Dave’s gay pride

The first homosexual marriages taking place in England and Wales filled Dave with pride, or so he says.

I’m happy for him. Because, let’s face it, Dave doesn’t have many real reasons to be proud. Trendy nonentities seldom do.

That’s why they have to manufacture bogus reasons, and Dave is past master. In this instance he pretends to be proud because the introduction of homomarriage pays tribute to “the sort of country we are”.

He’s right about that. We’re the sort of country that puts all those Johnny-Tony-Dave-Eds in power and then lets them destroy reality for the sake of imposing their own virtual world.

One in which vice is virtue, stupidity is intelligence, perversion is morality, illiteracy is education, levelling is equality, catastrophic indebtedness is prosperity, pickled animals is art and a cross between an orgy and a Nuremberg rally is music.

In Dave’s virtual world anything goes because, in ‘the sort of country we are’, people tacitly agree to ignore semantics for the sake of semiotics.

Otherwise they’d do their sums and realise that words uttered by our ‘leaders’ simply don’t add up. Take Dave’s explanation of his pride, for example.

Homomarriage, he told PinkNews, Peter Tatchell’s hysterical, blatantly politicised baby, is in keeping with Britain’s “proud tradition of respect, tolerance and equal worth”.

But Britain has no such tradition. That is, she does in the sense of recognising the equal worth of every individual. But Britain never, or at least until the likes of Dave took over, recognised the equality of every act. If she had, she would have become extinct a long time ago.

This distinction goes back to the old notion of hating the sin but loving the sinner. And the notion itself goes back to the Judaeo-Christian morality on which Western civilisation is based.

That is actual reality, and all attempts to replace it with the virtual kind have failed. The real choice Britain faces isn’t between Judaeo-Christian and some other morality. It’s between Judaeo-Christian morality and none.

And no real morality will ever create a Walpurgisnacht in which “all things are permitted”, in Dostoyevsky’s prophetic words. Moreover, when morality sinks, it drags everything else down, including the ability to think straight.

If this ability were still extant, we’d know that homomarriage is wrong for any number of reasons:

Moral: According to the founding document of our civilisation, homosexuality is a sin. Not the worst one, but a sin nevertheless.

We are of course all sinners, and no society can be rigidly intolerant and still hope to survive. That’s why civilised Western societies have always been tolerant of homosexuals – provided, and this is a critical proviso, they didn’t actively try to pervert society’s moral values.

In England especially, slight campness was seen as an extension of lovable eccentricity, occupying a place somewhere between loud waistcoats and Gilbert & Sullivan.

That’s why few Englishmen objected to the legalisation of homosexuality in 1967. They had forgotten that every wedge has a thin end: 47 years after the Sex Offences Act we have homomarriage.

Moral laws are like any other: if widely flouted, they disappear, followed by a rejection of morality as such. In due course, contempt for some moral laws will mean the debauchment of them all.

This is precisely the countdown for which Dave has pushed the button. 

Social: Decadent societies that remove all moral restraints don’t survive: to this historical law there are no exceptions. That’s why accepting homomarriage is society’s suicide pact.

In this instance, family is the core institution of Western society, and marriage is the cornerstone of family. Homomarriage isn’t the first blow delivered to this institution, but it’s the hardest.

A society where almost half of all children are raised by a single parent has already corrupted family. How much more corruption can this institution – and therefore society – withstand before it disappears altogether?

Legal: There are many legal objections to homomarriage, of which one goes straight to the core of our constitution: the monarchy.

The status of a man ‘married’ to a king would be, putting it mildly, dubious. Would he be called Queen? If not, would we eliminate the very concept of king and queen, as we’re already eliminating the concept of husband and wife? What about succession, in the absence of ‘biological’ children?

And of course exempting the royal family from this abomination would produce deafening shrieks of discrimination in every objectionable publication, led by the one to which the British Prime Minister has seen fit to grant an interview.

Political: Dave obviously thought that his subversive campaign for homomarriage would be a vote getter. Reality is quite different: his ill-advised sleight of hand may well cost the Tories the next election.

The ComRes survey shows that the new law has turned off twice as many people from the Tories as it has attracted. That’s one thing I find amazing about our rulers: they’re even incompetent in the spivocratic arts to which they’ve devoted their lives.

Dave has actually divulged to his cronies that, had he anticipated the political consequences, he wouldn’t have done it. A true man of principle then.

Religious: England has an established church, an inseparable part of our constitution. Its wishy-washy response to something no church can possibly condone while remaining Christian has already added to the exodus of communicants. The Church risks becoming an irrelevance, with serious constitutional consequences.

Aesthetic: Personally, and it’s only one man’s view, I find the huge front-page photographs of newlywed men French-kissing to be nauseating.

Actually, it’s not only one man’s view. A quarter of all Brits state they’d refuse to attend a homosexual wedding, and most of them come from the core Tory support.

Add to this all those millions who feel the same way but have swallowed the propaganda saying that such feelings aren’t socially acceptable, and I’m in good company.

Do you find such pictures appealing? Do you really? One wishes more Brits were honest about their true feelings.

However, all such reasons, arbitrarily picked out of hundreds, fall into the domain of the real world. Evidently this isn’t the world inhabited by our politicians, which presents a deadly danger to us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ignorant drivel? It’s a sign of The Times

The novelist Mary McCarthy once said about the communist playwright Lillian Hellman that “every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”

This is absolutely true in spirit. However, technically speaking, it’s a slight exaggeration. A writer is statistically unlikely to rely exclusively on mendacious words in his prose.

Or at least so I thought until today. Oliver Kamm’s article Secular Values, Not Religion, Make Us a Tolerant Society in The Times has disabused me of such romantic notions.

The assumption here is that tolerance is ipso facto a virtue. But this is false: tolerance to, say, evil, immorality, tastelessness, perversion, treason isn’t exactly virtuous. It’s suicidal.

Then exactly which religion does Mr Kamm mean? Using this word generically, at least in this context, is rank ignorance. Comparing, say, Christianity with Islam or Judaism with Buddhism, one ought to realise that there’s no such thing as religion in the abstract.

There are only separate religions, each with its own dogma, practices of worship, cosmology, ethos, culture, social and political organisation – civilisation. Does Kamm think that Christ, who told people to love their enemies, and Mohammed, who told people to kill them, created equally intolerant religions?

He probably does, which betokens not only ignorance, but possibly a mental disorder as well. Not to worry, in the unlikely event that he reads this, I number several psychiatrists among my friends. We’ll fix you up, Oliver, just relax and think nice thoughts.

Meanwhile, my friends’ future patient presses right on: “Religious belief resolves no moral problem and yields no knowledge.” If his own example is anything to go by, atheism isn’t a fount of knowledge either.

A religious person, Oliver, and I mean specifically a practitioner of the religion that created our civilisation, tends to practise what his church preaches – or at least to feel guilty if he doesn’t.

Are we to assume that this is less likely to ‘resolve moral problems’ than the belief that one is the fulcrum around which life revolves and therefore, as Hemingway wrote, anything that feels good is moral? Or, to be kinder to atheists, that every man can set his own moral rules and follow them even if they clash with everyone else’s?

Hold your breath, we’re still in the first paragraph. It gets better: “I’d settle for the victory of moderate forms of religion, which accept science and pluralism, over absolutist ones.”

This proceeds from the assumption that there exist in the West immoderate forms of religion rejecting science. Actually they don’t exist, and believing they do exacerbates my fear for Oliver’s mental health. For one finds it hard to accept that anyone can be so ignorant as to think that, say, Christianity opposes science or indeed has ever done so.

In fact, our civilisation is the only one that has produced real science – specifically because, as Collingwood showed so brilliantly, Christianity corrected the Greeks’ metaphysical error of treating the world as existing only as our subjective perception. 

Once mediaeval scientists, armed with Christian philosophy, proved this was wrong, they could be certain that nature obeyed universal laws – it was after all created by a universal law-giver. Moreover, these laws and indeed the world itself existed objectively, outside man’s senses.

The scientists’ job was understood to be finding out what those laws were, and this understanding lies at the heart of every presupposition of modern research. (This regardless of whether the scientist has lost or preserved the original faith.) That’s why science eventually became incomparably greater in the West than in any other civilisation – only Christendom possessed and cultivated the essential prerequisites.

As to religious absolutism, it would be easy but tedious to enumerate modern disasters directly attributable to moral relativism. In Kamm’s case this would also be pointless.

“The ideas of Spinoza and Russell appeal to me…” Between you, me and the lamp post, Ollie, have you actually read those authors? Come on, you can tell uncle Alex.

I’d suggest that anyone whose every word screams intellectual inadequacy and general absence of basic education would be physically unable to work his way through rather long and involved arguments. Just say you prefer deism to Christianity, Oliver, and leave it at that. This name-dropping may drop you into… well, an embarrassing situation.

“…Religions typically have a lethal [my emphasis] assumption in common: that faith is a virtue.” Of course it isn’t, Ollie, we all know that. What is a virtue is believing that you yourself are your own God.

The first century, the twentieth, in which this virtue reigned supreme, elevated evil to a level never before seen in history. Between two world wars, ideological mass murder (the ideology inspiring it invariably regards atheism as its key tenet), artificial famines, countless smaller wars, concentration camps in Russia, Germany, China (complete your own list), more people, by an order of magnitude, were killed in that atheist century than in all other centuries of recorded history combined.

“Liberal, secular values have tamed religion as a source of conflict.” Fine. But exactly those same values either greatly contributed to the crimes I mentioned above or acted as their sole cause. Do your own sums, Ollie, and decide which ‘source of conflict’ is preferable.

“The decline of religious observance in modern societies is an important civilising influence.” All I can say is, see above. Or walk through London on a Saturday evening, especially after the local team’s home match, then peak into a church on a Sunday morning and compare the two crowds.

Still think that tattooed, puking plankton is a better sample of civilisation than the well-dressed, sober families one sees in places of worship?

In theory, one has to be a moron to think that faith in God, whose judgment we’ll have to face, has no civilising effect, while believing in nothing (which, as Chesterton quipped, means believing in anything) does. In practice, one has to be blind not to see how manifestly false this is.

“The more potent form of faith seeks to justify doctrines and practices that defy rationality and compassion.” Right. Christianity, history’s most rational religion bringing together Athens and Jerusalem, defies rationality. As to compassion, read Matthew, Chapter 5, Ollie. You know how to read, don’t you?

Then Kamm accuses ‘religion’ of resisting abortion and homomarriage. “It takes religious dogma to do that.” Not necessarily, my friend. Common decency would be a good start.

“Civilisation depends on overcoming [faith],” is the last sentence in this drivel. I’d say civilisation depends on keeping deranged ignoramuses out of formerly respectable papers.

 

 

 

      

 

Is Latvia next? The UN is working on it

As far as symbolic gestures go, the UN resolution declaring the Crimean referendum illegal is useful.

Not that it’s going to do anything to reverse the situation: the annexation of the Crimea is a fait accompli. But the overwhelming vote in favour told those who still had doubts exactly where Russia belongs in the world.

Rather than absurdly being accepted as a G8 member, she finds herself in the company of the great powers that opposed the resolution, such as Sudan, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Armenia, Bolivia, Cuba, North Korea, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

One can only be surprised that it took Russia yet another barbaric act to find herself in such exalted company. Granted, her rape of Chechnya in 2000 and Georgia of 2008 couldn’t boast the same scale as the attack on the Ukraine. However, one finds it hard to detect any moral difference.

Anyway, this UN vote has drawn some attention in the press. Not much, but some.

What was passed in near-total silence was another UN action whose significance goes much further than mere symbolism. I’m referring to the report on Latvia issued by the UN Human Rights Committee.

Here I must own up to an idiosyncrasy: I suffer from two terrible allergies.

One is towards all international organisations, the whole alphabet soup of them: UN, EU, UNESCO, WHO, FAO, IMF – you name it.

The other allergy is to any organisation (or document) that has Human Rights in its name. This allergy was triggered when I first found out that the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights was signed, among others, by such experts on the subject as Stalin’s Soviet Union.

Since then the allergy has become worse, but it has never been as virulent as it is today. For the Human Rights Committee has just issued a document pushing the West to the brink of either a major war or abject surrender.

A few facts first.

Latvia’s government has amassed much data suggesting that their country is next on Putin’s list of glorious conquests.

Looking for a pretext to launch an invasion, Putin clearly relies on the old chestnut first perfected by Hitler: alleged persecution of a diasporic minority. In the absence of any real persecution, the bogus kind will do as well.

Instances have already been reported of Putin’s thugs clad in the uniforms of Latvian police perpetrating ‘false flag’ beatings and murders of Russians in Riga.

This constitutes an escalation of the process that started after Latvia declared her independence in 1991. Russian rulers immediately claimed that the Russian minority in Latvia was being persecuted.

Since they could cite no instances of physical persecution, they focused on the linguistic kind. For, once Latvia became a sovereign state, the dastardly Letts had the temerity to declare that thenceforth Lettish was the only language of the country’s public and commercial life. It also made fluency in Lettish a requirement for citizenship.

That naturally put at a disadvantage those Russians who grew up in Latvia without bothering to learn the country’s language. Not all Russians though. The citizenship restrictions didn’t apply to the Russians with pre-Soviet roots.

The Letts see such Russians as part of their society, which can’t be said for the families of those who arrived as conquerors in the wake of Soviet tanks. There was plenty of room to fill: up to a third of the country’s population perished in Stalin’s bloody purges.

In a methodical programme of Russification, the Soviets filled the vacancies with ethnic Russians and put them, or their stooges, into most positions of power.

This explains why so many of them and their descendants don’t speak much Lettish. It’s up to the conquered to learn the language of the conquerors, not the other way around, and this is the spirit in which the Russians have traditionally behaved.

Now I realise that any nation insisting on the exclusive status of her historical language has to become a pariah in our globalised world. For example, not being able to string two English words together is certainly no obstacle to gainful employment in, say, Britain or the USA – in fact at times this seems to be a necessary qualification.

But surely we can understand the sensibilities of the Letts? It’s as if the Germans still living in Prague after the war persisted in referring to their country as the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia and refused to speak any language other than German.

Putin would dearly love to reincorporate  Latvia into his version of the Soviet Union, by violent action if need be.

Alas, in 2004 Latvia joined NATO (she also joined the EU, but this is a trivial irrelevance), and Article 5 of this treaty states unequivocally that an attack on one member is an attack on all.

Yet you know and I know and, most important, Putin knows that NATO doesn’t want to go to war over Latvia or any other ex-Soviet territory. Neither does Col. Putin – as the conquest of the Crimea shows, it’s the bloodless 1938 Anschluss that’s his model, not the bloody 1939 attack on Poland.

Hence Putin needs a quasi-credible pretext to annex Latvia, while NATO needs a pretext not to fight back with anything other than derisory sanctions. Some aura of legitimacy is badly needed – and the UN Human Rights Committee has provided it.

The committee, says its report, is concerned over the “discriminatory effects of the language proficiency requirement on the employment and work of minority groups and at the exclusion of ‘non-citizen’ residents from certain professions in the private sector”.

If this is discrimination, I wish we had more of it in the UK, especially within ‘certain professions’ in the service sector where it’s becoming increasingly hard for an English speaker to make himself understood.

In Latvia, however, the issue of granting automatic citizenship for those who can’t speak the national language was put to a referendum in 2012 and overwhelmingly rejected. Unlike the Crimean referendum, that one was indisputably legal.

Instead of reaffirming Latvia’s right to insist on the exclusivity of her national language, the UN instead chose to issue a tacit encouragement, and some pseudo-legal justification, to Col. Putin.

Let’s pray he doesn’t take the hint for, if he does, the West will be faced with a Hobson’s choice between war and surrender.  

 

 

MI5 recruitment: I’m quaking in my boots

The Duke of Wellington famously said about his troops, “I don’t know what effect these men will have on the enemy, but by God, they terrify me.”

Reading a whole-page recruitment ad for MI5, I felt like saying the same thing, though not exactly in the same spirit.

First, the minor matter: language. I know that my preoccupation with the fine points of English grammar may strike some readers as pedantic, but I’d rather be accused of pedantry than any of its cognate vices.

Here I must say on the basis of my own 30-years’ experience of writing ads that sometimes copywriters mangle English on purpose, not because they are ignorant. They may simply use the kind of idiom they feel will have the desired effect.

For example, many years ago I was asked to produce a recruitment ad for a soul-food restaurant in Texas. The owner was looking for a cook, ideally a middle-aged black woman. The trouble was that US laws made it impossible to say either ‘middle-aged’ or ‘black’ or ‘woman’.

With the deviousness I’ve since lost I wrote, “If you can cook good like a lady should, call…” The grammar was atrocious, the effect much better. The owner received 45 applications, all but one from the desired demographic group.

Hence I’m inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to MI5, whose ad ends with this sentence: “You should not discuss your application, other than with your partner or a close family member, providing they are British.” The sentence may be offensive, but perhaps deliberately so.

‘A close family member…’ followed by ‘they’ is worse than illiterate – it’s politically correct, which betokens spineless submission to fascistic diktats, not something one welcomes in a security outfit. As in most instances, the writer could have mollified his flaming conscience without raping the English language by simply saying ‘close family members’.

I also strenuously object, for some of the same reasons, to the use of ‘partner’ this side of sex manuals, tennis or a business context. At best such locution points at a tin ear; at worst, and typically, it’s dictated by an ideological rejection of words normally used for centuries to describe human relationships.

And of course ‘providing’ instead of ‘provided’ is simply illiterate, but mercifully without any PC connotations.

There are only two possibilities here: one, the writer is a functional illiterate; two, his sponsoring organisation encouraged him to phrase in this way in order to attract exactly the type of recruit it wishes to employ.

Considering that the organisation in question is expected to frustrate the knavish tricks of our enemies, I hesitate to decide which option is scarier. Either MI5 is already staffed with ideologically motivated ignoramuses or it deliberately wishes to attract such applicants. One way or the other, I won’t have a moment’s rest.

It gets worse, as demonstrated by these two consecutive sentences:

“As an equal opportunities employer, the selection of new recruits is based on merit, irrespective of gender [meaning sex, but let it pass, along with the bad sentence structure], age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability or religion.”

“The Security Service is committed to reflecting the society it protects… and is particularly interested in hearing from women and individuals from ethnic minority groups.”

First, it may be only me, but a service supposed to protect our physical wellbeing by every expedient, including violent ones, would be ill-advised to hire cripples.

Second, even in our progressive times certain ‘sexual orientations’ may make their practitioners susceptible to blackmail. Surely, this is a factor of danger for those with access to classified information?

Third, it’s fairly obvious that illiteracy is only one of the writer’s failings. Logic is another.

Anyone endowed with even a minuscule knack for sequential thought would see that the second sentence is a non sequitur to the first. If the selection is based on merit, as the first sentence claims, then why would MI5 be “particularly interested in hearing from women and individuals from ethnic minority groups”?

What if – and it’s a wildly hypothetical and unlikely if – every white, male English candidate is better qualified than those from the preferred groups? Will MI5 still hire ethnic women?

I’m not suggesting for a second that it shouldn’t, for fear that the skies will open and I’ll be smitten by a vengeful lightning cast by Our Father of Political Correctness. I’m just pointing out the lamentable deficit of elementary logic.

And which ethnic and religious group does MI5 have in mind? All of them? Let’s see: perhaps the greatest threat to our security nowadays comes from Islamic terrorism. One would think – for purely practical reasons – that under such circumstances treating Muslim recruits preferentially is, to put it kindly, ill-advised.

By all means, hire the odd one for his linguistic prowess or perhaps for infiltration purposes. But preferential treatment? The expression ‘the lunatics running the asylum’ springs to mind.

Getting back to the first sentence, what on earth does it mean, “The Security Service is committed to reflecting the society it protects”?

For security reasons alone, I’d suggest that this is the last thing the Service ought to be committed to. After two generations of our oxymoronic comprehensive education, the society MI5 is supposed to protect is largely made up of people who can’t read and add up properly. Is this the characteristic our guardians wish to reflect?

Or is it society’s near total alienation from the millennium and a half of Western civilisation, as it has developed in these Isles? Its propensity for drunkenness and hooliganism? Its wanton disregard for every moral and civic virtue? Its widespread infantilism?

Those called upon to protect our society should be a cut above it in intellect, morals, strength of character and patriotism. They should reflect society’s increasingly rare virtues, not its lamentably widespread vices.

And the upshot of it all? Be afraid, be very afraid.    

Who makes up our ruling elite?

Conspiracy theorists are always on the lookout for some secret cabals who rule the world: it may be the Jews, the Masons, the Judaeo-Masons, Opus Dei, the Mafia, the military-industrial complex, banks – or any combination thereof. The list of exciting possibilities is endless.

Yet history shows that the world (or rather its constituent elements) is hardly ever run by secret or cabalistic groups. Ruling elites usually have no need for secrecy: they proudly operate out in the open.

That doesn’t mean we can identify them easily without taking a close look or comparing one against another. And even then we need a few telltale signs to help us along.

I’d suggest that the surest telltale sign of a ruling elite is its ability to place itself above the law, or at least the rules, generally governing the hoi-polloi world.

One such rule proscribes nepotism in most walks of life. In many Western outfits, both private and public, nepotism – hiring and promoting close relations, or encouraging others to do so – isn’t just discouraged but prohibited.

I remember working at NASA in my younger days, when two rather lowly employees announced their engagement. They were quietly summoned to their manager’s office and given the choice of which one of them should be sacked.

In my subsequent career with various companies on two continents, I had the chance to observe similar situations, with no choice or quarter given: both the man and the woman would be fired if they got married or sometimes even if they had an affair. Most companies I’ve known, especially if publicly owned, specify an anti-nepotism clause in their corporate policy.

(Obviously such clauses don’t extend to the owners and top management: on a reduced scale such mini-elites are also above the rules covering everyone else.)

Now it’s my contention that Britain is more or less run by an elite made up of journalists and politicians: those who manipulate public opinion and those who stand to benefit from it.

The membership in this elite seems to be fluid to the point of being interchangeable: journalists effortlessly become politicians (William Rees-Mogg, Nigel Lawson, Johnson, Gove,) and vice versa (Parris). This is reminiscent of the Soviet nomenklatura, with, say, a deputy minister of fisheries drifting on to become a magazine editor, then an ambassador, then chairman of the football association. 

Contrary to the current preoccupation with the educational backgrounds of our politicians, matriculation at a particular school doesn’t seem to play a dominant role, though it may play some. But notice the ease with which members of our journo-political elite flout the convention against nepotism.

Yesterday’s Mail ran a good knockabout piece about The Red Princes, leftwing politicians brought together not only by ideological but also by family ties: the Kinnocks, the Benns, the Milibands, Harman/Dromey, Hames/Swindon, Balls/Cooper and so forth.

To be fair, the article acknowledged that such gauche (or is it sinister?) practices aren’t the exclusive prerogative of the political Left. The paper cited Douglas Hurd’s son Nick, currently a Tory minister; John Gummer’s son Ben, currently an MP; Lord Rees-Mogg’s son Jacob, ditto. And even Dave Cameron, who boasts MPs in his family tree, got a mention.

The words ‘log’, ‘eye’ and ‘mote’ spring to mind, especially if we focus on Jacob Rees-Mogg, whose father was mainly known as a journalist, not just a former Tory minister. For the other element of the ruling coalition, journalism, is riddled with nepotism as much as the political world.

I shan’t bore you with a long list of siblings, spouses or parents and children appearing regularly in our mainstream media. Suffice it to mention the Dimbleby brothers, the nuptial duos of Muir/Macintyre, Purves/Heiney, Wagner/Gilbert, Vine/Grove and Moran/Paphides, the whole dynasties of the Waughs, Mounts, Johnsons, Lawsons, Rifkinds and so on ad infinitum.

The last four names also support my earlier point about the fluid demarcation between politics and journalism, with the great dynasties of the Mounts, Johnsons, Lawsons and Rifkinds adorning both parts of the ruling elite.

Anticipating, and trying to preempt, such jaundiced comments clearly driven by hunger for sour grapes, Dominic Lawson published a piece in the same issue decrying nepotism in politics but disclaiming any in his own family.

Yes, he acknowledged, his father was a Tory minister when Dominic himself embarked on a career in journalism. But that put Dominic at a disadvantage because his first job was with the BBC, an organisation not known for Tory sympathies.

One can compliment Mr Lawson’s considerable mental agility, while rebuking him for slight disingenuousness.

After all, after his short BBC stint as researcher, he spent most of his journalistic career proper at Tory papers, such as The Spectator, The Sunday Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Times and The Mail. In that rarified world his father Nigel, himself former Telegraph editor, was no hindrance. And Dominic’s voluptuous sister Nigella had also worked at The Spectator and The Sunday Times before she laid a claim to domestic divinity.

I’m not suggesting that we should – or, more to the point, could – do something about this. Blood thicker than water and all that, you know the clichés as well as I do.

All I’m saying is that such rather tawdry nepotism can act as a guide for someone anxious to identify our wire-pullers. Look at the rules, then look above them – that’s where you’ll find the true elite.

It’s not the economy, stupid

James Carville, Bill Clinton’s strategist, famously put electoral politics in a nutshell: “It’s the economy, stupid”.

In other words, people look into their wallets and vote accordingly. The party that delivers, or credibly promises, better economic prospects wins. Simple, isn’t it?

It is. It’s also demonstrably wrong. And, like most political fallacies, this one is based on a false premise.

In this instance the false premise is what I call ‘totalitarian economism’, an attempt to reduce the entire complexity of life merely to economic considerations. However, life in general, and human behaviour in particular, refuse to be squeezed into the Procrustean bed of economics.

One wonders how Carville would comment on this political conundrum:

Labour was in government for 12 years. During this tenure the party presided over one of the greatest economic disasters in Britain’s history. Moreover, its policies not only dumped the country into short-term economic trouble but also compromised its economic structure in perpetuity.

This confirmed the widespread opinion that Labour can’t be trusted with the economy, and the party’s subsequent four years in opposition reinforced this perception.

The Tories, on the other hand, traditionally enjoy a reputation for economic competence.

Those who understand such matters better than the average voter may argue that this reputation is undeserved, certainly in the last couple of decades. But this is neither here nor there: it’s not switched-on eggheads who decide elections. It’s the average, which is to say clueless, voter.

Nonetheless, standing for office in the midst of a catastrophic recession, and against the party widely perceived to be responsible for it, the Tories failed to win an outright majority. The people clearly didn’t vote with their wallets. So what did they vote with?

Once in office, the Tories, even though hamstrung by being married to a party that champions all the Labour ideas times ten, managed to drag the country out of the Labour recession. Moreover, they delivered an economic growth way in excess of anything currently achieved by other European countries.

Again, the aforementioned eggheads may argue that this is phoney prosperity specifically geared to the 2015 election, after which it’ll collapse. But Mr Average Voter doesn’t analyse such issues at depth – he skims along the surface. And on the surface of it the Tories are living up to their reputation for always being able to disentangle the Labour mess.

In spite of that, one poll after another has been consistently putting Labour ahead by a huge margin, enough to put them into government with a commanding majority. Clearly, the voters involved in such surveys don’t peek into their wallets before expressing their preference.

Then the Tories come up with a hugely popular budget, perceived to sort out many concerns of the electorate, mainly its older – and rapidly expanding – part. Not only was the budget instantly hailed as a tour de force, but Labour was unable to counter it with anything other than vaguely negative noises with no discernible substance to them.

Thus both the Tories and Labour have acted in character, or rather perceived character. People’s wallets, already thicker than under Labour, look like they’ll soon bulge to bursting. They also look as if they’d return to their former consumptive gauntness should Labour get back in.

One would suggest that there goes the next election, signed, sealed and delivered to Conservative Campaign Headquarters. Yet in the immediate aftermath of the budget, when its effects are at their strongest, Labour is still in the lead, albeit by a single percentage point.

Most of Mr Carville’s British colleagues confidently predict that once the post-budget bounce is attenuated, Labour will reclaim their commanding lead and won’t relinquish it until the election. That will mean at least another six years of blows raining on the economy, which may well drop it down for the count.

So do you still think it’s the economy, stupid, Mr Carville? Do you still think people vote with their heads firmly buried in their wallets?

It’s typical of our harebrained, materialistic modernity to insist on physical explanations for what is clearly metaphysical in nature: human behaviour. This isn’t to say that it’s impervious to physical factors – only that it isn’t wholly, or even mainly, determined by them.

Here I like to shift into politics the term hitherto restricted to theology: apophatic. Apophatic theology proceeds not from what God is, but from what God can’t possibly be given his absolute goodness.

Translated into elections, apophatic politics means voting on negative rather than positive assumptions. In simpler words, it’s voting not for but against someone or something. And, if experience teaches us anything at all, our electoral politics is determined by apophatic, in this instance irrational, reasoning.

Voters don’t weigh the pros and cons dispassionately: they go with their hearts. And that organ has been conditioned by at least a century of socialist propaganda to generate hate more easily than love, envy more readily than any constructive emotions.

If British (and other Western) voters have demonstrated anything, it’s their readiness to disregard their own self-interest for the sake of indulging their complex resentments. Their neighbour’s failure means more to them than their own success.

Thus the numbers in Tory ledger sheets matter a lot less than the number of Old Etonians in their cabinet. Their accent on economics matters less than the accents with which Tory politicians speak.

Once again, I’m not suggesting that the Tories can cure our economic ills – I rather tend to side with the economists who point at the structural cracks in our economic masonry that can’t be papered over by cosmetic improvements.

It is, however, a fact that the average voter sees the Tories as being more economically trustworthy than Labour. In this perception, put in such relativistic terms, I’d side with the average voter.

If Carville’s formula were true, Labour would be dead and buried. As it is, we may well enjoy six years of the Milibandits running the country – into the ground.

Apophatic politics rules, okay?     

 

   

Putin’s Russia doesn’t just conquer – it corrupts

In most of the world’s criminal codes handling stolen goods is criminalised on a par with actually stealing them.

But what’s sauce for the goose of individuals doesn’t seem to be sauce for the gander of states, EU states in particular.

Yet as that quivering aspen proves, tainted money taints the recipient and may ultimately lead to his suicide. This would be a useful lesson for EU spivs to learn, except that they show no signs of ever being able to learn any lessons.

The sanctions imposed on a handful of Putin’s henchmen are worse than derisory – they are suicidal, and not just because they encourage further conquests.

What the EU’s craven response proves is that no cause, no principle exists that would make it prepared to suffer even the slightest material discomfort. Europe’s body loves Russia’s gas, and her billions laundered through European banks, more than Europe’s soul hates evil.

This effectively turns Europe into a giant fence, a sort of Fagin to Putin’s Bill Sykes. Surely everybody knows that all Russian billionaire, emphatically including Col. Putin himself, are gangsters? That every penny they own isn’t capital but loot?

Moreover, when it comes to a contest of wits, gangsters will always fly rings around unscrupulous but not yet criminalised bankers and government officials. Witness the ease with which the billionaire Gennady Timchenko got around US sanctions.

Timchenko (codename ‘Gangrene’, which wouldn’t be my first choice of a moniker) is one of the owners of the Swiss-based, Cyprus-registered oil trader Guvnor, through which most of Russian oil flows to the West. It’s an open secret in Russia that Putin himself holds an interest in Guvnor, estimated at 50 to 75 percent (he also owns 4.5 percent of Gasprom, lucky lad).

When the news of the impending action by the US Treasury was leaked, Timchenko instantly ‘sold’ all his shares to his Western partner, and if you think that the sale was real and irreversible, there’s a bridge across the Thames I’d like to sell you.

For the US sanctions’ punch to connect with anything but air, what should have been frozen wasn’t Timchenko’s personal assets but those of his company.

That blow would have rocked Putin; the air punch must have made him laugh, as he watched his stooge cocking a snook at the Yanks. And the EU didn’t even sanction Timchenko personally, lest Putin take offence.

Sweeping sanctions ought to be applied to both the personal and corporate assets of all Russian oligarchs without a single exception, including the shady owner of Chelsea FC.

We must never forget that Abramovich, Mandelson’s best friend Deripaska and every other Russian who made billions overnight didn’t really make them. The Russians are absolutely right when referring to these petty crooks elevated to the rank of ‘businessmen’ as ‘appointed oligarchs’.

Their function is to act as conduits for the ruling elite’s money flowing to the West. The oligarchs have only a leasehold on their capital – the freehold is owned by the KGB colonels who make up the Russian government and by the KGB generals who appointed the colonels in the first place.

The oligarchs are allowed to live high on the hog off the interest, provided they don’t forget which side their bread is buttered. This means not meddling in politics unless it’s on Putin’s side and also coughing up whenever the colonel needs some loose change, billions’ worth, for one of his pet projects.

Being personally obsequious to Putin is also an iron-clad requirement, hence the yacht Abramovich once presented to the colonel as a gift.

Compared to the billion-pound palaces Putin is constructing for himself all over Russia, this is just a small token of respect, or rather rispetto if we use the term first popularised by Italian gangsters. But without such tokens, and his general docility, Abramovich et al wouldn’t be allowed to hang on to their billions, possibly their lives.

Dave Cameron says he doesn’t exclude the possibility of imposing sanctions on Abramovich and presumably other Putin cronies whose money lives in Britain even if they themselves don’t.

I have to see this to believe it but, if such sanctions do materialise, no doubt the City will suffer some pain. Similarly, if the EU were to freeze all dubious Russian assets (which is to say all major Russian assets), Putin will retaliate in some fashion, probably using his gas pipeline as a weapon.

But any pain we may suffer is but a minor itch compared to the massive moral damage caused by the toxic presence of Russian loot in our countries. When the formerly honourable financial institutions of the West are turned into fencing or money-laundering operations for gangsters, the West loses its moral fibre, whatever is left of it.

Bereft of it, the West becomes a purely geographic entity, with no claim to any moral justification for its continued existence as a force for good. If history has taught anything, it’s that civilisations losing their moral spine eventually die out.

 

 

 

 

 

  

If you happen to be in London on Wednesday…

FREEDOM IN THE CITY: UNDERSTANDING PUTIN’S RUSSIA

 

As part of The Freedom Association’s Freedom in the City series, Alexander Boot will be discussing his latest book, How The Future Worked: Russia Through the Eyes of a Young Non-Person.

Alexander Boot was born in Russia and educated at Moscow University. He lectured on English literature, wrote art and film criticism, and made a nuisance of himself with the Russian authorities. Pursued by the KGB, he emigrated to the USA in 1973, and then in 1988 to the UK. Following a career in business, alongside his writing, Alexander Boot dedicated himself to writing from 2005 and is the author of books such as How the West Was Lost (2006), God and Man According to Tolstoy (2009), The Crisis Behind Our Crisis (2011), and the co-author of The Nation That Forgot God (2010).

The Freedom in the City event is free to attend and will be taking place at The Counting House, 50 Cornhill, London, EC3V 3PD in the Griffin Room – on Wednesday 26th March, starting at 12:45pm.

The Freedom Association

A few dishevelled snippets of Venice

Every couple of years my wife and I have to come up for air, which is to go to Venice.

We arrived three day ago, too tired to explore the place for real. An obligatory stroll to Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco was all we could manage, which brings me to:

Snippet 1. I espied a famous left-wing talk-show host, obviously revelling in the anonymity denied him in London.

The chap suffered a bad stroke some time ago but is back at work now, having presumably recovered. Well, that presumption would be wrong.

He’s paralysed on the left side of his body, and watching him trying to negotiate  a hunchbacked bridge was painful. Mercifully he was propped up on on his right side by a good-looking but tastelessly dressed girl, knee-high PVC boots and all.

Predictably I made a tasteless joke, along the lines of his paralysis obviously being only partial. Just as predictably my wife responded by pointing out indignantly that the girl could be the celebrity’s daughter or friend.

Not likely, I suggested. I doubt he’d let his daughter go out dressed like that in a country that has elevated bella figura to the status of religion. Nor, for all his progressivism, would he be friends with a silly girl who dresses that way.

What do you know, last night we went out for dinner way off the beaten track, where we like to spend our time in Venice – and there he was, walking into the restaurant leaning on another woman, this one somewhat closer to his own age and therefore relying on peroxide to look younger.

Another tasteless joke from me, another angry rebuke from my wife, but I caught myself feeling sorry for the poor sod. Getting soft in my dotage – 20 years ago I was constitutionally incapable of having such emotions for lefties.

If Tony Benn had died then, my reaction would have been “another one bites the dust”. As it was, I felt sad, as I did now for the chat show man. Should I eat more red meat?

Snippet 2. A fresh graffito on the wall of a dilapidated palazzo: “Brits out of Europe”. And I didn’t even know Nigel Farage was in Venice too. Did he have a paint spray with him or did he buy it locally? Oh the mysteries of life.

Snippet 3. A middle-aged American woman loudly demanding directions for Ferrovia, which in her rendition rhymed with Monrovia. Ferro – iron. Via – way, road. Put them together and you get ‘railway’ or, for Americans, ‘railroad’. What do they teach them out there? Same things as in Britain, I suppose.

Snippet 4. Asked a newsagent for “giornali inglesi”. He showed me a copy of The New York Times and said, “Quasi inglesi.” Wish I knew how to say “Quasi my a***. Not even close, mate,” in Italian.

Snippet 5. Two posters side by side. One says “smoking prohibited”, the other “free boat ride to the casino”.

If I uncharacteristically wanted to ban anything, I’d ban pop concerts that unfailingly resemble a cross between an orgy and a Nuremberg rally.

But of the two juxtaposed options, I’d ban gambling rather than smoking. True, the odd flutter with nothing much riding on it could be good fun. But then the odd cigar after dinner isn’t going to kill you either.

However, if pushed to their compulsive extreme, smoking only corrupts the body, not the soul. On the other hand gambling leaves your body alone but goes straight for the soul. I know which one I’d choose to ban, even though I’m painfully aware that my choice would buck the Zeitgeist.

Snippet 6. And speaking of bella figura, walked through a council estate in Canareggio. Two blocks of flats, separated by a lane about 40 feet wide. In London they’d stay separated, but here their roofs are tied together by an elegant archway in the mock-Romanesque style. Beauty doesn’t have to be married to wealth.

Snippet 7. In spite of our concerted efforts to avoid Piazza San Marco, we found ourselves there again, being jostled by a gaggle of young Japanese determined to conform to the snapshot-taking stereotype.

The Doge’s Palace is gorgeous, but is it really the most beautiful Gothic building in the world, as John Ruskin insisted it was? Matter of taste, I suppose, but did he see the great French cathedrals? Then again, Ruskin maintained that all Gothic portals were vaginally shaped, so there.

Snippet 8. Popped over to Padua for a few hours to see the Giottos at Capella degli Scrovegni, in anticipation of the Veronese exhibition at the National Gallery I so much look forward to avoiding. From the sublime Giotto to the soulless Veronese. If this is progress, I’d like to know what decline looks like.

Snippet 9 and last. Venice is of course a large tourist trap single-mindedly dedicated to fleecing tourists.

Yet it’s amazing how easy it is to get away from the crowds and have the city all to yourself. Just came back after a 2-hour postprandial walk, having seen no one but a few people who talked loudly, in Italian and using their hands to help the verbal communication along.

I could tell you where you can go to get away from the stampeding herds of tourists and really enjoy Venice, but I won’t. I want those places to remain pristine next time we come.

 

Too many Old Etonians or too many young Estonians?

Education Secretary Michael Gove, himself a public-school boy, has a problem with the number of Old Etonians in Dave’s cabinet.

Personally, as I suggested the other day, I don’t care about the educational background of our cabinet members, their sex, race or religion. I do have a problem with their competence, or rather lack thereof.

However, I’m not sure how drawing our leaders from idiot-spewing comprehensives would improve the quality of government in Britain. I rather think that would make it even worse, which is saying a lot.

Mr Gove hastily reassured his cabinet colleagues that he had no problem with the individuals involved, and his comments came only from the vantage point of his remit.

Every child, said Mr Gove, must be the author of “their life story”. He thus not only highlighted the problem but also inadvertently illustrated it by following a singular antecedent with a plural possessive pronoun, thereby avoiding the toxic word ‘his’.

In general, Mr Gove’s use of English is astonishingly bad, especially for a professional hack and education guru. Perhaps, when all is said and done, private schooling doesn’t confer the same educational advantages as it did in the past.

The overrepresentation of Old Etonians reflects a situation Mr Gove called ‘ridiculous’. It’s “a function of the fact that… more boys from Eton go to Oxford and Cambridge than boys eligible for free school meals.”

Why does he suppose that is? Is it the inbred nepotism and cronyism of Oxbridge? Or is it the fault of our comprehensives that can’t teach pupils even basic literacy and numeracy? One would rather think it’s the latter.

Contrary to what the dominant egalitarian ideology insists we believe, not everyone can qualify for our best universities, or even the worst ones. Yet everyone can and must be taught the elementary skills required for survival in the commercial world.

Lumping all children together on the basis of a virtual-world ideology is a sure recipe for educational disaster – and a guarantor of more, not less, social stratification in the real world.

When free schools mainly teach pupils how to use condoms but not how to use their brains, parents will strain every fiscal sinew to educate their children privately. Obviously, the richer the parents, the more likely they are to succeed.

Research bears this logic out with irrefutable ease. Countries that have retained grammar schools have for all intents and purposes eliminated the link between the parent’s wealth and the child’s education.

Cross-checking the performance of 15-year-olds against their social background, the study published by the European Sociological Review showed that in Britain 9.4 percent of the variance was caused by the pupil’s social background.

In Germany, which has happily retained grammar schools, the corresponding figure is 1.4 percent. Almost seven times lower.

When schools are used as laboratories for social engineering or else as ideological battlegrounds, they’ll produce results diametrically opposite to the ideologues’ stated  intentions, though probably consonant with their innermost cravings.

The ruling elite’s political survival depends on an illiterate populace. After all, if people were taught to express themselves with good grammar and proper cadences, they wouldn’t want to be governed by the likes of Gove or his friends George and Dave.

Also, once confined to the idiot-spewing comprehensives, how motivated do you suppose English pupils will be to improve their language skills when most of their classmates don’t speak English at home and are encouraged to uphold their ‘culture’ at school? Not very, would be my guess.

The problem isn’t with the sheer numbers of foreigners – witness the superb mastery of English so many Indian pupils used to attain in their own country under the Raj.

Whatever they spoke at home, they were told in no uncertain terms that only English must be spoken at an English-language school – and spoken properly, with no allowances made for the pupil’s native linguistic background.

According to our prevailing PC ideology, this sort of thing would be downright offensive for not being sufficiently multi-culti. Force an Estonian or Indonesian child to speak correct English, and you may leave him with lasting psychological scars.

It’s so much better to leave all pupils, regardless of their nativity, in a state of savagery – and not even the noble kind so beloved of Rousseau.

So what’s Mr Gove going to do about this, other than pander to class resentment already alive and well in Britain?

Oh yes, he’s loudly and hypocritically proud of sending his own children to Greycoat School in central London. It happens to be one of the top 10 state schools in Britain, with a waiting list to rival Eton’s, but Mr Gove leaves this detail out of his rhodomontades.

Is he going to announce that, should the Tories retain power, they’ll phase out comprehensives over the life of the next Parliament? Will they decree that our schools will insist on all pupils adapting to the English civilisation, rather than it adapting to them? Will he reinstate grammar schools?

Yes, and schweinen will fly, as my friend Angela likes to say, always adding that in real life they don’t fly and this is simply a figure of speech. It’ll be a cold day in hell before our spivs realise what a social and cultural catastrophe they’ve perpetrated in Britain. And a positive freeze before they really do something about it.