...Views from mid-Atlantic
06 August 2005

Now that Benon Sevan seems to be a target of the Volcker probe into the UN Oil-for-Food scandal, Sevan's lawyer has released letters accusing the UN-backed investigators of systematically depriving Sevan of access to UN documents and other information needed to defend himself. Instead, writes the lawyer, Sevan has been "barred access to all records of interviews of witnesses," and provided only with CDs "relating to a limited number of files, requiring him to view thousands and thousands of pages one page at a time," according to Claudia Rosett in the National Review.

"Sevan has a legitimate complaint. His lawyer is quite right that the UN's 'Independent Inquiry', led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, is engaging in high-handed and unjust tactics. Volcker's committee has already leaked its intention to lambaste Sevan in a report due out early next week, and since last year has been choreographing the tone and timing of its reports in ways more attuned to managing the news than getting at the full truth.

"The result so far has been to spare UN Secretary General Kofi Annan while fingering a handful of his subordinates, and to delay until just before the opening of the UN General Assembly in September a 'main report', which Volcker has already telegraphed as likely to divert blame from the UN Secretariat (which ran the program) to the US (which at least did more than any other UN member to try to clean it up).

"Worst of all, Volcker has parked himself for more than a year atop UN records that might have helped outside investigators crack some of the Oil-for-Food schemes involving ties to terror, organized crime, arms rackets, and political bribery, all of which are salted among the more than $110 billion of Saddam Hussein's deals administered by the UN under Oil-for-Food. It is welcome that Sevan is at last protesting in public the secrecy of these proceedings."

This morning more than half a million self-declared nerds across Japan will be locked in their rooms, frenziedly racking their brains over an examination posing 100 of the most obscure questions imaginable. If they don't know, for example, precisely how many more people attended the Tokyo Comiket Manga (comic strip) convention in 2002 than in 2001, they are unlikely to make it past the first section. Each nerd will be completely alone in this mental endeavour. Internet chatrooms and cyber cafes will be empty. There will be no conferring and the winner will take the greatest pop-culture prize of all - being officially recognised as Japan's biggest otaku.

The Guardian reviews its own book, the umpteenth, on the humour in its corrections of editorial mistakes - Only Correct, The Best of Corrections and Clarifications. The newspaper seems to think it's a pretty good book. Sample: "'The Belgian philosopher who lends his name to a building in Brussels...is, as it correctly said on first mention in the text, Justus Lipsius (1547-1606). It was his misfortune to become Lustis Jipsius, later in the same story.' Similarly, the recently deceased president of the European Central Bank, Wim Duisenberg, became, in a column, three years ago, Dim Wuisenberg."

Poking fun at themselves for making mistakes is not a habit confined to Guardian journalists, although it must be said they're better at it than most. Someone should sent a copy of this book to the NY Times, whose corrections always sound as if they've been written by a gravedigger, whacked out on sodium pentothal.

Could you be British? This is the test the British Government is asking immigrants to take before they'll give them citizenship. I got 10 out of 15, which I think is probably a pretty disgraceful result since I am a Brit. It may be enough to save me from deportation, though...as long as I lose the tan. Thanks for the tip, Hip Hop.

05 August 2005

The Volcker inquiry into the UN Oil-for-Food scandals is going to accuse Benon Sevan, the man in charge of the programme, of taking kickbacks. Benny Avni of the New York Sun has the story. The Volcker report is due to be released on Tuesday.

Did Marilyn Monroe really commit suicide back in 1962? John W. Miner, a former Los Angeles County prosecutor, doesn't believe so, and he's got secret tapes to prove it. It's the lead in the LA Times this morning, and having read the stories, I gotta say that's a news judgement I find it hard to disagree with.

Jazzman Lucky Thompson, who had all the talent, but not, ironically, luck enough to be a major star during his life, died in Seattle a few days ago. I've been able to find only two obituaries - this one in Britain's Independent and this shorter piece in JazzTimes Magazine. The Independent says "By mixing elements of the playing of the tenor saxophonists Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Don Byas with a considerable helping of his own style, Lucky Thompson became one of the great players of the instrument. He fell between the swing players and the bebop musicians in terms of style, but by the Fifties had adjusted his playing so that it sat happily at his best with Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk or Milt Jackson." It was a problem, though, that "Thompson was always difficult, an awkward eccentric and, sometimes with good reason, a constant complainer."

Friend Britgirl points to excerpts from the blog of Steven Vincent, the American freelance journalist killed by terrorists in Basra, published in the Guardian: "Once more, I'm reminded that the real agents of Iraq's fate are not media-friendly issues such as the 'insurgency' or the 'occupation', or even the upcoming constitutional convention, but subtle, non-documentable social norms that regulate the lives of nearly every person in this country - especially females. It astonishes me, the ways in which Iraqi men control their women with their obsessions on 'reputation', 'honour' and that all-purpose cudgel, 'proper Muslim behaviour'. Men, of course, maintain no such standards of conduct. Polygamy and 'temporary marriage' are legal here, so any single woman is subject to the advances of any man, married or not. Even if they aren't bold enough to confess their ardour, the hope, or fantasy, burns in their minds and fills their eyes with a queasy leer."

The vibrant abstract landscapes of Teng Chiu were a sensation in London and New York in the late 1920s and '30s. But the artist Teng fell through the cracks of history: He was forgotten in the West for decades until a set of his canvases was discovered in a New Orleans auction catalogue. The man who spotted those paintings, according to the Christian Science Monitor, was "...Kazimierz Poznanski, a Polish-born economics professor at the University of Washington, (who) found Teng paintings in a New Orleans auction catalogue in 1991. It was not clear how they got there. But the paintings did to Mr. Poznanski what Emily Dickinson said a good poem should do - they took off the top of his head. He began a one-man campaign to promote Teng's work. In 2003, he visited coastal Xiamen, Teng's home area. No one had heard of China's first modern painter. But a notice and several fuzzy reproductions in the local evening news caught the eye of Tang Shaoyang, a respected painter and professor at Xiamen University. That started the ball rolling.

"'I was totally impressed. I am well versed in the history of Chinese art, but I never heard of Teng,' says Dr. Tang. 'Nor did any of my friends know him, including editors of the most authoritative and official art magazines. The paintings were very fresh. Teng also answered a long nagging question I had - could a Chinese painter master modern art in that era?'"

04 August 2005

A friend and fellow-blogger has pointed me to a blogsite in which confusion apparently created by the Administration's announcement that we are fighting a Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism is discussed. TPMCafe is a Joshua Micah Marshall site. He's a well-known and respected blogger, left of centre, who also posts to Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall, and he says "The battle over language and the confusion within the National Security Council is an unfortunate reminder of the chaos that is afflicting the Bush Administration's effort to deal with terrorism. Unfortunately, every agency and department is doing its own thing without strong, clear direction or control from the White House. Makes longtime bureaucrats long for the days of Richard Clarke, when at least there was someone in charge.

"While the Bush Administration has trumpeted that it is waging a war on terrorism rather than treating it as a law enforcement problem, the reality is that the terrorists do not present a target that can be readily attacked with military assets. In fact, the major captures of terrorist targets, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Hambali, have been carried out through intelligence operations or thru police round ups."

Frank J Gaffney Jr makes similar points, though from a different political perspective, at National Review: "...the administration's rhetorical shift compounds an already acute problem: the perception the American people have been given that, whatever this conflict is called, it is somebody else's problem - that of the military, the government, our allies overseas, etc. They may continue to perceive that their contribution to the war effort (er, struggle) is confined to going shopping."

I look at it this way - under the general heading of a war on terrorism, there is also a struggle going on against extremism, which is the breeding ground for terrorists. Works for me.

Former US Attorney General Ed Meese is now the chairman of the Center for Legal and Judicial STudies at the Heritage Foundation. There, the director is Todd Gaziano, who was worked as an attorney in all three branches of the US Goverment. Together, the two men have written a piece for the Washington Times about the confirmation hearings held in 1993 for then-Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg. "Justice Ginsburg, while a smart lawyer, had been a radical activist. Her record as an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) litigator placed her far outside the mainstream of American law. She had argued for legalizing prostitution, against separate prisons for men and women, and had speculated there could be a constitutional right to polygamy. Some Republican senators wanted to know if she still held such extreme views. On question after question, though, she refused to answer."

Rules created then by Senator Joseph Biden, who chaired the hearing, stipulated she had no obligation to answer questions about her personal views, or about issues that might come before the court. Despite her silence, the Senate confirmed Justice Ginsburg, 93-3. Messrs Meese and Gaziano comment that some of Sen Biden's fellow Democrats seem conveniently to have forgotten those rules - three Democratic senators - Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York - have already promised to violate the 'Ginsburg Rule', not to mention the Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

Rev. Al Sharpton, according to the New York Sun, has pledged to jumpstart a grassroots movement that would address the issue of homophobia in the black community. That problem has undoubtedly contributed to the epidemic rates of HIV/AIDS cases among African-Americans, particularly black women. Writer Jamal Watson says "Rev. Sharpton's strongest detractors, to be sure, will be black preachers who remain in denial, even as the deadly disease claims the lives of those who sit in their pews week after week.

"The failure by the black religious community to tackle homophobia within its ranks has been a travesty and has further undermined the black clergy's efforts to become leading moral voices when it comes to eliminating 'isms'. Black clerics must stop ignoring the reality that the black community they claim to represent includes gay men and lesbians, many of whom spend years in hiding because they fear their lifestyle will be considered morally and socially unacceptable." This is the about the first thing the man's done that has made sense to me. If he succeeds, the whole world will owe him.

03 August 2005

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration yesterday raised its expectations for the number of storms that will be spawned during the 2005 hurricane season. The LA Times (among many others) reports that the US government body now predicts 18 to 21 storms in the Atlantic this season. I mentioned on July 28 that AccuWeather's Joe Bastardi had made a similar predication. There were 15 storms in 2004, of which nine turned into hurricanes, five of those strong enough to be categorised as major.

The most active Atlantic hurricane season ever was in 1933 with 21 tropical storms, followed by 1995 with 19 tropical storms. The most hurricanes in a season occurred in 1969, when there were 12 of them.

This is Archbishop Desmond Tutu, writing in the Washington Post about the crisis in Niger: "Now the anguish of Niger's children has spurred the outside world to act - but it is too late for many. Must we wait for these heart-rending images of children dying before we mobilize? We in Africa wonder: Can the world outside see the human beings - or the potential partners - behind the unrelenting despair?

"How can you absorb even the 'everyday' bulletins from Africa that epitomize a continent of bottomless need: the 40 million children kept out of school by poverty; the chronic malnutrition that stunts up to half of all children; the regions, such as southern Africa, where in five years one in five children will be an AIDS orphan?"

This is Jeevan Vasagar, writing in the Guardian a couple of days ago about what he calls "The strange reality of Niger's hunger crisis - There is plenty of food, but children are dying because their parents cannot afford to buy it...The price of grain has skyrocketed; a 100kg bag of millet, the staple grain, costs around 8,000 to 12,000 West African francs (around 13 pounds) last year but now costs more than 22,000 francs (25 pounds). According to Washington-based analysts the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet), drought and pests have only had a 'modest impact' on grain production in Niger. The last harvest was only 11% below the five-yearly average. Prices have been rising also because traders in Niger have been exporting grain to wealthier neighbouring countries, including Nigeria and Ghana.

"Niger, the second-poorest country in the world, relies heavily on donors such as the EU and France, which favour free-market solutions to African poverty. So the Niger government declined to hand out free food to the starving."

Vasagar sees this situation as a failure of capitalism. I find it hard to share that view. If there is food in the country, then this is a failure of the Niger government to properly understand its responsibility to take steps to ensure its own people don't go hungry. It's also a failure of Africa as a whole to understand that it, too, at times like this, has a responsibility to help its neighbours. What international aid is beginning to do is create welfare nations, which would rather take handouts than take the trouble to govern properly. Aid has created a climate in which appeals like the Archbishop's are the first line of attack, not a last resort.

The Brits have been thrust by 7/7 into a down and dirty debate on racial profiling. So far, they seem to be doing a heck of a lot better with it (see this in the Times and this in the Telegraph) than the US has done over a much longer period. Heather MacDonald, of City Journal has done some pretty fine work on the subject.

In an attempt to make their language more appealing, the Germans have begun to drop their aitches.

Francis Ford Coppola bought the movie rights to On the Road 37 years ago, the Telegraph reminds us. At long last, he's going to turn Jack Kerouac's Beat generation classic into a film, and has begun hiring actors. I don't envy him his job trying to decide how to play the book - you had to live through the years after WWII to understand what was in the air that made On the Road such an important, pivotal book. Without that, it was just a madcap road trip involving some interesting characters. Like Motorcycle Diaries (whose writers Coppola has asked to prepare a script, apparently) it won't have enough backbone to stand up on its own, played straight. If Coppola expects to make any money out of it, he might think of doing it as a comedy.

France yesterday threatened to derail the official start of talks this autumn with Turkey on its entry to the EU by insisting that it recognises Cyprus in advance, according to a report in the Guardian. Britain, which holds the EU presidency, and the European commission made it plain that Turkish recognition of Cyprus was not a precondition for talks to begin. If the French can be taken at their word on this issue, then I'm with them - Cyprus is a little piece of lunacy that has been allowed to exist for far too long. The fight didn't make much sense when it began, and time hasn't been kind to it.

02 August 2005

Beurger King Muslim? You'll think that's a spelling mistake, but it's not. The name is a play on both the chain and the French slang word 'beur', which means second generation North Africans living in France. Aljazeera says: "Though Muslim fast food abounds in France with endless street-side schawirma shops selling sliced-meat sandwiches or kebabs, Beurger King Muslim is the first to clone the set-up and decor of American-style fast food joints so popular among French youth. The first and only shop so far opened its doors last month in Clichy-sous-Bois, a Paris suburb of just more than 28,000."

Susan Bradford, a producer for the Middle East Broadcasting Center, and Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, a former high commissioner of Pakistan who is now the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies atAmerican University in Washington, DC, have written about the state of Islam in the Washington Times this morning. "The Muslim world is in crisis, and issuing fatwas is not sufficient to address the problem. Practical action needs to be taken to save Islam from itself. Muslims living in Western societies need to revert to the Islamic tradition of 'ilm', that is, the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, and turn away from ignorance, hatred, isolation and rage. Islamic society was not always thus. It once enjoyed a Golden Age, which prized rationality, moderation, and pursuit of the arts and sciences.

"However, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire and European colonization of Muslim lands, Islamic societies have fallen to tyrannical leadership and chaos, illiteracy, self-mutilation and violence. The Muslim world has fallen hopelessly behind as the rest of the world races ahead towards globalization. Unsettled by changes and not perceiving many options, Muslims are desperately holding onto obsolete traditions which no longer serve them and view Islam as a cultural, political identity as opposed to faith to draw one closer to God, to lead a righteous life.

"While acts of terrorism are unforgivable, the West needs to understand the state of the Muslim world. Horror and anger are natural reactions, but the West could help by reaching out to help Islam in this time of need instead of exacerbating matters with more hateful rhetoric and violence, which will only incite further violence and despair.

"Muslims, for their part, need to remember their great traditions and embrace education and scholarly pursuits, moderation, law and order in the tradition of Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, who resisted radicals and rose to power through constitutional means and respect for human rights and rule of law. The West needs to continue to support democratic impulses in the Muslim world. It needs to appreciate through the example of Jinnah that democratic tradition is an obtainable goal for Islamic societies and not give up hope. Further dialogue is not only possible but necessary between Muslim and Judeo-Christian societies to achieve peaceful resolution between them."

I thought the Washington Post got its editorial about the recess appointment of John Bolton yesterday to be ambassador to the UN just about right. "Mr. Bolton evidently has the president's confidence. Efforts to find factors that would disqualify him have proved less than overwhelming. He has, to be sure, crossed the line a few times in his behavior toward other officials. But most of the objections come down to his strong policy views and hard-charging style...

"The use of the recess appointment shouldn't have been necessary. The confrontation having taken place, however, we can only hope that Mr. Bolton's tenure proves worthy of the stand Mr. Bush had to take to get him there."

Contrast that with this exaggerated and childish piece published in the "Ambassador Bolton - New York Times this morning: "If there's a positive side to President Bush's appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations yesterday, it's that as long as Mr. Bolton is in New York, he will not be wreaking diplomatic havoc anywhere else... The appointment is, of course, terrible news for the United Nations, whose diplomats have heard weeks of Senate testimony about Mr. Bolton's lack of respect for their institution and his deeply undiplomatic, bullying style of doing business...this may be the first time a world superpower has used its top United Nations post as a spot for the remedial training of a troublesome government employee."

Makes the Times look more like a spoiled little boy trying to get revenge for being beaten than one of the world's most serious and respected newspapers, doesn't it?

Britain's struggling to meet its carbon dioxide emission targets, according to the Guardian. The UK is still on target to reach its 12.5% cuts under Kyoto, but not the much harder 20% carbon dioxide target the government set itself as an example to show the world that cuts could still be made despite the fact that the economy was growing.

France has expelled two radical Islamist leaders in the wake of the London bombings and plans to round up and send home up to two dozen more by the end of the month, according to the Guardian "Underlining the difference in approach between London and Paris, a ministry spokesman said France had 'no problem' deporting speakers accused of inflaming anti-western feeling even if they were French citizens and recognised as preachers by France's six-million-strong Muslim community."

New York Times staffer Anne E Kornblut wrote this morning's story about columnist Robert D Novak's rather dramatic decision to write, against his attorney's advice, about how he came to identify Valerie Plame as a CIA agent way back when. If you relied on her version to give you the gist of the story, though, you would have no idea that Novak's column was in any way dramatic, and you would have no idea why he chose to ignore his attorney's stricture. For her, the story was Novak's claim that Valerie Plame's name was available to anyone who was interested in Who's Who in America. She did, in her very last paragraph, put that in perspective by saying "There is no mention of her employer." That makes Novak look a little disingenuous, doesn't it?

The Times did better yesterday, when they used an Associated Press version of the story, in which it is made clear that the reason Novak wrote the column he did was his anger at CIA spokesman Bill Harlow's version of a telephone conversation the two of them had about Valerie Plame.

"Novak, whose role in the investigation is unknown," that story said, "has been silent on the series of events he set in motion. But he wrote about it Monday, saying he was ignoring his lawyers' advice because Harlow's account is 'so patently incorrect and so abuses my integrity as a journalist.'

"Novak said Harlow's admonition not to disclose Plame's name 'is meaningless. Once it was determined that Wilson's wife suggested the mission, she could be identified as Valerie Plame by reading her husband's entry in Who's Who in America. The columnist said Harlow was 'just plain wrong' in saying he had deliberately disregarded Harlow's comment that Plame had not authorized her husband's trip. 'There never was any question of me talking about Mrs. Wilson 'authorizing.' I was told she 'suggested' the mission, and that is what I asked Harlow,' he wrote.

"Harlow declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press."

01 August 2005

The Telegraph thinks the new six-nation climate agreement is a step in the right direction, and that the US might well have been right about Kyoto all along. "Since signing up to Kyoto, the EU members have actually drifted further away from their targets. Twelve of the 15 original signatories are so far away that they are virtually certain to miss them, and to incur the eye-watering financial penalties as a result. Only Britain and Germany are closer, thanks to the switch from coal to gas here and the closure of East Germany's heavy industry there. The politicians may claim that we are 'on track' to meet our targets, but as a whole the EU is already miles off. Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute - and one of those people Sir David warned us journalists to beware of - goes further: 'Given these penalties, Kyoto seems designed to fail. There is the increasing possibility that sufficient greenhouse gas credits will not exist at any price for the EU to try and buy its way to compliance even if it wished.'

"This is what their lordships seem to have grasped in their little-noticed report. They conclude: 'The Kyoto protocol makes little difference to rates of warming, and has a naive compliance mechanism which can only deter other countries from signing up to subsequent tighter emissions targets. We urge the Government to take a lead in exploring alternative 'architectures' for future protocols, based perhaps on agreements on technology and its diffusion.' Hard though it may be for the hair-shirt brigade and the Royal Society to accept, there's an awful possibility that the Americans were right all along. The Kyoto accord looks like yesterday's approach to yesterday's conception of tomorrow's problem."

Oz blogger Arthur Chrenkoff explains in his round-up of good news from Iraq (published in the Wall Street Journal) what it was that the Bishop said to the reporter. "A foreign reporter recently asked Monsignor Rabban al Qas, Chaldean bishop of Amadiyah and Arbil, whether there is any good news coming out of Iraq. 'Twenty-three Iraqis are killed every day in Iraq,' the interviewer observed. 'Nearly two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, there is no security as yet. Is there still hope in Iraq?' To which the monsignor replied:

"What the media portray is true: explosions, killings, attacks. But if you see how much order, discipline, transport, displacements, and work have improved, there is a change for the better compared to one or two years ago. Now people understand there is a government, the structure of a new state. Thousands and thousands of allied and Iraqi soldiers are present. There is a constitution which is being drawn up, laws are being enacted. The presence of authority is recognised. This was not the case before. And Al-Qaeda integralists and terrorists coming from abroad seek to penetrate Iraq precisely to destroy the beginnings of this social organization.

"A war for the future of Iraq is going on, but that war is being fought not only with guns and explosives. Terrorists and insurgents are killing soldiers and civilians and sabotaging infrastructure, and the Iraqi and coalition security forces in turn are hunting down the enemies of the new Iraq. But every step towards self-government, every new job created, every new school opened, is a small victory against those who would want to turn Iraq's clock back three - or 1,300 - years."

What a great idea! A New York entrepreneur has started a Web site, HopStop.com, that he says will so simplify the world of mass transit that advertisers, Internet search engines and transit agencies will eventually clamor to use and buy ads on the site. He says the site has processed more than a million requests so far this year and averages about 150,000 users a month. HopStop users type addresses, landmarks or businesses into origin and destination fields. Based on criteria set by the user, the site determines the quickest and most convenient pathway through New York's expansive mass transit system. Users of the free service can print the directions or have them sent as text messages to cellphones.

And here's another great idea, though over on the darker side of life. Haaretz says the Israeli Defence Force has developed a new bullet, the head of which is made of compressed sand, which can be fired at rioters and the like from a regular rifle, and which has less potential for causing damage than rubber bullets. "Rubber bullets have killed dozens of Palestinians in the past two decades. The sand bullet is said to be extremely painful but less dangerous because it does not penetrate the skin."

The New York Times has published an interesting analysis of changes in Western views of the nature of terrorist forces. They're less centrally controlled, bloom more spontaneously, the paper says. "'We are seeing a terrorist threat that keeps changing,' said Pierre de Bousquet, the director of France's domestic intelligence service, known as the DST, in an interview in Paris. 'Often the groups are not homogeneous, but a variety of blends. Hard-core Islamists are mixing with petty criminals...People of different backgrounds and nationalities are working together. Some are European-born or have dual nationalities that make it easier for them to travel. The networks are much less structured than we used to believe. Maybe it's the mosque that brings them together, maybe it's prison, maybe it's the neighborhood. And that makes it much more difficult to identify them and uproot them.'"

I just find it a little hard to shake the feeling that the Times is relying a little too much on statements apparently made by London wannabe suicide bomber Osman Hussain, leaked top the news media by authorities in Rome. The thrust of what he said was that his was a group of four homeboys, free of outside control, trying to dramatise injustice in Iraq not by blowing people up, but by making a big demonstration with enough explosive to scare people, but not kill them. If you'd believe that, etc, etc, etc.

Nonetheless, people from one side of the world to the other are struggling to digest what the London bombings say about the way the threat of Islamic extremism should be seen. Anthony Browne, the European correspondent of the London Times says "The London bombings revealed only to those in denial the extent to which Islamic fascism has taken root. But we have a long way to go until we reach the level of understanding in mainland Europe. With one of the smallest Muslim populations in Western Europe, just three per cent of the total, Britain has been able to afford a joyful multicultural optimism. Other countries, with far bigger Islamic populations, from France to Germany to the Netherlands, have had to become far more hard-headed.

"The support of Islamic fascism spans Britain's Left. The wacko Socialist Workers Party joined forces with the Muslim Association of Britain, the democracy-despising, Shariah-law-wanting group, to form the Stop the War Coalition. The former Labour MP George Galloway created the Respect Party with the support of the MAB, and won a seat in Parliament by cultivating Muslim resentment. When I revealed on these pages last year both the fascist views of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the fact that he was being welcomed to Britain by Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, it caused a storm that has still to abate. Mr Livingtone claims that Sheikh al-Qaradawi is a moderate - which he is, in the same way that Mussolini was."

In the US, as the LA Times says "US counter-terrorism officials say there is no evidence that such would-be terrorists exist in large numbers in the United States, or that any of them are in the operational stages of a plot. And some US officials and experts downplay the threat such domestic militants might pose to Americans. But some senior authorities say there is enough anecdotal evidence to warrant concern, and suggest that whatever radicalized the British bombers could presumably also motivate Americans who have embraced Islamic extremist views expressed on websites and chat rooms, in radical mosques and elsewhere."

Moderate Muslims, too, struggle to cope with the threat extremists pose to their community. The San Francisco Chroniclecovers that side of it: "Muslims across the world are struggling to deal with an escalating campaign of violence waged in the name of Islam. At the core of the debate is a growing realization that religious leaders, and the governments that often support them, have not done enough to discourage the extremism that is plaguing Muslim society across the globe...The grim irony is beginning to sink in: The people dying in the daily bombings in Iraq, and in the bombings that have hit Casablanca, Riyadh, Istanbul and, most recently, Sharm el-Sheikh, are overwhelmingly Muslim. Indeed, some of the London victims came from the British capital's large Muslim community."

What is clear, though, is that no matter how each of these groups work it out, the London bombings have nudged global public opinion into a new, considerably less tolerant mode where extremists are concerned.

31 July 2005

Support for suicide bombings and Islamic extremism, along with hatred of the Great Satan, is waning in the Muslim World, according to Max Boot, writing in the Washington Times. "If that is a surprise, it's because of the old adage that good news is no news. While the increase of anti-Americanism around the world and especially in Muslim countries has been exhaustively covered since 2001, not enough attention has been paid to an important survey released in the last month that found global opinion shifting in a more positive direction. The public opinion poll was conducted by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, hardly a bastion of neoconservative zealotry. (It's co-chaired by Madeleine Albright.)

"In the last three years, Pew surveys have charted surging anti-Americanism in response to the invasion of Iraq and other Bush administration actions. But its most recent poll of 17,000 respondents in 17 countries in May also found evidence widespread antipathy is abating."

The classes, or at least some of them, are at each other's eyes again in Britain. In the Sunday Times, Michael Portillo's banging on about the government's plan to abolish grammar schools in Northern Ireland: "It seems clear to me that the success of a country, and so the living standard of its people, depends substantially on what its most brilliant minds can achieve. We should take young people who show promise and develop them. If anything, we would need to be on the lookout for them earlier than age 11 because children grow up faster than they used to. Youngsters from poorer backgrounds (boys, especially) can buckle to peer group pressure and develop negative attitudes to learning early on...

"The great egalitarian experiment has failed. The government has made A-levels ever easier in an attempt to disguise the debacle, but it has failed in that too. The few surviving grammar schools offer an embarrassing example of how we might do better for disadvantaged youngsters. So those tiresomely successful schools in Northern Ireland must be swept away. Generations of children have paid the price for the utopianism of politicians like Crosland and Blair who were educated at independent schools. Apparently such ideologues are still not ready to admit defeat."

I did check the calendar after I read this story, just in case I was losing it. But it is not April 1. Lord Pearson of Rannoch (he's a Eurosceptic of note) has been off and met our God. (He is a He, I should confirm quickly, for those of you who can't stand the suspense.) And Lord Pearson has brought back a message from Him for the rest of us. The Telegraph has the details.

Another list...actually a promo of a list. Bill Hagerty, editor of British Journalism Review is writing in the Independent about a Channel 4 programme that's not airing for another month or so. Sound a little overanxious? Actually not. The Independent's just trying to get their licks in first, before half a hundred others do. "On the heels of such television schedule fillers as The 100 Greatest Albums and The 100 Greatest Movie Stars comes a countdown show designed to unveil The Greatest Tabloid Headlines ever written. The words 'barrel', 'bottom of' and 'scrape' spring to mind. But wait..."


Ravi Shankar is going to be performing Sitar Concerto Number One at the Proms in London on Wednesday with his daughter, Anoushka. As the Guardian points out, it'll be the first time he's appeared there. Father and this daughter have been playing together for years now - he says playing with other daughter Norah Jones would be incorrect from a musical standpoint.

There is a most excellent Sunday morning treat in the New Sunday York Times magazine this morning - a long, interesting and well-done piece about Jim Jarmusch by Lynn Hirschberg, who is the magazine's editor-at-large. "'I know,' Jarmusch moaned during a recent meeting with me in Manhattan. 'It's all so...independent. I'm so sick of that word. I reach for my revolver when I hear the word 'quirky'. Or 'edgy'. Those words are now becoming labels that are slapped on products to sell them. Anyone who makes a film that is the film they want to make, and it is not defined by marketing analysis or a commercial enterprise, is independent. My movies are kind of made by hand. They're not polished - they're sort of built in the garage. It's more like being an artisan in some way...'"

"When it became clear that Jarmusch was not interested in signing a deal with any studio, Hollywood stopped offering him projects. He had cemented his reputation as a staunch outsider. 'My place is in the margins,' he said. 'If I made a film that a lot of people liked, I might wonder what I did wrong...'"

"At Cannes in May, before the screening of Broken Flowers, Jarmusch expected the worst. As he later told me, 'It's easier that way.' (Bill) Murray, who was also there, attending Cannes for the first time with a film in competition, said, 'Unlike Jim, I always prefer that people actually see the movie.' Jarmusch praised Murray's performance: 'Nick Ray said: 'Acting is like piano playing. The dialogue is just the left hand; the melody is in the eyes.' And that would apply to Bill in this movie.' Before the screening, Murray zipped around La Croisette on a moped, picking up passengers, and gave interviews about searching for his own ex-girlfriends, as his character does in the movie. 'I usually decide to try in the middle of the night in a strange town, and I don't recommend it,' he said.

"It rained on the night of the premiere at the Palais, and the weather nicely underscored the comic melancholy of Broken Flowers. By all accounts, the Cannes audiences loved the movie, which of course made Jarmusch uncomfortable. 'If something gets too good a response, I want to head for the hills,' he said later. 'And not Beverly Hills. Popular success is not my area of expertise.'

"Before he left the festival, Murray, who claims to be semi-psychic, turned to Jarmusch and said, enigmatically, 'I think second place is OK.' He was referring to the coming announcement of the Palme d'Or, the top prize at Cannes. Jarmusch doesn't really remember the moment, but two days later, Broken Flowers won the Grand Prix, the runner-up prize at the festival, just as Murray predicted. 'That was better for Jim,' Murray said. 'He could win and not feel awkward. His victory was a bit off to the side. And he's happier there.'"


Art in Bermuda
Bermuda's Cuban Connection
Death of the Nation State
Helen Lives!
Joe Wilson and Michael Moore
Linton Kwesi Johnson's Dub Poetry
Me and Evergreen Review
Michael Howard's Vision
Miss Lou and Jamaican Patois
More Doomsday Nonsense
Mullah Nasrudin's Lessons
New York Dogs
OECD's Unfair to Competition
On Catullus
On Charles Ives
On Colin MacInnes
On Collecting Books
On Collecting Books - Part Two
On Gambling in Bermuda
On Napoleon
On Patrick Leigh Fermor
Race and Bermuda's Election
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The Gift of Slang
The Limits of Knowledge
The Nature of Intelligence
The Shared European Dream
The US Supreme Court's First Terrorism Decisions
Useful Yiddish
Yukio Mishima's Death

Article Archive

2003 Index


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Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
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