Roger Moore in Bondage

“You can’t be a real spy and have everybody in the world know who you are and what your drink is.  That’s just hysterically funny.”

— Roger Moore

What are we to make of Bond, that slightly leering brute who does all for Queen and country, always at the ready with quip, car and gadget?  Certainly, when one of its own, the acting fraternity of which a certain number of Bonds can be counted, passes into the Fleming sunset, a moment of reflection is appropriate.

Roger Moore got to Bond, a role he had for twelve years, after a hiccup which saw Sean Connery leave, then return for Diamonds Are Forever after the disastrous George Lazenby interim. He admitted to a modest acting range, claiming that he was only ever allowed to “act” in one film: The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970).

The Bond franchise has certainly been both durable and extensive.  Melis Behlil is almost bowled over by the sheer magnitude of the Bond name in a collection titled Hollywood is Everywhere (2016). “James Bond is one of the most recognizable film characters of all time.”  Over 40 years – 1962 to 2006, 21 Bond films grossed ticket sales over $1.5 billion.” (All in all, there have been 24 official ones.)

Enthusiastic forecasting tends to go into picking the next Bond, and the cardinals of the movie industry gather the brains trust to identify who will slip into a role hewn from the rock of stereotypical solidity.  Of late, the powers that be in the Bond franchise have decided that Tom Hiddleston is certainly not the man, being “a bit too smug, and not tough enough”.[1]

Moore’s succession to Connery’s celluloid throne had to settle, the crown needing to fit.  Connery’s edge was softened, leaving its way for a certain sardonic essence to take over, punctuated by casual, period piece racism.  Gold was struck: seven films followed, making them some of the most successful the franchise would see.

Was he a good Bond?  Moore was ever self-deprecating, placing himself behind “the Bond” Daniel Craig, Connery and even Lazenby.  “Sean,” he suggested, “played Bond as a killer and I played Bond as a lover.”  He would only ice over on days he received his pay checks.[2]

A.O. Scott, penning for the New York Times, tired at the reminders that Connery was the better one, “real” in so far as these approximations can be. “The Connery consensus seemed like part of a larger baby boomer conspiracy to bully people my age into believing that everything we were too young to have experienced firsthand was cooler than what was right in front of our eyes.”[3]

Sinclair McKay, reviewing Simon Winder’s otherwise compelling The Man Who Saved Britain, also states his allegiance to Camp Moore.  “There was just one error of judgment and it’s a mistake most Bond aficionados make: Winder has little time for Roger Moore, who was in fact the best screen Bond of all.”[4]

Enter the world of the trashy big screen runs garnished with camp and plain silliness (“heavenly,” sighs Scott), with The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only heaping innuendo and effect without mercy on their audiences.  Brushed and spruced, and Connery’s Bond had transformed into a creature of false levity of more advanced years, able to dismantle, among other things, a bomb dressed in a clown’s outfit.

Of course, Moore, as others of the Bond club, provided an abridged variant of the Fleming character. By any standards of the day, it was hard to depict anyone, certainly a man of service, who goes through his sixty to seventy cigarettes a day with industry while also downing alcohol as nutrient-packed mother’s milk.  The liquor-filled gormandiser can be overlooked for the sex inclined womaniser with a sociopathic touch.

To look at Bond on screen, and it is a point only mildly alleviated by the sullen, emotionally stricken contribution of Craig, is one of yawn filled boredom backed with a certain imperial nostalgia.[5]  First read in times of food shortages and post-war dreariness, Bond shooting through his tasks behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, gadgets of lethal exotica and champers, thrilled.

The point on enervating boredom has been made by John Lanchester, but it is also one admitted by Bond’s creator, Fleming, who hit upon the name of his protagonist because it was “the dullest name I’ve ever heard.”  Pursuit, full blooded, is permanently required, as is the living of life to absurd levels of consumption. The organism, otherwise, perishes.

For Moore, there was not much beyond Bond.  The franchise made him, but he also exhausted the role that needed retooling after 1985. Less than glamorous roles followed, and he became a traditional, tax minimising actor.  One of his regrets: “I would have loved to play a real baddie.”

 

Notes. 

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/tom-hiddleston-smug-play-james-bond/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/may/23/sir-roger-moore-obituary-james-bond

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/23/movies/roger-moore-was-the-best-bond-because-he-was-the-gen-x-bond.html?_r=0

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2006/jun/18/film

[5] https://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n17/john-lanchester/bond-in-torment

Measuring Manhoods

This week the media outlet, The Intercept, leaked a transcript of an April 29, 2017 phone call between Donald Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

And as I read comments on social media about the leaked transcript someone commented on the leaked transcript by saying there wasn’t a whole lot to this transcript and was wondering “where’s the beef?”

I would tell this social media commentator the meat you’re looking for is in-between the legs of President Donald Trump and President Rodrigo Duterte.  What that phone call was, was a manhood admiration and manhood measuring phone call.

What Duterte and Trump have in common is they both share “the big swinging dick” mentality in which you “speak loudly and act like you carry a big stick”.  And Trump started the phone call off with his admiration of Duerte’s “johnson gesturing” actions towards the war on drugs.

This is evidenced by Trump starting out the call to Duterte stating, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem.  Many countries have the problem, we have the problem, but what a great job you’re doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

In April 2016, just before Duterte was elected, he is quoted as saying, “All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you.”

Duterte was not kidding with this quote either.  Vigilantes, hired guns, and the police have taken up his call and have gone on night time killing sprees that have resulted in 7,000 deaths since he’s taken office (Duterte took office on June 30, 2016).

Duterte himself has even gotten in on the act when he was Mayor of Davao City per The Intercepts article:

 “Duterte has even bragged that he personally killed criminals from the back of a motorcycle. ‘In Davao I used to do it personally,’ he told a group of business leaders in Manila. “Just to show to the guys [police officers] that if I can do it, why can’t you.”

This is what Trump considers something worthy of a congratulatory effort of an “unbelievable job”.  It’s this disgusting reign of terror that brings Duterte the admiration of his “member” by man with an orange tinted manhood.

If Trump wants to mold Duterte’s reign of terror on drugs as a way to impress Duterte with his manhood I hope he starts by reigning terror on the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma.  This is the company we can all thank for creating synthetic heroin, otherwise known as OxyContin. Purdue Pharma started manufacturing OxyContin in the United States in 1996.

And once people realized it was a synthetic form of heroin, and Florida had very lax laws toward regulating it, a Fukushima like eruption occurred, and I was on the front lines for it as an Investigator.

The radiation that started leaking all over this State were medical practices called Pain Management Clinics that would dole out powerful combinations of painkillers to anyone with a pulse from all over the country which led to seven people a day dying in Florida due to prescription drug overdoses.

Things got so out of hand in Florida that while the average pharmacy in the United States was ordering approximately 65,000 units of Oxycodone a year, a Osteopathic Physician I investigated ordered a whopping 964,000 units of Oxycodone in a year.

It was my job to help take these doctors down for giving out Oxycodone like candy, and take them down we did.  Especially once Florida tightened their restrictions on prescribing painkillers.  But what I realize now is while we didn’t pick up the mess we just put the mess in another room, which is now the heroin room.

Heroin abuse has soared due to it being cheaper to get on the streets than Oxycodone, and this has caused people that were originally hooked on Oxycodone to turn to it for the same kind of high.  So thank you Purdue Pharma we really appreciate it.

If Duterte and Trump ever took the time to interview any individuals addicted to drugs likely they would see some common characteristics in these individuals.

For instance some of these addicts had traumatic childhoods that led to their addiction.  Per the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics the more adverse childhood experiences the earlier in life one turns to illicit drug use.

A mental illness may cause drug addiction, the individual may have learned the behavior from a family member, and people of lower socioeconomic status are at greater risk of drug addiction due to depression.

The one thing all of these factors have in common is someone can be born with or born into one of these factors, and in Duterte’s world this is where he wants put stock in the “big swinging dick mentality” and show off his manhood to the world.  And Trump has been watching Duterte’s manhood and is liking what he’s seeing.

But Trump wasn’t done with this phone call.  He needed to bring out his manhood for a measurement.  He did this by talking about North Korea.  He knew talking about North Korea would eliminate the ruler measurements and get right into the yard stick for measuring his manhood.  He knew this because he could now bring up nuclear weapons.

Trump had to remind Duterte that he has “a lot of firepower over there” that includes two nuclear submarines “the best in the world” and “I’ve never seen anything like they are but we don’t have to use this but he could be crazy so we’ll see what happens.”

Can’t you just see the yard stick come out for a measurement on the “so we’ll see what happens” comment?

Country’s patriarchal leaders of been doing these gestures and actions for centuries as a way to measure their manhood’s to the rest of the world.  And it’s at this point in our history that if one leader is insecure about his manhood then it could spell doom for humanity.

So think of these leaders that are in measuring contests with their manhoods as someone that has a manhood with a sexually transmitted disease, and is willing to spread that disease.  The key difference is the spreading of this disease has global implications and puts humanity’s future immediately at risk.

While these world leaders along with many others are insecure with their manhoods be secure with who you are.  The time is now to understand who you are and what do you want to give to the living planet.  Once you understand this it won’t matter about size it will be about “the motion in the ocean”.  So what kind motion do you want to make while we have a living ocean?

Sorry, You’re Not Invited

When I woke up yesterday and looked in the mirror, I said to my image, “Man, you are a pathetic sad sack.”  Hearing that, one of us thought there must be a way to get okay with his self, all things being equal and everything being relative.  I remembered seeing a book in a used book store with the title, I’m OK – You’re OK, and thinking I wasn’t really OK, I was depressed and had a hard time concentrating on anything except my face in the mirror and the sorry state of my life.  All the men I knew seemed so down too, so waddya call it, so fucked up or so fucked down.  I never could understand which is the right way to say it. Is there a right way or can you say it any way you want?  Up down – just fucked, or maybe not.  These other guys were dragging too, but I needed to focus on little old me. I was definitely not OK.

So I got in the car and was cruising around, listening to some stupid news show on the radio when I heard a report that startled me and gave me a great idea.  I drove to the Dollar Store to get a wedding card to send to myself.  This report I heard said the latest cool thing was to marry yourself – they call it sologamy, I think the guy said.  It made you feel good about yourself. OK, I think the guy said.  They interviewed this woman who just married herself and boy was she flying high and enthusing about the great feeling it gave her.  She said she had realized she had fallen out of love with herself and marrying herself was like the second time around.  It really stirred my blood and got me thinking what I could do for myself. I started humming that old song, you know, “Love is lovelier, the second time around .…”

Like I said, so many of the guys I see around seem so down, in the bar they sit over their beers with their shoulders slumped and in the supermarkets I see the old guys looking so hangdog as they push those shopping carts after the women who have notes in hand and little calculators as they take charge of the food buying.  Those women seem OK at least.  The men always seem to be one or two steps back and the women talking and smiling all the time.  I even noticed that when I pass an exercise studio the women come out in those yoga outfits looking so OK and up for things but the guys I know who go to the gym look all tied in knots after heaving the weights like they were performing some grim duty that would keep them above water for a while.

Then I stopped in the local coffee shop to get a pick up and think about this marrying myself thing.  That’s when I lucked out for sure.  Or is it lucked in?  Like I said, these sayings confuse me, I never know what’s correct or not, out or in, up or down. Are there some rules to all this or can you just wing it? I get really confused. Anyway, there was a bunch of newspapers lying around and I glanced at a New York Times on the table.  There was this weird article that jumped out at me about transracialism and transgenderism and this big debate about these big words and a philosopher who claims if you can self-identify as a different sex, or is it gender, I can never get them straight, you should also be able to self-identify as a different  race.  It was a long article with a lot of people arguing back and forth and I couldn’t concentrate on it all but I got the gist of the professor’s point and thought this might be for me, it might help me get OK which was my goal.  As I said, I see all those women up and smiling all the time and the guys down and hangdogged and I always noticed that Magic Johnson the hoops star of old is always smiling on the tube and I’ve always wondered why that was.

So to get to my point, I made a decision then and there and I thought I’d just let you know.  I’m going to give it a shot and marry myself on June 9th since they say June is the best marrying month and I’m going to self-identify as a black woman.  It’s just for the day of course and I’ll go back to being me the next day so don’t worry.  I’m just hoping it does the trick and the day after when I look in the mirror I’ll hear that smiling face say, “ Man, You’re OK, I’m OK.”  Of course you’re not invited, but I knew you’d understand.

Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

Winning the Lottery is a State of Mind

“I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind,” Dr. Ben Carson (HUD) said during an interview. “You take somebody that has the right mindset, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there. And you take somebody with the wrong mindset, you could give them everything in the world, they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom.”

Winning the lottery is also a state of mind.

It’s a statistical certainty.  If you maintain a “certain mindset” you will win the lottery.  If you know that you can win, you will!  All you have to do is unceasingly buy tickets and perhaps live a very long time.  If you have the “wrong mindset”, if you know you’re not likely to win, you won’t – even if you do live a very long time.

Dr. Ben Carson’s mother won the lottery.  Sonya (Copland) Carson was married at thirteen.  She was divorced before the age of thirty with two boys still less than ten years old.  Ben’s mother worked two and sometimes three jobs simultaneously to support her family.  It hardly sounds like winning the lottery, but in a way she already had.  She was blessed with a healthy body and a determined personality.  More importantly, she was blessed with a strong mind – the kind of mind that could acquire and sustain “a certain mindset”.  To recognize the blessing takes nothing from her proven character in facing an almost insurmountable task.  She did it herself, but was blessed with the tools to make it happen. Some are not so blessed.

Dr. Carson won the lottery, too – with an even bigger prize!  Like his mother, Ben was blessed with a strong mind and healthy body.  He had the added gifts of an amazing and supportive mother.  His hard work and accomplishments are not diminished when acknowledging the role of good fortune in achieving the rewards of disciplined effort.  Some are not so fortunate.

The doctor’s children might be even more fortunate.  They may be in position for power ball winnings!  With a bit of cooperation from the gene pool, they too will inherit healthy minds and bodies.  They’ll be gifted with nurturing parents and a stable home.  Additionally they’ll receive the trappings of an upper middle class life style.  All will be in place to access and maximize the rewards of a “right mindset”.  Some are not so endowed.

Its there for all of us.  With the right mindset, you and I can win the lottery.  Its just a matter of sustained effort in finding the ticket.  Be resolute and never waver.  Implement a long term buying plan.  Don’t try to acquire the ticket with food stamps, though – they’re meant for more immediate needs (and it might be illegal).

Why Would Anyone Vote Conservative in the UK election?

Consistent with 21st century politics the announcement on 18th April of a general election by Prime Minister Teresa May was a cynical move based purely on self-interest. The ‘snap election’ to be held on 8th June contravenes the fixed parliament act of 2011, which introduced fixed term elections (every five years) for the first time.

To the total dismay of many of us, opinion polls have for some time given the Conservative government a commanding lead over Labour. Teresa May and her cohorts want to capitalise on this and build as large a majority as possible in parliament, thereby avoiding the annoying limitations and accountability of parliamentary democracy, enabling any policies they like to be pushed through, thus hastening the demise of the nation that was set in motion in the 1980’s under Margaret Thatcher, and has been increasing year on year since the 2008 economic crash.

Despite being taken by surprise Labour were quick out of the traps and have run a good campaign. Their manifesto is indeed radical by the pedestrian standards of the day; promising desperately needed investment in public services, re-nationalising train and utility companies, with increased taxes for the rich and businesses to fund the programme of change. It is a principled work and makes crystal clear what Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn and his chancellor, John McDonnell stand for and what kind of country they would like to help build. University tuition fees would be scrapped under a Labour government, and despite his peaceful anti-nuclear instincts, Corbyn pledged to authorise armed conflict – as a last resort. The manifesto, which was unanimously adopted, is a well-crafted document that rejects neoliberal economics – in public services at least – is full of common-sense initiatives and policies, offering hope to millions of the poorest members of society and is now Labour party policy.

And yet many people – working class, lower middle class people – when polled say they will vote for Conservative. This is the party of government responsible for crushing levels of austerity that have resulted in wage cuts and the decimation of public services throughout the country. Libraries closed, bus services terminated, children’s playgroups and youth clubs closed down. The NHS is on its knees due to gross underfunding; wealth and income inequality is at unprecedented levels; food banks now provide emergency food to over one million people – it was 60,000 in 2010. Homelessness is higher than at any time since the 1980’s, there is a nationwide housing crisis – buying a home is a pipe dream for the majority and the cost of renting is increasing exponentially – and hovering over this litany of incompetence is the government’s duplicitous, aggressive approach to Brexit, which it’s worth noting 48% of those who bothered to vote, didn’t vote for and don’t want. That includes virtually all under-25-year olds; i.e., those it will affect most. It makes no sense.

Another Conservative government would mean the attack on the poorest members of society would intensify, whilst the wealthy and businesses continue to benefit: this is something the Tories don’t even try to hide anymore. Labour has proposed a rational set of policies with the aim of creating a fairer society, all of which have been costed, more or less. As their manifesto puts it, “you can choose more of the same: the rich getting richer, more children in poverty, our NHS failing and our schools and social care in crisis. Or you can vote for the party that has a plan to change all of this.” It is an expensive plan, and it may well involve borrowing extra money, and there is nothing wrong with that. The justification for crushing austerity is the need to ‘balance the books’, to ‘live within our means’, but crippling cuts have not reduced the national debt or the deficit. UK debt is increasing at an astonishing £5,170 per second, and the deficit (the difference between spending, including capital expenditure, and revenue) is currently £14 billions, an increase of £140 millions on the previous year.

Given Labour’s common-sense proposals why would anyone, other than the comfortable and complacent, vote for the Conservatives? What are the coercive forces at work that make large numbers of people act in a way detrimental to themselves, their families and their communities? The primary reason has to be fear, allied to ignorance and misinformation; the same trinity of persuasion that led to 52% voting to leave the European Union – despite not knowing what that actually meant.

The majority of mainstream media veer to the right, either blatantly as in the case of The Sun, Daily Mail and Express, The Times and Telegraph, or more obliquely as with the BBC, all, to their utter shame, have consistently vilified Jeremy Corbyn, some more, some less. It is from these sources – as well as from family and friends, that millions garner their information, albeit scant. Conservative politicians endlessly repeat nauseating slogans – ‘strong and stable government’ being the most irritating; insults are routinely hurled at Labour and Jeremy Corbyn, all of which is carried over the airwaves: many people absorb this negative rhetoric.

Only a tiny percentage of the electorate have the time or the inclination to read the manifestos, in depth articles or listen to speeches and interviews in full, preferring to rely on loud headlines and meaningless sound bites to form a judgment, rather than engage properly and vote responsibly. Add to this the fact that a huge number of those eligible to vote don’t bother. Generally speaking young people are more likely to vote for left-leaning parties than the over 50’s are. But disenchanted with politicians and the political process in general 18 – 30 year olds often don’t even register to vote, let alone trundle along to the polling booth – this is a problem in many western democracies – and so the conservative, reactionary forces hold on to power, the divisions in society deepen, the environmental catastrophe intensifies and the poor continue to suffer.

To its great credit Labour, under Jeremy Corbyn, has reclaimed its socialist roots and is presenting a real alternative to the divisive model of governance that has dominated British politics with increasing ferocity since the Thatcher years. Win or lose, Labour’s decision to stand on a principled platform for change has been the right one and they should be applauded. If, as the polls suggest, the Conservatives are re-elected, and Labour lose heavily it will be seen as a triumph of the right; the hand of the extreme forces within Teresa May’s party will be strengthened, further jeopardising the Brexit negotiations, and it may well lead to the emergence of a new centrist party.

It is time that ideological divisions where consigned to the past, however, and a new inclusive way of thinking about and doing politics inculcated. One that re-defines the purpose and aim of government, which has become dominated by money and the economy – and a perverse approach that sees the country as if it were a business; nations, like all areas of life have become commercialised.

Notions of left, centre and right are meaningless when ideology and self-interest are laid aside. Political groups and individual politicians with sympathetic outlooks, need to work together, to cooperate not compete. Cooperation is one of the prevailing themes of the time; it is a unifying principle that helps build trust and will increasingly be seen as the common-sense alternative to competition. In all areas of life cooperation needs to be the method of engagement because where human beings work collectively much can be achieved.

There is much talk of ‘progressive alliances’ in British politics, between Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party, who all share much disgust at Conservative policies for one, but, publicly at least, Labour has ‘ruled out’ any such alliance(s). This is a mistake; such coalitions are the way forward, and together with an electoral system based on proportional representation would, and I suggest, will, form the basis for a reformed political system no longer dominated by economic statistics, but functioning as the facilitator of social justice, environmental health and community unity.

Review: Mary V. Dearborn’s “Ernest Hemingway”

We all know that Ernest Hemingway, 1899-1961, committed suicide. Some of us can remember learning of his death the day he died. He was in Idaho, at one of his residences, and he used a shotgun. As Mary V. Dearborn writes in her preface to her splendid biography of the man, “He changed the way we think, what we look for in literature, how we choose to lead our lives. He changed the way we think about death—how it’s experienced, how to come to terms with it—the subject he explored possibly more deeply and thoroughly than any other American writer. He changed our language. He changed how we see Paris, the American West, Spain, Africa, Key West, Cuba, northern Michigan. Even the place of his birth, Oak Park—though he rarely wrote about it, this suburb, equidistant from Chicago and the Des Plaines River, was part of what made Hemingway, and we will always see it differently for his presence.”

At the time of his death, his writing was in a state of decline, something he clearly understood. What we may not have known about is the extreme state of his physical deterioration. He was suffering physically from multiple injuries. From a plane crash alone in Africa, in 1954, he had “a wound in his scalp behind his right ear that leaked” cerebral fluid, but he also had “a dislocated shoulder, a collapsed lower intestine, two crushed lumbar vertebrae, a severely damaged liver and kidney, impairment of hearing in his right ear and of sight in his right eye. There was blood in his urine and his sphincter was paralyzed….”

From that accident until his death, his body was a mess. But he also suffered from severe mood swings, depression, paranoia, high blood pressure (measured once at 225/125), extremely high cholesterol (recorded at 380), he drank too much, and he was overweight. People who encountered him late in his life said that he looked much older than his age. So there was little surprise that he eventually succeeded in killing himself—as his father had done—after several earlier attempts. Once he tried to do so by walking into the propellers of an airplane. He didn’t want to be an old man. Months before he died, he had checked into the Mayo Clinic, using a pseudonym, where he underwent ETC therapy, and an attempt was made to reduce the number of medicines he was taking.

That was pretty much the end of a rich and troubled life.

Much of the earlier part of his life may also be unfamiliar to us. Dearborn has discovered previously unknown documents relating to him and, perhaps more importantly, she did not know him (as did his earlier biographers)—plus the element of distance. When Hemingway was still very young, his mother dressed him as a girl. Because of poor eyesight, he was denied military service, though in frequent fabrications he claimed to have fought in both of the great wars.  His parents wanted him to go to college. Instead, after a seven-month stint as a cub reporter for the Kansas City Star, he volunteered for the Red Cross ambulance service in Italy, where he was first injured and had to recover in a hospital. Afterwards, he returned to the United States, by which time he was writing short stories. Then another journalistic stint, but this time for the Toronto Star. Already he had packed a lifetime of experiences into twenty-one years, including his first of four marriages (to Elizabeth Hadley Richardson), seven years his senior.

By 1922, the two of them were in Europe, as he reported for the Toronto Star and wrote stories and poems, some of them published in The Little Review. In Paris, Hemingway made friendships with Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, and others. There were bullfights in Spain that fascinated him; he went to Constantinople for his reporting. Hadley was pregnant. By the time he published his first collection of stories, In Our Time in 1924, Hemingway had begun having manic episodes, triggered by alcohol and traumatic head injuries, and—according to his biographer—“feelings of worthlessness,” terrible depression and already talk of suicide. During these years he also had fast friendships with F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos.

By the end of the decade he had published what some critics believe are his greatest novels: The Sun Also Rises, 1926, and A Farewell to Arms, 1929. The celebrated Scribner editor, Max Perkins, had entered his life, but unlike another of Perkins’ writers, Thomas Woolf, Hemingway’s work required little editing. Perkins helped him with structure. Hadley was out of his life; Hemingway married Pauline Pfeiffer. Dearborn describes him as “a serial monogamist who was not given to affairs.” She also mentions buried homosexuality and Hemingway’s life-long fetish with hair. In these early years his novels (typically serialized in Colliers) generated a great amount of money. He would need that because after his father’s suicide, Hemingway took care of his mother and his younger siblings—plus his increasing brood of ex-wives and children.

There were continual splats with other writers and critics. Some of his friendships abruptly ended. Max Eastman riled him by accusing him of “wearing false hair on [his] chest.” Gertrude Stein considered him a homosexual, though there is no real evidence to support this. One of Dearborn’s chapters begins with this sentence, “It was probably inevitable that Hemingway would one day talk about the size of Scott Fitzgerald’s penis.” Still, the cult of masculinity had long been established. After the publication of For Whom the Bell Tolls, in 1940, Hemingway’s subsequent work—except for several powerful short stories—was secondary to what had already been published.

But he continued to write fiction and work as a journalist. The Spanish Civil War and the threat of fascism had developed his political consciousness more than any other event. By the time he was covering the war as a correspondent, he had met the woman who would become his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, another journalist. Certain personal habits had detiorated. When Martha introduced Hemingway to her family, they found him “a large, dirty man in somewhat soiled white shorts and shirt….” Dearborn embellishes that remark by noting that Martha called Hemingway “Pig,” meant to be regarded fondly. And Dearborn adds, “Ernest seldom bathed, relying instead on alcohol sponge baths” and the swimming pool to cleanse himself. He drank too much, had problems with impotence, and was usually overweight.

Cuba had become important for him also, where Hemingway purchased a large house, requiring major renovations, but overlooking Havana. Dearborn states that he would often walk into the city barefoot. “By the end of the war, Ernest was becoming someone who could make his friends recoil.” Mary Walsh Monks, his fourth wife, had moved with him to the estate in Cuba and subsequently realized that her own journalistic career would come to an end. They were happy when she became pregnant, hopeful that the child would be a girl since all his other children were boys.

During that final marriage, there were way too many unsettling events in his life that would have destroyed most men. Mary lost the baby and almost died herself. Greg—one of his sons who was fifteen—was discovered wearing women’s clothes, something that would continue into his adult life. Accounts of his father’s response are that he “went berserk.” Patrick, another son, became psychotic and needed shock treatment. And then Max Perkins, his editor—one of the most important figures in his life—suddenly died. Works such as Across the River and into the Trees (1950) brought Hemingway additional income but little critical praise. Then his mother died, followed by Pauline, his second wife, by which time Hemingway had entered another manic period. According to Dearborn, Hemingway “plunged into mania to cheat death. Over the next year or so he told enormous lies; he spent outrageous amounts of money, he got into terrible fights, some physical; he displayed outsize egotism and delusions of grandeur; his moods fluctuated wildly, commented on by almost everyone who knew him; he made bad decisions; he fell in love with an inappropriate woman; he seemed to have inexhaustible supplies of energy that fueled all sorts of complicated schemes and projects.”

The Old Man and the Sea was published in Life magazine in May of 1952, bringing him renewed success. Dearborn states that Hemingway was touchy about critical works that were beginning to be published about him. With Mary, there were trips to Africa (including the plane crash), but he had lost his skills as a big game hunter. Not even the Nobel Prize, in 1954, could fix his messed-up life. There were multiple writing projects begun but not finished (some were published after his death.) Mary and Hemingway were largely at war with one another, but she stuck it out through the final awful years, including when they were advised to leave Cuba because of Castro’s takeover.

What did it all add up to? Perhaps an observation that Hemingway made about fiction, and its relationship to truth: “Writers of fiction are only super-liars who if they know enough and are disciplined can make their lies truer than the truth. If you have fought and diced and served at court and gone to the wars and know navigation, sea-manship, the bad world and the great world and the different countries and other things then you have good knowledge to lie out of. That is all a writer of fiction is.”

In the Preface to her definitive account of Ernest Hemingway’s tragic life, Mary V. Dearborn explains her several reasons for undertaking a biography of such a super-masculine figure. This is the most important one: “There has not yet been a biography written by a woman.” Then she adds, “I’d rather not encourage the notion that men and women see things in fundamentally different ways. By definition, studying Hemingway is about the rough experience, the cultural construction of gender—how sex roles are determined by the forces around us rather than our genes. It is through figures like Hemingway that masculinity gets defined—even if that same cultural construction affects him in turn.” That’s a wonderful observation that Dearborn has exhaustively implemented in her brilliant account of Hemingway’s life. Hopefully, she will start a trend, encouraging other women to write biographies of male writers and perhaps continue the work herself. I want to cheer her on and hope that her next biography will be of another twentieth-century American icon: William Faulkner.

NOTE: Besides dozens of photographs spread throughout the text, the cover shows Hemingway seated and holding a gun, pointed at you (in this case, the reader).  Make of that what you will.

Mary V. Dearborn: Ernest Hemingway
Knopf, 738 pp., $35

 

The Ethos of Mayfest

Are your listening habits à la carte or “entrée”-oriented? Do you prefer musical dim sum to a prix fixe?

In the age of YouTube, iTunes, and Spotify, the world is one’s oyster, and the digital ear has a boarding house reach that extends greedily across time and place, now dipping its spoon into Alaskan John Luther Adams’ 2013 briny symphonic soup, and the next moment helping itself to the Sunday brunch fare of August 12, 1714 served up in the castle church of Weimar, Germany—a dense stew of heart swimming in blood (Mein Herz schwimmt im Blut) prepared by the local Duke’s sonic sous chef (i.e., Konzertmeister), Johann Sebastian Bach.

These questions are of course formulated in a manner distasteful to the sensitive palette—as binary opposites prepared without spice and subtlety. Nowadays you can listen in both ways, indeed, in all ways.  You can have your cake and eat it, too. In fact, you can eat it as many times and in as many ways as you want.

Nonetheless, the tension between musical variety and unity is one that has often struck commentators. In A Ramble Among the Musicians of Germany published in 1828, Edward Holmes, the best British music journalist of the first half of the nineteenth century, claimed that concert programming “furnishes an illustration of the different natures of an English and German audience, the former only satisfied with a variety of names, the latter enduring but one for the whole length of a concert bill.” Holmes favored the German approach, or at least what he saw as its more high-minded attitude towards the musical arts.

Excepting the paltry Bavarian breakfast that “barely justifies its etymology,” Holmes also rated  the foreign food he had on his trip above that of his homeland, an island not exactly renowned for its cuisine. When it came to dinner, wrote Holmes, “the German cook is an artificer so dexterous in the occult refinements of his art, so delicate in his flavours, so profound in his combinations, that the eater shall experience no malign results in the concoction of any dish in which his subtle hand hath been employed.” Whether this paean to the Teutonic culinary arts should cause us to cast doubt on Holmes’ musical judgments is a matter for another occasion.

Today’s seating is instead dedicated to a quick survey of the banquet table of Mayfest, Cornell University’s international chamber music festival. Its concerts were spread over five lively days from May 19th to the 23rd mostly on the campus above Cayuga Lake, but also in the town of Ithaca below it, and even on the next Finger Lake to the west—Seneca, named not after the Roman stoic philosopher, but the largest nation of the Iroquois.

This year marked the tenth installment of the festival, and artistic directors Xak Bjerken and Miri Yampolsky garnished the offerings with savory retrospect even while they sought new combinations, not just of musicians but of the senses, from Seneca-lake wine and locally sourced yoga.

Bjerken hails from Santa Barbara; the Russian-born Yampolsky was raised in Israel. The cosmopolitan couple has settled somewhere in between: Upstate New York.  Each has international careers that have brought them into contact with some of the world’s best musicians. The supremely talented cohort of Israeli musicians Yampolsky grew up with fanned out across north America and Europe to continue their studies, to develop international performing careers, and to take up teaching positions. Over its first decade, Mayfest has drawn abundantly on this tremendous pool of musicians, and one of the festival’s mainstays, cellist Zvi Plesser, currently on the faculty of the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, was fittingly recalled this year for his typically diverse contributions.

The Mayfest concept brings in musicians like Plesser from afar and joins them with homegrown ingredients—musicians from Cornell and neighboring Ithaca College—in varied programs featuring classics of chamber music interleaved with new works by graduate student composers and already-respected figures with international reputations. This year sought not just geographic and chronological breadth, but also generational diversity with the involvement of students from Cornell and Ithaca High school students.

The festival was kicked off last Friday night by the co-directors at two pianos for a four-movement suite by Rachmaninoff that concludes with a dance-till-you-drop Tarantella that had recently been played by Yampolsky in the same hall, not with her husband but with a Pianola. Here’s to report that Bjerken bested the machine.

The opening concert concluded with Schubert’s rousing Trout Quintet, which, in the warming interior of brick, wood, and stained glass of Cornell’s Barnes Hall on the Cayuga bluffs, could be heard as a nod to the excellent fishing in the region’s glacially-carved lakes and gorge-scouring creeks. The strings were made up of local students, the youthful group anchored by Miri Yampolsky, who was also rightfully proud that her son Misha, a high school sophomore, was having a great time on the double bass making music with his mom and peers. Yampolsky commands an outsized piano technique applied with passionate expressivity, and a magisterial knowledge of the chamber music repertoire. She boosted her already energetic charges, the pure pleasure of the music-making to be seen on the faces of the players and the audience, whose median age was several decades higher than that of the string players.

In between the Schubert came Four Jazz Tunes by Stéphane Grappelli presented by the formidable Formosa Quartet in an arrangement by the group’s first violinist Jasmine Lin. She is the very embodiment of musical joy, swaying on her chair, her feet often pedaling below. One is surprised she doesn’t lift off, her gravity-defying violin leaving contrails behind. This wonderful quartet participated in the first Mayfest a decade ago. The group has a wide-ranging repertoire, a lively and nuanced approach to performance, an ethic of precision, and flair for musical ecstasy. Lin is also a poet, and on the penultimate evening of “Poetry and Music” the group performed recently retired Ithaca College composition professor Dana Wilson’s setting of her Night of H’s poem riffing on words beginning with the letter H in surreal yet narratively suggestive ways. The members of the quartet delivered their individual “H” words with a diction that, like their simultaneous playing of Wilsons’ exuberantly witty music, was all precision, timing, verve.  On the festival’s second night the Formosa gave a gripping performance of Bartók’s fourth string quartet, an often-harrowing work whose moments of agonized beauty seem poised above a catastrophe.

At Mayfest guest ensembles like the Formosa Quartet are invited to perform as a unit, but individual members are then combined in a variety of ways with the other participants.   Thus guests and visitors joined in various configurations such as that of Mendelsson’s rollicking Octet preceded by the sumptuous melancholy of Fauré’s second Piano Quartet in G minor. Formosa second violinist, Wayne Lee, joined his frequent collaborator fortepianist Mike Cheng-Yu Lee, a Cornell Ph.D. now headed to a university post in Australia, for works by Mozart and Haydn interspersed across the festival’s five evenings. Their joint utterances bring the listener into a world of vanished eloquence and ideas, the hushed to the insouciant, the mournfully pathetic to the feistily playful. The most famous venues in the world, from Berlin’s Chamber Music Hall at the Philharmonie to the London’s Wigmore Hall, should rightfully be inviting the Lee and Lee duo, whose Mayfest appearance happened to coincide with the removal of their namesake general’s statue from New Orleans.

The younger musicians were also included on the third program in the form of the outstanding Ithaca High School Chorale singing a modern motet by American composer Morten Lauridsen and three Zigeunerlieder by Brahms, rich and resonant and period appropriate in the university’s venerable Sage Chapel. The large chorus and its entourage of parents, siblings, and friends also made for the biggest audience of the festival. But nearly all of them fled into the bright afternoon at intermission, leaving a rump group of auditors for the program’s second half—Saint-Saens’ irreverently hilarious Carnival of the Animals, crisply conducted by Chris Younghoon Kim and narrated by Tish Pearlman with whimsy and punch. That this not-to-be-missed performance was missed by many of the event’s participants sends an ominous sign about the health of concert-going (or concert-staying) culture.

Also summoned to the banquet was former Cornell student, and Juilliard graduate, Daniel Anastasio. He’s making a name for himself in New York City and returned to his alma mater to take one of the piano parts in the Carnival of the Animals opposite one of his former teachers, Yampolsky, and later in the festival to captivate with Brahms’ early Variations on an Original Theme and to sparkle in Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G Minor.

The Mayfest ethos is one of convivial interaction and openness, but the last night of the festival is conceived as a salon that is still more informal. Anastasio’s Brahms and Mozart were followed after the intermission by a six-minute chorale of ethereal chords and harmonics and whispy passagework by otherworldly bassist Nicholas Walker of Ithaca College. Then came a lushly sentimental lullaby for cello and piano by Jesse Jones, another graduate of Cornell’s graduate composition program and sometime mandolin virtuoso now on the faculty of Oberlin Conservatory. Closing the festival with Yampolsky again at the keyboard, Plesser at his cello, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra violinist Xiao-Don Wang at his violin, was Beethoven’s early piano trio in C minor, its prestissimo finale closing in C-major repose, or perhaps reticence, as if the tempestuous young genius were drawing his Opus One cards close to his chest, not yet wanting to show all the aces when his hand had been called at the end of this first round.

Much is missing from this partial account of Mayfest X, including praise for other confrontations and collaborations of poetry and music on night three, and for Diptych, a profound choral work (with organ and cello) by Zachary Wadsworth, another holder of a Cornell doctorate, now teaching  at Williams College; the piece had been commissioned for an earlier edition of the festival and was beautifully reprised this year by the Cornell Chamber Singers under Steven Spinelli.

The spice of life that is variety inevitably leads to illuminating Mayfest juxtapositions and parallels. Yet it is worth noting that the only programs featuring a single name were the two yoga classes held at the Community School of Music and Arts—Bach cello suites done by Plesser and the artful violist, Paula Laraia, who in his various Mayfest incarnations always said something worth hearing on his instrument and always resisted the facile overstatement of a beautiful line, a swelling dissonance, a poignant aside.

However fortifying and delicious this Mayfest buffet, its origins described two hundred years ago by Holmes, one occasionally yearns for the sustaining recipes of a single sonic chef, school or tradition. Whatever the fare, here’s hoping that the Mayfest bounty extends across a second decade that will, one hopes, be even more hungry for its nourishment.

Roger Moore in Bondage

You can’t be a real spy and have everybody in the world know who you are and what your drink is. That’s just hysterically funny.
— Roger Moore

What are we to make of Bond, that slightly leering brute who does all for Queen and country, always at the ready with quip, car and gadget?  Certainly, when one of its own, the acting fraternity of which a certain number of Bonds can be counted, passes into the Fleming sunset, a moment of reflection is appropriate.

Roger Moore got to Bond, a role he had for twelve years, after a hiccup which saw Sean Connery leave, then return for Diamonds Are Forever after the disastrous George Lazenby interim. He admitted to a modest acting range, claiming that he was only ever allowed to “act” in one film: The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970).

The Bond franchise has certainly been both durable and extensive.  Melis Behlil is almost bowled over by the sheer magnitude of the Bond name in a collection titled Hollywood is Everywhere (2016). “James Bond is one of the most recognizable film characters of all time.”  Over 40 years – 1962 to 2006, 21 Bond films grossed ticket sales over $1.5 billion.” (All in all, there have been 24 official ones.)

Enthusiastic forecasting tends to go into picking the next Bond, and the cardinals of the movie industry gather the brains trust to identify who will slip into a role hewn from the rock of stereotypical solidity.  Of late, the powers that be in the Bond franchise have decided that Tom Hiddleston is certainly not the man, being “a bit too smug, and not tough enough”.

Moore’s succession to Connery’s celluloid throne had to settle, the crown needing to fit.  Connery’s edge was softened, leaving its way for a certain sardonic essence to take over, punctuated by casual, period piece racism.  Gold was struck: seven films followed, making them some of the most successful the franchise would see.

Was he a good Bond?  Moore was ever self-deprecating, placing himself behind “the Bond” Daniel Craig, Connery and even Lazenby.  “Sean,” he suggested, “played Bond as a killer and I played Bond as a lover.”  He would only ice over on days he received his pay checks.

O. Scott, penning for the New York Times, tired at the reminders that Connery was the better one, “real” in so far as these approximations can be. “The Connery consensus seemed like part of a larger baby boomer conspiracy to bully people my age into believing that everything we were too young to have experienced firsthand was cooler than what was right in front of our eyes.”

Sinclair McKay, reviewing Simon Winder’s otherwise compelling The Man Who Saved Britain, also states his allegiance to Camp Moore.  “There was just one error of judgment and it’s a mistake most Bond aficionados make: Winder has little time for Roger Moore, who was in fact the best screen Bond of all.”

Enter the world of the trashy big screen runs garnished with camp and plain silliness (“heavenly,” sighs Scott), with The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, Octopussy, For Your Eyes Only heaping innuendo and effect without mercy on their audiences.  Brushed and spruced, and Connery’s Bond had transformed into a creature of false levity of more advanced years, able to dismantle, among other things, a bomb dressed in a clown’s outfit.

Of course, Moore, as others of the Bond club, provided an abridged variant of the Fleming character. By any standards of the day, it was hard to depict anyone, certainly a man of service, who goes through his sixty to seventy cigarettes a day with industry while also downing alcohol as nutrient-packed mother’s milk.  The liquor-filled gormandiser can be overlooked for the sex inclined womaniser with a sociopathic touch.

To look at Bond on screen, and it is a point only mildly alleviated by the sullen, emotionally stricken contribution of Craig, is one of yawn filled boredom backed with a certain imperial nostalgia. First read in times of food shortages and post-war dreariness, Bond shooting through his tasks behind the wheel of an Aston Martin, gadgets of lethal exotica and champers, thrilled.

The point on enervating boredom has been made by John Lanchester, but it is also one admitted by Bond’s creator, Fleming, who hit upon the name of his protagonist because it was “the dullest name I’ve ever heard.”  Pursuit, full blooded, is permanently required, as is the living of life to absurd levels of consumption. The organism, otherwise, perishes.

For Moore, there was not much beyond Bond.  The franchise made him, but he also exhausted the role that needed retooling after 1985. Less than glamorous roles followed, and he became a traditional, tax minimising actor.  One of his regrets: “I would have loved to play a real baddie.”

Lying DEA Officials Get a Pass (Just Like Clapper)

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Why is there one set of criminal laws for the private sector and another set for U.S. officials?

The inspectors general for the State Department and the Justice Department have released a report that states that DEA officials lied to Congress about an episode in Honduras in which DEA agents killed innocent people. According to the report, the DEA falsely told Congress that its agents had shot drug smugglers in self-defense during  a nighttime shootout after a boat containing the victims had collided with a boat containing the DEA agents. The truth was that the boat containing the victims was nothing more than a commercial passenger vehicle that had the misfortune of colliding into the DEA boat.

You can read all the details in this New York Times article and this article from the Intercept.

Obvious, the DEA killings of those innocent people raise an important question: Under what constitutional authority does the DEA or any other U.S. official wage the drug war in Honduras or any other foreign country? Do you see anything in the Constitution that empowers them to do that?

In fact, I don’t see anything in the Constitution that empowers them to enact drug laws here at home? Do you? After all, if it took a constitutional amendment to empower the feds to criminalize the possession and distribution of alcohol, why doesn’t the same principle apply to drugs?

Another question is: Why aren’t those DEA officials who lied to Congress being criminally prosecuted for lying to Congress? Isn’t that still a criminal offense? Wasn’t that what CIA Director Richard Helms was convicted of doing?

Actually, though, Helms is a good example of the immunity phenomenon for U.S. officials because in actuality he was guilty of perjury, which is a felony. Since he was a CIA agent, however, they gave him a sweetheart deal in which he pled guilty to a misdemeanor and received a moderate fine.

They certainly didn’t do that with Martha Stewart, a private citizen who was convicted of lying to a federal investigator about some stock transaction. And she wasn’t even under oath. Do you remember all the moral preaching and speechifying that federal prosecutors engaged in as they prosecuted and jailed Stewart? How come federal prosecutors aren’t prosecuting and jailing those DEA agents who lied to Congress?

I suppose it’s just a sign of the times in which we now live, times that give immunity to federal officials who break the law in the process of enforcing the law against private citizens.

Many decades ago, a man named Bruno Hauptmann was prosecuted and convicted of kidnapping the Lindbergh baby. A few years ago, CIA agents kidnapped a man in Italy and forcibly removed him against his will to Egypt so that he could be tortured. Italy prosecuted and convicted those CIA agents for the felony crime of kidnapping, just as U.S. officials had prosecuted and convicted Hauptmann. But not the U.S. government. The Justice Department didn’t lift a finger against those felons because they were CIA, which, as everyone knows, is a much more powerful and influential agency than the Justice Department. As Congressman Charles Schumer recently put it, rather bluntly, it’s “really dumb” to take on the CIA because “they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.”

Consider James Clapper Jr, the former director of national intelligence. He also lied to Congress, telling them that the U.S. government wasn’t secretly gathering data on the American people. Lo and behold, Edward Snowden showed that he was lying. The U.S. conclusion: Go after Snowden for revealing the truth and give Clapper a pass on his lying. Maybe even thank him for his service.

After Helms returned to CIA headquarters after being convicted of misleading Congress, his fellow CIA officials celebrated his misdemeanor “victory” and honored him by passing a hat around to collect the money to pay his fine for him. His conviction for misleading Congress was considered a badge of honor.

Consider other crimes that the national-security state has engaged in over the years. Just one example: Chile. There was the conspiracy to meddle in the Chilean national election in 1970 (which is somewhat ironic given the big brouhaha about so-called meddling in the recent U.S. presidential election), which included bribery Chilean congressmen. Also, the conspiracy to kidnap and murder Gen. Rene Schneider, the overall commander of Chile’s armed forces. Also, the conspiracy to inflict economic harm on the Chilean people by bribing truck drivers to not deliver food across the country. Also, the conspiracy to oust the democratically elected president of the country from office and replace him with an unelected military regime, a conspiracy that resulted in the death of the president. Also, the conspiracy to murder two American men living in Chile at the time, Charles Horman and Frank Teruggi. Also, the conspiracy to become a partner in Operation Condor, which assassinated (i.e., murdered) two people on the streets of Washington, D.C., Orlando Letelier and his young assistant Ronni Moffitt.

Those are the crimes that Richard Helms (and the CIA) tried to keep secret from Congress (and the American people) when he lied to Congress about whether the CIA was meddling in Chile’s presidential election. Although Helms later got slapped on the wrist for lying about the matter, not one single U.S. official has ever been criminally prosecuted for any of those felonies involving Chile, including the murders of Schneider, Horman, Teruggi, Letelier, and Moffitt.

Like I say, a sign of the times in which we live, which is why those DEA agents who lied to Congress will go scot free, while private citizens continue to get punished for doing things for which federal receive a pass.

Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Rebels ‘Went to Libya With MI5 Blessing’ Amid Abedi Probe

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Rebels living in England have claimed the UK Government waived travel bans to let them fight Colonel Gaddafi in Libya as investigators probe the Manchester bomber's visits to Tripoli. 

Fighters which included Libyan exiles and British-Libyan residents have described how MI5 operated an open door policy for those willing to travel to North Africa to topple the dictator. 

It comes as Home Secretary Amber Rudd admitted Salman Abedi, who killed 22 and injured at least 119 people when he blew himself up at Manchester Arena, was known to counter-terror authorities. 

Those who travelled to Libya to fight alongside Islamic rebel groups have described how, even though they were subject to counter-terror orders banning them from leaving their homes because they posed a security threat, they were allowed to travel to the hostile warzone.

When they returned to the UK, having spent months alongside groups thought by British intelligence to have links with Al-Qaeda, rebels were said to have been allowed back into the country without hesitation. 

Libyan officials have backed up the claims, saying the British government were "fully aware" of young men being sent to fight, turning the North African country into an "exporter of terror."

Abedi's father Ramadan and younger brother Hashem were in custody in Libya last night after being arrested by counter-terror police a day after elder brother Ismail, 23, was detained in Manchester. 

Detectives said Hashem had links to ISIS and was planning to carry out a terror attack in Tripoli.

Hashem was accused of having known about his brother's murderous plans for more than a month, while it emerged his father had been a revolutionary fighter against Gaddafi who publicly voiced support for an Al Qaeda-linked group in Syria.

In the wake of Monday night's atrocity, former rebel fighters have talked of how easily they were able to slip free from their travel bans and leap into battle.

Sources, some of whom met Abedi and described him as a hothead, told the Middle Eastern Eye claim these trips were facilitated by the British government, something the Home Office said it could not comment on when contacted by MailOnline.

Fair Use Excerpt. Read the whole article here.