Sunday, 14 July 2013

More on Snowden

There is a tendency to admire daring acts even when they are criminal. Gutsy thieves sometimes benefit from public awe bordering on hope that they might get away with their crime. Whistleblowers by definition break the law and yet we are often grateful to them for doing just that. Edward Snowden who leaked information on the extent of US and UK eavesdropping is a case in point.

This is a sad observation, but even if one does not approve of Snowden’s deed, does one really want him to fall into the hands of the American “justice” system? Take Guantanamo - this is a scandal. The US government has kidnapped hundreds of people and is keeping them jailed without trial in a sort of a no-man’s land, on a US naval base in Cuba. This was an invention of the truly nasty Bush and Cheney regime, which Obama vowed to get rid of within a year of being elected. That year ended in January 2010.

The US government refers to the detainees in Guantanamo as “enemy combatants”. So perhaps as enemies they have no rights in the American system. What, however, about the American soldier Bradley Manning who was arrested in May 2010 on suspicion of leaking classified material to WikiLeaks. For almost a year the US army held him in solitary confinement until international pressure shamed them into moving him to a different army base. It took the US justice system almost three years to start court proceedings against Manning. Why? Is that justice?

Wagner...Verdi...move away

Last week, a delightful production (Michael Grandage) of Figaro at Glyndebourne reminded me how unsurpassable Mozart is. Nobody reaches his heights and especially when it comes to vocal ensembles. Verdi and Wagner should bow out quietly (not so easy).

During the interval, whilst picnicking, it occurred to me that my first visit to Glyndebourne, also Figaro, took place exactly 50 years ago. In the summer of 1963, I spent a few weeks as a guest of my late father’s best friend, the Holland Festival’s director general, Peter Diamand. At the end of my visit, Peter surprised me, he had arranged for me to go to Glyndebourne for both Figaro and Zauberflöte.  In his hands was a telegram from [then not yet Sir] George Christie, Glyndebourne’s chairman, “delighted to have Ranan in my box.” 

A Land to Die For? reviewed in the Jerusalem Post

Monday, 1 July 2013

Still Alive

I am getting emails from friends who want to know why I have stopped blogging. Some were even worried that I might be unwell. The fact that some people have noticed and have even gone to the trouble of telling me that they miss my occasional ponderings is flattering of course.

I would like to set your minds at ease: I am fine and the only reason I have not blogged lately is that I am under deadline pressure. I have promised the manuscript for my next book to my publisher and working on it is virtually all I do. OK, I did go to a friend's party last night. When I mentioned to one of the guests that I was in a “deadline panic”, he asked, “is there any other relationship one can have with a deadline”? and he is probably right.

Thank you all for asking. I will try to feed the blog again.

Secret Porn

There is nothing like porn to wake one up and in this case to get me to blog again. Two seemingly unconnected items recently appeared in the press:

·      *   The British electronic eavesdropping station, GCHQ (the United States NSA’s little sister) not only listens to all our phones, reads our faxes, emails and even sms messages but also – in a programme aptly names Mastering the Internet - follows the whole world’s internet traffic. They know what sites we visit, what we use search engines for etc. Moreover, GCHQ sucks in and holds on to the material for 30 days, to give them time to analyse the material.
·      *   30 per cent of all data transferred across the Internet is porn.

If you consider both items in conjunction with each other, what you get is that a secret British government’s department has built gigantic super computers to enable it to store vast amounts of pornographic material. It may also mean that they have hundreds of [happy or probably frustrated] government analysts whose sole remit it is to watch porn. 

London synagogues

To balance the pornographic content, here is a synagogue story. Friends had recently suggested I join them for the Friday night service at two synagogues in the Marylebone area. The first one we went to was the Reform Synagogue at Upper Berkley Street. It was a delightful evening. There was a small orchestra as well as a choir. The tunes seemed to be a combination of Christian church music with some Andrew Lloyd Webber thrown in. Altogether, there was a good atmosphere. The second synagogue was a failure. I meant to go to the conservative Marble Arch synagogue at Great Cumberland Place. However, the security man prevented me from entering. I had no bags or luggage and would not have objected to a search, but he was adamant that I should give him my name whilst I wanted to remain anonymous.