Monday, 20 January 2020

Humanity is horrible, but nations are beautiful

Another aphorism.


“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns a lesson he can learn in no other way.”
Mark Twain

“We should try to be the parents of our future rather than the offspring of our past.” Miguel de Unamuno

"Climate change over the next 20 years could result in a global catastrophe costing millions of lives in wars and natural disasters. A secret report, suppressed by US defence chiefs and obtained by The Observer, warns that major European cities will be sunk beneath rising seas as Britain is plunged into a 'Siberian' climate by 2020. Nuclear conflict, mega-droughts, famine and widespread rioting will erupt across the world."
The Observer, 22 February 2004

Saturday, 18 January 2020

'Why Does the Left Keep Losing?'

I remember asking a Tory MP friend, after the 1992 election, if Labour could ever win again. 

He replied
'Remember what Harold Wilson said. "A week is a long time in politics." The only good thing he ever said.'
People asked the same question after the 1957 election. The bad news is that political parties very rarely die in a  two party system. Labour will almost certainly be back one day and possibly in five years' time

This matters because a Labour government of any complexion, left-wing or moderate, is the worst thing that can happen to the UK. If you doubt me, read the history. The worst Labour governments of all were Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's, by the way.


"Brexit will alter Britain irrevocably. Any project that presupposes close alignment with the EU – such as Scottish independence – belongs in the past." English philosopher John Gray

"Gramsci’s belief that the working class makes history has turned out to be right, at least in Britain, but not in the way he and his disciples imagined. Somewhere in the heavens, the gods are laughing." John Gray

"According to Jay Keyser, professor emeritus of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, [George] Steiner was told at a seminar in the 1970s that, while he had written at length on Dostoevsky's use of the definite article, there was no such thing in Russian. "It was as though a fly had landed on his shoulder," says Keyser. "A criticism that should have been devastating made no impact."
Maya Jaggi, The Guardian, 17 Mar 2001

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Democracy and traditionalists versus the new elite

A quotation from a new book, The New Class War: Saving Democracy from the Managerial Elite, by an American, Professor Michael Lind of the University of Texas. 

“The new class war is very real – and the managerial class is winning. A few decades ago, corporate managers, politicians and university professors had distinct subcultures. No longer. What we might call ‘woke capitalism’ represents a fusion of the three elites at the commanding heights of the economy, the culture and politics; they increasingly constitute a single conformist caste.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Conservatism is about love

'The market-based legal order of the Brussels bureaucracy helped to fill the legal vacuum created by communism, and was warmly received on that account. But, because of the unwise provisions of the Treaty of Rome regarding freedom of movement, it has led to the mass emigration of the professional classes, and to the loss of the educated young from countries that stand desperately in need of them.'
Sir Roger Scruton

'My thought is that the essential feature of conservatism is love of the actual, love of the things that you've inherited and a desire to reassert that inheritance. Not uncritically you know, but it's in the way that you do with your family, your parents,your brothers, and sisters.You know their faults but you love them and they're a part of you, and it's your primary duty to affirm that love. Then work for any improvements, of course.'
Sir Roger Scruton

'There is now a large constituency of people on the left – middle class, metropolitan, Remain-supporting, interested in foreign policy and identity politics over bread and butter class issues – who quietly welcome the party’s shift to more bourgeois terrain. They never liked the working class much anyway, and in some cases have attempted to equate the phrase “traditional working class” with white supremacism.'  James Bloodworth, in CapX

'The past is a part of us, perhaps the most essential.' Victor Hugo, one of the epigraphs for Sybille Bedford's A Compass Error, which I finally finished rereading today.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

The decline and fall of the English high street

'Woman is born free but is everywhere in chain stores.'
This is the line to a Spectator cartoon of thirty years ago - would it be considered sexist now?

The British High Street is dying. All the time the papers cover stories about famous retail chains going bust. It saddens me that people are now going to shopping centres instead, but they are terribly convenient. 

It does not sadden me that the chains are dying. Let them die. They made every high street in England the same street. Now they make every shopping centre the same too, I suppose. 

Monday, 13 January 2020

More from Sir Roger Scruton (1944-2020)

The right way to live is by enjoying one's faculties, striving to like and if possible to love one's fellows, and also to accept that death is both necessary in itself and a blessed relief to those whom you would otherwise burden. The health fanatics who have poisoned all our natural enjoyments ought, in my view, to be rounded up and locked together in a place where they can bore each other rigid with their futile nostrums for eternal life. The rest of us should live out our days in a chain of linked symposia, in which the catalyst is wine, the means conversation, the goal a serene acceptance of our lot and a determination not to outstay our welcome.

Left-wing people find it very hard to get on with right-wing people because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with left-wing people because I simply believe that they are mistaken.

Once we came before God’s presence with a song; now we come before his absence with a sigh.

Bernie Sanders: a country exists for the benefit of the people in it

Bernie Sanders shocked his supporters in 2016 by pointing out that a country exists for the benefit of the people in it.

This is from an interview with Bernie Sanders in 2015. The interviewer is the Editor of Vox.

Ezra Klein: You said being a democratic socialist means a more international view. I think if you take global poverty that seriously, it leads you to conclusions that in the US are considered out of political bounds. Things like sharply raising the level of immigration we permit, even up to a level of open borders. About sharply increasing …

Bernie Sanders: Open borders? No, that's a Koch brothers proposal.

Ezra Klein: Really?

Bernie Sanders: Of course. That's a right-wing proposal, which says essentially there is no United States. …

Sunday, 12 January 2020

R.I.P Sir Roger Scruton

I am so sorry Sir Roger Scruton has died. He has been one of my great heroes since I read Conservative Essays while a sixth former.

The Liberal Heart, a collection of quotations and extracts from liberals that I read in 1984, was studded by attacks on him and his then outspokenly conservative views on homosexuality. They seemed bracingly High Tory then, but are thought crimes now.

Let's not forget or forgive James Brokenshire’s sacking of Roger Scruton from his unpaid job as a government adviser on beauty in architecture last year, after the latter was stitched up by the New Statesman and falsely accused of antisemitism. 

Perhaps it is why Boris did not give the wretched Brokenshire a job, even though he was the first cabinet minister to come out in support of Boris. I do hope so.

No more war

The British Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace tells the Sunday Times that the prospect of U.S. isolationism keeps him “awake at night” and that Great Britain must prepare to fight wars without Washington. 

He mentions the US pulling out of Syria and possibly leaving Iraq as if these were bad things. We should leave Iraq and Afghanistan even if the US stays.

Surely the UK should fight no more wars unless our country is threatened, which is scarcely probable. The only threat of invasion we face comes from refugees and migrants and the only likely threat of war comes from domestic terrorists. 

For the time being we must make nice to the US and EU to get good trade deals, but after we have done so, let us instead go back to free trade with the world, friendship with all countries, certain pariahs aside, and splendid isolation. This policy served us very well in the past and would again. No more sending young men to die in liberal wars for values, please.

From Bertrand Russell's "The Conquest of Happiness"

External discipline is the only road to happiness for those unfortunates whose self-absorption is too profound to be cured in any other way. 

To all the talented young men who wander about feeling that there is nothing in the world for them to do, I should say: ‘Give up trying to write, and, instead, try not to write. Go out into the world; become a pirate, a king in Borneo, a labourer in Soviet Russia; give yourself an existence in which the satisfaction of elementary physical needs will occupy all your energies.’ I do not recommend this course of action to everyone, but only those who suffer from the disease that Mr Krutch diagnoses. I believe that, after some years of such an existence, the ex-intellectual will find that in spite of his efforts he can no longer refrain from writing, and when the time comes his writing will not seem to him futile. 

From someone who actually understands what is happening in Iran

Some permanent officials are very unimpressed by President Trump.

Iranian diaspora

The BBC reports the crowd in Tehran protesting against the Government for shooting down the Ukrainian civilian plane and lying about it. This is good news for Donald Trump, the West and for Iranians, I hope, but the report contains a telling point at the end: some in Iranian diaspora in Canada support the Iranian regime.


Sacred to the Memory of Lt Col John Brown Accidentally Shot Dead By His Batman On The Fourth Day Of April, 1882. 'Well Done, Thou Good And Faithful Servant'. Tombstone in the North-West Frontier, according to the wildly unreliable Ned Sherrin.

It is so stupid of modern civilization to have given up believing in the devil...he is the only explanation of it. Mgr. Ronald Knox (In its obituary the Times called him the "wittiest Churchman in England since Sydney Smith”.)

Saturday, 11 January 2020

Suleimani's brutality made him unpopular in Iraq and with the Iranian secret service

This is from The Intercept.
A more nuanced portrait of Suleimani emerges from a leaked archive of secret Iranian spy cables obtained by The Intercept. The documents were generated by officers from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, or MOIS, stationed in Iraq between 2013 and 2015, when the Iranian war against the Islamic State was at its height, and Suleimani was running the show. 

The reports reveal how Suleimani was perceived in some corners of the Iranian intelligence establishment, and the picture that emerges does not always align with the carefully crafted public image of the general as an indomitable strategist. While the Iranian-led war against ISIS was raging, Iranian spies privately expressed concern that the brutal tactics favored by Suleimani and his Iraqi proxies were laying the groundwork for major blowback against the Iranian presence in Iraq. Suleimani was also criticized for his own alleged self-promotion amid the fighting. Photos of the Iranian commander on battlefields across Iraq had helped build his image as an iconic military leader. But that outsized image was also turning him into a figure of terror for many ordinary Iraqis.
A Syrian friend of mine told me that Iran is the devil and I am sure he spoke truly. Still my
friend rightly wants the Syrian government to win, because the alternative would be worse. 

Friday, 10 January 2020


'We want to own Iran like we owned it when we had the Shah in power, and nobody’s going to be happy until that happens.' Ron Paul, in an interview on Wednesday.

'You like Donald Trump and why do you like him? Because he's a game changer. He’s a once in a century kind of leader.' Greg Gutfeld, American TV personality.

'Love or hate him, Trump has used military force less than any other president since Jimmy Carter.' New York Times today.

'The elimination of Soleimani was not a prelude to deeper US involvement in the Middle East. It was a farewell letter. Always admitting the fickleness of contingency, it
nonetheless looks as though Donald Trump will go down as the man who catalyzed the United States economy, who brought unemployment down to historic lows, who goosed real wages, especially at the lower levels, who made important inroads against the stultifying miasma of the the regulatory state while also resuscitating the US military, curbing illegal immigration, and — just now — extricating the United States from foreign involvements that help no one but our enemies.' Roger Kimball in The Spectator yesterday. 

Rod Dreher: 'The culture war is lost'

'It’s arguable that America is not losing its religion so much as replacing the old faith with a political pseudoreligion — as Europe did in the early 20th century. I would argue that the religion with the most effective political power in contemporary America is technically not a religion at all: it’s the cult of social justice.

'...The march of SJWs through American institutions is fast achieving complete hegemony. The unexpected victory of Donald Trump in 2016 is not a sign of recrudescent conservatism but, for traditionalists, actually a desperate last stand. Despite the purplish enthusiasm of conservative Evangelicals for Trump, he is properly seen as a kind of culture-war katechon — a restraining force holding back the mob. As a prominent Evangelical leader confided to me last year, ‘We know that when he goes, we’re done.’ Après Donald, le déluge.'
Rod Dreher, 'The culture war is lost', in The Spectator’s January 2020 US edition.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Sic transit Brexit

The Brexit bill had just three days of debate before it passed the House of Commons today. Yesterday the debate ended four hours early, because so few MPs wanted to speak.

This was the bill, pared of concessions made before the election to Remainers, which the House had refused to pass in three days in time to meet Boris's pledge of achieving Brexit by 31 October. 

I caught my old friend from university David Anderson, now Lord Anderson QC, informing Radio Four's Today programme in October that, though as a crossbench peer he could not get involved in politics, he could say the bill would require a year to eighteen months for Parliament to scrutinise properly. 

This strengthened my view that lawyers do not understand politics and that judges should not be allowed to overrule Parliament. Judicial activism is as undemocratic as international or EU law.

Brexit, the EU and the Whig Interpretation of History

Lord Glasman, who announces in his by-line in Unherd that he is a Labour peer and the founder of Blue Labour, is a most interesting thinker. Like Patrick Cockburn, also a man of the left and almost the only good British journalist writing about the Middle East, he thinks the assassination of Qassem Soleimani may save the Iranian regime, which faced huge challenge from discontented Iraqi Shias and from Iranians.

We shall see. The truth is that no-one knows what the Iranian mullahs will decide or, more importantly, what millions of Iranians and Iraqis will decide.

This morning it looks as if Iran has settled for some fairly symbolic retaliation to American bases with nobody killed or injured. The fact that Iranian media is telling Iranians that many Americans have been killed suggests that this might be the end of the matter.

I have reread and am fascinated by the essay by his lordship produced on the British election result. He thinks that the EU is killing social democratic parties by imposing 'the rectitude of Hayek' via the Treaty of Lisbon and has now killed the Labour Party just as the UK is leaving. I cannot forbear to quote more from it.

It is a minor irony in all this that Andrew Murray and Seamus Milne, who prided themselves on their Marxist analysis with a central role for class ran a campaign based on ‘values’ and were trounced by the Conservatives who placed a relentless stress on the working class and transferring their loyalties. Labour Marxists turned out to be Whigs. What a lot of luggage for such a short journey.

Monday, 6 January 2020

More Brexit thoughts, by Remainers this time, if you can bear any more

Progressives are by definition an elitist minority: They think they have reached the future before everyone else and that the majority will have to follow them. But sometimes the majority just won’t. And when that happens, the majority can’t, in a democracy, be coerced.
Andrew Brown, Foreign Policy, December 17 2019

Remainers point out that Brexiting would trigger years of trade talks with most countries on earth. But by then most Britons would have turned off. They would no longer have to expend emotion on Brexit, or spend more of their short lives on earth arguing about the customs union.
Simon Kuper, Financial Times, December 5 2019

I also intend to turn off from thinking and writing about Brexit and British politics. It is difficult to remember that however big a political story is eventually and in most cases surprisingly quickly, people turn off, turn away, stop reading. I remember wondering how the war between Russia and Georgia could ever leave what are still called the front pages, even though most of us do not read the news on the printed page any more. Then, very suddenly, the story was completely forgotten, except in the Georgian enclaves occupied by Russia.

We are not living through an era of change but a change of era

"Pope Francis said recently that we are not living through an era of change but a change of era. This Conservative victory is an important part of defining what the features of the new era are. The previous consensus was defined by four shared assumptions; that the nation state, democracy, the working class and conservatism would matter less. The dominant forces were the educated middle-class, globalisation, written constitutions and liberalism. Blair and Cameron expressed this perfectly."

Lord Glasman, Labour peer and founder of Blue Labour, who voted Leave in 2016

"How different the world before 1914 was. It is a punctuation point as stark as the Fall of the Roman Empire. Before: curves, Degas, detail, shadow, mystery. Afterwards: eye-searing light, straight lines, Otto Dix, unconcealed power and no mystery at all. Power needs no mystery. On the contrary, it is keen to be recognised as what it is, straight away."

Peter Hitchens


Emerald Robinson

Pope Francis to school kids in Rome: "We are not living during the time of the Crusades!"

Menwhile, all the Christmas markets in Europe are under armed guard by soldiers and the police in Germany are wearing chainmail... …

The West Remembers@_TheFireWithin_

Welcome to the XXI century. Or is it XI again? German police dressed in chainmail armor to confront a refugee armed with a meat cleaver

6:28 PM - Dec 22, 2019

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn lead MPs to listen to the Queen read out Boris's speech

Boris, not for the first time, looks like Nigel Molesworth in Back in the Jug Agane - or William Brown in Richmal Crompton's Just William. Jeremy Corbyn, I suddenly see, is Fred Kite, the Stalinist shop steward played by Peter Sellers in I'm All Right, Jack, who dreams of visiting Russia.
"All them corn fields and ballet in the evening."

Quoting Joseph de Maistre

"Like the Protestant Reformation, the Revolution was, in the words of de Maistre, Satanic in its essence. To like it is to move away from God....I hope that these sentiments will be perpetuated by my descendants." Henri de Gaulle, father of Charles.

"In all systems there are relationships which it is wiser to leave undefined."
Joseph de Maistre, quoted by Eamon De Valera in July 1945, talking about Eire's relationship with the British Commonwealth

Thanks to my friend Karl White for bringing these to my attention on his Joseph de Maistre Appreciation Group page on Facebook.

Careers advice

I've heard that hard work never killed anyone, but I say why take the chance.
Ronald Reagan

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.
G.K. Chesterton

Attack on Rabbi Neumann, who is unlikely to recover

This is what looks like!

This a photo of Rabbi Josef Neumann, released by his family, who was brutally attacked in during Hanukkah celebration.

Neumann's family wants the world to see what hate is capable of, and asks to pray to pray for his recovery. 🙏
View image on Twitter

The killing of Suleimani starts a new decade

“If you don’t have a political education, you’d think he killed hundreds of Americans in a shopping mall, hes a figure like Bin Laden. When in fact those Americans were occupying invaders in Iraq and it was in Iran’s existential interest to deter American presence”@MaxBlumenthal

Iran was asking for what I suppose was the murder of Suleimani, by tweeking the American lion's tail too often. Still Max Blumenthal, son of Hillary Clinton's close adviser Sidney Blumenthal, makes a good point. Suleimani was fighting for his government's interests as Americans do for theirs.

The way we live now

Library collections continue to promote and proliferate whiteness with their very existence and the fact that they are physically taking up space in our libraries. They are paid for using money that was usually ill-gotten and at the cost of black and brown lives via the prison industrial complex, the spoils of war, etc. Libraries filled with mostly white collections indicates that we don’t care about what POC [people of color] think, we don’t care to hear from POC themselves, we don’t consider POC to be scholars, we don’t think POC are as valuable, knowledgeable, or as important as white people.

Sofia Leung, who describes herself as follows:

Beginning of 5 page memo in 1985, by Oliver Letwin and Hartley Booth, from Mrs Thatcher’s Policy Unit


"Lower-class, unemployed white people lived for years in appalling slums without a breakdown of public order on anything like the present scale; in the midst of the depression, people in Brixton went out, leaving their grocery money in a bag at the front door, and expecting to see groceries there when they got back."

When this document was made public in 2015 Oliver Letwin said parts of it were "badly worded and wrong". I am not sure whether he explained which parts.