Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Magazine article The Spectator

Diary

Article excerpt

On Sunday night, the actress Goldie Hawn, her beautiful daughter Kate Hudson and Kate's husband, the rock star Chris Robinson, took me with them to the Bafta awards. Kate was up for Best Actress, and I wish she had won because, sitting next to her, I was desperate to give her a victory kiss. The competition was stiff. Kate, who is only 21, has years to fill her shelves with Oscars, Baftas, etc. She was gracious in defeat, applauding loudly and enthusiastically the winner, Julia Roberts. Like her mother, an old friend from my youth in Los Angeles, Kate is a lady. She reminds me, in her combination of kindness and what we in California call 'smarts', of my 16-year-old daughter Julia. God, did we drink afterwards! First, at a tedious dinner at the Grosvenor House hotel, where the waiter was a witty Romanian with an Irish accent, and then at a great party, given by my new best friend Harvey, at some nightclub in Mill Street. I drank so much that by four o'clock I caved in and did the one thing middle-aged white men must never do: I danced. I hope no one noticed. The US government will expend unlimited quantities of its taxpayers' wealth to protect its soldiers from the foreigners whose villages and cities we bomb in order to rule the world. Yet it is the British government that has taken the protection of life an extra step in defending America's uniformed boys and girls, not from Serbian bullets or Iraqi radar, but from `harassment, alarm and distress'. The Crown Prosecution Service has just conscripted Britain's anti-racism laws, which are in reality anti-free-speech laws, to save young Oklahomans and Californians from the sight of a protester mishandling an American flag outside the US base at Menwith Hill, North Yorkshire. A health-worker named Lindis Percy stands to pay a fine of 2,500 for having 'trailed' the Stars and Stripes on the ground outside the National Security Agency's base that was, until recently, codenamed the 13th USNSA Field Station. (Where are the other 12?) Menwith Hill's 1,800 staff monitor communications - that is, they listen to your telephone conversations, read your faxes and download your emails. One wonders whether anyone criticising American foreign policy over the telephone might be committing a racist offence when he is overheard by one of the base's sensitive American eavesdroppers. As an American who is mortally offended by any hint of antiAmerican sentiment anywhere on earth, all I can say is `Watch out'. We are listening and observing. If you get out of line and hurt one of our soldier's feelings, Jack Straw will haul you before a magistrate. If you don't pay your fine, he'll send you to a prison managed by an American security firm. And those guys really don't like people who spit on the flag. ometimes the effort to enforce American law around the world can be productive. One of the republic's first laws, enacted just after our constitution, was the Alien Torts Claims Act. It promised to punish British naval personnel who impressed American seamen. The extra-territorial application of American law has never been relinquished, in itself a pernicious doctrine that, among other things, makes the United States one of the only countries to tax its nationals living abroad - except, of course, those who, like Marc Rich, are exempted by President Clinton for tax (and other) offences. Some clever lawyers in the USA have in recent years used the Act to sue torturers from places such as Peru and Indonesia. A Peruvian national in the US was given leave to sue his Peruvian military torturer, then in America; and he won. …

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