Sunday 30 April 2023

Regime change

"I think the departure of President Biden is far more likely than the departure of President Putin." Colonel Douglas Macgregor said that and it's obviously true.

I suppose Tucker Carlson won't be American President or Trump's Vice-President. He might be very good. Is Ron Paul too old? Can anyone be too old anymore?

Saturday 29 April 2023

Seymour Hersh: Rampant corruption in Kyiv. ‘Lots of Americans’ are involved?

Jack Matlock  penultimate US Ambassador to the Soviet Union posted on Facebook this story,  which was entirely hidden by Facebook because fact checkers deemed it false,  even though Mr Matlock said it was plausible. 

I could just make out 4 words and traced it. 

Facebook is a disgrace. So,  despite Elon Musk, is Twitter which recently cancelled lots of people.


Friday 28 April 2023

The insurgency failed


Boris, thanks for Brexit, now leave the stage

Jaw-dropping account of time in No 10 underlines Johnson’s unfitness for office and why he should stand down as an MP


From Ian Martin's review in the Times of Johnson at 10: The Inside Story by Anthony Seldon and Raymond Newell.

"What has happened since the departure of Johnson shows the resilience and flexibility of the British system. During the chaotic, disturbing incursions of Johnson, Corbyn and Truss the parliamentary system and our institutions bent but did not break. Now there has been a course correction with Sunak and Starmer, back to order and a more stately idea of public service."

In other words, the establishment (call it the deep state if you are so inclined) defeated the maverick insurgents.

The same thing happened in the USA. The Washington Post published a story when Joe Biden won with this headline: ‘Washington’s aristocracy hopes a Biden presidency will make schmoozing great again.’

The rag took the headline down later. They have some shame. 

The Ukrainian war is a great victory for the Anglo-American and Western European deep states, whether Russia or Ukraine does well in it.

I don't disagree, by the way, with Mr Martin's view that after Brexit Boris was incapable of being Prime Minister. I do think Dominic Cummings who was really running the country was a useful change agent, though like the rest of the people in charge he thought Covid far more dangerous than it was. 

I suspect the best thing about Donald Trump's administration was Steve Bannon. 

The worst thing about both Boris and the Donald was that they allowed their close family to run things. Neither Mrs Johnson nor Javanka were remotely conservatives.

Thursday 27 April 2023

People per square mile

England 1,124
Germany 601
Italy 521
France 313
Spain 244
Romania 214

Wednesday 26 April 2023

The British Daily Telegraph has war fever


Schopenhauer as a student threw his landlady down the stairs, broke her back and had to pay her an annuity. She lived to a great age. When she died he wrote on the lawyer's letter that informed him, 'Anus obit. Onus abit.' He had had 40 years to reflect on that pun.

"There is only one mountain peak, no matter which slope you climb..." Dr. Dumitru Constantin Dulcan

"The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind." Nietzsche

"The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently." Nietzsche

"Very well. So the universe is not quite as you thought it was. You'd better rearrange your beliefs, then. Because you certainly can't rearrange the universe.” Isaac Asimov in The Gods Themselves.

"There was an old Russian called Lenin
Who did 1 or 2 million men in.
That's a lot to have done in
But, where he did one in,
That old Russian Stalin did ten in."

A very funny discussion about free speech between Elon Musk and an unimpressive BBC man, who reminds me of undergraduates I was surrounded by at the university. (By the way, Czechia does not have free speech, despite bring in Eastern Europe.)

Andrei Caramitru
Western Europe is dying economically: - the value of ALL banks in the EU is lower than just the cash Apple has - the 3rd telecom operator in the US is worth more than ALL the telcos in Europe - Tesla is worth more than all car manufacturers in Europe. It’s crazy bad.

The constitution of the Republic of Užupis, an outcrop of Bohemia in Vilnius.

'The post-Western world order is reality'

"De-dollarisation was not something that would happen overnight, that much was clear. But the wheels of history were set in motion. It is no coincidence that most of the world’s nations didn’t join the West in slapping sanctions on Russia, but quietly started strengthening their ties with Russia and China in an effort to reduce their dependence on the dollar-centric system. In just over 12 months, the world has undergone a greater tectonic shift, in geopolitical terms, than it has in decades: the long-heralded post-Western international order — comprising the BRICS and dozens of other countries making up most of the world’s population — has finally become a reality. The US, as former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers recently said, is lonelier than it has ever been." Thomas Fazi, Unherd, April 24

Tuesday 25 April 2023

The New Cold War: Lucas versus Hitchens

From an article by Edward Lucas. 

"My old friend Peter Hitchens and I covered the collapse of Communism together. We agree on our love of cycling, railways and the ancient liturgy of our Anglican faith. Peter rightly describes Putin as a ‘sinister tyrant’.

"But on Ukraine, Peter is wrong.

"He believes we have provoked Russia. Not so. The roots of today’s conflict go back to the early 1990s. Even under the supposedly friendly Boris Yeltsin, the Kremlin declared its right to intervene abroad on behalf of ‘Russian-speakers’. This is as absurd and sinister as a British or American government threatening other countries on behalf of ‘English-speakers’."

Yet reading Edward Lucas's introduction, written in 2014, to his book The New Cold War, it is clear that the two men agree that the European Union did not understand that offering Ukraine a trade deal in exchange for achieving good governance was seen in Moscow as an attempt to encircle Russia. 

Edward Lucas points ouț that it was the USA not the EU that encouraged the 2014 revolution in Ukraine. This is exactly the point that critics of America make. Extending democracy and human rights is the obverse side of the coin. The reverse is extending American influence and hegemony.

This absolutely does not mean the 2014 revolution was a CIA operation.

It means the Americans should have kept out of it.

This absolutely does not mean we should not back Ukraine against a brutal invader, of course. 

It means Europe needs to be extremely careful before backing the policies of the USA. 

It was Dr Kissinger who said "it may be dangerous to be America's enemy, but to be America's friend is fatal." 

Edward Lucas himself makes the point that the US dragged some allies into disastrous wars and even into permitting torture of prisoners by the CIA on their soil. 

He does not mention Romania in this respect, but could have done.

Monday 24 April 2023

The Daily Telegraph obituaries are a peerless bistory of the 20th century. This is Barry Humphries RIP

"At university Humphries enrolled in the law school, a choice partly taken to please his parents. But he found the lectures tiresome, and diverted his energies to further experiments with “Dadaist” events. One elaborate scheme involved substituting the contents of a packet of Lux soap with cooking lard cut to the same shape, then returning it to the shop shelf.

"Another was the “Heinz Russian Salad routine”, as he told Gyles Brandreth: “Surreptitiously spilt and splashed in large quantities on the pavement, tinned Russian salad, consisting largely of diced potato in mayonnaise with a few peas and carrot chips thrown in, closely resembles human vomit. While disgusted pedestrians would give it a wide berth, I’d kneel down by one of the larger puddles, produce a spoon from my top pocket and enjoy several mouthfuls.’"

Saturday 22 April 2023

Nietzsche: In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.


'Bob' Seeley is one of several former soldiers turned British Conservative politicians. All are very annoying indeed. The old Goon Show phrase 'Military Idiot and Bar' comes to mind. 

This sort of nonsense reminds me of the scares about German waiters etc etc in the period before the 1914 war. 

Do people never learn? Yes, they learn from the mistakes of the past how to make more mistakes in the future.

Friday 21 April 2023

Life in Lviv is very normal

When I arrived Lviv station had many soldiers and I felt I was a character in a film.

I often do but this time an historical film.

The kind girl who worked for Unicef and who showed me where to draw out money from a machine was astonished that I was here on holiday. 'But this is no place for a holiday!' 

I felt abashed, like a child who had strayed into an adult drama that was not suitable for him. A phantom maybe. A ghoul.

But after my cab deposited me at the George Lviv seemed very normal. 

Some statues were wrapped up to protect them from bombs, some stained glass windows were occluded by protective covers, there were sandbags outside the tourist information office. 

But the city centre otherwise was different from on my visit on 2014 mainly because it had lost its tourist innocence.  Many many more bars, restaurants, shops.

A Ukrainian told me that since 2014 the people of Lviv had become much more open minded. 

I was sad to hear it. I am open minded myself, but I think it's a very overrated virtue in countries. 

Ukraine, the daughter of British Ukrainians told me, was a place she lived going to (on holiday) because people think like human beings there.  

I wonder if they still do. 

Not if the American administration gets its way.

Balzac, Casanova, the Emperor Francis Joseph, Brahms, Ravel and Yuri Gagarin stayed at the George Hotel in Lviv  I expect well known Nazis too but the hotel doesn't mention this. They do mention the Communist Sartre. 

Exactly the kind of shabby grande dame of a hotel that I  most love, like the Imperial in Jerusalem, the Baron in Aleppo or the Continental in Tangier. 

I just decided to stay a other night. My room is in the front, is huge, has three beds and two wrought iron balconies that I decided to trust overlooking the Prospect (the equivalent of the Ring in Vienna or Korut in Budapest). 

Thursday 20 April 2023

Travel diary

On the train, which is almost full - it is very luxurious - waiting to leave Przemysl for Lviv. Better than any train in England, an Englishman just said to me. He has visited Kiev throughout the war once a month 'to see friends'. All is perfectly safe. I am impatient to be in beautiful, beautiful Lviv. After Rome, Venice and Oxford (except Oxford isn't in Europe), Lviv is my favourite European city.

In Warsaw I stayed almost unintentionally in a very grand hotel in the business area and I find that sort of hotel terribly depressing. Luxury requires an aristocratic setting (Santayana). Instead it has executives. On my first visit to Warsaw in 1994 the old town seemed like toytown. On the second it seemed lively and had aged well. This time it smelt of the dead of the Second World War, followed by soulless Communism and now by soulless big business.

Przemysl is an adorable city, a poor man's Lviv, but 90 minutes is enough.

Sunday 16 April 2023

Bombing Khartoum

Fighting continues in Khartoum today. The Sudan used to be an Anglo-Egyptian condominium, of course, and Churchill was on favour of bombing it in the 1950s, as I mentioned here.  

Saturday 15 April 2023

Lithuania in April

The people of Lithuania unfortunately make more history than they can consume locally, to misquote Arlington Stringham. 

At one time Lithuania was the biggest country in Europe, but that was long ago.

Still, countries don't forget something like that.

And it makes me happy walking around former great powers. I feel these are my people. 

Since Russia swallowed Lithuania in the third Polish (more correctly Polish-Lithuanian) Partition she has been collateral damage in other peoples' wars.  She is trying to avoid that happening again.

What will the future be for Lithuania?

I am sure she won't be invaded by Russia, but then I was sure Ukraine wouldn't be.

History we see now has not ended. Will Lithuania's future still be prosperity and democracy, as was assumed by most people a year and a half ago ? 

Or a disaster like the one that befell Europe in 1914? 

I have no idea.

What I am sure of is that the population will continue to fall vertiginously.  

Does it therefore matter who will rule this empty, chilly territory? 

If I had to guess, I'd follow Neagu Djuvara and Bernard Lewis and predict Lithuania and Europe become predominantly Muslim. 

No doubt the Catholic Lithuanians will not die out completely.  Some will still attend Mass, not the mosque.

Yesterday I spent in the second city Kaunas. It was the capital between the wars while Vilnius, whose population contained large Polish and Jewish communities and not many Lithuanians, was in Poland. 

Kaunas is very beautiful, with fine churches and and a wonderful large square. Catholic baroque order imposed on the savage east.

Its castle was rebuilt by the Communists. 

But the weather was cold and the wind blew shrewdly. It was a mistake to come here in April. I regretted my overcoat left in the car.

It was my friend Kevin's idea, actually. 

When Kaunas was the capital between the wars all seemed well until Bolshevik Russia took over, then the Germans and then the Bolsheviks again. 

On the journey to Klaipeda I read this on the subject of Jewish response to the first Soviet invasion.

On the eve of the first Soviet invasion the Lithuanian Communist Party had 1,600 members mostly underground, of whom almost half were not ethnic Lithuanians but Lithuanian Jews and Russians. The Communist party in Lithuania was small and illegal. Communists were considered traitors by most people for the same reason as in Romania and Poland: the Comintern's policy was to extend Soviet rule to much of what had been Czarist Russia in 1914.

Many Lithuanian Jews became Communists for many reasons after the Soviet invasion and were ostentatious about it. This was especially the case with some young Jews. Many other Jews disliked the Bolsheviks but they necessarily kept very quiet. 

This is part of the reason for the savage violence by lo al young men towards Jews that broke out in the territories the Soviet armies left in 1941.

The history of the Communist Party in Lithuania seems to be one of struggle between ethnic Lithuanians, ethnic Russians and Jews.

Something similar happened in Communist Romania, Communist Hungary and Communist Poland. 

Marx's and Lenin’s biggest mistake of all was  to assume that economics was reality and determines culture, nations and religion, when it's the other way around. 

Thursday 13 April 2023

He proceeds from the Father and the Son

I used to think it was almost blasphemous to argue over the filioque clause and whether the Holy Ghost proceeds from God the Son, until I skimmed an article that explained the lack of the filioque clause made Orthodoxy disembodied, mystical, almost Buddhist. It's this other worldly religion and  intense mysticism that makes me love Romania, I realised.

Easter Sunday in Ukmerge

It's still winter in Lithuania now. The trees are bare. 

Ukmerge is bleak and boring, but boring is another word for peaceful.  I loved it but I only spent a couple of hours there. It might pall in time.

The church was filled to overflowing for 8 o'clock Mass on Easter Sunday and the Holy Sacrament was carried in procession into the church. But the Latin Mass that was said since the Duke of Lithuania exchanged paganism for Catholicism for reasons of national security is said no longer. Now Mass is in Lithuanian and the priest faces the people.  It's impossible to exaggerate what a change that makes to everything. Religion not economics is the basis of culture.

Lithuania was the last country in Europe to become Christian, in the 14th century, after the Pope launched a crusade against the country. They had a different sort of Pope in those days. But you still see traces of pagan influence.

Paganism with a baroque surface.  Lithuania was the very wild east. Now it seems fairly manicured thanks to Scandinavian investors and European Union money but this is the easternmost edge of Catholic Europe. Here it's easy to feel horror about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. It's reminiscent of Soviet troops killing brave protesters in Vilnius in 1991.

Good Friday in Vilnius

By accident I found myself in Vilnius for the Catholic Good Friday, trying to keep Lent in a very upmarket fish restaurant that an old friend had chosen. 

The last time I was here was for his 30th birthday. Now he is 45, married, a father and works in a hedge fund. 

He is full of hope that Ukraine can recapture Crimea and tried to explain to me using Google maps. He thought the Ukrainian army can seize the isthmus that links the peninsula to the mainland.

I'd like it to happen but I fear that the Russians will seize the whole coast. So think some anonymous British senior defence figures, according to a man called McTague in Unherd

But what a joy to be back in this city. It could be the setting for a vampire or werewolf story. The feeling of being in a fictional country in a book read in childhood. That's the pleasure that travel supplies, the sense of escaping reality. And, as you know, reality is unreal anyway, so perhaps travel helps you find reality.

Peace is four times greater than justice

A year ago Rod Dreher visited a Transylvanian monastery near Cluj named Casiel, and interviewed a priest there called Father Seraphim, who told him,
"Love has a series of steps. The first step of love is to be in peace with everybody. And in order to be at peace with everybody, we have to bear the witnesses of the others, and to give up our justice for the sake of peace. Peace is four times greater than justice."

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Seen on Facebook

'"Trust the science."

'Can't even understand basic biology.'

O tempora

The British Royal Air Force has decided to allow all cadets to wear uniforms of either sex, and those transitioning are ‘permitted to use facilities such as toilets and ablutions’ of the gender of their choosing.

Lithuanian scene (Andrew Withers took this)


Canvey Island is authentic or was in the 1970s, the last time I was there. The old town in Riga isn't, but so what?

The small German old town of Riga is plant for the tourist industry which I expect is Latvia’s most important industry. In August 2006 getting off the bus from Vilnius I expected to love Riga but instantly hated it intensely. In April it is warm enough and empty but it’s not really a real place. Where is these days, when life has retreated to the internet?  But the much bigger old town of Vilnius feels alive.

Authenticity is of course a specifically bourgeois obsession. People who are authentic don’t worry about authenticity, but who is authentic these days, when life has retreated to the internet.

Canvey Island is authentic or was in the 1970s,  the last time I was there.

This art nouveau building in Riga is topped by cats. The man who built it was Latvian and his cats are supposed to be defecating on the ethnic German burghers who ruled the city. He was taken to court and lost his case.

When I was 3 I utterly despised all fairy stories except the Four Musicians of Bremen, which I loved. The good burghers of Bremen gave Riga this statue in 1990. The Russians didn't see the sly point that the Four Musicians were heroes because they frightened away robbers.

Friday 7 April 2023

Another taxi driver does not buy the media's line on Ukraine


In the taxi to the airport I asked the same question I always ask about responsibility for the Ukrainian war.  This driver didn't want to tell me until he knew my opinion and I had assured him that I was definitely not an American. He did not know that back in England feeling is probably as bellicose as among Americans, with a lot fewer dissenters.
The truth, he said, is always in the middle and there is fault on both sides but Ukraine was Russian since the time of Peter the Great, like Belarus etc. 
The Americans have surrounded Russia with American bases and now intend to plant them in Ukraine. Ukraine's mineral resources and gas are the attraction.  In the same way America is provoking China.
Meanwhile Zelensky has treated the Romanian minority badly by forbidding the use of the language.  When he was a comedian he made jokes at the expense of Ronanians.
Then he said something about Putin opposing the New World Order,  but I was sleepy and my Romanian was not up to understanding him.
He mentioned Satan.
My driver thought the war had been predicted by Nostradamus and might prefigure the coming of the Antichrist.
Antichrist or not these times are very awry and His Satanic Majesty has been much in my mind these last ten or twenty years. I am not sure if he takes either side in the war, though, or perhaps he fights for both. 

Time's winged chariot

The actuarial tables in the USA show a man of 80, Joe Biden's age, has on average 7 years to live and a man of 76, Donald Trump's age, ten and a half years. 

Tuesday 4 April 2023

'If you want to understand politics speak to a man who reads a paper once a year. He understands what is happening.' Talking to taxi drivers about the war

I took two taxis today and asked both the taxi drivers who was to blame for the Ukrainian war, Russia or America. 

Both said both were to blame. 

All the taxi drivers I have asked starting on Christmas Eve said the same, except one who blamed Russia and two who thought America wholly to blame. 

The first driver today blamed "in the first phase America". He said it was as if one person repeatedly said 'Don't come so close' and the other (America) continued to come close. 

He said he had had a number of customers who were Ukrainian refugees who spoke Romanian. All of them, with one exception, execrated Zelensky and said he had caused the war. 

That is very interesting. 

I think the Ukrainians are largely right.

The driver talked about how Romanian language teaching in schools had been stopped, unlike Hungarian teaching in schools in Hungarian areas of Romania. 

A fair point, I thought.

The second said it was all about financial interests and Ukraine's economic assets and especially gas. He execrated Zelensky, 'who is a marionette' (of the Americans).

I said the problem with the world is that the people who know how to run it are too busy driving cabs. He enjoyed that joke. He said had Donald Trump still been president this war would not have happened. 

He said Mr Trump was an intelligent man and he praised the way he negotiated with Kim Il Sung, something no other president had done. Mr Trump is no extremist. People like Joe Biden and George W Bush were the extremists.

It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with Silviu Alexandru Alexe. I said that in the 1980s I read the papers cover to cover, read many books about Margaret Thatcher and yet feel I understood nothing. 

He said that that was because I knew far too much. 'If you want to understand politics speak to a man who reads a paper once a year. He understands what is happening.'

For readers who don't know Romania, I ought to explain that Romanians, unlike for example Bulgarians or Serbs, are rarely fond of Russia, though some unreconstructed Communists are. 

What do the ones who think well of the pre-war fascist Iron Guard think? They might be conflicted, though the only one I know backs Russia.

When I got to my lunch with a distinguished American lawyer, he was hopeful the Russians would be driven out of the Crimea.

Sunday 2 April 2023



“Mothers are all slightly insane.” J.D.Salinger

"The best, the most public-spirited, solution to the pensions crisis is clearly the one that I have adopted myself: breed lots of children, so as to maintain the balance between the young and the old; and then drink and smoke yourself into an early grave." Tom Utley, Daily Telegraph, 18 November 2005. Fortunately, Mr Utley is still with us.

"To immerse oneself in popular culture for any length of time is to wallow in an almost unbearable shallowness. Was the sum of European endeavour and achievement really meant to culminate in this?" Douglas Murray

Eastern Romania, Lithuania and Latvia had the highest homicide rates in the European Union four years ago, according to this map - I find that incredible



“Let us forget with generosity those who cannot love us.” Pablo Neruda. It especially applies to social media altercations.

“The world will ask who you are, and if you do not know, the world will tell you.”
Carl Jung

"There is a limit to the time assigned you, and if you don't use it to free yourself it will be gone and will never return.” Marcus Aurelius

"The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon."
“Sunlight on the Garden” by Louis Macneice

“I've been making a list of the things they don't teach you at school. They don't teach you how to love somebody. They don't teach you how to be famous. They don't teach you how to be rich or how to be poor. They don't teach you how to walk away from someone you don't love any longer. They don't teach you how to know what's going on in someone else's mind. They don't teach you what to say to someone who's dying. They don't teach you anything worth knowing.”
Neil Gaiman, quoted by Andrew Withers