In the Republican corner it is to be John Sidney McCain III, white, age 71. In the Democratic corner we have Barack Hussein Obama, black, age 46. No American election battle since the days of Franklin Roosevelt has attracted so much worldwide attention. A recent visitor to North Korea, a nation supposedly hermetically sealed from the rest of the world, tells me that the first question his ‘minder’ asked was: ‘Who will win the American elections?’ His concern is unsurprising: a President McCain would favour continuing existing multilateral pressure on North Korea to eliminate its nuclear weapons, and might even give some meaning to the phrase ‘or else’.
There is something oddly soothing about going to sleep to the sound of gunfire in Kandahar airbase. The shots are fired by British troops, honing the night combat skills which achieved such success over the Taleban last winter. The fighting season was due to start four weeks ago, when the poppy harvest ended — but so far, nothing. British commanders are quietly optimistic that the Taleban has counted its 6,000 dead, learned it cannot win firefights and switched to guerrilla tactics instead.
Saying ‘sorry’ is mostly wicked and usually irrelevant, says Anna Blundy. People should not be allowed to dump their inner shame so easilyThere is no end, of course, to all this human erring. And we know forgiveness is divine — look at Nelson Mandela. But, for the non-divine of us, genuine forgiveness is largely impossible. This is, in my view, because most apologies are so insincere and self-serving.
I watched the entirety of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, camped out on the sofa with acute sinusitis, dosed up on antibiotics and Sudafed. Every so often some hirsute Balkan hag would appear before me, gyrating and caterwauling as if her life depended upon it, and my ears would begin to bleed. I have never bled from the ears before; it’s a weird, discombobulating thing. The cushions were ruined.
Bryan Forbes sees in the persecution of drivers a terrible metaphor for England’s decline: ministers hide in limousines while the police waste their time on minor road offencesDo others like me wake every day angry that we are unwilling members of a persecuted majority? At the risk of becoming a serial whiner, it seems to me that the unholy trinity of the Treasury, local authorities and the police forces are intent on intimidating and fleecing anybody who has the effrontery to own and drive a car.
Few may celebrate the half-century since Charles de Gaulle’s triumphs of 1958, says Robin Harris, but this realist genius understood that, in geopolitics, the nation-state was allAlmost exactly half a century ago, on 1 June 1958, Charles de Gaulle became the last Prime Minister of the French Fourth Republic and immediately began the construction of the Fifth. The Fourth Republic, be it said, was not as bad as it was painted, not least by de Gaulle.