...Views from mid-Atlantic
30 July 2005

Russia is absolutely right correct to condemn ABC News's airing of an interview with Shamil Basayev, the Chechen warlord who admits he is a terrorist. The United States has had to reassure the Russians that it is still serious about fighting terrorists, despite ABC's quite monstrously stupid signal to the contrary. It wasn't even a particularly good story, so ABC has not a sliver of hope of justifying their airing of the views of the architect of the Beslan school massacre. Heads are surely going to roll, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if some suggested those responsible should be imprisoned.

"The gulf between British and French treatment of preachers of hatred and violence was thrown sharply into focus yesterday when France announced the summary expulsion of a dozen Islamists between now and the end of August," says the Telegraph. "A tough new anti-terrorism package was unveiled by Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister and a popular centre-Right politician. His proposals reflect French determination to act swiftly against extremists in defiance of the human rights lobby, which is noticeably less vocal in France than in Britain."

Ian Mayes, who is the reader's editor of the Guardian, always writes intelligently and engagingly. From that standpoint, this column on the subject of split infinitives is as good as any. I just wonder why it is that people still feel obliged to write about something Fowler dismissed as irrelevant a couple of generations ago.

Yesterday, apparently, was the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alexis de Tocqueville, the young Frenchman who wrote the classic Democracy in America about the fledgling country he spent some months observing in the 1830s. Few in the media remembered. But the Guardian did, and used it this morning to publish a sniffy little editorial whose purpose was to criticise the distance the Guardian's editors believe modern America's democracy has travelled from the one de Tocqueville described: "De Tocqueville is remembered best for his conclusion that American goodness meant American greatness, central to the doctrine of American 'exceptionalism' - an idea that jars with those, and not only in his native land, who dislike the democracy-exporting hyperpuissance that has emerged since the collapse of communism and 9/11. But he also had much to say about democracy - 'the slow and quiet action of society upon itself'- and its interplay with equality, whose sharp decline he would surely regret in the George Bush era. He wisely condemned 'violence employed by well-meaning people for beneficial objects'."

If the Guardian's editorial reminds us of anything, it ought to remind us of what it was that those who founded the United States were running from and what kind of condescending, judgemental, pissy little assholes they were desperate to leave on the other side of a very large ocean. Hyperpuissance, indeed.

29 July 2005

Wilson John, who is a senior fellow with Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, is taking Pakistani President Pervez Mushrraf to task in a Washington Times opinion piece for failure in the struggle against Islamic extremism: "Gen. Musharraf's speech last week clearly betrays his hesitation to take a decisive step against jihadist madrassas and terrorist groups operating in Pakistan," he says. "The tone and tenor of the rest of his speech, which mainly dealt with terrorism and madrassas, only proved that he had not taken any action against jihadist elements despite his January 12, 2002 commitment to the international community that he would do so."

I think Mr John is being a little harsh. General Musharraf is like a man sitting on top of a volcano. On the one hand, he knows he has to chart a realistic course for his country in the world of the 21st Century. On the other, he relies for support on a population chock-full of wild-eyed, murderous mumbo-jumbo artists for whom the passage of the last 20 centuries has meant nothing. Bridging the gap is an extraordinarily difficult task, and I think Musharraf should be cut all the slack he needs to carry it off.

Behind the wall on which Vasari painted his mural depicting the Battle of Marciano, maybe, is da Vinci's lost masterpiece, the Battle of Anghiari. Trouble is, as the Washington Post points out, to get to one, you have to destroy the other.

British medical authorities seem to have caught the American disease of wanting to offer psychiatric counselling every time someone so much as cuts a finger. British author and columnist Ben Macintyre has a go at it in a Times opinion piece this morning: "...Where therapism goes too far is in the assumption that all human beings are essentially weak, unable to confront on their own the quotidian neuroses of life. The therapeutic culture has reached hilarious extremes in America. Some schools have banned teachers' red marking pens in favour of lavender ink, on the grounds that red may seem too judgmental. Traditional playground games such as tag are being replaced by new, stress-free games in which no one can ever suffer from being 'out' (the sort of game the England cricket team must dream about). Such thinking is swiftly spreading from the US: this month the Professional Association of Teachers in Britain proposed that the word 'fail' be banned from classrooms in favour of 'deferred success', so as not to undermine pupils' enthusiasm."

Back in the 1950s, the Kremlin put pressure on Boris Pasternak to stop publication of Dr Zhivago after he'd given it to an Italian publisher. The Guardian says a newly-published letter shows that Pasternak called for publication to be suspended, on the grounds that the novel wasn't finished. The publisher, guessing that Pasternak was under pressure, ignored him.

28 July 2005

The IRA has announced that its armed campaign in Northern Ireland is at an end. In a statement aired on BBC News this morning, the terrorist group announced that their campaign would cease at 4 pm BST today. "All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms. All Volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever."

At least one hurricane forecaster has upped his estimate of the number of storms we can expect this season. AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi is now calling for 18 named storms this season, with the United States being hit by six of them in the months to come. By contrast, forecaster William Gray of Colorado State University said at the beginning of the season that he thought there would be eight, and the National Hurricane Center thought there would be between seven and nine.

In this National Geographic News piece, Bastardi says the reason for the increase is, in large part, warmer water in the Atlantic that stretches in a kind of roadway from Dakar in Africa, in the area where hurricanes form, to the east coast of the US. Because that path of warm water exists, Bastardi believes the US east coast is going to get the brunt of storm activity during the remainder of the season.

Have you noticed something changing in the war on terror? I think we're seeing a very rapid shift of emphasis in two places. First, in a move that seems to echo Tony Blair's post-7/7 emphasis on religious extremism, as opposed to terrorism alone, the US administration has announced that we should forget the 'war on terror' - it's now "a global struggle against violent extremism." That's a little silly, because 'war on terror' is clearer, simpler and scans better than that other phrase. But it does seem to signify that the administration understands that the 'struggle' is broader and more complex than a simple military campaign, and that we can perhaps look forward to a broader and more complex campaign in the future.

The other site of a shift is in the Muslim community. There was, in British Muslim denunciations of terrorism in the wake of the bombings, a sincerity that I did not detect in US Muslim denunciations after 9/11. Shadi Hamid, a Fulbright Fellow who has just returned to the US from Jordan, says that "In the wake of the London bombings, there is a growing realization in the Muslim community that the intolerance by some of its own can no longer be tolerated...Muslims have tired of their religion being defined by extremists." Writing in the Christian Science Monitor, he says: "As American Muslims, we had seen terrorism as something uniquely foreign - relevant, but remote. But the London attacks were a frightening reminder that if anti-American anger and jihadist sentiment were left unaddressed in our communities, the consequences would be devastating. Too often, in the face of nearly daily terror attacks abroad, American Muslims had wiggled and equivocated. Past condemnations of terrorist attacks have been sincere, no doubt, but they've sometimes had the appearance of being forced."

Right on cue, the Washington Post reports this morning that "An organization of top American Muslim religious scholars plans to issue a formal ruling today condemning terrorism and forbidding Muslims to cooperate with anyone involved in a terrorist act, according to officials of two leading Islamic organizations. The one-page ruling, or fatwa, will be issued by the Fiqh Council of North America, an association of Islamic legal scholars that interprets Islamic law for the Muslim community."

Anatole Kaletsky thinks the people of Europe have finally understood that the unique, state-backed society they have been trying to create cannot exist. In the London Times, he writes: "Europeans seem finally to have understood that they cannot suspend the laws of economics by appealing to some kind of unique European social model. And instead of hunting for this mythical Euro-unicorn in the forests of France, Belgium and Luxembourg, intelligent Europeans are starting to look to the rest of world for ideas on improving their economic performance and their political fortunes.

"It is in this context, and in this context only, that Tony Blair could achieve his ambition of making 'Britain a leader in Europe'. He should not even try to persuade other countries to embrace a one-size-fits-all Anglo-Saxon model. What he could very usefully do is point out the lessons of our recent experience that could help Europe to deal with the challenges it now faces....to judge by the British experience, what Europe needs today is not only labour deregulation, privatisation and pension reform, which by themselves would initially depress consumer confidence, exacerbate unemployment and make governments even more unpopular and weaker than they already are. What Europe needs instead is a combination of supply-side reform with a British-style consumer, housing and mortgage boom. If such a boom were to happen across Europe - and it could easily be triggered if the European Central Bank decided to cut interest rates - supply-side reforms would become politically popular and economically quite painless...Britain's message for Europe should be simple, popular and welcome: spend more and borrow more - eat, drink and be merry."

The Guardian shows once again that, where culture is concerned, it is one of, if not the best newspaper in the world. It has published a long poem about the London bombings, entitled That's What They Get, by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who is probably Russia's best-known modern poet. It's a cracker, weaving together the new British and the older Russian experiences of terror (God, if this damned terror could make us all relatives!).

It begins this way:

Once more the rails are wet and red.
The world is an open wound.
London, your underground stations
are the bleeding relatives of Beslan.

It's a very Russian kind of poetry - direct, emotional, declaratory, un-precious. Yevtushenko sounds just as he did in Babi Yar, the 1961 poem that won him fame in the West, which can be read here. If you don't know it, it is a powerful memorial to the thousands of Jews who were massacred by Nazis near Kiev in 1941.

27 July 2005

The House Foreign Relations Committee is holding a hearing today on Damascus's role in the Oil-for-Food scandal. Most of Syria's involvement was conducted illegally, outside the scope of the UN program, some through Syrian and Lebanese banks, according to an article in the New York Sun. "Much of today's hearings will draw on findings of an investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service following the 2003 Iraq war. According to the IRS, during the final phase of oil for food, between the spring of 2000 and the start of the Iraq war in 2003, sales of Iraqi oil and petroleum products generated $3.8 billion in illegal revenues, much of which ended up in Syrian hands....IRS documents seen by the Sun detail an elaborate scheme to conceal the sales, involving Syrian and Lebanese banks that processed revenues of Iraqi crude oil sales. The sale of Iraqi oil through Syria was allowed to continue by the United Nations and members of the U.N. Security Council committee overseeing oil sales, despite attempts by British and American officials to stop it.

"Those sales accelerated during the final phase of oil for food, between the spring of 2000 and the war in March 2003, and, according to the IRS, Iraqi oil and petroleum products generated $3.8 billion in illegal revenues during that period. Syria and Iraq agreed that 60% of the crude oil payments would be deposited in the Commercial Bank of Syria in Damascus and 40% would be deposited in one of its subsidiaries, Syria-Lebanon Commercial Bank in Beirut. Syria's defense minister, Mustapha Tlas, received a 'tribute payment' in return for permitting the illegal trade between the two countries. Mr. Tlas's son Firas and other top Damascus officials such as the chief presidential bodyguard, Thualhima Shaleesh, a cousin of President Assad, were also involved in the scheme, according to the IRS."

A notorious Russian spammer has been found beaten to death, though the London Times says it's unlikely he was killed because of the spam.

Want Moshe Dayan's eye patch? It's on sale at eBay for the grand sum of $75,000, assuming you're the only one silly enough to bid.

Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian thinks Ken Livingstone has lost it, with his support of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, "who has repeatedly praised suicide bombers - not, admittedly, those on London trains and buses but those in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Livingstone responded by making Qaradawi's case for him, explaining that while Israel had fighter jets and tanks, the Palestinians 'only have their bodies' and no other way to 'fight back'..."

Freedland asks the obvious question: "...In a world full of brutalities and mass slaughter, by what logic is Israel reviled as the uniquely heinous culprit, the one state whose civilians are fair game? Qaradawi's argument is that there is no such thing as an Israeli civilian. Israeli women can be called to national service; Israeli children will grow up to be soldiers. The sheikh has ruled that even the unborn Israeli child in the womb is a legitimate target for death, because one day he will wear a uniform. This ceases to be a political stance; this becomes the demonisation of a people.

"Only one nation on the planet has no civilians; only one nation must recognise that its children can legitimately be torn apart by nail bombs on buses. Not the Russians for what they have done in Chechnya, nor the Arab Sudanese in Darfur, nor the Americans and British in Iraq, but the Israelis. They are uniquely guilty and therefore less than human, denied the protections afforded to all other human beings.

"So when Livingstone offers this as some kind of defence - that Qaradawi is against 9/11 and 7/7, but in favour of 'martyrdom operations' against Israeli civilians - I am not comforted. I am fearful of the dark place he has entered. The mayor is not the only one playing with fire. Unfortunately, he is part of a wider left that has, in the laudable effort to make alliances with Muslims, wound up hugging people who are sharply at odds with Britain's progressive tradition. Livingstone insists Qaradawi is a moderate, and in the Khomeini-ite terms of his region he probably is. He favours female circumcision, but does not regard it as obligatory and suggests cutting off only the prepuce of the clitoris, not the whole thing. So that makes him a moderate. He believes gays should be stoned to death, but only by Islamic states, not vigilantes. So that makes him a moderate."

Kathryn Jean Lopez argues in the National Review Online that unreasoned dislike of Jews is a worldwide phenomenon: "As Phyllis Chesler, author of The New Anti-Semitism, has argued, 'Many people still believe that the Jews run the media, control the banks, killed Christ, seek world domination, and have ears everywhere.' And today, add to that a global reach - where 'Jew hatred is being mass-produced.' When that hate finds its way into the mainstream consciousness, it might as well be true.

"In 2002, for instance, it was widely reported that Israel had perpetrated a massacre in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin. The British Guardian editorialized that Israel's actions in Jenin were 'every bit as repellent' as the September 11 attacks on the United States. The Jenin atrocity, however, never happened, even according to a UN investigation. But people believe that it did to this day - again, the damage had already been done.

"Instead of being unacceptable - as it should be - all too often anti-Semitism is tolerated by civilized people who should be repulsed and outraged by it. That it is a centuries-old bias often makes it somewhat 'dog bites man' - which is all the more reason to condemn it clearly and loudly and often. And it doesn't help the cause of good versus evil when the prime minister of Britain speaks on the floor of the House of Commons after the London bombing, and, in listing nations that have also fallen victim to Islamic terrorism, leaves out Israel (where bus bombings have long been a reality, not a fear)." To say nothing of the Pope.

"You don't have to be anti-Semitic to be part of the problem. Consciously or not, what is not said by a prime minister and what is erroneously reported by a wire service are all symptoms of a malignant societal tumor."

Claudia Rosett takes an off-beat view of the UN report on slum-clearance in Zimbabwe. In the Wall Street Journal, she argues that "The UN report does warn that its findings are incomplete. But they are rather worse than that. The eviction of hundreds of thousands was not, in Mugabe's universe, a policy mistake. It was, for Zimbabwe's murderous tyrant, a success - now yielding leverage over decent people who are indeed prone to send help to those suffering in Zimbabwe. We have seen this cycle before. It is what led to the UN devising, albeit on a far grander scale, with a far bigger cut for its own administrative services, the now scandal-ridden Oil-for-Food program in Iraq, which fortified Saddam Hussein and helped him keep power for years beyond what many in the early 1990s expected.

"What must be grasped in dealing with Zimbabwe is that the problem is Mugabe himself. And whatever welcome, warm or otherwise, he may provide to visiting UN delegations, the true recovery can only begin with his departure."

The Zimbabwean opposition seems not to be in much of a state to help that process. The Weekly Standard says a political solution is unlikely: "Civil war is becoming more likely, and increasingly so, as the opposition party collapses..."

26 July 2005

The Paul Volcker investigation into the UN Oil-for-Food scandal has completed that part of its work which concerns Benon Sevan, the UN official who headed the program, and is to publish its findings in a few days. The New York Times reports: "The committee studying possible corruption in the Iraq oil-for-food program has completed its investigation into whether the United Nations official who headed the program profited from his position, the panel's spokesman said Monday. The spokesman, Mike Holtzman, declined to disclose the conclusions but said they would be made public early in August once the official, Benon V. Sevan, had an opportunity to review them."

The Volcker team now intends to revisit allegations that Kofi Annan influenced the awarding of an oil-for-food contract to Cotecna Inspections Services, which employed his son Kojo. The group had cleared Mr Annan of that charge, but a memo has surfaced in the meantime, casting doubt on his assertion that he did not know about the involvement of his son's company. "The memo, from Michael R. Wilson, the contractor executive of Cotecna, reported on a 1998 meeting in which he said he was told that the bid had the active support of the secretary general," according to the Times. "The United Nations said it had no record of such a meeting, and Mr. Wilson subsequently denied writing the memo."

Luis Posada's lawyer's attempt to get his client out of jail until the August 29 start of his hearing before an immigration judge has failed. The Miami Herald, just about the only newspaper in the US that seems to want to bother to cover this case, says: "An immigration judge on Monday rejected a request by Luis Posada Carriles to be released on bond, ruling the Cuban exile must remain in detention until his case is resolved.

"Judge William L. Abbott cited allegations that Posada is a terror suspect and concerns he would flee if granted bond. Listing a series of terror allegations against Posada over the years, Abbott said even Posada's participation in operations against Cuba in the early 1960s could be considered terror under today's standards." It might be hard to tell from the sparse coverage in the US, but just about the entire Spanish and Portuguese-speaking world is hanging on this case, fascinated, because they see it as a major test of American resolve to behave even-handedly in the war on terror.

The old game seems to be afoot, once again. I don't mean that old game, I mean the one of trying to milk Baker Street's Dynamic Duo for all they're worth. A six-man team investigating claims that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle murdered the true author of The Hound of the Baskervilles is to apply to exhume a body from a churchyard in Devon, according to the Telegraph. The team, led by an author and a scientist, is to ask the Diocese of Exeter and the Home Office for permission to dig up the corpse of Conan Doyle's friend Bertram Fletcher Robinson, believed by some to have written the original.

"The author Rodger Garrick-Steele and a scientist, Paul Spiring, have formed the team, which includes a pathologist and a toxicologist, to investigate whether Fletcher Robinson was given the poison laudanum shortly before his death in 1907. There have been claims that Conan Doyle poisoned his former friend rather than let his plagiarism be discovered. Fletcher Robinson, a journalist and a barrister, and a former editor of the Daily Express, is buried at St Andrew's Church, Ipplepen, Devon."

There's no word on when the group will publish its book, but I'm sure fans won't have long to wait.

A leading Cuban dissident yesterday accused a 'two-faced' French government of creating circumstances in which Fidel Castro felt himself free to jail almost the entire dissident leadership of Cuba. The Telegraph claims that Marta Beatriz Roque's comments - she's a 60-year-old economist who was arrested during a protest outside the French embassy in Havana on Bastille Day - "came after Paris unilaterally ended a European Union diplomatic embargo against the regime of President Fidel Castro, and normalised relations with his government.

"Apparently emboldened by the French overture, Cuban authorities responded by launching the largest wave of dissident arrests since 2003, when almost the entire dissident leadership of the Communist-ruled island was rounded up."

Another dispatch from our Run, Run, the World is Coming to a Terrible End department. It reads: Run, run, the world is coming to a terrible end on 13 April, 2029!

There's this asteroid...

The Christian Science Monitor has further details, should you feel, for some odd reason, that you need any other fact.

25 July 2005

Concern is mounting over the fate of 15 Cuban dissidents jailed during a crackdown over the weekend on opposition leaders by the island's communist strongman, Fidel Castro. Among the detained are leaders of the historic May 20 pro-democracy gathering in Havana, and some Cuban-American leaders in Washington said yesterday that their imprisonment was evidence that tensions on the island nation are reaching a breaking point. The New York Sun quotes organizers at the Miami based support center for the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba as having said that "29 dissidents were arrested Friday as they prepared to demonstrate in front of the French Embassy in Havana. The detained included the three principal organizers of the May 20 gathering: Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, Rene Gomez Manzano, and Felix Bonne Carcasses. All three have been political prisoners during Mr. Castro's regime. As of yesterday evening, 14 of the 29 dissidents jailed on Friday, including Ms. Roque, had been released..."

Harare has been paralysed by the mismanagement of Robert Mugabe and his government, according to the Washington Post. "...Four months into a crushing fuel shortage, and more than two months since the government began a campaign to clean up slums and informal markets, the capital of about 1.4 million has slowed to a halt. Severe gasoline shortages in Zimbabwe have led to lines in the capital that stretch for blocks and last for days. For the 30 percent of Zimbabweans who are employed, many now spend hours each way commuting on foot. Empty cars are parked in gasoline lines that stretch for blocks. Even at rush hour, pedestrians can stroll across major boulevards without a glance in either direction. With tens of thousands of street vendors reportedly arrested, the few that remain have turned shy. Grocery stores routinely run out of cooking oil, sugar and soap. Shoppers must wait in line to buy a single loaf of bread.

"Harare's bustle is gone. Even those lucky enough to have jobs, in an economy with 70 percent unemployment, have trouble getting to work because public transport has become so scarce. It is not uncommon, workers said, for their daily commute to take three or four hours each way, most of it spent waiting in line for transportation. Many have resorted to walking, rising hours before dawn and returning home well after sunset."

Tony Blair and his Government deserve great credit, as I've said before, for deciding in the wake of the 7/7 bombings, to make it his principal focus to try to harness the support of Britain's Muslim community in the fight against radical Islam. Moderate Muslims in Britain are as worried by the bombings as any other sector of the community. Ziauddin Sardar, who is the author of Desperately Seeking Paradise: Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim, says in a Times article this morning: "Don't panic! All Muslims have not now, nor have they ever, gone over to the Dark Side. The peaceable majority is much spoken about these days. Unfortunately, they remain invisible, an abstraction, invoked when necessary, but still largely unknown by their anxious fellow citizens.

"The Dark Side, as every devotee of blockbuster culture knows, is seductive but deceptive. The problem for British Muslims is that it sets the baseline for every discussion...This is a lopsided picture. It needs to be balanced with the perspective of the quiet life of ordinary Muslim folk, the simple deeds of honest people. Without this perspective it is impossible to distinguish and differentiate who is who. The reality of the majority recedes, while the extremists thrive in the oxygen of attention and publicity."

The Muslim community of the United States is in a similar position, as this piece in the LA Times suggests: "While the educational and cultural circumstances facing Muslims in the United States are in many ways different from those in Great Britain, American Muslims are concerned about a backlash, according to Akbar Ahmed, formerly Pakistan's high commissioner to Britain and now a professor of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington. 'Today in America we are at a very dangerous point in community relationships,' Ahmed said. 'If, God forbid, there is some terrible strike [by] some stupid or misguided kid, who has been seduced or induced to do something stupid, then the reaction could be horrific and could lead to a lot of violence.'

"US Muslim organizations and leaders have long disavowed terrorism and the killing of innocents as alien to mainstream Islam. Just this month, for example, the Council on American Islamic Relations announced yet another public relations campaign to denounce terrorism, this one with the theme, 'Not in the Name of Islam'. But that message is chiefly directed at the US public. Since the July 7 London bombings that killed 56 - including four British Muslims presumed to be suicide bombers - and Thursday's similar but less damaging attacks, Muslim leaders said they would focus directly on their own young people and why a small minority may be attracted to a virulent interpretation of their faith that has abetted terrorism."

Pete du Pont, former Governor of Delaware and chairman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, writes in the Wall Street Journal this morning that the war against terrorism might be last for 50 years. For some time, he thinks, America may have to fight it nearly alone. "But terrorism is slowly changing European thinking, and that will help Americans and the people of the world win an essential victory in advancing the freedom that will insure a better future for people of every nation.

"Within the European continent thousands of trained terrorists live and travel freely. Historian Walter Laquer reports that security authorities estimate more than 600 - perhaps several thousand - British residents are actual graduates of Osama bin Laden's training camps. Dr. Hani al-Siba'i, the director of the al-Maqreze Centre for Historical Studies in London was quoted as approving of the subway bombings as a great victory, for it was legitimate to target civilians since the term 'civilians' does not exist in Islamic law...But none of this means continental Europeans or the British establishment are prepared to criticize terrorism."

Haaretz reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has criticized London Mayor Ken Livingstone, for example, for the 'ignorance' that made him suggest that members of the Israeli parliament and Hamas were 'two sides of the same coin'. Livingstone enraged Israelis last week by defending the use of suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and charging that Israel had indiscriminately slaughtered Palestinians in acts that 'border on crimes against humanity'. His ethical myopia is by no means unusual in Britain, where many are prepared to criticise the Israelis for trying to defend themselves, but not the Palestinians for attacking them.

Du Pont suggests that al Qaeda's strategy may have changed in order to neutralise European nations which might otherwise restrict the movement of radical Muslims, but its objective remains the same. "Al Qaeda understands that in the end the United States is what matters. The United Nations is irresolute and corrupt, and important European nations are indecisive and vulnerable. So drive the United States from the Middle East, establish control of all its nations, and then force the Western European nations to appease and accept an Islamic, theocratic global society."

Meantime, from the guys who are prepared to serve up the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as the unvarnished truth, comes another highly perspicacious theory - Mossad done it it all! AlJazeera quotes Egyptian experts as having said "Mossad, Israel's spy agency, was behind Saturday's attacks on the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh. Similar accusations were made against Israel in the past, particularly after last year's attack at the Taba Hotel in October and after the 9/11 attacks in the United States."

24 July 2005

The Cubans seem to be back at their old game of hunt the dissident again. BBC News quotes opposition figures in Cuba as having said that at least 20 Cuban dissidents have been detained as part of a new crackdown against the country's political opposition.

The LA Times describes Chinese film director Wong Kar-Wai as "a kind of Hong Kong Proust, combining the kinetic movement and hallucinatory night life of his home city with a ruminative style and a growing concern with our inability to capture lost time. Wong's films are closer to Italian and French art cinema, crossed with American film noir, than the action movies associated with his hometown: His stories are told through gesture and indirection, and what's outside the frame can be more important than what's in it. Village Voice critic J. Hoberman writes that he is 'the most avant-garde of pop filmmakers (or vice versa)' and that his movies work 'by subtraction'...

"Much of Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, especially its soulful but unconsummated relationship and the woozy, gently psychedelic cab rides through dim streets, was Wong Lite. Coppola, who thanked him as she collected the 2004 Oscar for best original screenplay, is not his only celebrity fan: Quentin Tarantino's company distributed 1994's Chungking Express - Wong's stylishly fleeting, Godard-inspired love story, over which Tarantino says he wept with joy on first viewing. Nicole Kidman agreed to work with Wong after likening him to the Creator."

Will Ali G survive his visit to the deep south? The Telegraph says: "In January, he nearly sparked a riot at a rodeo in Virginia when...he was invited to sing the national anthem. After first declaring, 'I hope you kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, down to the lizards,' he then delivered a mangled version of The Star Spangled Banner, changing the final line from 'home of the brave' to 'your home in the grave'. Cohen and his crew narrowly escaped attack as they were escorted out of the arena."

Then he went to dinner with George Matthews Marshall IV, an elderly aristocrat from Mississippi, and his family. He tried "to provoke them with his customary questions about slavery, blacks, Jews and homosexual rights, aimed at unmasking bigotry, prejudice, racism and homophobia...then introduced a 'special guest', a big black woman pretending to be a prostitute who proceeded to kiss and fondle him at the dining table." Mr Marshall threw him out, and said the visit was the worst thing to happen to his family since the Civil War.

He's a man who specialises in identifying that special spacecraft, let's say the one with the impudent, fruity bouquet of rasberries set against a deep background of young figs, black cherry, oak and perhaps a hint of yesterday's pork chops. The Telegraph talks to NASA's sniffer-in-chief: "In his quest to eliminate any smell-related problem that might endanger astronauts' lives or threaten space flights, 'Nasa's Nose' has sniffed everything from the mundane to the distinctly unusual, including cuddly toys and the adult nappies (officially, 'disposal absorption containment trunks') worn on spacewalks."

The Germans are claiming they invented just about everything, including the tea bag. This is not going over well in Britain.

From our Run, Run, the World's Coming to a Terrible End department comes this New York Times story suggesting that young French chefs are in revolt, plotting to foist veal hot dogs and plastic cups off on an unsuspecting world. "In the 1990's, some young and promising chefs, like Yves Camdeborde at Le Comptoir, Bertrand Bluy at Les Papilles and Thierry Breton at Chez Michel (all in Paris), deserted the fine-dining track to open smaller restaurants where they could cook serious food in a more casual atmosphere. Then there is the movement started by two young journalists, Alexandre Cammas and Emmanuel Rubin, who wanted to promote a new way of thinking about food. They call it Le Fooding. They hold events, some outdoors with people eating with their hands and drinking wine from plastic cups, and they also started giving out Le Fooding awards to restaurants they deemed spiritually sound.

"'Fooding is the fusion of food and feeling,' Cammas explained recently. 'Because, you know, gastronomy is a strange word. Because nomy...means regulation and administration, and we didn't like this. It doesn't include feeling.' But fooding apparently does."

Thanks for the tip, Hip Hop.


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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2003 Index


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