Saturday, 13 August 2022

Moon over Budapest

I saw this huge glowing golden moon resting above the rooftops in Budapest last week. It is here in Edinburgh, where for some reason the Times calls it the Sturgeon supermoon.


Friday, 12 August 2022

Salman Rushdie has been stabbed in the neck but is still alive

Salman Rushdie has been stabbed in the neck and badly hurt at a talk which had been advertised and was open to the public in New York. Barbara Amiel said 33 years ago that she couldn't forgive the Ayatollah for forcing her to defend Rushdie, but we all do have to be on his side.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Rishi Sunak has blown his chances and perhaps that's a good thing - except Liz Truss looks pretty useless

Rishi Sunak is a humbug and, worse, he badly lacks political skills, as this damning article by Patrick O’Flynn, a UKIP MEP who became SDP, points out. Not only was he filmed pulling a pint even though he does not drink, he was filmed putting petrol into a car that was not his but much cheaper than his. As Sherlock Holmes said of the villain in The Adventure of the Three Garridebs, 'Touch him where you would he was false'.

On the other hand, Liz Truss is very far from clever and looks like another Theresa May, as Edwina Curry said. Neither wants to take the UK out of the ECHR or the 1967 Protocol to the Geneva Convention on Refugees which obliges the UK to accept refugees from outside Europe. Neither seems to know what a man or a woman is or to oppose Carbon Zero. 

I suppose, on the evidence of Rushi's behaviour this year, she is slightly less bad than he is. She is a phoney too, of course, but slightly better at hiding it. She is also a useless debater and has no charisma, but if debating skills were enough Penny Mordaunt would have been best and she was the least conservative and least able of the candidates.

Both candidates for British Prime Minister are phonies and humbugs


Rishi Sunak still seems the least bad of the two to me but he's a phony. He is a lifelong teetotaller but had himself filmed drawing a pint in a pub. That's as bad as Liz driving a tank, in imitation of Mrs T. Then there is this.

On the other hand he has a good brain. Roy Jenkins played a game with his civil servants guessing how far his cabinet colleagues would have reached in the civil service. Had Ernest Bevin, Woy said, not been Foreign Secretary the only other job in the FO he could have held would have been liftman.

Rishi would have probably been a Permanent Secretary with good luck and Liz Truss would not, not even for diversity reasons, but the qualities of a good civil servant are not the ones a Prime Minister needs.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Men and women

'No woman minds the first look. It's the second that offends.' Lady Diana Cooper

2 foreign women told me they hated England because they felt invisible there. 2 Romanian women complained to me that Italian men call out compliments in the street to all women, including ugly ones. Both objected not to the compliments but to their being paid to their ill favoured sisters.

The death of Europe: will anyone live in central Spain in fifty years time?

Will anyone live in central Spain in fifty years time, asks the Financial Times today.

In 2016, in his book España Vaciada (Empty Spain) local reporter Sergio del Molino wrote:

'There is an urban and European Spain, in all its characteristics indistinguishable from any European urban society, and an inland and unpopulated Spain, which I call empty Spain.’

An España Vaciada electoral coalition was formed to fight elections but the right-wing party Vox surged in the elections in Castile and Leon and now govern in coalition with the mainstream conservative People's Party.

Stogursey Castle, Somerset


In the gents in a café in Budapest. Apparently it means 'My Mother-in-Law'. How one misses this sort of humour.

The café-restaurant is called Fleischer and serves excellent food in tiny portions, recommended for people on a diet.

Thursday, 4 August 2022

T.S. Eliot, is prescient in 'Notes Towards the Definition of Culture'

“We are destroying our ancient edifices to make ready the ground upon which the barbarian nomads of the future will encamp in their mechanized caravans.”

End of an era: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in the Telegraph quotes a Deutsche Bank director

'Germany in particular has manoeuvred itself into an economic and political crisis of Zeitwende proportions by outsourcing everything: its energy supply to Putin’s Russia, its aggregate demand to Xi Jinping’s China, its military defence to America, and its monetary policy to the ECB – in the lapidary words of Deutsche Bank board member Paul Achleitner.'

Zeitwende is German for 'end of an era'.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Stripping away all the accretions of “defending liberalism” or “promoting democracy” with which American politicians are accustomed to shroud their defence of empire

'Stripping away all the accretions of “defending liberalism” or “promoting democracy” with which American politicians are accustomed to shroud their defence of empire, Colby breaks down the raw facts of power to their essentials. Asia is the most important economic sphere in the world, and thus, to maintain its global preeminence, America must maintain hegemony in Asia."

I like this sentence from a review by Aris Roussinos, published in Unherd in November last year and just republished, of a book about Taiwan by an American strategist Elbridge Colby called The Strategy of Denial.

It applies to Ukraine too.

For Americans extending or defending democracy means extending or defending their empire and vice versa. 

This is not a polemical point. It is simply a fact.

The review explains the argument of Mr Colby. Does it throw light on the war in Ukraine?

'China must be provoked into initiating any escalation of the conflict, so that it will always appear the aggressor; it must be permitted to strike as indiscriminately as possible (Colby urges the US not to provide potential civilian targets with air defences, reasoning that collateral damage will whip up the public anger against China necessary to winning a war); at every stage, China must be manoeuvred into situations where it is forced to escalate the conflict and so lose world sympathy, or back down. Over time, he reasons, the Chinese leadership will realise that the costs of seizing Taiwan will outweigh the benefits, and will be reassured enough by American pledges that the US will not aim to launch a wider war or dismantle their state that they will sue for peace.'


'If you're going to do a thing, you should do it thoroughly. If you're going to be a Christian, you may as well be a Catholic.'
Muriel Spark

A joke our family's priest friend Father Brendan Smyth told in his sermon at my sister's wedding. A boy is being catechised before being confirmed. 'What is matrimony?' 'A place where souls go for a while to atone for their sins.' Priest: 'No, that's purgatory'. Bishop: 'Leave him alone. He might be right. What do you or I know about it?'

Talking about Viktor Orban: I posted this on 30 July 2017 in a Facebook group.

Viktor Orban is a demagogue and, to use an oft misused word, a populist, the Hungarian government is corrupt and very unsatisfactory from some points of view, but on immigration and the future of Europe he makes sense.


Some things in this speech I dislike. Francis Fukuyama called this speech a 'full-throated defense of ethno-nationalism, replete with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories' but I see nothing anti-Semitic in it and Netanyahu agrees with Orban that Europe should shut its doors. Ethno-nationalism is an American concept, contrasted with civic nationalism, and is considered dangerous by Americans because the USA is not an ethnic state but a country with a long history of racism, trying to come to terms with its history of slavery. Hungary has its history of racism too, of course.


"However much of a taboo one is breaking by saying it, there is no cultural identity in a population without a stable ethnic composition. The alteration of a country’s ethnic makeup amounts to an alteration of its cultural identity. A strong country can never afford to do something like that – unless some global catastrophe forces it to do so....
"..Over the next few decades the main question in Europe will be this: will Europe remain the continent of the Europeans? Will Hungary remain the country of the Hungarians? Will Germany remain the country of the Germans? Will France remain the country of the French? Or will Italy remain the country of the Italians? Who will live in Europe? This is a historical question which we must face up to today. As regards the specific situation – and this is quite telling about the world that we live in today – there’s no concrete, reliable information on the percentages of traditional indigenous Christians and the incoming Muslim communities living in Europe’s individual countries. In practice it is forbidden to gather information like this. And the data which is gathered is not adequate for us to predict what the future holds for us, as migrants, immigrants, are not evenly distributed throughout the different age groups. So the general figures say little about what awaits us. We should focus most on people under the age of 15, and also those between 15 and 45. From those figures we can project, we can calculate, what the situation will be like in each country in, say, 2050.

David Goldman on Facebook on 25 May, 2018.

"Yesterday I spent an hour with Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban at his office in Budapest, after speaking at a conference on the future of Europe. Old friends Stephen K. Bannon and Douglas Murray also spoke. The conversation was off the record, but I can say emphatically that any insinuation that PM Orban is anti-Semitic is utterly false. He's been a friend of Binyamin Netanyahu for twenty years and admires Israel as the exemplar of what a small country can achieve."

Sunday, 31 July 2022

Belgrade has finally won my heart

My Serbian historian friend who walks around Belgrade with me tells 80% of Serbs side with Russia in the Ukrainian war, which is unsurprising considering the American bombing of Belgrade in the Kosovo war. I'd have expected a higher number. Serbia has the best of all worlds, a candidate for membership of the European Union, a lot of Chinese investment and a free trade deal with China being negotiated, friendship with Russia, a lot of investment by the Gulf states. The President appointed a homosexual Prime Minister 'even though Serbs are stricter about homosexuality than Romanians' as a cheap way to gain favour with the West. Rich Balkan crooks invest in Serbia to launder their money. 70,000 Russians settled here last year, mostly IT people, and far more this year. Many Indians in IT come too. Lots of Africans who come here to study. I suspect they also come here under the misapprehension that it will help them get to the European Union. 

On maybe my eighth visit I found that there are a lot of charming 19th century buildings and the city has real charm.  It's less depressed and gayer (in the old sense of the word) than it seemed before.


Friday, 29 July 2022

Tim Stanley on 18 July in the Daily Telegraph

'Had it not been for Brexit, the Conservatives would still be Dave Cameron’s party and we’d be knee deep into Osborne’s second term (the borders totally open, the Tower of London owned by China). This generation of [Tory leadership] contenders are the product of that era.'

Three great Englishmen have died

I am so very sorry Bernard Cribbins has died. I loved him. Especially in The Railway Children and his songs Hole in the Ground (No 9 in the charts and chosen by Sir Noël Coward on Desert Island Discs) and Right Said Fred (No.10).

R.I.P. former British Ambassador to the USA Sir Christopher Meyer, who has died aged 78. He opposed Brexit but was very vocal on Twitter opposing attempts not to implement the result of the referendum. He seemed to me the wisest man who opined on Brexit.

R.I.P. James Lovelock, distinguished scientist who took a 2:2 at Manchester University and invented the Gaia hypothesis.

He sounds wonderful. Lord Ridley says today:

He never wasted a moment on conventional thinking. His secret? I suspect it was his avoidance of being an employee for almost all his life.

BBC World Service sports news

The BBC World Service News is very woke. Even the sports news includes one sportsman praising another for his climate change activism and UEFA investigating Turkish football fans chanting about Putin to hurt Ukrainian fans' feelings. Why shouldn't the Turkish fans shout what they like?

Other news is that Boris Johnson’s spendthrift government wasted £778 million to get the Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham. What is the point of the Commonwealth? Answer: it has none.

As for the business news it's preoccupied by discrimination and inequality, of course. 

Thursday, 28 July 2022


“Bad times, hard times — this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: such as we are, such are the times." 
St Augustine

“Intelligence is so damn rare and the people who have it often have such a bad time with it that they get bitter or propagandistic and then it's not much use.” 
Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, 26 July 2022

There is still some hope for England (plagiarised from Chris Carter)


Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad

News item. Self-declared “anarchist archaeologists” are warning archaeologists not to assume the gender or race of ancient skeletons because they see the categorization of sexes as discriminatory to the dead and as enhancing “white supremacy.”

Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. (Longfellow and plenty of others, including Enoch Powell. It's very well known.)

Dr Johnson: "Quos Deus vult perdere, prius dementat". Was he the first?

Sophocles' Antigone: "τὸ κακὸν δοκεῖν ποτ᾽ ἐσθλὸν τῷδ᾽ ἔμμεν' ὅτῳ φρένας θεὸς ἄγει πρὸς ἄταν" ("Evil appears as good in the minds of those whom god leads to destruction").


"In its pride of numbers, in its strange pretensions of sanctity, and in the secret readiness to abase itself in suffering, the spirit of Russia is the spirit of cynicism. It informs the declarations of her statesmen, the theories of her revolutionists, and the mystic vaticinations of prophets to the point of making freedom look like a form of debauch, and the Christian virtues themselves appear actually indecent…"
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent
“Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.” 
'As always, Shakespeare furnishes a relevant quotation – in this case, for the Tory contest. Here, from Henry VI Part 2: “The commons, like an angry hive of bees/That want their leader, scatter up and down/And care not who they sting.” In this context, the word “want” carries its old-fashioned meaning of “lack”.'

 Charles Moore today in The Daily Telegraph

"Leadership is all about people. It is not about organizations. It is not about plans. It is not about strategies. It is all about people-motivating people to get the job done. You have to be people-centered."
Colin Powell
“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity... and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.”
William Blake

Monday, 25 July 2022

Seen on Facebook 9 years ago

'The Liberal Democracies of the "West" fought a 6 year war against "Fascist" Nations. It then entered into a 45 year "Cold War" against Communist Nations where the world was under near constant threat of Nuclear Destruction. 22 years ago the "Cold War" ended, and all we have heard about since is the evils of Fascism intermixed with a loving film about Che and the odd horror story about the evils of the "South" during the American Civil War (just for variety) ... what is wrong with this picture???'

The Kamloops mass grave is the reason a frail Pope arrived yesterday in Canada to apologise, but historians are sceptical

The BBC didn't mention the sceptics this morning. The story is here.

In fact there is no evidence the Kamloops mass grave exists.

The Pope, however, dislikes colonialism and North American conservativism.

3 years ago today: plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.