...Views from mid-Atlantic
02 April 2005

The Independent has a round-up of this year's April Fool's jokes. I thought they missed one of the best, which was on eBay - the Rare Japanese Imari Porcelain Samurai Helmet 17/18th.c. Brian Page of Brian Page Antiques, whose rare helmet it is, told me one rather humourless man emailed him, suggesting he needed electric shock treatment.

This Guardian writer, Matthew Kneale, writing about some of the Mussolini-inspired architecture in Rome, insists that it's "Not that I'm suggesting all fascist insignia and heroic figures should be done away with. I'm too much of a history addict for that." But he is, in fact, suggesting just that, although he tones it down by being playful about it: "Couldn't something be added to Rome's endless historical layers? Perhaps some pieces of modern art (that Mussolini would have hated) to stand alongside the heroic statues on ministry facades, or to join the athletes in the fascist sports complex. And something should definitely be done about that obnoxious 'Mussolini Dux' column. Why not turn it upside down, and give it a good lean, so it is perpetually falling to disaster?"

Mussolini's attempts to restore what he saw as the sagging architectural greatness of Rome are well-known. No matter how much of a monster he was, his efforts deserve praise. And anyone who has seen the results will agree that, broadly speaking, they are not out of place in Rome, which says a lot.

But move away from the specifics of Mussolini in Rome to the principle of the thing - history must be allowed to unfold for better or for worse, and must be respected for what it is. Political correctness has done damage in so many spheres in the last few years, it would be the most dreadful of mistakes to allow it to dictate which of humanity's artistic achievements should be destroyed and which should survive.

Canadian diplomats are re-thinking their approach to Iran's government over the torture death of photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, in the wake of some grisly admissions by an Iranian doctor who attended her (see post of yesterday), and who recently emigrated to Canada. But don't expect too much. A lawyer for the family of the slain woman is quoted in the Globe and Mail today as having said that while the Canadians are open to a broader range of measures, they still do not have the taste for strong diplomatic protest, like withdrawing Canada's ambassador to Tehran.

01 April 2005

It is the 150th Anniversary, this year, of the publication of the most important and influential book ever written by an American - Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass. J.D. McClatchy, poet, critic, and teacher at Yale, writes in the New York Sun that "No one has been able adequately to explain how Walter Whitman came to write his book. Certainly nothing in his past could have predicted it. He had worked as an itinerant teacher, journeyman typesetter, and newspaper editor. He had traveled as far as New Orleans, but preferred the taverns of lower Manhattan. He had written undistinguished poems and stories, newspaper features, and a tawdry temperance novel. A friend later reported Whitman once told him that Leaves of Grass 'began to take a sort of unconscious shape in his mind' in the early 1850s, during a time he was often out of work and tramping the streets of New York City...

And when he'd finished it, and started trying to sell his new book, McClatchy writes, "The first bookseller he consigned copies to returned them the next day, declaring the book offensive. Reviewers were equally hostile. 'Uncouth', 'grotesque', 'coarse', 'lawless': they were baffled by the book's defiance of 'what goes by the name of refinement and delicacy of feeling and expression.' Their unease exactly defines the book's intentions. Among the longest, and by far the most praising, of all these reviews were three written anonymously by Whitman himself. How did the poet himself want his own poem to be read? First of all, he agreed with his critics: 'By this writer the rules of polite circles are dismissed with scorn. Your stale modesties, he says, are filthy to such a man as I ... No sniveller, or tea drinking poet, no puny clawback or prude, is Walt Whitman.' Instead, Walter claimed that his Walt was 'an American bard at last!'" So he was.

If this is a plant by anti-Europe forces in the UK, then it is a masterful one. The Telegraph reveals this morning that "the Government is preparing for a showdown with its European Union partners over the more than 14 million pounds that Britain spends every year subsidising a network of elite schools for the children of EU bureaucrats."

Elite? That's the kiss of death in Britain, where matters of class have an importance second only to that of maintaining breath.

"Few taxpayers," the Telegraph says, "have even heard of the 'European Schools', established 50 years ago to provide a free, highly academic education for the children of EU officials and accredited diplomats. Britain spends proportionally more than any other nation on funding the 13 schools, whose overall budget this year is 160 million pounds." Sounds like the perfect rhyme for an 'Over our Dead British Bodies' in the referendum on the European constitution.

Britain's Robin Cook, since he left Tony Blair's Government over the Iraq War, has been writing a great deal, and has displayed a most extraordinary flair for bending the truth to his own purposes. This morning, I think he has outdone himself. Dipping his pen into that jumbo-sized bottle of scorn he keeps on his desk, he blames "the American right wing" for conducting a "perverse" campaign to get rid of Kofi Annan and reform the UN. But, he says in a fib-ridden article in the Guardian, if they succeed, "it will reveal that they would rather have a creaking, ineffective UN to treat as a coconut shy than a modern, representative forum that would oblige them to respect collective decisions."

One does wonder, if this little conspiracy theory of his is correct, why on earth the right wing would go to all the trouble of mounting a campaign in the first place. Why wouldn't they be smart enough to simply do nothing, leaving an inept Annan alone to lurch along with his creaking, ineffective organisation?

How good are you at separating fact from fiction? The Guardian is running a little quiz in honour of April Fools' Day, in which you are invited to pick out which are true stories and which are stories made up by journalists and newscasters. I got a perfect score. You can figure out for yourselves whether that's fact or just me putting my own little spritz on this April Fools' morning.

Canadians who want to know why their diplomats are being such ass-licking toadies over the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in Iranian custody in 2003 will have been given a boost yesterday. As the Globe and Mail reports, Dr. Shahram Azam, a former physician with the Iranian security police who last month received asylum in Canada, has now spoken in great detail about the gruesome injuries to which Ms. Kazemi eventually succumbed in July of 2003.

It isn't a pretty picture, he says. "She had a badly broken nose, a smashed eardrum, broken fingers, a crushed toe, missing fingernails and toenails, a severe head injury, signs of flogging, and deep bruising all over her body...An examination by an emergency-room nurse revealed 'brutal' damage to Ms. Kazemi's genital area, which the nurse said could only have been the result of violent rape. Those injuries, extensive and severe as they were, could only have been sustained during torture, Dr. Azam said. 'It was the first time I saw someone who was tortured,' he said in Farsi, speaking softly but confidently. 'It was shocking for me.'"

The official Iranian explanation for Ms. Kazemi's death is that she died after fainting and hitting her head.

I admired the Black Mountain poet, Robert Creeley, who died on Wednesday. He was interested in the power of being direct and uncluttered, of communicating in poetry as in conversation, and succeeded magically. I also admire this obituary, published today in the New York Times and written by Dinitia Smith. It is, like Creeley's work, direct and uncluttered and communicates beautifully what he was about. She quotes I Know a Man, "One of Mr. Creeley's most widely anthologized poems...It embodies his compressed style, with shortcuts, directness and slang:

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, - John, I
sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what
can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,
drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

31 March 2005

The Washington Post thinks Syria is working covertly, through a network of Lebanese operatives, "to ensure Damascus can still dominate its smaller neighbor even after it withdraws the last of 15,000 troops, in defiance of a UN resolution demanding an end to Syria's 29-year control over Lebanon...

"Although Syria shut down its notorious intelligence headquarters in downtown Beirut, Damascus is establishing a new hidden presence in the capital's southern suburbs, bringing in officials who will not be recognized, say Lebanese opposition and Western sources. The move would contradict a pledge by President Bashar Assad to withdraw Syria's large intelligence operation from the Lebanese capital as of today."

All the stories humans tell use one of only seven plots, according to Christopher Booker, founding editor of the British satirical magazine, Private Eye. In a review of his new book, The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories the LA Times says that these basic plots are the unconscious patterns that most obviously hold our interest in a story. "Not the least reason why The Lord of the Rings was so popular is that it contains elements of all seven plots - Quest, Overcoming the Monster, Voyage and Return, the lot - ending, as it does, in that archetypal image of a man and a woman, masculine and feminine, brought together in perfect love, which is still the most completely resolved happy ending to a story we know."

They're beginning to catch on, in Britain, that Gordon Brown's tax policies have punched bigger holes in their trouser pockets than they expected.

A study has shown, according to the Telegraph, that average take-home incomes fell in real terms in 2003-04, the first annual drop since the recession of the early 1990s. "The fall might appear small but household incomes generally rise, along with the workforce's productivity. In the last decade, household incomes have risen by about 500 pounds every year and if taxes had not risen, incomes would have gone up by about 230 pounds in 2003-04, according to the ONS. Its figures only took account of the impact of income tax, National Insurance and council tax rises. Those households which had to pay higher rates of stamp duty, imposed by Mr Brown, would have seen an even sharper drop. Accountants Smith & Williamson calculate the tax rate has risen from 35p in the pound in 1997, to 50p last year."

Telegraph staffer Ian Cowie has a little rant about the effect of Brown rax reform on pensions: "The halcyon days when British savers had more in their pension funds than the rest of Europe put together seem a very long time ago now. Hard though it is to believe, back in 1997 so many company pensions' assets exceeded their liabilities - or promises to provide retirement incomes to members - that the Inland Revenue threatened to tax surpluses unless they were brought down sharpish. Well, they got their wish...

"So, those who can afford to save for themselves and their families should do so, while the country as a whole shifts its pensions policy from 'pay as you go' to 'pray as you go'."

It's the 250th anniversary of the publication of Samuel Johnson's dictionary, and the Independent has published a natty little Johnsonian A to Z in celebration. Sample: "Z is for Zed. Johnson may have been running out of steam by this stage. His definition reads: 'Zed n.s. The name of the letter z. 'Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter.' (Shakespeare.)'" Running out of steam? Seems a perfectly reasonable definition to me, although he might have commented on the dreadful American practice of pronouncing it zee. Zee! How can you expect finality without a proper consonant? Unless you happen to be in the habit of taking your cue from Frenchmen, that is.

The Brits are looking for sugar daddies with a difference - they're expected to lavish a little tender loving care on well-put-together buildings, not babes. The Guardian explains. There's a link to the Save Britain's Heritage organisation towards the end of the story that doesn't work properly. Look here instead.

Two New York newspapers have managed to get hold of a copy of the report of the Columbia University Panel looking into allegations of anti-Semitism among professors. Both the New York Times and the New York Sun say that there was more smoke than fire in the allegations. Although there were combative exchanges between pro-Palestinian professors and pro-Israel students, no real intimidation could be said to have taken place. No student, for example, received a lower grade because of his or her views. The report is to be posted on Columbia's Web site today.

The Wall Street Journal's contributing editor, Peggy Noonan, reckons Hillary Clinton's the one to beat in the 2008 presidential race. "Can a Republican beat her? Sure. She'll have to make mistakes, and she will. And he (it will be a he; it's not Condi, because the presidency is not an entry-level political office) will have to be someone who stands for big, serious and solidly conservative things, and really means it, which will mark a nice contrast with Mrs. Clinton, who believes only in herself. He will also have to be able to do the delicate dance of running against a woman without seeming scared, patronizing, nervous or macho."

29 March 2005

Is Lebanon's Prime Minister, Omar Karami, going to resign again this week? AlJazeera seems to think so. Karami resigned a month ago after coming under immense popular pressure following the assassination of his predecessor Rafik al-Hariri, but was reappointed by parliament to form a national unity government to bring together both anti-Syrian opposition members and pro-Syrian loyalists. Since then, he has apparently failed to persuade opposition figures to join a government to lead the country to May elections.

Moderate Muslims, according to this Washington Times report, are applauding recent condemnation of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda by the Islamic Commission of Spain on the first anniversary of the train bombings in Madrid. "In a recent interview with the Qatari daily newspaper Al-Raya, for example, Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, the former dean of Shariah and law at the University of Qatar, urged his fellow Muslims to purge their heritage of fanaticism and adopt 'new civilized humane thought.' Such humane thought, he said, 'must be translated [into deeds] in educational ways, via the media, tolerant religious discourse, nondiscriminatory policy and just legislation.'"

A report by one of the largest privately-owned international reinsurance intermediaries, Carvill Reinsurance confirms that the Bermuda High plays a key role in the path hurricanes take as they move from south to north. This Insurance Journal report contains what it says is a link to the report itself, but it is simply a link to the Carvill home page. Try this link instead.

Yesterday, I mentioned the suggestion a British commentator made in the Washington Times, that even if Tony Blair led the Labour Party to a victory in the coming election, he would soon be replaced by his long-time rival, Gordon Brown and lead Britain off to the left. That scenario doesn't ring altogether true to me. I have a feeling the British public is moving past its admiration for Old Labour socialism, and Brown is definitely one of that ilk. The Times doesn't put it in quite that way, but it seems to agree in broad terms that Brown doesn't have the popular support to elbow Blair aside.

"Most people work because they want to earn enough to support their families, take a holiday, and otherwise use their hard-earned money as they choose. And most entrepreneurs risk their homes and careers in the hope of becoming rich. Unfortunately, Mr Brown, whose personal incentive to work has laudable non-pecuniary roots, has shown that he doesn't believe that these monetary incentives are necessary for a successful economy. One way or another, he has claimed for the Government an ever-larger portion of what workers and businesses earn. And aims to appropriate even more: he intends a soaring and complex tax burden to take the share of the national income claimed by government past 40 per cent, its highest level in 20 years - and this when many countries are lowering and simplifying taxes."

Today, the second report of Paul Volcker's investigation into the Oil-for-Food scandal at the United Nations is to be published. I guess when you cut through the thick smoke that has been generated over the last few days, the essential fact of it is that Kofi Annan is going to take a big hit, especially because of the odd employment history of his son, Kojo. Quite apart from his very favourable treatment by Cotecna, the Swiss Oil-for-Food contractor that continued to pay him (to the tune of over $300,000, apparently) for months after he left, a new dimension seems to have been added recently, in that a former associate has suggested that Kojo had an Iraqi connection. The Wall Street Journal has a summary of the story up this morning. It is not clear what the connection was, but it plainly has very powerful potential to cause additional damage.

The New York Times this morning suggests that the UN Moustache Pete I wrote about yesterday, Iqbal Riza, is going to be criticised in the Volcker report for having destroyed some documents connected with the Oil-for-Food program. Riza is the man who was replaced by Mark Malloch-Brown as the secretary-general's Chief of Staff. The Times does not mention what I thought was an essential point of the story - that although Riza resigned, he's actually still on the staff in one of those strange advisory positions the UN seems so fond of.

The reason it is significant is that the UN is not an organisation entirely separate and distinct from the United States - it is, in fact, funded in large measure by US taxpayers, who have a long history of wanting their buck to get a proper bang. If Riza's being paid for doing nothing (at 70, he's long past retirement age), as one suspects immediately in this kind of situation, the US taxpayer has a perfect right to be upset. If the connection seems a little strained to you, read this article in the New York Sun this morning, giving details of a Congressional probe of the UN's plants to enlarge its Turtle Point, New York, office complex.

"Leading the charge is a Republican congresswoman from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is a senior member of the committee and a longtime critic of the United Nations. In a press release last week, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said: 'Given the wholesale lack of institutional transparency and accountability at the United Nations, it is imperative that we closely examine the $1.2 billion that the UN will be utilizing for the rehabilitation and refurbishment of the current UN headquarters building, in addition to the construction of a 35-storey, 900,000-square-foot annex.'

"The congresswoman referred to a $1.2 billion low-interest loan, approved by Congress and President Bush last fall, for the purpose of renovating the Secretariat Building and other UN headquarters facilities. The 35-storey annex, to be built over a city park adjacent to the United Nations' Turtle Bay compound, is to be financed by $650 million in bonds issued by the United Nations Development Corporation, a New York city-state entity. Since UN officials have said the world body will repay in full both the $1.2 billion and $650 million sums, American taxpayers - who shoulder 22% of the UN operating budget - can expect to pay more than $400 million for the project.

"Questioning the priorities of the world body, and the demands it places on American taxpayers, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen concluded: 'When there is such a need for additional resources to provide technical assistance for political development and civil society, health, and education, should the contributions of countries be diverted to making the UN bureaucrats in New York more comfortable? Certainly not! The US taxpayer must not continue to be bled white by an unaccountable UN bureaucracy.'"

28 March 2005

David Cowan, a member of the Board of Advisors of Regent's Park College at Oxford University is warning Americans in the Washington Times this morning that even if Tony Blair and his Labour Party win the next election, Americans should be prepared for Britain taking a turn to the left fairly quickly. "As much as some argue it is a forgone conclusion that Mr. Blair will be returned to office, it is also as likely that if he does he will soon find himself out of the office. For within a year or so, we will undoubtedly see the increasingly impatient Scottish son of the manse Gordon Brown, currently chancellor of the exchequerand Prime Minister in waiting, being ushered into Number 10."

The US Supreme Court will consider today whether American courts are bound by the decisions of the International Court of Justice, a tribunal created by the United Nations and based in The Hague, according to the New York Sun. Numerous countries from Latin America and Europe are clashing with the Bush administration, Texas and 20 other states, and various conservative legal groups over how to resolve conflicts between American and international law.

The New York Sun is claiming this morning that the only way Kofi Annan is going to get out of the trouble he's in at the UN is to get out from underneath some of the old Moustache Petes he's surrounded himself with. Case in point - his longtime chief of staff and friend, the Pakistani Mr. Iqbal Riza. When Annan brought in the Briton Mark Malloch Brown, hailed for his ability to weed out corruption and his press-relations skills, he retired Mr Riza.

The official announcement of Mr. Riza's departure from one of the most powerful positions at Turtle Bay stated that at the age of 70, he felt it was time to retire. But a day after the announcement that age finally got the better of Mr. Riza, he miraculously became young again. Spokesman Fred Eckhard confirmed last week that Mr. Riza is still at work. He joined a team that promotes something called 'dialogue among civilizations,' a program launched with much fanfare by Iranian President Khatami in the late 1990s. Mr. Riza has fallen into one of those Turtle Bay black holes where officials get paid for rendering services useful to no one and can continue to exert influence over Mr. Annan."

The Washington Post says disputes over the role of religion and private haggling over who should get which post are still dampening down the effectiveness of the new Iraqi National Assembly. A meeting on Tuesday may now see the assembly elect only its speaker and two deputies. The disputes are delaying agreement on a slate for president, prime minister and members of a new cabinet. Yet blogger Arthur Chrenkoff still sees lots to be optimistic about. In his latest Wall Street Journal roundup of good news from the country, he says a new opinion poll paints an increasingly optimistic picture for the future.

"The survey of 1,967 Iraqis was conducted Feb. 27-March 5, after Iraq held its first free elections in half a century in January. According to the poll, 62% say the country is headed in the right direction and 23% say it is headed in the wrong direction. That is the widest spread recorded in seven polls by the group, says Stuart Krusell, [International Republican Institute] director of operations for Iraq. In September, 45% of Iraqis thought the country was headed in the wrong direction and 42% thought it was headed in the right direction. The IRI is a non-partisan, U.S. taxpayer-funded group that promotes democracy abroad.

"Pollsters did not survey three of Iraq's 18 provinces because of security and logistical concerns. Two of those omitted, Anbar and Ninevah, are predominantly Sunni Muslim. A third, Dahuk, is mostly Kurdish. Krusell said that even if those areas had been included and 100% had expressed negative views, the poll would still have shown that most Iraqis believe that the situation in their country is improving. . . .

"The poll showed that Iraqis are almost evenly split over the role of religion in government, with 48% favoring a 'special role' for religion, but 44% saying religion and government should remain separate. A plurality of 47% say religious leaders should have the greatest input in writing the constitution. Krusell said that is not surprising since Iraq is predominantly Muslim but that 'it doesn't translate into support for Sharia,' or strict Islamic law. Of those polled, 22% say the constitution should ensure 'the Muslim identity of Iraq' but only 4% say Sharia should be the most important element."

Newspapers around the world are full of hope about the Zimbabwean election later this week. In the Times, there's great optimism. From Chimanimani, a small town on the Mozambique border...to the capital, Harare, where 25,000 people attended an opposition rally yesterday, something remarkable is happening. Zimbabweans are openly challenging Mr Mugabe - and believe that his days may be numbered. "In December I said we would be lucky to get 25 of the 120 seats," David Coltart, Shadow Justice Minister for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said. "There is no doubt we will get the majority vote. There is a buzz here that I have never seen before."

The mood at the Telegraph was a little more nuanced, but still optimistic: "Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, was greeted by a sea of open palms as he addressed 15,000 supporters in the capital, Harare. The open hand is the MDC's official symbol - in contrast with the clenched fists brandished by President Robert Mugabe and his followers in the ruling Zanu-PF. 'Harare will never be Zanu-PF again,' Mr Tsvangirai said."

In the Independent, they're quoting the Catholic Archbishop of Bulawayo, the Most Rev Pius Ncube, who has been a thorn in Robert Mugabe's side for as long as he has been in power, as having said that although the parliamentary elections on Thursday were certain to be rigged, "I hope that people get so disillusioned that people really organise against this government and kick him [Mr Mugabe] out by nonviolent popular mass uprising. As it is, people have been too soft with this government. So people should pluck up just a bit of courage and stand up against him and chase him away."

But, let's face it, Mugabe is a ruthless dictator who has had plenty of experience in how not to lose elections. The clear-eyed view of the situation is surely that he will win again, and the secretive, brutal and repressive regime he has run for the last quarter of a century will be back at the game of killing people who oppose them for another term.

Charles Aznavour's still at it, charming the gold out of people's teeth. This time, Haaretz says he stole the show at the Leipzig book fair on Saturday. In an interview, he agreed that yes, he smoked and drank a lot his whole life, but only cigarettes and only whiskey. That's why he's had such a long life. Does he have any regrets - to echo Piaf's immortal song? "I haven't thought about that question yet. I've had such a wonderful life. I was poor, but I was never miserable."

More than 1,000 tonnes of contaminated household refuse disguised as waste paper on its way to be recycled in China is to be sent back to Britain after being intercepted in the Netherlands, the Guardian alleges this morning. Dutch environment ministry officials believe that British refuse is being systematically dumped in poor countries via the port of Rotterdam, the largest container port in Europe. In one of the biggest international scams uncovered in years, they say waste companies across Europe are colluding to avoid paying escalating landfill and recycling charges. The foul-smelling rubbish, which includes waste food, plastic packaging, batteries, drinks cans, old clothes, carrier bags, wood, paper, broken glass and vegetable matter, has been found in 54 large lorry and container loads en route to Rotterdam where they were to be trans-shipped to Asia.

27 March 2005

A shadowy Islamist group, the Jund al-Sham Organization, or Organization of Soldiers of the Levant, has claimed the credit for that Texas oil refinery explosion last week, according to Lebanon's Daily Star.

The group has threatened to carry out attacks in Britain and Italy, and said these would continue "until the last soldier of the Crusaders or Jews is no longer in an Islamic country." Jund al-Sham says it was also responsible for the suicide car bombing near a British school in the Qatari capital on March 19 which killed a Briton and wounded 12 people. And it says it also carried out an attack targeting Israeli tourists in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Taba last October which killed 34 people and wounded over 100. And...oh yes, remember Hurricane Andrew, infidels?

Just managed to get your head around why dark matter is needed to explain the expansion of the universe? You may have to undo all that. According to the LA Times, "A group of...Italian and American cosmologists have another explanation for the accelerating expansion of the universe: They say the expansion is an overlooked aftereffect of the Big Bang, which brought about the universe."

While we're on this story, what is it about Americans that they can't spell bogeyman (read the story) properly? It comes from the Irish word bogle, which means a goblin, and it doesn't need two os.

Remember what I said yesterday about the UN's growing ability to manipulate the press? The Times this morning runs a touching story about Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, who is said to be "struggling with depression and considering his future. Colleagues have reported concerns about Annan ahead of an official report this week that will examine his son Kojo's connection to the controversial Iraqi oil for food scheme." I'll bet they did. I'll bet there were violins gently sobbing in the background when they did it, too.

Michael Portillo (whose Spanish origins once, when it looked as if he might become the leader of the Conservative Party, had the xenophobic British press in a comic frenzy of anxiety about dagos and Portillistas) can write a nice little op-ed piece when he turns his mind to it. In the Times this morning, he strips a little of the nonsense away from the idea of a United States of Europe: "There is no evidence that the British people want to travel towards constructing a country of Europe. The government recognises that. It denies that we are heading there. But why then have a constitution, president and foreign minister?

"The main reason to vote no is that the EU has proposed no way of making its institutions democratic. That a democratic deficit exists is common ground between integrationists and their opponents. Little is being done to address it. There is no proposal to elect the European commission (which provides appointments for those, like Peter Mandelson, who have failed in national democratic politics)...

"We Europeans do not have the Americans' sense of nationhood. We have not defined what political values we share. Yes, we are all broadly supportive of liberty and democracy, but a Frenchman and a Briton have fundamentally different views about the power of the state and the citizen's defences against it."

The Conservative Party in Britain is taking political advice from an Australian, Lynton Crosby, and it seems to be working, according to the Independent. "Labour has paid Lynton Crosby the ultimate back-handed compliment by calling for him to be sent back to Australia. It is also attacking Mark Textor, Crosby's partner in a market research and strategic consultancy, who arrived in Britain this week to lend a hand at Tory HQ, where he is known as 'Text'.

"Textor is said to be an advocate of 'push polling' - telephoning voters on the pretext of conducting an opinion poll and then implanting damaging rumours about a rival candidate. Textor and two others had to pay nearly $62,000 in damages to Susan Robinson, Australian Labor Party candidate in a 1995 by-election, after a survey suggested she favoured abortion up to the ninth month of pregnancy. The Tories say Textor is not being paid and insist that all their polling is carried out within the rules.

"A 1992 advert bearing Crosby's name, later withdrawn, said the Australian Labor government had 'the blood of victims' such as murdered Cheree Richardson on its hands because of its early release scheme for prisoners. Then there was the damaging controversy over the Tampa, a Norwegian ship carrying 430 refugees, which John Howard turned away during the 2001 election amid claims that the passengers were throwing children overboard in a desperate attempt to gain entry to Australia. The claims were later shown to be wrong - but not until the saga had destabilised Labor and helped Howard to retain power."

Read one way, this editorial in the Telegraph this morning is really rather funny. The writer sternly takes the reader by the scruff of the neck and walks him/her down a logical path concerning the Iraq War, over whose 'legality' the Brits have got their nickers in the most terrible twist. I'm sure it can't be correct that he/she didn't see the end coming, but he writes as if he didn't: "Tony Blair must be arrested and tried by the International Criminal Court, and Saddam should be the primary witness against him."

Oh dear, this is a bit of a trap. How to get out of it? Nothin' for it but an alaman right. So, "that is the inescapable logic," the writer thunders, "of the champions of international law. It should make every-one realise how unreal is the world in which they live." Nice one, brother.


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


About Pondblog
Contact the Pondblogger

About Last Night
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Arts Journal.com
Aworks :: "new" american classical music
Brad DeLong
Crooked Timber
Cup of Chicha
Day by Day by Chris Muir
Mickey Kaus
Kesher Talk
Little Green Footballs
Maud Newton
Michael J Totten
Oliver Kamm
Patio Pundit
Reflections in d minor
Roger L Simon
Talking Points Memo
The Forager
The Volokh Conspiracy

Bermuda Links

A Bermuda Blog
A Limey in Bermuda
Bermuda 4u
Bermy Adventures
Politics.bm: A Mostly Bermuda Weblog
The Bermuda Sun
The Mid-Ocean News
The Royal Gazette


10/26/2003 - 11/02/2003 11/02/2003 - 11/09/2003 11/09/2003 - 11/16/2003 11/16/2003 - 11/23/2003 11/23/2003 - 11/30/2003 11/30/2003 - 12/07/2003 12/07/2003 - 12/14/2003 12/14/2003 - 12/21/2003 12/21/2003 - 12/28/2003 12/28/2003 - 01/04/2004 01/04/2004 - 01/11/2004 01/11/2004 - 01/18/2004 01/18/2004 - 01/25/2004 01/25/2004 - 02/01/2004 02/01/2004 - 02/08/2004 02/08/2004 - 02/15/2004 02/15/2004 - 02/22/2004 02/22/2004 - 02/29/2004 02/29/2004 - 03/07/2004 03/07/2004 - 03/14/2004 03/14/2004 - 03/21/2004 03/21/2004 - 03/28/2004 03/28/2004 - 04/04/2004 04/04/2004 - 04/11/2004 04/11/2004 - 04/18/2004 04/18/2004 - 04/25/2004 04/25/2004 - 05/02/2004 05/02/2004 - 05/09/2004 05/09/2004 - 05/16/2004 05/16/2004 - 05/23/2004 05/23/2004 - 05/30/2004 05/30/2004 - 06/06/2004 06/06/2004 - 06/13/2004 06/13/2004 - 06/20/2004 06/20/2004 - 06/27/2004 06/27/2004 - 07/04/2004 07/04/2004 - 07/11/2004 07/11/2004 - 07/18/2004 07/18/2004 - 07/25/2004 07/25/2004 - 08/01/2004 08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004 08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004 08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004 08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004 08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004 09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004 09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004 09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004 09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004 10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004 10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004 10/17/2004 - 10/24/2004 10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004 10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004 11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004 11/14/2004 - 11/21/2004 11/21/2004 - 11/28/2004 11/28/2004 - 12/05/2004 12/05/2004 - 12/12/2004 12/12/2004 - 12/19/2004 12/19/2004 - 12/26/2004 12/26/2004 - 01/02/2005 01/02/2005 - 01/09/2005 01/09/2005 - 01/16/2005 01/16/2005 - 01/23/2005 01/23/2005 - 01/30/2005 01/30/2005 - 02/06/2005 02/06/2005 - 02/13/2005 02/13/2005 - 02/20/2005 02/20/2005 - 02/27/2005 02/27/2005 - 03/06/2005 03/06/2005 - 03/13/2005 03/13/2005 - 03/20/2005 03/20/2005 - 03/27/2005 03/27/2005 - 04/03/2005 04/03/2005 - 04/10/2005 04/10/2005 - 04/17/2005 04/17/2005 - 04/24/2005 04/24/2005 - 05/01/2005 05/01/2005 - 05/08/2005 05/08/2005 - 05/15/2005 05/15/2005 - 05/22/2005 05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005 05/29/2005 - 06/05/2005 06/05/2005 - 06/12/2005 06/12/2005 - 06/19/2005 06/19/2005 - 06/26/2005 06/26/2005 - 07/03/2005 07/03/2005 - 07/10/2005 07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005 07/17/2005 - 07/24/2005 07/24/2005 - 07/31/2005 07/31/2005 - 08/07/2005 08/07/2005 - 08/14/2005 08/14/2005 - 08/21/2005 08/21/2005 - 08/28/2005 08/28/2005 - 09/04/2005 09/04/2005 - 09/11/2005 09/11/2005 - 09/18/2005 09/18/2005 - 09/25/2005 09/25/2005 - 10/02/2005 10/02/2005 - 10/09/2005 10/09/2005 - 10/16/2005 10/16/2005 - 10/23/2005 10/23/2005 - 10/30/2005 10/30/2005 - 11/06/2005 11/06/2005 - 11/13/2005 11/13/2005 - 11/20/2005 11/20/2005 - 11/27/2005 11/27/2005 - 12/04/2005 12/04/2005 - 12/11/2005 12/11/2005 - 12/18/2005 12/18/2005 - 12/25/2005 12/25/2005 - 01/01/2006 01/01/2006 - 01/08/2006 01/08/2006 - 01/15/2006 01/15/2006 - 01/22/2006 01/22/2006 - 01/29/2006 01/29/2006 - 02/05/2006 02/05/2006 - 02/12/2006 02/12/2006 - 02/19/2006 02/19/2006 - 02/26/2006 02/26/2006 - 03/05/2006 03/05/2006 - 03/12/2006 03/12/2006 - 03/19/2006 03/19/2006 - 03/26/2006 03/26/2006 - 04/02/2006 04/02/2006 - 04/09/2006 04/09/2006 - 04/16/2006 04/16/2006 - 04/23/2006 04/23/2006 - 04/30/2006 04/30/2006 - 05/07/2006 05/07/2006 - 05/14/2006 05/21/2006 - 05/28/2006 05/28/2006 - 06/04/2006 06/04/2006 - 06/11/2006 06/11/2006 - 06/18/2006 06/18/2006 - 06/25/2006 06/25/2006 - 07/02/2006 07/02/2006 - 07/09/2006 07/09/2006 - 07/16/2006 07/16/2006 - 07/23/2006 07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006 07/30/2006 - 08/06/2006 08/06/2006 - 08/13/2006 08/13/2006 - 08/20/2006 08/20/2006 - 08/27/2006 08/27/2006 - 09/03/2006 09/17/2006 - 09/24/2006 09/24/2006 - 10/01/2006 10/01/2006 - 10/08/2006 10/08/2006 - 10/15/2006 10/15/2006 - 10/22/2006 10/22/2006 - 10/29/2006 10/29/2006 - 11/05/2006 11/05/2006 - 11/12/2006 11/12/2006 - 11/19/2006 11/19/2006 - 11/26/2006 11/26/2006 - 12/03/2006 12/03/2006 - 12/10/2006 12/10/2006 - 12/17/2006 12/17/2006 - 12/24/2006 12/24/2006 - 12/31/2006 12/31/2006 - 01/07/2007 01/07/2007 - 01/14/2007 01/14/2007 - 01/21/2007 01/21/2007 - 01/28/2007 01/28/2007 - 02/04/2007 02/04/2007 - 02/11/2007


design by maystar

Search WWW Pondblog

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com

Join BermyBlogsPrevious siteList sitesRandom siteNext site

Site Feed
Technorati Profile