...Views from mid-Atlantic
13 January 2007

It seemed obvious when George Bush was new in office, but the impression has become very hazy in the meantime - Tony Blair is really much more a Bill Clinton kind of a guy than he's a Bushie. The Los Angeles Times makes a point which has become decidedly barbed with age: "Although he is yoked to President Bush in their common Iraq policy and lame-duck status, British Prime Minister Tony Blair has more in common with former President Clinton. The litany of likenesses includes a belief in a 'third way' between old-style liberalism and the free market, a fluency in public that critics dismiss as glibness, a wife who was a successful lawyer, a willingness to accept the hospitality of show-business celebrities and, finally, a reputation for running an ethically challenged administration.

"It's this last, and lowest, common denominator with Clinton that has lately bedeviled Blair. Last month, he was questioned by police about allegations that his Labor Party nominated supporters for seats in the House of Lords and other plum positions in exchange for campaign loans. The Scotsman newspaper put it this way: 'As Tony Blair approached his tenth anniversary in office, his ambition was to secure a place in history. And he's certainly done that by being the first serving prime minister to be interviewed in a criminal investigation whilst in office.'"

He may be a good finance minister, but Gordon Brown doesn't seem to be the best advocate in the world. Arguing against a variety of secessionist movements alive in Britain at the moment, his best idea seems to be to putting some documents he thinks constitute Britishness to be put on display. In a Telegraph op-ed, he writes: "In discussions with the British Museum, the British Library and the National Archive, we have agreed that there should be a permanent exhibition of historic documents that constitute the essence of our Britishness. And just as we should explore - perhaps with a national competition - what the country itself thinks should be included in this exhibition, we can and must also find better ways to show our national flag as a symbol of inclusion and national unity, taking it back from the BNP, which makes it a symbol of division.

"I am certain that the teaching of British history should be at the heart of the modern school curriculum, and the current review of the curriculum should root the teaching of citizenship more closely in British history. And just as America is strengthened by the institutes that encourage discussion on the very idea of America, an Institute for Britishness could encourage debate on our identity, and what documents from Magna Carta onwards mean for today.

"More so than in any other century, the 21st-century world will be characterised by peoples of different nationalities living closer to each other and having to find ways to live together. Other countries can learn from us getting the balance right between diversity and the strong common bonds that, at root, unify and bring us together. So, far from our Union being an anachronism or in its death throes, we can be a beacon for the world."

A former senior adviser to Prime Minister Ehud Barak and former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Yossi Alpher, claims in an article in Forward that Ariel Sharon warned George Bush against invading Iraq. He writes: "Publicly, Sharon played the silent ally; he neither criticized nor supported the Iraq adventure. One reason for his relative silence was Washington's explicit request that Israel refrain from openly backing its invasion of an Arab country or in any way intervening, lest its blessing damn the United States in Arab eyes.

"But sometime prior to March 2003, Sharon told Bush privately in no uncertain terms what he thought about the Iraq plan. Sharon's words - revealed here for the first time - constituted a friendly but pointed warning to Bush. Sharon acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was an 'acute threat' to the Middle East and that he believed Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Yet according to one knowledgeable source, Sharon nevertheless advised Bush not to occupy Iraq. According to another source - Danny Ayalon, who was Israel's ambassador to the United States at the time of the Iraq invasion, and who sat in on the Bush-Sharon meetings - Sharon told Bush that Israel would not 'push one way or another' regarding the Iraq scheme.

"According to both sources, Sharon warned Bush that if he insisted on occupying Iraq, he should at least abandon his plan to implant democracy in this part of the world. 'In terms of culture and tradition, the Arab world is not built for democratization,' Ayalon recalls Sharon advising.

"Be sure, Sharon added, not to go into Iraq without a viable exit strategy. And ready a counter-insurgency strategy if you expect to rule Iraq, which will eventually have to be partitioned into its component parts. Finally, Sharon told Bush, please remember that you will conquer, occupy and leave, but we have to remain in this part of the world. Israel, he reminded the American president, does not wish to see its vital interests hurt by regional radicalization and the spillover of violence beyond Iraq's borders."

Thanks for the tip, Brenda.

12 January 2007

R Emmett Tyrell in the Washington Times says well what I said badly the day before yesterday, on the subject of exactly what Sandy Berger was up to when he stole documents from the US National Archive.

"Thanks to a congressional report released this week we now know Mr. Berger was allowed to look over (and quite likely filch) files of materials from the Clinton administration that had yet to be archived and were very germane to how historians will judge him and his boss.

"According to The Washington Post, the congressional report 'said Berger took a special interest during his early visits [to the Archives] in files from the office of former White House counterterrorism official Richard A. Clarke, which included uninventoried draft documents, memos, e-mail messages and hand-written notes.' 'Had Berger removed papers,' the report notes, '...it would be almost impossible for Archives staff to know.'

"In other words, the National Archives blundered badly when it gave Mr. Berger access to documents that were unrecorded and uncopied. Mr. Berger, an admitted liar, has almost certainly lied about what he did with these documents. And historians will probably never know what notations they contained or even major revelations about the Clinton administration's assessment and treatment of terrorists in the years before September 11.

"What we do know is that the Clinton sleuths now have still more evidence of the Clinton administration's abuse of power and fundamental lawlessness. That administration's public record is replete with the Clintons' obstructing investigations by withholding documents. Just recall Hillary's subpoenaed billing records from the Rose Law Firm that were kept for months from the independent counsel before they appeared magically in her living quarters. Or remember when her aides illegally entered the just deceased Vince Foster's White House office to carry off materials only law enforcement officials should have seen."

Want to see what Dante Alighieri's schnoz looked like? The Telegraph's re-creation says. "Dante Alighieri did not, after all, have bulging eyes or a pointed chin - but his enormous nose was true to life, according to scientists who have created a replica of the poet's face by measuring the remains of his skull."

Peggy Noonan, who was a White House speechwriter herself, calls Bush's speech "a jarring, furtive-seeming thing". In the Wall Street Journal, she writes: "There was something unnerving about the speech, from the jumpy beginning to the stumbles to the sound glitches. A jittery affair, and some dusk hung over it. At the end I suspected the president's aides had instructed him again and again not to strut or have an edge. He perhaps understood that as: Got it - don't be me. He couldn't do wounded wisdom, but he could repress cocky cowboy. The result was that he seemed not chastened but effaced, not there. It was odd. One couldn't find the personal geography of the speech."

Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, says the plan's no good. In the Washington Post, he writes: "The commitment of 21,500 more troops is a political gimmick of limited tactical significance and of no strategic benefit. It is insufficient to win the war militarily. It will engage US forces in bloody street fighting that will not resolve with finality the ongoing turmoil and the sectarian and ethnic strife, not to mention the anti-American insurgency."

Victor Davis Hansen agrees with Noonan - Writing in National Review Online, he said: "This was not Churchill, not FDR, and not JFK Wednesday night, and there was not quite enough about winning and victory - but the content was still good enough...

"...The increase - no one knows whether the 20,000 number is adequate - could make things far worse by offering more targets and creating more Iraqi dependency if we don't change our operations. But if the surge ups the ante by bringing a radical new approach on the battlefield as the president promises, then it is worth his gamble."

Fourteen members of an advisory board to Jimmy Carter's human rights organization resigned on Thursday, to protest his new book, which criticizes Israeli policy in the Palestinian territories. It's an AP story carried by AccessNorthGa.com.

"The resignations from The Carter Center board are the latest backlash against the former president's book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, which has drawn fire from Jewish groups, been attacked by fellow Democrats and led to the resignation last month of Kenneth Stein, a center fellow and a longtime Carter adviser.

"'You have clearly abandoned your historic role of broker in favor of becoming an advocate for one side,' the departing members of the Center's Board of Councillors told Carter in their letter of resignation."

11 January 2007

So far, only a few of the mainstream media have followed up on the New York Sun's scoop yesterday, about leak investigations being stymied by a lack of cooperation from "intelligence agencies". It's a story which will take a little time to build, I think, because the Sun used a freedom of information request to get at the documents concerned, and answers to such requests take time. Most of the other media will want to see the documents for themselves.

But the Sun did carry a fairly blunt editorial on the subject this morning: "All this underscores the likelihood that we have had agencies of the American government breaking the law to defeat a military campaign into which the American Congress, by an overwhelming vote, sent our GIs.

"These implications were sensed immediately by the blogosphere, where Powerlineblog.com lit up on Mr. Gerstein's story at the crack of dawn, and on the airwaves, where Rush Limbaugh devoted part of his broadcast to Mr. Gerstein's story. Said Mr. Limbaugh, 'It's become more and more obvious that there is a symbiotic relationship between these agencies - we're talking about State, we're talking about the Pentagon, CIA - there's a symbiotic relationship between these agencies and the drive-by media now, and they're not going to let an election get in their way. They've got their own agendas. If they have to destroy the policies of a particular administration, they'll do it via leaks, and then when these criminal leaks are investigated, they don't participate.'"

In his speech about Iraq last night, President Bush warned the Iranians that the US was going to start getting tough on their sending support to Iraq for attacks on American troops.

This morning, Bloomberg is reporting that: "US forces in Iraq raided Iran's consulate in the northern city of Arbil and detained five staff members, a state-run Iranian news service said. The US soldiers disarmed guards and broke open the consulate's gate before seizing documents and computers during the operation, which took place today at about 5 a.m. local time, the Islamic Republic News Agency said. There was no immediate information on whether any of those detained are diplomats."

And DEBKAfile is carrying a report of three loud explosions being heard in Khorramshahr, which faces the Iraqi town of Basra across the Shatt al Arb waterway. The agency says Khorramshahr "is one of the main towns from which Iran smuggles fighters, weapons and explosives into Iraq, for delivery to Iraqi Shiite supporters."

Duncan Campbell of the Guardian has an update on a very old story: "Thirty years ago, Philip Agee, then a 41-year-old former CIA officer living in Cambridge, was told that he was to be deported from Britain as a threat to the security of the state. After a high-profile but unsuccessful attempt to fight the order, he and his young family left Britain for ever. But what happened to the man denounced as a traitor by George Bush Sr, threatened with death by his former colleagues and portrayed as a communist stooge by the British government?"

Thanks for the tip, Brenda.

I guess this is kind of a second cousin of cargo cult-ism - people in...well, I'm not sure what these two places have in common, so let's say people a long way from here...who name their children after villains, celebreties and such. The BBC reports on a village in the nothern Indian state of Bihar, in which there are lots of Saddam Husseins. The latest little Saddam isn't the only kind on the block with that name, says the BBC "There are more than 20 other Saddam Husseins in Lakhanow alone. Local people say there are more than 100 Saddam Husseins in 27 adjoining villages dominated by mostly Sunni Muslims. There is even a family with one son called Saddam Hussein and a younger sibling called Osama Bin Laden."

And in Venezuela, something similar, reports The New York Times. "A glance through a phone book or the government's voter registry reveals names like Taj-Mahal Sanchez, Elvis Presley Gomez Morillo, Darwin Lenin Jimenez, even Hitler Eufemio Mayora. Other Venezuelan first names, which roll off the tongue about as easily in Spanish as in English, include Yusmairobis, Nefertitis, Yaxilany, Riubalkis, Debraska, as well as Yesaidu and Juan Jondre - transliterations of 'Yes, I do' and 'One hundred'."

Thanks for the tip, Comics Guy.

10 January 2007

The New York Sun has itself a heck of a good story this morning, suggesting that several recent US probes into documents leaked in order to embarrass the administration have had to be dropped because of a lack of cooperation by "one or more intelligence agencies". I don't know why they're being so damned cute about it - it doesn't take genius to know that the CIA is the one agency concerned.

The Sun reports: "In all of the released records, the FBI deleted the name of the agency or agencies about which the investigators complained. However, a former Justice Department official said the vast majority of leak probes originate at the CIA. In the 'May Apple' case, references in the files to top-secret cables and to an Office of General Counsel also point to Langley, as the government's other main user of cables, the State Department, does not have a general counsel's post.

"A CIA spokeswoman, Michele Neff, flatly denied that her agency has resisted the FBI's efforts to hunt down leakers. 'That's simply not the case,' she said yesterday. 'Why would we not want to get to the bottom of the leaks? The Office of General Counsel works closely with the Department of Justice on investigations regarding unauthorized disclosures.'"

This Washington Post story may help some understand better just what it was that led former national security adviser Sandy Berger to steal documents from the US National Archives: "The Justice Department and the National Archives improperly assured the Sept. 11 commission that its members had access to all relevant materials about the Clinton administration's terrorism policies, without knowing if original, uncopied documents had been removed from the archives by former national security adviser Samuel R. 'Sandy' Berger, a Republican congressional report said yesterday.

"The report, issued by Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), accused both agencies of inadequately investigating the theft Berger admitted had occurred on two occasions in 2003. It quoted two Archives officials as saying that they had no way of knowing whether Berger took other documents from the files during two earlier visits."

The Guardian reports that Brit Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney has lost out on an award to a poet described as "an outsider". "The verdict of the three judges was unanimous. (John) Haynes's Letter to Patience was 'a clear winner' over Heaney's District and Circle, and slim volumes by two other better-known poets, Vicki Feaver and Hugo Williams. Haynes goes forward next month to contend for the big purse: the 50,000-pound Costa (formerly Whitbread) book of the year award.

There is a need for a little care here, because there are two writers with almost the same name. John Haines is a distinguished American poet who can by no stretch of the imagination be called an outsider, since he's quite well known and has won several awards.

This John Haynes is a Brit, who has had a long career in education, and was a lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria in the 70s and 80s. Sections of Letter to Patience have been published in London Magazine, Stand, Poetry Review, Ambit, Critical Quarterly and Poetry Wales. Haynes is the author of a number of books: on teaching, language theory, African Poetry and stories for African children, as well as two volumes of poetry. He has won prizes in the Arvon and National Poetry Competitions.

This is a review of Letter To Patience by Jeremy Noel-Tod which appeared in the Guardian late last year, soon after the book was published.

Christopher Hitchens says in an article in Slate Magazine that it wasn't concern over that freshman House member's Muslim faith that caused all the fuss, but his support of Louis Farrakhan's Nationan of Islam: "It was quite witty of Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., to short-circuit the hostility of those who criticized him for taking his oath on the Quran and to ask the Library of Congress for the loan of Thomas Jefferson's copy of that holy book. But the irony of this, which certainly made his stupid Christian fundamentalist critics look even stupider, ought to be partly at his own expense as well.

"In the first place, concern over Ellison's political and religious background has little to do with his formal adherence to Islam. In his student days and subsequently, he was a supporter of Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, a racist and crackpot cult organization that is in schism with the Muslim faith and even with the Sunni orthodoxy now preached by the son of the NOI's popularizer Elijah Muhammad. Farrakhan's sect explicitly describes a large part of the human species - the so-called white part - as an invention of the devil and has issued tirades against the Jews that exceed what even the most fanatical Islamists have said. Farrakhan himself has boasted of the 'punishment' meted out to Malcolm X by armed gangsters of the NOI (see the brilliant documentary Brother Minister: The Assassination of Malcolm X, which catches him in the act of doing this). If Ellison now wants to use his faith to justify an appeal to pluralism and inclusiveness and diversity, he needs to repudiate the Nation of Islam, and in much more unambivalent terms than any I have yet heard from him."

Thanks for the tip, Hip Hop.

"After an extensive six-year investigation by HM Revenue & Customs, and two criminal trials, the man behind a 54m pound VAT fraud has been jailed for 15 years, the longest sentence ever handed down by a British court for this type of crime," sometimes called carousel fraud. The British Government News Network reports that "Emmanuel Hening, a trader with dual Belgian/French nationality, was found guilty on three counts of 'missing trader' fraud at Worcester Crown Court, following his extradition from France in December 2005. He was described by Judge McCreath as 'the guiding hand' behind the multi-million pound 'missing trader' (MTIC) VAT fraud, which has also seen an eight-strong crime gang given sentences totalling 38.5 years.

"Chris Harrison, Deputy Director, Investigation for HMRC said: 'This was not some kind of victimless crime, but organised fraud on a massive scale perpetrated by criminals all bent on making fast and easy profits at the expense of the British taxpayer. This was theft of revenue needed to fund our country's public services. Missing trader fraud is not merely a paper fraud but often features links to other forms of criminal activity. This case is a further example of our determination and success in bringing to justice the criminals behind this type of fraud. The sentence should send out a clear message to others who may contemplate such criminal activity.'"

Well spotted, Stephen.

09 January 2007

Buzz Bezzerides, a Hollywood scriptwriter known for his film noir classics, has died in Los Angeles at the age of 98. The Los Angeles Times says: "To film buffs, Bezzerides was best known for Thieves' Highway, director Jules Dassin's thriller based on Bezzerides' 1949 novel; On Dangerous Ground, Nicholas Ray's 1952 crime drama; and Kiss Me Deadly, Robert Aldrich's 1955 crime thriller loosely based on the Mickey Spillane novel."

Kiss Me Deadly is an extraordinary film. The script crackles (as Bezzerides' scripts did). Ralph Meeker, as Mike Hammer, and Maxine Cooper as his secretary, Velda, are perfectly cast - together they make a good deal more than the sum of their parts, if you'll forgive the pun. The only thing that prevents this from being a great film is a plot twist...the thing Hammer's looking for turns out to be a briefcase full of some kind of radioactive material. Must have seemed prophetic when the film was made, but it now seems simply silly.

The international committee probing the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has compared the explosives and weapons confiscated last month from the Syrian Social National Party with those used to kill Hariri and others in the country.

Naharnet News quotes the Arabic-language daily Al-Mustaqbal as saying the committee was acting on a request by the UN's chief investigator, Serge Brammertz. There is no word on its findings.

Lebanese police confiscated 200 kilograms of TNT paste, detonators and timing equipment from SSNP hideouts during a raid in the north of Lebanon last month. Seven SSNP members were arrested.

Weakness in the current Israeli leadership is causing some odd re-castings of political fortunes in that country. Former prime minister Ehud Barak, for example, has launched a political comeback attempt, announcing his candidacy for Labour Party chairman on Sunday. But political commentators in the Jerusalem Post think he's going to have a hard time of it People in Israel are pretty clear that he screwed it up the first time around, caving under pressure. Barak has admitted that he had made mistakes in his previous tenure, citing his inexperience.

One of the Post contributors, Larry Derfner, writes: "I think a lot of Israelis, even on the moderate Right, would be happy with Barak as defense minister - he does know the ins and outs of the military as well or better than anybody else in this country.

"But his stock as prime ministerial candidate has only gone down - if, until the summer war with Hizbullah, he was blamed for the intifada but credited for the pullout from Lebanon, now he is blamed for both. His likeability quotient has also gone down - if, as prime minister, he put Israelis off with his arrogance, since leaving office he has put them off with his arrogance and his greed. His instant standing as number one or number two contender for leadership of the Labor Party just shows how unbelievably low Labor has sunk."

US President George Bush has nominated Zalmay Khalilzad, the current ambassador to Iraq, to represent Washington at the UN, replacing John Bolton, who resigned last month. Al Jazeera says "Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador to Pakistan, will replace Khalilzad in Baghdad. Crocker is a fluent Arabic speaker who has already served as US ambassador to Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon and, since November 2004, Pakistan."

Thanks for the tip, Brenda.

08 January 2007

It's probably a little bit of a stretch to mention North Carolina District Attorney Mike Nifong, prosecutor of the Duke University lacrosse players, and Patrick Fitzgerald, special prosecutor of the Valerie Plame outing case, in the same breath. But only a little bit. The Wall Street Journal reminds us that "Patrick Fitzgerald's trial of Scooter Libby is set to begin this month, assuming anyone can still remember what this case is all about. Oh, yes, Mr. Fitzgerald is prosecuting Mr. Libby for lying in order to...well, we're still waiting to hear a motive for this alleged perjury to cover up a leak that wasn't a crime. But perhaps the prosecutor will come up with something.

"Meantime, Mr. Fitzgerald has some other unfinished legal business that the public has a right to know about - namely, the affidavits he filed with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to justify his motion to compel two reporters to testify about their conversations with Mr. Libby, and his willingness to throw one of them in jail for 85 days until she did so. Those documents remain under seal, which is why Dow Jones and the Associated Press filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit late last month requesting their release.

"Dow Jones, which owns this newspaper, and the AP are also requesting that the court now release all of the redacted parts of Judge David Tatel's 2005 concurring opinion in the D.C. Circuit ruling that compelled the reporters to testify. Responding to an earlier DJ-AP motion, the court released part of the redacted eight pages in early 2006. But it held back the rest, as well as Mr. Fitzgerald's affidavits in the case, because the prosecutor insisted his investigation was continuing."

On a related subject, Newsweek reports that the CIA has told Ms Plame that she can't write about her undercover work for the agency, a ruling that may threaten her lucrative book project.

James C. Roberts, President of Radio America and the American Veterans Center, probably speaks better than he writes, but his Washington Times piece today is still worth reading.

"Did you know that Iraqi real-estate prices have gone up several hundred percent since the fall of Saddam Hussein?

"That Iraqi workers' salaries have increased more than 100 percent in that time?

"That the number of cars in violence-torn Baghdad has grown by 500 percent in the same period?

"That the Iraqi construction, retail and wholesale trade sectors are all growing at a healthy pace?"

Paper I used to work for had a rule - no poets, no hairdressers. I'm thinking tailors, too. The Times of London reports: "Pitti Uomo, Italy's annual showcase for menswear, opens this week in Florence, but for the first time in the its 70-year history, the show will feature clothing by Savile Row tailors, together with an exhibition entitled The London Cut: Savile Row Bespoke Tailoring.

"The inclusion has incensed Italian designers. Gianluca Isaia, deputy head of the Italian menswear consortium Classico Italia, said that the Pitti show was 'intended to represent menswear made in Italy. I would expect it to support Italian firms, not to offer a showcase for foreigners.'

"Mr Isaia said that Italian techniques were 'much more up to date than those of London tailors. We combine state of the art production with ancient origins - Naples already had an association of tailors in the 15th century.'"

07 January 2007

When you see this kind of sentence in a story - "greatness like this doesn't come around often" - you have to stop and pay attention. It's Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times music critic, writing about a young Argentinian conductor called Gustavo Dudamel: "In 2004, Gustavo Dudamel won a conducting competition in Bamberg, Germany, and the buzz began. In 2005, the young Venezuelan conductor made his US debut at the Hollywood Bowl conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic and bowled over audiences, critics and an army of American arts administrators who came armed with contracts and pens. But it was the Bowl; who can really tell in the great outdoors?

"Last summer Dudamel, already a sensation with his sizzling first Deutsche Grammophon CD of two Beethoven symphonies, made his East Coast debut conducting the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, also to acclaim but also outdoors and also in a one-off concert with limited rehearsal.

"Thursday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Dudamel finally came in from the classical music cold, conducting the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a program of Russian and Hungarian music. This was the concert - fully rehearsed and part of a subscription series - that mattered. If you are looking for boasting rights, the program will be repeated at Disney today and in Palm Springs on Sunday afternoon. If you can't find a ticket (both are sold out), the concerts are being recorded for release on iTunes Feb. 13.

"And, of course, there is always next time. Dudamel, who is 26, will be around for a long while. He is, as I am certain everyone in Disney instantly realized, a phenomenon. No classes in music appreciation are necessary to recognize this kind of charisma, which has laws of its own."

Just when I thought the world was running out of surprises, the Wonderful World of Pepper opens up in the Los Angeles Times's food section.

"Forget arugula. The true symbol of how far American cooking has come in the last few decades is black pepper.

"When I went to restaurant school in 1983, our bible of ingredients, Wenzel's Menu Maker, listed only two varieties, Malabar and Tellicherry, but neither from the southwestern coast of India where those particular peppercorns are actually grown. It insisted that 'the only use of black pepper is as a condiment.' And its recipes never specified freshly ground pepper in an era when big tins of pallid powder were stored near the stove and every table held a pepper shaker, not a mill.

"Right now I have black peppercorns in my kitchen from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and Ecuador, in addition to bags of Tellicherry and Malabar. And I'm as likely to use any of them in a dessert or as a crust on meat as I am to relegate them to a mere finishing touch for food. Pepper has come into its own as an ingredient, not least because of the renaissance of salumi, for which it is crucial to the flavor and curing, and to the point that Santa Monica entrepreneur Jing Tio of Le Sanctuaire has invested in six Indonesian farms to produce artisanal pepper for chefs and other caring cooks."

Adam Smith's groundbreaking book on economics, The Wealth of Nations, is hard to read. Nearly the last person in the world you'd expect to be able to explain it to you is PJ O'Rourke, gonzo journalist, satirist, editor of the National Lampoon...very funny man. But he's apparently written a book about it, and Allan Sloan, Wall Street editor of Newsweek, says, in the New York Times Book Review, that it's a pretty good book: "I've been a business writer since 1969, I specialize in unearthing journalistic nuggets buried in lengthy financial documents that even lawyers find dull - and I've never been able to get more than 50 pages into Adam Smith. For several years, I took The Wealth of Nations with me on summer vacation, vowing that this time I'd finish it. Alas, I never came close...

"The 1937 Modern Library edition of Smith's work, which O'Rourke cites as his text and I borrowed from my local public library, runs 903 pages, not counting introductions and indexes. Those pages are in small type. Make that very small type.

"O'Rourke's book, by contrast, runs to fewer than 200 pages before appendixes and notes, and has a typeface and layout suitable for modern eyes. And unlike Smith, O'Rourke is a wonderful stylist. Even if you disagree with his conservative political and economic views, as I sometimes do, you've got to admire his facility with words.

"I could do without some of O'Rourke's gratuitous insults of various people, almost all of whom seem to be liberals. Despite this peccadillo - some people might say because of it - this book is well worth reading. You'll pick up a few good lines, you'll see a primo stylist at work. And you'll see why Adam Smith is so often quoted but so rarely read..."

Remember National Geographic's revision of Judas's place in the Biblical scheme of things? After reading this Los Angeles Times story, you won't know any more about whether Judas 2.0 is accurate or not, but you'll realise that just about everybody else involved in the translation of his newly-discovered Gospel is an old-style Judas - in it for what Sam Weller would call the siller.


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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