...Views from mid-Atlantic
08 July 2006

Claudia Rosett featured some testimony in her blog this week that seemed to show that government witness Samir Vincent was talking through his hat when he testified that he had handled a manilla envelope that contained $500,000 in $100-bills. You'll remember this in the context of the trial in New York of Korean fixer Tongsun Park and his connection with the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq.

Rosett says: "As recounted in an earlier post, defense lawyer Michael Kim on Wednesday challenged the testimony of cooperating government witness Samir Vincent that in 1996 he had handled envelopes containing on one occasion $500,000 and on another occasion $100,000 in Iraqi cash. Kim suggested that the amounts of cash involved would simply not fit in the receptacles described. Getting physical, Kim offered Vincent some manila envelopes, and placed before Vincent on the witness stand a wall of neatly bundled $1 bills, equivalent in volume to $500,000 worth of $100s. Vincent managed to pack the volume equivalent of $100,000 into a 10'X15' inch envelope, but it appeared there was no way the remaining piles of cash could fit.

"Think again. This morning, with Vincent still on the stand for cross-cross examination, prosecutor Edward O' Callaghan produced a bulging 11'X15' manila envelope, and in front of the jury asked Vincent to unpack it. Vincent opened the envelope, and in front of the jury began pulling out bundles of banknotes and stacking them on the wooden railing of the witness box - 100 to the bundle, with $1 bills once again serving as proxies for $100s. By the time Vincent had emptied the envelope, he was sitting for the second time this week next to a wall of cash bricks, five deep and 10 across.

"So we now know that if you want to stuff $500,000 in $100s into an envelope, it's not 10'X15' you need, but 11'X15.'"

The Toronto Globe and Mail updates a controversy about copyright that is being closely watched by authors and academia: "A lawsuit filed on June 16, 2006, by an American Joyce scholar alleges that Stephen, grandson of the writer James Joyce, along with estate trustee Sean Sweeney, improperly withheld access to materials and attempted to intimidate academics, among them the University of Western Ontario's Michael Groden.

"In the struggle to define copyright as it applies to literary rights, Web rights and the extent of time a work is withheld from public domain, the Joyce estate's fearsome vigilance stands out. "The June 19 edition of the New Yorker magazine documented how, for two decades, Stephen Joyce has guarded his grandfather's legacy by blocking public readings; threatening legal action over the publication of biographies; announcing that he'd destroyed family letters (including correspondence from Samuel Beckett); and waging war on all perceived affronts to the Joyce family's dignity."

Bjorn Lomborg is probably too well known now to need an elaborate introduction. He's the subject of an interview in the Kimberley Strassel interview in the Wall Street Journal this morning. His organization, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, held (an) exercise in Georgetown. In attendance were eight UN ambassadors, including John Bolton. (China and India signed on, though no Europeans.) They were presented with global projects, the merits of each of which were passionately argued by experts in those fields. Then they were asked: If you had an extra $50 billion, how would you prioritize your spending?

"Mr. Lomborg grins and says that before the event he briefed the ambassadors: 'Several of them looked down the list and said 'Wait, I want to put a No. 1 by each of these projects, they are all so important.' And I had to say, 'Yeah, uh, that's exactly the point of this exercise - to make you not do that.'" So rank they did. And perhaps no surprise, their final list looked very similar to that of the wise economists. At the top were better health care, cleaner water, more schools and improved nutrition. At the bottom was...global warming.

"Wondering how all this might go over with Al Gore, I ask Mr. Lomborg if he'd seen the former vice president's new film that warns of a climate-change disaster. He's planning to, but notes he wasn't impressed by the trailers: 'It appears to be so overblown that it isn't helpful to the discussion.' Not that Mr. Lomborg doesn't think global warming is a problem - he does. But he lays out the facts. 'The proposed way of fixing this - to drastically reduce carbon emissions now and to solve a 100-year problem in a 10-year time frame, is just a bad idea. You do fairly little good at a fairly high price. It makes more sense to solve the 100-year problem in a 50-year time frame, and solve the 10-year problems, like HIV-AIDS, in a five-year time frame. That makes sense, and is the smart way to spend money."

"Slipping into his environmentalist's shoes, he also says people need to get some perspective. 'The UN tells us global warming will result in a sea-level change of one to two feet. It is not going to be the 30 feet Al Gore is scaring us with. Is this one to two feet going to be a problem? Sure,' he says. 'But remember that this past century sea levels rose between one-third and a full foot. And if you ask old people today what the most important things were that happened in the 20th century, do you think they are going to say: 'Two world wars, the internal combustion engine, the IT revolution . . . and sea levels rose'? It's not to say it isn't a problem. But we fix these problems.'"

07 July 2006

"Until recently, we had little idea how ancient Greek music might have sounded. But now, for the first time in 2,500 years, we have a chance of actually putting together the available information, , opera critic Robert Thicknesse writes in the Guardian this morning. "Our notion of what the music of ancient Greece sounded like comes from fragments of 60 musical scores on Egyptian papyri, the first of which was discovered in the 19th century. Naturally, it is unlike anything imagined by the inventors of opera, who in Renaissance Italy decided to create a new kind of music drama in an attempt to re-create ancient Greek theatre...

"At the time of the Renaissance, it was believed all the acting parts in Greek theatre had been sung. 'We now believe only the choruses were,' he says. 'But they did have the right idea about it being one-note-per-syllable: audibility was the crucial thing. These Greek choruses were highly trained - and entirely paid for by rich citizens as a form of taxation.' (Bleed the rich to pay for a Covent Garden chorus? Not a bad idea.)

"'Greek tragedy is an odd form of drama because the plot keeps getting interrupted by this chorus, who keep insisting on singing and dancing,' Taplin continues. It sounds more like a musical than an opera, 'except the choruses weren't part of the plot; more a kind of meditation on it, like the chorales in a Bach Passion'."

Roxanna Panufnik, who in 2003 had been commissioned by the English National Ballet to compose a ballet score on the Greek myth of Leda and the swan, told Thicknesse: "It was pretty funky stuff, with a kind of rhythmic wildness that didn't appear again in western music until the beginning of the 20th century."

Jerusalem Post columnist Larry Derfner says he's had it with the Palestinians: "I still believe what I've always believed - that Israel has no right to rule the Palestinians, that ruling them is bad, not good, for Israeli security, so it's both immoral and impractical for Israel to gobble up the only territory the Palestinians have for their own.

However, the belief I've lost is that the Palestinians are a basically rational, reasonable nation, that they can be talked into putting down their weapons and making peace with Israel - if not out of goodwill, than out of their own self-interest. What I believe now is that only Israeli military deterrence, which will no doubt require the periodic use of force, can get the Palestinians to stop fighting.

"My disillusionment with them began after the 2000 Camp David talks - but not because they didn't accept Israel's offer. They had no obligation to accept it, and refusing it didn't make them into warmongers. What appalled me, instead, was how triumphant Arafat and the Palestinians were after the talks failed. 'Saladin' they were calling Arafat as they carried him on their shoulders. The Israeli peace camp was stunned and trying not to despair, while our 'partners' were exultant. Something was wrong here. Something was out of whack."

Lots of tips for the travelling man in this Christian Science Monitor story: "If you splash the tigers in the face, they stop whatever they're doing and slink away,' says Arvind, a young Indian-American veterinary student on a two-week volunteer stint. He has an unsightly cut on a bicep and another on a shoulder. 'Some of the cubs like to play rough, that's all,' he notes."

This is a story about the Venerable Phusit Khantitharo, the elderly abbot of the Wat Luangta Bua Yannasampanno monastery in Thailand. He's a tiger whisperer.

The Monitor says "The abbot himself disciplines unruly felines simply by appealing to their better nature. 'If they get naughty, I scold them,' he says. 'I tell them, 'Be good and don't bring shame on yourself.' I need to educate them, you see.'"

It's what fellows like Tiger Standish and Bulldog Drummond and Sanders...don't forget Sanders...have been saying all along. They wallow in mediocrity and poverty because they don't bloody well speak English! In the Washington Times, Richard Rahn, director general of the Center for Global Economic Growth, writes: "It is more difficult to comprehend ideas and concepts if there are no words for them in one's language. Did you know there is no word for 'enterprise' in Arabic? English is becoming the world language by default, precisely because there is no institution that states what English is, thus it is totally open to new ideas, concepts, technologies, etc. (like open source software). In fact, the two largest English-speaking nations, the United States and the United Kingdom, do not have an official language (unlike most other countries) - English is only the de facto official language. Any country can adopt English as an official language if it wishes - and now about 50 of them have done so."

06 July 2006

The trial of Korean fixer Tongsun Park resumed in New York yesterday. In her National Review-sponsored blog, Claudia Rosett concentrated on two aspects of the testimony - a little piece on Maurice Strong, Park's Canadian colleague, and an intriguing experiment to see how much cash can be stuffed into a 10" X 13" manila envelope.

Over on the other side of the Atlantic, James Bone's Times Blog links the trial to the North Korean missile crisis: "It's raining missiles from North Korea. So where is the UN's North Korea envoy when you need him? Oh, I forgot. He was Maurice Strong, UN king-maker extraordinaire who stepped aside after becoming embroiled in Oil-For-Food and another UN scandal.

"Canada's 'Mr UN' suspended his activities as Kofi Annan's personal envoy to the Korean Peninsula in April 2005 when the UN Oil-For-Food inquiry began to probe his ties to accused influence-peddler Tongsun Park. He quickly became entangled in another controversy when it emerged that his step-daughter, Christina Mayo, had been employed in his UN office - in apparent violation of UN anti-nepotism rules. She quit.

"Paul Volcker's Oil-For-Food inquiry eventually cast some light on the veteran businessman-diplomat's links with Park, now on trial in New York for working as an unregistered agent for Saddam Hussein's Iraq. It reported that Strong, then Annan's newly appointed executive coordinator for UN reform, received an approximately $1 million investment of Iraqi money from Mr Park into a company that he controlled, Cordex Petroleums, which failed soon afterwards. Volcker said Park actually carried the cash from Iraq to Jordan in a cardboard box and converted it into a bank cheque in Amman for $988,885 made out to 'Mr M. Strong'. On receipt, Strong endorsed it with his signature on the back. A further $30,000 of Iraqi money was also later converted to a cheque for Strong. Volcker concluded: 'Although there is circumstantial evidence that Mr Strong was in a position to know that the money he received from Mr Park came from Iraq, the committee has not found any direct evidence that Mr Strong knew the money was from Iraq.'"

All of a sudden, the dour Germans are full of good humour, and Der Spiegel says it's all down to the World Cup: "The soccer tournament has unleashed a torrent of feel-good vibes from Hamburg to Munich that has stunned the locals probably even more than all the foreign visitors from around the globe. Germans - long shy about expressing positive attitudes toward their country in light of their difficult history - have experienced three weeks of unabashed fun and pride decked out in the national colors black, red and gold.

"The Germans are positive. The Germans are friendly. The Germans have hosted an unforgettable World Cup. How can this be? For years, commentators both at home and abroad have derided the Germans for their pessimism and often glum or crabby manner. A sudden transformation brought on by the sunny, California-style optimism of German national soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann?"

Another country, China, takes rather a different view. It is expressing regret that it didn't get involved this time around...but because of the biz they missed as much as the humour. People's Daily says : "Although very popular, football, particularly men's football, is an underdeveloped and weak sport in China. Although the Chinese team managed to earn a place in the 2002 World Cup held in Japan and South Korea they are stagnant or even backward and certainly haven't reached World Cup standard. So why do World Cup officials remain confident that China will eventually be a big part of world football?

"The World Cup is unique in its appeal; the whole world tunes into games and is second only to the Olympics in terms of popularity. There are two factors instrumental in the success of the World Cup. The first is the large number of football fans. The World Cup draws people together from all over the world. People may enjoy the World Cup regardless of nationality, cultural background, ideology or wealth. The second factor is the economic success of the World Cup. The World Cup has been held 18 times and it is big business; without sponsorship it would be impossible to stage. The World Cup is a fabulous business opportunity and without sponsorship, the Cup would certainly be a far poorer and less glamorous affair. Germany is expected to make a net profit of 2.7 billion EURO from the World Cup; FIFA 100 million EURO. If these are the two determinants of success, China stands to be a land of opportunity as far as football is concerned."

"A 14-year war of words between gay rights groups and Jamaican 'dancehall' performers has erupted in Britain once again after campaigners said several artists had reneged on an agreement last year to stop using - and justifying - their gay bashing songs. The Independent says this morning that "concerts by two singers - Buju Banton and Beenie Man - were this week cancelled in Brighton and Bournemouth after complaints from gay rights groups.

"Banton, whose 1992 song Boom Bye Bye brought the issue of dancehall homophobia to light by calling for 'batty boys' or gay men to be shot in the head, set on fire or have acid poured over them, had been due to perform last night at a club in Brighton's gay district."

"But Outrage! said yesterday that Banton has since performed Boom Bye Bye in Jamaica and that Beenie Man and another artist, Bounty Killer, had made anti-gay statements at a festival in Jamaica last April."

Anne Bayefsky, the Hudson Institute senior fellow who maintains the www.EyeontheUN.org website and writes for the at the Hudson Institute National Review, says the newly-created UN Human Rights Council has torpedoed its own credibility in its first session, which ended last week. "The deck chairs on the Titanic had been rearranged when the Council replaced the discredited Commission on Human Rights. Serial human-rights abusers were elected members right from the start...

"The widespread misrepresentation of the Council made its self-immolation in its first two weeks of operation even more striking. The Human Rights Council is now the UN's lead human-rights body, and examples of egregious human-rights violations should not have been hard to find. In Darfur, there are three quarters of a million people beyond humanitarian reach, 2.5 million people displaced by the violence, 385,000 people in immediate risk of starvation, and over two million dead in 22 years of violence and deprivation. But it wasn't genocide in Sudan that interested the Human Rights Council. Nor was it a billion Chinese without civil and political rights. Not 13 million women in Saudi Arabia whose lives depend on hiding from sight in public places and never being caught behind the wheel of an automobile. Not the dire human-rights conditions of 23 million people in North Korea. Not Iranian President Ahmadinejad's incitement to genocide or his country's legal system, which includes crucifixion, stoning and amputation.

"No; there was only one country singled out by the UN Human Rights Council, and that was Israel. The Council decided that the program for the first session should focus discussion on five issues; the first one being the 'human rights situation in the occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine.' (The rest were support for the Abuja Peace Agreement, and three thematic subjects.) The Council placed criticism of Israel permanently on the agenda of all future sessions. It gave only the special investigator on Israel what amounted to a permanent mandate. On its final day, the Council passed just one resolution condemning human-rights violations by any of the 192 UN members, and directed it at Israel. When it was all over, the Council decided to hold its first special (emergency) session within a few days - on Israel."

05 July 2006

Soon, on July 7, it will have been a year since the home-grown terrorist attacks on the London transport system. We can expect a fairly concentrated national introspection between now and the end of the week, I think. Brits were especially shocked by the fact that the suicide bombers were very much of Britain, and I think will have been similarly shocked by the recent Pew report which suggested that anti-Western feeling among Muslims was very much stronger in Britain than elsewhere in Europe. But they're an intelligent bunch, on the whole, and suss sensible approaches to solutions quickly. A London Times editorial this morning, for example, owned that "Government intervention in the vigorous theological debate in many Muslim communities in Britain is perilous and can be counter-productive. Even the attempt to embrace Muslim leaders has its drawbacks: the more they are photographed at Downing Street, sit on official committees or accept honours and medals, the less credibility they have on the streets. There is a generation gap among Muslims, far wider than that found in other communities, which young Muslims, torn by the conflict between Western and Islamic values, find difficult to bridge.

"It is encouraging that Muslim leaders have just launched a national forum to counter extremism, specifically recognising its dangers in their midst. It must be here, and not in Whitehall, that strategies are elaborated to overcome this problem. The question many will ask, however, is: why has this initiative taken so long?"

Hamas's military wing, the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, has claimed credit for the launching of a longer-range missile than has been fired at Israel before, that landed in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon. Haaretz says: "The strike on the southern coastal city was the furthest north that a Qassam fired from Gaza has reached. The rocket hit an empty parking lot of the ORT Ronson High School building, causing light damage but no injuries."

A longer-range rocket has profound implications for Israel's defence, of course. Haaretz quotes an official statement from the Prime Minister's Office, issued after a Cabinet meeting yesterday, as saying "In light of the abduction [of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit] and continued rocket fire, including the Qassam strike on Ashkelon, we must prepare in order to bring about a change in the rules of the game, and in our dealings with the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, based on the parameters presented by the defense establishment."

It will be interesting to see what the defence establishment suggests - the usefulness of buffer zones will have been severely diminished by the longer-range Kassams.

I never thought I'd see afternoon tea described as 'subversive', but with the Guardian, I suppose anything's possible: "For about $65 a head you get the kind of treat that 'Afternoon Tea at the Ritz' habitues such as King Edward VII, Charlie Chaplin, Sir Winston Churchill, General De Gaulle, Judy Garland and Evelyn Waugh all enjoyed during the past 100 years. You will eat off and drink from fine bone china, and take tea from silver pots, milk jugs and strainers. And while you admire the oval oeil-de-boeuf windows, the deeply coved cornice and the gilded trelliswork you can choose from a selection of ham, smoked salmon, egg mayonnaise and mustard, cress, cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches, raisin and apple scones with strawberry jam and clotted cream, afternoon pastries and fresh cream cakes served on a tiered cakestand and wash them down with Lapsang Souchong, Ceylon Orange Pekoe, Earl Grey or Darjeeling.

"If you can get in, that is...The Dorchester is fully booked for ages, while a heavy breather at the St James's Tea Room at Fortnum & Mason tells me he has nothing 'for at least two weeks'. When I ring Claridge's I am put through to a machine that tells me I will have to book at least eight weeks in advance for afternoon tea at weekends. What does a man have to do to get a cup of tea around here? Bettys in the spa town of Harrogate (there are also branches in York, Ilkley and Northallerton) tells me I was probably looking at a 45 minutes-to-one-hour back-log for a table on Saturday (but kindly offered me a chair to sit on as I waited). And at the Hazelmere Cafe and Bakery in Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria, crowned the Tea Guild's Top Tea Place 2006 in April, owners Dorothy and Ian Stubley are reporting very brisk trade, with queues at weekends. A sweet but dinky place with no more than 50 covers, the Hazelmere can easily do 200-300 afternoon teas a day during the summer.The Tea Council described the cuppa they were served as 'out of this world'.

"So who is pre-booking all these tea tables? Coachloads of gee-whizzing American tourists and battalions of little finger-raising Hyacinth Buckets from the home counties? Rather thrillingly, not. There is actually something distinctly zeitgeisty, hip, even subversive about afternoon tea at the moment."

The Wall Street Journal's South American expert, Mary Anastasia O'Grady, is full of praise this morning for Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute: "The big victory in this race goes to the IFE in carrying out a spectacularly clean, transparent and well-organized election. If institutions matter to development, as Nobel laureate Douglass North contends, then Mexico is well on the way to progress. Mr. Calderon (presidential candidate Ricardo) echoed the sentiments of millions of Mexicans when he told me yesterday that watching the electoral process made him 'proud to be a Mexican.' Mexico's next test will be how it stands up to Mr. Lopez Obrador's threat to call street protests if the IFE decision goes against him."

"Mr. Lopez Obrador now claims that there are three million 'lost' votes, and that he senses all kinds of 'irregularities', none of which are backed up with evidence. While all the votes are not yet in the official tallies because of a technicality in reporting, the Calderon team remains confident that they are accounted for in the totals that all parties now have, and that the outcome will not change.

"Mr. Calderon, for his part, is reaching out to his political competition and looking presidential and civil. In a clear reference to the Lopez Obrador campaign, he told me on Tuesday that Mexicans sent a message at the polls that they want a tolerant, pluralistic society, not one of 'hatred'. This 'is the hour of reconciliation and unity.' He is already talking about a coalition government that will reach across the aisle to get things done, and has noted that the way in which Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has worked across parties lines has been instructive to him.

"In the past 48 hours, Mexico has watched two distinct management styles unfold. Indeed, it is not unreasonable to conclude that the very reason that Mr. Calderon seems set to take the office of president is precisely because Mexicans feared the Lopez Obrador they are now witnessing."

04 July 2006

City Journal's Nidra Pollier writes about a group in Paris that qualifies as the lunatic fringe of the lunatic fringe.

"On the last Sunday of May, 30 angry black men stormed into the heart of the old Jewish quarter, terrorizing residents, shopkeepers, and Sunday strollers. The self-styled militia of the Ka Tribe, a black separatist group originally connected to the no-longer funny black comic Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala, embodied the worst fears of a Jewish community exposed, since January 2006, to a new rise in anti-Semitic attacks.

"Three months after the torture-murder of Ilan Halimi, the intimidating incursion of the Ka militia into the narrow 'Jewish' street of the Marais looks like an ominous sign of worse to come. The Ka Tribe is the lunatic fringe of a broad anti-Semitic movement originally inspired by Dieudonne, who has become a hero to a segment of black French society by focusing resentment on Jews. But Dieudonne, with a French mother and Cameroonian father, was not black enough for Stellio Capochichi, the Tribe's leader, whose origins are Haitian and Ivoirian.

"A self-serving interview with the college-educated leader, who calls himself Fara (pharaoh) Kemi Saba, appeared on the Ka website until the government shut it down two days after the rue des Rosiers incursion.

Deftly manipulating the terms and gestures of French intellectual discourse, Kemi Saba, flanked by two husky bodyguards, lays out his latter-day ideology of 'negritude', a rehash of the worst of Cheikh Anta Diop, Frantz Fanon, Aime Cesaire, born-again Africanism, and Malcolm X, served up with the nastiness of the Black Panthers and Nation of Islam. Though Kemi Saba preaches total separation from leucodermes (anything less than 100 percent pure blacks) and rejects both Christianity and Islam, he has a soft spot for Islamism.

In a communique attacking 'Sarkkkozy the Jew', the Fara's spokesman lashes out at '[whites] who make caricatures of the prophet of Islam'."

A postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, Patrick S Roberts, writes in Policy Review about the chequered existence of the Federal Emergency Management Agency - FEMA.

"After Andrew (the hurricane that devastated South Florida in 1992), Congress gave the agency an ultimatum: Make major improvements or be abolished. With the advice of the emergency management profession and an enterprising director, James Lee Witt, the agency underwent one of the most remarkable turnarounds in administrative history. In 1997, Bill Clinton called it one of the 'most popular agencies in government'. FEMA was well regarded by experts, disaster victims and its own employees. By 2005, however, the agency had once again fallen into ignominy.

"Before issuing more cries for radical change at FEMA, reformers should look to the lessons of the agency's reorganization in the 1990s, which focused on natural disasters rather than national security. Its turbulent history shows that while the agency can marshal resources for natural disasters and build relationships with states and localities, it lacks sufficient resources to take on too many tasks.

"Today, FEMA faces a protean terrorist threat and an increasing array of technological hazards. To address contemporary threats, the agency must hone its natural disaster expertise and delegate authority for disaster response to states and localities. True, delegation runs the risk of returning to the days of ad hoc disaster preparedness, when government poured money into recovery without reducing vulnerability to disasters. Nevertheless, decentralizing response functions is the best way to prepare for an increasingly complex array of disasters, as the risks and strategies for recovery for different kinds of disasters vary so dramatically from region to region..."

"FEMA's dilemma is a textbook case in Organization Theory 101..."

Those who were persuaded by the Doomsday talk of the news media about Hamas's 6 am Tuesday deadline will have been relieved, or perhaps disappointed, that the lack of any action this morning reveals it to have been just another little bit of bluster. The thing about groups like Hamas is that the only thing their members agree on, and will act on in concert, is violence. With the rest of it, this dealing-with-the-world, there is no center, no core of agreement. Hamas's political wing has no knowledge of what Hamas's armed wing is doing. Sub-groups...even individuals...often act independently. There is an opinion one minute, which is gone the next. An agreement one minute, fallen into disagreement the next. A deadline one minute, forgotten the next. It must be a nightmare for people like the Egyptians, who are trying to act as negotiators to sort the problem out. This morning, Hamas says they won't deal with the Egyptians any more. But there's a better than even chance they'll have forgotten about that by tomorrow morning.

The Israelis know better than anyone what the deal is, and will behave as steadfastly as they can, hoping that eventually, discomfort and fear will force Hamas to either give in, or make a mistake big enough to allow a rescue. It was good to see that yesterday, they arrested some of the men responsible for kidnapping and killing the 18-year old student, Eliyahu Asheri, last week. That's one loose end tied up.

03 July 2006

The Miami Herald has published in two parts the results of a probe in which it charges that the ex-president of Haiti, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is the target of a US investigation into allegations that he and his aides took millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers.

"...Aristide was a modern-day Moses to Haiti's poor masses, a former Catholic priest who rose to the presidency by promising to wash away the country's bloody and corrupt past. But since his ouster as president in 2004, US authorities have been investigating detailed accounts alleging that Aristide and several top aides sought and took millions of dollars in bribes from drug traffickers in Haiti, The Miami Herald has learned.

"So far, a federal grand jury probe in Miami has led to 22 convictions of mostly Haitian drug traffickers, ex-police officers and a high-ranking politician close to Aristide."

The Herald says the investigations have stalled, "mired in Haiti's dysfunctional legal system, polarized politics, and uncertainty over the willingness of newly elected President René Préval to pursue the case against his one-time mentor...the legal wrangling in Haiti has turned so chaotic that the top corruption investigator, Jean-Yves Nol, was himself jailed for six days in May, accused of illegally trying to block a judge's order releasing about $8 million from bank accounts of the charitable Aristide Foundation and other foundation-related accounts that had been frozen by investigators. The money was eventually released, Nol said."

Part Two of the Herald's coverage can be read here.

Richard S Lindzen is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT, and he, too, thinks Al Gore, on the subject of climate change, is a shrill alarmist who himself ignores inconvenient truths. In the Wall Street Journal, Lindzen writes: "A general characteristic of Mr. Gore's approach is to assiduously ignore the fact that the earth and its climate are dynamic; they are always changing even without any external forcing. To treat all change as something to fear is bad enough; to do so in order to exploit that fear is much worse. Regardless, these items are clearly not issues over which debate is ended - at least not in terms of the actual science..."

"So what, then, is one to make of this alleged debate? I would suggest at least three points.

"First, nonscientists generally do not want to bother with understanding the science. Claims of consensus relieve policy types, environmental advocates and politicians of any need to do so. Such claims also serve to intimidate the public and even scientists - especially those outside the area of climate dynamics. Secondly, given that the question of human attribution largely cannot be resolved, its use in promoting visions of disaster constitutes nothing so much as a bait-and-switch scam. That is an inauspicious beginning to what Mr. Gore claims is not a political issue but a 'moral' crusade.

"Lastly, there is a clear attempt to establish truth not by scientific methods but by perpetual repetition. An earlier attempt at this was accompanied by tragedy. Perhaps Marx was right. This time around we may have farce - if we're lucky."

The effect of the US Supreme Court decision on Osama bin Laden's former driver and bodyguard isn't as great as many people would like to believe, says the Wall Street Journal: "Amid all of the antiwar cheering, we should also point out what Hamdan does not do. It does not shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, or question the President's right to hold unlawful combatants for the duration of hostilities. It also does not apply to most of the prisoners there - only 10 of the roughly 450 Guantanamo detainees are immediately affected by the ruling. And it does not reclassify enemy combatants as ordinary prisoners of war, as many in the European left and ACLU would prefer.

"Moreover, Hamdan affirms that military commissions are Constitutional and an appropriate part of American law. This would have been hard even for the liberal Justices to deny, given that commissions have been used in some form by strong Presidents in the past, including Washington, Lincoln and FDR."

02 July 2006

DEBKAfile seems to be adding two and two and getting five this morning. It makes three assertions that just don't sound correct to me. The first is that the Egyptian mediation effort in the Palestinian hostage crisis has failed. The second is that the reason for the failure has been maneuvering by Mahmoud Abbas to tip Israel into an all-out offensive to drive Hamas out of the Palestinian government. The third is that "Within 24 hours Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is due in Helsinki to explore the possibility of the veteran mediator Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland, undertaking the mission. She will be coming from talks in Moscow on Sunday, July 2." All of that sounds much too close to the pessimistic predictions of the Israeli right to be true.

Actually, Livni's talks in Russia are on Monday, and she is to visit Finland (which has just taken over the presidency of the EU) on Tuesday. That more relaxed timetable seems to confirm that her purpose is much more likely to be getting support for what the Israeli Government is doing (that should be clearer by Monday) from key members of the Road Map group.

Meantime, as this Haaretz story makes clear, negotiations are still very much in progress. "Senior Hamas official Osama A-Nizmi said on Sunday that the Palestinian militants holding Corporal Gilad Shalit would not accept an offer by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, which would see prisoners in Israeli jails freed in return for Shalit's release...

"Israel Radio on Sunday quoted Mubarak as saying that he would drop his proposal for ending the crisis if Hamas did not respond by Monday night to his offer for a prisoner exchange."

Mexico goes to the polls today to choose between a candidate from the left, and one from the right. The New York Times says the middle class holds the key: "For the first time since 1995, when a banking crisis crushed the country's economic aspirations, inflation and interest rates are low enough to begin lifting appreciable numbers of working families into gated communities like the Cantaros III neighborhood here in Mexico State.

"With one foot out of Mexico's economic quicksand and children close to graduating from college, the middle-class families here provide a microcosm of the 35 percent of Mexican voters whose loyalties cross political lines and who are avidly being courted by the two leading candidates: Felipe Calderon, a conservative technocrat who is backed by business leaders, and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist populist with passionate support among the poor."

If the fight were truly to play out that way, the conservative would win in a heartbeat. But I suspect this is a much more nuanced election than the NYT story suggests, and Sr Calderon's victory far from certain.

In a National Review article, Victor Davis Hanson says "For all the propaganda of al Jazeera, the wounded pride of the Arab Street, or the vitriol of the Western Left, years from now the truth will remain that our soldiers did not come to plunder or colonize, but were willing to die for others' freedom when few others would. Neither Michael Moore nor Noam Chomsky can change that, because it is not opinion, but truth...

"Note also that after the hysteria over body armor and unarmored humvees, the Democratic opposition offers no real concrete alternatives to the present policy.

"Why not? Because there are none. The choices are really only two: either leave right away and quit the war on terror, or train the Iraqis and draw down carefully as planned all along. The Democrats will clamor for the former. But when put in the public spotlight, they will hold off from Vietnam-style funding cut-offs to claim credit for the success of the latter."

Columnist L Brent Bozell asks, in a Washington Times piece, why more isn't being made of the discovery of 500 weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, mostly sarin and mustard-gas agents. "The largest remaining mystery is why Team Bush seems allergic to releasing more information on the missing weapons in Iraq, and more facts out of the archives of Saddam's heinous regime. If they are acting, or better put, not acting out of intimidation by the media, who don't want any new information to change their tilted first draft of history, the polls suggest that inaction has damaged them dramatically." One possible explanation is that they're thinking they'll get more mileage by letting some of the media ask that question over and over again than if they answered it once and for all.


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

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2003 Index


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