...Views from mid-Atlantic
30 September 2006

This is an unusually vicious piece in China's People's Daily: "As the UN General Assembly is an international arena, it is not strange for someone to criticize the United States, however, it is rather extraordinary for so many people to speak with the same voice to denounce the nation, coupled with enthusiastic applauses.

"More than 60 percent of the Americans hold that their president has not won due respect overseas for his erroneous external policy, according to a latest opinion poll. The phenomena has been examined and introspected in a number of special articles and interviews with experts carried by the Washington Post, the New York Times and other major US newspapers, which say that people's growing aversion against the US is due to the Iraq War, the Middle-East Project and the US partiality and inclination to Israel in the recent Lebanon-Israel Conflict.

"The deep-rooted arrogance, air of self-importance and running roughshod worldwide are, among other causes, attributable to the US seclusion at the UN General Assembly."

I wonder what got up their noses.

Meantime, US travellers to China are urged to feign distaste for the administration during their visit. Expressions of admiration for Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will help avert peril.

When President Bush met President whatnot of Kazakhstan at the White House yesterday, the two men probably weren't aware of a little drama being played out at the front gate. Reuters explains. "Borat, the fictional TV reporter from Kazakhstan, may have gotten under the skin of Kazakh officials but on Thursday he couldn't get past the gates of the White House.

"Secret Service agents turned away British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in character as the boorish, anti-Semitic journalist, when he tried to invite 'Premier George Walter Bush' to a screening of his upcoming movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.

"Also invited to the screening: O.J. Simpson, 'Mel Gibsons' and other 'American dignitaries'."

Speaking of China, The Guardian says that country is in the throes of yet another damned revolution: "Today, a new architecture is emerging, befitting its go-getting temperament: the O-shaped skyscraper being built for the Chinese state television network, Norman Foster's 80-acre dragon-shaped airport, and the ribbon-like tangles of the showcase 'bird's nest' stadium, which is rising up against the Beijing skyline a year ahead of schedule for the 2008 Olympic games (London, take note).

"'There's no doubt that China is undergoing a design revolution,' says Herbert Ypma of Hip Hotels (Yes, there is such a thing. The old person inside me says it shouldn't have been allowed, but I googled it, and it's there, oozing the kind of bullshit you'd expect). 'Because Mao wiped out much of the pomp in architecture, they're less restricted by tradition, so you see this extraordinary creative detail emerging, the reference to the bird's nest soup of Chinese tradition; it's a message to the world that they're raising the bar."

Bill Clinton went to the Labour Party conference in Britain this week, and created a bit of a stir. First, there was his use of the word "ubuntu", about which more later. But mainly there was Bill Clinton being Bill Clinton. Simon Hoggart of the Guardian used an apt metaphor: "Bill Clinton reached out to the Labour party yesterday, reached out and fondled it, told it how much he loved it. 'I have never seen one man simultaneously flirt with 3,000 people,' a minister said on her way out.

"It felt like being drowned in a gigantic sundae, slathered with ice cream, hot chocolate sauce and plenty of fudge. He told them they were fabulous, wonderful, adorable, and of course he would phone in the morning."

And you have to give him credit. He's too good not to.

But ubuntu. It's apparently a Zulu word that Archbishop Desmond Tutu is fond of using. Here's the Guardian again on that subject.

I'm familiar enough with words to know about the...how do you say? The vigour, the snap a word must have if it is to make its way into the language. I'm also old enough to remember the debut of the Edsel. My educated (therefore) guess is that ubuntu will be the lexicographical Edsel of the first half of the 21st Century, give or take a century.

29 September 2006

This BusinessWeek story is about the use of private eyes by the business community, but it contains an allegation involving Bermuda that is pretty sensational, and new to me. I've said before that Bermuda is careful about those with whom it does business, and its responsibility to make sure their behaviour is on the up and up. Some time ago, the story doesn't say when, our Finance Ministry asked KPMG's Financial Advisory Services to take a quiet look at the affars of a company called IPOC International Growth Fund.

According to a complaint made in federal district court in Washington in June, BusinessWeek says, "IPOC International Growth Fund alleges that Diligence Inc., a Washington-based investigator, infiltrated a confidential examination of IPOC's affairs being conducted by KPMG Financial Advisory Services for the Bermuda Finance Ministry.

"IPOC alleges that Diligence did this through 'impersonation of United States and/or British intelligence agents', and that it obtained confidential documents from KPMG's inquiry through 'fraud and bribery'."

UPDATE: I'm informed by an eagle-eyed reader that the IPOC story isn't new at all, and that Bermuda's Mid-Ocean News has been covering it for months. I'm chagrined. I've tried to link to some of the MON's stories, but the mickeymouse system the parent company uses just won't cooperate. Go to this page, scroll down to the Search facility and search for IPOC in the Mid-Ocean News. It is a remarkable yarn.

Few in the media have paid much attention to the peace treaty Pakistan has made with tribal leaders in the areas near the border with Afghanistan, but according to this London Times story, it is "a peace settlement with a terrible price".

"Under the deal, the tribal leaders were supposed to stop 'foreign fighters' crossing the border, in return for regaining their traditional autonomy. One spokesman said soon afterwards that no such commitment had been made. The Taleban are hardly 'foreign' to the areas; they come from the same families. Many treat the border, drawn by Britain in 1893, as meaningless.

"Since the deal, the Taleban have opened offices in Waziristan, as Pakistani media reports have recorded. They have also welcomed Pakistan's release of about 200 militants, the return of weapons, and the withdrawal of some warrants against Taleban leaders, which accompanied the deal.

"No one could underplay the huge pressures on Musharraf. True, he won't be much use as an ally to anyone if he doesn't survive them. But he has secured himself peace on his western flank, at what may prove to be a terrible cost to Nato forces, Karzai and Afghanistan."

Sacha Baron Cohen established his reputation as one of the world's funniest men with his creation of the frighteningly un-politically correct Ali G. If anything, his new character, Borat the Kazakh, is extending his reach. The Guardian enlarges: "Stupendously sexist, rabidly anti-Semitic and breathtakingly homophobic, but achingly funny, Borat is threatening to eclipse even Ali G, until now Baron Cohen's most famous alter ego.

"The feature film Borat: Cultural Learning of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan slayed them at Cannes and Toronto and will open in the UK in November. Kazakh officials have been less than amused, their protests culminating this week in a four-page supplement in the New York Times painting a truer picture of their nation.

"But Neil Hamilton, the former Tory MP who was one of Ali G's willing victims, doesn't understand why people take offence at Cohen's creations. 'If they are so humourless they deserve to be made fun of,' he says. 'What I like about his humour is that it's extremely clever; he's very good at characterisation, and it's completely harmless. I think he's a comic genius. I thought the funniest thing I have ever seen is the interview he did with Tony Benn as Ali G.'

"When Hamilton appeared on the Ali G show in 2000 he was offered what appeared to be a spliff. To this day he's not sure if it was real. 'How would I know?' he says. 'You know why you are on the show. You are there to be the butt of their jokes. If you are exceptionally quick witted you can return fire a bit. I probably gave him as good as I got.'

"What he did get was an intensely private, upper middle class, well-educated Jewish man with the ability to transform himself as one of the most iconic comedians British audiences have seen."

The New York Times follows up the story I linked to yesterday, about the search for a new UN secretary general: "Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean foreign minister, moved significantly closer on Thursday to becoming the successor to Kofi Annan as United Nations secretary general by maintaining a wide lead over six other candidates in the Security Council's third informal poll." Mr Ban was one of those who did not respond to the NYT's request for a little essay about the UN, and as the front-runner, he was politically correct to refuse.

The Times says "A fourth and more definitive informal poll is scheduled for Monday, and Mr. Ban, with 13 favorable votes from the 15 Council members, goes into that poll as the only candidate with the nine votes required for approval. On Monday, the ballots of the five permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, will be colored different than the others, a way of determining whether any nation with veto power has exercised it. Barring a veto, Mr. Ban's election in a subsequent formal vote appears assured."

Maybe, maybe not. The Guardian says there are doubts about him, and the London Times sensationally alleges this morning that South Korea has pretty much bought and paid for his selection for the post. That's something which, leaked to a paper like the Times, tends to be the kiss of death to candidates for jobs.

The Times story says: "South Korea has pledged millions of dollars in aid and offered other incentives to members of the United Nations Security Council to secure its candidate as the next UN secretary-general.

"An investigation by The Times has disclosed that the South Koreans have been waging an aggressive campaign on behalf of Ban Ki Moon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the front-runner to replace Kofi Annan as UN chief at the end of the year. The inducements range from tens of millions of pounds of extra funding for African countries to lucrative trade agreements in Europe - and even the gift of a grand piano to Peru.

"Mr Ban's prospects received a dent last night when he slipped back in a new secret ballot by the UN Security Council. While Mr Ban remained the clear front-runner, he received support from only 13 of the 15 council members - one fewer than in the previous ballot. One council member voted against him and another abstained."

28 September 2006

This is another good article on the ins and outs of copyright, an important corner of journalism into which, ironically, few journalists venture. This one's from the Columbia Journalism Review, and was written by Siva Vaidhyanathan, an associate professor of culture and communication at New York University, who has written a book on the subject, Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity. He jumps into the subject on the back of the recent UK court case against Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code.

"The most recent headline-grabbing copyright battle involved The Da Vinci Code. Did Dan Brown recycle elements of a 1982 nonfiction book for his bestselling novel? The authors of the earlier book sued Brown’s publisher, Random House UK, in a London court in the spring of 2006 in an effort to prove that Brown lifted protected elements of their book, what they called "the architecture" of a speculative conspiracy theory about the life of Jesus. In the coverage of the trial, some reporters - even in publications like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The San Diego Union-Tribune - used the word "plagiarism" as if it were a legal concept or cause of action. It isn't. Copyright infringement and plagiarism are different acts with some potential overlap. One may infringe upon a copyright without plagiarizing and one may plagiarize - use ideas without attribution - without breaking the law. Plagiarism is an ethical concept. Copyright is a legal one.

"Perhaps most troubling, though, was the way in which the Da Vinci Code story was so often covered without a clear statement of the operative principle of copyright: one cannot protect facts and ideas, only specific expressions of ideas. Dan Brown and Random House UK prevailed in the London court because the judge clearly saw that the earlier authors were trying to protect ideas. Most people don't understand that important distinction. So it's no surprise that most reporters don't either."

I don't agree with that last statement - journalists ought to be familiar with the ins and outs of copyright just as they ought to know the ins and outs of grammar. If the public is ever to understand the basics of copyright, it will be journalists who must do the heavy lifting. Nobody picks up a book entitled Copyrights and Copywrongs: The Rise of Intellectual Property and How It Threatens Creativity out of curiosity.

Here's a treat. It's a little piece - sort of a short short story without a lot of structure - by Woody Allen, published in the New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs column. Here's a little sample: "'I'll level with you, Mike, I've never seen anything like this one - and you know I'm the guy who collared the Astrology Killer.' The Astrology Killer was a vicious maniac who liked to sneak up and bash people's heads in while they were yodelling. He was tough to nab because there was so much sympathy for him."

Fouad Ajami, much-respected professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, argues in the Wall Street Journal that the Senate intelligence report that has caused so much controversy over the Iraq war in the last couple of days, is not what people think it is. "Intended or not, the release of the Senate report, around the fifth anniversary of 9/11, has been read as definitive proof that the Iraq war stands alone, that the terrors that came America's way on 9/11 had nothing to do with the origins of the war. Few will read this report; fewer still will ask why a virtually incomprehensible Arab-Islamic world that has eluded us for so long now yields its secrets to a congressional committee. On the face of it, and on the narrowest of grounds, the report maintains that the link between the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq cannot stand in a Western court of inquiry.

"But this brutal drawn-out struggle between American power and the furies of the Arab-Islamic world was never a Western war. Our enemies were full of cunning and expert at dissimulation, hunkering down when needed. No one in the coffeehouses of the Arab world (let alone in the safe houses of the terrorists) would be led astray by that distinction between 'secular' and 'religious' movements emphasized by the Senate Intelligence Committee. They live in a world where the enemies of order move with remarkable ease from outward religious piety to the most secular of appearances. It is no mystery to them that Saddam, once the most secular of despots, fell back on religious symbols after the first Gulf War, added Allahu Akbar (God is great) to Iraq's flag, and launched a mosque-building campaign whose remnants - half-finished mosques all over Baghdad - now stand mute."

It looks as if Egypt's attempts to broker the release of one of the kidnapped Israeli soldiers, Gilad Shalit, have ended in deadlock. Haaretz is quoting Palestinian sources as saying that "Egypt blamed Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas's political bureau in Damascus, for thwarting a deal." Egypt reportedly demanded that Hamas stop blocking the deal and immediately release the Israeli soldier. The Associated Press, also quoting Palestinian officials, said that the Egyptian demand came in a 'strongly worded letter' to Meshal from Egypt's powerful intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman."

The head of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmous Abbas, has reportedly gone to Qatar to ask its government to try to break the impasse.

It's not often you feel that the Guardian has screwed up a good story, but with the death of the lady known as Tokyo Rose, I think they have done. Iva Toguri D'Aquino was tried on treason charges after the war, and sentenced to ten years in prison. It is now acknowledged that she was not guilty as charged, but the victim of one of those hyped-up campaigns of villification that the press generally starts, and that in this case, over-sealous prosecutors finished. The Guardian suggests that President Ford "acquitted" her in the 1970s, but I think pardoned is what was meant.

The London Times and the Los Angeles Times both have better-researched versions of the story. The London Times goes so far as to say that if a new trial were held today, those who would end up in the dock would be "journalists, agents and officials of the US Government".

Thanks to Brenda for the tip.

You have to admit it sounds like a good idea - the New York Times asks the seven candidates for Secretary General of the UN to respond to two questions. "First, we asked them to discuss an avoidable mistake the United Nations had made within the last five years. Second, we asked them what major reform they would undertake as secretary general."

The results didn't even taste like chicken. Two of the candidates didn't bother to reply. The five who did were brief - very brief - and answered the questions only indirectly. One of them managed to avoid even mentioning the need for UN reform. Those who did said things like "The United Nations must have the courage to discard the old and embrace the new in the name of progress." It's almost as if they were auditioning for the post of UN weasel-in-chief.

Mind you, the process the UN goes through is so convoluted, a certain talent at weaseliness is pretty much unavoidable. The Times explains that "The United Nations selects its next secretary general this fall through a series of straw polls. The third of these - the most decisive to date - will be held today. In the vote, the 15 members of the Security Council 'encourage', 'discourage' or venture 'no opinion' on each of the candidates. To win, a candidate must have at least nine encouraging votes and no discouragement from any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. The winner is then presented to the General Assembly for ratification."

26 September 2006

Victor Davis Hanson, writing in the National Review, says there should be no apology for the use of the term 'Islamic fascism'. "It is the perfect nomenclature for the agenda of radical Islam, for a variety of historical and scholarly reasons. That such usage also causes extreme embarrassment to both the Islamists themselves and their leftist 'anti-fascist' appeasers in the West is just too bad...

"We can argue whether the present-day Islamic fascists have the military means comparable to what was had in the past by Nazis, Fascists, and militarists - I think a dirty bomb is worth the entire Luftwaffe, one nuclear missile all the striking power of the Japanese imperial Navy - but there should be no argument over who they are and what they want. They are fascists of an Islamic sort, pure and simple."

The Washington Times this morning is leading with a story that claims: "Iran is close to an agreement that would include a suspension of uranium enrichment but wants the deal to include a provision that the temporary halt be kept secret, according to Bush administration officials. It's a provision that is no longer necessary, of course, since the US has blown the gaff. The prevailing view on the US team seems to be that this is simply an Iranian ploy to enable the country to continue to ignore the UN Security Council's demand for a complete halt to uranium enrichment, and I guess this is their way of short-circuiting that.

Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, is the man who has been working with Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani on the enrichment-suspension deal that, until this story, might have been completed this week.

"Disclosure of talks on the secret element of the arrangement," says the Times, "comes as Mr. Solana and Mr. Larijani are set to meet today or tomorrow in Europe when the deal could be completed, said officials opposed to the deal, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. According to the officials, the suspension of uranium enrichment by Iran would be for 90 days, so additional talks could be held with several European nations."

So! Google's not just a pretty face. The company has identified the standard computer power supply unit as a waster of energy, and is leading the charge to get the industry to adopt new standards. The New York Times reports: "Google is calling on the computer industry to create a simpler and more efficient power supply standard that it says will save billions of kilowatt-hours of energy annually.

"In a white paper to be presented Tuesday on the opening day of the Intel Developer Forum here, two leading data center designers at Google will argue that the industry is mired in inefficiency for historical reasons, dating to the introduction of the first IBM PC in 1981. At that time, standard power supplies, which convert high-voltage alternating current to low-voltage direct current, were required to provide multiple output voltage, which is no longer necessary in today's PCs."

25 September 2006

Drinking from Mark Steyn's cup seems a fine way to start the week. In the New York Sun this morning, he says: "Iran's president was a huge hit at the UN. Short of bringing out some burqa-clad Rockettes and doing a couple of choruses of This Is The Dawning Of The Age Of A Scary Us, he couldn't have been a bigger smash.

"I said a year or two back, apropos the UN, that it's a good basic axiom that if you take a quart of ice cream and blend it with a quart of dog poop the result will taste more like the latter than the former. And last week's performances at the General Assembly were a fine illustration of that. Ahmadinejad and Chavez were the star finalists of UnAmerican Idol, and, just when you need Simon Cowell, the only Brit in sight was the oleaginous Mark Malloch Brown, Kofi's deputy, fawning over every crazy in town. The rest of the bigwigs reacted like Paula Abdul, able to discern good points even in fellows who boast about not having any.

"That's the reality the Dershowitzes refuse to confront - that structurally the UN enables thugs to punch above their weight."

Fareed Zakaria has a very different take on the threat Iran's defiance poses to the world. Writing in the Washington Post, he says: "Iran is ruled by a repressive clique that has armed Hezbollah, destabilized Lebanon and Iraq, and defied and deceived international nuclear inspectors. Ahmadinejad has made a series of grotesque comments. But if we convince ourselves that Iran is an existential threat, one that must be stopped immediately and at all costs, we will fail. If we turn this into a game of chicken, we will lose.

"Instead of getting scared and spooked, America should view Tehran with a healthy dose of calm and confidence. Iran's fortunes will wane. Oil prices might head downward; Iraq could become less of a burden one way or the other; Arab regimes will get more assertive in responding to the rise of Iranian power. Washington could take the initiative on Lebanon and Palestine, which would vastly improve the political atmosphere."

A collection of sacred artefacts - some 50 tons in weight - which was looted by the Romans from the Temple of Jerusalem and long suspected of being hidden in the vaults of the Vatican, are actually hidden in Hamas territory on the West Bank, of all places, according to the Times of London. "Sean Kingsley, a specialist in the Holy Land, claims to have discovered what became of the collection, which is widely regarded as the greatest of biblical treasures and includes silver trumpets that would have heralded the Coming of the Messiah. The trumpets, gold candelabra and the bejewelled Table of the Divine Presence were among pieces shipped to Rome after the looting in AD70 of the Temple, the most sacred building in the ancient Jewish faith."

Baylor University in Texas has carried out a new survey on religious beliefs in America, which it calls American Piety in the 21st Century. To more secular Europeans, such surveys are always a fascinating glimpse into a strange corner of the American psyche. To business people, the huge numbers involved are a fascinating glimpse into targeted marketing opportunities galore.

The Christian Science Monitor thought this particular survey was remarkable for offering those who took it a chance to be more specific than surveys have been in the past about God's character. It offered 16 words to characterize God, such as motherly, wrathful, and severe. It supplied 10 descriptions relating to God's involvement in the world, including 'a cosmic force in the universe,' 'removed from world affairs,' and 'concerned with my personal well-being.'" You might not be particularly surprised by the responses, but the numbers are staggering.

The Weekly Standard has more: "According to the Baylor survey, 82 percent of Americans are Christians, 90 percent believe in God, 70 percent pray regularly, and half attend church at least once a month. If Baylor is correct, Americans are demographically as religious, and as Christian, as they ever have been. But their denominational affiliations have become somewhat less structured. Less likely now to be Methodist or Lutheran, they are drifting towards more informal forms of evangelical Christianity.

"Similar surveys in recent years have shown an increased number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation. But the Baylor survey proposes that those seemingly-secular increases merely reflected the decline in formal denominational affiliation. When Baylor delved into the practices of supposedly unaffiliated respondents, it discovered that many of them do attend church or Bible studies, pray, and associate with some form of Christianity or other organized religion."

24 September 2006

In an interview with him, Der Spiegel asked Syrian President Bashar Assad: "What has to happen for Syria and the United States to reconcile?"

Assad: America must listen. It must listen to the interests of others. But the US government has no interest in similarities, no matter how obvious. Think of the war against terrorism. In my view, Washington's approach can be compared to a doctor constantly banging away at a tumor instead of removing it surgically. Terrorism is growing instead of declining. We both suffer from it, but the United States doesn't want to cooperate with us.

Spiegel: The situation was different for a brief time after Sept. 11, 2001.

Assad: Yes, after the attacks I wrote a letter to President Bush and offered greater cooperation on security matters. It worked for quite a while and together, as the then CIA Director George Tenet confirmed to the US Congress, we saved many American lives. Then the Iraq war began to take shape and America started making many mistakes. And our cooperation ended.

Spiegel: After the most recent attack, too, there has been contact between US diplomats and Syrian officials.

Assad: Yes, but whether these meetings amount to anything will depend on the will of the Americans. What kinds of issues should we be discussing? Do we want to sit there drinking coffee and talk about the weather? Or do we want to achieve something in Iraq, in Lebanon and in the Middle East peace process? Those who ask this US government about its vision don't receive answers anymore."

Spelunkers have discovered a huge new cave in Sequoia National Park, which sounds like quite a spectacular find. The San Francisco Chronicle says "Those who have seen Ursa Minor - only a dozen people have been allowed in - said the most impressive thing about it isn't its size but its features. The floor is covered with stalagmites and flowstones that (park manager Joel) Despain said look 'like someone poured taffy on the floor.' Thin, hollow stalactites called soda straws hang from above; the longest are six feet.

"There are long, thin blades of rock called cave curtains, which are formed by water flowing from overhangs. Some are translucent; others are red, orange or brown. Here and there are piles of cave pearls, calcified balls of sand as large as cherry tomatoes.

"'You stand in one of these rooms and it's just jaw-dropping,' Despain said. 'It's just beautiful.'

"The cave is littered with animal skeletons and teems with spiders, centipedes, millipedes and other invertebrates. Experts believe Ursa Minor will feature unique species found nowhere else, adding to the 27 never-before-seen species discovered during a recent study of invertebrates in the park's 239 other caves.

"Park officials are inviting experts in various fields from throughout the West to help explore the cave, and many are jumping at the chance to visit a pristine cave and see a portion of the Sierra Nevada from the inside."

At the drop of a hat, in Britain, commentators whip out their little rakes and give the ashes of Thatcherism a going-over. In the process, a curious mixture of truth and misconception is presented to a public which never seems to tire of re-assessing the Iron Lady's contribution. The Guardian's columnist, Simon Jenkins (used to be the editor of the Times) is a perceptive observer, so this article is interesting from that standpoint, and also from the standpoint of what's said in the comments appended. If you're interested in politics, this is a good read. If you're not, you may find it a little dry.

Jenkins writes: "Britain has had the benefit, for the past quarter century, of one of Europe's few recent revolutions: that of Thatcherism. In 1979, this revolution swept aside the postwar welfare settlement in a decade of turbulence. At next week's Labour party conference, delegates will greet a Labour prime minister and chancellor boasting the private sector and profit as salvation of the public realm, delivering hospitals, care homes, prisons and school administration, not to mention trains, coal, gas and public utilities. This would have been unimaginable in the 1970s. Not one cabinet member protests, no backbencher resigns the whip, trade unionists are quiescent. The impending NHS strike is astonishing only for having taken so long - and being doomed to fail. The Thatcherite settlement has survived seven general elections, three prime ministers and three economic cycles. It is politically entrenched.

"Yet the revolution has not delivered public satisfaction. No poll has ever shown a majority in favour of privatisation. The 2005 election was almost entirely fought over the perceived inadequacy of public services. Nor is the government satisfied with itself, being in administrative turmoil near to nervous breakdown. Public servants are warned to prepare for what the health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, calls 'continuous revolution'. Private computer companies fleece it of hundreds of millions of pounds. The City pocketed 500m pounds in fees to privatise the London Underground. Local government has been brought under central direction. The usual totems of democratic enthusiasm - party membership and election turnout - have plummeted.

"Thatcherism has yielded a paradox. Ask any profession or occupation what the revolution has meant for them, and the reply is the same. It was probably more freedom for others, but for them, it was more legislation, regulation, intrusion and red tape. Nationalisation might have gone, and anyone doing business with the government grown rich. But liberation from central control has not followed. Quite the reverse. What happened to the revolution?"

"The answer is that Britain has experienced not one revolution but two, often fighting each other. They are reflected in the personalities of Margaret Thatcher and her 'sons', John Major and Tony Blair. This curious trio of 'leaders with no hinterland' proved ideal for an era that had little time for the conventions of Britain's constitution or the traditions of its establishment. Each in his or her own way tore them up and delivered Britain refreshed but perplexed into the new century."

The Queen opened in Britain just as I left, or I would have gone to see it. I'm not a particularly devoted Royalist, but I thought that anyone who took on the exceptionally complicated task of scripting such a film could only be exceptionally good at it. Sarah Lyall of the New York Times agrees. "The film has already drawn ecstatic reviews here. It even got an admiring endorsement from Patrick Jephson, Diana's former private secretary, who wrote in The Spectator that 'it might just be the best and most important film ever made about the Windsors.'"

It's going to be interesting to see whether the film will be shown in Bermuda. I don't normally go to theatres there because the audiences laugh at what they don't understand, which is a killer distraction. Films are not seen as films by many Bermudians, but as a kind of What-the-Butler-Saw form of alternative reality whose quality resides solely in what the camera is peeking at. In any event, taking an interest in the Queen is, for a sizeable part of the population, colonialist treachery. So theatre managers may not feel this is a film fit for Bermudian audiences.


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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