It really was the day the world changed

A few days ago, I negotiated a service contract for the boiler in my new house in Washington DC. At the end of a long telephone exchange, I had to make a decision: did I want a fixed oil price, or a variable one? The variable price was lower. Nevertheless, I preferred the fixed price.

The Gulag Argumento

Martin Amis swings at Stalin and hits his own best friend instead. Judging by the reviews, Martin Amis’ new book, Koba the Dread, will produce an unusually wide range of reactions—but that is hardly surprising. Although Amis is best known as a novelist, Koba the Dread is a truly unique, not to say peculiar, work …

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Leaks are confusing, but aim is clear

Not one, not two, but three articles quoting from “secret” plans to invade Iraq have appeared on the front page of the New York Times in the past month. One version of events calls for 250,000 US troops to attack Iraq from three sides.

When George met Pooty

As I write this, I have before me the “Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security Between Nato and the Russian Federation”, and a very optimistic document it is too.

Cherie’s a perfectly good crony

Cherie Blair is in big trouble. The Prime Minister’s wife has chaired a series of supposedly important seminars in Downing Street, thereby bringing the wrath of the British press down upon her head.

Stylishly but consistently wrong

To describe this book as badly timed is an understatement. It isn’t just badly timed, it is atrociously badly timed, grotesquely badly timed, even obscenely badly timed. Although it is simply a collection of Gore Vidal’s essays, written between 1992 and 2000, and contains, among other things, entertaining portraits of Charles Lindbergh, Clare Boothe Luce …

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After the fall of the Wall

Up to a point, the life story of Alexander Smolensky reads like a morally uplifting, even spiritually enriching rags-to-riches parable. With an absent father and a mother whose Austrian background qualifed her, in Stalin’s Soviet Union, as an ‘enemy of the people,’ Smolensky grew up in poverty. Refused entry to higher education because of his …

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