though she does not challenge Darwin's basic theory of evolution, she rejects his notion of sexual selection in favor of what she calls social selection. Creationists will presumably be trying to figure out how to respond to this idea over the next few weeks and months.

Really, if they had any sense of decency, the Brits would ask that this lunatic be recalled to Saudi Arabia today. The Saudi Ambassador to London, Prince Turki al-Faisal, is quoted as having confirmed remarks by Crown Prince Abdullah, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader, that Zionists and al Qaeda are in league in the attacks in their country. In a television interview to be broadcast today, Prince Turki contends that Saudi Arabia has been subjected to concerted attacks by "so-called 'experts' with Zionist connections" for 50 years, and particularly since the terror atrocities of September 11, 2001. "Is it beyond any comprehension or understanding that such attacks come at us from the Zionists on one side and from al-Qaeda on the other side and not make connection between them?" he asked.

He's at it again! Whacky Prince Charlie has given an enthusiastic endorsement to the Gerson Therapy, which eschews chemotherapy in favour of 13 fruit juices a day, coffee enemas and weekly injections of vitamins. Those who know something about cancer...like doctors...are outraged.

I can handle the fruit juice and vitamins all right, but coffee enemas? There's just no stopping this guy.

And speaking of whacky...the Guardian is revisiting the decision of the Catholic Church to tell millions at risk from AIDS in Africa that if they use condoms, they won't get to heaven. The deputy editor of the international catholic newspaper, the Tablet, writes in an op-ed that the Vatican is in a "curious position". He doesn't like it, any more than any other sane person does, and says so, politely but firmly. "But if that explains Rome's callous intransigence," Austen Ivereigh says, "it does not justify it. By its refusal to deal with human realities, the church has muffled its own prophetic voice on AIDS, and encouraged the conclusion that Christian teaching that can only be upheld at the cost of African lives does not deserve that name." Well, and courageously said.

Political dolls, like the one of Dubya with his pants on fire, demonstrate the American adage that if you make it, someone will buy it...their existence creates the need for them. I could very well be persuaded to have a need for a GI George, I must say.


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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