Thursday, 29 September 2016

Three old English proverbs that are no longer current

 "Life without a friend is death without a witness." (1640).

"They who would be young when they are old must be old when they are young." (1670)

"He that makes himself a sheep shall find wolves enough." (1619).

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

An American Lysistrata: Break Up With That Trump Supporter

Please click on this extraordinary article in Time magazine, the well-respected and famous American magazine. It is worth it. 

A lawyer and feminist called Jill Filipovic, who sounds like an invention of the late Michael Wharton, advises her readers to leave boyfriends who intend to vote for Donald Trump. Not to think seriously about doing so, but to do so. They are ipso facto bigots, racists and misogynists. 

She does not necessarily advocate divorcing husbands who vote for him.

It may be a little extreme to divorce over a presidential candidate, assuming everything else in the marriage is good (although Trump fandom suggests that lots of things about your husband aren’t very good). But ending a dating relationship, where there presumably aren’t joint finances or shared property or kids? Girl, do it, and don’t look back. I say “Girl” because the majority of Trump supporters are men. 
And while married white women often back Republicans, that’s changing in this election—Trump is doing far worse with white female voters than any Republican in the last quarter-century. The people voting for Trump are largely white men—a subgroup of white men who are entitled, angry, racist and sexist.
I wondered if she thinks other groups of men are misogynistic? Plucking an idea out of the air at random, does she think Muslim boyfriends also apt to have non-feminist attitudes to women and should therefore be ditched? 

Somehow I doubt it. Angry white men she attacks, but brown ones, even angry brown ones, are off limits.

Still she has a good idea, from her point of view. A sex strike, along the lines of the one in Aristophanes' Lysistrata, could bring the Trump bandwagon staggering to a halt - to a sort of coitus interuptus.

The EU referendum decision in England was a big surprise, even though the polls forecast that it was on the cards. After the result the attitudes of journalists in the progressive media, who considered Leave voters xenophobes, racists and bigots, went quite a long way to explain why Leave won.

The views of Miss Filipovic suggest that Donald Trump deserves to win and is badly needed. Let’s see if he does so.

I have lots of grave misgivings about Donald Trump and perfectly understand why people passionately don't want him to win. I had, with much thought, decided before reading this article to support him. Had I not done so, I promise you that the article would have convinced me.

Trump lost the debate but will it win him votes?

My Facebook friend, Peter Risdon, a classical 19th century liberal, has saved me the trouble of blogging about the US Presidential debate by letting me borrow his Facebook status. I cannot comment on his first paragraph, as I did not see the debates in full, but I agree with the rest.

I watched some of the Presidential debate; Trump was terrible. Even in the first part when he scored positively on immediate polling, he was awful.
I thought the moderator was somewhat unfair - the first portion was supposed to be two statements, two responses then open discussion, but it was two statements, Clinton's response then the moderator challenging Trump. But it didn't affect the outcome, Trump was awful anyway, and he went downhill from there.
So how on earth are people scoring Trump the winner? Most online polls did that, lots of anecdotal pieces in the media today show reaction in his favour, in bars and elsewhere. Not all reports show this, but a fair number do, from all sides (The Guardian has a piece showing undecideds saying "He was terrible, she was good, I can't decide between them").
The first possibility is, they're not, this is an inaccurate representation of reaction and Trump will be hit badly by this as polling continues over the next few weeks. That's the possibility that feels the most sensible.
The other is, they are accurate, and people are scoring Trump higher than his debating performance justified. I can only see that being because they agree with him, though he put his case badly.
And the other contribution to his polling is his work on the ground. His deficit in Michigan has halved since he went to that church in Detroit. That might count for more than his debating ability.
If Trump doesn't bomb as a result of this debate (and obviously he could and should) it can only mean he's a very, very imperfect messenger for ideas people are willing to support despite his personal qualities, including his debating.
So the polling now might cast some light on that aspect of this campaign.
Peter does not particularly like Donald Trump - who does? - but thinks, like I do, that something good might come out of the chaos his winning would create. Peter is an intelligent man. He wisely says
And the worst of it is, those heartless bastards who don't pretend to care about poor people do more for poor people than the Clintons of this world. It means more for NY city's murder rate to fall from 2,500 a year to under 500, if you're a poor New Yorker, than for Clinton to announce some pork barrel scheme for her donors that's ostensibly designed to help the less well-off.
I didn't watch the debate. Trump seemed subdued but fine in the several clips I saw but I had expected him to demolish his opponent and instead she probably did better. It's partly because it is hard for a man to attack a woman as aggressively as Mr Trump attacked male opponents in the primaries. She was, as always, very boring. Her glassy smile was curiously creepy, I thought, and she looked old. She was smug and clearly does not like being in public. She is an introvert, who does not like people.

But why were there no questions on the wall or the Clinton Foundation? Who cares about the birther froth?

It is obvious that Trump is a sort of genius. Not a first class mind, as we Cambridge men say, of course - nor was Napoleon. 

I don't think businessmen usually make good politicians though Berlusconi had his pluses and minuses. Joe Chamberlain is the great exception - I can't think of others. 

On the other hand, a businessmen is better suited to assuming power in a country with a presidential system than a parliamentary one.

Scott Adams, the Dilbert man and the person who gets Mr Trump best, thinks this.
By tomorrow, no one will remember what either of them said during the debate. But we will remember how they made us feel.Clinton won the debate last night. And while she was doing it, Trump won the election. He had one thing to accomplish – being less scary – and he did it.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn redivivus

I am of course delighted Mr. Corbyn won the Labour leadership election. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! It means the Tories will be in power for at least nine years, time in which to do much.
It was not a landslide victory but at 62% about what he won last year.
Labour MPs who have no confidence in their leader (172 out of 212) should, of course, declare UDI en masse. They have democratic legitimacy, not party members, many of whom are really Greens or even Tories. But the Parliamentary Labour Party doesn't have the courage, don't trust each other and have no big names. How little Parliament now counts.
Jeremy Corbyn will not win the general election or come anywhere close but he will move Labour and the British left  and the left-wing middle classes leftwards, at least for some years. These things matter. Nigel Farage never won a seat in Parliament but has moved the UK out of the EU. Donald Trump, of course, may move the zeitgeist who knows where and might do so even if he loses.

The centre does not hold? I am not sure. The Tories look very centrist to me. 

As does Hillary Clinton, all the Western European governments and the whole international oligarchy that rules the rich world. Still, tectonic plates are shifting. 

As they did last night in Bucharest, where there was a strong tremor, but I digress.


Woman conquers man by her stillness. 
Indian proverb. 

Or as someone once said to me, 
Women are like judo players. They use your strength against you.

The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature

Here is a collection in Buzzfeed of 51 Of The Most Beautiful Sentences In Literature, as nominated by readers. Most are American and recent.

None of them greatly impressed me, actually. These are better than the ones in the article in my opinion. Passing reader, please suggest more in the comment box below.

'O, help me heaven,' she prayed, `to be decorative and to do right'. Firbank

Life is sweet, brother, who would wish to die? A gypsy speaking to George Borrow

Life is, I am sure, made of poetry. Jorge Luis Borges

Hatred of Catholicism is the only genuinely religious emotion the English ever experience.

No man can please others who does not please himself. Frederic Harrison

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. Daphne du Maurier

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / Her infinite variety. Antony and Cleopatra

They are entombed in the urns and sepulchres of mortality. Sir Ranulph Crewe The whole passage is here.

Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,/ Wherein he puts alms for oblivion. Troilus and Cressida

I saw the new moon late yestreen
With the old moon in her arm;
And if we go to sea, master,
I fear we'll come to harm.

Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound.

Frauke Petry: “refugees welcome” attitude has become a new religion

Frauke Petry, leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD), is reported in Die Welt as saying welcoming refugees has become the a substitute religion.

She said that many Germans are so blinded by this over willingness to help everyone in the world that they cannot see that many of those they endeavour to help do not share German values in regard to minorities, religious freedom, or the rights of women.

Secular religion is exactly the right way to understand the phenomenon, a religion of solidarity, charity and human rights. Since the end of the Cold War and Communism, anti-racism and anti-discrimination has been a substitute religion all over the developed world. As Edward Norman said years ago, welfare considerations have taken the place of the sacred in the West. He accurately blamed 'neo-Puritanism' and said,

"When Christians identify the present secular enthusiasm for humanity as basic Christianity - the love of neighbour - they are in reality acclaiming and legitimising their own replacement."
When he wrote that back in the 1980s he imagined that the replacement for Christianity would be secularism. Now it looks as if secularism might be replaced by Islam.

Frauke Petry is married to, though recently separated from, a Lutheran pastor and religion may drive her as it did the East Germans who protested against Communism in 1989.

It is interesting how many powerful German politicians come from religious families and are, as far as one can gauge, motivated by a religious impulse. Chancellor Merkel grew up in East Germany as the daughter of a very left-wing Lutheran pastor and President Gauck was a pastor himself. I wish they saw that loving ones neighbour does not necessitate moving populations from Asia to Europe.

Friday, 23 September 2016

4 quotations

The first recipe for happiness is: avoid too lengthy meditation on the past. Andre Maurois

Life is, I am sure, made of poetry. Jorge Luis Borges

Augustus John told his sister: Nina, we have become the sort of people our parents warned us about.

Americans love to say they think outside the box. Trump lives outside the box. Hillary is the box. Kellyanne Conway

Bucharest life

Last night I was invited to a great Greek fish restaurant, To Perigiali, close to my house, opposite the National Bank in Smardan. I don’t like fish that much but had a wonderful calamari stuffed with delicious cheese. Who knew calamari could be huge, one fish enough for three? Good retsina too. I was invited by two Greeks who are envious that the UK is leaving the EU. I said the Euro is a problem to which there will never be a solution and they mournfully agreed. 

The night before, I went to Kumar’s Agra Palace in its new premises. Great food, of course, up to standard of a good London Indian resturant, but we waited 75 minutes and one of us had to leave unfed because of the babysitter. The other, British and a passionate Remainer, wanted to talk about the Single Market and I tried not to. Being Remain or Leave is like being Catholic or Protestant – better not discussed. Also his sadness upset me, like a dog looking imploringly at me.

I didn’t get away this morning before my cleaning lady arrived with her constant babble of Romanian. She is too proud to bash my little carpets over the side of the balcony and unforgivably put them in the washing machine where my favourite lost some of its colour. I was trying to be jocularly grumpy but it ended with her demanding another salary rise. 

How I absolutely hate scenes like this, especially first thing in the morning when I am half conscious. I suppose were I married they would be normal. We bachelors live a bit like Lucretius’s gods, far above the earth, detached from the pains and joys of mortals.

In Bucharest in some ways I found the 19th century life I dreamt of as a child. I wanted to be a Cambridge man run to seed playing the piano in a bordello in a Balkan city. Making an honest living, note. Bucharest in the Adrian Nastase era was a bit like that. 

A big tremor last night. The earthquake is coming, of course.

I'm a liberal and I loathe liberal smugness

I saw this on Facebook and think it true, especially the last sentence. I was a smug person who disliked Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Most nice people did in those days, of course.
I'm a liberal and I loathe liberal smugness. It's a form of snobbery. Liberals are the worst kind of snobs. Self righteous presenters, thin skinned and rather dim, really. Most of the really Rebellious people are conservatives.

People over 40 can save the world if they act quickly before the progressive young take over.

Brexit shows it can be done, but there is little time.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Today I have lived in Romania for 18 years

I just checked on a 1998 calendar. Today I have lived in Romania 18 years. The first two crawled past because every day was so strange. The last 16 flew. I am very grateful to live here, in this country that still enchants me, but wish the years would slow down.

Why am I happy to have spent so many years here? I wrote this article called 25 reasons why I love living in Romania, in no particular order which has received 107,000 clicks so far. 

110,000 now.

This is a picture by Octav Dragan of the street in the old town where I live. 

I don't think this was taken recently, as it's now full of huge potholes three years after the asphalt was resurfaced at great public expense. Thank God it's not too gentrified, though a club and a restaurant have appeared and, worst of all, at one point a Souvenir Shop. Dread words (I am becoming Wallace Arnold, I know.) Still gypsies still wander around the street in dressing gowns.

Quotations for Tuesday

"Life is not a journey, it's like a musical. The point isn't to arrive, but to dance and sing whilst the music plays." Alan Watts, the philosopher

"The secret of success is constancy to purpose." Benjamin Disraeli

"It wounds a man less to confess that he has failed in any pursuit through idleness, neglect, the love of pleasure, etc., etc., which are his own faults, than through incapacity and unfitness, which are the faults of his nature." Lord Melbourne 

My head says Hillary will win and my intuition says Trump

For months my head has told me Hillary will win and my intuition said Trump.

Whoever wins, Donald Trump has dismantled the old ghastly Republican party of the early 21st century, which took votes from poor people and sent their sons to die in unnecessary wars. 

How wonderful that Mr Trump accused George W Bush of deliberate lying to justify invading Iraq and still won the nomination resoundingly.

But, in truth, Donald Trump destroyed nothing - the old Republican Party was a dead man standing. Had it not been, Trump would not have won the nomination or come close.

What was conservative about George W Bush? Nothing, except low taxes for the well-off. He spent like a sailor and was blase about legal and illegal immigrants. Worst of all for a

Monday, 19 September 2016

Terrorist attacks might win the election for Donald Trump

The suspect in the New York explosions, surprisingly enough, does have a Muslim name, Ahmad Khan Rahami, but the police have no idea what the motive might be. I imagine there will be more of these attacks, in the USA and elsewhere. Whether it is intended or not (and it probably is) it will help Donald Trump and hurt Mrs Clinton. It could clinch the election, though Donald Trump has the Big Mo already.

On a subconscious, irrational level, an old lady fainting at the commemoration of September 11th will, for some voters, not inspire confidence in her as Commander-in-Chief.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Things will change radically, but we do not yet know how

Things will change radically but we do not yet know how. Trump and Sanders are part of the change, Hillary not.

Things are changing around the developed world in ways in which it is impossible to understand. Donald Trump is a brilliant politician, or if you prefer, charlatan. (The two are not always distinct.) But he has achieved this amazing degree of success only because he represents and guides powerful forces, whose inchoate ideas he expresses or appears to express.

On the other hand, the people 
Donald Trump represents, middle class (which in the USA means lower-middle and working-class) white Americans, are a smaller and smaller part of the electorate each year, so this might be their last chance.

I think that this great change in thinking is very hopeful.

Interesting insights about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

"If you listen closely to Trump, you’ll hear a direct repudiation of the system of globalization and identity politics that has defined the world order since the Cold War. There are, in fact, six specific ideas that he has either blurted out or thinly buried in his rhetoric: (1) borders matter; (2) immigration policy matters; (3) national interests, not so-called universal interests, matter; (4) entrepreneurship matters; (5) decentralization matters; (6) PC speech—without which identity politics is inconceivable—must be repudiated."

Joshua Mitchell, Donald Trump Does Have Ideas—and We’d Better Pay Attention to Them

"Trump’s voters sense the system is rigged against them. This does not mean they blame blacks for their problems. Nor do they have any language for describing themselves as victims of racism. They may be deeply hurt or embarrassed by accusations of bigotry. Perhaps that is Hillary’s thinking in calling them a ‘basket of deplorables’. In an aspirational country where much of the middle class is downwardly mobile and taking its signals from television, people are terrified of exhibiting attitudes thought of as low-class. If Trump himself has recently been pitching for black support, starting in a church in Detroit in September, it may be less to win over black voters than to put his own white voters at ease."

Christopher Caldwell, Trump is right about America’s rigged system

“Most blacks don’t see Donald Trump as a Republican; they see him as blunt-talking


“I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.”
Albert Einstein

“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”
Aldous Huxley

"Solitude is fine but you need someone to tell that solitude is fine."
Honoré de Balzac  

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Hillary 'could barely climb the podium steps’ a year ago

Colin Powell's emails have been hacked and the contents reveal that both presidential candidates are widely loathed by insiders in Washington DC. The most important thing in the emails is something written by Colin Powell's correspondent, Jeffrey Leeds, a rich Democrat donor, who says that
[Rhode Island Senator] Sheldon Whitehouse, who is a huge Clinton supporter, said they were both giving speeches at the same event a few months back and she could barely climb the podium steps.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Luxembourg thinks Hungary should be excluded from the EU

“We cannot accept the founding principles of the EU being violated. [Those] who build fences against refugees like Hungary does, or who violate press freedom and judicial independence, should be excluded temporarily or forever from the EU.” 
Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg's Foreign Minister, in an interview published today.

Violating press freedom is a very serious matter (but Angela Merkel and all Western European countries have limited freedom of speech, especially where criticism of migration policies and migrants are concerned), judicial independence is very important indeed, obviously, but why is excluding refugees a violation of any of the founding principles of the EU? 

Immigration policy is for member states, not the EU.

Surely a constant stream of non-European migrants and asylum seekers poses a threat to a cohesive sense of European identity, needed for an ever closer union, which is a founding principle of the EU. I don't like Viktor Orban's domestic policy one bit but, as far as migrants are concerned, it is he who is being a very good European.


I feel myself inhabited by a force or being—very little known to me. It gives the orders; I follow.

Jean Cocteau 

The intelligent are to the intelligentsia what a gentleman is to a gent.

Stanley Baldwin

Cats and immigration

I asked a very clever American friend on Sunday why some people are pro-immigration and favour letting asylum seekers come to Europe. He said 'They are the sort of people who worry about cats.' I replied (exaggerating somewhat) that I like cats and he said: 'So do I, but they are not important in the bigger scheme of things.'

Well put.

Monday, 12 September 2016

The passing of David Cameron

I liked David Cameron. He was very clever, though always lightweight, a Blairite, never a Tory but a Whig. I can't forgive homosexual marriage or changing the rules of succession to the throne, but he kept Labour out of power for six years and steered the UK out of the financial crisis far better than Labour could ever have done. 

He seemed very faintly absent from his own premiership, but this was probably an illusion. He was the best Prime Minister since Mrs. Thatcher and before that Supermac, though James Callaghan had his qualities and Lord Home would have been excellent had he had more than a year.

I am very glad that Mr. Cameron was too clever by half in the end. Nick Clegg, his Liberal Democrat deputy in the coalition, said that one day Mr. Cameron's fine brain wouldn't be enough to get him out of a scrape. So it proved. The referendum was a wonderful thing. He and Nigel Farage have changed British history more than any other two politicians since the 1940s. The difference was, of course, that Mr. Farage wanted to.

The fall of Hillary Clinton

Democrats wonder and worry: Why isn’t Clinton far ahead of Trump?

was the Washington Post headline on Friday.

Mrs Clinton had not given a press conference 
until last week for 270 days, and when she did it was not noteworthy. In that time she had made some very dull speeches and disappeared for days between appearances. Most of those 'appearances' were behind closed doors, raising funds from rich Democrats. When she finally let the press into her latest fundraiser, for homosexuals, it proved her undoing.
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables'. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it.”
It raised loud laughter, but it wasn't funny and she isn't laughing now.

2016 will be remembered for a lot of things but, apart from anything else, it was the year when the electors started to get blamed by the politicians and political activists for