Monday, 31 July 2017

The House of the People, Bucharest

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This wonderful picture of the House of the People, Bucharest, is by Octavian Draga.

The House of the People in Bucharest is the largest building in Europe and the second biggest building in the world (after the Pentagon) measured by floor space. It was built by Ceausescu but he never addressed the crowds from the balcony. Only two men have done that: Ion Iliescu, who had him shot, and Michael Jackson. 

Five marvellous quotations

Stefan Molyneux

Wow, the movie 'Dunkirk' is a powerful depiction of the horrible suffering British men had to go through to keep foreigners out of England.

Viktor Orban: "Over the next few decades will Europe remain the continent of the Europeans?"

"In Central Europe we believed that Europe was our future; today we feel that we are the future of Europe...
"However much of a taboo one is breaking by saying it, there is no cultural identity in a population without a stable ethnic composition. The alteration of a country’s ethnic makeup amounts to an alteration of its cultural identity. A
strong country can never afford to do something like that – unless some global catastrophe forces it to do so...."

Sunday, 30 July 2017

"Religion in Romania means something completely different from what it means in Catholic or Protestant countries"

"Religion in Romania means something completely different from what it means in Catholic or Protestant countries" (Eugene Ionesco).

"In the Orthodox country, the state, the church, and the nation form a collective entity that has a will superior to the individual. This sense of collectivity, reinforced by Orthodoxy, was the main impulse of the Iron Guard. The Orthodox Christian, unlike the Catholic or Protestant, does not

Belloc quotations

“The Barbarian hopes — and that is the mark of him, that he can have his cake and eat it too. He will consume what civilization has slowly produced after generations of selection and effort, but he will not be at pains to replace such goods, nor indeed has he a comprehension of the virtue that has brought them into being. Discipline seems to him irrational, on which account he is ever marvelling that civilization, should have offended him with priests and soldiers.... In a word, the Barbarian is discoverable everywhere in this, that he cannot make: that he can befog and destroy but that he cannot sustain; and of every Barbarian in the decline or peril of every civilization exactly that has been true.

We sit by and watch the barbarian. We tolerate him in the long stretches of peace, we are not afraid. We are tickled by his irreverence; his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creed refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond, and on these faces there are no smiles.”

Friday, 28 July 2017

Is Trebizond the most beautiful place name of all?

Talking about places that should be visited simply for the beauty of their names, Trebizond now comes to mind. I remember using the word to an Englishman in Constantinople who said it sounded better in my mouth than Trabzon. We had only an hour earlier but he had me down as a Victorian.

That evening is memorable for a last look inside one of my favourite hotels, the Pera

Sunday, 23 July 2017

The power of names

His Eye might there command wherever stood
City of old or modern Fame, the Seat
Of mightiest Empire, from the destind Walls
Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can
And Samarchand by Oxus, Temir's Throne,
To Paquin of Sinæan Kings, and thence
To Agra and Lahor of great Mogul
Down to the golden Chersonese...
And so on and on and on. Paradise Lost, Book 10
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure dome decree. Coleridge
Some places should be visited because of the beauty of their names. So says Marzena Pogorzaly, who herself has a very beautiful name, and gave as an example Odessa.

Children and travellers see the world

"We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory."
Louise Glück

THIS is the reason why we like to go abroad on holiday or, if we are lucky, to live abroad: to have a veil lifted and to recapture the child's divine vision.

"We travel abroad to explore our unconscious mind."
Mircea Eliade

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Trump ends covert CIA program to arm Syrian rebels

President Trump has decided to end the CIA's covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the Syrian government.

About time. There was never any American interest in overthrowing the cruel Assad regime and replacing it with what?

"Embrace the discomfort of transformation"

In a depressing article today entitled 'Diversity and Disintegration', the always interesting Mark Steyn makes a good point.
In a developed world where the low-skilled service jobs are automating, there is no economic rationale for mass immigration. That leaves only the cultural consequences.

Austria Hungary, an EU before the EU

'It is sometimes said that the Austrian Empire was a "natural unit;" this catch phrase only means that it was large and had existed for a long time. Many economic ties had grown up with the centuries; these were certainly not "natural." There was no geographic unity. ...... As for the Bukovyna, it was cut off from everywhere, a meaningless fragment of territory for which there could be no rational explanation.' (A.J.P. Taylor)
I love those lethargic places cut off from time, space and economics by borders. The Northern Bucovina, separated from its southern hinterland, which was in Austria and is now in Romania. The noble former Ottoman capital Adrianople (Edirne), a couple of miles from the very slow Greek and Bulgarian border crossings. The whole of Eastern Europe was such a place, until 1989. 

Even Transnistria, cut off from Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and its real home the USSR, has a boring charm. 

Catholic priest prosecuted for saying homosexuality is a sin

Hate speech laws are a way of silencing opinion. As measures are taken to prevent Islamists using the net for their purposes, this will become more and more the case.

In Barcelona a priest has been unsuccessfully prosecuted for saying 
"Homosexuality is a sin against nature". He was prosecuted for enunciating Catholic doctrine, in (formerly?) Catholic Spain.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


We never love anyone. Not really. We only love our idea of another person. It is some conception of our own that we love. We love ourselves, in fact.
William Boyd

Were EU laws to blame for the Grenfell fire?

The Grenfell tower block, which caught fire in a poor enclave in the richest borough in London, cost no-one knows how many lives. It has become a symbol of what is wrong with England, as terrible tragedies do. They become mythology.

The same thing happened with the murder of Jamie Bulger, a 2 year-old boy who was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys in 1993. His murder had nothing to do with John Major, but seemed to symbolise the breakdown of society after fourteen years of Toryism and free market economics. I thought so too at the time.

What does Grenfell show us? Like the Rorschach test, in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded, it shows us what we want to see. The fire is reported to have been caused by a fridge freezer catching fire in the flat of an Ethiopian, who packed his baggage before leaving. This suggests to some that faulty fridge freezers are dangerous. Undoubtedly they are right. Other people in social media place the blame on Ethiopians.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Calibri may leave Pakistan sans Sharif

I had been following, out of the corner of my eye, the story of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His government might fall because his daughter Maryam submitted documents to the Supreme Court dated before January 31, 2007 and typed in Calibri, a font which only became available on that date. This is interesting, but more memorably it is the occasion for possibly the best headline I ever saw.


‘I started as a rebel against rebellion.’ Sir Roger Scruton

'Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.' Carl Gustav Jung

'To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.' Miguel de Unamuno

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Quotations about childhood

We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory. 

Louise Glück

For writers it is always said that the first twenty years contain the whole of experience - the rest is observation - but I think this is equally true of us all. 

Graham Greene

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The myth of Britain’s decline

Robert Tombs, who supervised me at university, has written a timely piece on Brexit and declinism entitled
The myth of Britain’s decline
 with the encouraging sub-headline
Our glory days are not over – they’re in full swing
I quote him.
Who would deny that Britain is no longer the great power it once was? Well, speaking as a historian, I would. Declinism is at best a distortion of reality, and


They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
And how one ought never to think of one's self,
And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking--
My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.
A.H. Clough

If you want to know what Bucharest is like, it's like this

This house I pass every day. The picture is by the talented American photographer and Bucharest resident Davin Ellicson.

My walk to work yesterday

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Is the French revolution responsible for most of the world's problems today?

'For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution.' Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
An academic called Dr Cliff Arnall has discovered that July 14 is the day when we English feel happiest each year. 

I love the balmy days of July in Bucharest, despite the merciless heat, but July 14th is Bastille Day and not a day on which a conservative can rejoice.

I have always been one of those who blames most of the world's problems on the 1914-18 War but I start to think Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn may be right. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017


It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely, well, and justly without living pleasurably. Epicurus

The presence of oceans on much of the earth's surface makes it impossible for any state to achieve global hegemony. John Mearsheimer

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible'

'The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible.' Camille Paglia

'A sexy woman can have almost any man she wants. And a rich guy can have almost any woman he wants.' Oliver Markus

Posted on Facebook by the late Peter Risdon

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How much I wish he were here to comment on the fall of Mosul on Facebook, even though I am sure I would completely disagree with him - as I always did on the Middle East.

The language of the 21st century

"Globally, people now spend nearly four times as much time accessing the Internet from mobile devices as they do from desktops. 'Computers' are on their way to becoming an anachronism rarely seen outside of the office. I’d argue that even the way we think is increasingly mobile in nature: for better or worse, small visual bites have replaced big chunks of text as the language of the 21st century."
Ryan Holmes

5 quotations

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge."
Daniel Boorstin

A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender.
Sir Thomas Browne

Monday, 10 July 2017

3 quotations

'Love is what makes growing up bearable.' Eve Pollard

'All tobacconists are fascists.' George Orwell 

[Enver Hoxha, who kept a tobacco kiosk in Tirana's main square as his cover, before becoming a bloodthirsty Communist tyrant, was the exception.]

'Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.'
Sylvia Plath

Mosul has fallen after a 9 month siege - no mention of war crimes

Mosul has been retaken from ISIS after three years and much hard fighting by Iraqi soldiers trained and helped by Anglo-American forces. Barack Obama hoped it would happen on his watch but it has taken much longer than he and others expected. The 9-month battle for Mosul fight lasted longer than the siege of Stalingrad and like Stalingrad involved street-to-street fighting and huge loss of life.

I wonder how many civilians were killed and what war crimes were committed in the taking of Mosul and the fall of Eastern Aleppo. The media do not know. They treated Syrian rebel propagandists as bona fide journalists, asked us to grieve when the

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Glory is Departing from the Land

A lament for hunting from Anthony Trollope, a great hunter. It is unbelievable and heart-breaking that fox hunting is now illegal in England.

"I can't understand," said Glomax, "how any man can be considered a good fellow as a country gentleman who does not care for sport. Just look at it all round. Suppose others were like him what would become of us all?"

Wunderkind violinist

I had the luck to hear Alexandru Tomescu play the violin in Turda, at the Ratiu100 weekend to mark the hundredth anniversary of Ion Ratiu's birth this summer, thanks to Indrei Ratiu. 

Here Tomescu plays Ciprian Porumbescu's wonderful ballad, on a Stradivarius.

Peter Risdon has died

He was a brilliant, clear-minded and deep thinker. He was one of my closest Facebook friends, someone who made Facebook worthwhile despite all the idiots and bores. I am so glad I finally met him in real life in March in Ely. 

Peter broke the opticians' monopoly in the 1980s. Later he was mixed up with Darius Guppy and Peter recorded Guppy's conversation with his school friend Boris Johnson.

7 quotations

Cecily: ''When I see a spade, I call it a spade".
Gwendolyn: "I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different."
The Importance of Being Earnest

No man is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.

The 10 Worst Prime Ministers We Never Had

John Rentoul makes an enjoyable article out of a thread on Twitter, which discussed the worst Prime Ministers that England never had and was lucky to escape. Contrarian though I am, I think I agree with all ten, with the possible exception of Lord Halifax, who would have probed the possibility of peace with Hitler in 1940.

The lesson to be drawn from the list of outstanding names, that include Fox, Curzon and a gaggle of  more recent men (and one woman, poor Mrs. Leadsom), is that statesmen who

Saturday, 8 July 2017

EP President: Europe faces "an exodus of biblical proportions"

"Europe is "underestimating" the scale and severity of the migration crisis and "millions of Africans" will flood the continent in the next five years unless urgent action is taken, Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, has said in an interview with Il Messagero newspaper. He predicts
"an exodus of biblical proportions that would be impossible to stop if we don't confront the problem now. ... The only solution is massive investment in Africa to dissuade people from leaving in the first place."

He is right about the problem but the solution he proposes is irrelevant. Making Africa

The future belongs to those who show up for it

Here is a graph that you should look at.

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By the way, education of women is what reduces birth rates, rather than welfare states, prosperity, secularism or even feminism. This is why the countries of Eastern Europe, which have exiguous welfare provision, are dying, as is Iran. In Iran more women go to university than men, though they do not go out to work. (They often go to university to find husbands.)

Fertility rates fell in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century almost as quickly as in Western Europe even though economic development and standards of living lagged by decades.

Trump: Does the West have the will to survive? Answer: This question is racist.

Reading liberal journalists fulminating about Donald Trump's speech in Warsaw in defence of Western civilisation makes it clear how important it was and that, for all his grave faults, he has the makings of a good, even very good, President. 

If he continues to listen to Steve Bannon rather than Ivanka or the Republican establishment.

Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic, was very cross indeed. He asserted:

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.
Trump’s speech, he thinks, was racist, because some Europeans are Muslim, and the term West excludes countries like India and Japan.

Friday, 7 July 2017

The 21st century looks frightening

Identity politics will lead to major wars in the 21st century.
(In a sense, the struggle with Islamism is itself an instance of this.)
Jeffrey Ketland

Now for the bad news: There won't be a Poland in 100 years. At a total fertility rate of 1.29, Poland will have one retiree per working-age citizen by 2075. Poland in fact has one of the world's very lowest fertility rates, which means (in Mary Eberstadt's way of looking at the problem) that it is losing its religion. President Trump's speech was magnificent, but it brings to mind Schiller's dictum that history brought forth a great moment, but the moment encountered a mediocre people. Trump is doing the right thing, but we should remember that Europe is a case not for cure but for palliative care.
David Goldman

Trump talks about a clash of civilisations, not a threat to universal values

Trump's speech yesterday at Warsaw was a very good one, though I have mentioned that I disliked him seeing the Assad regime and Iran as hostile.

George W. Bush went to lengths to insist the West was not in conflict with Islam. He declared war instead on an abstract noun, terrorism, even though you can't win a war with an abstract noun. Barack Obama said the terrorist murders in Paris, several massacres ago, were "an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share", even though values are not really universal.

Donald Trump yesterday at Warsaw declared that Western culture, not universal values, are under assault in Europe and the U.S. This is an important step forward.

But what will he do to defend the West?

At any rate, for the time being, he is listening to Steve Bannon rather than H.R. McMaster or Ivanka. This is good.

The reasons for the Qatar crisis: Qatar is independent, friendly to Iran, prefers Al-Nusra to ISIS

The Saudi Arabian monarchy appears to be the biggest enemy of Western civilisation, in a very crowded field. Robert Fisk in the Independent today argues that one reason for the crisis between Qatar and the Saudis is that Qatar was involving itself in the Syrian war and is well disposed towards Al-Nusra/Al Qaeda, while the Saudis prefer ISIS. Qatar is also making arrangements with Iran, the arch-enemy of the Saudis and their de facto ally, Israel.

Fisk says:

52 people were murdered in London 12 years ago today

Br7jXLfCMAIKC8N.jpg large

Ten years ago today 52 people in London were murdered by British subjects who want to restore the caliphate and thought this would advance their cause. These deaths did not lead to a public discussion about changing immigration policy.

The massacres led me discover, to my absolute amazement, the huge numbers of Third World and developed world immigrants who had entered the UK since Labour came to power in 1997. This led me, over the next many years, to rethink my ideas about politics and history. It turned out that the nice people had been wrong all along and the unpleasant ones right.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

More quotations from Lord Salisbury

The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.

Letter to Lord Lytton (25 May 1877), quoted in Cecil, The Life of Robert, Marquis of Salisbury. Volume II, p. 145

...the splitting up of mankind into a multitude of infinitesimal governments, in accordance with their actual differences of dialect or their presumed differences of race, would be to undo the work of civilisation and renounce all the benefits which the slow and painful process of consolidation has procured for mankind...It is the agglomeration and not the comminution of states to which civilisation is constantly tending; it is the fusion and not the isolation of races by which the physical and moral excellence of the species is advanced. There are races, as there are trees, which cannot stand erect by themselves, and which, if their growth is not hindered by artificial constraints, are all the healthier for twining round some robuster stem.

Bentley's Quarterly Review, 1, (1859), p. 22

Wherever democracy has prevailed, the power of the State has been used in some form or other to plunder the well-to-do classes for the benefit of the poor.

Quarterly Review, 110, 1861, p. 281