Saturday, 29 April 2017

MP stands down after telling pupils 'homosexuality is wrong'

Andrew Turner, Conservative MP for the Isle of Wight since 2001, has decided not to stand for re-election before he was forced to stand down. This is because of an answer he gave during a question and answer session at Christ the King College 
(sic) in Newport, a joint Church of England and Catholic secondary school and sixth form college. One student, who describing herself as a “passionate campaigner for LGBT rights”, asked him if he was involved in the Isle of Wight’s first ever Pride event.

In a post on Facebook, the student said. “He told us that he’d been invited, but wasn’t intending to go. This is because (and this is a direct quote) he thinks that homosexuality is ‘wrong’ and “dangerous to society’.” 

It does slightly remind me of children reporting adults for politically incorrect remarks in Stalin's Russia, but Stalin analogies are as objectionable as Hitler ones.

Friday, 28 April 2017

In defence of Jeremy Corbyn

I have changed my mind about Trident and now think Great Britain should keep it, but I do start to wonder if Britain should leave NATO.

Let me be clear. I want Nato to continue and flourish. I simply wonder whether the UK should belong.

Please advise me, dear reader. I need to think this through.

"Good people wish to be let alone."

Nigel Lawson said that, just as if there were no criminals there would be no need for the police, if there were no liberals or socialists there would be no need for conservatives.

The Ballymoney Free Press editorialised about Home Rule in 1910, 'Good people wish to be let alone. Ever since the serpent entered the Garden, good people will not be let alone'.

Frank Furedi: "Back in 1997, Oxford political philosopher Isaiah Berlin remarked that ‘for the first time since 1789 the European left does not have a project’. He could have added that neither did the European right." Has anything changed?

President Van der Bellen of Austria on Monday: By the way, not only Muslim women - any woman can wear a headscarf... and if it goes on like this - and with that I'm at the next question, the actual rampant Islamophobia -there will come a day when we will have to ask all women to wear a headscarf - ALL! - out of solidarity towards those who do it for religious reasons.

Benjamin Disraeli: Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Western Europe wants to be a space free of history and ethnicity. Eastern Europe doesn't.

The European Union, like the Roman Empire, is divided into Western and Eastern halves.

The Western European Union wants to be a space free of history and ethnicity, in the hope of avoiding wars and extremists. It will, of course, get both. It already has. 

In the Eastern E.U. they want a (predominantly) Christian Europe and the nation is very important, but this will change unless Western Europe changes first.

David Cameron, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

David Cameron wants the credit for the referendum and perhaps he does deserve some credit, even though he never expected the result. He said yesterday:
I loved being Prime Minister. I thought I was doing a reasonable job. But I think it was the right thing. The lack of a referendum was poisoning British politics and so I put that right.
[Note for non-British readers: When an Englishman says "I thought I was doing a reasonable job" he means 'I was doing brilliantly'.]

Scotland will not leave the UK in my lifetime

Support in Scotland for independence has dropped to 40%, according to the latest poll. This is still far too high but better than the 45% who voted for independence in the referendum. 

 Scotland will not leave the UK in my lifetime.

The Scots won't vote to leave the Union unless they know that the European Union will take them as a member. 

The EU's rules do not allow it to negotiate with Scotland while it is part of the UK. The EU could change its rules, but the UK can prevent the Scottish government spending a penny of public money even discussing this with the EU. 

Idle thoughts of an idle fellow

The dividing line between idleness and work is very unclear. Where does blogging fit in, especially posting thoughts about idleness when I should be on my way to the office?

Failure is not the only penalty for sloth. There is also the success of others. Jacques Renard

Europe is in big trouble

Hierarchy is a natural consequence of organizing society once we go beyond close kinship relations. The more stridently one calls for non-hierarchical society, the more one is calling for different hierarchs.
Edward Stafford

The greatest danger to European civilization is militant secular (Jacobinism) anti-European Culture. Most Europeans take to heart the saying, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." then set forth to destroy 'him', with a whimper, not a bang.
Edward Stafford

Anti-racism will be for the 21st century what communism was for the 20th century, a source of violence.
Alain Finkielkraut 

When an Arab torches a school, it's rebellion. When a white guy does it, it's fascism. I'm 'color blind.' Evil is evil, no matter what color it is. And this evil, for the Jew that I am, is completely intolerable.

Alain Finkielkraut 

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

France the sick man of Europe?

Is France the sick man of Europe or is that Turkey again, as when the phrase was coined? 

No, Turkey is no longer in Europe. Italy maybe? So many sick men in Europe these days... 

Only Germany enjoys rude health.

Civilisation and its discontents

I found this on the net by Bernard Lewis, the leading historian of the Middle East, in a debate with that insufferable bore Edward Said: 

The Roman Empire and the medieval Islamic Empire were not conquered by more civilised peoples, they were conquered by less civilised but more vigorous peoples. But in both cases what made the conquest, with the Barbarians in Rome and the Mongols in Iraq, what made it possible was things were going badly wrong within the society so that it was no longer able to offer effective resistance.
Bernard Lewis and Romanian historian Neagu Djuvara are both 100 and both think it is inevitable that Europe will become part of the Muslim world. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

A renegade English literature lecturer secretly voted leave

This blog post by Dr. Martin Robb (a lecturer at the Open University and all round good egg) is fascinating evidence of how academics are startling politically undiverse. What happened to the great High Tory dons at Cambridge like Cowling and Casey or Edward Norman?

It has taken him nine months to admit in his blog that he voted Leave and I am sure it is because of the stigma that attaches to Leave among academics (and not only academics). 

Just as people used to keep very quiet about being homosexual now they often feel they must not tell anyone they voted Leave.

Marine Le Pen won't win, but if she did she'd enjoy cohabitation

The main method of wealth acquisition in France is to wait for your parents to die. Why would you want your inheritance in devalued French France rather than Euro? Of course the French will vote for Macron. Le Pen isn't Trump and the French aren't Americans. So stop trying to translate the American experience into other countries.
David Goldman (Spengler in the Asia Times and one of the most intelligent political commentators you'll find).

I cannot imagine Marine Le Pen winning the presidency this year. I always thought she had almost no chance. I imagine she thinks the same. And if she did win I cannot imagine her party could win a majority in either chamber. In each it at present has two seats.

If she did win she'd be almost powerless. She'd have a bully pulpit but no power. But what a pulpit.

I am sure Macron, who I think is a creature of Hollande, will disappoint everyone, like Hollande has done. Then, I imagine, we shall probably see President Le Pen. 

If and when she finally does become President she will find it very hard to implement her promises of reducing immigration to 10,000 a year and leaving the Euro. She might find it much more enjoyable and useful to be a President co-habitating with a Parliament that hates her. She could blame the government for everything. 

I am not sure, though, that that would raise French prestige or influence in the world. Which is why it won't happen.

Bernard Lewis: Will the future see an Islamised Europe or a European Islam?

In 2010 the greatest historian of the Middle East, Bernard Lewis, predicted that by the end of the decade Iran would abandon political Islam, while Turks adopted some form of Islamist rule. The old man might yet be right.

He also said in 2010 that Muslims were making their third attempt to conquer Europe, an attempt which seemed to have a much better chance at success than the first two as it took the form of peaceful migration rather than military aggression.

“The only question remaining for us to answer regarding the future of Europe is will it be an Islamised Europe or a European Islam?"
I suspect that the country that poses the biggest danger to Christendom/Western Christian civilisation is not Iran or Turkey, and certainly not Russia or North Korea, but Saudi Arabia.

ISIS is a very big danger if we overreact to them, as the Americans overreacted to September 11th, and alienate many Muslims in Europe.

Finally politics is about things that matter

Thank goodness politics is now about important things like national identity, instead of tedious arguments about the economy.

Politics didn't become about economics until after 1945, when material considerations and welfare took the place of God and the nation. Politics used to be about interesting things, like Welsh Church Disestablishment.

Robert Tombs, who supervised me, said in his much praised book The English and Their History (I must read it) that after 1688 'politics was a branch of religion, rather as 21st-century politics is a branch of economics'.

It is now no longer only about economics.

Hollande rigged and won the French election

I blogged earlier:
Why are some talking about a bad day for democracy in France? This election was the most democratic in decades - a genuine choice between 4 very different platforms. 5 counting the very left-wing Socialist candidate.
This is the reason.

The explanation below for Macron's victory, posted on Facebook by a French professor does sound very plausible. Perhaps today is a very bad day for democracy in France.
Even in Putin's Russia the executive power would not have been able to rig the election like Hollande did
Macron is Hollande's surrogate and En Marche is a scam, a cover for the Hollandist fraction of the socialist party. Hollande is not stupid, he has an unmatchable expertise in electoral game, the cynical disciple of Mitterrand and a 30 years practice. The opposition leaders' phones, those of their families friends and attorneys are tapped 24/7. The media have been organized in a cartel by Macron himself breaching the law about competition, the outlets are subsidized by the State and journalists have tax breaks and perks. Public prosecution is under the command of the executive (i.e. Hollande) ... Otherwise, how one would explain that an investment banker with no political background, no party, no programme could come first in a fair electoral process?

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Macron will be President of France

French exit poll result:

Macron - 23%
Le Pen - 23%
Fillon - 19%
Melenchon - 19%

The Gaullist Fillon might have been a good President, despite the corruption allegations. Macron will do less well against Marine Le Pen than Fillon, so she will be happy to meet him in the second round. Nevertheless I am sure that Macron will be President.

He will be another Trudeau. Possibly another Hollande.

And bad news for Britain in the Brexit negotiations.

Voices in the election hubbub

Dan Hodges
One thing Reluctant Labour supporters must understand. Anything less than huge May win will see Corbyn claim pyrrich victory. And cling on

Brendan O'Neill
People saying: "Don't make the General Election all about Brexit. There are other issues too." But Brexit isn't just another issue. It isn't really an issue at all, in fact. It's bigger than that. It's a potentially new way of doing politics; it's a demand for democratising politics; it's the means of ensuring that all those "issues" -- the economy, housing, jobs, the NHS, law, war, regulation, etc -- are debated and decided upon in a more open, honest, populist way, by the public rather than by technocrats. Brexit, if properly acted upon, could help to make politics and all its "issues" radically different and more interesting than they are today. This is why you should cast your vote on the basis of the candidate's commitment to Brexit rather than what he or she thinks about "issues": because until Brexit is clarified and made stronger than it is now after nine months of elitist assault and demonisation, politics and its issues will remain the playthings of them rather than the property of us.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Both Theresa May's grandmothers were servants

The London Review of Books, a magazine that infuriates me by reflecting the unthinking left-wing consensus of British academia, has published a rather enjoyable review of a biography of Theresa May by Rosa Prince. 

It contains the interesting information that both May’s grandmothers were in service and one of her great-grandfathers was a butler. 

The biography contains an interesting explanation of why she took almost no part in the referendum campaign.


Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.
Max Frisch

If you want to work on your art, work on your life.

Anton Chekhov

The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves.

Callaghan, the bent copper

Lord, how recent the 1979 election seems. I remember the Private Eye cover with Mr. Callaghan leaving church with his 2 granddaughters. 

One is saying:

I didn't know granddad believed in God.
And the other:
Once every 5 years he does.

Why should Great Britain or America fight for the Sunnis?

Obviously, the USA and UK should never have invaded Iraq. They should have launched a short punitive expedition into Afghanistan in 2001, restored the monarchy and then allowed the Taliban to come back. Nation-building was always (a liberal) folly: Afghanistan and Iraq were not post-war Germany, as should have been clear.

But having broken it, as Colin Powell warned, the USA bought Iraq. Leaving it alone led to ISIS. So what is the solution?

I don't know. Unfortunately, the USA may now back the Israeli-Saudi-Sunni alliance against the Shia crescent (Iran, Syria, Hezbollah). I hope Mr. Trump resists this temptation.

Almost all the terrorist atrocities against Western Europe and the USA are committed by Sunnis, yet we are constantly told that Iran, which is fighting ISIS and Al Qaeda, is the great threat. Why? 

Friday, 21 April 2017

Helen Szamuely has died

I was shocked to read of the death of Helen Szamuely, one of the founders of UKIP, whose obituary is here. I met her four or five times. She was perhaps the rudest person I ever knew, but on Facebook not in real life. She was clever and had the gift of mostly being right, especially about the EEC/EC/EU.

She died much too young, but I am very happy that she lived to see the result of the referendum. It was the triumph of her life's work.

Helen's rudeness was Waughian. 

“I notice you have no arguments just personal invective,” she wrote to one commenter. “I am proud of my enemies and you are an excellent addition to the group. I shan’t bother to reply to you again but be assured your self-satisfied silliness is appreciated.”

Will there always be an England, Europe or America, whatever the origin of their inhabitants?

But today, France’s most read and most discussed popular writers—novelists and political essayists—are conservatives of one stripe or another. They are not concerned, even slightly, with the issues that animate American “mainstream” think-tank conservatism—lowering taxes, cutting federal programs, or maintaining some kind of global military hegemony. Their focus is France’s national culture and its survival.
These words are from an article by Scott McConnell in the latest issue of The American Conservative called The Battle for France, which you should print off and read, whether or not you are interested in France. It is about the future, or lack of one, of Western/Christian civilisation. 

I came across it via Professor Tom Gallagher, the historian and commentator.

It contains a quite astonishing piece of information, which I had seen before.
Because the government does not publish statistics about race, some curious researchers have looked at the number of newborn babies screened for markers for sickle-cell anemia, a test given if both parents are of African, North African, or Sicilian origin. The figure has risen from 25 percent in 2005 to 39 percent in 2015. In the Greater Paris region it has risen from 54 percent to 73 percent.
Gentle reader, I don't suppose you have time or patience just now to read several brilliant articles about the effects on the West of mass immigration from the Third World. 

Still, I wanted to post links to another six 'must read' articles on the subject, which is almost the only important political issue of our days. You might want to bookmark this page or even print them off to read at your leisure. 

Like most nice people, I didn't give immigration from the Third World into Great Britain or Europe much thought until a few years ago. When a man I knew in MI6 tried to tell me about the dangers caused by Muslims in Europe I assumed he did so because he was a very rigorous Low Church Protestant. When Tom Gallagher told me about the late Oriana Fallaci and opened the subject of the 'Islamisation' of Europe with me I thought he was absurdly alarmist. I thought the same at first when Ruth Dudley Edwards talked about Islamisation.

Now, like everyone's, my views have changed, because the world has changed and we have all noticed. Despite the official propaganda. It is not that we become more extreme as we age, though we certainly become wiser and less inhibited. It's the world that has become more extreme.

The most important General Election in decades

I had thought this election was boring but reading this by Brendan O'Neill changed my mind. I think he is right.
The snap election in June will be the most important General Election in years, if not decades. For the simple reason that the old technocratic establishment, still reeling from last June's democratic revolt against their deathly, illiberal politics, are using it to try to regain territory, to push Britain back to the era in which they made the decisions and the rest of us nodded along. We can't let this happen. In recent General Elections, there hasn't been much at stake -- they've too often been choices between bean-counters, between managers masquerading as politicians. In this one there's a huge amount at stake -- nothing less than the idea of democracy itself and the supremacy of public opinion over priestly political diktat. It isn't left v right, or Labour v Tory: it's "I believe in democracy" vs "Democracy pisses me off". You can't sit this one out; you can't abstain -- you have to get out there and agitate against the Remainers who have spied an opportunity to dent Brexit and find your local candidate most committed to Brexit! Start today.

The glossary below by Craig Brown in the Daily Mail is worth reading too.

Brexit is not anti-European or even anti-EU

Wanting Great Britain to leave the European Union does not mean one's anti European - or even anti EU.

The United Kingdom and the EU were just not compatible, especially after the treaty of Maastricht for which John Major can be blamed (he could have vetoed it). As Douglas Murray said on June 24th,


Gisela Stuart (Labour MP):
'When we have nationwide referenda, we actually go directly to the people and it's an exercise of direct democracy. Therefore, it becomes our duty to implement that will.'

Bruno Waterfield (Times journalist):
'The Brexit vote is very much the first big moment in a new phase of European political history, where voters will not accept the idea that the political order has to be unrepresentative for the good of civilisation.'

Thursday, 20 April 2017

What people are saying about the election

Philip Collins:
More people think the moon landings were faked than think Labour will win on June 8.

Dan Hodges:

Also, remember the golden rule. The polls always overestimate Labour support.

I am also called Played-out and Done to Death

As an undergraduate I collected parodies and must dig out my ancient commonplace books. This is H.D. Traill, a great parodist, teasing Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

"Look in my face. My name is Used-to-was;
I am also called Played-out, and Done to Death,
And It-will-wash-no-more. Awakeneth
Slowly but sure awakening it has,
The common-sense of man; and I, alas!
The ballad-burden trick, now known too well, And turned to scorn, and grown contemptible-- A too transparent artifice to pass."

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Majoritarianism, the new threat

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Election blues

I realised today that this is the first surprise snap election in England since 1974, when there there were two. Yet I don't think anyone feels excited. Except the Daily Mail.

At least Theresa May will spare us a TV debate, an unwelcome American import, like grey squirrels.

By the way, I saw my first red squirrel since childhood on Saturday in Cernauti/Chernivtsi. It seemed symbolic of the superiority of (especially non-EU) Eastern Europe over the globalised West. 
I recall a leading British zoologist a few years back said complaining that grey squirrels had supplanted red ones was 'racist'. I thought about this and saw that he was right.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

A very unexciting election

This is the first election (don't ask me which is the first one I dimly remember) which doesn't interest me. It's so réchauffé. 

And that's before I remembered that the luvvies will be back, telling us how to vote against Brexit.

The best comment on Brexit I've seen

I voted for the principle of national sovereignty and I expect to suffer for this choice. You do know there have been actual *wars* of independence, don't you? It will not be easily won. A lot of Remainers seem to be saying that they are *not* prepared to suffer for the principle of national sovereignty and that if we suffer just one jot of inconvenience or anxiety, we should have remained.

A strange election in which all parties will win big

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Theresa May summoned the television cameras and announced an hour and a half ago that she was ‘going to the country’. She told the Queen, who no longer has the power to dissolve Parliament, that she was holding an election.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 is ignored, as it can be because no law can be entrenched under an unwritten constitution.

It’s a very odd election because all the main parties will probably gain.

The election is very good news for Labour because they will be annihilated now, not in 2020. They will therefore get to choose a new leader in June. There is no obvious leader but any leader will be very much better than the present extreme left leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The election is very good news for the Liberal Democrats because Labour will be annihilated and the Lib Dems stand to gain many formerly Labour votes and some seats (though the Lib Dems are stronger in Conservative seats).

Many Conservatives will vote Liberal Democrat using the election as a second referendum on leaving the EU.

It is even possible that the Lib Dems might replace Labour as the second party. Seriously.

Seen on Facebook this morning

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Agnostics have commitment issues.

Olivia Fox Taylor

Monday, 17 April 2017

Somewhere people

I think it is the lonely, without a fireside or an affection they may call their own, those who return not to a dwelling but to the land itself, to meet its disembodied, eternal, and unchangeable spirit — it is those who understand best its severity, its saving power, the grace of its secular right to our fidelity, to our obedience. Yes! few of us understand, but we all feel it though, and I say all without exception, because those who do not feel do not count. Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924), Lord Jim, chapter XXI.

I am copying this from the very commendable blogger Laudator Temporis Acti.

Quotations for Easter Monday

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Every form of addiction is bad, no matter whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. Carl Jung

I’m pleased with what I’ve done. The Stockholm jihadi murderer

No generation has the right to impose wholly volitional yet irreversible changes upon the next generation. Yet for the past 60 years, this is precisely what Europe has been doing, with terrible short-term outcomes already, and huge existential challenges still to come. Whenever ordinary people are given the choice to vote on such transformations (engineered by elites who are immune to the consequences, though their children will not be) they reject them, as with Donald Trump and Brexit. Yet instead of these vetos being seen for what they are — proof of the essential unviability of the great immigration experiment — they are sneeringly dismissed as evidence of how bigoted and stupid the Great Unwashed really are. Even now, if you want an easy guffaw on a BBC comedy show, just say “Nigel Farage”. Kevin Myers in the Sunday Times

Thursday, 13 April 2017

12 pieces of careers advice

I don't like work — no man does — but I like what is in work — the chance to find yourself. Joseph Conrad

It's never too late to be what you might have been. George Elliot

Don't bend; don't water it down; don't try to make it logical; don't edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Letters to the Editor of the Times published yesterday

Sir, Under Boris Johnson, the British “strategy” appears to be stop talking to the Russians, get them out of Syria, accept US intelligence reports at face value and persuade the G7 to unseat Assad and exclude him from future talks. What remains unclear is which of the many different, conflicted and, in many cases, jihadist-infected groups in Syria Britain will now back against Assad, and how it will cope with the increased instability between different Islamic sects. In 2006, every Muslim and Christian leader we spoke to, on a delegation visit there, warned us that without the liberalising, secular leadership of the Alawites, there would be factional chaos. This is what Isis and related groups exploited for their own ends.
The Rev Canon Robin Morrison
Pencoedtre, Barry

Boris Johnson is Hillary Clinton in drag

I am delighted that British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has been made to look an ass. 

His proposal that new sanctions should be imposed on Russia for supporting the Syrian government was rejected by the G7 Summit which he chose to attend at the cost of cancelling his visit to Moscow.

So much for an independent British foreign policy.

Sanctions were very rightly imposed on Russia for invading Ukraine and seizing Ukrainian territory. By doing so Russia became an outlaw. 

In Syria, on the other hand, Russia is aiding the internationally recognised government suppress its enemies. This may be very objectionable or praiseworthy or neither but it is not illegal.

But was Russia complicit in the use of chemical weapons which, after all, they gave the Syrians back in the 1970s?

No, I don't think so. There is certainly no reason to think that Russia knew that the Syrians were using chemical weapons and no reason to suppose they approved of them being used. In fact neither is remotely likely. The AP story that the CIA believed the Russians had foreknowledge of the use of chemical wepons has been retracted.

Boris Johnson was playing a game to get the other G7 powers to try to make regime change their policy. They refused to play ball.

In my view, an intervention to get rid of Mr. Assad would be disastrous but, whether I am right or not, it would be a mistake for the West to give away the moral high ground that it occupies with regard to the invasion of Crimea by mixing that issue with the Syrian conflict.

Boris begins to look like Hillary Clinton in drag, but with a better brain and a sense of humour.

Even though it is probable that Syrian government forces did use chemical weapons this cannot be proven in the fug of war. In fact, there is no proof that the regime used them in 2013 and there is no doubt that the rebels on occasion have used sarin.

Ed Stafford, a recently retired American diplomat who used to be in Bucharest, has co-written this analysis for The Hill of the American bombardment of Syria. It points out that Messrs. Trump, Tillerson and McMaster have made it clear that the strikes do not mean America intends to intervene in the conflict against Assad but were a limited response to the use of chemical weapons.

I hope this does not change. 

If it does not, I do not see that Donald Trump has betrayed the people who believed in him and voted for him.

Historians have no more idea than anyone else about what is going to happen

'If you bother to read some of the serious analysis of Trump's support, you realize that it's a very fragile thing and highly unlikely to deliver what he needs in the crucial first phase of the primaries. ... By the time we get to March–April, it's all over. I think there's going to be a wonderful catharsis, I’m really looking forward to it: Trump's humiliation. Bring it on.'
At the World Economic Forum annual meeting at Davos in January last year a lot of people were worried about Donald Trump, but not British historian Niall Fergusson.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

No more vigils. After Westminster and Stockholm, it's time to get angry

I used not to think so but Allison Pearson is nowadays worth reading. At any rate, her piece today in The Daily Telegraph is. It's headlined
No more vigils. After Westminster and Stockholm, it's time to get angry
I liked these lines.
Step forward one of the usual suspects – Chuka Umunna, Shami Chakrabarti, take your pick – to warn us that the British people are guilty of Islamophobia. In vain do you shout at the TV that the British people are the victims of hate crime, not its perpetrators. Even the most tactful attempt to express legitimate concerns is deemed to stigmatise all Muslims, so people stop trying.
I wonder, how much longer do you reckon the British people will allow themselves to be sedated?

Quotations of the day

'No two persons ever read the same book.'
Edmund Wilson
[And no-one reads the same book twice.]

What people are saying

The problem for the US and its allies has always been that, for all their talk of political “transition” in Syria, the dominant force in armed opposition holding territory on the ground in Syria is IS and al Qaeda. If the present regime goes, then they are the only replacement, something that terrifies many Syrians who do not like Assad but fear the alternative as being even worse. In this respect, the plan of Hillary Clinton’s advisers during the presidential election campaign to raise a neutral military force capable of fighting Assad, IS and al Qaeda, all at the same time, was much less realistic than anything Mr Trump has proposed.

Patrick Cockburn on Friday

The biggest loser from last week’s cruise-missile strikes on a Syrian air base wasn’t “President” Bashar al-Assad. It was Vladimir Putin. The Syrian leader was punished, but Russia’s new czar was humiliated.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Boris intends to be the tail wagging Trump's dog

Grateful though I am to Boris Johnson for his part in winning the referendum campaign (and his part in the great cause of cheering us all up) his desire to have British forces help get rid of Bashar Al Assad has always appalled me - and not because I have any liking for Assad or his unspeakable regime. 

Nor because I am in principle against interventions to prevent massacres.

But Bashar - or rather the people who control him, for he is a nonentity - is clearly considerably the lesser of two great evils.

Does no-one remember Iraq or Libya?

Now Boris says he intends to get the US to achieve regime change in Syria. 

Below is a passage from an article in today's Daily Telegraph and it sounds like it's the words verbatim of Mr. Johnson himself, who cut a very insubstantial figure by cancelling his trip to Moscow at the weekend and leaving it to Rex Tillerson to talk to Vladimir Putin.

I hope appearances are not deceptive and Boris is insubstantial. Insubstantial like Arthur Balfour, British Foreign Secretary at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, whom Lloyd George described as 'the scent on my pocket handkerchief'.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Trump's victory pushed Harvard post-graduate students into 'an "existential" crisis of sadness and despair'

You might imagine that the Harvard and Yale student bodies would be dominated by Republicans, but it's not so. Most students are Democrats and even most student Republicans do not like to mention Donald Trump's name. 

Republican students' celebration of his victory in the universities was very sotto voce and half hearted indeed. Conservatism always stands in contrast to the platonic ideal of youth, but it is not clear if the new President is even a conservative. His are the antithesis of the values of future American leaders. 

The anguish about his victory still has not abated. How different things are in France where Marine Le Pen's supporters are disproportionately young.

Why did Assad use nerve gas? An interesting theory

Assuming it was Assad's forces that used the nerve gas. Which it probably was. People in 
Khan Sheikhoun told the Guardian and other papers that the nerve gas was dropped from a plane and the rebels don't have planes. Pictures show a crater in the road where the missile apparently landed.

Steve Bryen is a former senior Pentagon official and fighter pilot with a lot of working knowledge of the Syrian forces. His theory, set out in the Asia Times, is that Assad used chemical weapons deliberately in order to make Trump and Putin fall out and thus prevent them making a deal that involved regime change. 

It sounds far-fetched, I know, but it makes as much sense as any other explanation. It's no odder than Assad releasing large numbers of Islamist fighters from prison in order to strengthen the jihadis, as he did a few years ago. 

Scott Adams, who has so often been right about Donald Trump, does not believe the chemical weapons story.

To everyone with a flower name, many happy returns of the day!

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Palm Sunday is in Romania the Day of Flowers. People take flowers, not palms, to Mass and someone named after a flower, not a saint, is expected to celebrate today as his saint's day.

In Egypt today, Palm Sunday was marked by two churches being bombed, leaving at least 45 dead and more than 100 wounded.

What people said this weekend

Must sign off now. But amazed by liberal left. Donald Trump transformed in a night from fascist moron to hero. I still think he's an oaf.

Michael Caine, interviewed on Sky on Friday, explaining why he voted for Brexit,
It wasn’t about... racism, immigrants or anything, it was about freedom
[On the possibility that Britain might be less prosperous because of Brexit]
I'd rather be a poor master than a rich servant.
Politics is always chaotic. In politics, you’re always going into areas you’ve never been before, so you’re going to get lost and then you’re going to find your way. And then it’ll be all right.

The British press are in warlike mood

The Sunday Times and Sunday Telegraph today make depressing reading, as they did yesterday. I skimmed a number of articles complaining that British forces have been so reduced that we no longer have the capacity to send as many forces to Syria as the US will expect. At least one writer said if we are unable to do so this will displease Donald Trump.

I have no idea why it is in US interests to intervene in Syria and much less do I understand why the UK should do so because the US does.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

More thoughts on the bombing of Syria

In effect, Putin drew his own red line, right over Obama’s. Putin gave Assad a free pass to use any means to fight his people, anything save for chemical weapons. Moscow is a stickler for the letter of international law, and in 2013, it quickly organized a unanimous vote in the UN Security Council and a broad international coalition to oversee the destruction of Assad’s chemical arsenal at sea. But despite the pointedly international nature of the operation, Moscow had essentially acted as Assad’s guarantor, with Putin having to ensure that Assad would no longer use chemical weapons.

Julia IoffeThe Atlantic

Did the Syrian armed forces use sarin?

Some readers say I have been too quick in believing that the Syrian government forces used sarin, but I think they did.

I don't know for certain, but the sarin was delivered by rocket. This is clear from the account of the Guardian woman, who was the first to report from the scene in Khan Sheikhun.
Her evidence is supported by the view of the magnificently named Colonel Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, former commanding officer of the British Armed Forces Joint Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment, who dismissed the Russian theory that they accidentally blew up a rebel supply of sarin, when he told the BBC:
Axiomatically, if you blow up Sarin, you destroy it.

Stockholm syndrome

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Four people were killed by an Uzbek driving a lorry in Stockholm yesterday. 

A young woman was literally ripped limb from limb.

This is The Irish Times' headline.

Brutal events in Stockholm will be boost for Sweden’s far right

When the first Syrians were killed by the police and army in 2011 large crowds turned out for their funerals and the Ambassadors of the Western powers attended. Funerals became more and more frequent and then the Ambassadors were recalled and people kept away from the funerals and a war had started. 

Has Donald Trump been turned? Not necessarily

On Thursday night there were a lot of interesting news stories. 

A horrible story about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.17 suicide bombs had briefly opening the road out of Mosul, presumably allowing the leader of ISIS to escape. The story or non-story about Donald Trump's nefarious links to Vladimir Putin trundled on, now involving Carl Bernstein. 

When we woke up yesterday there was only one story. President Trump had bombed Syria because of the pictures he had seen of dead children, including 'beautiful babies'.

I feared and more than half-expected that Mr. Trump would be turned by the American foreign policy establishment. Now that danger is acute. Especially since Rex Tillerson said the day before that the US still wanted regime change in Syria.

Steve Bannon being shoved off the National Security Council was a worrying sign, as was the destruction of Mike Flynn by the FBI. Instead of a National Security Advisor who worried about Islam the USA has one who worries about Russia. 

Donald Trump has many good instincts and insights, which is why he is President, but a very short attention span. He has surrounded himself with a bunch of people, including James Mattis and Nikki Haley, who do not share any of his vision of the world, possibly because there are few experienced people in public life who do.

Steve Bannon is Mr. Trump's conscience and must be very beleaguered.

Mr. Trump could turn out to be another Republican president who cuts taxes for the rich and sends soldiers to kill and die in pointless wars in the Middle East. Ones from which Saudi Arabia and Israel benefit, rather than America. While taking in as many refugees as Obama did and doing not much more about illegal immigration.

But it does not have to be like that.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Quotations for Friday

Everyone who says frankly and fully what they think is doing a public service. 

John Stuart Mill

It is desirable... that people should be eccentric... eccentricity in society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius...

John Stuart Mill

Monday, 3 April 2017

Quotations for Monday

Sir Christopher Wren:

Architecture has its political Use; publick Buildings being the Ornament of a Country; it establishes a Nation, draws People and Commerce; makes the People love their native Country, which Passion is the Original of all great Actions in a Common-wealth…. Architecture aims at Eternity.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Christopher Caldwell Tells Us How to Think About Vladimir Putin

Christopher Caldwell is the most interesting journalist I read. Do read this talk he recently gave, gentle reader. 
'Yet if we were to use traditional measures for understanding leaders, which involve the defense of borders and national flourishing, Putin would count as the pre-eminent statesman of our time. On the world stage, who can vie with him? Only perhaps Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey.

Things people said over the last few days

‘In my youth, what is now seen as sexual harassment was seen as welcome attention. Actually, if men took notice of you in an office, you were very pleased.’

'Young women need classes in low self-esteem, not high self-esteem.'

‘I think Trump hatred is a very foolish move. It seems to me to be a sort of neurotic fear of something new.’

Fay Weldon in an interview in the Mail on Sunday.