Saturday 31 July 2021

Saving Christendom from a Muslim invasion in 732

As I grow older the one thing I like talking about is history and the people to whom I most like talking are historians. 

I had lunch yesterday with an historian who writes about and lectures in ancient history and he gave me an interesting insight into the Arab invasion of Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries. 

He said that the Arabs were making a foray in 732 rather than an attempt at conquest and they occupied what is now Switzerland. 

He thinks Charles Martel was fighting not for France or Christendom but for himself.

In any case the Arabs were what we now call Islamists, as I imagine was Mahomet or Muhammed, though we know for sure nothing about his life.
Forty-six years after the flight of Mahomet from Mecca, his disciples appeared in arms under the walls of Constantinople. They were animated by a genuine or fictitious saying of the prophet, that, to the first army which besieged the city of the Caesars, their sins were forgiven: the long series of Roman triumphs would be meritoriously transferred to the conquerors of New Rome; and the wealth of nations was deposited in this well-chosen seat of royalty and commerce.

Friday 30 July 2021

Received opinion

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
Mark Twain

Healthy precautionary principle alarmism is good.
Eric Feigl-Ding
Epidemiologist & health economist. Senior Fellow, . Former 16 yrs . Environment, health & social justice. COVID updates since Jan 2020.

Wednesday 28 July 2021

China makes three quarters of the world’s solar panels, by ignoring environmentalists and keeping wages low

Chinese companies, according to an article in Bloomberg, now supply three quarters of the world’s solar panels. 

China "now makes most of the world’s polysilicon, a key material in solar panels — and ignored pleas by environmentalists to close coal plants that supply the cheap electricity needed to make solar equipment. It also kept its labor costs lower than those in most industrial countries and has been willing to prop up unprofitable operations."

It has seemed likely for a long time that while the USA and the EU spend their energies combating discrimination, inequality and pollution Communist China will ignore these issues and motor ahead. 

Will people draw the lesson that over-regulation kills not just an economy but a society? 

Better a year of Europe than a cycle of Cathay, sang Lord Tennyson, but now the boot is on the other foot.

Monday 26 July 2021

'Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.'

'The forest kept shrinking but the trees kept voting for the axe. For the axe was clever and convinced them that since his handle was wood, he was one of them.' South African fable which seems to describe the ANC.

'Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.' Joseph Conrad

The migrant/refugee flow Europe’s about to get from Afghanistan will probably complete the job of walling off the continent’s eastern border from the Baltic to the Med: the Lithuania/Belarus story was an early case of SE Euro solutions becoming the norm.

`I have enjoyed nothing in my life. I've been bored ever since I crawled out of my mother's womb and never found anything that really pleased me.' Lawrence Durrell

'In The Theory of the Leisure Classes the economist Thorsten Weblen demonstrated that, when it comes to the elite, there is a sharp distinction between the real function of social arrangements and their purported function: thus charity balls were not really ways of raising money for the poor but instead ways of both demonstrating wealth and status and of consolidating that wealth and status by making sure that the right people met and married. The same tension is at work with wokery. The overt preoccupation with the excluded is actually a way of demonstrating that you are one of the included, and the addition of WQ to IQ and effort is a way of holding onto elite status that might be threatened by the rise of new groups.' Adrian Woodbridge, who writes under the moniker Bagehot in The Economist but wrote this for the Daily Telegraph.

Saturday 24 July 2021

Churchill wanted to bomb Khartoum in the early 1950s

When the Free Officers Society in July 1952 under Colonel Nasser's leadership overthrew the monarchy and took power in Egypt, they put pressure on Britain to leave the Suez Canal. 

They did so by covert guerrilla attacks, American mediation and diplomacy. 

Anthony Eden, the British Foreign Secretary, was already convinced of the need for disengagement, but struggled to get the Conservative cabinet to agree against Churchill's opposition.

I read today that Churchill complained that 'Munich was situated on the Nile' and favoured bombing Khartoum, when anti-British riots took place in the Anglo-Egyptian condominium.

European countries are becoming immigrant societies like the USA, without any discussion

This news story is about the UK and Brexit but it's an example of how every country in Western Europe is moving from being an essentially ethnic state, which has absorbed over time large numbers of immigrants, to being an immigrant society like the USA. Belgium and Switzerland are federations of what were ethnic ministates, but are increasingly multiracial.

The same thing is starting to happen, in a small way as yet, in Eastern Europe. Birth rates fall and young people move west to fill jobs in Western Europe because birth rates are low there. The vacancies in Eastern Europe are filled by people from Asia.

5,605,800 applications to settle in UK were received by May 31. Over 2.7 million applicants were granted settled status, allowing them permanent leave to remain in the UK. 2.2 million were given pre-settled status and need to reapply after living for 5 years in the UK to gain the right to permanent residence.

The Economist: In the past 15 years, Sweden has had Europe’s highest rate of death by shooting

Forty years ago mono-ethnic, Lutheran Sweden had very few murders but this has changed, according to an article in the Economist today.
'In late may a throng of a hundred or so young men, most of them from African or Middle Eastern minorities, started fighting in a square in Hjallbo, a suburb of Gothenburg, Sweden’s second city. Members of rival gangs seem to have started the scrap over the theft of a moped. Two days later a man in a nearby grocery shop was shot in the back of the head, thought to be as an act of revenge for the gangland battle. Then a policeman in Biskopsgarden, another suburb of the city, was shot dead. A few days after that a man was murdered in a barber’s shop in Frolunda, yet another suburb. To add to this litany of recent criminal violence, two young children were lucky to survive last week after being caught in the crossfire of yet another gang shoot-out, this time in Visattra, on the edge of Stockholm, the capital...

The dictatorship of the media

Leopold Tyrmand wrote this of the USA in 1975. He was a Polish satirist who emigrated to the U.S. in 1966.
"With a power to create something out of nothing, the media began, not long ago, to forge their own image—that of a weak, harassed entity whose performance of lawful service to the public is endangered by a brutal, omnipresent government. Exactly the opposite is true."

Thursday 22 July 2021

Civilisation versus barbarism

"It may be difficult to define civilisation, but it isn’t so difficult to recognise barbarism." Sir Kenneth Clark

"Today we can see [the loss of Christian faith]…as the active negation of all that western culture has stood for. Civilisation – and by this I do not mean talking cinemas and tinned food, nor even surgery and hygienic houses, but the whole moral and artistic organization of Europe – has not in itself the power of survival. It came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance. The loss of faith in Christianity and the consequential lack of confidence in moral and social standards have become embodied in the ideal of a materialistic, mechanized state… It is no longer possible, as it was in the time of Gibbon, to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it rests."
Evelyn Waugh

Tuesday 20 July 2021

Floods in Germany probably have nothing to do with the climate but are merely bad weather

The photograph above was taken in May of this year in Bad Schandau, in the heart of the flooded region. It shows the height of various floods over years. Note that the largest happened a long time ago.

The Spectator has a useful article by Ross Clark about why there is no reason to conclude that the floods in Germany are anything to do with climate change, despite what you read in every newspaper and here on the untrustworthy BBC. 

The news media should just be concerned about finding the truth but they employ young people who think their purpose, like Lenin's, is not to study the world but to change it. 

It has come to the stage when the traditional media seem not to be impartial about almost anything. Not just politics but anything from Pope Francis to Covid and climate change and all the rest. 

Don't forget that it was the much maligned Breitbart that broke the story of sexual assaults by migrants on New Year's Eve in Cologne in 2015-16, when every paper and television station suppressed it. 

The editor of the Spectator sees the magazine as having a foot in the mainstream media and another foot outside and this means it is a good source of news. It published articles saying Iran is not a threat to the West, that lockdowns do not work, that 58,000 people died of respiratory illness three winters ago in the UK without anyone noticing, instead of the usual 18,000, etc. 

Friday 16 July 2021

I am not cynical but

I think nothing is more dispiriting than the phrase 'inspirational quotes'. This is, I suppose, because I am English and not American.

The decline of Europe

"[Europe] came into being through Christianity, and without it has no significance or power to command allegiance." Evelyn Waugh

"The Faith is Europe. And Europe is the Faith." Hilaire Belloc

“It is in Christianity that our arts have developed; it is in Christianity that the laws of Europe--until recently--have been rooted. It is against a background of Christianity that all of our thought has significance. An individual European may not believe that the Christian faith is true, and yet what he says, and makes, and does will all spring out of his heritage of Christian culture and depend upon that culture for its meaning...I do not believe that culture of Europe could survive the complete disappearance of the Christian faith. And I am convinced of that, not merely because I am a Christian myself, but as a student of social biology. If Christianity goes, the whole culture goes.” T.S. Eliot

Wednesday 14 July 2021


Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
Søren Kierkegaard

Listen, people, Susarion has this to say,
the son of Philinus, from Tripodisce in Megara:
women are a bad thing, but nevertheless, my townsfolk, you cannot have a home without a bad thing. Both to marry and not to marry is a bad thing.
Susarion, early Greek comic poet, of whose work only this survives.

And since that which is in accordance with nature is pleasant, and things which are akin are akin in accordance with nature, all things akin and like are for the most part pleasant to each other, as man to man, horse to horse, youth to youth.

Saturday 10 July 2021

Last summer in Izmail in Ukraine, which until 1940 was in Romania

Kevin asked me if I were blogging about our trip this weekend, and so I felt I'd better.

It's very hot here, and very quiet, there are lots of flies and it feels as if Brezhnev's dead body is lying somewhere in the Kremlin.

I am thumbing this in the heat of 32 degrees Celsius. Flies crawl over my fingers. I have given up drink and have only a non-alcoholic Heineken to strengthen me.

Back in the USSR. I mean Ukraine.

Crossing on the ferry from Isaccea in Romania to Orlivka in Ukraine takes ten minutes and then you drive half an hour to the town of Izmail, which is roughly opposite Tulcea on the Romanian side of the Danube.

Isaccea is half an hour by car from Tulcea. 
A boat from Tulcea to Izmail would be a good idea as there was up to 1939, when both towns were in Romania.

Isaccea has no attractions but more history than can conveniently be consumed on the premises, which is close to a phrase of Mark Twain's, but not close enough for me to find it on Google. 

It begins with the battle between Darius the Great of Persia and the Scythians, 500 years before Christ, and the four Christians who were martyred under Diocletian. Their graves were discovered in the early 20th century.

Why did I come to Izmail? I am not sure I know.

It also has lots of history but not much to show for it.

Dr Johnson said, and I can vouch for the justice of his remark, that the Giant's Causeway is worth seeing but not worth going to see. Izmail, scene of the famous victory of the Russians led by Suvarov over the Turk, is not really worth seeing at all, unless you are very close.

It does have a sleepy Brezhnevian charm, especially on the beach on the bank of the broad, dirty river. Swimming is prohibited because of the current, but this rule is ignored. It feels like a sepia tourist brochure from 1964 aimed at friendly socialist countries.

Modernity and commerce are far away.

Saturday 3 July 2021

War in 1939 might easily have been avoided by clever diplomacy

The death of Donald Rumsfeld this week reminds us of how much irremediable harm incompetent politicians can do. The evil that men do lives on. 

Jozef Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister from 1932 to the defeat of Poland in 1939, was an even more incompetent politician and his ineptitude had much greater consequences even than Rumsfeld's and George W. Bush's. 

Most people think that after Germany marched into what is now Czechia in March 1939 it was clear that Hitler would attack more countries and a world war was inevitable. 

They did at the time. The British Foreign Secretary the Earl of Halifax did. 

But the truth is that Hitler did not follow a plan. When he was informed that the British ultimatum had expired in September 3 1939, Hitler turned to Ribbentrop and asked: “What next?”

Hitler was an Intuitive not a Thinking Type, to use Jungian terms. He improvised as he went along, as all politicians do. He was a bundle of nerves in the summer of 1939, forever changing his mind.

Chamberlain and Halifax, and who knows maybe Stalin, were also nervous and exhausted. But Beck remained imperturbable. 

Richard Overy, in his book Countdown to War about the days before war broke out, says that 

“it was Poland’s intransigent refusal to make any concessions to its powerful German neighbour that made war almost certain”.

This meant the destruction of Poland and the death of six and a half million Poles.

I hope it is not necessary for me to say that Poland is not to blame for being attacked by Germany in September 1939. Germany is entirely to blame. But clever statecraft by Beck would have prevented the attack, at least in 1939 and probably prevented it entirely. 

Beck was convinced that Poland was a great power that could stand her ground against Germany. This was, to put it mildly, a very strange mistake.

Poland had been resurrected in 1919 because the three powers that had partitioned her in the 18th century had all been defeated. She then had not only saved Europe when she defeated the Bolshevik invasion in 1919 ('the miracle on the Vistula') but captured large expanses of Ukraine and Belorussia that most Western observers thought could not be justified on ethnic grounds. In the end, Poles were only 70% of the Polish Republic's population.

Poland's continued existence needed an alliance between Russia and France to restrain Germany, as they had sought to do in 1914, but such an alliance was impossible while the Bolsheviks were in power in Russia and international outlaws. 

Impossible, that is, until attempts were made to ally in 1938 and 1939, which Beck sabotaged. 

Finally, of course, after the old Europe had come to an end forever, Stalin and De Gaulle's Free French ended up as allies. 

By then tens of millions had died and Poland was doomed to be Bolshevik for decades.

In the words of Richard Overy, "If Hitler was responsible for war in 1939, this still begs the larger question of what kind of war he wanted. Few historians now accept that Hitler had any plan or blueprint for world conquest, in which Poland was a stepping stone to some distant German world empire. Indeed recent research has suggested that there were almost no plans for what to do with a conquered Poland and that the vision of a new German empire in central and eastern Europe had to be improvised almost from scratch."

Hitler in early 1939 had no short-term or medium term plans to make further conquests, beyond the German-inhabited free cities of Memel (which Lithuania allowed him to absorb) and Danzig, where he sought Poland's agreement. 

He told Martin Bormann in the bunker in 1945 that neither he nor anyone else in Germany wanted war (he meant a general war) in 1939. 

He is not a trustworthy witness, but he was telling the truth. 

He at first wanted Poland as a friend and later, faced with Beck's refusal to compromise and assured by the former champagne salesman Ribbentrop that France and England would not fight for Poland, wanted a small, short war with Poland. 

What Hitler did not appreciate was how democracies work and that public opinion in France and England, which had wanted peace in 1938, now wanted war.

After Marshal Pilsudski's death Poland has been described as a dictatorship without a dictator, ruled by a triumvirate who quarrelled among themselves, of whom Beck was one.

Rereading AJP Taylor's brilliant, shocking and indispensable classic The Origins of the Second World War, a book that is older than I am, I see that Taylor says that Hitler was not concerned with the fate of the Germans in Poland. 

He wanted good relations with Poland. 

Poland had been useful to him during the Czechoslovak crisis. The Polish government was very different from the democratic Czechs. It was dictatorial, anti-Semitic, wanted to revise the 1919 peace settlement despite its favouring them greatly and despised the League of Nations. 

Hitler felt Beck was more helpful to him than Mussolini and he was right.

Had Beck agreed to Hitler's proposal in October 1938 for the Free City of Danzig to become German and a German extraterritorial autobahn and railway through the Polish Corridor war he would presumably have avoided a German invasion. 

A sovereign Poland could have useful to Hitler. Poles and Germans got on. Goering, for example, made innumerable hunting trips to Poland. 

Hitler liked to work through allies. He found Slovakia and Croatia willing and useful allies throughout the war. The fact that Slovaks and Croats are Slavs did not seem to matter to him.

Instead, after the Czech lands were annexed, Neville Chamberlain gave Poland, Romania and Greece guarantees and, in Poland's case, in effect a blank cheque. 

This is the first time in English history that such a guarantee had been given, at least since the Treaty of Windsor in 1386 which created an eternal alliance between Portugal and England. That treaty was forgotten until it became the reason why England went to Portugal's rescue from Napoleon.

Two days before the guarantee was given Beck, who had not replied to Hitler's proposal for five months, rejected it. He thereby signed Poland's death warrant.

I quote Taylor, whom Richard Overy once called the Macaulay of our times.

"Hitler's objective was an alliance with Poland, not her destruction. Danzig was a tiresome preliminary to got be out of the way. As before, Beck kept it in the way. So long as Danzig stood between Poland and Germany, he could evade the embarrassing offer of a German alliance, and so, as he thought to preserve Polish independence." 

"Danzig was the most justified of German grievances: a city of an exclusively German population which manifestly wished to return to the Reich and which Hitler himself restrained only with difficulty. The solution too seemed peculiarly easy. Halifax never wearied of suggesting that Danzig should return to German sovereignty, with safeguards for Polish trade.

Friday 2 July 2021

Europe is no longer Christian or democratic

"The modern EU is a free-floating self-interested structure, unmoored from any national political culture that might hold it to account. Brussels extends itself into every area of national sovereignty, extinguishing democracy as it goes. The EU is punctilious about its own rules when this extends the cause of federalism and oddly forgetful of them when they inconvenience the project."

Alan Fimister, the biographer of the Venerable Robert Schuman (the Pope gave him the title 'Venerable' this week), in Unherd today. Mr Fimister has become a "passionate" supporter of Brexit. 

Inequality is good, obviously - 'inclusion' is cant to justify left-wing social engineering

"...Our monetary authorities have in recent years sometimes seemed more concerned with climate change, apparently growing inequality, and diversity and inclusion agendas than what they are mandated to do, which is control inflation."
This is from Jeremy Warner in the Daily Telegraph today. I read that and thought: I do not think climate change or allegedly growing inequality are problems. I think inequality is a good thing, to be celebrated. Unlike poverty or, worse, destitution. That is why I am a conservative. Inequality is the corollary of freedom and another word for hierarchy. 

As Margaret Thatcher said, the only form of equality that is good is equality before the law, which is a completely different use of the word equality from the usual meaning. Equality before the law simply means free trials.