Monthly Archives: September 2009

The Travels of Abu Mazen…

Sometimes, pictures render words superfluous… (see more, click below) Continue reading

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Bruce Springsteen at 60: A Personal Appreciation

Guest Column: My good friend Gavin Evans pays tribute to Bruce Springsteen, who proved to be a remarkable companion on Gavin’s emotional and political journey.

I always was a sucker for prolonged crushes, but this one, well, it has survived longer than most and is unlikely to fade: we’ve been through a lot together, you see. Time then to shout if from the rooftops (though, come to think of it, I haven’t exactly held back previously). So…. on your 60th birthday, take a bow, rock-n-roll’s finest lyricist.

Oh, I know there are other songwriters who possess wonderful ways with words but Bruce Springsteen is a lyricist of a different kind: a story-teller who spins yarns with a profundity few can match. Bruce’s writing hero is Philip Roth, but his own deceptively simple approach is closer to Raymond Carver: little stories about big things, and he tells them in the voice of characters on the edge, who embrace cliché only to turn it on its head, who feel at once unique and for all time.

Lyrics are not the same thing as poetry, and those who pretend they are – by, say, giving students Bob Dylan to read alongside WH Auden – are silly (I prefer the approach of the poet Simon Armitage, who gives Dylan to his students as an example of how not to write poetry). The need to relate words to tunes imposes restrictions that do not exist in poetry. Still, within these confines, Springsteen’s writing has so often expanded the horizons of its chosen form. Continue reading

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Why Bin Laden Lost


The 9/11 attacks were a spectacular terrorist version of Che Guevara’s “foco” theory — a small band of armed men launches attacks on an enemy loathed by the population on whose behalf it claims to act, assuming that this will rally the masses to armed revolt. And like Che’s Bolivia foco, it was a spectacular failure.

Eight years on, tensions are escalating between the U.S. and its allies on the one hand, a range of Muslim adversaries on the other. But al-Qaeda is irrelevant, its attempt to supplant the likes of Hamas, Hizballah, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood through made-for-TV spectacular mass casualty terror attacks lying in tatters. It should have been obvious from the get-go that this would fail: The surest sign was the fact that from Cairo to Islamabad and Jakarta, Muslims were so repulsed by the wanton killing of innocents that they preferred to see it as the dirty work of the CIA or Mossad, rather than of “glorious mujahedeen” as Bin Laden would have it.
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Obama to Unveil ‘Roadmapolis’


If you’re getting a little uneasy about President Obama reprising Bush Administration policies with new gloss — my personal favorite being his decision to continue the policy of ‘rendition’, under which terror suspects are sent to third countries where the rules governing interrogation are more permissive, but Obama promises to do it “with greater oversight” — his Middle East peace plan is unlikely to make you feel much better.

Obama’s Mideast peace plan appears to be a hybrid between President Bush’s “roadmap” and his “Annpolis” initiative — Roadmapolis, if you like. Continue reading

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