Saturday 31 March 2018

I take the golden road to Samarkand

Tashkent is not dour if you lived twenty years in Bucharest but it has no heart. Though a city of four million people, once the largest in the Soviet Union after Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev, it is empty. It is very Soviet, which to me is charming, but my ignorant impression was that here was a place which had had its heart ripped out and nothing to replace it with.

The city is as old as Rome but badly damaged in an earthquake in 1966 and its ancient buildings have been rebuilt. The roads have little traffic but, as throughout the USSR, are wide enough for military planes to land on them,

I had a pleasant plov (pilaff, the national dish) at the city's best restaurant, Caravan, and a much better dinner at Florea. I attended La Traviata sung very well. The very talkative audience was almost entirely female and over fifty. This I read was the place where one came closest to the still beating heart of Tashkent. The beautiful opera house was built for the Communist administration by the architect of the last Emir of Bukhara.


I remembered Colin Thubron's 'The Lost Heart of Asia' and wanted to miss out Khiva but luckily my travel agent persuaded me not to. Colin Thubron found it a lifeless over restored museum. That was in the early 90s and I suppose it is true, but Khiva is less well cared for than when he saw it, everywhere else is now much more restored than 25 years ago and it has far fewer  tourists than most beautiful places nowadays. Every vista makes your jaw drop

Marrakesh is less lovely but still very lovely. But Marrakesh is touristland. Khiva has what Marrakesh has lost, that wonderful feeling of being remote. Every scene looks like it's from the Sunday Times colour supplement but there seem to be no Sunday Times readers. An Englishman does not go abroad to meet Englishmen.

Yesterday was very hot. Today was supposed to be 31° Celsius but instead it is 3° which is a surprise. It's also raining, which one doesn't expect in a desert.

I have read about twentieth century Englishman in Uzbekistan like the heroic Colonel Bailey and that great writer Sir Fitzroy Maclean but the astonishing Captain Burnaby, who defied the Tsar by entering Khiva, was only a name to me until today. Here is an excerpt from the conversation he had with a worthy citizen who put him up in a large house in a village through which he passed.

' Which do you like best, your horse or your wife ?' inquired the man.—' That depends upon the woman,' I replied ; and the guide, here joining in the conversation, said in England they do not buy or sell their wives, and that I was not a married man. 'What! you have not got a wife?'—' No; how could I travel if I had one ?'—' Why, you might leave her behind, and lock her up, as our merchants do with their wives when they go on a journey.' In my country the women are never locked up.'—' What a marvel l' said the man ; 'and how can you trust them ? Is it not dangerous to expose them to so much temptation ? They are poor, weak creatures, and easily led. But if one of them is unfaithful to her husband, what does he do ?'—' He goes to our moullab, whom we call a judge, and obtains a divorce, and marries some one else.'—' What! you mean to say he does not cut the woman's throat?'—' No he would very likely be hanged himself if he did.'—' What a country!' said the host ; we manage things better in Khiva.'

From what I gather from my reading even seventy years of Marxism did not lift the condition of women very much higher.

Saturday 24 March 2018

This morning I went back to the Village Museum

Image may contain: sky, tree, snow, outdoor and nature

Image may contain: outdoor

How to fix the Irish border problem

The border between Northern and Southern Ireland and whether it will have to become hard again if the UK leaves the European Economic Area is much in news (the news that people interested in Brexit read). This article by Shanker Singham reveals the interesting information that 87% of Northern Ireland’s turnover represents sales within UK. Just 5% is sales to Eire, 3% to the rest of the EU and 6 % to the rest of the world. So Northern Ireland's primary economic interest is in maintaining the UK single market.

Shanker Singham argues that a customs border would give rise to few problems with

Europe is rapidly ceasing to be Christian - Romania, Poland and Malta are the exceptions

Image result for

Thursday 22 March 2018

Cambridge Analytica and the Romanian election

My friend Rupert Wolf-Murray has made the headlines in Romania by telling Associated Press that Cambridge Analytica approached him before Romania’s 2016 parliamentary elections to work for the Social Democratic Party (PSD). 

He would have worked with another person and given strategic advice and assistance to the PSD campaign team for two or three months. Here Rupert is talking about it on television.

He declined the offer so does not know whether Cambridge Analytica did play any role in the election, which the PSD won by a wide margin.

Playing truant this morning in the Village Museum after a meeting

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Evil and historical judgments: more reflections on R.H.S. Stolfi's "Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny"

Historians used to have heroes and villains. Livy's hero was Scipio Africanus for good reasons, though Hannibal was too great to be a villain. Macaulay's wooden hero was the usurper William III. Leopold von Ranke's hero was Napoleon. 

American historians admired another high minded warmonger, Lincoln.

But no man is a hero to his valet and historians these days think like valets. 

Almost everyone has been debunked. They don't usually spend much time painting historical figures as heroic except when race comes into it, as it does with Martin Luther King, Rosa Parkes, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. With them old fashioned history, of the type taught around 1900 and parodied by Sellars and Yeatman, still obtains. 

Because of race,  Lincoln is still a great American hero, even though he wanted to deport the freed slaves to Central America because, as he told the first ever meeting of blacks in the White House, 
"not a single man of your race is made the equal of a single man of ours".
Mandela and Gandhi, you note, are the Americans' foreign heroes now. They have replaced the racist and imperialist Churchill.

Historians do not much use the word evil, except about Hitler and the Nazis.

As Lord Bullock said

"If he is not evil, who is?"

Lord Peter Hennessy

I find this absolutely incredible. I knew standards at my middle class university had fallen (and the politics faculty was always made up of Calibans) but for a university website to describe Peter, Lord Hennessy (an annoyingly P.C. life peer) as 'Lord Peter Hennessy' as if he were the son of a duke, marquess or earl....

Sunday 18 March 2018

Pope Francis is a populist

The other  day I agreed with Daniel Hannan that President Macron is the ultimate populist. I also said his far left opponent, Jean-Luc Melenchon, was one. 

It seems to me that another populist is Pope Francis.

Saturday 17 March 2018

Women down under

The old cohesive, blokish, laid back Australia has changed in many ways. The 1960s social revolution is working itself out there as much as anywhere.

An Australian feminist last year was advising women who want to have careers not to have children. I can't find the link. 

Australian feminists have marched against Donald Trump but never against female genital mutilation, an increasingly common thing in Australia.

Feminism has always been a top down movement, in which a small group impose their views on the mass of people who couldn't care less. But that small group is not just a few activists and left-wingers but also academia and the global bureaucracy.

International organisations are just as feminist as anyone these days.
Australia's solid labour market performance is sullied by its failure to fully tap the potential of women: those with young children, single mothers and females in their late 50s. Women with children under five and sole parents with a child under 15 in Australia face an employment gap of about 25 percentage points to those without kids, the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development said in a report on Friday. (The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March 2017)

Islamism is a post-colonial movement

'Free market capitalism cannot provide for everyone or sustain the natural world. Its very imperative is of ever hastening exploitation of all resources including people, and it needs armies and weapons to secure those supplies. The political appeal, unchallenged in the 1990s, of this concept is fast fading by a combination of Islamic opposition and the radical popular movements of landless and poor peoples in many poor countries.' 
Jeremy Corbyn in the foreword to Imperialism: A Study, 2006.

“[T]his is an enemy for life, as well as an enemy of life.”
Christopher Hitchens
"We do not have a plan. They do. History shows that those that plan, anticipate and have a coherent strategy usually win. We are not winning."

Friday 16 March 2018


"Whereas people of faith tend to accept the natural world, those who profess a material view often go to war with it. Such discontent has proved of great value to successive political movements that have promised to transform everything, from society to gender."
Toby Guise

"The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner."
Albert Jay Nock

Wednesday 14 March 2018

Macron is the ultimate populist

Macron is the ultimate populist. So said Daniel Hannan the other day.

In many ways this is true.  He is up there with Napoleon III. But no-one calls him one. 

His left-wing opponent, Jean-Luc Melenchon, was also a populist and his right-wing opponent, Marine Le Pen. 

And Charles de Gaulle?

Monday 12 March 2018

Immigration and robots

Professor James Newell of Salford University, in his latest posting in LSE blogs about the Italian election result, thinks that in Italy

immigration is essential to helping Italy overcome its economic problems, especially to ensure the sustainability of the pensions system, since immigrants are on average younger than Italians and have a higher fertility rate.
The same arguments apply to other Western and Eastern European countries. 

But why not use robots instead?

Sunday 11 March 2018

Donald Trump is being clever with tariffs, Korea and China

The global economic system, like NATO, was set up after the war by the U.S.A., with British help, to contain Soviet expansion. 

Like spending on Nato, which Donald Trump in his election campaign called 'obsolete', U.S. tariffs unfairly disadvantage the U.S. for reasons that ceased to exist in 1991.

The U.S., which is less dependent on trade than the other G-7 economies, could easily win a trade war if it conducts one cleverly. 

Saturday 10 March 2018

A new era dawns in Italy

I take back what I said about the LSE's blogs reflecting the sad lack of diversity of thought among academics, who are almost always left-wing or at least liberal. Roberto Orsi's blog post on the Italian election has proven me wrong and makes up for wading through the muddy waters of Conor Gaerty's writing.

Dr. Orsi comes straight to the point.

The outcome of the election was determined primarily by the policies of uncontrolled mass immigration which started in 2014 under Enrico Letta and continued under Renzi and Paolo Gentiloni. These have de facto turned Italy into a giant camp for asylum seekers, generating a sense of societal breakdown and acute political conflict.
I want to know the reasons why European leaders have failed to defend their countries

Friday 9 March 2018

Books are becoming everything to me

Books are becoming everything to me. If I had at this moment my choice of life, I would bury myself in one of those immense libraries that we saw together at the universities, and never pass a waking hour without a book before me.
Lord Macaulay, in a letter to his sister Margaret.
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” 

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Rereading Peacock forty years after

I picked up a second hand Penguin edition of Gryll Grange, Thomas Love Peacock's last and mellowest novel from 1860, in a charity shop in the enchanting and enchanted Devon town of Totnes last summer. Thanks to giving up the net (more or less) for Lent I actually reread it. I loved him when I was 14, but one is so much more highbrow at 14 than after 40.

Peacock's are conversation novels and therein is their great charm. Aldous Huxley revived the genre with Crome Yellow.

How civilised the conversations and the characters are. 
Dr Opimian's
tastes, in fact, were four: a good library, a good dinner, a pleasant garden, and rural walks.
What good have we done for America asks Lord Curryfin and Dr Optimian answers that we gave the Americans wine and Latin and Greek literature.

Nowadays such a question between British intellectuals would get such a boring answer. From Robert Peston on the BBC for example. I shall eviscerate his new book when I have time.

Real wages of Soviet workers regained their 1913 level only in 1963

My nephew was taught at school in England that Lenin was an improvement on Tsar Nicholas II. This article on the complete failure of socialism in the Soviet Union is worth reading for people who are not clear about it. 

It tells us inter alia that
According to such scholars as Professor Sergei Propokovich, Dr Naum Jasny, and Mrs Janet Chapman, for instance, the real wages of Soviet industrial workers in 1970 were hardly higher than in 1913. Similarly, the Swiss economist, Jovan Pavlevski, calculated in 1969 that the real wages of Soviet industrial workers attained the level of 1913 only in 1963. Pavlevski also found that the real incomes of Soviet agricultural workers in 1969 were only 1.2 per cent higher than in 1913.

Tuesday 6 March 2018


Has it ever been really noted to what extent a genuinely religious life requires a leisure class, or half-leisure—I mean leisure with a good conscience, from way back, by blood, to which the aristocratic feeling that work disgraces is not altogether alien—the feeling that it makes soul and body common. And that consequently our modern, noisy, time-consuming industriousness, proud of itself, stupidly proud, educates and prepares people, more than anything else does, precisely for “unbelief.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, 'Beyond Good and Evil'

Sunday 4 March 2018

Henry de Montherlant

Throughout history the world has been laid waste to ensure the triumph of conceptions that are now as dead as the men that died for them.

When something is detestable, and yet inevitable, what one must do is not merely to endure it-a hard task whatever one may do-but find an excuse for loving it. Everything is a matter of points of view, and misfortune is often only the sign of a false interpretation of life.

Teffi on Lenin

'As an orator, Lenin did not carry the crowd with him; he did not set a crowd on fire, or whip it up into a frenzy. He was not like Kerensky who would make a crowd fall in love with him and shed tears of ecstasy. I myself witnessed such tears in the eyes of soldiers and workers as they showered Kerensky's car with flowers on Marinsky Square. Lenin simply battered away with a blunt instrument at the darkest corner of people's souls, where greed, spite and cruelty lay hidden. He would batter away and get the answer he wanted... 
“Yes, we'll loot and pillage—and murder too!” 

Squire Haggard has died

Alas Squire Haggard (Michael Green) has died. 

I want to reread Squire Haggard's Journal in memoriam, which I found precis-ed thus by Amazon:
'Haggard's typical entries begin with some notation of the invariably miserable weather (typically "Fog," "Sleet," or "Gales") followed by itemization of recent deaths, either by exotic disease, like "Bloating of the Bowels," or by some witless human act, such as drinking a pail of ale in one continuous swallow. Haggard then plunges into his own affairs in his inimitable style, abbreviating freely and capriciously. Sometimes the squire has his slow days: "Lay on my bed nearly all day, shootg. at tradesmen who approached the Hall with bills and succeeded in damaging a particularly obnoxious grocer."'

The real Charles Darwin was a social Darwinian

A psychopath once told me that his religion was Darwinism "because Darwinism is a religion". 

All psychopaths are at least unconsciously Darwinians, even if they believe in another religion, as Stalin, for example, believed in Marxism, which is also a religion.

Nothing makes liberals angrier than conservatives who reject the idea of evolution for religious reasons, as Vice-President Pence does. I wonder if they give Muslims a free pass to do so. 

But Darwin's ideas are only liberal and progressive in the sense of making it very hard to believe in the existence of souls and therefore of the Christian God. Darwin clearly saw, as all biologists must, that hierarchy is the law of the universe. 

In fact Darwinism, like nature itself and like pagans (real pagans, not Intersectional Pagans for Social Justice), is right-wing in tooth and claw. It is pretty obvious that the ideas of Darwin and his cousin, the now discredited Sir Francis Galton who invented eugenics, are a large part of the basis for the ideas of Hitler.

What would the great philosophers have thought of the European Union?

The question is anachronistic because they were men (the great philosophers were almost all men) of their times but it is an interesting game.

Kant wrote in favour European unity (a close federation, but not a single European state), while Nietzsche possibly, probably Heidegger and certainly De Maistre would have disliked the E.U. 

Kant and Nietzsche both saw the history of Europe as moving towards a European political union. Kant saw European countries were moving towards a federation characterised by shared universalist and cosmopolitan ideas. He was a globalist.

Unlike Kant, Nietzsche was not enthusiastic. Nietzsche thought in European rather than in German terms, but foresaw the “levelling and mediocritising” of the European peoples, making them bovine, “weak willed highly employable workers” who are “prepared for

Charles Darwin on race and sex

A psychopath once told me that his religion was Darwinism "because Darwinism is a religion". 

All psychopaths are at least unconsciously Darwinians, even if they believe in another religion, as Stalin, for example, believed in Marxism, which is also a religion.

Nothing makes liberals angrier than conservatives who reject the idea of evolution for religious reasons, as Vice-President Pence does. I wonder if they give Muslims a free pass to do so. 

But Darwin's ideas are only liberal and progressive in the sense of making it very hard to believe in the existence of souls and therefore of the Christian God. Darwin clearly saw, as all biologists must, that hierarchy is the law of the universe. 

Saturday 3 March 2018

More Thomas Love Peacock

Marriage may often be a stormy lake, but celibacy is almost always a muddy horsepond.

They have poisoned the Thames and killed the fish in the river. A little further development of the same wisdom and science will complete the poisoning of the air, and kill the dwellers on the banks. I almost think it is the destiny of science to exterminate the human race.

Lenin, who is still admired in Eastern Europe, in British universities and by Jeremy Corbyn

"If for the sake of Communism it is necessary for us to destroy nine tenths of the people, we must not hesitate." 
V.I. Lenin

Dr Opimian on America, from Thomas Love Peacock's Gryll Grange (1860)

The Rev. Dr. Opimian. Without magnetism we should never have discovered America; to which we are indebted for nothing but evil; diseases in the worst forms that can afflict humanity, and slavery in the worst form in which slavery can exist. The Old World had the sugar-cane and the cotton-plant, though it did not so misuse them. Then, what good have we got from America? What good of any kind, from the whole continent and its islands, from the Esquimaux to Patagonia?

Mr. Gryll. Newfoundland salt fish, Doctor.

Thursday 1 March 2018

There are two sides to the story of East Ghouta

Why are the Russians bombing East Ghouta (I assume they are) and killing civilians (among them children, of course) instead of starving the inhabitants into submission, which is how sieges usually work (though this is now, for some reason, considered a war crime)? 

My namesake Paul Wood writes about it here and is more even-handed than one expects from the mainstream media.

My namesake thinks Putin may have bitten off more than he wanted to chew. Journalists


Today is Mărțișor and the first day of spring in Romania. Some years it's sunny. This year we've a foot of snow and it's minus 16° Celsius = 3° Fahrenheit.
"Mărțișor is an old tradition celebrated throughout Romania every year on March 1st. The name Mărțișor is a diminutive of March (Martie in Romanian). It is believed that the person who wears the red and white string would enjoy a prosperous and healthy year." 
More on Mărțișor here.


 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 
-2 Corinthians 4:16

 Forty is the old age of youth; fifty, the youth of old age. 
-Victor Hugo.

• The only time you really live fully is from thirty to sixty. The young are slaves to dreams; the old servants of regrets. Only the middle-aged have all their five senses in the keeping of their wits.
-Hervey Allen

Youth is a blunder; Manhood a struggle, Old Age a regret.
-Benjamin Disraeli

• We are all American at puberty; we die French. 
-Evelyn Waugh 

• At 46 one must be a miser; only have time for essentials.
- Virginia Woolf

• My generation, faced as it grew with a choice between religious belief and existential despair, chose marijuana. Now we are in our Cabernet stage.
- Peggy Noonan

• Then fifty comes and goes, and fifty-one, and fifty-two. And life thickens out again. Because there is now an enormous and unsuspected presence within your being, like an undiscovered continent. This is the past.
― Martin Amis, The Pregnant Widow