Monday, 20 February 2017

Thoughts for Monday

, in Slate
For much the same reasons that old-fashioned flip phones proved an important tool for African rebel leaders, Facebook and Twitter have given radicals in North America and Western Europe an important tool in their fight against the democratic consensus.
...The same phenomenon is in the middle of transforming the media landscape. Until a few years ago, a small elite of writers, editors, producers, and news anchors effectively decided what views were mainstream enough to be given a hearing. This may sound sinister, but it served an important purpose. It allowed the journalistic class to contain false claims and to refuse to publish racist articles. It also meant that critics who rejected polite political discourse had trouble breaking in. Building a distribution network was expensive, so they couldn’t do much beyond writing angry letters to the editor (which those newspapers could decline to print).

Brendan O'Neill
The decision to carpet bomb Cambodia was made at a breakfast meeting in the Pentagon in March 1969. So it was christened 'Operation Breakfast'. Nixon was informed of the plans when he returned from a church service and he gave the go-ahead right away. He declared himself "really excited". That night American airplanes dropped 2,400 tonnes of bombs on Cambodia. In one night. The whole thing was kept secret.
Stop calling Trump a uniquely wicked president. It's embarrassing.

Mark Steyn
It's not just that our children are ignorant of the glories of Western civilization, it's that we are actually teaching them to hate those things.

Peter Hitchens
The Labour Party no longer care about the poor and the Tory Party no longer care about the nation.

Cyril Connolly
Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. 

Donald Trump is right about Sweden, unfortunately

Former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt tweet reads:

Donald Trump has been jeered because, talking about terrorist attacks in Europe 
at his Saturday evening rally, he said, 
"Look at what's happening last night in Sweden". 
This was taken as a reference to a non-existent attack.

In fact his spokesman disclosed that he was referring to a Fox News documentary he saw the previous night about migrant violence in Sweden.

He is right about the large immigrant-linked crime wave in Sweden. Instead of jeering at him people should look at the issue. before Sweden admitted I blogged about it and its undiscussability here in 2015. (In that year Sweden was to take 
163,000 refugees.)

Sweden used to be a country with extremely low levels of violent crime and a great deal of social cohesion. Now, because of immigration, this has changed.

When crimes are reported from Sweden the link with immigration is often not mentioned. The English language press reported widespread rioting in Sweden in 2013 without for some time mentioning that the rioters were Muslim.

Now two people have been shot in Gothenburg and the Guardian hints that the 

deprived borough where Wednesday’s killings took place... has high levels of recent immigration and overcrowding.
The Guardian is able to imply that ethnic minorities are responsible for these crimes by providing what is nowadays called a narrative and the narrative is this:
Poverty, racism and segregation are driving young men from immigrant backgrounds into gangs and gun crime (continued here).

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Historians tell us surprisingly little about current day politics

Political commentary by fine historians is rarely of any value or interest - certainly not that of Eric Hobsbawm, Tony Judt, Norman Davies, Eric Foner, Niall Ferguson or Mark Marzower - nor A.J.P. Taylor. My friend Andrew Roberts did not convince me to admire George W. Bush. 

Politicians and journalists who become historians, like Alan Clarke and Andrew Marr, are the exceptions that prove the rule.

This should be born in mind when reading about the 91 presidential historians who this week rated Obama the 12th best out of the 45 or that Professor Ronald L Feinman has predicted that Donald Trump will last in office somewhere between between the 31 days of William Henry Harrison, who died of a cold he caught at his inauguration in 1841, and the 199 days of James Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881.

Historians cannot usefully predict the future any more than economists can or bookmakers. They do not have any gift of understanding what is happening now. They only know, if they are good, an approximation to how things were in the past.  This is not their fault. It is the human condition.

Once history was written by men (they were all men) who earned their money through journalism or in other ways, had a rich patron or private means. Those men wrote for the educated general reader as well as scholars which is why older history is usually better written than most things written today. It tends too to reflect the outlook of literate and intelligent, often upper and upper middle class, readers.

Nowadays their money comes from the state, which tends to make them statist, and historians write for one another and for students. 

In fact nowadays historians and academics generally live in a very small bubble. English academics tell me no-one dare admit even to liking Tony Blair much less to voting Tory. And voting for Brexit means losing ones friends. 

Add to this the fact that academics are surprisingly narrow-minded, unlike say taxi drivers. Even a regius professor I know, who has lived in many countries around the world, has lived his life among academics who hold broadly similar political and social assumptions. His life experience has actually from many points of view been surprisingly narrow and, for example, he does not know anyone (apart from me) who supports Brexit. 

If you want to understand current politics taxi drivers, in fact, are often a better bet.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

A new political geology

Around the developed world a new political geology is becoming apparent. The fissure is not between left and right, as we have used those words, but between people who like national sovereignty, on the one hand, and internationalists or globalists.

On the side of national sovereignty are the Burkean and Disraelian conservatives, people who like the distributist ideas of Belloc and Chesterton, who were liberals, socialists of the Orwell type and the old fashioned hard left (think Dennis Skinner). In the internationalist camp are Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, classical liberals and the modern Clintonian or Blairite liberals, The Financial Times and The Economist, a lot of CEOs of banks and large multinational companies and most on the left. Many of them, like the Clintons, hope one day for a borderless world.

This dichotomy is not identical with, but is connected to, the debate between the idealist and realist schools of foreign policy. It slightly echoes the debates between Disraeli and Gladstone. 

It also reminds me of something said long ago by Disraeli.
"In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines." 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Trump's foreign policy, a slow motion coup in the America and regime change in Romania

Today's Daily Telegraph has a piece by Con Coughln, a journalist who always strikes me as being close in his thinking to MI6 and the British defence establishment, expressing fears lest Donald Trump not realise the danger Iran poses for the US's allies. 

There is no doubt that Iran does, of course - the Middle East is riven by a conflict between the Sunni powers, including the Saudis who are in effect allied with Israel, and the Shias. This is what the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen are about.

And there is no sense whatever in the USA abandoning traditional allies.

But nor, as Mr. Obama realised and Hillary did not, is there any reason why the US should fight their wars for them.

There is not and never has been any 'Special Relationship' between the US and the UK. Few people in the USA even know the phrase. The only Special Relationship the USA has is with Israel. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Quotations for Sunday

"It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee-house for the voice of the kingdom." Jonathan Swift

"I wish I was as sure of anything as Tom Macaulay is of everything." Lord Melbourne

"I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies." Oscar Wilde

"Orthodoxy is my doxy and heterodoxy is another man's doxy." Bishop Warburton

“A romantic is usually afraid in case reality doesn't come up to expectations.” Graham Greene

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

"Resist" is written in the snow in Piaţa Victoriei

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Thanks to Ciprian Muntele.

How We Were Misled About Syria: Channel 4 News

Tim Hayward is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University, Director of the Just World Institute and the Ethics Forum, Convenor of the Fair Trade Academic Network, etc, etc. His titles unfurl like a left-wing  progressive version of a Habsburg emperor. In this post in his blog he blows apart the credibility of Channel Four and the rest of the media in reporting Aleppo. 

It was a disgrace and yet no one has apologised and we hear nothing about Aleppo now except to see footage of people from Eastern Aleppo happy no longer to be ruled by rebels.

The backlash against Trump will help him

Here is wise advice that is going the rounds among traumatised Democrats in the USA during this very painful time for them.
"Here are 10 steps to go through these times with dignity and gain strength.
1. Don't use his name;
2. Remember this is a regime and he's not acting alone;

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

New words

I learnt four new words today: midden, orthogonal, doxxing and dreek. 

Usually I learn that many a year. 

I am not sure the latter two are really words, but it is not allowed to call some words slang and others real words: that contradicts the entire spirit of the age.

I also came across a word I last met when as a boy I read Malory's Morte d'Arthur: leman.

Speaker Bercow insults President Trump for no reason

Speaker Bercow has made this extraordinary speech on his reasons for not letting Donald Trump address the two Houses of Parliament, something there is no reason to suppose that the British Government ever contemplated. 

The Speaker says the American suspension of visas to nationals of seven countries settled the issue, said Mr Trump was a racist and therefore not eligible to speak to Parliament.

The Speaker  would certainly have been correct had the decision been about Trump speaking in Westminster Hall, except there was no decision to make. Mr. Trump is not

Monday, 6 February 2017

Why the crowds mass in the square each night

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As night falls I hear the sound of vuvuzulas from the window of my office in Piata Victoriei.

The crowd stayed in the square for hours last night and will do so tonight too. No speeches. They simply chant and will the government  to resign.

The crowd last night was said to be 300,000. Though throughout history the size of crowds tends to be exaggerated rather than underestimated. The whole population of Bucharest is only 1,900,000 including children and oldsters and people in prison.

There are quite a lot of people in prison, of course. The prisons are very overcrowded. They include a lot of people who used to be in politics or running businesses and they are

The best and worst US presidents of all time

My article on the three worst US Presidents (George W. Bush, 
Lincoln and Wilson were my choices) seems rather topical now that Donald Trump is president.

It is of course far too early to form a tentative judgment on President Trump after four weeks. He is promising in some ways, though certainly worrying in others. Never say never but it is hard to imagine that he will be as disastrous as George W. Bush.

Barack Obama was very mediocre, of course. Instead of being a mixed-race Ike who brought his country together and forgave whites for their history of racism, he was deliberately divisive. He used wedge issues like homosexual marriage and transgender people using the ladies to divide Republicans and conquer. 

Still, he was not outstandingly bad. Under him the economy improved and he to some extent kept his country out of wars. His biggest legacy, regardless of what you think of it, is creating the conditions in which President Trump won the White House.

The worst president was Lincoln. If you doubt that, try this mental exercise.

Sapphire Jubilee: H.M. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for 65 years

Today H.M. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned for 65 years, the longest reign in British history and longer by a few months even than the reign of King James VIII and III, better known to history as the Old Pretender.

God save the Queen!

Three good things

Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.

Raymond Chandler

I know no greater delight than the sheer delight of being alone.
It makes me realise the delicious pleasure of the moon
that she has in travelling by herself: throughout time,
or the splendid growing of an ash tree
alone, on a hillside in the north, humming in the wind.
D.H. Lawrence

First they came for the people who overuse that line "First they came for...", and I did not speak out because these are the most irritating people on the internet.
Brendan O'Neill

The Romanian protests, populism and Brexit

The baby boomers, eternal children that they are, have much to answer for, but now they are trying to put things right, with Brexit and (though we'll see how that goes) with Trump. You might call it a shaft of light before the sun sets.

That's how I see it, anyway.

Some people see the protests of the last few days in Romania as people power in defence of E.U. values and a contrast to Brexit. The people in the streets were protesting for honesty, probity, the rule of law and democracy. Up to a point those are EU values, though not confined to the EU. Beyond that point they are not. 

It's certainly true that the Social Democrat government who recently won power here by offering pension and pay increases that the economy cannot afford are in the true sense of that much misused word populists. If any parallel can be drawn, Brexit seems to me a comparable exercise of people power to restore democracy.

Trump beheading Statue of Liberty

"German magazine defends cover of Trump beheading Statue of Liberty. Der Spiegel’s polarizing cover art intended as response to ‘seriously endangered’ principles of democracy and freedom of the press, editor-in-chief said." 
(Headline and sub-headline in the Guardian).

The USA, almost alone now in the Western world, has complete freedom of speech and freedom of the press, whereas Germany does not. Germans who criticise migrants, for example, run the risk of being in trouble with the police. It's also illegal in Germany, to insult foreign heads of state. President Erdogan used this recently to sue a German who had accused him of bestiality. 

And whatever else the election of Trump means, it certainly means the USA is a genuine

Saturday, 4 February 2017

The Romanian government backs down

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The Romanian government has given in to pressure from mass protests.

Late this afternoon the leader of the ruling Social Democrat party (PSD), Liviu Dragnea, said that the alternative to repealing the corruption ordinance was a million people on the streets of Bucharest. That's slightly more than half the city's total population. More than 5% of the country's population.

Mr. Dragnea would be Prime Minister except that he has a conviction for ballot rigging and therefore, unless or until a pesky law is changed, is ineligible for a position in government. He is, however, running Romania.

This evening the Prime Minister, Sorin Grindeanu, a cypher, said: 

The news from Romania

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I started this blog to write about Romania but other things happened instead. Recently Donald Trump happened.

I even failed to blog about the new Social Democrat (PSD) government that took power, in coalition with a small party, the misnamed Liberal Democrats, at the end of last year.

Now Romania is second item on the BBC World Service news, above Trump’s visa policy.

Readers who follow Romanian politics know what to think. For those who don’t, but are interested, I’ll fill you in.

Romania, like all her post-Communist neighbours, has been a by-word for corruption. But for the last three years Romania has become famous as a country where corruption is being tackled very effectively and in the most remarkable way.

The success of the Romanian anti-corruption drive is not just cleansing the Augean stables here. It is an example to the rest of the region. People in nearby countries look in astonishment at what is happening.

And now it is all about to end.

Friday, 3 February 2017

Scott Adams: The Canadian Option

My most agitated liberal friend sent me a link today about Justin Trudeau announcing Canada would take all of the Trump-banned immigrants because diversity is their strength. My friend said that was an example of real leadership.
His conclusion is debatable, but didn’t Canada just solve all of Trump’s problems? If humane treatment of immigrants is the goal, Canada is the right place. They have polite behavior, free healthcare, and lots of space. That’s a win-win-win.Or am I missing something?
Canada also gives us a test case to compare to America’s plan. In five years we can check back and see how it turned out for them. If it worked, we can reassess. Until then we obviously need to wall-off Canada. But that’s another topic.
Now that I think about it, the Middle East has a lot of space too. Remind me again why Muslim countries are banning Muslim immigrants. Is it because they are Hitler?

Scott Adams

His blog is the best place to get insights into what Donald Trump is doing.