Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Quotations

We never love anyone. Not really. We only love our idea of another person. It is some conception of our own that we love. We love ourselves, in fact.
William Boyd

Were EU laws to blame for the Grenfell fire?

The Grenfell tower block, which caught fire in a poor enclave in the richest borough in London, cost no-one knows how many lives. It has become a symbol of what is wrong with England, as terrible tragedies do. They become mythology.

The same thing happened with the murder of Jamie Bulger, a 2 year-old boy who was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys in 1993. His murder had nothing to do with John Major, but seemed to symbolise the breakdown of society after fourteen years of Toryism and free market economics. I thought so too at the time.

What does Grenfell show us? Like the Rorschach test, in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded, it shows us what we want to see. The fire is reported to have been caused by a fridge freezer catching fire in the flat of an Ethiopian, who packed his baggage before leaving. This suggests to some that faulty fridge freezers are dangerous. Undoubtedly they are right. Other people in social media place the blame on Ethiopians.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Calibri may leave Pakistan sans Sharif

I had been following, out of the corner of my eye, the story of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His government might fall because his daughter Maryam submitted documents to the Supreme Court dated before January 31, 2007 and typed in Calibri, a font which only became available on that date. This is interesting, but more memorably it is the occasion for possibly the best headline I ever saw.

Quotations


‘I started as a rebel against rebellion.’ Sir Roger Scruton

'Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.' Carl Gustav Jung

'To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.' Miguel de Unamuno

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Quotations about childhood


We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory. 

Louise Glück

For writers it is always said that the first twenty years contain the whole of experience - the rest is observation - but I think this is equally true of us all. 

Graham Greene

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The old order changeth?

When I started my first job in the House of Lords I picked up and lunched with pretty, nicely brought up Tory MPs' secretaries (Labour secretaries were rarely desirable) who said things like "I think people were much happier when they knew their place". Do young Tory girls still say things like this?

Michael Deacon sees that Theresa May is really, really not cut out to be PM

An incisive sketch by Michael Deacon in the Telegraph kills Theresa May with kindness.
"Those few words tell us such a lot. She said she didn’t watch the exit poll because “I have a bit of a superstition about things like that”, but come on. The reason she didn’t watch it, quite nakedly, is that she was frightened. Frightened of failure, of humiliation, of rejection.
He sees that she is too scared to read the press and this is why she gets her husband to do so for her.

"I've Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe's Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling"


I hadn't heard about problems caused by Afghan refugees in Europe until I read this interesting and very dismaying article in the very respectable American magazine 'National Interest' by Cheryl Benard, who has worked for many years in refugee programmes and says she found it very hard to write. She details a dismaying history of rapes and sexual assaults and tries to find explanations.

The following explanation is very worrying. It was 
offered by an experienced Afghan court translator in Austria whom she quotes. 

The myth of Britain’s decline

Robert Tombs, who supervised me at university, has written a timely piece on Brexit and declinism entitled
The myth of Britain’s decline
 with the encouraging sub-headline
Our glory days are not over – they’re in full swing
I quote him.
Who would deny that Britain is no longer the great power it once was? Well, speaking as a historian, I would. Declinism is at best a distortion of reality, and

Quotations

They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
And how one ought never to think of one's self,
And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking--
My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.
A.H. Clough

Sublime wine, sublime pizza



This blog tries to be useful when it can. This is an example. I scarcely ever go to bars but my friend Claudia took me to perhaps my favourite, the lovely Bruno's, in the old town at Str. Covaci 3, where I once projected a birthday party, and introduced me to the most wonderful wine, Bauer Cabernet Sauvignon. Chalky perfection.

Buy a case, people.

In return I introduced her to the best pizza outside Naples - from that amazing shop on the corner of Lipscani and the boulevard. Do go there.

White marble and white supremacy



In a recent article, Professor Sarah Bond, of the University of Iowa, reminds us that classical statues were painted in lifelike colour (they must have resemble Madame Tussaud's) and argues that "the equation of white marble with beauty" contributes to "white supremacist ideas today". 


“The assemblage of neon whiteness serves to create a false idea of homogeneity — everyone was very white! — across the Mediterranean region - [provides] further ammunition for white supremacists today, including groups like Identity Europa, who use classical statuary as a symbol of white male superiority.”

This is not just another crazy America story but an example of a very important trend in current thinking. It's connected to the reasons why many clever Americans thought Donald Trump, by extolling the West in his Warsaw speech, was racist.

If you want to know what Bucharest is like, it's like this

This house I pass every day. The picture is by the talented American photographer and Bucharest resident Davin Ellicson.




My walk to work yesterday

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Is the French revolution responsible for most of the world's problems today?

'For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution.' Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
An academic called Dr Cliff Arnall in 2005 discovered that the third Monday in January is the day when the English are most unhappy. He now informs us that July 14th is the day when we feel happiest each year. 

I love the balmy days of July in Bucharest, despite the merciless heat, but July 14th is Bastille Day and not a day on which a conservative can rejoice.

I have always been one of those who blames most of the world's problems on the 1914-18 War but I start to think Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn may be right. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Quotations


It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely, well, and justly without living pleasurably. Epicurus


The presence of oceans on much of the earth's surface makes it impossible for any state to achieve global hegemony. John Mearsheimer

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible'

'The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible.' Camille Paglia

'A sexy woman can have almost any man she wants. And a rich guy can have almost any woman he wants.' Oliver Markus

Posted on Facebook by the late Peter Risdon

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How much I wish he were here to comment on the fall of Mosul on Facebook, even though I am sure I would completely disagree with him - as I always did on the Middle East.

The language of the 21st century


"Globally, people now spend nearly four times as much time accessing the Internet from mobile devices as they do from desktops. 'Computers' are on their way to becoming an anachronism rarely seen outside of the office. I’d argue that even the way we think is increasingly mobile in nature: for better or worse, small visual bites have replaced big chunks of text as the language of the 21st century."
Ryan Holmes

5 quotations


"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge."
Daniel Boorstin

A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender.
Sir Thomas Browne

Monday, 10 July 2017

3 quotations


'Love is what makes growing up bearable.' Eve Pollard

'All tobacconists are fascists.' George Orwell 


[Enver Hoxha, who kept a tobacco kiosk in Tirana's main square as his cover, before becoming a bloodthirsty Communist tyrant, was the exception.]

'Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.'
Sylvia Plath

Mosul has fallen after a 9 month siege - no mention of war crimes


Mosul has been retaken from ISIS after three years and much hard fighting by Iraqi soldiers trained and helped by Anglo-American forces. Barack Obama hoped it would happen on his watch but it has taken much longer than he and others expected. The 9-month battle for Mosul fight lasted longer than the siege of Stalingrad and like Stalingrad involved street-to-street fighting and huge loss of life.

I wonder how many civilians were killed and what war crimes were committed in the taking of Mosul and the fall of Eastern Aleppo. The media do not know. They treated Syrian rebel propagandists as bona fide journalists, asked us to grieve when the

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Glory is Departing from the Land

A lament for hunting from Anthony Trollope, a great hunter. It is unbelievable and heart-breaking that fox hunting is now illegal in England.

"I can't understand," said Glomax, "how any man can be considered a good fellow as a country gentleman who does not care for sport. Just look at it all round. Suppose others were like him what would become of us all?"

Wunderkind violinist

I had the luck to hear Alexandru Tomescu play the violin in Turda, at the Ratiu100 weekend to mark the hundredth anniversary of Ion Ratiu's birth this summer, thanks to Indrei Ratiu. 

Here Tomescu plays Ciprian Porumbescu's wonderful ballad, on a Stradivarius.

Peter Risdon has died

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Peter Risdon tweeted that a few days ago and now he is dead. 

He was a brilliant, clear-minded and deep thinker. He was one of my closest Facebook friends, someone who made Facebook worthwhile despite all the idiots and bores. I am so glad I finally met him in real life in March in Ely. 

Peter broke the opticians' monopoly in the 1980s. Later he was mixed up with Darius Guppy and Peter recorded Guppy's conversation with his school friend Boris Johnson.

7 quotations


Cecily: ''When I see a spade, I call it a spade".
Gwendolyn: "I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different."
The Importance of Being Earnest


No man is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.
Disraeli

The 10 Worst Prime Ministers We Never Had

John Rentoul makes an enjoyable article out of a thread on Twitter, which discussed the worst Prime Ministers that England never had and was lucky to escape. Contrarian though I am, I think I agree with all ten, with the possible exception of Lord Halifax, who would have probed the possibility of peace with Hitler in 1940.

The lesson to be drawn from the list of outstanding names, that include Fox, Curzon and a gaggle of  more recent men (and one woman, poor Mrs. Leadsom), is that statesmen who

Saturday, 8 July 2017

EP President: Europe faces "an exodus of biblical proportions"

"Europe is "underestimating" the scale and severity of the migration crisis and "millions of Africans" will flood the continent in the next five years unless urgent action is taken, Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, has said in an interview with Il Messagero newspaper. He predicts
"an exodus of biblical proportions that would be impossible to stop if we don't confront the problem now. ... The only solution is massive investment in Africa to dissuade people from leaving in the first place."

He is right about the problem but the solution he proposes is irrelevant. Making Africa

The future belongs to those who show up for it

Here is a graph that you should look at.

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By the way, education of women is what reduces birth rates, rather than welfare states, prosperity, secularism or even feminism. This is why the countries of Eastern Europe, which have exiguous welfare provision, are dying, as is Iran. In Iran more women go to university than men, though they do not go out to work. (They often go to university to find husbands.)

Fertility rates fell in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century almost as quickly as in Western Europe even though economic development and standards of living lagged by decades.

Trump: Does the West have the will to survive? Answer: This question is racist.



Reading liberal journalists fulminating about Donald Trump's speech in Warsaw in defence of Western civilisation makes it clear how important it was and that, for all his grave faults, he has the makings of a good, even very good, President. 


If he continues to listen to Steve Bannon rather than Ivanka or the Republican establishment.

Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic, was very cross indeed. He asserted:

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.
Trump’s speech, he thinks, was racist, because some Europeans are Muslim, and the term West excludes countries like India and Japan.

Friday, 7 July 2017

The 21st century looks frightening



Identity politics will lead to major wars in the 21st century.
(In a sense, the struggle with Islamism is itself an instance of this.)
Jeffrey Ketland


Now for the bad news: There won't be a Poland in 100 years. At a total fertility rate of 1.29, Poland will have one retiree per working-age citizen by 2075. Poland in fact has one of the world's very lowest fertility rates, which means (in Mary Eberstadt's way of looking at the problem) that it is losing its religion. President Trump's speech was magnificent, but it brings to mind Schiller's dictum that history brought forth a great moment, but the moment encountered a mediocre people. Trump is doing the right thing, but we should remember that Europe is a case not for cure but for palliative care.
David Goldman

Trump talks about a clash of civilisations, not a threat to universal values



Trump's speech yesterday at Warsaw was a very good one, though I have mentioned that I disliked him seeing the Assad regime and Iran as hostile.


George W. Bush went to lengths to insist the West was not in conflict with Islam. He declared war instead on an abstract noun, terrorism, even though you can't win a war with an abstract noun. Barack Obama said the terrorist murders in Paris, several massacres ago, were "an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share", even though values are not really universal.


Donald Trump yesterday at Warsaw declared that Western culture, not universal values, are under assault in Europe and the U.S. This is an important step forward.


But what will he do to defend the West?


At any rate, for the time being, he is listening to Steve Bannon rather than H.R. McMaster or Ivanka. This is good.


The reasons for the Qatar crisis: Qatar is independent, friendly to Iran, prefers Al-Nusra to ISIS



The Saudi Arabian monarchy appears to be the biggest enemy of Western civilisation, in a very crowded field. Robert Fisk in the Independent today argues that one reason for the crisis between Qatar and the Saudis is that Qatar was involving itself in the Syrian war and is well disposed towards Al-Nusra/Al Qaeda, while the Saudis prefer ISIS. Qatar is also making arrangements with Iran, the arch-enemy of the Saudis and their de facto ally, Israel.


Fisk says:

52 people were murdered in London 12 years ago today

Br7jXLfCMAIKC8N.jpg large

Ten years ago today 52 people in London were murdered by British subjects who want to restore the caliphate and thought this would advance their cause. These deaths did not lead to a public discussion about changing immigration policy.

The massacres led me discover, to my absolute amazement, the huge numbers of Third World and developed world immigrants who had entered the UK since Labour came to power in 1997. This led me, over the next many years, to rethink my ideas about politics and history. It turned out that the nice people had been wrong all along and the unpleasant ones right.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Quotations



I am assuming that, should Remain triumph, there will be complaints from those who voted for it, within about six months along the lines of "that's not what I voted for". Let me enlighten you: if you vote Remain you vote for whatever the EU decides to throw at you and whatever happens in the EU next. No complaints, please.

Helen Szamuely said this a year ago and died several months ago. R.I.P. The recent past is a foreign country.


"Formerly no one was allowed to think freely; now it is permitted, but no one is capable of it any more. Now people want to think only what they are supposed to think, and this they consider freedom." Oswald Spengler

Donald Trump's speech in Warsaw today

Everyone is saying Donald Trump made a great speech in Warsaw. How upset the BBC will be. I saw a bit of it. I didn't like him criticising Russia for "its support for hostile regimes including Syria and Iran". Syria is not hostile to the USA. The Saudis and the Sunni Gulf states are a bigger danger to the West than Iran. He said statism and terrorism are the two big threats to Western civilisation. They are big threats but he could have mentioned others, like the threat posed by migrants and refugees from the Third World.


I don't think he mentioned Poland's refusal to take migrants but he did say this, which I like. 
“Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to counter forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the south or the east, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are.”
I wish Mr Trump had said more on these lines. Perhaps something like what Bill Gates, a liberal and the world's greatest philanthropist, said on Sunday in an interview in a German newspaper, Welt am Sonntag about Angela Merkel’s migrants policy. He said:
“On the one hand you want to demonstrate generosity and take in refugees, but the more generous you are, the more word gets around about this — which in turn motivates more people to leave Africa.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Odi et amo: hatred and love for the 1970s


Today a friend on Facebook posted one of the original pop videos of the unlovable, but annoyingly catchy, “Paloma Blanca” song. Play it for a few seconds and you will recognise it but be warned that it may stay in your head for several days.


How could anyone who grew up in the 1970s not hate modernity, you might ask. But most adolescents (in every era a very conformist cohort) thoroughly embraced the spirit of the age. I looked on aghast.




Monday, 3 July 2017

After 104º Farenheit (or was it 107º?) the rain is very welcome

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Bulevardul Victoriei Socialismului. The North Korean quarter of Bucharest that I rarely visit, though it's a couple of hundred yards from my flat.


Sunday, 2 July 2017

More quotations from Lord Salisbury


                                                      
The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.

Letter to Lord Lytton (25 May 1877), quoted in Cecil, The Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Volume II, p. 145

...the splitting up of mankind into a multitude of infinitesimal governments, in accordance with their actual differences of dialect or their presumed differences of race, would be to undo the work of civilisation and renounce all the benefits which the slow and painful process of consolidation has procured for mankind...It is the agglomeration and not the comminution of states to which civilisation is constantly tending; it is the fusion and not the isolation of races by which the physical and moral excellence of the species is advanced. There are races, as there are trees, which cannot stand erect by themselves, and which, if their growth is not hindered by artificial constraints, are all the healthier for twining round some robuster stem.

Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), p. 22

Wherever democracy has prevailed, the power of the State has been used in some form or other to plunder the well-to-do classes for the benefit of the poor.

Quarterly Review, 110, 1861, p. 281

The present is a foreign country

When I go to the Daily Telegraph website, without wanting to, I keep getting a podcast start playing in which a fat woman from the Telegraph interviews Prince Harry and begins by saying 
'Can I call you Harry - or Hezza?' 
I realised when I heard it the first time that the present is becoming a foreign country.

Or rather present day England is.

Britain looks outward

From the Washington Post a year ago:
Britain isn’t having a Trump moment, turning in on itself in a fit of protectionist and nativist pique. Rather, the vote for Brexit was about liberty and free trade—and about trying to manage globalization better than the EU has been doing from Brussels.
The Brexit campaign started as a cry for liberty, perhaps articulated most clearly by Michael Gove, the British justice secretary (and, on this issue, the most prominent dissenter in Mr. Cameron’s cabinet). Mr. Gove offered practical examples of the problems of EU membership. As a minister, he said, he deals constantly with edicts and regulations framed at the European level—rules that he doesn’t want and can’t change. These were rules that no one in Britain asked for, rules promulgated by officials whose names Brits don’t know, people whom they never elected and cannot remove from office. Yet they become the law of the land. Much of what we think of as British democracy, Mr. Gove argued, is now no such thing.

Scottish independence now looks very unlikely and will be more so after Brexit


A British Remainer friend (let's call him Tony), at dinner a year ago just before the referendum, made various arguments for staying in the EU, such as that all reputable economists think we should stay (not true) and that no former party leaders wanted us to leave. I mentioned Michael Howard, Ian Duncan Smith, David Owen and Margaret Thatcher. 
I also mentioned Nigel Lawson and Norman Lamont.

Then he said he thought nationals of other EU countries who live in the UK should have had a vote in the referendum.

This was like the thirteenth stroke of the clock, that not only was unconvincing in itself but cast doubt on the other twelve. I don't think he gets the idea of nationhood.

He had dinner with me again last night. One year on and he is now cock-a-hoop. He hopes Brexit will happen in name only. He becomes possessed with rage about Brexit and thinks it will lead to Scotland seceding. 


Before the referendum I too feared that Brexit threatened the Union that matters, the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This was much the strongest argument that I could see for voting Remain. I see now that, in fact, Brexit makes Scot secession less likely. 

Syria seems safe enough for refugees to return

Whatever you think of Geert Wilders, this tweet hits the nail on the head.
Syrians return home in large numbers. So it's safe enough. Let's revoke their refugee/asylum permits here and send them home immediately.

CEC and National History Museum, Bucharest, seen from the Bancorex (BCR) Tower