Thursday, 26 November 2015

It seems the Turks are to blame for downing the Russian plane on the Syrian border

What is my opinion about the Russian plane downed yesterday by the Turkish air force after spending 17 seconds in Turkish aerospace on the Syrian border?

I had a completely open mind. I am certain that Russia has been throwing her weight around deliberately.  A British priest friend, however, said on Facebook: 

"I am ex-Air Force and I still talk almost daily with senior serving and ex-serving members. There has been a LOT of discussion of this. It seems the Russian aircraft flew across a tiny arm of Turkish land that projects into Syria. The Russian aircraft was over Turkey for 17 seconds. The missile that hit the Russian aircraft took 40 seconds to reach it. That means the Turks shot it down over Syrian airspace - well after it had left Turkish airspace. The Greeks tell us that the Turks regularly fly illegally over Greek airspace, but the Greeks don't shoot them down. There was no hint that the Russian aircraft was attacking - its course was clearly exiting Turkish airspace. Turkey therefore acted illegally and it is very unlikely that NATO will back them. Apparently NATO would like Turkey out of NATO anyway because they are likely to try to drag NATO into some war that NATO has no interest in." 
A senior US diplomat said on Facebook that the USAF would not have done what Turkey did.

I now get the Washington Post on my kindle because of its wonderful production values but I bitterly hate it and want rid of it. The WP is very warlike towards Russia which makes me feel sure Turkey must be to blame. The WP which worries about climate changes and thinks people who don't want to take in Syrian refugees have no right to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving day reflections

To my American friends celebrating Thanksgiving I wish them a happy occasion and remind them of a joke of Garrison Keillor, whom I love. 
"My ancestors were puritans from England. They arrived here in 1648 in the hope of finding greater restrictions than were permissible under English law at that time."

I am not sure what Thanksgiving is about but it is about puritans landing in America. G.K. Chesterton said,
"The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England."

Puritanism runs through American culture like Southend through a stick of Southend rock. 

The puritans, even more than the Pharisees, get a rather unfair press. I, for one, shall be sorry when the USA loses its Protestant religiosity which is what makes the country what it is. But even if Americans cease to be religious they will still be puritans, albeit, as they are now, debauched puritans. 

Political correctness is all about puritanism. One of the most attractive things about Orthodox countries, like Romania, is that they do not have puritans. It is Protestant countries like England and America that are bedevilled with them, like wasps in summer. 


On the other hand puritans are much better at book-keeping and probity in general than other faiths. It is no coincidence that Orthodox countries score above Catholic and Protestant ones in every index of corruption. 

Calvinism and puritanism flourish even after belief in God dies. When the left likes homosexuality and sexual freedom it does so for puritan reasons, not cavalier ones. 

Mr. Obama today likened the Syrian refugees whom he wants his country to accept to the pilgrim fathers.  He has a point. Muslims are puritans as well, of course, Calvinists plus polygamy, so maybe Muslim immigrants in America will fit in. I am sure that, unlike the original puritans, the Muslims will not displace the natives. They may, however, cause quite a few changes.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Liberal leadership in dangerous times

Peggy Noonan has published an article well worth reading.
"Madrid and London took place during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and could be taken as responses to Western actions. The Charlie Hebdo massacre was in its way a story about radical Islamic antipathy to the rough Western culture of free speech. But last week’s Paris attack was different. It was about radical, violent Islam’s hatred of the West and desire to kill and terrorize its people. They will not be appeased; we won’t talk them out of it at a negotiating table or by pulling out of Iraq or staying out of Syria. They will have their caliphate, and they will hit Europe again, as they will surely hit us again, to get it."

I agree with much of it but I do not think that the refugees are a side issue. They are a much more important issue than ISIS and ISIS is - perversely - helping wake people up to Islamisation. 


I have not regarded Mr Obama as a bad president until very recently. he presided over economic recovery and was right for example to save GE. But these words ring very true.
"the imperious I, to the inability to execute, to the endless interviews and the imperturbable drone, to the sense that he is trying to teach us, like an Ivy League instructor taken aback by the backwardness of his students. And there's the unconscious superiority."

Mr. Obama is pretty arrogant - and I start to see that he is naive and professorial like the disastrous Woodrow Wilson. He might be too intelligent to be a good leader as Wilson was. Think James VI and I. I am disappointed that he sees climate change as a big danger - to my mind it is pretty obviously a rather fatuous ignis fatuus. Migrations not global warming are the big issue.


Mark Steyn was very funny about left-of-centre leaders' concern about sea levels in the Maldives in the 22nd century. By then the Shia former citizens of the Maldive will be living in Europe.


Here is a very good article by Dan Hannan, MEP, on what produced the Paris jihadis.

Think of the experience that boy will have had in his adolescence. His every interaction with the Belgian state will have taught him to despise it. If he got any history at all in school, it will have been presented to him as a hateful chronicle of racism and exploitation. When he hears politicians on TV, they are unthinkingly blaming every ill in the world on Western meddling. It's hardly an inducement to integrate, is it?
Americans are very good at assimilating newcomers. They go in for loud displays of national pride — flags in the yard and bunting on Independence Day and stirring songs — that strike some Euro-snobs as vulgar, but that make it easy for settlers to want to belong.
In the EU, by contrast, the ruling doctrine is that patriotism is a dangerous force, and that the nation-state is on its last legs. Eurocrats dream of making the 12-star flag a common post-national symbol, just as they have already replaced national passports with an EU version. "Europe — Your Country," says the sign at the Commission building

The academics and schoolmasters are the unacknowledged legislators of the world - their politically correct teaching are at least in part responsible for the crisis the West is in. It reminds me of the late 19th century German schoolmasters whose nationalism paved the way that led to the horrors of Nazism and the mid-20th century. 

Germany and Europe are changing rapidly



On October 10 2010 the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, told a meeting of her party's youth wing that the idea of people from different cultural backgrounds living happily "side by side" did not work. She said the onus was on immigrants to do more to integrate into German society. 
"This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed.'
More recently a German Green Party politician called Dr. Stefanie von Berg told the Hamburg parliament
"Our society will change. Our society will change radically. In 20-30 years there will no longer be a German majority. We will live in a supercultural society. This is what we will have in the future. And I want to make it very clear, especially to right-wingers: This is a good thing!"

Monday, 23 November 2015

Quotations to read while waiting for the next ISIS atrocity



Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates, and men decay'
Goldsmith

Just as the Christians turned pagan temples into churches and pagan holidays into Christian holidays, multiculturalism is replacing an old culture with a new one. It is the expression of a deep-seated hatred of this culture in its religious, racial, and moral expressions. 

Samuel T. Francis

I don't think I have ever really loved my country. And certainly not mine to the exclusion of other people's. Why is this important? 

Canon Giles Fraser, former canon of St. Paul's Cathedral, who writes for the Guardian.

It is MADNESS, it is SUICIDAL for a country to PAY to bring its enemies into its bosom!

Newt Gingrich.

American exceptionalism is always just American provincialism, no matter how benevolent it seems. Not everyone is like us, and a lot of people are actively trying not to become like us. Jihadis are, roughly speaking, the armed wing of that group.

Gary Brecher

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Assad and migrants


Two things seen on Facebook:
Islam is like an explosive with a dead-man's switch. Some mean SOB has to keep his finger on it all the time to stop it detonating. Assad is as good as any for that job.
We control who gets inside banks.., government buildings, airports,clubs, discos yet anymore can get inside the EU by crossing the Med.


Is Bucharest, though not old, the most beautiful city in Europe?



I thought walking through the streets between Cismigiu and Buzesti, decaying 1880s buildings, trees bright brown with autumn leaves, that Bucharest though not old is the most beautiful city in Europe. Like living in a lithograph illustration for a strange book found in a second-hand shop. It won't be so compelling, though, if or rather when they ever give the houses a lick of paint and repair everything.


An example of what I mean is a house I walk past every day. photographed by my gifted friend Davin Ellicson.

Candidates are advised not to attempt this question



I remember my history master of genius, Dr Alan White, mentioned this history exam question
'Asquith was the last British Prime Minister not to travel by plane. Discuss'

saying drily (he said everything drily) we would be well advised not to answer this question.


Which reminds me of an exam question from Sellars and Yeatman 


' "Cap'n are't thou sleeping down below?" Candidates are advised not to attempt this question.'

Another exam question from the early 1970s
"The world owes more to Marks and Spencer's than to Marx and Spencer". 

I think Harold Wilson may have made that pun first, though he omitted Herbert Spencer.

A borderless world


I was on a bus - my ticket cost $1- going from Palmyra to Damascus and they were showing a BBC thriller with Arabic subtitles. TV in a bus was a novelty for me. I watched the mime. 


It was essentially a John Buchan type thriller, but the well dressed upper-middle class senior civil servant turned out at the end, inevitably, to be the bad guy. In place of the patriotic Rhodesian Richard Hannay, the brave, resourceful hero was a young black man. And I felt sorry, as I watched, for Al Qaeda, who I realised had no chance against global post-national culture.

American writer Gary Brecher put it very well.
Not everyone is like us, and a lot of people are actively trying not to become like us. Jihadis are, roughly speaking, the armed wing of that group. The truth about the clash of civilizations you hear people discussing is that it’s all the other way: The Mall is invading Islam, the Mall is taking over. There isn’t any Sharia Law in North Carolina, but there damn well are US-style malls in even the most conservative Islamic countries. 
Bill Clinton told Australians on Sept. 10, 2001 that he believed in 
the ultimate wisdom of a borderless world.
Borderless and with one global deracinated culture.

There is nothing but Western civilisation anymore, though it is ceasing to be Western, if Western means mostly white and mostly Christian. The future will be countries made of communities that do not comprehend each other, identity politics and an authoritarian state or superstate imposing approved behaviour. They will be bound together by pop music, Hollywood and a secular theology of human rights.

I think national borders (and languages) are wonderful and make freedom, democracy and a diversity of national cultures possible, but increasingly the borders are not between countries but within them.

The communications revolution means 
national identities are inevitably much less clear-cut than before. Increasingly, national independence is being subsumed by international law, international bodies and an internationalist political and business elite. Mass migrations are radically and quickly changing the rich world. 

I prefer a global post-national culture to Al Qaeda, but I don't like either. Come to think of it, Al Qaeda might appear to hate modernity but it is part of the global, post-national culture too and so is ISIS, which has now blown up a lot of Palmyra.



Saturday, 21 November 2015

Against equality


"If you criticise the whole idea of human equality—which is basically what I do—you are going against a prevalent quasi-religious orthodoxy."

Roger Scruton

I feel I am in the same position but thankfully this orthodoxy is not established in Eastern Europe, yet.

What do we do about ISIS?

What a difference three weeks make. It was only three weeks ago that charges against Marine Le Pen of the Front National were dropped for saying about Muslim areas in France
It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of neighbourhoods in which religious law applies. It is an occupation. There are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation anyhow and it weighs on people.
if it didn't weigh on the French before it certainly does now, after the ISIS attacks that killed 130 people.

The FN didn't benefit much from the Hebdo murders. Let's see what happens this time.

Everyone should read this very short article by Niall Ferguson. 
Let us be clear about what is happening. Like the Roman Empire in the early fifth century, Europe has allowed its defences to crumble. As its wealth has grown, so its military prowess has shrunk, along with its self-belief. It has grown decadent in its shopping malls and sports stadiums. At the same time, it has opened its gates to outsiders who have coveted its wealth without renouncing their ancestral faith.
I am glad he is writing in this vein though I do not think things are quite so bad as that. There is no alternative to Western civilisation but would a civilisation not dominated by white Christians still be Western? I wish very much that I had worked at university and been a rival of Niall Ferguson. The thing the world most urgently needs at this moment is conservative historians.

What is interesting is that no-one not even experienced journalists know what is going on in Syria. Patrick Cockburn, a left-winger, knows more than most and confirms my suspicions. We are being fed lies by the US government about Russia, ISIS and about the obviously non-existent 'moderate rebels'.
In an article that you really should read (click here) he says Western leaders have claimed they believed six impossible things before breakfast.
These impossible things included the belief that it would be possible to contain and even destroy IS, while at the same time getting rid of President Bashar al-Assad and his regime in Damascus. The US, Britain, France and their allies have refused to admit that the fall of Assad would create a power vacuum that would be inevitably be filled by Islamic fundamentalists from IS or al Qaeda clones such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.What this strategy has meant on the ground is that when IS attacked the Syrian army in Palmyra in May the US air force did not bomb its fighters because Washington did not want to be accused by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf monarchies of helping Assad.
The result was a victory for IS as it seized Palmyra, beheaded captured Syrian soldiers and advanced westwards close to the crucial north-south highway linking Damascus to the northern cities.
 
He also says
If the Russians had really only been launching air strikes against Syrian moderates and not against IS, it is unlikely that IS would have gone to such trouble to place a bomb on a Russian plane leaving Sharm el-Sheikh that killed 224 passengers.
That sounds very plausible, though ISIS may have punished Russia just for aiding Assad.

I have no doubt that Assad has helped ISIS, but I suspect not quite as much as the press keeps insisting. i am also clear that Turkey and Qatar helped found ISIS and ISIS flourished because of the USA's anxiety to help create a Sunni anti-Iranian government and thus block the Shia crescent that links Hezbollah, Assad and Tehran.

Why is ISIS attacking the French, the Russians and the Lebanese Shias at the same time? To invite retaliation, which will allow it to pose as fighting a Holy War against Christians (much as the Western leaders want to forget their Christian identity and replace it with multiculturalism). We must not fall into the trap of reacting in the wrong way as George W Bush did and we must not victimise or alienate European Muslims of whom there are now huge numbers.

On the other hand, the strange lack of anger about these atrocities and absence of almost any public hostility to Islam concerns me. It is the dog that did not bark in the night. 

Brendan O'Neill is a sort of Trotskyite, a sort of Communist, an atheist who believes in open borders. I find I agree with almost every word he ever says. And I agree with almost every word of this article- and all of them are important. 


Now, it is spiked’s view that the intensification of intervention in Syria is unlikely to solve the problem at hand. Nonetheless, we also feel that there’s little positive in the dearth of appetite for physically fighting ISIS. It, too, speaks to the subdued, passion-policing response to Paris. As John Stuart Mill put it, ‘War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth war is much worse.’ This is what we have post-Paris: a ruling and thinking class which thinks its own values are not worth fighting a war for, and in fact should not be loudly and proudly stated through song, argument, flag-waving or any talk of ‘America winning’ or ‘France winning’ lest we intensify the suspicion some among us feel for those values.


OUTSIDE POWERS MUST END THEIR PROXY WARS IN SYRIA



is the headline on an article by

Charles Glass that seems very wise although must is not a word to use to princes. No-one until now wanted to fight ISIS, which the US's allies, it is now clear, encouraged - in a desire to get rid of Assad that had nothing whatsoever to do with his regime's cruelty.

Nothing would turn Iraqis and Syrians to the jihadis more quickly than a Western invasion.Those of us who witnessed the Iraqi uprising of 1991, when Kurds and Shiites used the demoralisation of Saddam Hussein’s army in Kuwait to liberate 14 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, know that it had more potential to save the country than the American-led invasion of 2003 did. The U.S. pulled the plug on that rebellion in March 1991, and launched its own bid to control Iraq in 2003 that it is still paying for.One step would not involve any combat at all: Close the open supply line between ISIS and the outside world through Turkey. Turkey is an ally, but no friend.


This very good article in Taki's magazine called
Four ways to save Europe
is full of good points but though the first three suggestions are good the fourth is too extreme for me. 

Finally, here is a charming essay entitled

The Vicar of Baghdad: 'I've looked through the Quran trying to find forgiveness... there isn’t any.'

And a tweet I liked.

 

Friday, 20 November 2015

That Youth's sweet-scented Manuscript should close!

When you get older you only want one thing... to be young, said a friend of mine on Facebook. I wondered if it is true. He is thinking of sex, I expect. And thinking about it (ageing I mean, not sex) I decided I like getting older - life is a search for understanding and that begins at 40 and increases a lot after 50. 

I suspect life for a man starts at 50. For women life starts much sooner.


"What music is more enchanting than the voices of young people, when you can't hear what they say?" 
So said Logan Pearsall Smith. When one envies the young just remember how lacking their conversation is. At least this young men's, even clever ones' - clever women of 24 or even 21 know a huge amount.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

What does sitting on a sunny beach MEAN?

I wonder why most people think sitting on the beach is fun. It isn't but people think it is. I suppose this is how many things work, including politics, religion, property bubbles, wars. Most people think something is true so it must be true.

I wonder if it is ultimately about linguistics. Beach recliner as hieroglyphic for joy. 

Schopenhauer said "Money is human happiness in the abstract; he, then, who is no longer capable of enjoying human happiness in the concrete devotes himself to money". Beaches are happiness in the abstract too, though not if you were a bookish child forced almost every day in summer to sit on the beach in Essex.

‎"Romania is Islamic land"

The murder of over 120 people in Paris by Muslim gunmen at the weekend raises the question: can the same thing happen in Romania? To which the answer is, yes of course. Romania is a likely target and if the terrorists badly want to stage an atrocity here they may succeed, but Romania is better protected in some ways than France or Great Britain.

There have been attempts by Muslim fanatics to enter Romania for at least fifteen years, but almost the only  advantage of having been a police state is that the  secret service (SRI) is one of the few effective Romanian institutions. M16 contacts tell me that the SRI know how to do their job.

The Muslim community, even after the recent noticeable influx of refugees from Syria, is very small. The Muslims live mostly in the Dobrudja, in other words the coast and its hinterland, reasonably law-abiding and loyal to the country. Romanian Muslims consider themselves and are in all respects except ethnicity Romanians. This makes it easier for the authorities to keep track of people. Unlike in multiracial London and Paris extremists here, even were they to get in, would not find vibrant Muslim communities in which to hide and be accepted.

Neighbouring Bulgaria was less lucky. A Muslim suicide bomber exploded a bomb on a bus full of Israeli tourists in Burgas in 2012 and six people were killed, over thirty injured.
Syrian Sheik Omar Bakri, who claimed responsibility for the Burgas bomb, was carefully watched and prevented from entering Romania. However, he said in an interview at the time that both Romania and Bulgaria were legitimate targets for attacks, because they are ‘Islamic land’ and because troops from those countries are fighting in Afghanistan. 

"Once Islam enters a land, that land becomes Islamic and the Muslims have the duty to liberate it some day. Spain, for example, is Islamic land, and so is Eastern Europe: Romania, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo and Bosnia."

Actually, the Sheik's history is not accurate, at least not about most of Romania, though he could have dragged in the Ukraine, Hungary, Greece and Southern Italy where Islam did enter (even Rome was sacked, but not occupied, by the Muslims). All of what is now Romania was, it is true, once in some sense part of the Ottoman Empire and shown as such on the maps, but Islam never 'entered' Romania, except for the Dobrudja,, the Bucovina and for 150 years the Banat. The great achievement of the Wallachians, Moldavians and Transylvanians was, when they could no longer resist the Turk by force of arms, to make terms and preserve their autonomy and the property of their landowners. Serbia, Albania, Bulgaria and Greece failed to preserve their system of landownership and government. The three principalities which made up most of what is now Romania simply paid tribute to the Sublime Porte and were untouched by Islam. They were always ruled by Christian princes, owned by Christian landlords and governed by their own laws. In fact, Wallachia and Moldavia were never territories of the Ottoman Empire but protectorates. The only other semi-detached part of the Ottoman Empire which had this form of self-government was the Lebanon. Romanian landlords and nobles were very lucky to escape the fate of their counterparts elsewhere in South-Eastern Europe.

Muslims were forbidden to settle in Wallachia and Moldavia to prevent them from appealing to the Sultan for protection against the Christian authorities. Ethnicity in the era before nationalism was less important than religion and every Christian who owned land was a citizen. Greeks, Serbs, Armenians and Albanians were magistrates and bishops. Jews could settle, but could not be citizens unless they converted.

It is not clear how we should describe the status of the Regat in English, but protectorate or suzerainty are inaccurate approximations. Home rule is not quite right for the Phanariot era in the 18th Century, when the principalities were ruled by Greeks, who bought their throne from the Sultan and did not last long, but would apply to the periods of native princes in the seventeenth century and after the Wallachian uprising of 1821. At any rate the Sultan played no part in ruling the Regat whose rulers had far more freedom from Constantinople than Romania now has from Brussels. Only in 1876 did the new Ottoman constitution for the first time enact that Wallachia and Moldavia were full parts of the empire. The War of Independence followed in 1877, a war, though, that was not really fought for de jure independence, but under compulsion from the Czar who would have marched his army across the principalities in any case.

Romanians tell me that Romania resembles other Balkan countries, especially Serbia and Greece, and they should know much better than me, but I always fancy that the Balkan feeling, which you get in other Balkan countries, Albania most of all, and which is really a Turkish feeling, is sensibly less in evidence here. This may be simply due to the fact that Romanian is, despite all attempts to deny it, a Latin language. But if I am right and it goes deeper than this, this would be the explanation. At any rate, there are no mosques here, except in the Dobrudja,.

I first came to the Balkans in 1990 by train, hoping to see Europe morph into Asia. Strada Lipscani felt utterly sui generis and un-Western, with gypsy or Arab music playing from transistor radios, but, apart from the old town in Bucharest, Romania was Europe and so was Bulgaria, despite her statues of Lenin, mosques and the gypsy quarter in Plovdiv. In 1990, after Romania, Istanbul was almost a bore - it was back to capitalism and Mars bars and foreign newspapers - but it was Muslim and the East. It felt like Asia. Now that I have lived in the Balkans for seventeen years, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey feel as if they have very much in common. At moments they almost feel like the same country, which historically they were - Greater Greece, Byzantium.

I didn’t know back in 1990 that the Moldavian and Wallachian landed class spoke Greek (and dressed like Turks) until the middle of the 19th century or that a Greek general, Alexander Ypsilantis, raised a revolt in Moldavia in March 1821 against the Sublime Porte in order to create a new Byzantine Empire, expecting to win support from Romanians, only to be defeated by Tudor Vladimirescu, who fought for the Sultan. Historians speak of Ypsilantis's revolt as the start of the Greek War of Independence but the Greece he was fighting for was not a national idea but a multiracial Christian state united by Greek culture and religion, Byzantium in fact. Vladimirescu, by contrast, wanted to free Moldavia and Wallachia from both the Turks and the Greek aristocracy. Nevertheless the idea of a Greek-Rumanian confederation still lingered on even into the late 1850s. 

When I went to Constanta for the first time in 1999 and saw the mosque there, overlooking the Black Sea, I felt that I was in an odd, hybrid place. My generation was the last that could forget that there were large numbers of Muslims in Western Europe. That was in 1999 and we cannot forget them now. The roughly 20,000 Romanian Muslims, who live mostly in the Dobrudja, inaccurately called Turks, are a tiny number compared with the millions in England, France, Germany and Spain. The town where I was born, like Constanta, now has two mosques.

I have met three or four Romanian so-called Turks, who were all very nice people. The one I liked most was a very sympathetic young woman (she might have had gypsy blood) in Constanta who told me she had converted to Christianity and in her spare time went around Muslim villages, trying to convert other Muslims. She wanted, she said, to set them free. How different from the Anglican way of doing things. Something about her simplicity moved me a great deal.
 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The present is a foreign country



No-one can ever understand a foreign country.

After 17 years I know I have learnt that I know almost nothing about Romania, but I effortlessly understand so very much that very intelligent foreigners never can about my own country - as it was 25 years ago.

As we grow older we all live in foreign countries. Increasingly this is true literally as well as figuratively and I am an example.

One of the advantages of being a foreigner is not fitting in and not understanding. None of us feel we fit in or understand - that is the human condition - but foreigners are not meant to fit in or understand and this is a great liberation.


And increasingly the developed countries are becoming settled by more and more foreigners. In some ways this makes them more interesting for xenophiles like me, but many people who didn't want to live in a foreign country find themselves doing so without leaving home.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Quotations


"The fear that a designing foreigner may one day make him unknowingly eat a cat is still present in some form or another in most British minds."

Lord Edward Cecil.

"If diversity was strength the former Yugoslavia would have been a world power."

Robert Stewart

"Prejudice is latent wisdom."

Edmund Burke

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Bertrand Russell

"All questions are ultimately theological." That sounded like Hilaire Belloc but I tracked it down at length - it is Cardinal Manning

"Every major question in history is a religious question."


Belloc said this - which is very apposite 72 hours after over a hundred people were killed by ISIS terrorists in Paris.

Facebook mourns the dead of Paris and Beirut in its quarrelsome, logic-chopping way

I don't like being pushed into posting the tricolour to express my feeling about the murders in Paris. I didn't say 'Je Suis Charlie' I dislike the ideas of Charlie Hebdo and I dislike very much French republicanism. Instead I posted on Facebook as my cover picture this picture I took recently of a to me charming derelict building in Beirut. 






The bomb in Beirut was a great shock to me as 3 weeks ago I spent 48 hours in Beirut The bomb in Paris is a very much greater shock, an act of war aimed at Europe and will be probably be followed by further similar things for years to come. The Yazidi mass grave is a very terrible thing.

Someone I don't know said this on Facebook. i thought it was blackly funny but it was not intended to be. How scared people are of being unfair.


Ok. So I think I need a break from Facebook for a while. I am fed up with links and shares from people who clearly feel they have the moral upper hand. Paris was shocking. No argument and I wasn't more shocked by that than Syria or anywhere else and I don't care more about the French than the Syrians. I don't care more because the people who died in France are more likely to be white. Don't make that assumption about me. I guess we are so shocked because Paris is so close geographically. But also because we simply care that people (whatever their background) have been mindlessly murdered by a bunch of cowardly, selfish fuckwits whose backgrounds have no doubt made them vulnerable to manipulation. Perhaps also we feel more powerful to stop things in our own countries than in others so we shout louder. Who knows?Simple religion is not at the heart of this. Wars of religion have been fought for centuries and I would personally say true Christians/Muslims/Jews/Hindus and anyone else, if they examined their religion would not have a bar of it. Not that I really know as I have never read a full religious text. But it is what I like to think.
Ok. So I changed my picture to include the French flag. I want to show my support. It still doesn't mean I care less about Syria or people from whatever religion or anywhere else. I wouldn't have thought about it unless Facebook offered it. Facebook 's no doubt bias I am sure (?) But had I been offered the option with the Kenya shooting or other senseless atrocities I would probably have done the same. But I wasn't so I didn't think about it. Who cared about the Russian probable bomb? Probably more murders. They are white but no surge on facebook. Maybe Russians are less important? Why is that do you think? Why do I feel the need to justify myself?

A man with a Muslim name posted a long status from which this is an excerpt.

It's like a bad Monty Python sketch:
"We did this because our holy texts exhort us to to do it."
"No you didn't."
"Wait, what? Yes we did..."
"No, this has nothing to do with religion. You guys are just using religion as a front for social and geopolitical reasons."
"WHAT!? Did you even read our official statement? We give explicit Quranic justification. This is jihad, a holy crusade against pagans, blasphemers, and disbelievers."
"No, this is definitely not a Muslim thing. You guys are not true Muslims, and you defame a great religion by saying so."
"Huh!? Who are you to tell us we're not true Muslims!? Islam is literally at the core of everything we do, and we have implemented the truest most literal and honest interpretation of its founding texts. It is our very reason for being."
"Nope. We created you. We installed a social and economic system that alienates and disenfranchises you, and that's why you did this. We're sorry."
Someone else on a political journalist's on Facebook wall had another solution to European-Arab enmity.

Long term, the only effective weapon is to reduce the perception of ourselves as an enemy. In the long term, learning Arabic is a powerful solution to disrupting the sense of blanket identity that is conferred upon the West. I am working on a programme that enables learning a complex new language through a network of techniques and a new framework that will enable those who can make time to learn good Arabic in 1-2 months. If you'd like to guarantee to be part of the solution, an improved social fabric, understanding of the Middle-East that will inform improved foreign policy, and a Europe that is too communicative and cohesive to be viewed as or to act as an 'enemy', this is something you can do as an individual. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates



I learnt much from this article about what motivates ISIS by Graeme Wood when it was published in The Atlantic in March. I was led to it by a Muslim friend and recommend it very highly. If you read it then it's worth rereading now.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
Of course ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the rest are fighting for Islam and their version is probably as legitimate a version of the warlike 7th century creed as the West-friendly ones. My Muslim theologian friend always denied this but he was a Francophone, Oxford-educated Guardian-reading left-winger who drank wine and lived on government benefits all his life in London, so he would think Islam and the Enlightenment were compatible. Come to think of it I'm not sure if Christianity and the Enlightenment are that compatible, although Christianity gave birth to the Enlightenment and without Christianity the Enlightenment is unimaginable.

Here are three brilliant articles written in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris. If you only have time for one make it this one, by Mark Steyn, entitled
The Barbarians Are Inside, And There Are No Gates
in which he makes this powerful point.

Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight's events as "an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share". 

But that's not true, is it? He's right that it's an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world - an attack on one portion of "humanity" by those who claim to speak for another portion of "humanity". And these are not "universal values" but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta "universal" when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those "universal values" are utterly alien to large parts of the map today.
Here is a great blog post by Douglas Murray on nine conclusions not to draw from the Paris attacks and, surprisingly perhaps, Katie Hopkins has written a very good, sombre, powerful and serious piece, asking
Is Britain just going to sit and wait for its own day of reckoning?
I fear the answer to her question is yes though I hope I am mistaken.

Actually it's not surprising at all that her writing is good. She is first of all an entertainer but when talking about refugees she is very much a force for good.

For some reason, the people I am angry with are not the killers, but the insufferably omniscient writers of the Economist. In particular i am angry with this article, 'Exodus: Europe should welcome more refugees and economic migrants—for the sake of the world and itself' that extols Angela Merkel's policy on migrants and says
an old idea of Christendom still lurks within modern European identity.

What people are saying about the Paris killings

Mark Steyn

M Hollande declared that "nous allons mener le combat, il sera impitoyable": We are going to wage a war that will be pitiless. Does he mean it? Or is he just killing time until Obama and Cameron and Merkel and Justin Trudeau and Malcolm Turnbull fly in and they can all get back to talking about sea levels in the Maldives in the 22nd century? By which time France and Germany and Belgium and Austria and the Netherlands will have been long washed away.

Sean Gabb

Bad idea to invade the world. Bad to invite the world. Do both and need your head examined.


Madonna

We are all immigrants.

David Penglase

If you open the door when mad dogs are outside....they tend to come in and bite you. 


Traian Basescu, President of Romania 2004-14


What happened on Friday night showed that demagoguery is not a substitute for security. We have all been convinced that the integration of a culture and religion so different from Christianity is impossible. And this was recognised by European leaders years ago, including by Mrs Merkel, who recognised that cultural integration has been a failure in Germany and Europe. The wave of migrants from Europe this year found Europe unprepared and has led to the collapse of border security .... What happened in Paris confirms that Europe can not be everyone's home. Europe is primarily the home for Europeans, the home for Christians.


Adam Gopnik

Andre Glucksmann wrote, in the wake of 9/11, a remarkable book, still untranslated, called “Dostoevsky in Manhattan,” in which he insisted that modern terrorism, including Islamic terrorism, is nihilist before it is religious and even before it is political. He attached its motives to the terrorism of the century before—to the violence, which Dostoevsky and Conrad dramatized so well, which redounds not to a political end but with a wild vengeance and the existential message, “I kill, therefore I am.”


Mary Hughes-Thompson, co-founder of the Free Gaza movement (she sounds like peter Simple's Mrs. Dutt Pauker, who lived in a house in Hampstead called 'Marxmount' and had an Albanian Maoist au pair Gjoq).

I haven't accused Israel of involvement. Still, Bibi is upset about the European settlement boycott. So who knows.


My friend Bunny

When we have all finished praying for Paris, can we agree that maybe it would be a good idea to have stricter border controls and to stop inviting thousands of fighting age men from the Middle East into Europe?


Andrew Lawrence

Are we allowed to have better border controls yet? Or is it still racist?


Andrew Neil

Those who think Islamic State barbarity is a response to Western foreign policy might like to speak to the Yazidi women who are still alive.


Jean-Claude Juncker

Those who organised, who perpetrated the attacks are the very same people who the refugees are fleeing and not the opposite. And so there is no need for an overall review of the European policy on refugees.


[Dacian Ciolos is one of Herr Juncker's aides or was until last week when he was nominated by President Iohannis to be Prime Minister of Romania.]

Will Romania still take in the Syrian refugees the EU ordered Victor Ponta to accept?

Poland's Europe minister said last night that Poland could not take in refugees under an EU quota system after Friday's killings. Will Romania say the same?

Saturday, 14 November 2015

One of the Paris murderers was an asylum seeker who arrived in Greece last month

A Syrian passport found at the scene of the Paris attacks matched that used by a refugee who arrived on the Greek island of Leros last month.

Surely Frau Merkel must resign after this piece of news

Paris hosts new exhibition of nothing


A story from 2009.

Paris's Pompidou Centre is devoting an entire exhibition to the art of nothing.


Hailed by one critic today as the most radical show ever seen inside a museum,Voids, a retrospective is a celebration of art which, as the artist Robert Barry put it, wants us to be "free for a moment to think about what we are going to do".



Wednesday, 11 November 2015

So what has been achieved by nine days of protests?


The death toll from the fire in the Colectiv club has tonight reached fifty.

Eight days of protests in Bucharest have come to an end - last night I am told there were only fifty people in Piaţa Universităţii - and what has been achieved?

Catharsis?

Perhaps. The spirit of the Romanian revolution of December 1989 was released again and walked among us.

The Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, and the mostly Social Democratic government resigned. Which is good. It is always good when Social Democratic governments resign.

But they were going to do so this this month anyway, I am told, by people who say they know. The carnage enabled P
rime Minister Victor Ponta, who is being prosecuted for corruption, and his deputy Gabriel Oprea, blamed widely though unfairly for the death of a police motorcyclist in his cortège, to go with a decent cover - resigning for something which was not really their fault, any more than any other political party's. There were no fewer fire hazards when the National Liberals were in power than now or, going far back enough, when the National Peasant Party were in government.

The word spontaneous is often misused in Romania to describe protests that are organised by political parties or even elements of the secret service but Tuesday's 25,000 strong march in Bucharest seems to have been launched largely by people who did not have experience of demonstrations. This sense of community and public spiritedness, which began with queueing to donate blood and collect money to buy medical supplies and led to the demonstrations every night, in a city where selfish individualism is very much the norm, was a very striking thing. Can this spirit last and achieve things? 

President Klaus Iohannis yesterday nominated a technocrat, Dacian Ciolos, a former European commissioner and an expert on agriculture, as Prime Minister in place of Victor Ponta. A man who has served in previous National Liberal administrations but has spent much of his time in Brussels. An almost blank sheet of paper.

What did the crowd in the streets want? Someone tried to explain to me but I explained to him that crowds have no programme, no demands. Crowds have only the meaning that others assign to them. But most protesters certainly did not protest so that the opposition parties could replace the governing parties.

Technocrats are in principle undemocratic - a politician's job is not to run things efficiently but to lead and to make controversial and difficult decisions according to principles for which they have an electoral mandate. But Romanian political parties do not behave like this, in any case, to any noticeable extent and technocrats are a good solution to the needs of the times. 

They also have the advantage, from his point of view, that they leave only one elected politician in power, President Iohannis. In effect he will now be running the country. Which is what many of the people who voted for him in December last year probably want. He is the only politician in Romanian who is respected because he is seen as an outsider, an anti-politician, a clean and successful mayor of a provincial town, because he has done almost nothing and said very little since becoming president.

People wanted rid of 'the political class', all the politicians, but this, though very laudable, is very hard to do. And yet it seems almost to be happening. President Iohannis came to power elected by people who voted against the political class. He promised to clean it up but instead so many politicians are being prosecuted by the Anti-Corruption Agency (DNA) that the job is being done for him, far better than he could do it.

His not interfering with the work of the DNA, as the Social Democratic candidate for the presidency, Victor Ponta, would probably have done, is Mr. Iohannis's great and, so far, his only achievement.

Someone said to me tonight that everyone but a moron knew basement bars in Bucharest's old town were fire hazards. I am that moron, but anyway almost never go to bars. It's the bar owner's fault before the state's, he said, and the faulty of those organising events in hazardous bars. I had to agree. We like to blame the state for so many things that are our fault.

The only real surprise, looking back, is that a fire like the one in Colectiv did not happen before. And not just because the fire department is dilatory, stupid and very fond of bribes, but because people - club owners, club employees, customers, bands, didn't bother to avoid places that, had they stopped to think, they knew must be fire hazards. And it is no good blaming corrupt and stupid officials, or their bosses, the stupid and  corrupt politicians, for all manner of sins of omission. We the inhabitants of Romania should look at making the change in ourselves that we want to see in the world around us.

Cities

They can print statistics and count the populations in hundreds of thousands, but to each man a city consists of no more than a few streets, a few houses, a few people. Remove those few and a city exists no longer except as a pain in the memory, like a pain of an amputated leg no longer there.

Graham Greene, Our Man in Havana

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

W.B. Yeats


Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.


Lao Tzu

Safe space. That's the POINT of a university. To be a safe space for intellectual freedom in a world largely hostile to that concept.

Charles Murray


Foreigners are like seasoning, put in too much and you ruin the soup.

John Derbyshire

This moment isn’t just a stepping stone to get to another place. It’s the destination. I’m already here. 

Leo Babauta

The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery in involves.

Logan Pearsall Smith

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The idea of free will is out of fashion

Dr. Kathleen Taylor, a neurologist at Oxford University, speaking at the Hay Literary Festival in in June, said that it will soon be possible to treat religious fundamentalism and other ideological beliefs potentially harmful to society as a form of mental illness. She said that radicalizing ideologies may soon be viewed not as being of personal choice or free will but as a category of mental disorder. She said new developments in neuroscience could make it possible to consider extremists as people with mental illness rather than criminals.

This isn't new. They treated political opinions as mental illnesses in Brezhnev's Russia - and in Czar Nicholas I's Russia, come to think of it.


The Renaissance belief in man's autonomy is going out of fashion and so is the Catholic idea of free will that preceded it.

Brendan O'Neil, who is always good and usually right, despite being a sort of Communist, made a germane point this week, talking about lack of free speech in universities

Closely related to this institutionalisation of censorship has been the relentless rise of the therapeutic outlook. This new view of humanity eschews the old John Stuart Mill attitude – which celebrated self-government, the ‘firmness and self-control’ of the individual – and replaces it with a view of individuals as weak, threatened, easily damaged by horrible happenings, cutting words: ‘scarred for life’.

Monday, 9 November 2015

A 1989 poem, but apt this week

An Englishman who have lived in Romania (lucky man) since the 1980s sent me this and suggested I publish it here.


I copied the attached poem down in Eroilor cemetery not long after the so-called 'revolution' of 1989.
 After the events of last night the last part of the poem seems particularly apt and you might wish to 'blog' it together with my comments at the bottom..
  
 

INCHINARE EROILOR

Azi ne plîngem morţii, pe luptători căzuţi
la datorie pentru ţara şi popor
Ne rugăm la bunul Domnezeu şi îngenunchem pentru cei
omorîţi mişeleşte de barbarii comunişti ucigători.
Plîng copiii, plîng fraţii şi surorile noastre, pentru cei care s-au
jertfit viaţa salvînd omenirea de sclăvia comunistă,
Plîng orfanii, plîng părinţii indoliaţi şi înlăcrimaţi, plîng greviştii
foamei pentru cei loviţi pentru cei răniţi şi ucişi de comunişti.

Plîng foştii deţinuţi politici care au fost în lanţuri
şi cătuşe pe luptătorii eroi ucişi fără cruci
Plîng ţara, plîng poporul, este doliu pentru toţ martirii
Torturaţi şi îngropaţi de criminalii terorişti comunişti.

Dar să ştiţi că sîntem tineri, puternici şi mulţi
porniţi pe aspră dreptate
Ne arde dorul de cei căzuţi de fiecare în parte
Pe mormântul lor stau de veghe zeci de lumânări şi flori.

Constantin Popescu    - artist, 1989

…………………………..

At the time this was written the young had been out on the streets and scores of them had fallen. After a few days they went home and their ‘revolution’ was hijacked by the former nomenclatura, and the parents of the dead were left to mourn by themselves.

For twenty five years everyone here has said “Yes, but what can we do ?”…
but last night once again we saw the young in their droves, strong and fired up by the rough justice they have suffered for so long.

If they could only corral the power that they perhaps don’t realize that they have, stay united and not fragment into dust, they could be a strong force to be reckoned with by any government that comes out of this current vacuum.


With Remembrance Sunday coming up and speaking of the fallen of 1989, I got to Bucharest on 28th December 1989, on the morning that they started to bury the dead at Eroilor cemetery. As a small token to all those young people I wrote down a small poem and had it published in Libertatea:-
 

"Here dead we lie because we did not choose

To live and shame the land from which we sprung 

Life to be sure is nothing much to lose, 

But young men think it is........and we were young."

Those lines are from one of A.E. Housman's two best poems.