When were you last tempted, in a music store or online, by one of those massive sets of classical recordings on CD, presenting all the Bach “your family will ever need”—sets in which quantity threatens to outweigh quality? All too often, the so-called “greatest performances ever” turn out to be marketing ploys for the latest—and least—among new recording artists who happen to be under contract to a given company. Not to mention the 20-CD sets from Delta Entertainment such as Passion—the Most Famous Orchestral Spectaculars or A Little Night Music—the Ultimate Mozart Collection, better designed for heaving at the hapless gift-giver than for actually listening.
But three recent releases from EMI Classics, offered by their Encore imprint, deftly sidestep this pitfall. These fifty-CD sets of archival recordings—in good sound—are devoted to the music of Schubert, Beethoven, and Mozart. And, mirabile dictu, quality and a sense of serendipity are present in them, as well.
If Mohammed Atta and members of his gang had been arrested on September 10, 2001, and their plot foiled, what would the media have been saying about them on September 11?
We can get a glimpse of the answer from the coverage of the New Jersey jihadists whose plot to kill as many U.S. soldiers as possible was foiled by a video-rental clerk.
Here is Newsweek:
On the one hand, it was a “frightening terror plot intended to inflict mass casualties.”
On the other hand, it does not “appear that any of the plotting ever got much beyond the talking stage.”
Andrew Sullivan has predictably chimed in: “If this is all we have to be afraid of, things really aren’t that bad. I mean: attacking a military base? They call themselves terrorists?”
On Monday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert survived three no-confidence motions in the Knesset: one after the Winograd Report (only the executive summary is available in English) pronounced him a failure, another after his second-in-command, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, called on him to resign, and a third after over 100,000 people filled Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square to send him the same message.
Clearly, extreme unpopularity will not in itself induce Olmert to step down. He will only resign when forced to do so by the Knesset or by his own party, Kadima. His Kadima colleagues, at least for the time being, seem content to go down with Olmert’s ship. And Kadima’s coalition partners also would rather risk being tainted by Olmert than facing the voters in new elections.
And so the government continues to stand, like a house of cards waiting to fall. Or more specifically, waiting for the completion of the Winograd Report this summer. The current report covered the period between Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and Hezbollah’s deadly attack on July 12, 2006, as well as the first five days of the war. This was the period during which Olmert still had full public and even international support. But the report was scathing on his government’s complete lack of tactical and strategic planning, a lack that became rapidly evident from day one of the war.
John Lehman, secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration, served on the 9/11 commission. He makes an important point about it in yesterday’s Washington Post, noting that its recommendation that we establish a secure system of identification cards—a vital measure of self-defense in view of how the 9/11 terrorists infiltrated our society—was enacted but remains unfulfilled.
Lehman goes on to say that the commission’s other 40 “nonpolitical and non-ideological” recommendations—some enacted, some not—“continue to stand the test of time.” All of them, he stresses, were and are “achievable in the real world.”
Forgive me, but I have serious doubts. Yes, all of the recommendations were achievable in the real world. That is precisely one of the problems. One new measure in particular—making the CIA director subordinate to a National Intelligence Director (NID) as Congress has in fact done—has only served to graft a new layer of bureaucracy over agencies, like the CIA itself and the FBI, that were dysfunctional in the first place and in need of fundamental reform if not outright reconception.
John Negroponte, our country’s first NID, and an immensely versatile and talented public servant, gave up this position to become Condoleezza Rice’s deputy, a significant step down. One can only wonder why. Since this past February, John McConnell has been wrestling with the job. One can only wish him well.
Long before Lord Curzon became foreign secretary and viceroy of India, a fellow undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford, summed up the future statesman in two immortal, ironic lines: “My name is George Nathaniel Curzon/ and I am a most superior person.”
I was reminded of Curzon while listening to the present chancellor of Oxford University address a fund-raising dinner in the City of London for the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Chris Patten—or Baron Patten of Barnes, Companion of Honor and Privy Counsellor, to give him his full title—is what passes for a most superior person in England these days.
Once a speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher—a fact that is now a source of mutual embarrassment—Patten rose to be a cabinet minister and chairman of the Conservative party before the electors of Bath ejected him unceremoniously from Parliament in 1992. This meant that Patten was unable to take up the post he had coveted and been promised, namely foreign secretary. However, then-Prime Minister John Major gave him the consolation prize of making him the last governor of Hong Kong. Read More