...Views from mid-Atlantic
19 February 2005

For the list freaks among us, this is a list of the top ten biographies of historical figures, prepared for the Guardian by writer Leonie Frieda. She herself published a revisionist biography of Catherine de Medici in 2004, and is currently at work on a second book, a biography of first world war soldier and letter-writer Edward Horner.

If that isn't enough, and in case you didn't know, the Guardian has a page, devoted to book lists. Wallow.

Gosh, a lying scientist? Imagine that. Unravelling Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten's career in falsehood is also unravelling what modern man understands about his history. The Guardian quotes Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who discovered the hoax, as having said that "Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago. Prof Protsch's work appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together. This now appears to be rubbish." The professor's 30 year-old academic career has been brought to a halt after the revelation that he systematically falsified the dates of numerous 'stone age' relics to such an extent that "an entire tranche of the history of man's development will have to be rewritten." The scandal came to light, evidently, because Prof Protsch was caught trying to sell his department's entire chimpanzee skull collection to the United States.

Pierluigi Collina is as recognisable a figure in the football/soccer world as any goal-hungry superstar. The president of Italy's referees' union says he's "a real treasure for the sport", and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue with that. As the New York Times says, "His swift and fearless dispensing of justice on the field, and the aplomb with which he throws the book at the most pampered prima donnas on the world's most revered teams, has made him a cult figure for millions of fans. Sadly, he's 45, and the international and Italian soccer federations have a 45-year age limit on referees. That means that Mr. Collina, whose birthday was last week, will effectively be benched after the season's final whistle blows in June.

An English friend who believes passionately in the ban on fox hunting has forwarded this BBC piece, featuring the poetry of Ian MacMillan. He's quite a prominent young British poet, who has published several collections of poetry. He is Yorkshire Television's Investigative Poet and Mobile Bard of the late Northern Spirit rail network, and Poet in Residence for Humberside Police Force, among other things.

The ban, my friend feels, is justified because hunting is cruel to the foxes. I won't argue with that, and if that had been the overriding motive of the English public, I wouldn't have argued against the ban. But concern for the foxes, while it might have been a convenient excuse for those who argued for the ban, was not uppermost on their minds at all. Instead, the ban was a skirmish in the absurd, ever-worsening British class war. MacMillan says as much in his poem -

You're chasing the past, chaps, not chasing a fox; you're chasing a country that's gone,
They've altered the windows and changed all the locks; you're riding a land that's moved on,
and I didn't see the hunters at the head of the crowd when they closed down the factories and mines;
I didn't hear the hunting horn blaring out loud, at the head of the picket lines.
Democracy spoken, the pack's caught you up and let down the tires on your sport,
So please don't be whining like a whipped hunting pup, cos it's farewell to you and your sort.

This silly nonsense reduces Britain, once the world's leading nation in many ways, to a the level of a contemptible little backwater, different from places where people slaughter each other without any good reason, only in the matter of degree, and makes one wonder whether people in Britain understand democracy, after all. In that context, the fox hunting ban is shameful. It is also a bureaucratic mess, consuming untold resources which might otherwise have been devoted to fixing a real problem.

Furthermore, I don't think that bugger MacMillan is up to much in the poetry department.

18 February 2005

It's OK to be a gratuitously nosy little prick once in a while, is my rationalisation of the following: Wanna know what George Bush has on his iPod? Where Mrs Bush buys her dresses? These and other secrets are revealed in the Free New Mexican. Taste: "The president has been mocked for saying that he doesn't read newspapers. In fact, though, the Bushes subscribe to six papers: The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Dallas Morning News."

Two routes to similar conclusions on the state of transAtlantic relations at the very beginning of President Bush's second term. The first is from the Times in London.

"After four years in which transAtlantic relations has been conducted against a Wagnerian score, with leitmotifs of American unilateralism underpinning a saga of gathering storm and stress, the tunes since President Bush's reinauguration last month have sounded more like Mozart. Condoleezza Rice dispensed a little night music with the diplomacy in Paris and Berlin this month. The man who sweet-talked Europeans last weekend at a security conference in Munich sounded at times more Don Giovanni than Don Rumsfeld. On Sunday the overtures give way to the main movement when Mr Bush lands in Brussels at the start of a four-day visit in which restoring transatlantic harmony will be the theme. Since the President's re-election US officials have concluded that there is nothing to be gained by gratuitously irritating the Europeans."

But, says writer Gerard Baker, Europe's not impressed.

"The real leaders of the EU - in Paris, Berlin and Brussels, are quite clear about where they want this newly-united Europe to go, and it is not in London's direction, still less Washington's. There is growing confidence in Europe that the US can be persuaded, once the constitution is approved, to change the terms of transatlantic debate; to recognise the EU as the principal interlocutor on US-European relations and to abandon the outdated notion of nation states making their own foreign policy. A key element of this strategy is to encourage the US to abandon NATO as the principal forum for the discussion of transatlantic relations. As a genuinely multilateral body, NATO is an inconvenient obstacle to the EU's superstate ambitions in foreign policy. Time to ditch it. At the Munich conference, Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, let slip the real agenda. Nato, he said, was no longer the place for consideration of transatlantic relations."

Yesterday, Max Boot said in the Los Angeles Times, after attending the same security meeting, that "although the atmospherics are better, the divisions between the U.S. and Europe remain as wide as the Atlantic... The EU and the U.S. remain each other's largest trading partners; the two-way flow of investment and trade exceeds $1 trillion a year. The two sides also work closely together on issues of mutual concern such as stopping Islamic terrorism and promoting Ukrainian democracy.

"Divorce isn't an option. Europe and the U.S. are consigned to a loveless marriage in which they will continue to bicker and squabble but stay together for the greater good. That's not a very romantic vision to propound right after Valentine's Day, but, as they say on the Continent, c'est la vie."

An Algerian sociologist, Khaled Fouad Allam, who teaches sociology at the universities of Trieste and Urbino in Italy, has written a book entitled Letter to a Suicide Bomber, designed to stop young Muslims from choosing that route. According to the Jerusalem Post, Allam is considered one of Italy's leading experts on Islam and is a regular contributor to the daily La Repubblica. It is, the Post says, 'a critical rereading of Islamic traditions and a lucid reflection that condemns barbarity and the culture of death,'" written in the form of a personal letter addressed to an aspiring martyr.

"'As a Muslim,' Allam said, 'I feel it is my historical responsibility to respond to this terrible phenomenon'...The slim volume, which Allam defined as 'an impassioned letter to humanity,' was published in Italy by Rizzoli, and is due to be released in Spain and Germany. The book does not yet have an English-language publisher, but its author hopes it will soon be published in Algeria."

That UN report written last year on allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation made against Ruud Lubbers, the UN's High Commissioner for Refugees, has leaked, and the Independent has a copy. Although Lubbers was found to be guilty, Kofi Annan decided, after a lot of legal advice, that he was unable to take action against the official. Instead, he issued him with a strong warning about his conduct. UN staff were furious, by all reports. The leak will put fresh pressure on Lubbers to resign, although he seems to have pretty thick skin.

Jonathan Glancey of the Guardian is outraged, as any right-thinking person will be, that the tube in which Smarties are sold is being replaced by some new-fangled rubbish on the grounds that it is more efficient. Nestle says, apparently without embarrassment, that it has "taken a fresh and funky approach to the redesign" of the old Smarties tube. "The new-look hexagonal tube comes complete with a re-sealable flip-top lid and the familiar lettering on the lid will be replaced by constantly updated, quirky messages, stickers or images inside each tube."

A dollar says it holds fewer Smarties.

If you haven't heard Jane Monheit sing, take it from me that you're missing a great pleasure. The Christian Science Monitor thinks so, too: "Jazz legend Fitzgerald is Monheit's favorite artist. 'For Ella, music was all about happiness,' she says. 'There's always a sense of hopefulness in anything Ella ever sang. And I'm like that, too. Music comes out of the good parts of my life. I think jazz can be just as much about the great sides of our lives as it can be about the dark sides.'"

"Back in the late 1990s, American geoscientist Michael Mann published a chart that purported to show average surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 1,000 years. The chart showed relatively minor fluctuations in temperature over the first 900 years, then a sharp and continuous rise over the past century, giving it a hockey-stick shape."

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Mann's chart was both a scientific and political sensation. It contradicted a body of scientific work suggesting a warm period early in the second millennium, followed by a 'Little Ice Age' starting in the 14th century. It also provided some visually arresting scientific support for the contention that fossil-fuel emissions were the cause of higher temperatures. Little wonder, then, that Mr. Mann's hockey stick appears five times in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's landmark 2001 report on global warming, which paved the way to this week's global ratification - sans the U.S., Australia and China - of the Kyoto Protocol."

There is good reason, though, to think that Mann's hockey stick was not accurate, and the Journal is ruminating about the implications of that. "We realize this may all seem like so much academic nonsense. Yet if there really was a Medieval warm period (we draw no conclusions), it would cast some doubt on the contention that our SUVs and air conditioners, rather than natural causes, are to blame for apparent global warming.

"There is also the not-so-small matter of the politicization of science: If climate scientists feel their careers might be put at risk by questioning some orthodoxy, the inevitable result will be bad science. It says something that it took two non-climate scientists to bring Mr. Mann's errors to light.

"But the important point is this: The world is being lobbied to place a huge economic bet - as much as $150 billion a year - on the notion that man-made global warming is real. Businesses are gearing up, at considerable cost, to deal with a new regulatory environment; complex carbon-trading schemes are in the making. Shouldn't everyone look very carefully, and honestly, at the science before we jump off this particular cliff?"

17 February 2005

For the second day in a row, Blogger is providing a posting service that barely works, and seems unable, or perhaps unwilling, to post any information about what it wrong or when the problem might be fixed. If it works tomorrow, I will post again then. Over the weekend, I am going to try to migrate the blog to a service that will work properly. I hope you'll bear with me in the meantime.

16 February 2005

Michael Scheuer, the CIA analyst who headed the agency's hunt for Osama bin Laden and who, extraordinarily, was allowed to publish a book critical of the Bush administration while still in office, now claims that Israel is master-minding a vast conspiracy to hijack the direction of US foreign policy. The Weekly Standard reports that Scheuer told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York earlier this month that "not only has Israel 'covertly' targeted the US Congress, used the Holocaust Museum to make Americans 'feel guilty', controlled the 'the extent and even the occurrence of an important portion of political discourse [in the US],' but it has also made it exceedingly dangerous for Scheuer to discuss this grand scheme...

"How does a nation of roughly six million people control the foreign policy of the world's lone superpower? According to Scheuer, Israel accomplishes this feat through a variety of clandestine activities. When asked by a member of the CFR audience to clarify what he meant, Scheuer explained: 'Well, the clandestine aspect is that, clearly, the ability to influence the Congress - that's a clandestine activity, a covert activity. You know to some extent, the idea that the Holocaust Museum here in our country is another great ability to somehow make people feel guilty about being the people who did the most to try to end the Holocaust. I find - I just find the whole debate in the United States unbearably restricted with the inability to factually discuss what goes on between our two countries.'"

If Scheuer can be taken to represent the quality of the CIA's staff, and if the decision to allow him to publish a book critical of the administration while still in office can be taken to represent the quality of the CIA's leadership, then I'd say Porter Goss is wasting his time trying to repair the organisation.

Two senior fellows of the Heritage Foundation are arguing that the US Congress should investigate the behaviour of MONUC - the United Nations Organisation Mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo - because the United Nations itself has dropped the ball. "There are major doubts surrounding the effectiveness of the UN's own internal investigation into the Congo scandal, conducted by the Office of Internal Oversight Services, headed by Under Secretary General Dileep Nair," they say. "A confidential U.N. report obtained by The Washington Post revealed that UN peacekeepers threatened UN investigators investigating allegations of sexual misconduct in Congo and sought to bribe witnesses to change incriminating testimony. According to the Post, the report also cites instances where peacekeepers from Morocco, Pakistan, and possibly Tunisia "were reported to have paid, or attempted to pay witnesses to change their testimony."

The Foundation pair, Dr Nile Gardiner, a Fellow in Anglo-American Security Policy, and Joseph Loconte, the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society note that the United States contributes 27 percent of the total worldwide UN peacekeeping budget and is the world's largest contributor to MONUC, providing over a third of its operating budget of roughly $600 million.

Four senior members of the Taliban government of Afghanistan, one of them the former envoy to the United Nations, have accepted a reconciliation offer from the Afghan government, and will return to their home country from Pakistan, where they have been hiding. The four, according to the Washington Post are "civilian politicians who, for the last three years, have been hoping someone would agree that it would be useful for people who have been trusted by the Taliban to woo other Taliban to support the peace process."

15 February 2005

There may be many people in journalism who fail to understand the phenomenon of blogging, but they plainly don't work for the Washington Times, which has made a sterling show this morning of understanding bloggers and the Eason Jordan affair perfectly. In an editorial, the paper rebuked Steve Lovelady, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, the self-styled flagship of journalism, for having said bloggers were "The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob..." The Times commented "When influential members of the media defame our troops, they should answer for it. If that's moronic, sign us up."

And in an op-ed, Douglas MacKinnon, former White House official and one-time press secretary for former Sen. Bob Dole, was very frank, indeed. "Fortunately, the bloggers have once again pulled the curtain back to reveal that the feeble old man controlling the make-believe world of 'unbiased' media is a fraud, and a dangerous one at that. The fraud in this particular case being Mr. Jordan. Least anyone forget, this is the same CNN news executive who in April 2003 admitted that he willingly withheld information about the abuses of Saddam Hussein. Mr. Jordan said that Uday Hussein, the crazed and murderous son of Saddam, had personally told him of his plans to kill his two brothers-in-law. The two men were eventually assassinated, and Mr. Jordan, the confidant of Uday, was proven correct. With his very words, Mr. Jordan indicts himself as someone who aided and abetted the Adolph Hitler of our time. Mr. Jordan may be many things, but journalist is certainly not one of them.

"The 'eye' of CBS News, and the rest of the liberal mainstream press, has just been replaced by a much more powerful eye. It is the eye of the American people. Through thousands of blogs, they check, analyze and expose the misdeeds of the mainstream press. And through this eye, we have all just witnessed the passing of the credibility of the left-leaning mainstream press. Let the new era of journalism begin."

On Wednesday, according to the Jerusalem Post, "the European Union is expected to consider whether to add Hizbullah to its list of terrorist organizations. If it fails to do so, it will plainly be a slap in the face to Israel. It will also be a slap in the face to newly-elected Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Last week, a top PA security official told The Jerusalem Post that 'Hizbullah and Iran are not happy with Abbas's efforts to achieve a cease-fire with Israel and resume negotiations...What is remarkable about this is not the news that Iran and its subsidiary, Hizbullah, are opposed to any peace process. It is well known that much of the Palestinian terrorism today is directly organized and supported by Teheran or Damascus. The last round of Kassam attacks in the Gaza Strip was reportedly ordered by Syria. What is new is that this external intervention has reached such a level that even the PA leadership is sounding the alarm and begging the world to help it cut off those throwing oil on flames that it is trying to douse."

The British Government is backing its man in Kenya up, despite howls of protest from the Kenyan government over his charges that the country is being ruined by corruption. The Guardian reports that Britain is warning that Kenyan ministers, civil servants and businessmen suspected of involvement in corruption will be refused visas to the UK. A senior official in the regime of the former president Daniel arap Moi was refused a visa to visit his family in Britain last week, and the British high commission in Nairobi has signalled that further refusals are likely. Sir Edward Clay, the British High Commissioner, was described by Kenya's foreign minister as 'an incorrigible liar' who made the charges only after he'd had too much to drink.

It is a day before the Kyoto protocol comes into effect, a pact seen by green purists as the main instrument for fighting global warming, but by economists as a ruinously expensive way of making a ridiculously small contribution to the fight...maybe. The US, wisely, stayed out of it. And now, some of those who joined in are already having problems. The Canadian government has admitted that tomorrow, Canada will be nowhere close to meeting its ambitious commitment to slash greenhouse-gas emissions. Its oil industry has been grumbling about Kyoto for months. Now, the British government, one of the most enthusiastic of Kyoto's supporters, is having a row with the European Commission over Britain's plans to allow industry to emit higher than approved levels of greenhouse gases. According to the Guardian, Britain tried to claw back its original plan because it realised it was over-ambitious. But the EC said the new submission had been made out of time, and has refused to allow it. The Guardian says that the row threatens to undermine eager beaver Tony Blair's claim to leadership in combating global warming.

There was a time when the UN Oil-for-Food scandal got hardly any attention from the mainstream media. Nowadays, they seem not to be able to get enough of it. The New York Times this morning reports that The Senate Subcommittee on Investigations says it has documents showing that the former head of the United Nations oil-for-food aid program, Benon Sevan, may have made as much as $1.2 million personally from illegal oil shipments by Iraq. I confess I take a kind of perverse pleasure in that allegation. Until now, people have said that if he was on the take (it's a big if, of course, the man is entitled to be considered innocent until proven not to be), what he took was $160,000. When one considers the huge sums of money that he was handling, that seemed to me to suggest he might be doubly guilty - a kind of nickel-and-dime piker bereft of imagination, a thief who had let his chosen brotherhood down very badly indeed. Even $1.2 million is a bit of a measly sum in the circumstances.

And the Washington Times suggests that the Senate has also learned that Kojo Annan, the son of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, played a far more extensive role than previously revealed in a company that won a key contract under the Iraq oil-for-food program.

Terry Teachout has made a big name for himself as a critic, an author and, most recently, as a blogger (ArtsJournal: About Last Night). One of the reasons for his success, I think, is that he is a man of great good taste, absolutely without pretension, who says exactly what he thinks. As a result, he has a rare ability to put across to his audience the enormous and unfiltered delight he takes in every facet of what might loosely be described as the arts. Like almost everyone who writes in that field, he has written something about the late Arthur Miller. Unlike almost everyone who writes in that field, he has managed to explain why Miller was respected, perhaps, but not loved. In the Wall Street Journal this morning, he writes: "I recently described 'After the Fall,' the 1964 play in which Miller first made fictional use of his unsuccessful marriage to Marilyn Monroe, as 'a lead-plated example of the horrors that result when a humorless playwright unfurls his midlife crisis for all the world to see,' written by a man 'who hasn't a poetic bone in his body (though he thinks he does).' For me, that was his biggest flaw. He was, literally, pretentious: He pretended to have big ideas and the ability to express them with a touch of poetry, when in fact he had neither. His final play, 'Finishing the Picture,' was yet another rehash of the Monroe-Miller menage in which he resorted one last time to what I referred to in this space last fall as 'pseudo-poetic burble' ('What we had that was alive and crazy has been pounded into some hateful, ordinary dust')."

14 February 2005

The Telegraph is reporting on a poll to find the greatest political cartoon of all time, but the shortlist is bound to cause controversy. They've been chosen by the British Political Cartoon Society, and they're all Brits. The Society thinks that "there is some stunning German and Russian work and there are also very good French and American ones." But not good enough, apparently. I don't know about this...I thought Daumier and Thomas Nast coulda bin contenders.

Blogger Arthur Chrenkoff is trying hard not to crow over the success of the Iraqi elections in his twice-monthly summary of the good news from Iraq, published in the Wall Street Journal this morning. "Using the term 'incredible' several times, the chief United Nations electoral official who led the team giving technical aid and advice for Iraq's national poll on Sunday said today she was 'extremely pleased' over what she called 'the biggest logistic exercise' since the invasion of the country in terms of just moving materials around.

"'I have participated in many elections in my life,' Carina Perelli, chief of the UN Electoral Assistance Division, told a news briefing in New York. 'This was probably one of the most moving elections I have ever seen because it was basically people making a very dignified, peaceful demonstration that the will of the people has to be heard.'"

The Wall Street Journal thinks Jordan Eason got a bum rap from bloggers. Easongate, they say, is not Rathergate. "Mr. Rather and his CBS team perpetrated a fraud during a prime-time news broadcast; stood by it as it became obvious that the key document upon which their story was based was a forgery, and accused the whistleblowers of the very partisanship they themselves were guilty of. Mr. Rather still hasn't really apologized.

"As for Mr. Jordan, he initially claimed that US forces in Iraq had targeted and killed 12 journalists. Perhaps he intended to offer no further specifics in order to leave an impression of American malfeasance in the minds of his audience, but there is no way of knowing for sure. What we do know is that when fellow panelist Representative Barney Frank pressed Mr. Jordan to be specific, the CNN executive said he did not believe it was deliberate US government policy to target journalists. Pressed further, Mr. Jordan could only offer that "there are people who believe there are people in the military who have it out" for journalists, and cite two examples of non-lethal abuse of journalists by ordinary GIs.

"None of this does Mr. Jordan credit. Yet the worst that can reasonably be said about his performance is that he made an indefensible remark from which he ineptly tried to climb down at first prompting. This may have been dumb but it wasn't a journalistic felony."

The The New York Times seems to have a similar sort of view, casting bloggers as "trophy hunters" and repeating the view of the managing editor of CJR Daily, the Web site of The Columbia Journalism Review, that bloggers are "salivating morons who make up the lynch mob".

As a journalist myself, I have a different view. Journalists are supposed to tell the truth. Jordan was not telling the truth, and Barney Frank called him on it. He made half-baked efforts to dissemble because he was trying to impress an anti-American audience. It wasn't the first time he'd done something similar.

Bloggers are simply expressing a view held by many people who are fed up with the United States being used as a kind of global punching bag. Many seem to think it's OK to tell any lie you like as long as it is in the name of socking it to Uncle Sam. Dan Rather, Eason Jordan and Ward Churchill are all faces that can be put on that problem and suffered as a result.

It's time to put the brake on. The Eason Jordans of the world need to know that if they lie because they don't like the politics of the administration, or because they want to curry favour with the enemies of the US, they're going to be challenged.

"Harry G Frankfurt is a moral philosopher of international reputation and a professor emeritus at Princeton. He is also the author of a book recently published by the Princeton University Press that is the first in the publishing house's distinguished history to carry a title most newspapers, including this one, would find unfit to print. The work is called "On Bull - - - - ." But the New York Times seems to admire the book nonetheless. "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much [bull]. Everyone knows this. Each of us contributes his share. But we tend to take the situation for granted. Most people are rather confident of their ability to recognize [bull] and to avoid being taken in by it. So the phenomenon has not aroused much deliberate concern, nor attracted much sustained inquiry."

Mr Frankfurt thinks the bull artist cares nothing for the truth. This makes him "potentially more harmful than any liar, because any culture...rife with [bull] is one in danger of rejecting 'the possibility of knowing how things truly are.' It follows that any form of political argument or intellectual analysis or commercial appeal is only as legitimate, and true, as it is persuasive. There is no other court of appeal. The reader is left to imagine a culture in which institutions, leaders, events, ethics feel improvised and lacking in substance. 'All that is solid,' as Marx once wrote, 'melts into air.'"

13 February 2005

What weasels politicians are! We've got a hot and heavy debate going in Bermuda about whether a decision on independence should be taken in a general election or in a referendum. There isn't any question that a referendum is the purest way of figuring out what the public thinks. The local government, though, which wants independence, knows it would lose if it allowed a referendum. On the other hand, it might just pull it off in an election. We're all hanging on every word from that wise old Mother Country. But the Brits are past masters at having it both ways. My blogging friend Christian Dunleavy, of Politics.bm, has found this quote from Foreign Office official Bill Rammell on Caribbean Net News: "At this time, the presumption of the UK Government is that a referendum would be the way of testing opinion in those territories where independence is an option. But a final decision on whether to go the referendum route, and what form the referendum might take, would need to be determined by the UK on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the uniqueness and individual characteristics of each territory." Ain't they darlin's?

The Managing Editor of the Columbia Journalism Review, Steve Lovelady, has reacted to the resignation of Eason Jordan from CNN by calling the bloggers who put pressure on him "the salivating morons who make up the lynch mob". Charming sort of outburst by a man who's paid to understand phenomena like bloggers, you might think. The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz doesn't seem that impressed either, mentioning rather darkly that "In the digital age, anyone can be a journalist."

A young New York friend of mine suggested a day or so ago that bloggers were citizen-journalists, rather like 18th Century Minutemen - a rapid reaction force to strike the first blow, as it were. Apt, I thought. One wonders how long it will take Neanderthals like Lovelady to see that, and figure out that it can be used to better journalism.

Writers in New York and elsewhere are striving to come up with language that properly evokes the delight with which Christo's Gates in Central Park have been greeted. It's so easy to go over the top with this kind of story - almost like one of those '60s Jules Feiffer cartoons of wispily-clad females dancing in honour of spring. In this New York Times "appraisal" - whatever that means - Michael Kimmelman writes of a long, billowy saffron ribbon meandering through Central Park, and clucks that "the work, I think, pays gracious homage to Olmsted's and Vaux's abiding pastoral vision: like immense Magic Marker lines, the gates highlight the ingenious and whimsical curves, dips and loops that Olmsted and Vaux devised as antidotes to the rigid grid plan of the surrounding city streets and, by extension, to the general hardships of urban life."

And yet, on Saturday, the Guardian's man in New York, a turkey named David Teather, wrote of controversy that had caused several hundred police to be "called in to protect the work from vandals. Helicopters will patrol the park from the sky and high-powered cameras placed on buildings surrounding the perimeter." I know the Guardian can be rabidly anti-American much of the time, but Teather's attempts to turn something so benign, so enthusiastically welcomed, into another one of that paper's favourite American horror stories is a new low. The paper seems to understand that, because today, they've tethered Teather and used a much more accurate version of the story.

The British Ambassador to Kenya seems to have started something (again) with his remarks about corruption in that country. On Monday, John Githongo, the country's anti-corruption czar, appointed by President Mwai Kibaki when he was elected in 2002, quit. On Tuesday, the United States suspended $2.5 million in funding for anti-corruption work in Kenya. On Wednesday, the European Union and Japan warned that corruption must be tackled, saying they would withdraw aid if improvements were not made.

The Washington Post comments that "Kenya has the largest economy in East Africa. With cool, sunny, California-like weather, lush green hillsides of mango and banana trees and plentiful wildlife, the country is a favorite safari destination for Americans and Europeans. But most citizens can barely afford their tea and daily bread... International donors estimate that up to $1 billion has disappeared since 2002, nearly a fifth of the nation's budget for 2004. The result can be seen in everyday life. The roads are crumbling, and if they are repaired, jobless men begging for change do the work, filling potholes with dirt. Squalid hospitals are drastically under funded, with cancer patients forced to wait months for chemotherapy. Bribes are required to get services such as running water in homes, and large-scale corruption sometimes causes school and road projects to be abandoned."

This is an account of a BBC television presenter's snit at the Archbishop of Canterbury for refusing to appear on a television programme. Called the poor old dear "theologically opaque" and "scared of schism", which must have upset him dreadfully. I link to it, though, because I've never seen a list of the 20 modern commandments before. That's what the television show was going to be all about, sort of. The new list has rules like Enjoy Life, Be True to Yourself, Take Care of Your Health. (Doesn't say anything about not being scared of schism, though, which must be a point for the Archbishop.)

I'm just wondering what Moses would say. And in what key he would say it.


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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