Saturday, 29 February 2020

Plague and divine wrath

As far as I know, no-one has suggested that the Corona virus is a punishment from God on mankind for our sins. I do not suppose for one moment that it is, but the fact that no-one says so tells us that traditional Christianity is almost dead.

John Dryden, the Poet Laureate, was commissioned by King Charles II's government to write his wonderful Annus Mirabilis, to refute the idea that the Great Plague and Great Fire of London were God's judgment on Londoners and by implication on King Charles II.

Neither do I imagine for one moment that God permitted the September 11th killings specifically because of widespread homosexuality in the USA, as Jerry Falwell said, (why 
not unjust wars, murder, torture, promiscuity, materialism, drugs, divorce or abortion?). 

The preposterous Falwell's remark made me laugh aloud, but I was disappointed that he roused enormous anger among Americans for saying this. He was forced to apologise. I suppose he angered what an American friend of mine calls 'patriotards' and, at the same time, theological liberals. Between them, they account for a lot of Americans.

Christians once thought that plagues were acts of God. Now they think that 'acts of God' is just a term of art in insurance law. They think of the Divinity as 'God the Awfully Nice Chap' (Jonathan Meades, critiquing modern church architecture). 

A left-wing atheist friend asked me if I could 'respect' a God who inflicted on us terrible diseases. A left-wing Catholic friend, who devoted herself for twenty years to helping Romanian children who were HIV Positive, St Mary Veal, told me that she could not love such a God.

Gentle theologian-reader, please advise me.

Once Protestant clergymen and Catholic priests would have suggested that AIDS was a sign of God's anger. Once they would have condemned a married Prime Minister whose girlfriend was pregnant. Now they talk about climate change and migrants.

On a blog I like, I came across this passage from Agathias's Histories, a continuation of Procopius's Secret History, about the plague in the Byzantine empire in 544 A.D. (It is translated by Joseph D. Frendo.)


But that was not the end of their troubles. Not long after, they were decimated by a sudden outbreak of plague.


Some pronounced the air of the region to be contaminated and held it responsible for the disease. Others blamed he abrupt change in their mode of life, because after a routine of forced marches and frequent fighting they had fallen into habits of luxury and indolence. But they failed utterly to perceive what had really caused the disaster and in fact made it inevitable, to wit the ruthless wickedness with which they had flouted the laws of God and man.

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

'Elites favour federations like the European Union. Non-elites revolt.'

A taxi driver in Belgrade told a British friend of mine, who lives there, that Yugoslavia was the EU before the EU. My friend, who  is an ardent believer in the EU, found this discouraging, as well he might.
'Elites favour federations like the European Union. Non-elites revolt.' 
This is the headline on an article in the Washington Post that points out that, in addition to Yugoslavia, the USSR, Czechoslovakia, the West Indies Federation, the Central African Federation and the United Arab Republic are failed attempts at subsuming nations or ethnic groups into multinational states.

So,of course, was the Hapsburg Empire though that in its time was a great success. My British-Hungarian-Russian-Jewish but 100% British friend, and ardent Brexiteer avant la lettre, Helen Szamuely justly called it a European Union that worked, but it stop working in 1918, partly thanks to Francis Joseph's folly in going to war with Serbia but more due to the malign influence of liberal American Democrats. 

There is no end to the harm that they have wreaked in the world, though George W. Bush, a Wilsonian in foreign policy, and Lincoln are responsible for more unnecessary deaths than even the Democrats.

Malaysia has stayed the course, but without some of its original components, to wit Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah.

The tragedy, of course, is that a united Germany and Italy ever came into existence or did not break up before Hitler or Mussolini could come to power. 

It is still not too late for Bavaria to seek her independence or for the Italian principalities. 

On a recent visit to Palermo the first person I met was demonstrating in favour of an independent Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. We were fated to meet. I wished him very well and parted from him with a leaflet and wearing one of his badges. It was not much, but one does what one can. 

Monday, 24 February 2020

Did the end of the Soviet Bloc prefigure the end of the European Union?

I just read Robert Service's The Cold War 1985-91 but I wouldn't recommend it, gentle reader. It is not badly written, but bored me by concentrating on the details of Russian-US diplomacy rather than the things that led Gorbachev to change the USSR. It's good narrative history, using the archives, but does not have interesting insights into the deep causes of the end of Marxism-Leninism. If you like historians to provide zinger aphorisms, they aren't here. 

Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev are the heroes, of course. Mrs Thatcher and President Mitterand have impressive minor roles.

There are lots of parallels between the 1980s and now which have an Alice in Wonderland quality. Then Hungary stood out from the Warsaw Pact countries because of Kadar's supposed liberalism (he was a KGB agent all the time, though Dr Service does not mention this), now she stands out from the European Union because of Viktor Orban's Toryism. China, then as now, was seeking to expand her influence in Eastern Europe.

There is much in common between Mikhail Gorbachev's relations with his Eastern European allies and the reception Western Europe gives nowadays to Donald Trump. I see plenty of parallels between the two great reformers. Will Donald Trump end up starring in commercials for Pizza Hut?

The increasing integration of the EEC was a factor that discouraged the Kremlin. The Soviet Union's allies did not want more integration with Comecon but loans from Western Europe. They got them and thereby sealed their fate.

It was the nationalities question, not economics or American power, which brought the USSR to an end, of course. In 1991 George Bush the Elder 
"declined to espouse Ukrainian independence and condemned anyone who decided to 'promote a suicidal nationalism based on ethnic hatred.'"
This disgusted me at the time. Ronald Reagan would not have used such words. It was right both from a  conservative and liberal point of view that Ukraine should be an independent country.

These words from the mouth of an American Republican and theoretical lifelong anti-communist capture the essence of the globalist spirit. It could be Frau Merkel or Herr Juncker talking about Brexit. On the other hand, Bush was being a conservative of a certain type, a sort of perverse Metternichian.

Once the Communists had been the internationalists, but conservatives became internationalists too to defend the world from the Marxists. As communism was defeated by national identity and the war of the Yugoslav Succession began, nationalism replaced Communist Russia as the principle threat in the minds of the international political class who rule the West. 

Democracy won in 1991, but thereafter the masses became the democracies' greatest fear. 

Quotations

Fact is unstable by its very nature. 
Narouz once said to me that he loved the desert because there 'the wind blew out one’s footsteps like candle-flames'. 
So it seems to me does reality. How then can we hunt for the truth?
Lawrence Durrell



For many of these bourgeois socialists, the election was unserious. They should have campaigned in winnable marginals. Rather they tried to unseat Boris Johnson in Uxbridge. They don’t care about controlling the country, as the writer Nick Cohen says; perhaps they have just enough self-awareness to be frightened of it.
Tanya Gold

Sunday, 23 February 2020

Trump's shoulders keep the sky suspended

Bernie Sanders will be the Democrat nominee for US President and will lose. 

The Nevada caucus has given him a momentum that I imagine cannot be stopped. 

He is the candidate whom Trump is praying will oppose him, if he does pray, which I somewhat doubt.

It would be a disaster were Bernie to win. For everyone. He’d fail and later someone more left wing might win. 

But I cannot imagine him winning, unless the Chinese virus creates a second financial crisis like the one in 2008. Even then I don't see Americans trusting him to solve the crisis.

Why do I follow American elections? Because they matter to the world and because they are rivetting thanks to the primaries

The first one I followed, when I still went to school in short trousers, was in 1972 but the memory is very faint. I remember the Democrat vice presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton admitting he had undergone electric shock therapy and having to stand down

1976 I remember pretty clearly. I recall Mo Udall, like Mitt Romney a Mormon, George Wallace, who was no longer a segregationist but had no chance, and Edward Kennedy, who could have won but sulked in his tent. And Gerald Ford, so stupid that he couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time (this is the bowdlerised version of the quip).

Getting back to 2020, Mike Bloomberg made a big mess of his first debate. He is no more a Democrat than is Bernie. Is President Trump a Republican? Well, he has turned out to be much more of one than I expected, that is a Republican of circa 1920, but he is not a Republican of the 1952-2012 era. 

Joe Biden is a safe, folksy Democrat party hack - and old enough to remember when the Democrats were the party of the working class - which are reasons for Democrats to like him. He never had a vision and was always unfocussed but his lack of focus nowadays might be incipient senility. 

He doesn't have Trump's energy. He is not yuge. He is not going to win and by standing got in the way of other, better moderates.

Saturday, 22 February 2020

Ivan Eland: "Trump Should Get Out Of NATO Now, But Nicely"

Dr. Ivan Eland is a libertarian and American defence analyst who once called Jimmy Carter "the best modern president," opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq and called George W. Bush's presidency "one of the worst of all time." I opposed the 2003 war too, preferred Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan at the time and certainly think him an infinitely better President than Bush the Younger. Dr. Eland argues now that Donald Trump should take the USA out of Nato before he leaves office, to save a huge amount of money and to allow him to use defence spending to protect US interests from China. 

He points out that Putin is not a threat to the West but just another tin-pot dictator. Yes.

'Europe 2050: Demographic Suicide'

The Robert Schuman Foundation is a think tank set up in 1991 by EEC panjandrums which came up with a useful report on demographics in 2017. 'Europe 2050: Demographic Suicide' is the title and it complains that demographics are rarely mentioned in EU papers, except in the context of health and welfare spending. 

No doubt this is because the subject is too alarming. It is easier not to think about frightening things.

The Report says that North America should see its population rise by 75 million inhabitants by 2050 while Europe plus the UK may 'stagnate' (a loaded term) at approximately 500 million people, with 49 million fewer people of working age (20-64). That number means 11 million potentially active workers fewer in Germany and 7 to 8 million fewer in Spain and Italy. Fewer workers means not only less production but smaller markets. Old people consume much less than middle aged and young people.


By 2050, China, Japan, and Russia may lose 38, 20 and 15 million inhabitants respectively while India should increase by approximately 400 million people thus surpassing China by at least 300 million people. 



"Oh let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about."

The United States should see the number of potentially active workers rise by almost 20 million during the same period, but this assumes that present immigration policies in these country do not change, which they will.
The report concludes:

"European countries look like orchards whose trees were fruitful for 40 years then reached maturity without any seedlings planted. Yet, if we are to invest
and consume, we must have confidence in the future and the need to purchase basic goods. Unfortunately, these two characteristics decrease with age. Deep down, a dynamic society relies upon the same fundamentals as economics and demographics. In other words, the desire to live is expressed through economic initiatives and raising children. Somehow, the entrepreneurial spirit remains closely linked to the family spirit."

What makes people not have children? Many things but it is a phenomenon not only in the West but in Eastern Europe and most (but not all) of Asia. Feminism is not the explanation, or not a full one, because Iranian birthrates are one third of what they were when the Shah was in the throne.

A UN Report also in 2017 forecast that by 2050 around 2.2 billion people would be added to the world's population, including an additional 1.3 billion sub-Saharan Africans. Africans will be a quarter of the world's population and more than half will be under 25.

To better understand what 1.3 billion extra people means, it means more than doubling the present population of Africa, 1.22 billion. The present population of Europe is 741 million, and the Robert Schuman Report forecasts it to fall to around 500 million in twenty years, which seems extraordinary. The population of China at present is 1.36 billion, expected to peak at 1.4 billion people in 2029 and thereafter decline.

People who believe climate change is going to be a big problem talk about the prospect of climate change refugees. A more certain thing is that, as African living standards continue to rise, more and more Africans will know about life in the Western Europe (in particular via smartphones) and have the means to try to move there. People escaping floods are less likely to move continents, partly because they are less able to do so, than people who have money to travel and want to improve their standard of living.

Friday, 21 February 2020

The Passing of Leo Varadkar

'But the humiliation is not entirely over for Varadkar. For the moment, he stays on as caretaker leader until a government can be formed. In that capacity, it has fallen to him to negotiate the EU’s budget for the next seven years. These were never going to be easy negotiations given that the EU’s coffers have just been left with a Britain-sized hole. But if Varadkar was expecting any favours from the EU for his role in Brexit negotiations he has been left sorely disappointed. Ireland has been asked to pay more into the EU’s

Thursday, 20 February 2020

'The EU is in trouble and Ursula Von Der Leyen is the wrong person to rescue it'

"In act five of Europe’s self-destruction, the US and the Soviet Union strode on to the stage like Fortinbras at the end of Hamlet. Yet, Europe was at least still the central stage of world politics throughout the cold war that followed. Europeans made history once again for a brief shining moment in 1989, but then Hegel’s Weltgeist, the “world spirit”, moved rapidly on from Berlin to Beijing." Timothy Garton Ash

Ashoka Mody, the Indian-born author of EuroTragedy: A Drama in Nine Acts, has written an interesting article in the Spectator about European decline. I quote him.
"Europe is a continent rapidly declining in economic and political clout, as Jean-Claude Juncker underlined. Famous for occasionally imbibing an extra drink, the truth-telling Juncker brutally noted that Europe’s share of global value added will fall from 25 per cent now to about 15 per cent in the next generation; by then, no European country is likely to be a member of the elite G7 group of countries. And as Europe’s shrinking populations also become older, it will be ever harder to stem the downward slide.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

David Frost on Brexit: It was only when we picked up our coat and waved goodbye that people said ‘Oh, are you going?’

Lord Curzon said that without India England would be a greater Belgium. A greater Belgium sounds to me very like modern Europe.

David Frost was a senior British diplomat and expert on trade. He was originally an enthusiast for the European project (like me) but became disillusioned the more he saw of the EU. He left the Diplomatic Service and, in the referendum, voted to Leave. He was  Boris Johnson’s adviser while he was Foreign Secretary and became his adviser on Europe when he became Prime Minister in July. Mr Frost leads the unit negotiating the trade agreement with the E.U. 

He gave a speech at the Université Libre de Bruxelles on Monday evening where he said some very interesting things, which you should read.

Tonight I want to give you some reflections on the revolutions, plural, in Europe – because I actually think we are looking at not one revolution but two revolutions, both in government and simultaneously.

So, the first is the creation of the European Union itself – the greatest revolution in European governance since 1648. A new governmental system overlaid on an old one, purportedly a Europe of nation states, but in reality the paradigm of a new system of transnational collective governance.

The second revolution is of course the reaction to the first – the reappearance on the political scene not just of national feeling but also of the wish for

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Politicians

"The discussion moved on to ‘Western values’. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that [Dean Edward] Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’ Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’ ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’ Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism. (Mr Blair would have been equally baffled.)" Dr. John Casey

"When I met Trump I thought he was a deeply unimpressive man and I think he realised himself that he needed the boys toys, the planes, the women." Selena Scott, when he was elected US President.

‘All political lives, unless they are cut off in midstream at a happy juncture, end in failure, because that is the nature of politics and of human affairs.” Enoch Powell, in his essay on or short biography of Joseph Chamberlain

"I rank myself no higher in the scheme of things than a policeman - whose utility would disappear if there were no criminals." Lord Salisbury

"Mr Blair describes himself as a Christian socialist: he is no such thing. Like Baroness Thatcher, he is a 19th-century liberal. He may never have said "you can't buck the market", but he acts as though it were true. If he were to put his religious principles into political practice, he would be a Christian capitalist. For capitalism is just another name for the market, and the market is here to stay. Indeed, we should say of the market what Churchill said of democracy: a very bad system, but the alternatives are worse. Just as democracy needs laws and institutions to protect the things that are not to be voted on, so the market needs moral and religious scruples to withhold the things that are not to be traded." Sir Roger Scruton 1998

"History is littered with the wars which everybody knew would never happen." Enoch Powell, speech to the Conservative Party Conference, 19 October 1967

"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." Benjamin Disraeli

"All quotations are taken out of context." Enoch Powell

Sunday, 16 February 2020

The Decline of the West

"The greatest (and yet mostly unremarked) sociological change in America over the past 50 years is the collapse of membership in mainline Protestant churches — from around 50 percent of Americans in 1965 to under 10 percent today. This collapse removed a central support of American identity. Though others were welcomed, on and off, we understood that we lived in essentially a Protestant nation. The dominant churches were the cultural Mississippi pouring through the center of the nation’s self-understanding. When that well-spring dried up, the old culture died in the hard-baked mud. As the theological foundations decayed, so did the cultural institutions built on those foundations, including the novel.


"...From the 18th century through the 20th, authors produced fiction unlike anything the world had read. They did so because the civilization needed them to. Rewarded them for doing so, too. Of the authors who have published novels since the early 1990s, none is mandatory reading. This lack of cultural centrality is not necessarily the authors’ fault — we just don’t read novels the way we used to. The great ambitions have dwindled, and the engine of the art form sputters on the last fumes of its old fuel. Modernity’s metaphysical crisis was not solved — by the novel or anything else. Consequently, we are overtaken by a second crisis, one debilitating for art, as the culture loses its horizons and its sense of purpose."

These two paragraphs are from a great article on the decline of the American novel, by the curiously named Joseph Bottum, in the US edition of the Spectator (not to be confused with the American Spectator, which is also a very good magazine). 

The novel is a form in decline because of films, television and the internet. So is poetry and the theatre. But there is more to the story than just creative destruction wreaked by the internet.

Quotations for Sunday evening

"It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman."
Proverbs 21:19, King James Version


"I expect that every man has to work out his creed according to his own wave-length, and the hope is that the Great Receiving Station is tuned to take all wave-lengths." 
Rudyard Kipling, letter to Henry Arthur Jones 

“A man's admiration for absolute government is proportionate to the contempt he feels for those around him.” Alexis de Tocqueville.

Thoughts

At heart, all political problems are moral and religious problems.

Russell Kirk



Looking back on it I should say that Thatcher's greatest legacy was to have placed the nation and the national interest at the centre of politics. She never succeeded in her most

Friday, 14 February 2020

'After Attending a Trump Rally, I Realized Democrats Are Not Ready For 2020'

I just read this touching article by a very nice sounding American Democrat, who decided to attend a Trump rally. 

When she stood in the very long queue everyone was friendly. When she mentioned that she was a Democrat the answer she received was 'Good for you. Welcome.' 

This was very different from the attitudes of Democrats to Trump supporters.

She found the rally
was so different than any other political event I had ever attended. Even the energy around Barack Obama in 2008 didn’t feel like this.
She came away with this conclusion.
'As I left the rally—walking past thousands of people who were watching it on a giant monitor outside the arena because they couldn’t get in—I knew there was

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

The very large silver lining in the dark cloud cast by Sinn Fein: Northern Ireland will not leave the UK



The very large silver lining in the very dark cloud cast by Sinn Fein is that their winning the highest number of votes in the Irish election means Northern Ireland will not leave the UK for at least a generation. But this would have been extremely unlikely to happen in any case, because Boris Johnson's Brexit deal will give the province the incredibly enviable position of being in both the EU customs union and the UK customs union. It is easy to imagine multinationals moving to the Six Counties for this reason.

Quotations

I am rejoiced to hear of your return to wine-bibbing. Laurence of this college (I forget if you have met him) has been suffering from gouty eczema, well earned: his doctor has limited him to whisky, and he made no progress. So he called in another doctor, who ordered him a bottle of Burgundy a day: he mended rapidly and is now well.

A.E. Housman to Percy Withers (May 11, 1930)


Society is one vast conspiracy for carving one into the kind of statue it likes, and then placing it in the most convenient niche it has.

Randolph Bourne


A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.

Robertson Davies



Sunday, 9 February 2020

Item from Cambridge News


'Patricia MacCormack, a professor of continental philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University, has just released her new book The Ahuman Manifesto, which will officially be launched in Cambridge today (Wednesday, February 5).

'The book argues that due to the damage done to other living creatures on Earth, we should start gradually phasing out reproduction. But rather than offering a bleak look at the future of humanity, it has generated discussion due to its joyful and optimistic tone, as it sets out a positive view for the future of Earth - without mankind.

'It also touches on several hot-button topics, from religion and veganism to the concept of identity politics, tying these into how the creation of a hierarchal world among humans has left us blind to the destruction we are causing to our habitat and other forms of life.'


Cambridge News was such a boring paper when I was up. Perhaps it still is, but this story isn't. 

Another news story that reminds me that we should defend and celebrate hierarchy and oppose the principle of equality. 

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Pelle Neroth Taylor on Clueless Philippe Legrain

Anglo-Swedish journalist Pelle Neroth Taylor writes this guest post.


Here’s an article from Legrain, a Franco-Estonian Englishman.


He starts with what appears to be a recurring argument for him, that the experience of countries with Russian immigrants can be generalized to boat people, using the example of two Nobel-prize winning Russian-English physicists.


We also learn that far from crowded, England is ripe for development.


Nor is Britain “full up”. Even in England only 11% of the surface area is lived on. The problem is planning restrictions that excessively restrict development, driving up residential land prices to the benefit of large landowners and at the expense of everyone else.

So what we need to do is transform this:
into this:
Then we’ll all become rich and start winning a bunch of Nobel Prizes in physics. Also, such transformation will only harm “rich landowners” who are well known to oppose mass immigration, while the development of the 89% of England not currently paved over will benefit “everyone else.”

The Supreme Court's judgment in Miller 2 was a travesty of justice, obviously

I was well aware, as I listened to Brenda Hale reading it out in her donnish voice live on my telephone, that the Supreme Court's second Miller judgment, the one ruling the prorogation of Parliament unlawful, was an appallingly unjust decision. I am delighted today, reading Charles Moore (soon to be a peer), that Professor John Finnis of Oxford, supposedly a greater academic lawyer than Lady Hale, has written a pamphlet saying so. 

I quote this precis of the pamphlet by Mr Moore (I hope he chooses the name of his Sussex village for his title rather than be plain Lord Moore, by the way - so much grander). I am not an academic or any sort of lawyer but the idea that prorogation is not a proceeding in Parliament is nonsense, because the Crown in Parliament is as much part of Parliament as either of the Houses.

'In his view, the Supreme Court judgment goes against our history and our law, and produces “a constitutional unsettlement”. Ignoring the arguments which the Divisional Court had already made the other way, it tramples over a central feature of our Bill of Rights of 1689, which protects political liberty by insisting that no “proceeding of Parliament” should be “impeached’ in a court.

David Cameron was a great failure in foreign policy

I recall to my shame the night before we bombed Libya in 2011 being asked by a British Ambassador 
What would you do?
and being uncharacteristically lost for words. 

The reason was cognitive dissonance. I knew that there had been no reports of  widespread casualties in a small town that had been captured by rebels and then retaken by Gaddafi, so I guessed that a massacre was not likely, and yet I was frightened by reports in the British Press that Gaddafi would massacre the inhabitants of Benghazi. Such is the power of the media even on a contrarian like me.

What a fool I was, but not as great a one as David Cameron, guided as so often by Mrs Cameron, who like me was full of alarm. It used to be called petticoat government.

The only person who emerges well out of this story is Vladimir Putin. He unlike Messrs Cameron, Hague, Johnson and Hillary, was right to support the Syrian government too, though his forces and theirs behaved with enormous cruelty. The alternative was worse.

Tony Blair tried hard to prevent Brexit but instead prevented a soft Brexit

Here is from a report in the Daily Telegraph of 10 March 2019.

Sources in Paris confirmed to The Telegraph that Mr Blair had been speaking to the French President about Brexit.
He is reported to have told Mr Macron to “hold firm” and wait for events to play out in London that end in Britain staying in the EU.

I said I wouldn't bang on about Brexit but I cannot help it.

We shall bury you

I thought this account, in the respected American Catholic newspaper the National Catholic Reporter, of the 1999 European Catholic bishops' synod worth re-posting. It was headlined 'Europe’s Muslims worry bishops' and reported that some bishops warned of an Islamic conquest of Europe. Reasonable enough you might say, but very different from the present Pope's call for Europeans to take more refugees from the Maghreb and Middle East.

The Catholic Archbishop of Smyrna told the synod that a Muslim leader once told him:

“Thanks to your democratic laws, we will invade you. Thanks to our religious laws, we will dominate you.”  

Friday, 7 February 2020

Quotations read today

Since 2008, the Labour Party has struggled to define its purpose beyond the desire to increase public spending. Philip Collins

For many voters Jeremy Corbyn was as toxic north of the Border as in the south, so floundering Scottish Labour was denied any chance of making a comeback. The Tories, perennially unpopular in Scotland, were identified as representing Brexit in a Remainer country. So, Scottish voters lent their support to the SNP to send a message. They defiantly signalled majority opposition to Brexit and tried to dissuade Boris Johnson from pursuing a “hard” withdrawal from the EU with the implied threat to break up the Union. 

The deceptive surge in support for independence in opinion polls has the same roots. Gerald Warner

Snow

Yesterday the snow finally arrived for the first time this winter. Here is a picture I took three years ago, when there was more snow, in Piata Universitatii, close to where I live.

Image may contain: tree, sky, snow and outdoor

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Long live the Queen

King George VI died and the present Queen of England came to the throne 68 years ago today. She is the longest serving monarch in our history. She overtook Queen Victoria on 9 September 2015. On 23 May 2016 (at the age of 90 years, 32 days), her reign surpassed the supposed reign of King James III (to Jacobites, the "Old Pretender" to the vulgar).

'Seven non-Leave players who helped to make Brexit happen'

This is an interesting article about 'Seven non-Leave players who helped to make Brexit happen' by a PR man called James Frayne. First in his list of course is David Cameron and Mr Frayne says:
There was no public pressure for a referendum before it was called. Yes, UKIP won significant but small shares of the vote in many constituencies in 2010 and 2015 which cost the Conservatives seats. But anyone speaking to these UKIP voters even briefly understood they were primarily driven by concerns over immigration – not Europe. Often, immigration and EU membership weren’t even linked in their minds. By promising a referendum, Cameron launched UKIP to the masses and put Europe on to the agenda in a way it had never been. This was a terrible unforced error. Compounding it, he then messed up the “deal” with the EU at the start of the campaign – failing to sufficiently change the non-contributory aspect of the welfare state for non-British nationals. This meant that the end result was always likely to be at least tight.
I was not there, so I can not say to what degree voters were worried about European immigrants rather than the wider aspects of leaving the EU, but there is a great deal of truth in this. David Cameron was too clever by half and made a big mistake, from his point of view. He was too young to be Prime Minister but much better than the main alternative, David Davis, whose uselessness Brexit demonstrated.

I am not sure what to make of James Frayne, who makes one  or two prentice errors. He blames Jeremy Corbyn for voting for an election in November 2019, forgetting that the votes of the SNP were enough to pass the bill to hold an election. 

He thinks, had a second referendum been held, that Remain might have won. It might, but for a second referendum to have been held  Boris Johnson's Conservative government would first have had to lose office. Presumably that would have needed an election (even had a 'Government of National Unity' been formed, to avoid leaving the EU without a deal, an election would afterwards have been inevitable).


James Frayne is right that George Osborne's warning that the UK would be in recession immediately after a Leave vote destroyed the credibility of Remainers’ claims about the impact of leaving without a deal. It destroyed their credibility generally.
God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).


Somewhat oddly, Mr  Frayn thinks the Supreme Court ruling prorogation illegal made Leavers believe Boris really intended to leave the EU - and thus helped kill the Brexit Party. 

I'd like to think it is true. I loathe Lady Hale and all she embodies. That ruling was outrageously misdecided, by a court that saw itself resembling a continental supreme court, interpreting a written constitution. (Ramsay Macdonald and many other Prime Ministers prorogued Parliament for much longer without a word of protest from anyone).

The impeachment of Donald Trump was a pointless bore, but will be an interesting footnote in history

 Lord Black in today's Spectator.
'Because Trump ran against the entire political class including the national political media, and was as critical of the Bushes as of the Clintons and Obama, the Washington establishment had trouble believing that he had been elected fairly. First they devised the monstrous fraud that Trump had colluded with Russia. Hillary Clinton attributed her defeat to the animosity of FBI director James Comey (who whitewashed her), and to Trump’s ‘treason’ with Russia. It is now clear that the Justice Department and the intelligence services corruptly assisted the Democrats against Trump; it was the closest the United States has ever come to tanks on the White House lawn, and a swath of the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign will almost certainly be indicted by the special counsel, (John Durham). This frivolous, failed recourse to impeachment should deter for a long time the temptation of another abuse of this remedy by a hostile House of Representatives majority.'
In the main his lordship is right. Donald Trump did nothing wrong by asking the Ukrainian President to investigate the theory that the Ukrainian firm Crowdstrike hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails.
"I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike ... I guess you have one of your wealthy people... The server, they say Ukraine has it."
President Trump did behave badly, perhaps very badly, by asking President Zelensky to look into why Joe Biden sought and achieved the removal of the public prosecutor, but not badly enough to be removed from office, for goodness sake.
"There's a lot of talk about Biden's son, that Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that. So whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it...It sounds horrible to me."
The US establishment convinced itself, on no evidence, that Russia used her occult arts to make Trump president. When that idea finally petered out they had to find something else, preferably from that part of the world, with which to impeach the president. That's all there is to the story, really.  

Nancy Pelosi was right in thinking impeachment would hurt the Democrats, but the pressure from the Democrats' 'base' - its activists, who include most of the media - made it impossible to avoid. The impeachment will be quickly forgotten and the Biden family emerged fairly unscathed, though it probably contributed to Joe Biden's terrible performance in the Iowa caucus. I imagine he is finished, but not necessarily because of his son.

I admire Mitt Romney for voting to remove the President from office. Despite being an American Mormon who made his career in asset stripping, he has the bearing and manner of an English upper class Tory MP. I understand his loathing of Donald Trump, but it would have been an abuse of the Congress's power to have removed him for this. 

The Democrats might have done better to have investigated the finances of the President's son-in-law.

But the (very) real scandal is the attempt by the FBI and CIA to get rid of Donald Trump. 

They did so partly using very unconvincing information delivered by MI6 to his opponents in the race to be Republican nominee. MI6 was trying to destroy Trump's chances of the presidency, but Donald Trump was only a candidate at that time and England has every right to further her interests by meddling in other countries' elections. MI6 is not to blame therefore. The CIA and FBI are.

Lord Black is right to speak up for Andrew Johnson, who got very unfair treatment from Republican historians who admired Lincoln, and now from Democrat historians like Eric Foner, who see the 19th century American South as the seat of the Anti-Christ. 

He is also right to praise Nixon, who looks very good these days and was no more crooked than LBJ or JFK, his Democrat immediate predecessors. None of them murdered numerous people abroad as Bush 2 and Obama did and as Trump did when he had Qasem Soleimani, the high ranking official of another country, killed.



The longest ruling German Chancellors were all disasters, even Adenauer

Wikipedia ranks German Chancellors according to the time they held the job. 

Bismarck is first with 22 years, 262 days, Helmut Kohl comes second with 16 years, 26 days, Angela Merkel with 14 years, 72 days recently overtook Konrad Adenauer with 14 years, 31 days. Fifth is Adolf Hitler, who lasted 12 years, 90 days. 

Last comes Dr Goebbels, with one day. He succeeded Hitler in accordance with the latter's will, before he and his wife killed themselves.

Hitler was the most disastrous German leader since the barbarian invasions and he continues to be disastrous, via the West's obsession with the Holocaust, which is leading to the sort of immigration policies that make another Holocaust all too likely.

Had it not been for Bismarck (or indeed Lenin) there would have been no Hitler. Bismarck united Germany, which was  an unmitigated disaster for Germany and for the rest of the world. 

Kohl, who created the euro, has very much to answer for, though at least he did not want Greece to be in it. Mitterand told him 

'You can't exclude the country of Plato and Aristotle.'

Brandt decided that Turkish guest-workers should be allowed to settle, thus changing Germany fundamentally and forever. 

Adenauer's most important legacy was a divided Germany with a third of Germany under Communist tyranny, because he turned down the offer from Khrushchev to unite with East Germany under a democratic system.  

Really, none of the people I have mentioned left a good legacy, though some were great men, except for Adenauer. He and his successor Ludwig Erhard were perhaps the best. 

They did least harm, at any rate.

EU overthrowing democratically elected governments

Lord (Nigel) Lawson in a letter to the Times last year said:
The principal author of Article 50 was John Kerr, aka Lord Kerr of Kinlochard. I have known John for quite a long time, and enjoyed his company: when I became chancellor in 1983 he was my principal private secretary. He explained to me some time ago, before the referendum, that the purpose of Article 50 was to make it as difficult as possible for a country to leave the European Union. A clever man, he did a good job.

I did not know, until I read it in the Spectator this week, that Lord Kerr doesn’t believe any other country will be so ‘stupid’ in the future as to use Article 50, which was only drawn up to allow the EU to get rid of a country which had become a dictatorship – as many feared Austria would do thanks to Jorg Haider.

I had forgotten that story, 
the most shamefully antidemocratic moment in the EU's history.

Jorg Haider's Freedom Party stands in the long national-liberal tradition in Hapsburg politics and is the descendant of the men of 1848, not of the interwar dictators Schuschnigg or Dollfuss, who were the forefathers of today's Christian Democrats, and 
not of that famous Austrian Hitler. As members of the Slovak version of the Freedom Party told me in Bratislava in 1990, the Freedom Party were Thatcherites, though now they would better be described as Thatcherite populists. 

In 2000, after the Freedom Party unexpectedly came second in the Austrian 1999 parliamentary elections, it entered government, as the larger of the two parties, in a conservative coalition with 
the People's Party (ÖVP). Normally, Haider should have become chancellor but he did not take office at all, because of fear of strong EU disapproval and the ÖVP leader Wolfgang Schüssel did instead.

The other EU governments refused to meet officials of the Austrian government in protest.

This was, I am pleased to say, completely counterproductive and in September 2000 the EU dropped its embargo. Since then the EU has got rid of governments it didn't approve of in Greece and Italy but has failed to get rid of the governments of Poland and Hungary. Boris Johnson has also withstood the EU, so far.

I read recently that the EU cannot throw its weight around in international affairs, like Erdogan, Putin and Trump do, because the EU is a 'peace project'. In fact it is because it has no real foreign policy because its members do not have common interests except of a vapid, deracinated type. Being a peace project sounds attractive but it is not as attractive as it sounds. It is part of being an intolerant, anti-democratic, anti-nationalist, liberal project with little or no room for genuine conservatives or real socialists. 

I quote the distinguished historian (and in his retirement a first-rate journalist) Professor Robert Tombs of Cambridge University.


'If Europe needs a security guarantee for some of its borders, it comes from NATO, of which Britain remains the leading European member. But the real guarantee of European peace is that its states are democracies. Democracies do not go to war with each other. The only threat to European peace is whatever threatens its democratic stability, which I fear today includes the EU itself.'

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Nationalism

I should also note that neither white nationalists nor Marxists represent any kind of political danger to our post-bourgeois society. Far more powerful forces are now at work battering what remains of our Anglo-American traditions of ordered liberty. [Paul Gottfried, The Limits of Race, Unz, June 30, 2008.]
Somewhere the Jewish-American palaeo-conservative political writer Paul Gottfried, with whom I usually agree, said that while nationalists in the 1930s had represented a threat to peace in Europe they no longer do so, but want to defend Europe. Clearly this is true and

What they said

Everyone on this earth should believe, amid whatever madness or moral failure, that your life and temperament have some object on earth. Believe that you have something to give the world which cannot otherwise be given. G.K. Chesterton

Monday, 3 February 2020

The decline of the West

"Many of us occasionally deceive ourselves that the course of history can be reversed. Christendom is quite gone, and the Christian culture of the West seems irrevocably destined for slow dissolution. The arts it inspired, the moral grammar it shaped, the shared stories and convictions by which it bound peoples together seem surely to belong to a constantly receding past" David Bentley Hart

Trump is Great Britain's good fortune, not her most pressing challenge

From the Observer editorial yesterday:
Britain’s most pressing diplomatic challenge will be how to deal with the US at a time when there has never been a more hostile president.
This is not true. Obama meddled in the Brexit referendum campaign, albeit at David Cameron's request and counter-productively, to say that the UK would be at the back of the queue for a free trade agreement. He encouraged the UK and France to overthrow Gaddafi, which was disastrous for Libya but also for Europe and the UK. He encouraged and supported Angela Merkel to take a million refugees without papers from the Middle East. The UK only agreed to take 20,000, but Obama is partly responsible for this. George W Bush persuaded the UK to join in invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and stay there for nation building, though admittedly Tony Blair required no persuading. Both presidents were the best of friends with Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron but their friendship did the UK (and Europe) more harm than the enmity of Russia or espionage by China.

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Two more Brexit quotes

'We tried to prevent the EU from rushing into the single currency, its most disastrous adventure. We tried to limit its political ambitions, dangerously undemocratic in a continent in which democracy is a new and fragile plant. We aided its rather ineffective diplomatic efforts. We spent a vast amount of money on helping to defend it, largely unacknowledged. We obeyed its tide of decrees rather more quickly than other member states. We paid up year after year, relatively uncomplainingly. We even tried – admittedly feebly under David Cameron – to negotiate a new accommodation to stay in. So we have no moral obligation, it seems to me, to “tie our trim frigate to that worm-eaten old battleship”, as Bismarck once put it.'

Thank God the Tories did not win the 2017 election

“Democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world.” Tony Benn

Nothing is inevitable till it happens but once it happens it often seems inevitable. So it already is with Brexit, but not in the eyes of hardcore Remainers, the irreconcilable ultras like Lord Adonis and A.C. Grayling. 

They want Brexit to be a disaster and for Britain to do very badly in the years to come, until the sin of Brexit is undone.  Until then, they will refuse to accept Brexit 50p pieces in their change.



Whacko, whacko, whacko. And they think Leave voters are fantasists.

But there was nothing inevitable about Brexit. It happened because of Eurosceptic Tory MPs called headbangers banging on for decades. It happened because of that amateur Ealing Comedy party, UKIP. It happened because the EU did not make some real concessions to David Cameron when he tried to negotiate some. 

Brexit will transform British politics

Boris Johnson held a dinner at No 10 to celebrate Brexit and told his guests,

“This is not the end, as some people would say, this is not even the beginning of the end or even the second half of the middle, this is the beginning of the beginning.”

According to the Sunday Times, Dominic Cummings stood up to speak and was unable to do so, reduced to tears. 

Eventually, he managed to say:

“Lots of people in this room know what happened. Thank you.”

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Boris proves Evelyn Waugh wrong

Last thoughts on Brexit Day. Evelyn Waugh complained that the Tories never turned the clock back, even by a minute. It took two and a half years of terrible pain and the threat of extinction for the party to make it happen, but they proved him wrong at last.

For Remainers, David Cameron made a great mistake in promising the referendum. Gisela Stuart, the Labour MP who was the chairwoman of Vote Leave, also thought he shouldn't have done so. Most Brexiteers disagree, I imagine, but it made most of us ask ourselves whether we wanted to remain in the EU and that question, once answered, cannot be unasked. 

But certainly 'Dave''s great unforgivable mistake was to forbid civil servants to make a contingency plan for Leave winning. 

Mistake is too kind a word - unpardonable negligence that should have had him drummed out of office had he not resigned, breaking his promise to take the country out of the EU if the people so decided.

He could have had plans made for adopting the Norway model (staying in the Single Market and keeping free movement of EU citizens), which would have satisfied most people, been a middle option between leaving the EU and staying and would not have had any real economic consequences. Norway without the free movement provision would have been much better but might not have been possible. 

Instead, Theresa May crawled across broken glass to get a terrible deal. Now, instead, it looks like we are going to get a harder Brexit and one which David Cameron and the erstwhile Remainers will like much less.

Tony Blair on Channel 4 News on October 29 was right to say Boris Johnson was locked in a box and Labour had the key, and he had been allowed out of the box. 

The problem was the SNP had a key too and wanted to win Tory seats before Alex Salmond went on trial. They did so but they will regret letting Boris hold and win the election. Brexit will ensure independence never happens.

Tony Blair argued that 
Leave would have lost a second referendum, but this is very unlikely, judging by the election result. Leave would have used the perfect slogan: 'Tell them again'. The People's Vote movement, organised by Alistair Campbell and probably Tony Blair, was profoundly undemocratic and an insult to Leave voters. Tony Blair and his allies too should have backed the Norway model.

I am pleased they did not and think we should get a better deal - but we shall see.

Last word to Marina Hyde:

But here we all are. That was the Brexit that was. And what was it? It had the mad energy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but went on for three and a half years. The sheer litany of WTF-ery that occurred would take precisely three and a half years to recount. At one point Michael Howard threatened war with Spain. It was the golden age of television drama, but people instead found themselves watching BBC Parliament in the evenings, initially capable of making wan comparisons with Game of Thrones but eventually lacking the energy to do anything but wish a dragonfire apocalypse on everyone involved.