|...Views from mid-Atlantic|
05 November 2005
Two things that seem connected to me. First, there is general agreement among experts, I think, that Anthony Powell's series of novels, A Dance to the Music of Time, is one of the most important works of literature of the 20th Century. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the Wallace collection in London has opened what Andrew Motion (do I need to tell you who he is?) describes in the Guardian today as an elegant exhibition of objects connected to him and his life.
Second, my favourite British Pondblog reader, a passionate advocate of the fox's position in the debate about hunting, said last week that my views on that subject left something to be desired. I feel I should defend myself, at least to the extent of denying that I am a fox hunting enthusiast. The only thing I have to say about the rights and wrongs of that sport is that it is probably more civilised than dwarf tossing, but I am attracted to neither. What I do feel strongly about is the motive of many of those who took part in campaigning against fox hunting - it had little to do with saving foxes' lives, and much to do with acting out a violent and malevolent prejudice against anything that is associated with Britain's upper classes. That prejudice has been the undoing of Britain as a 'great' society, and will continue to undermine social, economic and intellectual progress in Britain as long as it exists.
The connection between fox hunting and Anthony Powell? A remark by Andrew Motion in his piece about the Wallace Collection's exhibition that those who disagree with Anthony Powell's importance to English literature on the grounds that he is "a terrific snob" (that's apparently a quote from John Carey, the Times's chief book critic), concerned only with the privileged classes that surrounded him while being educated at Eton and Oxford.
It's fox hunting all over again - I cannot think of a more footling way to judge an author's ability than by the attention he pays to a particular social class. It's as mistaken and off the point as saying Michelangelo was a terrible painter because he was Catholic. It's hard to grasp that the nation that prides itself on having been the birthplace of modern justice could be so gripped by an idea that won't balance the scales unless you set it opposite something like stoning cripples.
I like Chris Patten - he's a man who's interested in many more things than simply those that can help him get to where he wants to go. I think it's a sign he is an educated man, as distinct from a man who has spent his time learning a trade. He's written an article in the Guardian this morning about Chinese porcelain: "It is easy to allow oneself, in discussing paintings and artistic objects, to be carried off into discussions of history, economics and technology. Whatever the interest of what these artworks tell us about a period of Chinese history that spanned the years in Britain from the restoration of Charles II to the middle of the Napoleonic wars, we should not overlook just how beautiful so many of them are. My own favourite is the peach-bloom radish vase, made in the famous kilns at Jingdezhen whose industrial secrets European missionaries tried to steal. It may well be true, as some of the Persian Islamic plates and bowls at the Ashmolean museum suggest, that the Chinese did not discover the colours of their famous porcelain. But they certainly led the way in the manufacture of hard porcelain, and this vase, with its copper-red glaze, is a good example of the stunning work produced at the export capital of the porcelain trade."
On the subject of Chinese porcelain, I have a friend...or perhaps an acquaintance is a more truthful way of putting it, who is a much-read, much-respected expert. Part of his collection is being sold in a Sotheby's auction in London next week. Have a look - you'll need to register, but the browsing's free. If you have an urge to buy me something, I'd like the Jun flowerpot.
If Kofi Annan had called off his trip to Iran last week, when the Iranian President made his unfortunate remarks about wiping Israel off the map, he would have been given credit for his good moral judgement. Doing it yesterday makes you wonder, once again, whether he has any moral judgement at all. The Globe and Mail said the UN Secretary-General had "decided it was 'not an appropriate time' for him to go to Iran, citing the 'ongoing controversy' over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's remarks last week, according to a statement from the secretary-general's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric."
Here's another kind of judgement he seems to be lacking: In the Washington Post this morning, he takes issue with those who fear the UN is trying to take over the Internet: "Much as some would like to open up another front of attack on the United Nations, this dog of an argument won't bark." Nice stuff. Bureaucrats sufficiently self-possessed to speak in that kind of unequivocal language are few and far between.
But that seems about all he's got, just a line. The rest of it is about as slippery and vague a bunch of bull as you'd expect of a man who really does have the agenda he's trying to deny: "At the summit two years ago in Geneva, discussions on Internet governance reached a stalemate. So the UN member states asked me to establish a group to examine the issue further. This Working Group on Internet Governance presented its findings in a report that reflects the views of its members, but not of the United Nations. It proposed creation of a 'new space for dialogue' - a forum that would bring all stakeholders together to share information and best practices and discuss difficult issues, but that would not have decision-making power.
"The group also offered several options for oversight arrangements, with varying degrees of government involvement and relationship to the United Nations. None says that the United Nations should take over from the technical bodies now running the Internet; none proposes to create a new UN agency; and some suggest no UN role at all. All say that the day-to-day management of the Internet should be left to technical institutions, not least to shield it from the heat of day-to-day politics. These and other suggestions are being considered by UN member states.
Everyone acknowledges the need for more international participation in discussions of Internet governance. The disagreement is over how to achieve it. So let's set aside fears of UN 'designs' on the Internet...I urge all stakeholders to come to Tunis ready to bridge the digital divide and ready to build an open, inclusive information society that enriches and empowers all people."
Run for the hills, boys, this prick's after our precious bodily fluids!
04 November 2005
Victor Davis Hansen, whose columns were beginning to get a little thin just before his latest book was published, returns to his usual form with this fine column in the National Review. "Most Americans think that our present conflict is not comparable with World War II, in either its nature or magnitude. Perhaps - but they should at least recall the eerie resemblance of our dilemma to the spread of global fascism in the late 1930s. At first few saw any real connection between the ruthless annexation of Manchuria by Japanese militarists, or Mussolini's brutal invasion of Ethiopia, or the systematic aggrandizement of Eastern-European territory by Hitler. China was a long way from Abyssinia, itself far from Poland. How could a white-supremacist Nazi have anything in common with a racially-chauvinist Japanese or an Italian fascist proclaiming himself the new imperial Roman?
"In response, the League of Nations dithered and imploded (sound familiar?). Rightist American isolationists (they're back) assured us that fascism abroad was none of our business or that there were conspiracies afoot by Jews to have us do their dirty work. Leftists were only galvanized when Hitler finally turned on Stalin (perhaps we have to wait for Osama to attack Venezuela or Cuba to get the Left involved). Abroad even members of the British royal family were openly sympathetic to German grievances (cf. Prince Charles's silence about Iran's promise to wipe out Israel, but his puerile Edward VIII-like lectures to Americans about a misunderstood Islam). French appeasement was such that even the most humiliating concession was deemed preferable to the horrors of World War I (no comment needed).
"We can, of course, learn from this. It's past time that we quit worrying whether a killer who blows himself up on the West Bank, or a terrorist who shouts the accustomed jihadist gibberish as he crashes a jumbo jet into the World Trade Center, or a driver who rams his explosives-laden car into an Iraqi polling station, or a Chechnyan rebel who blows the heads off schoolchildren, is in daily e-mail contact with Osama bin Laden. Our present lax attitude toward jihadism is akin to deeming local outbreaks of avian flu as regional maladies without much connection to a new strain of a deadly - and global - virus."
This release from Cuba's foreign ministry is everything you expect from the bureaucracy of a communist regime. The lead is at the end of a long queue - a shaggy dog story - of extraneous waffle. You get the impression they're not used to giving information away, and had to be ordered to do it in this case by Fidel himself. The bottom line is that the goodwill visit by three US hurricane experts to Cuba in Wilma's wake is off.
Marlene Dietrich was evidently a poet. A suitcase full of her work has been discovered and is about to be published. The London Times publishes some examples this morning, including this one: "With Henry Fonda/ I wonda/ How you got away/ With this sordid,/ Morbid bit".
Ahem. Good thing she had a day job.
The Guardian's got this story on George Galloway backwards. They led on the US Senate referring his testimony to the committee investigating the Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal to the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney's Office in DC. We knew they were going to do that.
What is new is that his allegations of widespread fraud in his constituency in last year's general election have been dismissed. The MP had claimed there had been inaccuracies in the electoral roll and that Labour supporters had abused the postal voting system. He claimed certain addresses had been connected to an inordinate number of postal vote applications.
The Guardian says: "Brian Coleman, chairman of the Assembly's elections review committee, said: 'The slurs on the integrity of the electoral process in Tower Hamlets are disgraceful. If Mr Galloway was really serious about the allegations, he would have reported them to the police. Instead, he used it as a platform for publicity.' A spokesman for Tower Hamlets council said: 'Despite many opportunities to do so, George Galloway has never produced a shred of evidence to support his claim.'"
Gosh. Could a pattern be developing?
03 November 2005
Hard to explain what this little feature in the San Franciso Chronicle is all about. Perhaps it'll help if I explain that a six-toed cat called Beezer figures in it, as do two ounces of overproof bourbon and half an ounce of B & B. It's that kind of day...
The final report of Paul Volcker's Oil-for-Food investigation is causing acute problems for many countries whose politicians are said to have benefitted from Saddam Hussein's largesse. This report from Moscow deals with problems there, but similar problems excist in Australia, India and South Africa.
"Russia will investigate allegations that Russian companies and politicians were part of the massive corruption in the UN oil-for-food program in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Russia's UN ambassador was quoted by Associated Press as saying. "Envoy Andrey Denisov also said that his country is not completely rejecting a report laying out cases against some individuals and businesses, but expressed confidence that at least in the case against former Kremlin chief of staff Alexander Voloshin 'the documents were forged, falsified - signatures, numbers and other things.'
"Russia was a prime target of the report by the Independent Inquiry Committee, led by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker, which accused more than 2,200 companies and prominent politicians of colluding with Saddam's regime to bilk the humanitarian operation of $1.8 billion in kickbacks and illicit surcharges. The 623-page report alleged that 'Russian companies received almost one-third of oil sales under the program,' worth some $19 billion. It also alleged that between March 2001 and December 2002, Russian companies alone paid $52 million in illicit surcharges to Saddam's government."
Bermuda's Labour Government, which came to power shortly after the Labour Party in England did, has declined to discipline Cabinet Ministers and others who have been reported to be involved in unethical behaviour, on the extraordinary grounds that they had done nothing criminal. That's a mind-numbingly low standard of bahaviour - most countries (and I'm being sarcastic here, just in case you don't get my drift) do acknowledge that there is behaviour short of the criminal that might disqualify a politician from holding office.
One hopes our Premier takes note of the fact that David Blunkett's second resignation from the Cabinet in Britain this week was over his ownership of some shares which might have suggested an inability to be govern impartially in certain circumstances. His first was over an inappropriate romantic relationship. Scotland Yard weren't called in in either case. It seems they weren't called in to investigate the circumstances of any of the resignations from the Cabinet that have occurred since 1997 - the Independent this morning provides a handy list of which ministers have resigned and why.
This Associated Press report suggests that Arab states in the Middle East are putting pressure on Syria to cooperate with the United Nations. "Arab states are quietly pressing Syria to cooperate with an inquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a sign they support a stern UN warning to Damascus and want to avoid a confrontation with the West. This week's U.N. resolution - which paves the way for sanctions against Syria if it does not go along - brought near silence from the region's governments. There have been no street protests, no Arab leaders coming together for Syria's defense.
"Instead, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Gulf nations have launched behind-the-scenes diplomacy, apparently to send the message that Syria must stop stonewalling - even if that could mean prosecution of top figures in President Bashar Assad's regime over Hariri's slaying."
02 November 2005
Anyone who knows how fiercely the US Marines guard their independence will be surprised to learn that they have agreed to give over control of quite a large chunk of troops to the command of Special Operations troops. The Washington Post says: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday announced creation of a force of about 2,600 highly specialized Marines intended to address a shortage of elite troops available for counterterrorist operations and other missions requiring exceptional skills. But in a marked departure for the fiercely self-reliant Corps, the new contingent will report not to the Marine leadership but to the multi-service command responsible for other Special Operations troops."
It's an interesting grouping, obviously chosen as a result of the nature of the fight against terrorism. The Post says "The largest element, made up of two battalions and a regimental headquarters, will serve as the operational force. A second element of about 400 Marines will be responsible for support functions and will include intelligence analysts, logistics specialists, dog handlers, interrogators and interpreters. A third element, also about 400 strong, will provide small teams for training foreign militaries."
One thing the Los Angeles Times has is a complement of excellent writers about food. This monring, each of them was asked to nominate a favourite cookbook, and to point to a recipe that typifies its quality: "There's a lot of inspiring stuff flying off the presses lately, and we're thrilled to make room on our bookshelves - but not at the expense of that one old favorite. You know, the cookbook whose jacket has gone missing, whose pages are stained with gravy, whose splitting spine is taped together. It's the one we can always count on for great ideas and practical advice. In that spirit, here are the all-time favorite cookbooks of Times Food staff writers." Maybe it's just a side effect of my regime, but that onion panade seems to have a certain urgency about it.
As I read this polite, but thorough evisceration of a Daily Mail columnist, I thought it didn't sound much like the Guardian's usual knee-jerk form. That, broadly speaking, is to support any whacko with a gripe against the establishment. Sure enough, when I got to the last paragraph, I discovered that Ben Goldacre, the writer, isn't a journalist, but a doctor. He knows how to use plain English to make a robust claim, though: "Health scares are like toothpaste: they're easy to squeeze out, but very difficult to get back in the tube. On Monday, for example, Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail wrote yet another attack on the MMR vaccine. She suggested that the journalists who trusted the new Cochrane review, which shows that MMR is probably safe and not linked to autism, were lazy stooges who took the press release at face value.
"The problem is that Phillips seems to misunderstand basic epidemiology. She cites 'research data' of highly dubious status and misrepresents what data there is. Her response is a microcosm of the problems that can arise when journalists engage with science." Some journalists, he meant to say.
Claudia Rosett is championing the cause of Muhamad Mugraby, a Lebanese human rights lawyer, in a Wall Street Journal article. Mugraby is facing prosecution because, in Brussels two years ago, he criticised the Syrian regime. "Mr. Mugraby's alleged offense is that two years ago, in testimony to the European Parliament, he dared to defend the rights of Lebanese - and Arabs generally - to liberty and rule of law. This is the kind of behavior and vision long brushed off by State Department Arabists and assorted Middle East-expert types as uppity and inconvenient. In truth, not only is it courageous; it is proving a powerful guide to the undercurrents of the Middle East - not least to such events as the high voter turnouts this year in Iraq and the massive demonstrations this spring in Beirut for truth, democracy and freedom from Syria's fascist sway."
Mugraby may not need all that much help - the regime in Syria is now generally acknowledged to be in deep water. The New York Times says support is waning rapidly within Syria: "Syrians seem uniformly convinced that the investigation is being used by the West to bend the Assad government to its will. But that is not translating into support for the government or for its approach to managing the investigation. Worse, people here say, the crisis has begun to change the public's perception of its leaders, shaking their confidence in the ability of the leadership not just to fight back, but to survive.
'The regime is crippled at the highest, closest, smallest circle,' said a Syrian political analyst...On one side are the conservatives who want to try to preserve Syria's role in the region, its use of surrogates, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, or its support for the Palestinian cause. On the other side, the analyst said, is a smaller group inside the government looking to shore up Syria's strength by taking steps to calm the critics and to improve Syria's domestic political, economic and social situation."
Support for Syria in the wider Middle East seems also to have waned. Syria claimed a day or two ago to have called for a meeting of the Arab League to discuss the UN's demands. Gosh, so sorry, says the Arab League's Secretariat, we never got the message: "Arab League General Secretariat denied yesterday that it received a demand from Syria to hold an urgent Arab summit after the issuance of the Security Council Resolution which called Damascus to 'fully cooperate' with the international investigation in the assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri."
01 November 2005
DEBKAfile makes a couple of interesting claims in the wake of the UN resolution demanding Syria cooperate with its Hariri assassination investigation. First, the resolution demands not only that Syria hand over any suspects named by the UN investigators, but that suspects should be subject to a travel ban and a freeze on their assets.
"Faced with this torrent of menacing language," says DEBKAfile, "Bashar Assad's close associates have already decided that escape is the better part of valor. Influential Syrian VIPs appear to have read the UN resolution carefully last week and are absconding. DEBKAfile's intelligence sources reveal large cash withdrawals from Syrian banks, currency conversions and transfers to banks outside the country...The largest capital transfer - estimated at $6 to 7bn - was made by the tycoon Rami Makhlouf who lost no time in removing himself, business and family from Damascus to Dubai.
"Makhlouf's defection is a mortal blow for Assad and his shrinking circle of supporters. He is not only the manager of the Assad clans' finances, his is also a close kinsman; Bashar's mother is his aunt, sister of his father General Adnan Makhlouf, who served the late president Hafez Assad in a top position of trust as commander of the presidential guard...His is not the only defection. Several other affluent Syrian businessmen close to the regime have also decamped. The second richest man in the country, Firas Tlas, has moved lock, stock and barrel, to Abu Dhabi. DEBKAfile's sources also report the secret flit of General Bahajat Suleiman, head of Syria's intelligence council and virtual overlord of the national clandestine services."
The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an article well worth reading by the editor of a book of Osama bin Laden's sayings, Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden. Bruce B. Lawrence is a professor of Islamic studies at Duke University. He says readers will learn three interesting things about bin Laden by reading what he says: "First, bin Laden shifts his style after September 11. He retains the same, anti-imperialist agenda but tries to benefit from the forces that 9/11 unleashed. Responding to the US-led war, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, bin Laden becomes more alert to his own role on the world stage. He crafts letters to Muslim audiences with the confidence of a man already writing his own history. The letters reveal him to be a calculating, highly literate polemicist. Stateless, he creates his own image of an Islamic supernation that replaces all current Muslim nation-states. He projects himself as the counterweight to both American hegemony and Arab perfidy. He is the Nasser of the new century, trying to rouse Muslim audiences as much through his rhetoric as his action. He even turns the tables on the Western media. In his view, it is they, not he, who perpetuate terror. 'Terror is the most dreaded weapon in the modern age and the Western media are mercilessly using it against their own people,' he declares in an October 2001 interview with Al-Ja-zeera. Why is the Western media establishment so anti-humane? Because, in bin Laden's view, 'it implants fear and helplessness in the psyche of the people of Europe and the United States. It means that what the enemies of the United States cannot do, its media are doing!'
"Second, bin Laden not only assails the Western media, but he also talks over the heads of Arab and Muslim governments. He appeals directly to the youth, those with education and skills who still find themselves on the margins of wealthy societies and under the thumb of corrupt autocrats. He invites the overeducated and undervalued to become the vanguard of a war against religious enemies, Jews and Christians. Through selective citations from the Koran as well as the moral example of the Prophet, he claims that Muslims have always fought against their Abrahamic cousins, and the stakes have never been higher than now. 'Resist the current Zionist-Crusader campaign against the umma, or Islamic supernation,' he urges young Muslim men, 'since it threatens the entire umma, its religion, and its very existence.'
"Third, to underscore the extremity of the current crisis, bin Laden invokes a new, Islamic form of just-war theory. For both classical Christian and Islamic theorists, as well as for their contemporary successors, just war has revolved around causes for going to war and methods of waging war. Collapsing both into one comprehensive argument, bin Laden defines the current war as a war 'against religious enemies' that is nothing less than a war for survival on the part of the Islamic supernation. 'We should see events not as isolated incidents,' he warns, 'but as part of a long chain of conspiracies, a war of annihilation in all senses of the word.' Because 'the Zionist-Crusaders' have launched World War III, he argues, random, unannounced violence against enemy civilians, including women and children, is now justified in the name of Islam."
An exhibition of Henri Rousseau opens at the Tate Modern in London on Thursday. Adrian Searle of the Guardian has written a nice little piece explaining why we like this silly, awkward, bad painter as much as we do. "...what is a white horse doing in the jungle? How might a fully head-dressed native American find himself in combat with a gorilla? And what are the monkeys in the jungle doing with a milk bottle and a back-scratcher?
"Rousseau could get away with all kinds of awkwardnesses and academic defects, and with much silliness. His clouds are mad, his botany and zoology are barmy, his sunsets are alarming. The spots on a leopard, a bird's plumage, a tiger's stripes he could paint very well, but when it came to footballers' striped jerseys, or human hands or feet or faces, something hapless and laughable occurs."
Andre Breton thought Rousseau was the proto-surrealist. There was a difference, though. Breton and the others reinvented themselves as surrealists. Rousseau had no need to.
When the male mouse smells a sexy female mouse (sounds like a Noel Coward lyric, doesn't it?), he breaks into song, according to the Guardian. You can access recordings of these little Pavarottis down at the end of the story. To me, they sound more like mousie rap than mousie arias, which provides another powerful reason to treat them as convenient auditory aiming marks.
31 October 2005
Farid N. Ghadry, the president of the Reform Party of Syria, has written in the Washington Times this morning of the impact in Syria of the report by United Nations investigator Detlev Mehlis on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. It sent shivers, he says, "down the spine of Bashar Assad, who for the first time in his young regime is facing justice in a land that has never known it.
"Never in our Syrian history have standing officials been held internationally accountable for crimes against another peaceful nation.
"The shock is immeasurable and stands to open the eyes and embolden the will of oppressed Arabs everywhere in the Middle East."
The Independent's Monday profile is of Trevor Phillips, head of the British race relations commission: "Few things infuriate Trevor Phillips more than white members of the 'chattering classes' telling him that from their own experience Britain's race problems appear grossly exaggerated...
"Such subjective analysis has skewed the whole race debate...and helped to give the impression that if it was not for a small number of extremist groups like the 'nasty BNP' we would not have a race problem.
"'It is so wrongheaded, and frankly so disrespectful to the issue of race and race relations because this is the one issue where everybody thinks that they are experts based upon what happened to them in Tesco last week,' said Mr Phillips. 'And then they wonder why every time something like Birmingham comes along it comes as a big surprise.'"
I like this man. He may not be everybody's cup of tea, but he's full of new and controversial ideas in a field which political correctness has made as stale as Tutankhamen's beer. His object is simple, but goes right at the heart of what we're getting wrong in the debate on race: he wants to get people to speak honestly.
You have to love a newspaper that publishes an editorial praising a record company for publishing good music. That's what the Guardian does today with Hyperion - a small British label that has just issued a complete, boxed set of Schubert's songs. The Guardian's reviewer was over the moon about it on Friday: "This then is an archive of glorious Lieder singing as much as it is a definitive treasury of the greatest Lieder ever composed. Those who have collected the discs as they appeared individually need not worry that they are missing anything - the three bonus discs will be released as a separate set next spring - but anyone else with the remotest interest in Schubert's songs shouldn't hesitate any longer."
It's not available in the US until next week, but you can preorder it through Amazon. It's worth more than half a grand, but...it's Schubert, so just stop eating for a while.
I don't think the Guardian's reporter, Aida Edemariam, understands quite how important her subject, Chris Ware, really is. Graphic novels are a new addition to what is accepted as literature. Two of them are considered classics - Art Spiegelman's Maus and Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. The publication of Jimmy Corrigan is widely described as a 'phenomenal' 21st-century literary event. Edemariam might as well have been interviewing the office cleaner.
After Patrick Fitzgerald's indictment of Scooter Libby last week, US Democrats seem almost beside themselves with...well, do the Germans have a word for schadenfreude so intense as to cause hysteria? Their spokesmen have demanded, among other things, that the President apologise and fire Karl Rove without regard to the failure of the special prosecutor to find some reason to indict him as well.
Their joy is a little premature, I think. Here's a key question: Why would a man as careful as Scooter Libby have said things to a grand jury that were contradicted by the personal notebooks and other office material he turned over to the special prosecutor? If the lies were deliberate, he must also have known they could be contradicted by several other people who would be questioned in the investigation. The only explanation that makes sense it that he really didn't remember. The case against him is as thin as smoke, although, conveniently for Mr Fitzgerald, it did take attention away from two other highly significant findings of his - first, no White House official leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press, and second, no crime was committed when her name was published. Fitzgerald was like a man swimming in water full of press sharks. To give himself time to get back into the boat without being attacked, he threw Libby to them.
Christopher Hitchens concentrates in this Wall Street Journal opinion piece on the inadequacy of the two laws whose possible breach Fitzgerald was investigating in the first place, and criticises "the stupid acquiescence of Republicans in the passage of a law that should never have allowed to hollow out the First Amendment in the first place."
And in the London Times, William Rees-Mogg takes that notion further: "The present US Administration has adopted a policy of seeking to spread democracy throughout the world; the First Amendment is an essential principle of American democracy. Journalists everywhere, and democrats everywhere, must therefore be horrified at any sign that American law has abandoned the principle of a free press, and of the confidentiality that is its necessary basis. Yet that has now happened in the CIA leak case in Washington."
All that's very interesting, but as I've said before, the real scandal in this case lies back at the beginning, with Joe Wilson's trip to Niger. The CIA sent him there, ostensibly to find out whether it was true, as some documents later exposed as forgeries suggested, that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy yellowcake (an ingredient in making nuclear material) from people in that country. On the face of it, that's a ridiculous thing to do - how can a man with no intelligence training be expected to uncover a secret, presumably jealously guarded by those who hold it, in the course of paying a short call on some old friends?
The only way his trip makes sense is if its object was not the truth about Saddam Hussein's yellowcake shopping trips, but the publication of Wilson's op-ed, denouncing the Bush administration for not paying attention to him.
Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit says something similar: "Consider: Assuming that Valerie Plame was some sort of genuinely covert operative - something that's not actually quite clear from the indictment - the chain of events looks pretty damning: Wilson was sent to Africa on an investigative mission regarding nuclear weapons, but never asked to sign any sort of secrecy agreement(!). Wilson returns, reports, then publishes an oped in the New York Times (!!) about his mission. This pretty much ensures that people will start asking why he was sent, which leads to the fact that his wife arranged it. Once Wilson's oped appeared, Plame's covert status was in serious danger. Yet nobody seemed to care.
"This leaves two possibilities. One is that the mission was intended to result in the New York Times oped all along, meaning that the CIA didn't care much about Plame's status, and was trying to meddle in domestic politics. This reflects very badly on the CIA."
Reflects badly? The CIA plotting against its own Commander-in-Chief? That's treason, mate!
The other possibility, says Reynolds, "is that they're so clueless that they did this without any nefarious plan, because they're so inept, and so prone to cronyism and nepotism, that this is just business as usual. If so, the popular theory that the CIA couldn't find its own weenie with both hands and a flashlight would appear to have found some pretty strong support."
30 October 2005
The Sunday Telegraph's Washington correspondent, James Langton, casts the latest chapter of the George Galloway scandal as a species of hand-to-hand-combat between Galloway and Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. His writing makes me wonder where he worked before the Telegraph hired him - the Sun, maybe? Or Beano? His piece is infuriatingly heavy with simple-minded claptrap, a text-book illustration of the proposition that education is not for everyone. Senator Coleman (he's a Brooklyn-born Jew who is a Bush loyalist and strongly anti-abortion) is "on the offensive, gradually moving his pieces towards what he sees as the inevitable checkmate."
But Galloway, says Master Langton, will be a formidable opponent. "It was not so much his denials of receiving a penny in illicit payments from the Iraqi dictator, as the vividness of his rhetoric and his denouncement of the Iraq war and its architects that caused so many British chests to swell with pride. Mr Galloway had stuck it to the Yanks...
"The encounter soon entered lore as a triumph for the Scottish politician in which he gave the senators a verbal drubbing, using his oratorical skills to outwit President George W Bush's hated neo-con allies in their ivory tower on Capitol Hill."
The US Army is testing what Tom Swift would have called a really keen gadget - a hightech device that is capable of plotting the location of and the type of weapon used by a sniper, between the moment he fires and the moment his round arrives at its target. It's not a substitute for being able to detect snipers before they fire, but it will certainly mean the sniper kill rate will soar, which is a powerful aid to prevention.
The Toronto Globe and Mail's technology staff explain: "The devices are made by Radiance Technologies, a small Alabama company, and differ in their approach to gunfire detection from systems already deployed in Iraq that rely on acoustics...Radiance's invention, WeaponWatch, is powered by infrared sensors that detect missiles or gunfire at the speed of light. WeaponWatch is a major reason that Radiance, which had only three employees six years ago, now has 275. Over that period, it's been one of the 500 fastest-growing small businesses in the United States."
I've been saving this since Friday, since it seemed a better choice for Sunday, and anyway, whose head on Friday wasn't filled to capacity with the media jangle over Scooter Libby? It's an essay on celebrity, taken from Clive James's new book, The Meaning of Recognition: New Essays 2001-2005. It's long, but with James, that's a blessing, not a drawback. I lifted this sample more or less at random from the Independent. It's not a high point, because in truth, James is good enough to maintain this kind of altitude pretty much from start to finish: "Leaving out the malevolence of the mentally disturbed, and the professional cynicism of the press, there is quite enough extreme behaviour from ordinary people to make the everyday life of someone famous scarcely worth living.
"This is the main reason why the famous actually need the biggest income that they can get, because they will have to spend a large part of it on protection from people who are otherwise clinically sane, but who, faced with the dazzle of someone they admire, temporarily lose all conception of the privacy of others.
"Julia Roberts needs her $20m a picture because she needs $19m-worth of perimeter defence in order to stop the fans entering her house and sitting down with her to dinner, each of them convinced that she is as lucky to meet them as they are to meet her. And of course she would have the same chance of dining undisturbed in a public restaurant as Napoleon had of successfully invading Russia. That was why he invaded Russia, in fact: to get away from the press. On the island of Elba, he spent most of his time giving interviews. And that's a true story. When he got tired of giving interviews in exile he would reappear in Europe to fight yet another last battle. It was like Cher's farewell tour, but with fewer lighting effects."
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Michael Howard's Vision
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More Doomsday Nonsense
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OECD's Unfair to Competition
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On Collecting Books - Part Two
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The Limits of Knowledge
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The Shared European Dream
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About Last Night
Alex Ross: The Rest Is Noise
Arts and Letters Daily
Aworks :: "new" american classical music
Cup of Chicha
Day by Day by Chris Muir
Little Green Footballs
Michael J Totten
Reflections in d minor
Roger L Simon
Talking Points Memo
The Volokh Conspiracy
A Bermuda Blog
A Limey in Bermuda
Politics.bm: A Mostly Bermuda Weblog
The Bermuda Sun
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