After being heckled repeatedly in parliament by Ed Balls, Britain’s discordantly named shadow chancellor, David Cameron snapped. “Tell us your Plan B!” Balls hissed in the course of a debate on the economy, “Tell us about the recession!” And then the straw that broke the Cameron back: “Chillax, and have another glass of wine!” The prime minister, his face ruddy with disdain, responded by calling Balls a “muttering idiot.” In the gleeful uproar that followed, the speaker, John Bercow, bellowed repeatedly for “Order!” Bercow (whose taste in ties, let the record reflect, isn’t exactly parliamentary) called on Cameron to withdraw the “unparliamentary” word. Which he did, gentleman that he is.
A portrait of Jacob Zuma, which some men would not regard as unflattering, has become the world’s most polemical painting. Called Spear of the Nation, the acrylic-on-canvas is by a white Cape Town artist and depicts South Africa’s president in a classic Leninesque pose, with one eye-catching variation: his pants are undone and ... the title of the painting should tell you the rest. Zuma took instant umbrage, and as calls went up for the painting’s removal from public view a pair of activists defaced the work, restoring Zuma’s modesty with splashes of paint. The artist is being prosecuted for violating Zuma’s “constitutional right to dignity,” and a Christian cleric has called for him to be stoned to death.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s truculent prime minister, continues his battle with Standard & Poor’s, which had the temerity to downgrade his country’s long-term sovereign rating from “positive” to “stable.” The ratings agencies, he said at a summit last week in Kazakhstan, “have become a political force that affects countries … I have already warned them, and they must take into account the consequences of their actions.” Ever the nationalist, Erdogan has proposed a way to hit S&P where it hurts: Turkey will set up its own agency to rate its sovereign debt.
‘Lost’ at Sea
The Law of the Sea Treaty—its acronym, aptly, LOST—is a Reagan-era artifact that has acquired an improbable new lease on life. Ratified by 162 countries, the treaty has always been rejected by Republicans, adamant that it gives the United Nations too much power and dilutes American sovereignty at sea. The U.S. is one of only a handful of countries to reject the treaty, but China’s recent maritime assertiveness has made many in Washington look at the compact with new eyes. LOST would guarantee American warships unimpeded passage in all waters claimed by China and that is a legal right which the State and Defense departments want to safeguard—even if it means ceding some control over manganese nodules (and other deep-sea goodies) to the U.N.
A German Reflex?
Readers will recall that a certain Thilo Sarrazin had to resign from the executive board of the Bundesbank in 2010 after he published a book which argued that immigrant Muslims were outbreeding Germans to such an extent that the future of Germany’s workforce was imperiled. Well, Sarrazin is at it again. He’s written a book called Europe Doesn’t Need the Euro, in which he contends that Germany’s support for the euro is “driven by that very German reflex, that we can only finally atone for the Holocaust and World War II when we have put all our interests into European hands.” Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister, called this thesis “hair-raising nonsense.”
Gatsby Goes Bollywood
F. Scott Fitzgerald described Meyer Wolfsheim, Jay Gatsby’s shady associate, as a “small, flat-nosed Jew.” That hasn’t stopped Baz Luhrmann, the filmmaker whose adaptation of The Great Gatsby will debut in December, from casting Wolfsheim as a tall, sharp-nosed Indian. The part is played by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan, and is so brief that Bachchan tweeted that “by the time you look down on your popcorn to pick another morsel, I’d be gone from the film.”