...Views from mid-Atlantic
20 November 2004

The union representing staff at the United Nations met on Friday to discuss a declaration of no confidence against the senior management of the body. The Washington Times reports that a vote on the measure could be put off, because UN officials have asked to meet with union members to try to head the crisis off.

The organisation's staff are known to have been angered by the announcement on Tuesday that Dileep Nair, head of the Office of Internal Oversight Services, had been cleared of charges of harassment and favouritism by Kofi Annan. Mr Annan also cleared Ruud Lubbers, High Commissioner for Refugees, of a charge of sexual harrassment that had been preferred by a female member of his staff, and had to ignore the findings of an internal investigation to do that. To be fair, though, he did send Mr Lubbers a stiff note about his behaviour.

Of course, this crisis does come at a time when accusations of fraud and corruption have been made about the UN program that oversaw oil sales by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime. And, one mustn't forget, also at a time when the organisation is busy showing the world in Sudan just how impotent it can be when faced with the kind of crisis it was founded to solve. So perhaps UN staff are simply depressed, and feeling, as strongly as many outsiders do, that Kofi Annan better start getting a grip before it all collapses, like a house of cards.

I very nearly didn't bother reading this article in the Guardian by Martin Jacques, which was touted as "The left, as history knew it, is dead". My guess was that it was another of those Guardian anti-Bush polemics. I would have been wrong. This is an interesting and thoughtful little piece of work in which Dubya, refreshingly, plays no part.

"The collapse of the labour movement is not just a British phenomenon, but one shared with much of Europe. There are two underlying reasons for its demise. The first is the loss of agency, the decline of the industrial working class and its consequent erosion as a meaningful and effective political force. It was the working class - in terms of workplace, community, unions and party - that invented and gave expression to the labour movement. The second reason is the collapse of communism. Of course, the mainstream labour movement in this country never subscribed to its tenets, but both the social democratic and communist traditions shared, in different ways, the vision of a better society based on collectivist principles. It is that vision that was buried with the interment of communism. For over a century, European politics was defined by the struggle between capitalism and socialism: suddenly, capitalism became the only show in town, both in Europe and globally. The result was the rapid deconstruction of the left such that it now exists as but a rump of its former self - not just in Britain, or Europe, but everywhere."

I've posted something before about the Portuguese artist, Paula Rego, and my memory is (this Pico search engine I'm using is a bit of a dog - can anyone suggest a better one?) that I used an admiring comment by Germaine Greer. This is Ms Greer on Paula Rego again, reviewing her current exhibition at the Tate in London. She's just as admiring as she was before, and includes this interesting little aside: "One of several bonuses of the current small exhibition of Rego's work at Tate Britain is that you get to see and hear a video interview in which Rego slyly resists Robert Hughes's blustering attempts to co-opt her work into the great anti-fascist tradition. Hughes, still dazzled after months of concentrating on Goya, beseeches Rego to agree with him that the jackboot in The Policeman's Daughter is an emblem of totalitarian power. Rego prefers to recreate the scene in which she instructed her model, who was in fact her daughter, to ram her fist into the boot. Hughes wants to interpret the girl's attitude as indicative of some kind of abuse; Rego simply says, 'She is a very obedient girl', and leaves open the possibility that the policeman's daughter finds as much - or as little - satisfaction in the menial task of polishing her father's boots as the painter's daughter did in posing. Rego's female figures are not victims but conspirators. Among the delusions that they conspire to perpetuate is that of male authority."

If you like poetry, you'll enjoy this article in today's New York Times Sunday Book Review, which asks a small group of poets and critics to name the book of poetry, published during the last 25 years, that has meant most to them. Most of them cheat and talk more about poets than books of poetry. Poet John Ashbery picks James Tate. In his poetry, he says, "local color plays a role, but the main event is the poet's wrestling with passing moments, frantically trying to discover the poetry there and to preserve it, perishable as it is. Tate is the poet of possibilities, of morph, of surprising consequences, lovely or disastrous, and these phenomena exist everywhere."

Heavyweight critic Harold Bloom picks John Ashbery. "He is our major poet since the death of Wallace Stevens in 1955," he avers.

And I choose this story in the Guardian as a kind of kicker for this post, because it concerns language and music as much as poetry does.

19 November 2004

I've remarked before about the US effort to deport foreign criminals coming to the end of their jail sentences back to their home countries. It may be perfectly logical and ethical and all the rest of it, but the reality is that it is putting extraordinary strain on Caribbean countries like Jamaica, which is already struggling to cope with high levels of crime. Jamaica (and other Caribbean countries, I'm sure) needs an influx of newly-skilled graduates of the American prison system like a hole in the head.

Caribbean News is reporting that "deportees to the Caribbean for fiscal year 2004 climbed to a whopping 6,124, according to latest figures obtained yesterday from officials of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

"The numbers include the English, Spanish, French and Dutch-speaking Caribbean and represents a mere 4 percent percentage (that's a sic) of the total 157,281 criminal and non-criminal immigrant (so's that) deported by ICE globally. Criminal aliens are defined as those who are 'eligible for removal based upon a criminal conviction in the United States.'

"The largest number of Caribbean deportees were returned to the Dominican Republic, an island that is 48,730 sq km large. Out of a total of 2,941, 2,420 were criminals and 521 non-criminals. Jamaica received the second largest group across the Caribbean, with a whopping 1,757 immigrants returned to this island that is already battling a crime wave."

Bermuda (no, we're not in the Caribbean, but I guess that's a convenient place for statisticians to list us), received 12 of its criminal citizens back as part of this programme, according to Caribbean News.

Just in case you were under some kind of misapprehension, a survey, done by the Gallup Organisation for the Davos-based World Economic Forum, has confirmed that on the whole, people don't trust politicians. As the Guardian puts it, "The world is becoming a much more dangerous place led by politicians who are too incompetent, dishonest and untrustworthy to deal with the challenges, according to an ambitious survey of global opinion released yesterday. In a massive vote of no-confidence in political elites worldwide, the poll of 50,000 people in more than 60 countries found that almost two out of three people considered their leaders to be dishonest while just over half saw them as unethical.

"People in western Europe and the Middle East were particularly gloomy about the prospects for their children, believing they faced less safe and less prosperous lives, offering an apparent thumbs-down to the Bush administration's declared mission of spreading liberty, democracy, and prosperity by toppling regimes such as the Taliban and Saddam Hussein."

People's Daily is fond of long and rather dense editorials, but they sometimes have an interesting slant. This one is a case in point. It deals with President Bush's announced intention to rub democracy, like liniment, onto the corpus of the Middle East.

"Democracy is a slow process," says China's newspaper, "based on the actual conditions of various countries, it is not like coca-cola that the normal juice can be transported from the United States to various Middle East countries and turned into products by adding water to it. Chief editor Moises Naim of the US 'Foreign Policy' magazine pointed out that the idea of using external interference to solve the Middle East problem has been seriously thwarted. The idea of forcibly popularizing democracy in this region through launching war in Iraq is even harder to be accepted by the locals. It will be hard for the United States to lift itself out of the quagmire after the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq and even after the election in the country next year. The Iraqi democratic process will be slow, the Iraqi political system after election can hardly be a democratic mode as flaunted by the United States."

Lynne Truss, having solved her money problems with Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, is now writing a book about good manners. The marketing director at Profile, her publisher, is quoted today in the Independent as having predicted that "'Certain situations, like getting through to music when you ring a number and being kept on the line' might incur her wrath. The use of mobile telephones in public places may also not go down too well. Nor behaviour in other 'modern situations' such as 'talking too loud in the presence of others'."

Let's hope Ms Truss knows more about adverbs than her publisher does (he sniffed).

David Gergen was a White House adviser to four presidents, so can be taken to understand politics as well as anyone. He is now professor of public service at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, and editor-at-large of US News and World Report. He's also a fine, spare writer. In the New York Times this morning, he says something that Europeans and many Americans will have difficulty with, but that nonetheless seems more and more to have been exposed by the presidential election like rocks by a desert wind: "George W. Bush is emerging as one of the boldest, most audacious presidents in modern history.

"Whether he is also wise is a question that will preoccupy us for another four years, but the reshuffling of his team in recent days makes clear that he intends to stretch the powers of his office to their limits. Woodrow Wilson once wrote that 'the president is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can.' President Bush comes Texas-sized."

18 November 2004

Beijing has been hosting the Fourth World Toilet Summit, according to People's Daily. There are lots of pictures on this page, so patience is advised. Interesting sidebars.

I can't keep up with this stuff - SpaceDaily says "Recent sea-level height data from the U.S./France Jason altimetric satellite during a 10-day cycle ending November 15, 2004, show that the central equatorial Pacific continues to exhibit an area of higher-than-normal sea surface heights (indicating warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures) between 180 degrees West and 130 degrees West. This feature, should it continue and spread eastward through November and December, could elevate the present weak El Nino episode to a moderate or stronger event." Now, if I could just remember what it is that El Nino does...

The Washington Times swats at some of the longstanding US election myths that didn't hold up this time around - like "High voter turnout favors Democratic candidates. The grassroots efforts of both parties to get out the vote should be applauded. More Americans participated in this election than ever before, but the idea that somehow this would favor Mr. Kerry failed to hold up. In Ohio, Mr. Kerry won more votes than any Democrat in state history; it's just that Mr. Bush got 136,000 more."

The Times also credits one or two that did work - the notion that polling gets it right, for example. "Collectively, the pollsters were right. A RealClearPolitics average of all the national polls had Mr. Bush winning 50 percent to Mr. Kerry's 48.5 percent, which was only about a point off the actual results. Also, the pollsters had predicted that the race would ultimately come down to Florida and Ohio."

It's a bit of an arcane taste, is Viz, but it has its loyal supporters. The Guardian says that "although Viz's circulation has dwindled, today its influence is everywhere. It started out parodying the tabloid papers. Today the tabloids read like parodies of Viz. It started out running adverts that sent up the products they were supposed to be promoting. Today you scarcely see an advert that isn't sending up itself. Viz has always been apolitical, even in the Thatcherite 1980s. Today, apolitical comedy isn't the exception, but the norm. In its own inimitable way, Viz has changed the sense of humour of the nation. Not bad for an obscure fanzine published from the proceeds of a dead-end desk job at the DHSS (Department of Health and Social Services, I think)."

The interim head of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), has said he will crack down on armed groups in the territories before the scheduled January 9 election for a new PA chairman, but only if Israel halts "aggressive" military action in order to help him. I have a feeling that curiosity is about the only reason the armed men in Palestine would listen to Mr Abbas, but you have to give him marks for trying. Haaretz quotes him as having told Reuters that "Steps will be taken to end the public display or show of arms. We have to move on to a new era. We will act firmly against anyone who violates the law so that we can make the citizens feel secure... There is no choice but to strengthen personal security, end the armed chaos and restore the Palestinian Authority's capabilities."

Google rolled out a new service for scientists and scholars this morning - Google Scholar. According to the New York Times, the site is a collaboration with a number of scientific and academic publishers and is intended as a first stop for researchers looking for scholarly literature like peer-reviewed papers, books, abstracts and technical reports.

The UN, well known for being unable to define terrorism, doesn't seem to be having much better luck defining anti-Semitism. It convened a group of experts in Barcelona last week to figure out precisely what the term means, and...well, Anne Bayefsky, an international lawyer and senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, reports in the Wall Street Journal this morning that the experts concluded that "Jews are responsible for anti-Semitism. Or, if it weren't for Israel's annoying insistence on defending itself...Jews would be better off.

"It is interesting to compare," she says, "the UN expert's incisive analysis of the underlying hatred in Sudan. After noting in the same report that two million Sudanese have died and four million have been displaced, he muses that "massacres, allegedly ethnically motivated, are continuing to claim victims in the Darfur region. . . . The Special Rapporteur therefore proposes to give greater priority to this region with a view to conducting . . . an investigation . . . of the ethnic dimension of the conflicts ravaging it."

17 November 2004

The UN, says Bill Gertz of the Washington Times, hired a private intelligence firm to look into corruption in the oil-for-food program, but ignored the leads it provided to the organisation's own investigators.

The European Union's financial watchdog has refused to sign off the Brussels budget yesterday for the tenth year in a row, finding that 93.4 per cent of spending was either unsafe or riddled with errors.

The figures released by the European Court of Auditors, says the Telegraph, were even worse than last year, when 91 per cent was deemed unsafe, chiefly due to abuses in the new member states in Eastern Europe. "Once again," the organisation's report said, "the court has no reasonable assurance that the supervisory systems and controls of significant areas of the budget are effectively implemented."

The Telegraph's columnist Janet Daley thinks the European Union doesn't particularly care about its obligation to the people of the Union. It is creating, she says, "what it hopes will be a benign oligarchy. Real political power will reside once again within elite circles (as it does already in France) which will conduct their business in the corridors rather than in the assemblies. Meanwhile, the United States will persevere with the belief, which Europe regards as crass, that giving ordinary people power over their governing class is the only hope for peace and security. Democracy, and what it entails, is not what unites us, Mr Blair. It is what divides us."

David Warren quivers with outrage about the murder of Theo van Gogh in Holland by a Muslim extremist. "Let us linger one more time over the scene of death, so far as we can reconstruct it from press reports. The Dutch pundit and filmmaker, who had been out on his bicycle, was shot several times at close range, and according to witnesses, remained alive long enough to beg his assailant to stop. He then had his throat slit, and spinal cord severed, to the point where he was nearly beheaded. Five pages in Arabic were then pinned to his body, by the knife then embedded in his chest. This dissertation consisted of quotations from the Koran, and promises that Holland, Europe, Israel, and America would all be annihilated by victorious Islam. Various prominent Dutch personalities were threatened by name.

"It is important to take this in. Theo van Gogh's 'alleged' murderer (we are dealing with Western legal niceties which are not recognized in Sharia law) was a psychopath, but not of the 'normal', loner sort with which we are familiar from the annals of Western psychiatry and jurisprudence. The police in Amsterdam were able to round up six of his alleged accomplices after the crime, and are seeking more. And the relationship between the ritual murder of Theo van Gogh, and the numerous butcherings of hostages by Jihadis in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere, was obvious from any distance."

Hostages like Margaret Hassan.

In Italy, Marco Bellocchio, one of that country's best-known anti-establishment film-makers, has made a film about Aldo Moro's abduction and murder by the Red Brigades, which gets inside the terrorists' heads, rather than simply setting out the facts. So Good Morning, Night (Buongiorno Notte) is not a documentary but the story of the fictional character Chiara, the only woman in the Red Brigades cell that snatches Moro. Bellocchio calls her the piccola terrorista or little terrorist.

Against the background of today's 'war on terror', the Guardian says, Moro's fate acquires a whole new significance. The language of the terrorists who are willing to die for their cause is uncannily similar to that of today's Islamist terrorists. The enemy - the capitalist, imperialist, Christian establishment - is in many ways unchanged.

Amnesty International believes that despite widespread outrage about the genocide in Sudan, and an EU ban on arms exports to that country, arms dealers based in Britain, Ireland, France, Russia and Poland, among others, have been supplying weapons to be used in the killing. Amnesty's report - published two days before a UN security council meeting on the Sudan crisis - calls on the British government to crack down on any companies found to be sidestepping the arms embargo.

16 November 2004

This really is serious - a shortage of lard in Britain is threatening the supplies of mince pies available for Christmas. Supermarkets, the Guardian reports, are afraid there may be panic buying in the run-up to the holiday.

Here's an interesting little footnote to the history of the Six Day War, published in Haaretz this morning - Ariel Sharon, then an army major-general, was so frustrated with the slow pace of the Israeli Government's decision-making that he proposed starting the war without a Cabinet go-ahead.

Haaretz quotes the author of the study in which the allegation is made, Col Ami Gloska, as having said "'Sharon spoke about it in the `bunker' - the supreme command post - twice in the space of five days. The idea may have captivated him, but one shouldn't overstate the significance of the matter. We are dealing with an offbeat statement, nothing more than thinking out loud. The same thought may have gone through the minds of other commanders, and Sharon was the one who expressed it.

"'Insofar as is known, there were no practical results from it, and not even the start of something practical...The General Staff was convinced that the government was endangering the state. It was angry, it pressed, it warned, but it did not take any illegal or provocative action so as to put the political echelon before a fait accompli.'"

The Guardian may, towards the end of this piece, have captured the moment the British MP, George Galloway, realised he had very little hope of winning his libel case against the Daily Telegraph. "In one of the liveliest clashes, Mr Galloway objected to Mr (James, QC) Price's remark that documents 'suggest and amount to strong evidence' that he was receiving money from his campaign and asking for more.

"Mr Galloway replied: 'If it's strong evidence, why aren't you pleading justification?'

"Mr Price: 'Because we have not suggested, or sought to say, that the documents are true. We merely say we have found them.'"

Ted Kooser became the new US poet laureate in August, the first from the Plains States. The Christian Science Monitor publishes an interview with him this morning, saying, "His poems are like flashlights illuminating small dramas: a father watching his son get married; a tattoo that has faded; a brown recluse spider walking inside the bathtub. The setting may be rural America, but the scene is universal. That resonance, along with his clear, graceful style, have earned him numerous awards, including two NEA fellowships and a Pushcart Prize. Yet what really makes Kooser a 'thoroughly American laureate' - as predecessor Billy Collins has called him - is not just his approach but the way his perspective seems to mirror that of 'average' Americans."

In case you're as little familiar with his work as I was, search this Academy of American Poets page for Ted Kooser. You'll find three samples of his work. I particularly liked the one in the middle, A Happy Birthday:

This evening, I sat by an open window
and read till the light was gone and the book
was no more than a part of the darkness.
I could easily have switched on a lamp,
but I wanted to ride this day down into night,
to sit alone and smooth the unreadable page
with the pale gray ghost of my hand.

A Senate committee investigating the United Nations oil-for-food program for Iraq, according to the New York Times and other newspapers this morning, estimates that during 13 years of international sanctions, Saddam Hussein's government made at least $21.3 billion illicitly - more than double previous government estimates.

A fascinating little reminiscence by James Earl Jones of his first movie role - a small part in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In the Wall Street Journal this morning, Jones writes that "When Stanley came to New York to scout George C. Scott for the role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, George happened to be playing in The Merchant of Venice at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. So was I. Stanley recruited George, and given that Kubrick wanted to make the film's B-52 crew multiethnic, he took me too...

"George was headstrong by nature. It is what fueled his particular talent. Stanley was very much the same kind of man. The irresistible force met the immovable object when Stanley asked George to do over-the-top performances of his lines. He said it would help George to warm up for his satiric takes. George hated this idea. He said it was unprofessional and made him feel silly. George eventually agreed to do his scenes over-the-top when Stanley promised that his performance would never be seen by anyone but himself and the cast and crew. But Kubrick ultimately used many of these 'warm-ups' in the final cut. George felt used and manipulated by Stanley and swore he would never work with him again."

15 November 2004

Members of Congress are expressing disquiet about the unrest in the CIA. "'The agency seems in freefall in Washington, and that is a very, very bad omen in the middle of a war,' said Rep. Jane Harman...the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Appearing on CBS's Face the Nation, Harman said she thinks the reports of low morale at the agency are due to the four inexperienced House Intelligence Committee staff members who went to the CIA when Porter Goss, the committee's former chairman, became director of central intelligence in September." That might account for the most recent events, but not for the pattern of hostility towards the White House going back several months now.

The first air-to-air ray gun has been successfully tested, though only on the ground, in California. SpaceDaily says "The test involved the simultaneous firing of all six laser modules and the associated optics that comprise the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL). The laser systems produced an amount of infrared laser energy that was within pre-test expectations." The story doesn't say whether the Governor was present, but I wouldn't think he'd miss it, would you?

This is scoring right up there in the high 90s on my handy-dandy little Tom Swift bullshit meter. It's from the Guardian. "It didn't take long for America's white elite to realise that jazz endangered their hegemony, and that jazz and America represented opposing ideologies. While the American ethos is traditionally presented as a celebration of civil freedom, jazz, as it appeared in the late 1950s, laid bare crucial flaws in the American dream. Not only did it expose the fundamental injustice within the capitalistic system; it also valued beauty far higher than money. This was foreign to the American way of thinking...

"As a bop player, I refuse to view jazz as a technical adventure...I insist that jazz is a form not of knowledge but of spirit. Jazz is a world view, an innovative form of resistance. For me, to play jazz is to fight the BBS (Bush, Blair and Sharon) world order, to aim towards liberation while knowing you may never get there, to fight the new American colonialism. To say what I believe in, to campaign for the liberation of my Palestinian and Iraqi brothers. To play jazz is to suggest an alternative reality, to reinvent myself, to be ready to do it till the bitter end."

An entire troupe of visiting Cuban dancers, singers and musicians - the Havana Night Club revue - is in the process today, in Los Angeles, of defecting to the United States.

Since Bermuda's Government created what most Bermudians believe is a mistakenly-conceived cultural link with Cuba, critics have warned that something similar could happen with Cuban musicians who visit our Island. The United States may be able to absorb a couple of score of people without blinking, but that would be a real hardship in an island of 21 square miles that a population of 65,000 people (and, it sometimes seems, almost as many cars) fills to the point of bursting. The Government says it doesn't believe such a thing will happen.

Nicolai Ouroussoff, the Los Angeles Times' superb architecture critic, switched coasts this summer and is now writing for the New York Times. This morning, he publishes a review of the redesign of the Museum of Modern Art. He writes sparely and lucidly as always, in words that seem so apt as to have been dictated to him by the architecture he describes - "In effect, what the architect has done is to bind art, architecture and the city into a vibrantly powerful composition of overlapping images with multiple historical meanings. The effect is hypnotic. And it is the moment when his architecture feels most generous: it brings us closer to the art and sensitizes us to the world around us.

"...This may be Mr. Taniguchi's greatest accomplishment: however assertive his design, all of the emotional power flows from the art. It is a near-perfect example of how architecture can be forceful without competing with the art it enfolds.

"In essence, the design enshrines the values that lie at the core of classical Modernism. The early Modernists believed that architecture could not only express ideal values but also help shape them. It could create, through form and material, a perfectly harmonious world. Mr. Taniguchi's Modern takes this vision to its fetishized extreme - and then locks it firmly into place."

In what must be a kind of turning point in the struggle to rehabilitate Afghanistan, blogger Arthur Chrenkoff reports in his twice-monthly report on that country, the La Jolla Rotary Club has visited, and is helping to make Jalalabad a sister city of San Diego.

"In 2002 a member of the Rotary Club of La Jolla and a local Afghan-American explored establishing a school in Jalalabad as a result of a fellow Rotarian's work with Afghan refugees in Peshawar, Pakistan. She learned of the refugees' desire for a school in Jalalabad, where they would be returning. The three Rotarians traveled to Jalalabad and were warmly received by government officials and citizens and were encouraged to develop the school. They also learned of needs at Nangarhar University, with its 3,000 students and 250 faculty. A Rotarian resident of San Diego County and friend of Jalalabad mayor initiated the idea of a sister city pairing. After being approached, the mayor of San Diego wrote a letter of invitation to the Jalalabad mayor, who responded enthusiastically. Committees formed in both cities in 2003 to develop the program. Finally, in March 2004, both committees met in Jalalabad. Approved by the International Sister Cities Corporation, the proposal was put forth to the San Diego City Council. The council gave final approval June 28, 2004.

14 November 2004

Everyone who has watched current events over the last few months is aware that some officers in the CIA have been engaged in a campaign against the Bush regime, leaking against it at every opportunity. Columnist David Brooks summarised the situation well in Saturday's New York Times.

This morning, these dissident officers have mounted a campaign against Porter J Goss, President Bush's choice of a new CIA chief, with stories in the New York Times detailing the CIA's disaffection with their new boss, and in the Washington Post, where it is suggested the reason for the disaffection is that Goss won't speak to them.

"Within the past month," the Post says, "four former deputy directors of operations have tried to offer CIA Director Porter J. Goss advice about changing the clandestine service without setting off a rebellion, but Goss has declined to speak to any of them, said former CIA officials aware of the communications.

"The four senior officials represent nearly two decades of experience leading the Directorate of Operations under both Republican and Democratic presidents. The officials were dismayed by the reaction and were concerned that Goss has isolated himself from the agency's senior staff, said former clandestine service officers aware of the offers."

Senior bureaucrats in a agency like the CIA don't do this kind of thing in a childish little pet. This isn't just some silly little protest against Porter Goss, this is an open challenge to the authority of the American president. These officers wouldn't have mounted it unless they thought they had a chance of winning some prize, and the history of their protests suggests the head of Porter Goss wouldn't be prize enough.

An attempt to unseat the President of the United States by other than fair means? It's probably a little early to make that kind of judgement, but it is a possibility, isn't it?

Pay attention. History is being made here.

A story in the Washington Post this morning is suggesting that Benon Sevan, the UN official who ran Iraqi Oil-for-Food, tried to block inquiries into allegations of corruption in the programme, and helped block efforts by the UN anti-corruption unit to assess where the program was vulnerable to abuse. The Post says "Sevan said that such an assessment would prove too costly and that UN member governments bore primary responsibility for policing the program...He did initiate reviews of possible overcharging on some program contracts, reviews on which the UN Security Council took no action."

The story quotes "senior UN officials", which suggests to me that they've come to the conclusion either that he can't be saved, or that he must be given up.

I love the way the Telegraph tries to undermine Tony Blair in this story this morning. It begins: "Tony Blair reignited the row over Guantanamo Bay last night by claiming that former British detainees had been 'causing difficulties again' after their release."

But if you're a journalist, you know that the lead on that story, written by Patrick Hennessy and Rajeev Syal, should have been "British citizens once detained as terrorists at Guantanamo Bay have been 'causing difficulties again' since their release, according to Prime Minister Tony Blair."

For anyone with the kind of slightly off-the-beaten track taste I have, this is a bumper little crop of must-read interviews from the Guardian and the Observer this weekend. The first is an Observer profile of Tom Waits by Sean O'Hagan. It's not much of a profile, since O'Hagan obviously never talked to him, but then it is Tom Waits. Tickets to his next concert in Britain sold out in half an hour, apparently. I was of the company at his last one there, 17 years ago.

Film director Jim Jarmusch is a close friend of Waits - who played a memorable part in Down by Law - and the Guardian has published a really excellent interview by staffer Simon Hattenstone. Jarmusch is at his best: "I just like all these strange fucking creatures on this planet, and the amount of weirdos I've gotten to cross paths with is quite amazing. If I walked out of here and got hit by a van, y'know, and died, I would think, 'God, what a good ride, man - that was a wow! That was interesting.'"


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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