Thursday, 19 January 2017

North Atlantic tiger

Theresa May has learnt by talking to EU governments that their biggest fear is that the UK becomes 'Singapore-West', a low tax, free trade economy. So she and Boris are threatening them with this if they don't cooperate over trade.

My question is: why doesn't Great Britain copy Singapore? It would mean freedom, prosperity and, incidentally, only a limited number of rich immigrants.

We could be the North Atlantic tiger. 

Society cannot exist without inequality

I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation but the mystery of social order: it links the idea of inequality to heaven which prevents the rich person from being murdered by the poor. How can there be order in the state without religion? Society cannot exist without inequality of fortunes and the inequality of fortunes could not subsist without religion." (Napoleon.) 

The priests and professors no longer justify inequality but inequality is necessary and must be justified.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

"You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany."

Donald Trump on the EU: "You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany."

This is very crude, but basically true. The EU and the euro do help Germany enormously by enabling exports while being catastrophic for the South.

Trump sounded like Nicholas Ridley, a British cabinet minister who had to resign in 1990 after saying the proposed Economic and Monetary Union as "a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe". He went on to say that giving up sovereignty to Europe was as bad as giving it up to Adolf Hitler.

Germany leads Europe, not because Germans want to but because somebody must and no other country can. Germany's attitude is 'tie me down before I kill again.' Germany sees Europe as an answer to the German Question (how to unite Germany while avoiding conflict with or domination of their neighbours), just as France sees Europe as a substitute for the Napoleonic empire. 

What a difference eight months makes

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday it was "inappropriate" for Donald Trump to brand German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy "a catastrophic mistake".
"I thought frankly it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner," Kerry told CNN."
Today on CNN.

"US President Barack Obama has warned British voters that the UK would find itself "at the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the US if they vote against staying in the European Union in the June 23 referendum.British proponents of a so-called Brexit said they were outraged that an American president appeared to be trying to influence the outcome of such a crucial vote.
Obama said on Friday during his three-day visit to London that the UK's influence on the world stage was "magnified" by its membership of the 28-member bloc.
"I think this makes you guys bigger players," he said at a joint news conference with David Cameron, the British prime minister."

23 April 2016, St George's Day. This intervention won votes for Leave, a Readers' Digest opinion poll showed.

President Trump should be better for Great Britain than Mr. Obama who told us to go to the back of the queue. These words, incidentally, were clearly drafted by someone in UK, presumably by George Osborne, as Americans don't know the word 'queue'. They say 'line'.

No doubt Donald Trump's words will help Frau Merkel win votes.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Living in a poorly-written spy thriller

"Living in a poorly-written spy thriller is, frankly, getting kind of stressful." 

This line from the left-wing American paper Jezebel puts it well.  

I know it's partly the left-wing press's attempt to subvert Donald Trump but it is getting terribly weird.

At one point the US election seemed to hinge on what Julian Assange posted on the net from his laptop in his bedroom in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Then on highly confidential emails from Hillary Clinton on the computer of someone accused of sending pictures of his male member to young women. Now a dossier about prostitutes doing unspeakable things to Donald Trump in Moscow. 

Did the head of the FBI want to make Donald Trump President? Answer: obviously not, although Nobel laureate and prize ass Paul Krugman thinks he did. 

Does the CIA want to subvert Trump? Who knows? I doubt it but Peter Oborne thinks it does, abetted by MI6. It is extraordinary, as Bob Woodward said, that the CIA and MI6 took such a 'garbage dossier' seriously, with the result that it became public.

In fact living in a thriller is what we have all been doing since September 11th. Though some would go back further to the Cold War. Or even the German waiters scare of 1908.

Social media is full of bizarre conspiracy theories and what seems like and usually is fake news, but what could be less likely than Donald Trump becoming President of the USA? After the way he conducted his campaign, tweeting insults to girls in beauty contests. 

Or Angela Merkel inviting an unlimited number of migrants without papers to descend on Germany? 

Or Muslim immigrants killing innocent people around Europe? 

Or Great Britain leaving the E.U.?

Besides all that, Russia annexing the Crimea and fighting proxy wars in Ukraine seems tame.

I keep recalling that line, referring to the Edwardian thriller writer, from Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear.
The world has been remade by William Le Queux.
Come to think of it, William Le Queux was responsible for the German waiters scare of 1908.

It's been three centuries since you could be prosecuted for theological opinions in Scotland

It's been three centuries since you could be prosecuted for theological opinions in Scotland but you can now and in the rest of the UK.

The police are cooperating with the Bishop of St. Andrew's and Primus (head) of the Scottish Episcopalian Church to impose good relations between Christianity and Islam.

The Guardian has the story.

A Muslim youth was invited to give a reading from the Koran at a service on Epiphany at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow. He read "a passage from the Koran relating to the Virgin birth". 

This need not necessarily have been heretical - at least Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth, unlike quite a few Anglican clergy. But the passage from the Koran that was read out contained a verse saying Jesus was not God and shouldn't be worshipped. 

This raised very strong feelings among people who consider Islam a false religion.
"A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm we are investigating reports of offensive comments made towards St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow and inquiries are ongoing. Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate and encourages all communities to work together to ensure no one feels threatened or marginalised.”
I am in favour of peace between world religions, if possible, but not of suppression of free speech or suppression of conservative theology by the police. 

Perhaps Donald Trump, half Scottish as he is, will in time change the zeitgeist even in his mother's native country. Who knows? 

I hope so.

People who are horrified that Donald Trump is about to become US President should understand why

People who are horrified that Donald Trump is about to become US President should understand why. 

He is a very remarkable man, a force of nature, but also a reaction to and judgement on 8 years of Barack Obama, following 8 years of George W. Bush.

The old Republican party tradition is exhausted. It's meaningless. 

The new Democrat party based on identity politics, that thought Third World immigration was guaranteeing its future, is in big trouble. 

I hope the Democrats can be rebuilt without identity politics, but I doubt it. This is sad because, unlike the Bushes, they will come back to power. 

George W. Bush betrayed and destroyed conservatism, did his country irreparable harm and left it, as he found it, deeply split down the middle. 
Obama made liberalism into something authoritarian and deliberately very divisive, that tore the country further apart instead of healing it. 

Neither of them protected the borders.

But behind the failures of these two men there is a deeper cause. On 9/11/1989, when the Berlin Wall opened and the Cold War ended, a political vacuum opened, in foreign and domestic policy. Nato and the old left-right political divisions continued, but robbed of much of their meaning.  

After the Founding Fathers made the USA, three Presidents remade the republic, in far-reaching ways, whether good or bad: Andrew Jackson who made it a democracy, Abraham Lincoln who caused and waged a civil war and Franklin Roosevelt. 1828, 1860 and 1932 remade American politics and society. 

Donald Trump might be the fourth such President and 2016 a comparable turning point.


But, while things change, we'll have to put up for years with stories in the media as silly as this one from the BBC about Congressman John Lewis. 

I summarise it as follows.
John Lewis: Trump is not legally President.

Donald Trump: Mr. Lewis should focus on his constituents.

BBC: Oh my God! Trump has insulted a black man who marched with Martin Luther King!


I read the news but I don't read biographies and books of revelations about political leaders. One should do. To learn for example how much Hillary despised Obama. I read extracts in the press, but I should read the whole book.

This is an example - a new book about Donald Trump's family which sounds like The Forsyth Saga mixed with The Godfather and Jackie Collins.

It seems that Trump's mother was a housemaid before she met his father. His paternal grandfather ran a brothel, after selling horsemeat beefburgers to prospectors during the Klondike gold rush. 

Someone Donald Trump was at school with is quoted as saying:

“The difficulty I had with Donald is I thought there was a real emptiness inside him. And if you have no empathy you are fit, as Shakespeare would say, for stratagems and spoils.”
Trump and his father do not sound at all like nice men.

But the electors do not imagine Trump is a nice or high-minded or good man. Those who voted for him saw him as the necessary thing,

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Quotations for Saturday

"The habit of ignoring nature is deeply implanted in our times. I had to find some special occupation, some kind of work that would not force me to turn away from the sky and the stars, that would allow me to discover the meaning of life."
Marc Chagall

"May you never feel small or insignificant. You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself." 

Alan Watts

“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realise is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
Flannery O’Connor

"Every major question in history is a religious question. It has more effect in molding life than nationalism or a common language."
Hilaire Belloc

“[The modern age] knows nothing about isolation and nothing about silence."
Wallace Stegner


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What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

He was an early relativist. Evelyn Waugh said, how truly I know not, that Pilate was canonised by the Ethiopian (Coptic) Church.

'It is not given to any of us to see more than a fraction of a shadow of the truth.' 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Trump and Churchill

Replaying his press conference of two days' ago now, it's clear, if it wasn't before, that Donald Trump is a genius. I hope he will be a good president. I have a feeling he will. I hope he does not turn out to be what Evelyn Waugh called Churchill 'merely a great radio personality'.

From my sitting room this morning

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A full moon on Friday 13th

My telephone couldn't do justice to the big yellow moon over Colțea and St. George's church.

A full moon on Friday 13th -how often does that happen? Slightly more than once every twenty years? But here it is 'Tuesday 13th' that is unlucky. Because Constantinople fell on a Tuesday.

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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Trump's news conference was a tour de force but he should sell his businesses

Donald Trump's news conference was a tour de force (especially his refusing to take CNN's question in favour of Breitbart) and promises four years of fun. 

He swatted away the allegations, completely without evidence, that he had been compromised by Russian spies who filmed him having a prostitute urinate on him in the bed where the Obamas had previously slept. He simply pointed out his famous fear of germs. 

(He refused to shake anyone's hand until he was told he would have to if he wanted to run for president and he made a big thing in a radio interview about having a separate bathroom from his wife - or was it wives?)

The best comment on this disgusting story, which was copied all over Facebook and Twitter, was Brendan O' Neill's:
Twitterati in 2016: Stop spreading fake news! Stop being post-truth! My god, you uneducated little people would believe anything.
Twitterati in 2017: Hey, come here, guess what. Donald Trump hates the Obamas so much he once travelled to Moscow just so he could stay in a hotel room they stayed in and hire hookers to piss on their bed, and the whole thing was secretly filmed by Russian intelligence, and then Russian intelligence blackmailed Trump and said to him: "You must become president and destroy America for us or we will show everyone you and the prostitutes pissing on Obama's hotel bed." Really. That's how he became president. Shocking, isn't it?

But what is shocking is that Mr. Trump will continue to own his business empire, which will be run by his sons. 

So, if you want to put money in his pocket, you do business with his companies. 

I am not sure this is not illegal under the US Constitution.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 says:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
How to stop the Trump businesses receiving money from entities owned by foreign governments? 

And in any case, whether owned by foreign governments or not the conflict of interest is clear and surely not acceptable.

God-Emperor Trump: comparing the Donald with figures from antiquity

I thought I used the Trump Roman Emperor analogy first:

"I increasingly feel that we may be living in a period like the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the golden age where Gibbon starts his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Come to think of it, there is something of an outlandish late Roman emperor about Donald Trump, perhaps a rich wheat importer who got his position in an auction held by the Praetorian guard. "
I used this as part of an analogy between the present age and the reign of Marcus Aurelius, where Gibbon begins the Decline and Fall.

In countless ways Romania is more civilised than England

In countless ways Romania is more civilised than England. A small example: girls wear high heeled snow boots.

Princess Martha Bibescu said that the Romanians are a Latin race who know their home should be in the south. Every winter seems to strike them with horror and astonishment. 

The snow seems to get shifted better nowadays. After they started using snow ploughs, 
the snow was piled up to a great height on the pavements and these embankments of snow were much more of a hazard to the long-suffering pedestrians of Bucharest than the snow itself or even the treacherous ice. If you wanted to cross the road at a busy junction (where I work, P-a Victoriei) there would be a 3 foot high hill of snow to climb and young women ahead of me climbing the snow in high heeled boots. 

I said in a Facebook status from 7 years ago: 'Getting to work this morning was like a 1970s disaster movie.' I suppose they played the love interest, I the humorous, eccentric Englishman. In Hollywood films English actors usually play the villain but I am probably too nice.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Trump did not mock the disabled man

Pace Meryl Streep, Paul Krugman and other groupthinkers it is perfectly clear from this clip that Trump did not mock that disabled man. Though the fact checkers did not tell us this.

Nor did he destroy Libya. 

Had Hillary won it would have been US-UK intervention in Syria and 4 years of investigating her emails.

This is Hillary joking about the death of Gadaffi, who died by being sodomised with a bayonet. And people say she doesn't have a sense of humour.

Four thoughts

'Generally the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated far from power. Why? In the field of political opinion they are more driven by fashion, a gang mentality, and the desire to pose about moral and political questions all of which exacerbate cognitive biases, encourage groupthink, and reduce accuracy. Those on average incomes are less likely to express political views to send signals; political views are much less important for signalling to one’s immediate in-group when you are on 20k a year.' Dominic Cummings

'If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the military, nothing is safe.' Lord Salisbury

'As communists realised from the beginning, to control language is to control thought—not actual thought, but the possibilities of thought.' Roger Scruton

'The man who has begun looking for God has already found him.' 
Graham Greene found comfort in these words of Pascal.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Eurosceptics think it’s worth living in a bedsit for a bit

"Within hours of the EU referendum result, May got the reality of Brexit quicker than any other fellow ‘reluctant Remainer’. And she ‘got it’ that the UK’s loveless marriage to the EU now had to end in divorce. May is like the divorcee who is ready to give her ex the big house, most of the CD collection and the car, and is willing to pay some alimony for access to the kids. She’s just relieved to be out of there - and she’ll never be forced to host his relatives ever again. And as with many divorces, Eurosceptics think it’s worth living in a bedsit for a bit until they get a bigger place of their own again. Just how long or how difficult life in that bedsit will be, we have yet to see."
Paul Waugh in the Huffington Post today

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Down with the divine right of experts

'We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.'

Harold Macmillan anticipated Michael Gove at Strasbourg, August 16, 1950.

Aleppo and Christian civilisation

Vanessa Beeley is very committed. She is very strongly opposed to regime change in Syria (and Iran) and calls Israel an 'illegal state'. 

She says she works as a journalist in Syria without a minder but she has a translator and I doubt if Syrians would feel comfortable criticising the Syrian government while being recorded talking to her. 

All that said, the interviews (click here) she records with people from Eastern Aleppo, who are delighted to be free, have the ring of truth. 

But they are ignored by the mainstream media, while, up until the rebels surrendered and dispersed, the opinions of opposition 'media activists' were quoted at length in the British and American newspapers.

One refugee interviewed by Miss Beeley said, "They killed our families, destroyed our homes, stole from us."

There were no doctors, and the hospitals said to have been hit by Russian bombs were only for the use of rebel fighters. Such food as came in as relief was mostly withheld from civilians. People who tried to escape were killed. 

This is more or less what one would have expected, I think.

Meanwhile, here is a story that recently did get into the Economist, of an extremely brave Catholic prior in Syria, Father Jacques Mourad, who was taken captive by ISIS but managed to escape. 

He said, after his escape:
"If the world is really serious about putting an end to the ravages of the fanatics, then it will have to stop doing business with Saudi Arabia. Because

Fake news is itself fake news

Fake news is itself fake news. The fact checkers spread untruths. Post truth politics is a fiction. It's all a way for people who think they are progressive to explain why the masses vote against progress and to try to stop them doing so in future.

Try to stop them, that is, by controlling what information the people have access to on the internet.

Facebook has already started controlling fake news but the political slant of Facebook is clear when you consider that some Facebook employees wanted to censor some of Donald trump's remarks on the ground that they constituted hate speech and the discussion went all the way up to Mark Zuckerberg.

He ruled that censoring the Republican nominee for president really wasn't a good idea.

Donald Trump said that Barack Obama was the founder of ISIS and the fact checkers, Snopes of course, solemnly averred that this was false. This is all you need to know, really, about fact checking.

After Donald Trump petulantly said actress Meryl Streep was overrated, AP fact checked this

Saturday, 7 January 2017

"The People, one ... The Experts, nil."

Tom Cain, the detective story writer (his real name is David Thomas and he was once the youngest editor of Punch), has very kindly let me repost his thoughts on the remarkable success of the British economy since my country voted to leave the E.U. 

"I think people in this country have had enough of experts,'" said Michael Gove. And, oh, how he has been mocked and sneered at for that remark. But it turns out that Gove and the people were right all along.

The Bank of England's warnings of economic disaster in the wake of a Leave vote were, in the words of one commentator "a Michael Fish moment", to compare with the failure of economists all around the world to predict the crash of 2008.

In fact, the UK economy was probably the fastest growing of all advanced economies last year (source: IMF). As the pundit continued, “If you look at how the consumer performed during the course of the last year it’s almost as though the referendum had not taken place ... Right now there is a very interesting disconnect between what we read in the papers about the degree of political and policy uncertainty, which by any historical metric is at high levels, and what we have seen from the economy and financial markets, which

Brexit and Trump's victory are attempts at regime change

Anne Applebaum, who embodies all that's wrong with 19th century or early 20th century liberalism, said a while back that the problem was not that Donald Trump supports Putin but that he thinks like Putin. An acute observation. Both are old fashioned leaders not Wilsonians. I hope Trump doesn't invade any countries like Putin and George W. Bush did and Hillary wanted to.

I suppose Trump's victory is an attempt at regime change. I don't mean the end of the Obama era but the end of the whole bipartisan consensus, for there is one in the US dexpite partisan gridlock. There is one in every country except when civil war breaks out.

Brexit too is regime change. Let's be glad these regime changes are non-violent and look, I believe, pregnant with hope.