...Views from mid-Atlantic
25 March 2006

Shakespeare wasn't good only at writing, he was a pretty clever fellow commercially. This fascinating Guardian feature focuses on the creativity of his theatrical company, the Chamberlain's Men: "Shakespeare and his fellow player-investors were fairly close in age and came from the same middle classes. They seem to have been creatively and temperamentally well matched, too (and seem not to have suffered from the violent quarrels that plagued their main competitors, the Admiral's Men). There were no producers or directors in the Elizabethan theatre: it was a collective effort that depended on mutual reliance and recognition of each other's strengths...

"Shakespeare had the good fortune to have turned to playwriting at a time when London's theatre world was rapidly expanding. When he arrived in the metropolis in the late 1580s, there were, in addition to various inns where players performed, only three permanent outdoor playhouses: the Theatre, erected in 1576; the Curtain, which opened a year later; and the Rose, in Southwark, built in 1587. By the time he left, London was ringed by the Swan and the Globe in Southwark; the Fortune and Red Bull in the northern suburbs; the Boar's Head in the east; and Blackfriars and St Paul's within the city walls...

"While some of the success of the Chamberlain's Men can be attributed to luck, timing, organisation and stability, much of it was a function of raw talent. No other company was nearly as successful. The Chamberlain's/King's Men were blessed with the best playwright in the land, the best clowns, the most charismatic male lead and the greatest depth. Though their names are lost to us, their boy actors, who played women's parts - for whom Shakespeare wrote such demanding roles as Juliet, Beatrice, Rosalind, Lady Macbeth and Cleopatra - must have been exceptionally talented. As a result, the company was able to attract some of the finest freelance work of Ben Jonson, Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker and other leading playwrights. When Shakespeare retired, his place as resident playwright was quickly filled by the up-and-coming John Fletcher, who had already collaborated with him on The Two Noble Kinsmen, The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII and the lost Cardenio."

Russia has denied that it spied for Saddam Hussein in the period before the invasion of Iraq, but no one will put much credence in its denial...this kind of cynical swap for commercial advantage seems to fit in so neatly with what we understand of the Russia that Vladimir Putin rules. There are three aspects of the story that will attract comment. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is what this says for Russia as a US ally. The second, almost as obvious, is what this says for US counterintelligence skills. A Russian spy with access to the plan for the Iraq invasion? Who is it? What else has he or she been reporting on, and into whose ear has it been whispered?

The third is a little more complex. Spymasters are intelligent people. When they realise a deal like this is possible, they must look down the road at what is likely to happen as a result of getting involved, and net the thing out, making sure that the prize is worth the crackerjacks. Today, on the face of it, they've done nothing but lose. They got no commercial advantage, their relationship with the US has been placed in jeopardy, their reputation in the world (certainly the Western world) has been tarnished, I doubt they've gained much extra traction in the Muslim world, and this major spy of theirs in the Pentagon is now at serious risk. Yet the outcome of what they were about to do, at the time they committed to the scheme, must have been more or less obvious.

Are they the shlemiels they seem to be? Not on their past record. The Russians are not amateurs. Somehow, they have profited...

Thomas Sowell's unorthodox views on racial matters have made him the United States' foremost black conservative, but, says the Wall Street Journal, "the modifier sells him way short. He is one of the country's leading social commentators - without qualification. And his scholarship is not only voluminous but wide-ranging, covering everything from education and law to political philosophy, migration and the history of ideas.

"His primary discipline, however, is economics, specifically the history of economic thought, the subject in which he earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1968 under Milton Friedman and George Stigler. It is the subject he taught at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst, Brandeis and elsewhere during an academic career in the 1960s and '70s. And it is the subject of his most recent book, On Classical Economics, which Yale has just published."

24 March 2006

Former terrorist-for-the-CIA, Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted in Venezuela because it is alleged he was involved in the 1976 bombing of a civilian Cuban airliner, is going to remain in US custody for a while, because the US can't figure out what to do with him. Caribbean Net News notes that: "The United States refuses to send Posada Carriles, a radical opponent of Cuban leader Fidel Castro and a former CIA agent, to Cuba or Venezuela citing fears that he would be tortured. But it has also failed to find another third country that would accept Posada Carriles, 78, who is currently detained at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) centre in El Paso, Texas.

They're releasing more of those seized Iraqi documents the Americans have had kicking around the place doing nothing for the last three years. ABC News last night carried a story about one that referred to a 1995 meeting between Osama bin Laden and a senior Iraqi official. In the New York Sun this morning, a former Democratic senator and 9/11 commissioner, Bob Kerrey, said the document presented a "significant set of facts" that demonstrated "Saddam was a significant enemy of the United States." Kerrey said he believed America's understanding of the deposed tyrant's relationship with Al Qaeda would become much deeper as more captured Iraqi documents and audiotapes are disclosed.

One of Uncle Fidel's bodyguards, who defected to Spain five years ago, has moved to Miami, where he is enthralling the anti-Castro Cuban community with what the Miami Herald calls "titillating secrets". Uncle has his underwear incinerated after wearing it, for example, for fear some assassin's unpleasant chemical might be released in the wash. His brother Raul has been moving suitcases of cash out of Cuba to provide for retirement. And Uncle likes pata negra Serrano hams from Spain so much that he sent the bodyguard there to bring him some $2,500-worth back. Having had pata negra many times, I understand that urge completely. The underwear, well, that's pretty...notable.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention the bodyguard's looking to set up a business in Miami.

Red Ken Livingstone has been the darling of the left in Britain for decades. But now that he's mayor of London, the outspokenness for which he he was admired by all outsiders is beginning to grate on some of them. Even the Guardian, apparently. This morning, the paper grumbled in an editorial: "In truth Mr Livingstone's aggressive and intolerant streak now roams widely in search of any opponent he thinks weak and unpopular enough to pick on. His shoot-from-the-hip frankness and refusal to be humbled was one of the reason Londoners chose him to be mayor in the first place, but as time passes this engaging honesty seems to be giving way to a cruder boorishness. It is beginning to do him serious harm. Mr Livingstone does not need to become dull. But he should learn that sometimes the best thing he could do is shut up."

Poor old Buena Vista Social Club - they've lost their fourth band member in three years. The BBC reports that singer Pio Leyva died of a heart attack on Wednesday.

23 March 2006

Are Europe's troubles so bad that Europeans are turning to God? "It is by now a commonplace that the state of Europe hovers between dire and grave. Sclerotic economies, plummeting birthrates, and moribund militaries all appear symptomatic of imminent collapse. Exacerbating its condition is the widespread decline of the continent's ancestral faith. Europe, it seems, has lost its faith, and with it, its will to live. But lest early drafts of the continent's obituary prove premature, it is worth noting the occasional indication of European renewal," says Christopher Levenick in the Weekly Standard.

"Italy, for instance, is often viewed as a case study in secularization. Yet across the peninsula, weekly attendance at Catholic Mass has been steadily climbing for two decades. In 1980, roughly 35 percent of Italians regularly attended the Mass; by 2000 that figure had climbed to nearly 50 percent.

"But even more pregnant with possible significance is Italy's sudden surge in new monastic vocations. A recent conference organized by the Vicariate of Rome and the Unione Superiore Maggiori D'Italia revealed that in the last year, no fewer than 550 women entered cloistered convents--up from 350 two years earlier. In contrast to recent trends, the new candidates were predominantly native-born and college-educated Italians. Similar gains are said to have occurred among male monastics. The Italian village of Nursia, for example, recently welcomed a small group of American monks to rehabilitate a monastery built at the birthplace of St. Benedict, the great patriarch of western monasticism. Last year, for the first time since its suppression by Napoleonic edict, the community celebrated a Benedictine ordination. Though many monasteries continue to close, new houses are beginning to open, suggesting - perhaps - that a corner has been turned."

I believe in giving credit where it's due, so Fidel Castro should be given some for the decision Granma says he's made: "Cuba is to donate its earnings as runner-up in the 1st World Baseball Classic to victims of Hurricane Katrina in the southern United States." What he doesn't want to grasp, though, is that even the neediest of Katrina victims would probably rather he let those people out of jail who he locked up for daring to think differently.

The vice president of the Center for Freedom in the Middle East, Nir Boms, and Reza Bulorchi, executive director of the US Alliance for Democratic Iran, remind us that there's quite a gulf between what the Mullahs of Iran say, and what the population of Iran believes. In a Washington Times op-ed, they write: "Indeed, the vast majority of Iranians are opposed to the theocratic regime's drive that has pushed their country to the verge of a military confrontation. An internal classified report prepared by a state-run polling center has reportedly concluded that only 31 percent of Iranians consider the nuclear program a 'national' project. The report adds that 86 percent of Iranians believe the nuclear energy is not worth entering a war.

"More importantly, however, Iranians have paid the highest price to derail the mullahs' nuclear weapons program. While satellite imagery and inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) contributed to getting a sense of the extent of Iran's nuclear drive, it was the Iranian opposition that played the key role in exposing the mullahs' nuclear secrets. The National Council of Resistance of Iran, the major opposition coalition, revealed in August 2002 that Tehran was building two new secret nuclear facilities in the cities of Arak and Natanz. In February 2003, Iran admitted to the existence of two sites, a development that set in motion the IAEA resolution to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

"It has become increasingly difficult for the mullahs to cast their atomic drive as an 'Iranian' program while the Iranian opposition is at the center of the campaign against it. And to hit back at the opposition, mullahs chose their usual route. Several days before the IAEA meeting, prison officials announced that if the nuclear case were ever referred to the Security Council, they would unleash their wrath on political prisoners."

The Wall Street Journal joins a host of American media which think there's something wrong with Yale University having admitted a former Taliban official as a student. "Something is very wrong at our elite universities. Last month Larry Summers resigned as president of Harvard; today Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi will speak by video to a conference at Columbia University that his regime is cosponsoring. (Columbia won't answer questions about how much funding it got from Libya or what implied strings were attached.) Then there's Yale, which for three weeks has refused to make any comment or defense beyond a vague 144-word statement about its decision to admit Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi - a former ambassador-at-large of the murderous Afghan Taliban - as a special student."

I agree something is wrong at American universities. I agree that a liberal mindset among teachers has hijacked the principle of free enquiry so necessary for the development of a fair mind. But people have to remember that that principle cuts both ways. What's so wrong with Moammar Gadhafi speaking at Columbia? What's so wrong with Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi becoming a student at Yale? I read the New York Times magazine story about him that sparked this controversy. He sounded like a bit of a dork, frankly, but it was easy to understand and respect the fact that he was trying very hard to preserve his own identity and to avoid becoming the ridiculous cartoon character that his situation might have forced upon him. He wasn't accused of having committed war crimes, so he's probably not a dangerous person. If he can work out some way of compensating Yale for his tutelage, what's the big deal? Instead of making a fuss, it seems to me people should spend their time demonstrating the tolerance that is so important to Western society, the lack of which so holds Muslim countries back.

22 March 2006

Hard to believe, but China's trying to stop the use of wooden chopsticks because they're a waste of timber. "China will collect a 5 percent consumption tax on disposable wooden chopsticks in a bid to discourage their use as they are a waste of timber resources, said the (Finance) ministry." This People's Daily story is about taxes, so there's no discussion of what's intended to replace them - a variety of washable materials, I suppose.

But the taxes are also interesting, in that they reveal a country making a conscious effort to deal with the fallout from its decision to embrace capitalism. "China will...also introduce a 10 percent tax on yachts, golf balls and golf clubs, and a 20 percent tax on luxury watches...The Ministry of Finance said the plan has been approved by the Chinese Government and was designed to control and regulate energy consumption, help protect the environment by reducing consumption of timber resources, and narrow the gap between the poor and the rich by collecting a consumption tax on the luxury items."

Among the signs of an early stirring of spring in the US is this Los Angeles Times piece, spotted by my friend Brenda in Britain, singing the praises of the most unctious dish in the world - risotto. "One of the ironies of the dish is that although it is so marvelously complex in flavor that you might believe all of the fuss about how difficult it is to prepare, risotto is essentially extremely simple: rice, main ingredient and broth. Add a flavoring base to start out, a little wine in the middle, and some butter and cheese to finish and you've just about covered every possibility.

"Because of this simplicity, risotto is the perfect vehicle for the flavors of spring, which are by nature more delicate than the rowdy tomatoes and peppers we'll be enjoying in just another couple of months. Artichokes, asparagus, peas and wild mushrooms — there are at least half a dozen risotto combinations from just that list of ingredients."

Despite his political troubles, Tony Blair is intending to make a series of major foreign policy speeches in the coming days, to try to get people to better understand the threat they face from radical Muslims. The Guardian reports on the first of these speeches: "This is not a clash between civilisations. It is a clash about civilisation. It is the age-old battle between progress and reaction...We can no more opt out of this struggle any more than we can opt out of the climate change around us,' he said.

"'This terrorism will not be defeated until its ideas, the poison that warps the minds of its adherents, are confronted, head-on, in their essence, at their core,' he said. 'By this I don't mean telling them terrorism is wrong. I mean telling them their attitude to America is absurd, their concept of governance pre-feudal, their positions on women and other faiths, reactionary and regressive.

"'And then, since only by Muslims can this be done, standing up for and supporting those within Islam who will tell them all of this but more, namely that the extremist view of Islam is not just theologically backward but completely contrary to the spirit and teaching of the Qur'an.'"

"There is always a feeling in Jamaica that everything will be OK - but it won't be OK. We feel a sense of betrayal. What the Europeans are doing to us is immoral - they are killing us. It's a death sentence."

It may be a kind of death sentence, but it's hardly immoral. The EU's decision to reduce subsidies granted to Caribbean sugar producers is completely logical and correct, given the shift to a global economy. The Christian Science Monitor says "The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have assessed that next year alone the sugar-producing countries stand to lose about $100 million. The largest regional producer, Guyana, where sugar exports account for almost 20 percent of its GDP, and income from tourism is far less than in other CARICOM countries, will be hardest hit, and stands to lose $40 million a year as a result of the reforms."

What CARICOM needs to do now is stop trying to hold back the tide and concentrate on finding new ways to help Jamaica, Guyana and the others make a living in the evolved world.

21 March 2006

National Review's White House correspondent, Byron York, says "It's sometimes difficult to remember, given the legal twists and turns it has taken, that the CIA leak investigation was begun to find out who exposed the identity of CIA employee Valerie Wilson to columnist Robert Novak and whether that person violated the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in doing so."

Indeed it sometimes is, given the tactics of the special prosecutor. York writes "After more than two years of investigating, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has not charged anyone with that crime - if indeed it was a crime - nor has he publicly answered either question. Fitzgerald has even refused to provide lawyers for the only person indicted in the case, former Cheney chief of staff Lewis Libby, with evidence that Wilson was indeed a covert agent at the time of the July 14, 2003, Novak column, or that the exposure of her identity did any damage to national security, arguing that that information - the very heart of the CIA leak case - is not relevant to the perjury and obstruction charges against Libby..."

"And who actually leaked Valerie Wilson's identity to Robert Novak, and was it a crime? The Libby defense team writes that it expects 'witness testimony that within the government Ms. Wilson's employment status was not regarded as classified, sensitive or secret, contrary to the allegations in the indictment.' And the motion states flatly that 'the primary source for Mr. Novak's article' was not only not Lewis Libby but was 'an official from outside the White House...'

"As for who that might be, the Libby team points the finger toward the State Department. Specifically, the top of the State Department. The motion says, 'The defense may call Mr. Powell to testify about a September 2003 meeting at the White House during which he is reported to have commented that everyone knows that Mr. Wilson's wife works at the CIA. At the same meeting, Mr. Powell also reportedly mentioned a 2002 meeting during which Ms. Wilson suggested her husband for the CIA mission to Niger.' Later, the motion requests 'Any notes from the September 2003 meeting in the Situation Room at which Colin Powell is reported to have said that (a) everyone knows that Mr. Wilson's wife worked at the CIA and that (b) it was Mr. Wilson's wife who suggested that the CIA send her husband on a mission to Niger.'"

When two Pondblog readers on the same day suggest I link to a page, I know I'm on to a winner. It's called Geoffrey Chaucer Hath A Blog, and the first entry, from back in June of last year, will give you a clue to what you can expect: "It is hottere than the fyrie rivere phlegeton uppe in the customes hous. I shal drynken of a moist and corny ale eft soon, for to slaken my thirste. My documents and recordes can go stuffe themselues."

Later, Geoff gets down to answering questions from his readers. Most of them write in modern English, but Thopas...well, read on:

"Sir - Ich wishe for adyce in the matter of fashion and armes. Ys it verrily a mistake to wear a lilyflour in my helm? (Ich have a shylde of golde.)


"Mon Sire Thopas - By seinte Jerome, finallye someone who kan spelle! Messire Thopas, yow seem a man fair and gent, and Y sholde muchel relish for to tellen yowre tale. Ich shalle have myne peple calle yowre peple. As for the lilye? It dependeth how whethir yow wolde ben 'easte coaste' or 'weste coaste.'

"Le Vostre G"

Thanks Zoom, thanks Stephen.

John D Barrow, professor of mathematics at Cambridge University, has been awarded the Templeton Prize, the world's largest annual award. He's an interesting guy, is Barrow, and it's an interesting prize, funded by Sir John Templeton in order to encourage belief that science and religion both have a role in shedding light on...well, let's call it the meaning of life. In London's Daily Telegraph today, Barrow has written a kind of summary of what he's up to. "In all the science we pursue we are used to seeing progress. Our first attempts to grasp the laws of nature are often incomplete. So, in our religious conceptions of the Universe, we also use approximations and analogies to have some grasp of ultimate things. They are not the whole truth but this does not stop them being a part of the truth: a shadow that is cast in a limiting situation of some simplicity.

"Our scientific picture of the Universe has revealed how blinkered and conservative our outlook has often been, how self-serving our interim picture, how mundane our expectations, and how parochial our attempts to find or deny the links between scientific and religious approaches to the nature of the Universe."

Why so surprised, asks Christopher Hitchens. Civil war was always the goal of the terrorists in Iraq. They said so. In a letter to Osama bin Laden (intercepted by Hitchens' mates, the Kurds), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said: "If we succeed in dragging them into the arena of sectarian war, it will become possible to awaken the inattentive Sunnis as they feel imminent danger." Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Hitchens says "Some of us wrote about this at the time, to warn of the sheer evil that was about to be unleashed. Knowing that their own position was a tenuous one (a fact fully admitted by Zarqawi in his report) the cadres of 'al Qaeda in Mesopotamia' understood that their main chance was the deliberate stoking of a civil war. And, now that this threat has become more imminent and menacing, it is somehow blamed on the Bush administration. 'Civil war' has replaced 'the insurgency' as the proof that the war is 'unwinnable.' But in plain truth, the 'civil war' is and always was the chief tactic of the 'insurgency'."

20 March 2006

Barry Catmur, the KeyTech executive who got in touch with me following last week's collapse of DSL in the Eastern end of Bermuda, spent some time over the weekend trying to come up with better ways for the telephone company to deal with its customers when such things happen. Those of us who are customers were essentially left in the dark, not knowing how big the problem was or what was being done to fix it. Catmur acknowledges that "A large part of creating a smooth, simple, customer friendly fault reporting and resolution process is having a simple, easily accessible and open, method for customers to report any problems as well as receive timely updates and information on their unresolved issues, until they are successfully resolved."

So he and the Chief Operating Officer of the telephone company put their heads together and figure that one thing they could do straight away is to publish what they call an "escalation list" - a list of BTC officials who can be called by customers if they are unhappy with the information they have been able to get from the repairs staff. Their thought is that you start with the people who normally deal with complaints, then work your way up to ever-more senior officers until you get the answers you want.

So Bermudians take note - if you have a problem, these are the people you should call. Print the list and keep it safe somewhere:

Start with BTC's repair service, at 295-1001.
If you're not satisfied, the first escalation is to the manager on duty, again at 295-1001.
The next resource is the AVP, Jennifer Stultz, at 299-3529.
Next is the VP, Cathy Mason, at 299-3508.
Then the COO, Edgar Dill, at 299-3253.
And finally, the CEO, Francis Mussenden, at 299-3331/3332.

You're bound to get what you need with that list. I have to say I'm impressed by the lengths to which these BTC people are prepared to go to get it right. It's such a change from the couldn't-care-less attitude of the past.

It is interesting to be reminded by this story how closely the jailing of politically incorrect Cubans followed the US invation of Iraq. Uncle Fidel obviously gambled that the world would be too busy watching what was unfolding in Iraq to notive what was unfolding in Cuba. He was wrong, of course. Caribbean Net News reports that "About 30 'Ladies in White' fasted Saturday and marched to demand the release of 60 political prisoners still behind bars three years after 75 dissidents were rounded up.

"'There are a lot of situations like this around the world, but Cuba is the country that has the greatest number of prisoners of conscience' per capita, said Laura Pollan. Pollan's husband Hector Maseda is serving a 20-year prison term for opposing the government of President Fidel Castro, the only one-party Communist regime in the Americas. The group, dressed in white and wearing ribbons reading 'Amnesty,' marched two kilometers (one mile) through Havana, including down busy 23rd Street. They handed out pink gladiolas to passers-by.

"'Human rights basically have been dead in our country for three years,' Pollan said. 'Physically, I am tired. But I am still fighting, as long as I am alive and my husband is jailed, I am going to keep fighting.'"

Economic, and other pressures are forcing people to go to university to learn a trade, not to be educated. The Washington Times laments that "This is not a great century for the humanities. The great works that once were essential to define the educated man are barely tolerated in our great universities. By one estimate, only four percent of the bachelor of arts degrees are awarded to English majors, and only two percent to scholars of history. Nearly a quarter of all bachelor's degrees are awarded to majors in business and business-related fields.

"There are several reasons why. A college education is expensive and student loans are burdensome. Students, and particularly the parents who flirt with bankruptcy to send their kids to college, want degrees in subjects that lead to something practical. Practical means making money. So young people prefer engineering, science, medicine, law and business. Arts and letters get short shrift.

"The humanities faculties, furthermore, are usually riddled with political correctness, with courses taught by priggish tenured professors who are determined to persuade their students to think left rather than to think critically. This was the concern of Lawrence Summers, who was deposed as president of Harvard for trying to impart actual learning into the humanities as taught on the Charles.

"'At a time when the median age of our tenured professoriate is approaching 60 the renewal of the faculty has to be a central concern,' he said in his letter of resignation, implying that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences had grown smug, stuffy, stodgy and self-satisfied."

But this is one of those pendulum issues that, to a large extent (though not completely, perhaps), is self-correcting. There was an article in the Telegraph a few days ago saying that because of the crisis that has befallen education in Britain, West Indian families there have begun sending their children back to the Caribbean "to get what many have found to be a better state education." Parents want more for their children than they had - that's a kind of unstoppable force of human nature. When they begin to realise what has happened to university education, they will create pressure to find a better balance.

A professional American recycler is trying to hold back the tide of outmoded technological trash that modern society is now spewing by making it available free, to anyone who wants it. The Independent says that his website is "like an electronic version of a car boot sale...Freecycle.org contains all manner of unwanted birthday presents, unused electronic hardware and dusty items...

"Since starting in the United States three years ago, freecycling has grown into a global network with two million members and is now spreading rapidly in Britain."

The flaw in the theory is that what he's doing can't be considered permanent. The recycled throwaways of today are going in the trash tomorrow. So all he's doing is putting off the evil moment for...what, a year? Less, probably.

Critic Robert Hughes writes in today's Guardian about the force called modernism, in anticipation of a show at the V&A in London called Modernism: Designing a New World 1914-39. "It's no accident that the exhibition's delimiting years should be the starting dates of two catastrophic world wars, 1914 and 1939. These dates mark the span of a hectic utopian hope among Europeans, who felt - as Apollinaire wrote in his great paean to cultural renewal: 'In the end, you are tired of this old world.'

"The hope of renewal took form in the rubble of post-first world war Germany and attained something like hysteria in the wake of the Bolshevik revolution. In broad terms, it said: things can't get worse than this. You can't take the elements of pre-1914 visual culture and put them, like Humpty Dumpty, together again, just as they were before. The corpse will not rise and speak."

Modernism's vehement ambition was to make a new world, not just a new art, the rethinking from zero on up of everything from teapots to whole cities. And it both failed and succeeded, didn't it?

19 March 2006

It was hardly love at first sight...and maybe 'love' isn't quite the right word, but the Chinese people, according to People's Daily Online seem to like Americans better than they once did. "Almost 80 percent of Chinese people feel good about people from the United States and most were satisfied with the Sino-US relations, results of a recent poll show.

"The poll, carried out in late February by the Global Times, a publication of the leading newspaper People's Daily, showed that 60 percent of Chinese are generally satisfied with the Sino-US ties, and nearly 20 percent are satisfied or very satisfied with bilateral ties."

Tony Blair's been having a hard time of it in Britain for the last few weeks, lurching from one crisis or defeat to another. The Sunday Times thinks he's finished. In an editorial, the paper says: "This month will be remembered as the tipping point for Mr Blair and new Labour. Sleaze and dodginess have been the steady drip-drip of this government; cash-for-access, free holidays, double resignations (by Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett), Railtrack, Rover, Cherie Blair's flat purchases in Bristol with the help of a dodgy middleman, her paid speaking engagements and the scandal over postal voting."

In a nicely-written story in Haaretz, Israeli jazz musician Assif Tsahar writes about the American jazz musician, Yusef Lateef. He was born in the same year as Charlie Parker, and has been playing for something like six decades. He's normally associated with the flute, but he plays a variety of reeds, from a tenor sax to a Taiwanese koto.

Tsahar says: "What's really beautiful and rare about Yusef Lateef's playing is that it contains the whole history of jazz, from swing to bebop to world music to modal and modern music, and despite all this stylistic variety, it always has a basic connection to the blues. Lateef's sound is personal, warm and full and identifiable from the first note, and his methods of playing and writing are totally unique.

"'My first influences (Lateef told him) were Herschel Evans, Lester Young, Coleman Hawkins, Don Bayes, Ben Webster. But eventually I understood that I had to find my own independent voice. This happened years ago and ever since I've been on a journey of building my own way of expressing my ideas. I think that this is the tradition of this music. I call it 'auto-physopsychic' music. Which means that it's a music of the individual body, mind and soul. The idea is that the musician has to find his individual voice, and this is hard. It's a lot easier to imitate someone else. You put on a record and start to imitate their ideas, but it's not you. I discovered very early that this is what I need to do, to find my way to express myself, and this is what I'm trying to do.'"

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is being much more relaxed about saying what he thinks in his second term. Last week, he said he thought that all the criticism in Congress for the plan to award a Dubai-owned company control of several United States seaports was enough to make "my eyes roll." He's quoted in the New York Times today as having "accused the critics of suddenly 'waving the flag, beating their chests', to score political points only now, after failing for years to secure more funding for the Coast Guard."

Now that the critics have forced the Dubai company to abandon their plans, after an hysterical, racist campaign, those with more level heads are beginning to realise just how wrong the critics were, and what damage they've done. In the Washington Times, Victor Davis Hansen enlarges on Bloomberg's theme: "In retrospect, America went collectively insane over the possibility a company owned by Dubai's government would operate several of our ports.

"Rarely has reason been so routed by pure emotion. Dubai is a Westernizing state that long ago left the eighth century and accepts the modern world of globalized commerce and finance. This member of the United Arab Emirates has - especially after September 11, 2001 - passed on intelligence, hosted our fleet and provided a Gulf foothold near Iraq and Iran. No doubt some members of its extended government, as is true of many of the Gulf monarchies, have triangulated against the US But then so have China, Russia and most of Europe.

"Yet if we are to win this war against radical Islam, it will be by drawing the Arab world into the global system of Western jurisprudence, politics and business. The perceived defamation of a proven Arab consortium only hurts our cause."


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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