Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Of cabbages and kings

Well, actually, of detective stories and other suchlike matters. I have just spent four days away from cyberspace and feel all the better for it. Unfortunately, duty called and I returned. There are several stories I need to write about such as the forthcoming State of the Union Address by one of the EU Presidents (we have two and the Americans have one, nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah!) and the fact that American authors are now protected from British libel tourism as Rachel's Law has been signed by the President. Plus there are at least two really stupid articles by supposed experts, one British, one American, about the EU that need to be mildly fisked.

Tish-tush. I shall write about detective stories. One of the books I read in this interval was an early Ellery Queen, entitled The Greek Coffin Mystery, which, I was assured by such experts as Julian Symons, was one of Queen's best.

The Ellery Queen phenomenon is quite complicated. Created by two cousins, Frederic Dannay and Manfred Bennington Lee, Ellery Queen is the author as well as the hero of a number of detective novels, being in his capacity as a hero, the son of New York Police Inspector Richard Queen of extraordinary obtuseness who allows and, indeed, encourages his son to spend his time interfering in police investigation on no grounds whatsoever. Then there was Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, probably the most influential publication of that kind in the entire history of detective story writing, which launched many a career and published many an excellent story. And much more.

The Greek Coffin Mystery is, in fact, a very bad book. It is not absolutely terrible, as somebody pointed out to me, but it is bad. It is very long at 300 pages, which includes the introduction and the challenge to the reader about three quarters of the way through, aspects that were dropped in later novels. There is also the amusing idea of making the one word chapter titles into an acrostic that spells, yes, you guessed it: The Greek Coffin Mystery By Ellery Queen.

The plot is preposterous by anybody's standards though not as bad as those ghastly locked-room mysteries that John Dickson Carr alias Carter Dickson churned out by the dozen. The language is so full of adjectives that reading begins to resemble swimming through treacle. Above all, there is Ellery Queen, young, self-important, drawling, full of quotations and unnecessary foreign sentences and generally objectionable. The authors' inspiration was the ghastly Philo Vance who, as Ogden Nash so appositely said, "needs a kick in the pance". (Though there is one thing to be said for Mr Vance: he was played by William Powell in a number of films. I believe I actually saw one.)

In between retrieving the book from whichever corner of the room I had chucked it, I spent some time wondering why the dandyish, know-all, drawling detectives were so much more tolerable in their English version than in the American. However irritating Lord Peter Wimsey is in the early novels, or the young John Appleby or, even, the young Roderick Alleyn before he meets Agatha Troy and becomes more or less human are, they cannot compare with Vance or Queen. These two make one feel positively murderous oneself.

Of course, I am biased, when it comes to Wimsey in that I hear the mellifluous tones of the incomparable Ian Carmichael (as seen above with Mark Eden who plays Detective Inspector, later Chief Detective Inspector Parker who also becomes Wimsey's brother-in-law in Clouds of Witness).

As it happens, I do know that Edward Petherbridge has also played Wimsey very successfully. In fact, I saw him on stage in Busman's Honeymoon and very good he was, too. Only one thing was wrong - he was not Ian Carmichael. Allowing for that, why are Ellery Queen and Philo Vance so utterly irritating to the point when one wants them to be wrong? (In fact, Queen is wrong in his first solution in The Greek Coffin Mystery and the authors have a great deal of fun with him. He is supposed to have learnt his lesson from that but, in actual fact, he remains as unbearable as before with the added problem of never telling anybody anything until he has it all worked out.)

So why are the Americans more irritating? The obvious answer must be that these are imitations. What on earth are New England Americans doing drawling and droppin' their gs? Why is Ellery Queen always sighing wearily? He is in his mid-twenties even if his father is described endlessly as being old, having old eyes, old knees, old hands. Just how old is he, for goodness sake?

There is also the feelin' that these American johnnies are just pretendin' to know things, don't you know. Don't know why there should be this feelin' in the thingummy about them; after all Harvard is as good a place as dear old Oxford, so why does one assume that the young Appleby (he becomes quite responsible and respectable later on) actually knows all about Greek epigrams whereas Ellery Queen probably spends his time reading a dictionary of quotations?

But the most remarkable aspect of those irritating young asses (well, relatively young) Wimsey, Appleby and Alleyn (I have to admit to being unable to stomach Albert Campion at any price) is that they do change and develop over the span of the novels. They all acquire spouses who are all strong-minded women with careers. Even Campion marries Amanda Flitton, who is an aeronautical engineer. There are families and the characters grown and mature. Very curious that, as detective stories are not given to developments of character as a rule.

I am now going through Dorothy L. Sayers' novels in order so, at least, one good thing has come out of my reading that egregious Ellery Queen adventure. I do not intend to read any more of them.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Speaking rights at the UN

Lady Ashton, now known as Catherine Ashton the High Panjandrum of the EU Common Foreign Policy will definitely have speaking rights at the UN so there will no longer be the embarrassment of the EU's point of view being delivered by the representative of the rotating presidency, which, at the moment, is Belgium. What the good lady will say is, of course, a matter of some doubt. After all, it is not as if the EU actually had a policy.

That, however, does not matter. The EU is proceeding along its usual path: building up structures in the hopes that content will follow. So far, this has not worked with foreign policy, that being the last thing most governments will give up. This may be a small step in terms of real policy but a big step in terms of the Monnet method.

A real reformist Muslim

This is very well worth reading: an article by Irshad Manji about the Ground Zero mosque Islamic community centre and prayer space, about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and about tolerance. Professor Manji suggests that whenever people feel inclined to support the building of a mosque in the name of religious tolerance they should ask where the men's side will be thus establishing whether it will be segregated and whether women will even be allowed into the building.

What an excellent idea!

Are we looking for savings in public expenditure? Do we want to make that deficit smaller? Of course, we do and some of our friends from overseas have come up with a great idea. Not a new idea, mind you, as they would be the first to acknowledge but a great one: stop international aid. It will save a great deal of money, not least by abolishing the burgeoning bureaucracy of DFID, cut back NGOs and, best of all, let the recipients of that aid actually develop economically and politically.

These ideas, often voiced on this blog and on EUReferendum (too often for me to link) were expressed pithily in a letter to the Sunday Telegraph. Signed by a number of important writers and free-marketeers from different African countries (including my good friend Franklin Cudjoe of Imani in Ghana) it pleads with the people of Britain and, as a side-issue, with the Cleggeron Coalition whose Secretary of State for International Development, Andrew Mitchell, has been mouthing embarrassing platitudes while insisting that international aid must be ring-fenced in the supposed spending cuts.
As Africans, we urge the generous-spirited British to reconsider an aid programme they can ill afford, and which we do not want or need. A real offer from the British people to help our development would consist of the abolition of the Common Agricultural Policy, which keeps African agricultural exports out of the European marketplace.
Naturally, I have no issue with that paragraph or the rest of the letter. But, sadly, one needs to point out to the signatories that the Common Agricultural Policy is not Britain's to abolish. In fact, we have very little say in it though we do participate in that invidious set-up. Likewise, we have very little say in the various protectionist measures passed in the European Union. That policy is not ours either though we all too often applaud it, to our shame.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

German economist speaks up against the euro

Well, actually, that ought to be German economist speaks up again. Dr Hankel wrote to Chancellor Merkel earlier this year, asking her not to introduce dubious legislation that would involve pumping German money into the failing Greek economy. Though there is a constitutional case in the offing the Chancellor preferred not to answer.

Now Dr Hankel has written to her again and there is an English translation of the letter on the internet. Once again, he is asking her to repeal the financial aid legislation, a serious misjudgement in his view at a time when the country is being asked to tighten its collective belt.

Since August 18 7,315 German citizens have put their name to this letter. (That's what it says on the site but the number must have grown in the last few hours.) The first letter was signed by 6,128 citizens. There is an overwhelming popular support for a referendum (at present contrary to the German federal constitution) on the financial aid laws.
Both the "Greek Aid Law" from May 7, 2010, as well as the following "Emergency Umbrella Law" from May 7, 2010, do not only constitute strong offences against EU law, but also against our own German constitution.
On the whole it is hard to disagree with the following appeal:
Germany and the few other still economically stable countries in the Eurozone are sinking money into a barrel without a bottom. This money, that the German taxpayers will have to come up with, will be lost for German citizens and their future. By now you had to acknowledge that our country can neither fulfill its social obligations, nor satisfy its promises to keep and create jobs. I am confident you will live to see that this austerity policy will lead to similar effects as we see them nowadays in Greece: protesting people, burning cars, shattered windows and maybe still worse actions. Can you account for this?
I have no doubt Chancellor Merkel will continue to keep her head buried in the sand.

The really irrational religion

Anyone who has read Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism, which now has its own Wikipedia page, will know about the menace of what is known as progressivism though one could argue that it has nothing progressive about it in the real sense of the word.

On Pajamas Media Jeff Perren has an interesting article, which starts off by asking why President Obama keeps saying stupid things and, eschewing the obvious answer that he might not be all that bright but thinks he is, explains that he cannot help it as he is a fully paid up progressivist.

In the process Mr Perren discusses progressivism as the least rational of all religions. This should strike a cord with people on both sides of the Pond.
Unlike even semi-rational philosophies, progressivism is built on sheer fantasy. Other doctrines may make errors, some of them very serious, but most are built on at least some foundation of real-world evidence and logical analysis. Progressivism is one of the few that is actually anti-evidence and anti-logic.

That assertion is not a wild-eyed interpretation by a crazed right-winger. It’s the official view of progressive intellectuals themselves. Merging with its offshoot of postmodernism, progressivism holds that people are unable to grasp evidence first-hand or to be objective about its interpretation.

Postmodern philosophers from Hegel to Dewey to Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, and Richard Rorty have said so. Their students and followers are just applying what they’ve been taught. Those individuals are the ones who shaped Obama, nurtured his education and careers, and helped get him elected.

But we needn’t rely on obscure philosophers or their abstruse writings for proof. Just read the comments of the majority of hard-core left-wingers. No matter what evidence is presented, no matter how things turn out when their wishes are followed, they continue to cling to their core beliefs and offer again the same ruinous recommendations.
There follow a number of examples from recent American history including the difference between the way a Depression was treated in the early twenties and the thirties:
In the early to mid-20th century, Herbert Hoover and FDR implemented progressive-inspired legislation that aimed left and more left, justified on the basis of “helping the Nation recover.” The result was the longest, deepest Depression in American history. By contrast, in response to the sharp, deflationary recession of the early 1920s, Warren Harding and Congress (ignoring Commerce Secretary Hoover’s advice) took almost no action, apart from cutting the federal budget in half. As a result, that severe contraction is barely remembered today because it was so short.
Well, nobody is going to say that about the present difficulties.

Mutatis mutandis, let us think about the endless arguments we have with our own progressivists, no matter which party they happen to favour with their membership and support on such subjects as international aid, ring-fenced by the Cleggeron Coalition. No argument about its immorality, no evidence of its failure, no appeal to practical considerations works against the endless repetition of the progressivist mantra: there is a problem and it can be solved only be some form of state hand-out.

Economic costs

One gets very tired of pointing out to idiots lefties that it is not the military establishment or even the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have created the appalling deficit we face and shall go on facing while the Boy-King and his Merry Men and Women continue to prat around but the welfare establishment. The amount wasted in the NHS and spent on a completely useless educational system would have bought us several large victorious wars. (Well, OK, maybe not victorious but large, anyway.)

The same applies to the United States where Democrats, facing with increasing worry the mid-term elections, will be talking a great deal about the problems Bush left behind. In particular they will emphasise the economic costs of the war in Iraq (not Afghanistan as that is now "owned" by Obama's administration).

Well, here is a little-known fact that deserves a great deal of publicity: Obama's failed stimulus programme already costs more than the war and will cost considerably more.

Mark Tapscott writes in the Washington Examiner:
* Obama's stimulus, passed in his first month in office, will cost more than the entire Iraq War -- more than $100 billion (15%) more.
* Just the first two years of Obama's stimulus cost more than the entire cost of the Iraq War under President Bush, or six years of that war.
* Iraq War spending accounted for just 3.2% of all federal spending while it lasted.
* Iraq War spending was not even one quarter of what we spent on Medicare in the same time frame.
* Iraq War spending was not even 15% of the total deficit spending in that time frame. The cumulative deficit, 2003-2010, would have been four-point-something trillion dollars with or without the Iraq War.
* The Iraq War accounts for less than 8% of the federal debt held by the public at the end of 2010 ($9.031 trillion).
* During Bush's Iraq years, 2003-2008, the federal government spent more on education that it did on the Iraq War. (State and local governments spent about ten times more.)
Well, go figure.

Well, diddums!

It seems that the newish members of the European Union are once again being discriminated against. The WJS New Europe blog reports that of the 115 EU delegations in different countries (an awful lot really) only 2 are headed by East Europeans, the delegation to Norway is led by a Hungarian and the one to Afghanistan by a Lithuanian. They get the really important ones, you can see. Poland, whose Institute of Foreign Affairs produced the damning report has yet to head a delegation anywhere.
The Polish Institute of International Affairs, a think tank funded by the Polish government, said in a report that in the EU’s external service there were only 36 Poles, a mere 2% of more than 1,700 employees. Poland makes up for almost 8% of the EU’s total population.

Out of 115 heads of EU delegations, there’s one from Hungary, heading the EU’s delegation to Norway, and one from Lithuania representing the bloc in Afghanistan, said the report written by Ryszarda Formuszewicz and Jakub Kumoch.

Taking into account the population factor, there’s overrepresentation of citizens of 11 countries, in particular Belgium, reads the report. Sixteen countries, including Poland, are underrepresented.

As of June, French nationals headed 16 EU delegations. A further 16 ambassadors came from Italy, and 15 from Belgium, a country with a fraction of the population of France, Italy — or Poland.
Surely anyone could have predicted that Belgium would be over-represented.

It gets better:
Women head only 10% of the delegations of the European Union that officially promotes gender equality. Knowledge of foreign languages other than the official languages of the European Union doesn’t seem to play a role in the selection process, and thus the head of the EU delegation to Moscow doesn’t speak Russian, and the ambassador to Ukraine doesn’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, according to the report.
I wonder if the system was devised by the FCO.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

She really annoys them

Readers of this blog would have noticed that from time to time I make uncomplimentary references to left-wing feminists, particularly to their reluctance to voice support for women who suffer from far more than the pressure to wear bikinis on the beach. (Depends on who wears them, say I. There are times when it is causes suffering to other people. But I digress.)

There is a long-standing problem here in that right-wing feminism as in fight for women's legal rights, property rights, education, the vote and suchlike matters has been written out of history to a great extent. Feminist historians do not find it interesting to talk about the important role of women in, say, the Conservative Party while Conservative historians dismiss the subject as being of no significance.

There are some exceptions. There is Mitzi Auchterlonie's excellent Conservative Suffragists
There are Martin Pugh's books that provide a "revisionist history" of the women's movement and an overview of women in the "modern" post-Disraeli party.

However, for the real struggle one has to look, as always, across the Pond where left-wing feminist groups are being driven mad by the presence of the Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin, now described as a feminist, rightly in my opinion and infuriatingly in theirs. Dana Loesch writes about it in the Washington Examiner.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Show time

Glenn Miller's orchestra, the Nicholas brothers who were the best dancers in the movies according to Fred Astaire and the gorgeous Dorothy Dandridge. What could be better? Chattanooga-choo-choo from Sun Valley Serenade. Apparently, it has the great Norwegian skater Sonia Henie in it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Un-American Activity?

The days of HUAC are long gone (and by the way that was House Un-American Activities Committee, therefore had nothing to do with Senator McCarthy) but as we have noticed for some time or, to be precise, ever since people have started treating President Obama just like any other politician and criticize or disagree with him, the tendency to throw that expression around has increased. Most recently the accusations have been levelled at those who opposed the building of the Muslim Centre and mosque near Ground Zero. They do not oppose building it in general somewhere in New York, where there already are numerous mosques, but on that particular spot. Faugh, we hear, how un-American. Why? Errm, well, errm, freedom of religion and whatever.

Roger Simon has appealed to Speaker Pelosi, who has been throwing around the expression rather freely, to investigate him before anyone else. One could say that this shows Mr Simon to be somewhat egocentric but he is a writer and a commentator so that goes with the territory. Madam Speaker has suggested that there should be a government investigation of who is financing the opposition to the mosque on Ground Zero and given that the majority of the population is in that opposition, the financing must be phenomenal.

But what's this? Apparently, at some point when she was clarifying what she said or her office was clarifying what she said (what a lot of clarifying goes on these days among politicians) Madam Speaker also suggested that there should be some investigation of the financing behind the organization that is determined to build a whacking big mosque near Ground Zero.

James Taranto thinks that there is only one possible outcome: Madam Speaker will have to be investigated for Un-American Activity. After all, Mayor Bloomberg thought that the Republican gubernatorial candidate in New York was indulging in UAA when he called for transparency on the subject. Then why not the Speaker? Not to mention various other Democrat politicians who, staring at the looming November elections, are coming out against that mosque. If HUAC is reconstituted it will be a very busy organization.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A little bit of trouble near Ground Zero

This was sent by a regular reader of this blog, who pointed out that this could be of interest with all that fuss about a certain place of worship that is being discussed somewhat vehemently on the other side of the Pond. It seems that while the building of the Muslim centre and a mosque just there next to Ground Zero is a matter of the First Amendment, the rebuilding of the Greek Orthodox church in Lower Manhattan that was actually destroyed on 9/11 is of less importance.

Fox News reports that negotiations between the church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (not an organization I have much admiration for) have broken down. Without taking sides as I do not know the truth of what was said by whom and when, I cannot help wondering whether the President will make any comments about this. Of course, whatever he says will have to be withdrawn the following day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Well, what now?

Just about everyone has written about Lord Pearson's resignation from the leadership of UKIP so I did consider simply ignoring the subject. Then I realized that silence was not really an option, given the periodic references to UKIP, euroscepticism, peers of the realm and Lord Pearson in particular on this blog.

As it happens, I do not think this is a crisis for euroscepticism or for UKIP, whose demise has been predicted by many people on many occasions, each time wrongly. The reason is that we actually need a party like UKIP and if the one we have falls short by some measure of what we ought to have, that does not mean that it can be dispensed with completely. We do need a eurosceptic party that will approach the subject with a more or less sensible attitude and not simply sigh for the non-existing good old days (though far too many in UKIP do that and that is part of the problem).

Lord Pearson's resignation may be a surprise to the media but not to anyone else who has listened to what he has been saying. He is not a professional politician, not a party animal, not somebody who has some kind of ambitions in that field. There was never any intention of a long stint as leader but he did want to reorganize or simply organize the party as a more or less professional outfit and to take it through the election with a hung Parliament as the aim.

He has been successful to some extent. UKIP has been reorganized and it is no longer quite the one-man band it was before. The fact that Farage is the only one the public sees is not such a big problem - he is a good public speaker and he is the one who is asked. After all, it is almost always Nick Clegg who speaks for the Lib-Dims but nobody thinks that it means the end of the party (worse luck).

The aim of the hung Parliament was achieved and while the Boy-King managed to get round the problem of having to listen to his party and the electorate by carrying out a mild political coup with his friend Nicky, the real difficulties lie ahead. I predict huge upheavals during and after the party conferences.

However, UKIP ought to have done better and some of the blame can be placed on the outgoing leader's shoulders. He never managed to look like a man who was leading a political party. The ridiculous stunts of him trying to campaign for other candidates who had joined Better Off Out but who did not always want him around, having been told by their own leaders to behave or else did not do him or the party any good. It did not look like a new kind of party whose leader cares about principles but like a feeble circus. When he actually went further and wrote to local newspapers in support of Conservative candidates who were kind of vaguely eurosceptic when there were UKIP candidates in the same constituencies there was uproar in the party and sniggering in the media.

Lord Pearson's explanation that he was putting country above party did not go down terribly well as it implied that those who were fighting on the ground with little support and at some cost to themselves were not thinking of their country while Conservative wannabes were. Oddly enough, as I listen to various comments about the resignation, it has become obvious to me that this is not the "gaffe" ill-wishing people recall but the unfortunate episode on TV when he made it clear he did not know what was in the UKIP manifesto. I doubt whether many people outside the bubble cared about that, given the general opinion about politicians and party leaders.

Yes, UKIP ought to have done better in the election. After all, the turn-out was very low (though higher than in the last two elections) despite the phenomenal unpopularity of the Brown government. Only 65 per cent of the electorate voted, proving beyond doubt that there was a sizeable section so fed up with every party and politician that they preferred to stay out of it. I find that attitude rather shocking, particularly as there are options around and it is not necessary to vote for the three main parties' candidates. The argument that there is no point in voting for a small party in our system hardly holds water for people who do not bother to vote at all. What is the point of that, precisely?

The question UKIP and, perhaps, the eurosceptic movement as a whole need to ask themselves is why did these people or, at least, a large proportion of them not put a cross against the UKIP candidate's name. It could have been Pearson's gaffe about the manifesto; it could have been the row about the Conservative candidates he supported; it could have been Nigel Farage's persona; it could have been the low level of knowledge and political acumen displayed by far too many of the party's candidates. Or it could have been a combination of some or all those factors. It could also have been the desperate desire of people in this country "to hold on to nurse for fear of something worse". In that scenario not voting is simply protesting but voting for a party that is trying to break the mould is making a statement that many people are afraid of doing.

UKIP will now, presumably, tie itself into knots over the leadership election. Early in September there is the party conference and all sorts of statements, rows and arguments will be precipitated. No doubt personal insults will fly around. If they have any sense at all, they will think very hard about the conundrum I posed above: why do people, who are clearly fed up with the main parties and main-stream politics prefer to opt out of the electoral process rather than vote UKIP.

I realize this is not getting us very far on the question of whither the eurosceptic movement as a whole but that, I do believe, is subject for another, quite different posting.

James Taranto makes the point

So why did nearly everybody construe the Friday remarks as a strong endorsement of the Ground Zero mosque? Blame the professional left, which, in its characteristic neo-McCarthyite style, has sought to portray all criticism of the mosque project as, to quote Sargent, "un-American" and the critics as an undifferentiated lunatic fringe that rejects the First Amendment, at least as it applies to Islam.

Obama is a man of the left, so when he deployed the left's rhetoric about the First Amendment, allies and adversaries alike assumed that he also intended to level this accusation at the mosque's critics. They might well have been right about this, but if so, the president quickly made clear he does not have the courage of his convictions.

In doing so, and despite himself, he managed to make an important point. It is not a "clever little dodge" but a principled position to say that while the mosque's developers have a right to build it near Ground Zero, doing so is not the right thing to do. Freedom of religion does not mean freedom from criticism.
Read the whole piece.

This story is very familiar

Nevertheless, there is one thing that really shocks me in this article by Khaled Abu Toameh, an Israeli Arab Muslim Palestinian journalist, who works for the Jerusalem Post and writes for many other media outlets about Gaza and the West Bank. We know all too well about the double standards shown by the Western media when reporting about the Middle East, not least because going to Israel, writing about Israel and criticizing Israel is an easy thing to do.

It is much easier for a Western journalist to sit in Israel and write about Israel without having to worry about his or her safety. Why bother travel to an Arab country and risk being arrested or deported for writing a story that reflects negatively on the dictatorship there?
Besides, who said it's that easy to enter an Arab or Islamic country? The foreign reporters need an entry visa to most of these countries - a process that could last for weeks, months and years.

And when the foreign reporters arrives in an Arab capital, he or she are often escorted by "minders" of the Ministry of Information of that country. Then there are the mukhabarat [intelligence] agents who start following the reporters from the minute they arrive and until they leave.

Those who are found "guilty" of writing a story that angers the Arab dictator or any of his confidants should forget about applying for another visa.
Dog bites man, gardener digs soil, supermodel takes drugs. Big deal. But there is something shocking in hearing about Palestinian journalists and stringers, who are risking far more than those Western hacks and their editors, trying to get stories about such things as the "arrest last week of seven Palestinian university lecturers at the hands of Palestinian Authority security services in the West Bank" being rebuffed by the Western media.
Some Palestinian stringers and reporters offered the story about the arrest of the academics to at least a dozen foreign correspondents and newspaper editors in North America and Europe.

Only one foreign journalist agreed to write about the story. His colleagues gave different excuses for turning their backs on the story.

Some said they were concerned about their personal safety should they report a news item that was likely to anger the Western-funded PA security forces in the West Bank.

Others simply blamed their editors in New York, Paris, London and Toronto for turning down the story as "insignificant."

Earlier this week, a disenchanted Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist decided to put her Western colleagues to the test. She contacted the same group of newsmen and editors who had been offered the story on the academics' arrest with a "new idea" for a news item.

The Palestinian journalist proposed that the foreign press write about a Palestinian university professor who complained that Israeli authorities had turned down his request to visit Israel together with his wife and three children.

The response from the international journalists came almost instantly. All but two said it was a "great story" and expressed readiness to start working on it immediately.
What a pity that the journalists, editors and media outlets are not named.

The solution

On the whole, I find rankings of universities, especially if these are done by a Chinese institution, somewhat dubious. What categories do you use? Research? In which subjects? Undergraduate teaching? How do you compare the very different systems that exist in Britain (in universities that do actually teach), the United States, European countries and, say, China? All very dubious.

So I was a little underwhelmed by the news in EUObserver that 27 European univesities (not just EU ones and they count Russia as European) have made it into the top 100 as judged by the Institute of Higher Education at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities has been going on since 2003 and
The US academic journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education says that the ARWU "is considered the most influential international ranking."
That has nothing to do with the fact that Harvard has been ranked as the highest in the world and the US, in general, has claimed 54 out of 100 places.

The following list is some indication of a certain randomness in the ranking:
The top 10 overall

1. Harvard

2. University of California, Berkeley

3. Stanford University

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

5. University of Cambridge

6. California Institute of Technology

7. Princeton University

8. Columbia University

9. University of Chicago

10. University of Oxford

EU and European rankings

5. University of Cambridge (UK)

10. University of Oxford (UK)

21. University College London (UK)

23. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich (Switzerland)*

26. Imperial College London (UK)

39. Pierre and Marie Curie University (Paris 6) (France)

40. University of Copenhagen (Denmark)

42. Karolinska Institute (Sweden)

44. University of Manchester (UK)

45. University of Paris Sud (Paris 11) (France)

50. University of Utrecht (Netherlands)

51. University of Zurich (Switzerland)*

52. University of Munich (Germany)

54. University of Edinburgh (UK)

63. King's College, London (UK)

66. University of Bristol (UK) (tie)

66. University of Uppsala (Sweden) (tie)

70. University of Leiden (Netherlands)

71. Ecole Normale Superieure - Paris (France)

72. University of Helsinki (Finland)

74. Moscow State University (Russia)*

75. University of Oslo (Norway)*

79. University of Stockholm (Sweden)

86. University of Basel (Switzerland)*

88. University of Sheffield (UK)

90. University of Ghent (Belgium)

93. University of Bonn (Germany) (tie)

93. University of Goettingen (Germany) (tie)

98. University of Aarhus (Denmark)

99. University of Birmingham (UK)
Clearly, the EU is not happy, as we find out from Les Echos. From 2011 it will produce its own ranking of world universities based on its own philosophy and funded by the European Commission to the tune of €1 million. Anyone would like to have a little bet as to how many American universities will make it to the top 100?

Monday, August 16, 2010

A good way to start the week

Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire in Silk Stockings.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A question for this blog's American friends and readers

Does your President have a political death wish? All politicians make stupid statements and, let's face it, the Boy-King of the Conservative Party is in the forefront of that movement. You will not see or hear me defending him. But, seriously, what possessed President Obama to reverse previous comments by Robert Gibb about that wretched Ground Zero mosque being a local issue and announce that he is in favour of its construction, citing the Constitution, which he has always dissed before, and the Founding Fathers as his support? (Ed Driscoll on Pajamas Media has a round-up of reactions and describes it, quite rightly in my opinion, as "unforced error".)

I wonder whether anyone has informed President Obama that NYC already has a large number of mosques and, therefore, Muslims have no problem in finding a place where they can worship. Or that traditionally mosques have been built in places where Islam achieved a victory over its enemies? Does he understand how awkward those Muslims who do want to be American must feel?

Above all:
This move puts the mosque (and community center) squarely into the midterm election debate. It is a bit difficult for me to understand the motivation behind this move. Was the President pressured by some of his Muslim friends present at the dinner? Is this a heartfelt statement of principle? Or is this some Alinskyite move, intended to heighten contradictions and "rub raw" (in Alinsky's words) the emotions of the public for yet-to-be revealed purposes? Certainly, from the standpoint of electoral advantage, it is not a logical move. Perhaps the President really does want a Republican Congress that he can run against in 2012.
I ask again: does he have a political death wish? Has the presidency turned into ashes as soon as he achieved it?

ADDENDUM: Claudia Rossett investigates the mysterious whereabouts of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the plan.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Food Standards Agency again

I apologize for returning to this wearisome subject but it seems to me that the FSA and its future clarify many of the issues connected with quangos and the Cleggeron Coalition's attitude to them, not to mention the ease with which people can be fooled into believing good tidings. As this blog has pointed out here and here the great hurrah that went up when the abolition of the Food Standards Agency was kind of announced was extremely premature. Indeed, since then we have been "reassured" that the Agency was not going to be abolished but certain changes in responsibilities for implementing EU regulations (though it is not put quite like that normally) will be made.

This morning I received the August edition of the Food Trader for Butchers (another left-over from past employment with the Countryside Alliance) and found this article on page 3: FSA Future Now Clarified Indeed, it is.
Speculation that the Food Standards Agency was about to be abolished was finally squashed by a Downing Street announcement on 20th July. There will, however be major changes in responsibility.

Food nutrition policy, an area that the Agency notoriously struggled to get to grips with, is being transferred back to the Department of Health along with around 70 senior civil servants. Critics of the FSA were always quick to point to the disastrous and ill-fated battle with the food industry over traffic light labelling. Others, including many butchers, often pointed out the weaknesses in their simplistic messages such as "eat five a day" or less fat/salt/sugar etc.
I find it quite endearing that anyone can suppose that simplistic and often erroneous messages will cease if the same regulators/civil servants will now work in the Department of Health rather than the Food Standards Agency. As for labelling, that remains entirely in the EU's not so capable hands and it is there that the traffic light version was voted down.
Another major change will be the transfer back to DEFRA of policy matters relating to food labelling (where not related to food hygiene) and also food composition regulations such as meat content in sausages.This means that DEFRA will now oversee the introduction of Country of Origin labelling.
A separate article on page 9 of the publication tells of the vote in the European Parliament on the subject. The National Federation of Meat and Food Traders is fully aware of how much of the regulation their members have to obey comes from the EU. Being a lobbying and advisory organization it passes no political judgement on that, merely try to get the best deal for their members and explain what each piece of legislation implies for them. Even so, it is odd that there is no direct mention of the EU in this article, unless the author assumed that every reader will know.

The changes are no altogether welcome to butchers, it seems, as they will create more work for them.
This will create extra work for industry because instead of dealing with one Government department on the massive new Food Information Regulations they will now have to deal with two.

Another complication is that these changes only affect the FSA in England.The FSA branches inWales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will continue to report on all current matters to the devolved authorities and this is likely to cause much confusion.
And why not?

Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (these titles become more and more meaningless with each government) is, naturally enough, pleased.
It makes perfect sense to bring policy on food origin and associated labelling to Defra to sit with wider food policy.The Government has made very clear its commitment to clear and honest labelling - particularly origin labelling.

These changes will allow the FSA to focus on food safety and it is right that this should stay in the hands of an independent body.
It would appear that the Government is still having problems in making its commitment to a clear and honest admission about where competence lies.

It is left-wing feminist groups who are silent

Toby Young asks today: Why have Western feminists been so muted in their criticisms of Iran? in connection with the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman who has already received 99 lashes for adultery, has now admitted to all sorts of other crimes on Iranian TV and has been sentenced to being stoned to death. To be fair to Mr Young he does make it clear in his article that he is speaking of left-wing feminists, a subject this blog has broached a few times. Health warning: the comments on the article are quite remarkably stupid.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Am I missing something here?

Is this study actually blaming the IDF for not raping Palestinian women? I bet the author is a left-wing feminist. (Can I be sued for libel?)

Just for fun

Actually, this is serious, too - the best kind of satire. Kyle-Ann Shiver asks why those selfish ingrates find it so hard to feel the First Couple's pain. Indeed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The man who first exposed the Al-Dura hoax

There were many others but it was Philippe Karsenty who first fought that battle. Pajamas Media has an interview with the "energetic tired determined intelligent harried impatient boyish argumentative charming brusque" M Karsenty. There is also a link to a well-known production by Pallywood as brought to you by Richard Landes who blogs on Augean Stables.

Just for the record, here is a list of the postings on the subject on EUReferendum but this blog will have to catch up on the story. Sufficient it is to say that the al-Dura tale, a fragrant bit or lying propaganda that has caused a great deal of violence has now been acknowledged to have been untrue. Then again, Augean Stables has thoughtfully provided a dossier.

To be mulled over

All right, all right, so I have been busy having a life and working on an article. I shall report on the article at some later stage and having a life involved (among other things) going to see the 1935 British version of Emil and the Detectives, which was not bad but not brilliant. There were children in the audience and, astonishingly, their attention was fully involved in the film, black and white, scratchy though it was with special effects that ought to have made all those used to 3D laugh out loud. But not a titter, not a whisper was heard.

In the meantime, here is another article about children, in this case boys now and as described by Mark Twain. What would have happened to Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in this day of ODD and ADHD? Psychiatric examination, that's what; possibly pills and, if they were very unlucky, forced adoption. Anne Applebaum has an interesting take on the subject.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Even the BBC!

What on earth is the world coming to? The BBC has acknowledged that there is a certain amount of EU involvement in the regulatory structure. This is about Vince Cable's latest great idea: the one in - one out regulation.
From September, ministers will have to identify an existing piece of regulation to be removed for every new rule proposed.

In addition, a panel of business experts will scrutinise all new legislation before it is introduced.
Oh goody. Unfortunately, there is this problem of the King over the Water (well, government over the water).
The new measures will apply initially to UK legislation only.

However, it is estimated that last year a third of the additional regulatory burden came from European Union directives.

The Department for Business said it would take a more "rigorous approach" to EU regulations, including engaging earlier in the Brussels policymaking process.
What that will achieve is anybody's guess, there being 27 members and a certain amount of doubt around British negotiators being particularly interested in British business. One can only hope that those negotiators will have a clearer idea of EU legislation than the BBC does. It is not just EU Directives that produce regulations but EU Regulations that are directly applicable. It is, in fact, extremely difficult to calculate exactly what proportion of regulations is EU-inspired even when they appear to be British. I am looking forward to the knots all these people are going to tie themselves into.

The height of hypocrisy

It is not often that I link to an article signed by a politician but I shall make an exception for this one by Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon in the Wall Street Journal of about a week ago that has, rather belatedly, come my way. It is, in some respects, out of date as the promised flotilla from Lebanon from Gaza did not actually set out though it seems that the Irish Ship to Gaza Committee is planning to revive the glory days of early summer. It might be a good idea for the tender-hearted Irish organizers to read this article with its description of the life of Palestinians in Lebanon first.
Today, there are more than 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon who are deprived of their most basic rights. The Lebanese government has a list of tens of professions that a Palestinian is forbidden from being engaged in, including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. Palestinians are forbidden from owning property and need a special permit to leave their towns. Unlike all other foreign nationals in Lebanon, they are denied access to the health-care system. According to Amnesty international, the Palestinians in Lebanon suffer from "discrimination and marginalization" and are treated like "second class citizens" and "denied their full range of human rights."

Amnesty also states that most Palestinian refugees in Lebanon have little choice but to live in overcrowded and deteriorating camps and informal gatherings that lack basic infrastructure.
Perhaps, something should be done to help them. Hmmm?

Then again, little enough was done or said at the time of the ferocious war waged between the Lebanese army and the Palestinian militants who were said to have infiltrated the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp back in 2008, a war that claimed something like 500 lives many of them civilians, and displaced many thousands of people into even worse conditions.

I am glad to say that I wrote about it several times on EUReferendum at the time here, here, here, here and here. The last of those postings was also about the Mohammed al-Dura hoax but at the end I said:
Nobody is going to compare Nahr al-Bared to Stalingrad or any other important battle.

The Palestinians may be perennial victims but some victims are more equal than others. If you want the West to pay attention to what is happening to you, try to ensure that you get under the Israelis' feet. Then it really does not matter that you are treated far better than your brethren in Lebanon or Gaza – the world will know with many advantages of your plight.
All of that remains true.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

As if they did not have enough to contend with

This blog is guilty of not writing about the spreading disaster that is engulfing parts of Russia. For once, I do not mean its government or not entirely. For this summer's drought is a natural calamity, especially in a country that still relies enormously on agriculture of one kind or another. But the inadequate response to it is, as it always is, a political calamity.

Some of us have been pointing out for a time that the money Russia earned while oil and gas prices were particularly high was not invested properly. The economy has not been diversified and the infrastructure has been ignored and, in the case of the various fire-fighting services as the article in Der Spiegel points out, actually dismantled.
For almost 10 days fires have been burning in forests across much of Russia and, particularly in the region surrounding Mosow, in dried-out peat bogs. The fires have been increasingly impossible to contain.

On Wednesday night, around 172,000 hectares were still in flames; and by Thursday morning, the authorities announced that the area had increased to 190,000. The official death toll is at 50 people, and at least 500 people have been injured. Seven Russian regions have declared a state of emergency, and over 200,000 people are battling the fires -- most of them volunteers alongside a few thousand fire fighters and 10,000 soldiers. They are using heavy equipment to cut huge troughs into the ground in an attempt to stop the creeping fire.

For almost 10 days fires have been burning in forests across much of Russia and, particularly in the region surrounding Mosow, in dried-out peat bogs. The fires have been increasingly impossible to contain.

On Wednesday night, around 172,000 hectares were still in flames; and by Thursday morning, the authorities announced that the area had increased to 190,000. The official death toll is at 50 people, and at least 500 people have been injured. Seven Russian regions have declared a state of emergency, and over 200,000 people are battling the fires -- most of them volunteers alongside a few thousand fire fighters and 10,000 soldiers. They are using heavy equipment to cut huge troughs into the ground in an attempt to stop the creeping fire.
Read the whole article.

In the meantime, Russia will have to stop grain exports and, indeed, hope that this year's harvest will be enough for domestic consumption.
Forecasts for the Russian grain crop have been falling daily, with the agriculture ministry’s most recent projection at 70m-75m tonnes, down from 85m tonnes a fortnight ago. Some private sector analysts, however, believe the harvest will be as low as 63m tonnes. Traders at Glencore, the world’s largest commodity trading company, on Tuesday warned the crop could fall to about 65m tonnes.
The news sent grain prices up on the world market.

Real federalism

One of the misapprehensions about the EU is that it is or aims to be a federal state. In actual fact it aims to be a unitary state with a few rights and privileges left to the members. That is still a long way down the line and there is a strong probability that the whole project will implode before it reaches that point.

The obvious country to look at if we want to see real federalism is the USA, despite the gradual accumulation of power by the federal as against state polity. Much of President Obama's term so far has been spent on trying to transfer even more power to the centre but it looks like this may not go as easily as was hoped.

One of the interesting outcomes of this Administration's and this Congress's behaviour has been the strengthening of the right and, in particular, the populist right. That, in itself, has produced an interesting and ever more ferocious debate as to how conservatism differs now from the past, a debate that could not even begin to happen in Britain at the moment. But that is for another posting.

Right now I should like to call my reader's attention to the fact that the State of Missouri has voted against an important part of Obamacare, that of mandatory health insurance, preferring to leave matters to individuals or organizations rather than the state.

James Taranto explains:
Official election returns show that citizens of the Show Me State voted overwhelmingly--71% to 29% in favor of Proposition C, a ballot measure described in a pre-election report from Time magazine:

"The specific issue boils down to this: Can the government require that citizens buy health insurance? Mandatory insurance is a key element of the health care reforms passed by congressional Democrats and signed by Obama this year. Adding healthy people to the insurance pool spreads the cost of policies for people with health problems. Missouri's referendum rejects that mandate by asking voters whether state laws should be amended to forbid penalties for failing to have health insurance."

Time describes the vote as "largely symbolic." Other states have already passed such opt-out laws via legislative action rather than voter initiative, and the real test will come in the courts. But symbolism matters. If the constitutional question is a difficult one, it's possible that judges will resolve it on the side of public opinion. And of course the public's reaction to ObamaCare is likely to influence the politicians who have control over its implementation and possible repeal.
For the moment, as Neo-Neocon says, the White House prefers to ignore the will of the people, pretending that this vote matters little, if anything. Here is her posting on the Missouri vote in which she adds:
[NOTE: Other states are planning similar votes on the individual mandate. Legal scholars seem to be saying such states’ rights protest votes are unenforceable and merely symbolic. Although I’ve seen many articles that mention this, I’ve seen no actual discussions on the merits, nor links to such discussions. If more states go the Missouri route, I would imagine we’ll see more debate on the subject.]
Other states are taking a different route, preferring legal challenges. One of them is Virginia where the first hurdle has been overcome.
Judge Hudson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia denied a motion by the federal government to dismiss a suit filed by Virginia challenging the mandatory health insurance provisions of the ObamaCare law. Similar motions to dismiss are pending in other district courts.
I don't want to get involved in the difficult subject of US constitutional law or the whole problem of Obamacare. All I am suggesting is that similar actions would not be possible in the EU. It is not and does not intend to be a federal state.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

FSB gains yet more powers in Russia

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reported a few days ago that President Medvedev (the man who was going to turn Russia into a legalistic state or, as certain Russian political thinkers in Russia described what they were after in the nineteenth century, rechtsstaat) which will give yet more uncontrolled power to the FSB.
The controversial bill, which passed its third parliamentary reading on July 19, empowers the FSB to issue official warnings to people judged to be laying the groundwork for a criminal act "against the country's security."

The law also establishes fines and detentions of up to 15 days for people seen as hindering the work of an FSB employee.

The final version is tamer than the original draft, which proposed the FSB could summon potential suspects to their office and even publish its warnings in the media. But it still has plenty of critics.

The Kremlin says the legislation will contribute to the fight against extremism and help people steer clear of behavior they may not even realize is illegal, such as participating in unsanctioned protest rallies.
Well, yes, they may not realize that participating in rallies will somehow affect Russia's security. Clearly, journalist who try to report on certain matters to do with the FSB can be seen as hindering the work of an FSB employee or, even several FSB employees.

Voice of America quotes Sergei Markov a Duma Deputy from the Putinite United Russia as giving a somewhat incoherent defence:
"It's almost nothing. It just the right to send some kind of warning to the people the FSB has information that their activity could potentially lead to a contradiction to the law," said Markov. "I think criticism of this law is more propaganda."

He says mostly the law is intended to confront terror threats originating in the North Caucasus, the scene of ongoing violence linked to Islamist extremists. As an example of how the law could be helpful, he says it could alert non-governmental organizations that terrorists are attempting to infiltrate their ranks.
Or that the government has decided to accuse them of being infiltrated by terrorists.

The poster shown above created by the liberal Yabloko group says it all: the Chekists are for it - Dzerzhinsky, Beria and Putin.

President Sarkozy displays his credentials

As the Financial Times reports
The French government took steps to tighten its grip on partly state-owned companies to ensure they maintain factories and jobs in France.

Nicolas Sarkozy, French president, appointed a senior business figure to run a revamped agency responsible for government shareholdings. Jean-Dominique Comolli, deputy chairman of Imperial Tobacco, will act as commissioner for state shareholdings, reporting directly to Christine Lagarde, finance minister.

The government also set down rules obliging companies with a government stake to account regularly to ministers for their investment decisions, purchasing policies and supply chain management.
All this activism is the result of a feeling of betrayal. Earlier this year Renault, which had received government subsidies when it was in a tight corner, showed intentions of moving the production of the Clio to Turkey. The French government owns 15.01 per cent of the factory and up with that M. le President would not put. So Renault's CEO had to promise that the bulk of the manufacturing will stay in France, which, presumably, will mean that at some point soon the factory will have to be bailed out again. (Though Bagehot at The Economist thinks that M. le President agreed to let the matter drop but provides not link to the story.

Let us not forget that M. Sarkozy's popularity has hit an all-time low even by the standards of French presidents. He is clearly trying desperately hard to find some way of appealing to the electorate.

There, there! Now run along and play

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is being as kind as it could be to the poor paeons who have written in to suggest that if the Cleggeron Coalition (otherwise known as HMG) really wants ideas for legislation how about doing something about Britain's membership of the EU. We could come out or, at the very least, have a referendum on the subject.

Tut, tut, says the FCO, this is not really sensible but, of course, they can understand how we feel about the subject.
We understand that so many of you feel jaded and sceptical about the EU. Speaking about the EU in Parliament, the Foreign Secretary said he knows there is “a profound disconnection between the British people and what has been done in their name by British Governments”. We want to deal with this.

That is why we have said we will not agree to any further transfer of sovereignty or powers from the UK to the EU during this Parliament. We are committed to ensuring that the British people have their say on any future proposed transfers of powers to the EU. So we are introducing a law to ensure that any future EU Treaty that transfers competences or areas of power from the UK to the EU will be subject to a referendum. This 'referendum lock’ will ensure no Government will be able to pass more powers to the EU without your consent. This is part of our commitment to be more accountable to you for what we do in the EU.
Just recently I had a curious discussion with a lady on a forum. She said that she was proud of being a Labour supporter but she was castigating me for criticizing William Hague. The point is that there is no real difference between a Conservative or a Labour supporter; the real difference is between those who think politicians must be listened to and those who prefer some real information and knowledge. The gist of this lady's attack on me was that I appeared to think that I knew more than the Foreign Secretary did about foreign policy and about the EU. Mr Hague, she opined, had greater resources and had given more thought to the subject than I ever could. If you can call the FCO resources then the first of those statements is undoubtedly true. But as to giving thought to anything he (or the PM) pronounces on foreign policy, there really is no evidence for it.

That second paragraph says it all. Despite the evidence for power continually seeping away (of not already handed over) under previous treaties and agreements, we are still given that bilge about not agreeing to any future transfer of sovereignty and having a referendum if there is a treaty and if there is a major surrender of power in it.

Then we get some more rather condescending stuff about how useful the Single Market is to Britain though very little about the fact that most of our firms do not trade with it and yet have to obey the rules. Nothing much about the CFP or the CAP or the destruction of accountable democracy but we are told in general and rather pompous fashion that, of course, the EU has to change. We all see it and we shall continue to talk about it.

And meanwhile, could we all kindly stop disturbing the adults and run along and play.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Just what we need

Vuk Jeremic, Foreign Minister of Serbia despite his worse than rudimentary diplomatic abilities, has announced that there was only one way forward for the world if it wanted peace and stability in the Western Balkans, and that is full membership for his country in the EU.

He is supported in his stance by Greece (not, perhaps, the best argument for Serb membership) and the two countries have "signed a Memorandum of cooperation between Serbia and Greece in the field of EU integration".

Dutch government farce continues

A slightly incoherent piece on EUObserver tells us that a minority government may well be formed in the Netherlands very soon. Geert Wilders's Freedom Party (PVV), described here as "far-right", presumably because it is against the destruction of real liberalism, will not be part of it but has promised to support it on a case-by-case basis. In return, the government will attempt to impose some control on immigration.

Interestingly, the Financial Times is a little more cautious about labels and describes Geert Wilders merely as being anti-Islamic. Even that is not entirely accurate as this blog has pointed out before but it will have to do as a short-hand. In general, both pieces (and other articles) agree: Mr Wilders has gained a great deal. He will have no formal cabinet role and no cabinet discipline. He has shown himself to be a reasonable politicians, ready to back a centre-right government but has not had to surrender his core principles. Indeed, he will be able to speak out on them if the agreement goes ahead.

Last month Geert Wilders was nominated for the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by Dutch MEP, Barry Madlener. Named after the great Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, the prize has had a chequered history. Most of those who received it did so deservedly, though they were not always in danger of their lives when they spoke out, but I cannot but wonder at the idiocy of awarding it to the United Nations and SecGen Kofi Annan who presided over some of the worst scandals, in 2003.

Not as well known as she should be

My father (who has not been mentioned on this blog before) owned a large collection of jazz LPs. The pride of those was a double album, called The 7 Ages of Jazz, a recording of a concert given 1958 and issued in 1959. Sadly, that particular album has disappeared in the various moves though many of the others are still in my possession.

The concert included many if not all of the greats around at the time (and was Billie Holliday's last recording) but one voice, until then unknown to me, has stood out in my memory, that of Maxine Sullivan, a great singer and not as well known as she should be. Here she is singing her signature tune, a jazz version of Loch Lomond:

This is the 1937 version as the 1955 has a disallowed embed. Darn!