Is the hip hop artist Wyclef Jean the right sort of person to run Haiti? He has announced that he will run for the country’s presidential election as the candidate of the Viv Ansanm (Live Together) party. Wyclef is wanted in the United States, where he made his fortune, on tax avoidance issues. The IRS is claiming $2.1 million in back taxes from him. Added to that there are allegations that he salted away an estimated $400,000 from a charity he set up to, er, relieve the suffering in Haiti following the earthquake which struck the benighted country in January this year.
The tourists who flock to galleries in Paris, Florence and Rome are like medieval shrine-visitors, says Martin Gayford. Most don’t care about art, and are only there out of dutyLast month in Rome I was standing in St Peter’s, in front of Michelangelo’s famous early masterpiece the ‘Pietá’. This, I might add, is by no means an easy thing to do in July. At any one time there was a jostling scrum of 50 to 100 visitors around that sculpture.
At last Britain’s Jewish community has something to celebrate. Not since Disraeli has Britain had a Jewish Prime Minister (although let’s not forget that Disraeli was a practising Christian); now we have not one, but two bright, young, attractive Jewish boys running for the Labour leadership. The Miliband brothers have left every Jewish mother in the country wondering if either of them is single. But we shouldn’t start dancing the hora just yet: both the Miliband brothers seem to be having a bit of an identity crisis: are they Jewish? Jew-ish? Ethnically Jewish atheists? Does it even matter? Apparently so, or neither brother would have bothered commenting on their ‘identity’ and no questions would have been asked.
Most people reading this will at some point have had the misfortune to meet one of those piggy-faced people who at a certain point in the conversation says, ‘Excuse me, but I find that offensive.’ Often it is someone who isn’t actually offended themselves. They have claimed offence for a group in absentia. ‘Excuse me, but I find that offensive on behalf of an absent third-party.’Unfortunately this horrible behavioural tick is extending its reach.
I met up with Christopher Hitchens in the smaller hours of a warm morning in May, at Heathrow airport. (This was Christopher’s idea. ‘See you at Heathrow,’ he had told me.) From Heathrow we were to drive together to Bath, where he had a speaking engagement that evening to promote his new (and great) memoir, Hitch-22. When Christopher trudged into view he looked as I knew he would look: the Hitchens-style suit; that dolphin-like face; that dirty-grey fringe.
Anybody who wants to get on in America must give handsomely to good causes. In our own essentially philistine society, the newly rich get further faster by buying grouse moors. I recently heard a tycoon observe sardonically, in an inimitable gravelly Norwegian accent: ‘Grouse-shooting makes all the English prostitutes.’ He meant that lots of people who otherwise think themselves principled, honourable, choosy about the company they keep, prostrate themselves before hosts who offer them an early entry to paradise, shooting the red grouse amid some of the most glorious landscapes in this island.