Thursday, 28 April 2022

View from my window

 


Konstantin Kisin, the Anglo-Russian stand-up comedian, posted this on Facebook

Mindblowing conversation with an old friend in Ukraine. He was always pro-Russian to the point that when I spoke to him on the day of the invasion he said "Finally - everything is happening as it should".

His house is in an area that was close to being occupied in the early phase of the war.
Called him today for the first time since:
- "I pray every day for our brave Ukrainian warriors (воины)"
- "Everyone is united - the people believe in victory"
- "My (pro-Russian) Church is splitting off from Moscow"
- "People will not forgive the Russians for what they've done here. This wound will not heal for generations"
I was totally gobsmacked. He is the most stubborn person I've ever met (coming from me!) and he is a different man after 2 months of the war.
I've heard a lot of people in Ukraine say that Putin has done something Ukrainians have been struggling with for centuries: forged a nation.
I'm starting to think they're right.
(I saw Konstantin Kisin's one man show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2019, in the pre Covidian era. He is one of the two or three non left wing stand up comics. He is a Liberal Democrat which is left of centre but compared to most of the others he is far right.)

 

Tirade - I am very cheerful by nature but I tend to sound very grumpy

Watching the BBC is no walk through a garden or roses. It is painful every day.

Last night BBC World TV was broadcasting live Hillary Clinton's eulogy for Mrs Albright. So typical of the BBC which peppers its output with regular clips of Hillary talking about feminism. I don't want to go out of my way to speak ill of the dead unless it's necessary to do so, as with really wicked people like Edward Kennedy, but looking back now knowing about Afghanistan Iraq Libya etc., she looks an appalling warmonger, who became Secretary of State because of her sex not merit. I refer to Mrs A in case you're wondering. 

The BBC is very biased towards small l liberalism but not biassed in a partisan sense in the UK. In the US it is very biassed towards the Democrats. Every BBC programme during the 2020 election was a commercial for Biden.

This morning on BBC World I watched an interview with an actress starring in a film about abortion and 'women's sexual and reproductive rights' - she said she had grown from a young lady into a woman while making the film. The BBC man told her that anti-abortion groups would be offended by the film and the viewer understood that this was because they were bigots and small town hicks.

The BBC opposes free speech on the internet and worries about 'misinformation', while spreading a very great deal of it itself. We put up with 'misinformation' about Covid being banned on social media and hate speech of course ditto (extending to the speech by the leader of the German opposition). 

Now pro-Russian opinions are being suppressed. 

There are limits on 'climate change denial' on social media, despite President Trump being a climate change denier.

England and all the West becomes less and less free, day by day.

The Head of MI6 criticises Russia is a bad country because she does not have enough laws against discrimination. He tweeted the day after Russia invaded the Ukraine
With the tragedy and destruction unfolding so distressingly in Ukraine, we should remember the values and hard won freedoms that distinguish us from Putin, none more than LGBT+ rights. So let’s resume our series of tweets to mark #LGBTHM2022.”
Homosexual acts were legalised in Russia in 1993, so he is not talking about freedom, which is something England stood for even in the 17th century, though it wasn't extended to include homosexual acts until 1967. 

He is talking about something quite different, lack of restrictions on freedom, lack of anti-discrimination laws. If you think these and other anti-discrimination laws are a good thing that's fine, but are they really an essential value like, in the first Cold War, freedom and democracy were?

M thinks so.

Does anyone still believe in freedom in England any more?

Sir Christopher Chope, a few other elderly Tory MPs and peers and the elderly Peter Hitchens. 

In America, half the country still does, and thereby earn the contempt of the British public.

In the 1980s I thought Mrs Thatcher never did anything conservative and that libertarians were ideologues who wanted to close public libraries, but in fact I am almost a libertarian, opposed to most new laws, especially employment legislation. 

Libertarians can be social conservatives, I now see. Mrs Thatcher was neither of those two things, but she was a true Tory and true Christian, of a rather uninspiring, Methodist sort. 

Since she was forced from office the Tory left have run the show in the UK along with the Blairites and New Labour whom they came closely to resemble. That includes, of course, Boris.

If you seek their monument, gentle English reader, look around you.

Come Musk and save us from this soft tyranny!

To see this tweet I had to click on 'Show additional replies, including those that may contain offensive content'.



Tuesday, 26 April 2022

Journalists against freedom of speech

I finally started to watch television a little after almost twenty years' abstinence. This morning the BBC covered Elon Musk buying Twitter as a bad thing and interviewed some young woman who explained that extreme speech silenced marginalised minorities. No counter-view was presented. Journalists on the BBC and the left-wing press hate free speech which is perverse if you think about it.

A Facebook friend in England quoted James Clayton, BBC Tech correspondent, commenting on Elon Musk’s buy up of Twitter. TWITTER WILL BE FREE BUT UGLY AND POISONOUS, OPEN TO HATESPEECH AND DISINFORMATION TOTALLY AGAINST THE DIRECTION OF TRAVEL OF WESTERN DEMOCRACY

Edward Perez, director of product management for societal health at Twitter, tweeted thirteen hours ago:

If you're wondering what employees think, I can only speak for myself: It's a time of genuine discomfort & uncertainty. Most of us believe deeply that Twitter is much more than a tech platform; we have a deep responsibility to society. I hope our new owner gets that.

Trill it!

Sunday, 24 April 2022

Christ is risen!

Christ is risen!


I just decided I shall attend the Greek Catholic Church from now on and celebrate Easter on the same day as almost everyone here. (It accepts Rome but resembles the Orthodox Church in everything except when it comes to dogma.) 

I should have done so more than twenty years ago. How wonderful not to have the priest facing the people. Or offertory prayers, or the dreaded sign of peace or all the other neo-Protestant newfanglia.


There is now a Greek Catholic cathedral in Bucharest. Apparently it's the smallest cathedral in the world.


Is it really smaller than St Asaph's? It's 80 sq m or 262 sq ft whereas St Asaph's is 182 sq ft in length, so much smaller (and much smaller than 
the delicious old cathedral at Athens). It was taken over by the Orthodox Church in Stalin's time, like all the Greek Catholic churches, and restored to the Greek Catholics after a very long political fight. The Greek Catholic churches were suppressed by the Bolsheviks because their loyalty was to the Pope.

Friday, 22 April 2022

Poor crucified Ukraine

 


I took this picture in Cernauti (Chernivets) Ukraine on Easter Saturday eight years ago. 

Cernauti was part of Moldavia before Austria annexed the Bucovina. Moldavia was an Ottoman protectorate for 300 years and marked on the maps as in Turkey. It became the third biggest city in Austria after Vienna and Prague. A large proportion of the population was Jewish in the late 19th century and German was the lingua franca. 

It was part of Romania from 1918 until Stalin seized the Northern Bucovina, which he did between June 28 and July 3, 1940. It became Romanian again in June 1941, when Romania joined with Germany in attacking the Soviet Union. Many Jews were slaughtered there during the war by Romanian soldiers, on the pretext that the Jews had welcomed the Bolshevik invaders. 

The Jews and Germans are gone. Most people are Ukrainian now, while perhaps ten percent of the people of the city speak Romanian, a language they call Moldovan or Moldavian.

We accidentally learn the number of Russian losses

A pro-Kremlin website Readovka posted on vk.com, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, that 13,400 Russian troops had been killed during the war and a further 7,000 might be missing in action. The report, which was hastily deleted, said the casualties were announced at a briefing behind closed doors by the Russian Ministry of Defence.

This compares with 3,519 American servicemen and women who died in the second Iraq war. 179 British soldiers also died in that unprovoked, illegal and pointless invasion

Sunday, 17 April 2022

Christ is risen!

I posted this last Easter.

I wish all my Catholic and Protestant readers Happy Easter!

The Jesus Seminar, a group of liberal, publicity hungry New Testament scholars who were very fashionable in the USA around the turn of the century, disbelieved most of the Gospels, thought Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God and his corpse was probably thrown into a shallow dirt grave, where it rotted away or was eaten by wild dogs.

In fact few non-Christian historians doubt the crucifixion happened (the contemporary Jewish historian Josephus records it) and that something happened very shortly afterwards to create a movement which swept the civilised world.

The non-Christian New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann said ‘It may be taken as historically certain that Peter and the disciples had experiences after Jesus’ death in which Jesus appeared to them as the risen Christ.’

These experiences were also enough to lead Peter and Paul to suffer death rather than renounce their faith that Jesus had risen from the tomb and was the Son of God. Their martyrdom under Nero is not questioned by any historian, as far as I ever heard. Peter is said to have been crucified upside down at his request because he did not believe himself worthy of the same death as Jesus, but this seems to be a legend.

All of Western and much non-Western history begins with the resurrection, whether or not you believe it happened.

Talleyrand met a young man at a party who asked him for his advice about how to start a new religion. The renegade bishop turned pagan replied, 'First die and on the third day come again'.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Ancestral voices prophesying war

I have been reading David Goldman for maybe ten years and think him the cleverest of my 1,700 Facebook friends, quite a few of whom are academics. 

He was a (one of several) 'managing director' at Bear Stearns Investment Bank from 1993 to 2006 and writes in Asia Times under the name of Spengler.

This interview with him is exceptionally interesting. 

In it he blames Messrs Zelensky and Biden for not agreeing to Germany's suggestion, two or three days before Russia invaded, of a declaration that Ukraine wouldn't join Nato.

He thinks the people who make policy in Washington are behaving like children. 

(This reflects better on them than if they were adults, who actually wanted to lure Russia and therefore Ukraine into an endless war.)

He fears Putin intends a long war to depopulate Ukraine, as Richelieu ground down Pomerania in the Thirty Years' War. 

This is exactly what is happening - just as it happened in Syria and Chechnya. The millions fleeing Ukraine are doing Putin's work for him. 

David Goldman admires Viktor Orban, who goes along with sanctions against Russia but doesn't want to make an enemy of Putin, who will still be there after the war.  

He points out that China and India are playing very careful games. Outside the West and Japan no countries seem to be taking sides against Russia. At least not very visibly.

Calling Putin a war criminal or arguing for regime change, as Joe Biden and others are doing, makes a negotiated peace unlikely. This is very bad.

I have changed my mind. I was wrong to be happy that Sir Lawrence Freedman thinks Ukraine can win the war. That means decision makers in London think this and want a war to continue till Ukraine wins or until Ukraine is destroyed. 

I suspect the latter is more likely, but it's just a guess. 

Charles Moore says as much - he says Poland, the UK and the USA in that order want Ukraine to win this war - Germany and France want a negotiated peace. 

Lord Moore relishes a long, Manichean second cold war. He's by no means alone among English opinion formers.

Sir Lawrence Freedman is a military expert but, as we know, experts are political actors. It is probably not a coincidence that he wrote a key speech for Mr Blair in favour of wars for values, while David Goldman likes Steve Bannon. 

Freedman seems to me a liberal internationalist. They have caused an awful lot of trouble, from Woodrow Wilson to Bernard-Henri Levy. 

I much prefer Metternichians, despite Henry Kissinger.

Patrick Cockburn suspects that there is a lot of fight left in Russia (we are all guessing) and a negotiated peace is a good outcome - but unlikely to happen because of Burcha and other atrocities.

Those who like Professor John Mearsheimer, and those who do not, should listen to him speak in the first twenty minutes of this recording published about three days ago. His words always have pith.

Friday, 8 April 2022

German secret service provides evidence that Russians did commit atrocities in Bucha

Russian soldiers' conversations intercepted by the German secret service about the Bucha atrocities, and reported to the Bundestag, are certainly genuine, according to Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies at King's College, London. 

The revised version of the newspaper account of the intercepts does not tie the atrocities discussed to Bucha, but the intercepts provide evidence of war crimes. 

I therefore consider that deliberate killings of civilians by Russian troops have pretty much been proven.

If you disagree, gentle reader, please say why in a comment.

Sir Lawrence Freedman wrote the first draft of Tony Blair's Chicago speech in 1999 justifying interventions in foreign countries, and one must remember that. His son is a Blairite, but whatever the father's politics he seems an authoritative military expert. 

Certainly his analyses of the war are the most interesting I have read. 

He thinks Putin's original plan was to take Ukraine with the acquiescence of Ukrainians and was absurd, which was why he did not believe Putin would invade. (Same here, though, as you have noticed, I am certainly no expert.)

Professor Freedman seems to me to have a great gift for synthesis and writes the best stuff about this war. He thinks Russia will lose this war, which is encouraging. C (the head of MI6) reads him. 

'President Macron now also accepts that something has changed because of the ‘very clear signs of war crimes’ in Bucha, adding that ‘We can't let it slide’..... 
'Yet what precisely has changed? Indifference to human life has been a hallmark of Russian strategy throughout this war. Thousands of civilians have already died because of being struck by missiles, shells, and bombs. There has been no shortage of reports of the appalling treatment being meted out by Russian troops. The ‘Bucha effect’ may confirm the phenomenon that after a certain point the casualties of war become statistics, the numbers so large that it is impossible to comprehend their human meaning. What makes the difference are images that are visceral and intimate, so that we can imagine not only the terror of the victims but also the barbarity of the perpetrators. It is one thing to fire into residential areas from a distance and quite another to go into those areas, look helpless people in the eye, and then kill them in cold blood.'  

Agreed, but the Nato countries must at all costs not go to war with Russia, however many atrocities are committed.  Russia has the bomb, which Ukraine foolishly gave up in return for a Russian guarantee to defend her.

Lord Macaulay's words about Frederick the Great come to my mind often when I think of Putin.
In order that he might rob a neighbour whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel and red men scalped each other by the great lakes of North America.

Putin's actions are indefensible, but not inexplicable. 

Had Donald Trump won the presidency this terrible invasion would not have happened, because Mr Trump is not interested in extending democratic values (which is the same thing as extending American hegemony) and therefore Putin would not have felt threatened. 

When he spoke in Warsaw about Western civilisation beset by barbarians Donald Trump had completely different evils in mind (he was accused by Democrats of racism for his pains).

Thursday, 7 April 2022

Viktor Orban

Ursula von der Leyden, the unelected President of the European Commission, was appointed in a stitch-up by Frau Merkel, President Macron, etc. She wants to defund the government of Hungary, which was recently re-elected in a fourth landslide victory. For the European Commission electors are the threat to democracy. 

This is not a joke. The people who rule us are terrified of the people, which is why they are terrified of free speech on the internet.

I have started watching television for the first time in about twenty years and the bias in the BBC World Service predictably depresses me. The BBC man in Budapest, speaking on the morning after the election, said Viktor Orban made a victory speech in which he listed the Ukrainian President as one of his opponents.

Indeed he did, but the BBC provided no explanation. 

Inattentive viewers might have thought this showed Viktor Orban in a bad light, perhaps as siding with Putin over Ukraine. He does not.

It was in fact a little joke about Mr Zelensky's very fierce attack on Orban just before the election took place, in which the Ukrainian president suggested that Mr Orban could have lost his honesty “somewhere in his contacts with Moscow.” 

Mr Zelensky is clearly Mr Orban's opponent. The reason he intervened in the Hungarian election is because, while Mr Orban agrees with EU sanctions, he does not intend to give military help to Ukraine. 

No doubt Ursula von der Leyen and the BBC disapprove, but the majority of Hungarian electors seem not to.


Monday, 4 April 2022

Peter Dickinson, publisher of the English language magazines Business Ukraine and Lviv Today

"Russia's geopolitical positions have become weaker. Everyone is seeing. This is a great threat to Moscow, because if they do not receive anything that can be presented as Russian success in Ukraine, their positions will be much weaker, and we can see the collapse of Russia itself within the next five years. There is a chance of such a thing. The war in Ukraine may become the catalyst of collapse."


Journalist Peter Dickinson, whom I enjoyed meeting on my first visit to Kiev in February 2006, wrote this on Thursday in gazeta.uk, an online Ukrainian newspaper.

In his blog on the Atlantic Council site yesterday he calls for the West to provide Ukraine with more arms.

We are now witnessing chilling confirmation of Voltaire’s famous warning that those who can make you believe absurdities can also make you commit atrocities. Russian soldiers taught to deny Ukraine’s very existence and encouraged to regard all Ukrainians as Nazis are engaging in a campaign of coordinated war crimes that threatens to cross the threshold into genocide. Their twisted definition of a “Nazi” has come to include any Ukrainian who does not agree with them and has turned more than 40 million Ukrainians into legitimate targets.

....If Ukraine is provided with the necessary weapons without delay, the chances of a positive outcome are strong. Ukrainian troops have already demonstrated their ability to beat Russia on the battlefield and are highly motivated to defend their homes. They recognize that their country’s very existence depends on their ability to defeat Putin and are acutely aware of the fate that will await them and their loved ones if they should fail. Western leaders must now give them the tools to finish the job.
When the invasion began some people (not I) said that encouraging Ukraine to resist would lead to greater suffering. By now it is clear that Ukraine is resisting with some success.

I thought Russian victory inevitable at the start and still think it very possible. I therefore hoped at the beginning for a negotiated peace, and still do, but a peace now would give the Russians time to strengthen and to attack in renewed force. 

So for the time being the fighting will continue, unless Putin decides to stop it.

Russians rally round the flag

This article, by a Russian journalist who used to work for the BBC, is exceptionally interesting. It is the result of her talking to Russians at the top of what is called in Romania the 'structure of power', some of them powerful enough to get one to one meetings with Vladimir Putin.

At first, they were bewildered by or opposed to the war, but sanctions have made them rally to the flag. 

In short, it can be said that, over the past month, Putin’s dream of a consolidation among the Russian elite has come true. These people understand that their lives are now tied only to Russia, and that that’s where they’ll need to build them. ..The possible conclusion of a peace treaty is unlikely to change the mood of the Russian elites. "We’ve passed the point of no return,” says a source close to the Kremlin. “Everyone understands that there will be peace, but that this peace won't return the life we had before.”

...“All these personal sanctions cement the elites. Everyone who was thinking about a new life understands that, for the next 10-15 years at least, their lives are concentrated in Russia, their children will study in Russia, their families will live in Russia. These people feel offended. They will not overthrow anyone, but will build their lives here," says a high-ranking source in one of the sanctioned state companies.

Sunday, 3 April 2022

Ukrainian thoughts

Professor Peter Eltsov, a Russian-American who grew up in Leningrad, apparently argues in his 2019 book, The Long Telegram 2.0, that sooner or later Russia is likely to break up. 

I'd be delighted and wish Stalin in the Soviet constitution of 1936 had given all the republics in the Russian Federation the right to secede from Russia, as he gave the Union Republics the right to secede from the USSR.

This BBC report finds 39 named members of the 331st Parachute Regiment were killed in Ukraine. "But since none of those fatalities is more recent than the 13 March, it can be supposed that dozens more will emerge in the coming weeks." It is based on research on VK.com. 

I saw on VK.com a 27 year-old Russian woman saying in English that she and her girlfriends in Tallinn celebrated with champagne "our Russian soldiers" raping and killing Ukrainian women and children. 

On Twitter I saw a Ukrainian woman quoting a doctor friend of her husband's who treated girls with anal and vaginal injuries who were ten or younger. 

The Ukrainian woman asks why Western feminists are not protesting.

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Digital trading platforms mean the age of dollar hegemony is coming to an end

Since 1971 the US dollar has not been linked to gold and yet remains what is has been since 1944, the world's reserve currency. 

This means the USA can print money and doesn't need to borrow it. 

Confiscating the Russian and Afghan foreign reserves and other measures taken against Russia suggest 'de-dollarisation' is likely but, interestingly, the era of dollar hegemony was anyway moving peacefully to its close, not because of China but because in the digital era it is much easier and much cheaper to trade less well-known currencies, such as those of Canada, Australia, Norway, Sweden, South Korea and Singapore than it was. This FT article explains.

Ukraine and Yemen: comparisons are odious

Vladimir Putin was (to some extent anyway) a pariah in British and Western eyes after MI6 certified that he arranged to have Sergei and Yulia Skripal poisoned in Salisbury with Novichok. 

Similarly, MBS of Saudi Arabia fell from grace in the Western media's eyes when, according to the CIA, he had Jamal Khashoggi tortured and murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

But that was then. MBS is now fawned on by Boris Johnson because we want him to cheapen the price of petrol. 

Patrick Cockburn, one of the Middle Eastern experts who sees beyond the the CIA-MI6 line, said this on 19 March.

In reality, MBS deserved to be shunned from the moment three years earlier in March 2015 when, as Saudi defence minister, he led Saudi Arabia into a war in Yemen which has similarities with Putin’s attack on Ukraine on 24 February.

As with the Russian invasion, the Saudi action was supposed to be brief and triumphant, but seven years later it is still going on with 377,000 Yemenis killed directly and indirectly in the conflict according to the UN.

Friday, 1 April 2022

John R. Bradley: Sanctions only hurt ordinary people

'I have spoken out against sanctions on Iran and the BDS campaign against Israel, and for the same reason add Saudi Arabia to the list: sanctions only hurt ordinary people.' 
John R. Bradley wrote this in January 2020 - alas, ill health has meant he has not published anything more for a couple of years. 

When he was in better health he wrote this wonderful article in 2017 (where did the time go?) under the headline

Forget our misguided friendship with Saudi Arabia: Iran is our natural ally


which details the atrocities committed by the Saudi authorities against the Shias at home and in Yemen. 

Theresa May made Boris Johnson Foreign Secretary in order to destroy him. When the Foreign Secretary made the obviously true statement that Saudi Arabia and Iran were using religion for political advantage and orchestrating proxy wars, the Prime Minister's office humiliated him by saying he was not representing the government’s view.

Yet, while people are rightly horrified by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Saudi invasion of Yemen is ignored by us all.

Boris, who wants Saudi cooperation on oil prices, is careful now to condemn the Houthis.

Oddly, despite his fingering him for the torture and murder of Khashoggi, Mr Bradley back in 2020 thought MBS was the best source of hope for the region.

Talking about the war in Ukraine




"Quit smoking. Otherwise you die and will not witness Putin's death" - an anti-tobacco warning in Ukraine.


'U.S. ushers in 35 Russians seeking asylum at Mexico border who were opposed to Putin's war'. Daily Mail. Germany finds that a third of 'Ukrainian refugees' are not Ukrainian but have bought fake passports.



His [Joe Biden's] embarrassingly downgraded role became obvious last week when he suddenly veered off-script during his keynote address in Poland, ad-libbing of Vladimir Putin that “for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power”. It was a dramatic escalation, a clear and simple message that no reasonable person could possibly misinterpret, and yet the White House appeared not even to ask him for permission before “clarifying” his statement. Biden’s people – who are supposed to work for him, rather than the other way around – immediately denied that he was calling for regime change. They claimed, within seconds of his speech, that the words he uttered didn’t actually mean what he obviously intended them to signify.
Allister Heath yesterday.