Alan Simpson

♦ The ‘Vicar of Baghdad’ talks to the FT about dividing his time between the UK and Iraq.
♦ Edward Snowden has managed to stir up “the biggest bout of anti-Americanism since the Iraq war.”
♦ Edward Luce thinks Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles are wrong about US debt – “At 4 percentage points of GDP, the salient worry is whether it is falling too rapidly.”
♦ China’s government may be less fixated on GDP targets, but it still needs to sustain confidence in the economy.
♦ Chairman Mao banned golf in China as a bourgeois frippery and China’s first golf course is younger than Tiger Woods, but the game is catching on fast – Chinese wunderkinds are being incubated and some are infiltrating the game at the highest levels.
♦ A new language has been discovered – Warlpiri rampaku is spoken only by people under the age of 35 in Lajamanu, an isolated village in northern Australia.
♦ Charles Pierce pens his furious response to the verdict over Trayvon Martin’s death: “Of course, black kids can’t win fights without getting shot through the chest. They are supposed to act very politely, speak when spoken to and, maybe, just get off the sidewalk when they come in contact with people like George Zimmerman”. Read more

Edward Luce

Alan Simpson (left) and Erskine Bowles Getty Images

If there is one thing at which Washington does not excel (an admittedly rich menu), it is self-deprecation. The city operates to a kind of Gresham’s Law in which self-importance drives out whatever humour is to be found. Which makes the latest intervention from Alan Simpson, the co-keeper of the nation’s fiscal conscience, along with Erskine Bowles, all the more enjoyable. At 81, the former Republican senator has made his fair share of gaffes – not least his remark in 2010 about the “lesser people” who rely on Social Security. He added: “We’ve reached a point now where it’s like a milk cow with 310m tits.” He never really apologised.

With just three weeks to go before the US arrives at a deeply sobering fiscal cliff, Mr Simpson has developed a better line in humour since then. Last week, Mr Simpson said that he hoped that Grover Norquist, the keeper of the Republican anti-tax conscience, would “slip into” the same bathtub in which he famously wants to drown government. Then on Wednesday, Mr Simpson descended into the idiom of the lesser people – or at least the younger ones – with the releases of a “Gangam-style” video exhorting viewers to take to the social networks and campaign against the fiscal cliff . Read more