Wednesday 27 October 2021

Buna dimineața, dragi tovarăși si prieteni!

What humbugs we are to say we live for beauty and never rise to see the dawn (Logan Pearsall Smith). Sir Roger Scruton, whom I almost spent some days in 1991 in Bratislava, was very saddened by the electronic adverts in Piața Unirii. I found the lack of adverts in 1990 surprisingly depressing.

Vaccinated and unvaccinated people dying from Covid

I hear about a lot of unvaccinated Romanians in their 40s and 50s dying of Covid-19. 

Many people in Romania are understandably angry with people who campaign against being vaccinated, who return the feeling.

The Romanian Covid Vaccine Committee says that vaccines reduce the risk of infection to one fifth of what the risk would be without a vaccine and the risk of dying of Covid to one twentieth.

This does not mean people who have been vaccinated do not die of Covid. Not at all. 

Monday 25 October 2021

Autumn in Cișmigiu

The end of the Cold War robbed the world of its only interesting thing. Bucharest's Cismigiu Park would have been a great place for a dead drop, before the revolution.

Saturday 16 October 2021

David's murder

   Cardinal Burke blesses David's rosary.

The murder of poor David Amess has shaken me. 

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee. And for me. His foul murder makes me realise how much time has gone past since I was his research assistant in the summer of 1983,

Back then I was in sympathy with the Harold Macmillan wing of the Tory Party and had worked for Mr Macmillan's (not yet the Earl of Stockton's) son Maurice two years earlier. 

I had spared a half day from my studies to canvass for Norman St John Stevas in Chelmsford in the election. (He was a Catholic, like me and David, but not as good a one as David. He caressed his male friend's thigh in the car taking us to the next place to canvass, something which would then have been a scandal had the public known.) 

I chose to canvass with St John Stevas because he was the reverse of a Thatcherite. 

He said to me while we were canvassing that
'We'll have to disenfranchise the unemployed. They'll be the majority next time.'

Friday 15 October 2021

My old boss Sir David Amess has been murdered

My old boss when I was an undergraduate Sir David Amess, Tory MP for my home town, has been murdered. 

In 1983 his politics and mine were different. Nowadays I intended every week to call him and see if we could do something together but years slid past. 

His views on everything then, unlike mine, were very conservative indeed, especially on immigration. He was a real working class East Ender, a devout Catholic with five children. He once said that if no-one else would be hangman he would do the job.

He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Portillo for many years. After he was knighted he had this picture taken.

A true conservative

I just came across a copy I made of this Spectator editorial, by chance, written on the death of Sir Wilfred Thesiger. 

I thought I had mentioned it before in this blog but it seems not.

I was extremely flattered indeed when a friend who reads my blog said I reminded him of Thesiger. Praise indeed. 

I am afraid I have not yet read Thesiger but I love him from this paean in the Spectator. He is my (and the Spectator's) kind of conservative. So called fiscal conservatives are not - conservatives like Theresa May and George W. Bush much less so.
What made him so interested in these people, and so capable of winning their trust, and so determined to spend his life among them?

The war by experts against the rest

The thing is that obeying experts is not following the science. The scientific method is to question received opinions and to test them repeatedly against experience.

This goes for history more than any other science, if history is one (I always found that debate completely barren, like the American one about whether the Nazis were left-wing).

This is the way people like taxi drivers and barbers work, which is why they know everything.

A war is going on in the developed world between graduates (especially ones under say 40) and the non-graduates, exemplified by the taxi driver and barber class. 

It's part of the war between big cities and small towns and is essentially a battle for control by the expert class. 

Covid is about that, obviously.

So is climate change.

Immigrants and refugees are too, because the expert class favours both. 

So was Brexit. Lord Chancellor Gove's remark is misquoted often but was very true.

“I think the people of this country have had enough of experts with organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.”

Sunday 10 October 2021

Are Scandinavians nearly perfect people?

When you try to understand Scandinavia this thought might help. The Vikings are the ones who left. The non-Vikings stayed at home.

Prime Minister of Sweden Fredrik Reinfeldt, from the centre-right Moderate Partysaid in a speech in November 2006 that “the only barbarism is domestic” and that “all advancement derives from abroad”.

I have the usual prejudices against Scandinavia (progressive, conformist, materialistic, egalitarian, post-Christian, bicycling monarchs) but they have good points. They are honest, public spirited, surprisingly conservative, socially cohesive except for newcomers. 

They are very moral in their way, which is their weak point because it is the wrong way.

Although not many people go to church, I suppose it all comes down to cultural Lutheranism. 

Fredrik Reinfeldt said that flying over Sweden, his feet far above the ground, he saw that the country had lots of room for immigrants. So it undoubtedly does.

By 2014 immigration into Sweden had reached what was then its highest ever level and he was worried, not about the numbers of young men coming from the Middle East, although he accepted that this would cost a great deal of public money and put a strain on the economy, but about losing votes to the anti-immigration party, the Sweden Democrats. 

In order to persuade the electorate of the wisdom of his immigration policy, he said in a television interview on Christmas Eve 2014 that Sweden's borders are "fictional" and the native Swedish are “uninteresting”.

He might be right in his second point. 

Saturday 9 October 2021

Is Uncle Sam committing suicide or being euthenised?

Are we witnessing what a French conservative magazine recently called The Suicide of America?

Or a sort of euthanasia. Killing Uncle Sam softly with kindness?

America is a country that has gone from barbarism to decadence without a period of civilisation in between. I thought HL Mencken said that but apparently it was Georges Clemenceau.

I agree with most of this article by Taki, including what Taki says about Mrs Thatcher, whom I disliked at the time. The Neo-con pseudo-conservatives are to blame for the state America is in as much as the left.

I think his advice to America to befriend Vladimir Putin won't work, because it was tried by Bush junior, who looked into his eyes and found him very straightforward, Hillary and the Donald. But it is important to try to divide China and Russia, if possible.

I have always had very ambiguous feelings about America. I admire Americans' religiosity, their parochialism, their unabashed patriotism, their lack of understanding of irony, their love of freedom, their manliness.

These things seem to be dying out among people under 35.

The death of the white hart

 Sky news:

White stag shot dead by police after running wild around Merseyside streets

Police said the animal could not be left to find its own way to safety because it was becoming distressed and creating danger for motorists and members of the public.

"O my white hart, me repenteth that thou art dead, for my sovereign lady gave thee to me, and evil have I kept thee, and thy death shall be dear bought an I live." ― Ablamar
The hart was given to Ablamar by his lady.

Sweden has few Covid cases despite not having had a lockdown

In Sweden which had no lockdown only 39 people out of a population of ten million are in intensive care with Covid.

Meanwhile Romania, where the lockdown ended in May 2020 after about 1,200 deaths, had more Covid cases and deaths yesterday than any other country in Europe. People here expect another lockdown or at least the closure of the restaurants and requiring masks in the street. Almost no-one has worn masks in Sweden.

Thursday 7 October 2021

Ian Duncan Smith, the forgotten father of Brexit

I am reading All In It Together, Alwyn Turner's history of Great Britain from the momentous 1997 election and Tony Blair to the momentous 2015 election, the eve of Brexit. It came out in June. 

It makes me even more grateful than ever that I came to live in Romania in 1998.

History is little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind, according to Gibbon. That was certainly a good description of the history of Great Britain under New Labour from 1997 to 2010. 

I didn't like Margaret Thatcher or Thatcherism but it was not true of the preceding years of Conservative rule from 1979.

In the end it became clear that she had restored England's self-confidence, as Ronald Reagan (someone else whose qualities I couldn't see) did America's. This was the test. 

The UK was a cohesive, unitary state. Our wars were just ones. Our borders were by 21st century standards fairly secure. The country received fifty thousand 'secondary immigrants' (spouses from the Sub-Continent) a year and numerous asylum seekers.

It was interesting to learn from All In It Together that Brexit might well not have happened had Ken Clark been elected Conservative leader in 2001, rather than the completely ineffectual Ian Duncan Smith. 

I presumably knew it at the time but had not retained it. This is the cleverness of the book. Mrs Thatcher was the first politician to propose a referendum on the euro and Tony Blair had promised he would not join the single currency without one

Labour (it was Gordon Brown's decision) might have risked holding one had the Euro-enthusiast Ken been leader of the main opposition party, because it would have split the Conservatives in two. The third party, the Liberal Democrats, were the most enthusiastic about the euro of any party. 

Instead, with Maastricht Treaty rebel IDS leading the Tories, they would have fought a referendum on the euro hard. It would have isolated the Europhiles in the Tory party and the euro referendum would probably (almost certainly) have been lost. 

But had the UK adopted the Euro as Tony Blair wanted, Brexit would have been close to impossible.

The reason why IDS won the leadership was because Tory members had been given the right to vote on the leadership in 1998, following a similar decision by Labour in 1993. 

This is also the reason why Boris Johnson became leader. Most Tory MPs did not want either man.

William Hague who changed the party rules is therefore another father of Brexit, strongly though he opposed Brexit.

David Cameron was not well known, had not been in the House long and was too inexperienced to be leader. Had only MPs voted it is unlikely that he would have won, though certain that the lazy, arrogant David Davis would have lost. MPs know one another.

Theresa May was very much worse even than Ian Duncan Smith, so the Tory electoral system has not worked well. 

The previous one, invented by Humphrey Barclay who then became Labour and by the time I met him a Social Democrat, had done better. It produced Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher, John Major and William Hague.

Michael Howard, who was the only excellent leader after William Hague, was chosen without a vote.

Perhaps best of all was the old system whereby leaders emerged and were summoned to Buckingham Palace to kiss hands.

Meanwhile, Labour's 1993 decision to give party members a vote on the leadership led to Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn being elected leader.

I was pleased to learn that one of Mr. Blair's speeches included the line 'I am proud of the British empire' and sorry that it was excised after strong protests from Robin Cook.

However, Gordon Brown did say ‘The days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over’ in a speech in Tanzania in 2005. Good for him.

In fact, the British did an immeasurable amount of good in Africa.

Africa owes much more to Europeans than vice versa. 

This is obvious, except it no longer is obvious.

Freedom and especially freedom of speech became very much more limited in the UK after 1997. 

In 2001 broadcaster Anne Robinson joked about the Welsh on BBC television, 'I've never really taken to the Welsh. What are they for?’ 

She and Greg Dyke, Director-General of the BBC, were questioned by police in connection with the incident.

I kid you not.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Tony Blair had earlier got into trouble for racism towards the Welsh. An account of the 1999 Welsh Assembly elections, serialised in The Mail on Sunday, revealed that he had railed against ‘the f***ing Welsh’. 

North Wales Police immediately launched an investigation. ‘It is not trivial,’ said the chief constable. 

Alwyn Turner disagrees. ‘It was, though. It was really very trivial indeed. It was a man shouting at the telly in the privacy of his own home.’

Repeating aloud Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Buddhist teaching on sexual morality was, and remains, borderline illegal.

"…there were still some who believed homosexual practices sinful and it was they who attracted the attention of the police. Both the Catholic writer Lynette Burrows in December 2005 and Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain the following month were investigated the following month for religiously orthodox comments made on BBC radio." 

The BBC 'hurriedly distanced itself' from the words complained of: 

"in a live radio show it sometimes happens that challenging and unpleasant opinions are expressed."

Police did not bring charges, but said they were obliged to speak to people after a homophobic incident was reported. 

“'It is all about reassuring the community,' explained a spokesperson. Not everyone was reassured by this new role of the police as guardians of public manners, however.”

Saturday 2 October 2021

Finding a refuge to, not from, reality

 I found these two gems in Spectator USA today and yesterday.

Every diner and truck stop I’ve ever come across has presented a refreshing refuge to (not from) reality, hard to find in today’s woke world of pretend problems. Impervious to the affectations of modernity, these restaurants remain bastions of the freedom and honesty America was built upon.
Teresa Mull 

She makes me realise that I sought and found a refuge to, not from, reality in Romania. It seemed much less urgently important back in the 1990s than it does now, but it was important even then. I hoped to find reality in Eastern Europe even when I was a schoolboy, before the last ice age. I remember a clever British philosophy undergraduate (undergraduette?), whose parents were Ukrainian, telling me a few years ago that she loved going to Ukraine 'because people think like human beings there'. Ukraine is not in the European Union and so people think even more like human beings there than here.