Epidemic at Russia’s Foreign Ministry

You won’t find anyone who despises conspiracy theories as thoroughly, and mocks their holders as readily, as I do. There’s a caveat though, as there usually is.

Dismissing conspiracy theories shouldn’t mean denying that perfectly non-theoretical conspiracies do exist, and always have. And when it comes to Russia, they don’t just exist but abound.

For example, in the musical chairs of the Romanov succession, more tsars than not ascended to the throne by violent coup d’état, and in fact the dynasty was ended by a red, as opposed to purple, conspiracy.

This fine tradition was continued and greatly enhanced by the Bolshevik dynasty that has been reigning, mutatis mutandis, for 100 years. As an illegal contrivance to begin with, it has never had provisions for legal succession. New leaders move into the Kremlin as a denouement to only three possible scenarios: assassination, bloodless coup, bogus elections.

Of course secret police is inherently conspiratorial, and in Russia infinitely more so than in any civilised country. The organisation itself has often found itself on the receiving end of conspiracies. It’s only in the last 50 years that its heads have been allowed to retire. All the previous ones fell to conspiracies, historically verified or as near as damn.

Dzerjinsky probably and Menjinsky almost definitely were poisoned. Yagoda, executed. Beria, ditto. Merkulov, ditto. Abakumov, ditto. The murders they themselves had perpetrated were mostly by category, irrespective of any individual wrong-doing.

But they themselves were whacked, to use Col. Putin’s preferred term, for rational reasons, all traceable to some tectonic shifts in the Kremlin. A pattern was always visible to a naked eye, usually with no telescopic magnification necessary.

These days, however, optical instruments come in handy, along with some analytical ability. Murderous patterns bucking statistical odds are still discernible, but analysis isn’t easy.

For example, in the last two months of 1984 no fewer than five defence ministers of Warsaw Pact countries, including the USSR, suffered fatal cardiac arrests. The logician in me refuses to accept that sudden onset of heart trouble as purely coincidental.

The deaths were visible results of invisible struggle, probably of the armies against the increasingly dictatorial power of the secret services. In Russia the process got under way under the aegis of Yuri Andropov, KGB chief turned dictator, who had died earlier that year – but not before passing the relay baton on to his able successors, of whom Putin is the latest and the ablest.

The army continued to suffer attrition both before and during Putin’s tenure. Between 1991 and 2015, 42 Russian generals died, with only three of the deaths possibly attributable to natural causes.

The graph of those deaths shows two noticeable peaks. The first one happened in 2002, when as many generals died as in the previous 11 years combined. The second peak occurred in 2014, with three more generals dying in 2015.

One can only guess at the nature of those peaks, but the guess is reasonably educated. For 2002 was the culmination of Putin’s war in Chechnya; 2014, the beginning of his war in the Ukraine. In both wars, the army had to play a humiliating second fiddle to FSB and Interior Ministry troops, and also to paramilitary formations.

It doesn’t stretch imagination too far to surmise that there was a rumble of discontent among the army’s high command, which could only be quelled in the traditional ‘whacking’ manner that comes so naturally to the ruling KGB junta.

And now another epidemic pattern emerges, that in the Russian foreign service. Since late 2016, several Russian diplomats have died, again defying statistical likelihood. Here are six of the best:

In November, 2016, Sergei Krivoy, head of security at the New York consulate, had his head bashed in fatally.

In December, 2016, Andrey Karlov, ambassador to Turkey, was gunned down in Istanbul.

Just hours later, senior diplomat Petr Polshikov was shot dead in Moscow.

A month ago, Andrey Malanin, Russian consul in Greece was found dead in his bathroom, with the official cause of death rather vague.

Roughly at the same time, Alexander Kadakin, ambassador to India, died of a heart attack, even though he had never suffered from health problems before.

Later, Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative to the UN, died of a heart attack in New York.

Coincidences? Possibly. However, as Russian spies are taught, if coincidences number more than two, they aren’t coincidences.

Trying to explain this blight sweeping through the Russian Foreign Ministry would get us into the area of conjecture, where the charge of spreading conspiracy theories looms. However, if we justifiably refuse to accept all these deaths as coincidental, some explanation is needed.

Back in the 60s and 70s, western analysts tried to figure out the identities of the ‘doves’ and ‘hawks’ in the Soviet Politburo. Actually, they were all hawks, whose disagreements had more to do with tactics than strategy.

Today the situation may well be different. Putin’s kleptofascist junta is made up of offshore billionaires, whose wealth encourages at least some dovelike tendencies. These leaven the bellicose instincts of what the opposition sources call the War Party. Putin himself observes the tussle with avuncular divide et impera equanimity.

It’s conceivable that the diplomats had to die for falling foul of the hawks. It’s also possible they themselves were hawks who had upset the doves. Other possibilities exist too.

One way or another, we should follow the unfolding epidemic with more than just academic interest. The contagion may well affect us.

Migrants make HRH see red

How does one get rid of those blasted un-English creatures? Can’t kill them all, what-what? Not without being accused of various inhumane thingies faster than one can say Camilla.

Banishing them is possible in theory, but how’s one to round them up, millions of those blasted un-English nasties? All the bearskins in London won’t be able to do it, and anyway they’re too busy posing for tourists. A bloody royal pain, that.

They come here, just a few at first. And then, faster than one can say Diana, there are millions of the those bloody un-English creatures, eating the natives out of house and palace.

HRH Prince Charles is especially worked up about migrants from America, who are so bloody pernicious. Yet HRH has come up with an ingenious solution.

If we can neither prevent migrants from coming nor cull them en masse, then at least we can make sure they don’t breed in that oversexed, most un-English way.

To that end HRH is proposing an effective yet humane measure. We could slip powerful oral contraceptives into the migrants’ food, thereby sterilising them for a few years, breaking their reproduction cycle and eventually reducing their numbers. A good thingy too: can’t have too many Yank undesirables here, can we now?

Before you scream Dr Mengele, let me assure you that Prince Charles is blissfully unaware of the broad possibilities inherent in his proposal. And, should he be made aware of them, he’d doubtless be appalled. For all I know, he has no particular animosity toward American immigrants, at least not the human kind.

In fact, judging by his deafening silence on this issue, HRH isn’t concerned about any human immigration whatsoever. And when it comes to Islamic immigration, he positively welcomes it because we have a lot to learn from Muslims, especially that spirituality thingy.

As he explained last Christmas, “I feel that we in the West could be helped to rediscover the roots of our own understanding by an appreciation of the Islamic tradition’s deep respect for the timeless traditions of the natural order.”

Indeed we could. And while at it, we could learn a few other thingies from Muslims as well, such as how to treat women, forgive our enemies and fly large planes into tall buildings.

The didactic possibilities are endless, but migrants preoccupying HRH at the moment aren’t Muslim. It’s not Homo sapiens he’s worried about, but Sciurus carolinensis.

Grey squirrels. It’s those American migrants that HRH wants to sterilise to kingdom come, even before his own kingdom comes.

How did those undesirables originally cross the Atlantic to arrive at our shores? As far as I know, they can neither fly nor walk on water. Anyway, arrive they did and immediately set about oppressing the native English reds (red squirrels, that is, not Jeremy Corbyn types).

Being American, greys are bigger, stronger and brasher than diffident English reds. Hence they beat reds to available food, leaving them to starve to death. Moreover, greys also carry a virus fatal to reds. As a result, the current grey population of Britain stands at a huge 3.5 million, while the native reds have been reduced to a derisory 140,000.

If you’re seeking human parallels, don’t expect any from me. And certainly don’t expect them from Prince Charles. He’s just concentrating on the task at hand, that sterilisation thingy.

Now grey squirrels are classed as vermin in Britain, making it possible to kill them without the kind of repercussions one would suffer if harming a human intruder. So, rather than spending millions on HRH’s flavour of the month, why not just cull them?

That wouldn’t cost a penny and could in fact make quite a few. The government could for example organise fee-paying squirrel-shooting parties on public and National Trust lands. Enough people in Britain are happy to pay for the privilege of shooting pheasants, and those poor birds do nobody any harm. So why not squirrels?

Truth be told, HRH and other RHs have been known to bring down a bird or two (or two hundred) on a sporting weekend, so he can’t possibly have compunctions about solving the grey problem that way.

Actually, he does. He favours sterilisation because it’s a humane alternative to culling. To be consistent, HRH must immediately donate his collection of Purdey shotguns to a Muslim charity. No, perhaps that’s a bad idea. But you get my point.

To be perfectly honest, as an inveterate urbanist I don’t care a certain portion of squirrel anatomy what colour most of those tree-climbing rats are. Reds are prettier, but I can satisfy my aesthetic cravings in other ways.

Apparently, greys also strip the bark off broadleaved trees, leaving them exposed to disease. That I do care about, but not as much as I do about other thingies.

Such as our royals systematically being reduced to figureheads allowed to speak only on trivial issues or ideally none at all. Squirrels interest me too, though in a different way.

Genetically, reds and greys are some 20 times further apart than humans and chimps, who share 99 per cent of their active genetic material. And yet, their colour and size apart, the two squirrels look the same to an untrained observer, while humans and chimps don’t.

Therefore squirrels can act as a starting point of inquiry into the nature of humanity, at the end of which perhaps lies the realisation that there’s more than genetic makeup to being human.

I’d love to hear such thoughts from HRH, when he has a spare moment from extolling Muslim spirituality. But I won’t. He’s preoccupied with that sterilisation thingy.

 

Waiter, it’s we who’ll have to wait

If EU migrants leave, it’ll take “years and years” for British workers to fill the vacated low-skilled jobs, warned Brexit Secretary David Davis.

He specifically highlighted the gaping holes to be left in hospitality, agriculture and social care. “We’re a successful economy… talented people come to Britain,” Mr Davis explained.

Far be it from me to suggest that it takes little talent to serve pizzas, dig up potatoes and take out bedpans. It is, however, hard to accept that our native pool of talent has run so dry that, but for migrants, our restaurants will have to become self-serve and our spuds will rot in the ground.

It’s true that about 40 per cent of such jobs are currently done by migrants. But it’s not true that the British are constitutionally incapable of citing today’s specials or picking apples.

The problem isn’t that they can’t do such jobs. It’s that they won’t. And the root of that problem isn’t constitutional but institutional.

Responsibility lies with the very same HMG that Mr Davis serves. And the same institution could solve the problem in… well, perhaps not one fell swoop, but certainly faster than “years and years”.

First, why aren’t Britons filling those jobs? Is our education so superior that it churns out nothing but prodigies ready to become computer programmers, fund managers and Brexit Secretaries?

In fact, our education is the laughingstock of the world. The literacy rate in Britain is lower now than it was in the 1890s, and our commendably comprehensive schools are churning out not prodigies but illiterate, deracinated youngsters with feral faces, tattoos and a sense of entitlement.

Nevertheless one doesn’t have to be a scholar to ask ‘still or sparkling?’. So why do we need migrants, many of whom can’t even ask ‘still or sparkling?’ so we’ll understand? Why can’t our home-grown Tom, Dick and Harry do that?

Simple. Tom, Dick and Harry don’t have to demean themselves by performing such menial tasks because they have an alternative source of income. It’s variously called ‘social’, ‘benefits’ or ‘welfare’.

Now sociologists will tell you that what drives people into work are two impulses: quest for survival and desire to get ahead in life. They’ll also tell you that the former is much more powerful and widespread than the latter.

Just about anyone will do any job if his breakfast depended on it. Only a minority, albeit perhaps a large one, will work hard to be able to move from a free council flat into an expensive semi.

Readily available benefits won’t satisfy such potential high achievers. But benefits will reduce the survival instinct in the other group to practically nothing. Welfare recipients won’t live well, but they know they’ll live.

Potential high achievers won’t be seeking lowly jobs. They’ll all want to be computer programmers, fund managers or, at a pinch, Brexit Secretaries. It’s those currently on benefits who’d compete with Romanians and Bulgarians if their benefits dried up.

We’re talking significant numbers here: about 8.9 million 16-64 year-olds are out of work. Some, let’s be generous and say half, of them can’t work for health and other legitimate reasons. HMG must look after them, even though our disability-benefit rolls suggest we have more cripples now than in the aftermath of either World War.

That still leaves millions of those who could feed themselves but won’t – and haven’t, often for three generations in the same family. This isn’t so much fair as foul play: in the absence of socialist brainwashing, surely most hard-working people would sense the injustice of having to pay for sponging layabouts.

Spending over 35 per cent of the budget on hand-outs creates a massive economic problem, which is self-explanatory. But the attendant social and cultural problems are much deadlier. For creating a vast lumpen underclass subsisting on benefits produces an accelerating knock-on effect in just about every area of life.

It’s mostly this underclass that swells all sorts of undesirable statistics: crime, teenage pregnancies, STDs, drug addiction, single-parent families and so forth. The last one is particularly devastating.

Provider state has squeezed itself into the slot occupied in the past by provider father. Thus made redundant, the father flees. In fact, our council estates operate a zero-sum game: every time a child is born, a man disappears.

This has dire effects on society at large, for the family is its building block. Knock that block out, and the whole social structure becomes a rubble heap.

But enough theorising. In the spirit of much-touted British pragmatism, here’s a practical solution, reducing Mr Davis’s “years and years” to six months.

Once the migrants have vacated their unskilled jobs and left the country, HMG announces that, following a six-month grace period, all benefits for able-bodied Britons will be stopped.

Businesses requiring low-skilled employees will at the same time receive one-off subsidies to beef up their advertising in the Appointments sections and to train the newcomers.

You’d be amazed how quickly the untapped reserves of British talent will erupt into life. And I’d be amazed if any such difficult solution can even be mentioned in Westminster. Filling Britain to the gunwales with migrants is so much easier.

Can you understand this sentence?

“The associates are known to each other solely as seekers of substantive satisfactions obtainable only in their responses to one another’s conditional offers of satisfactions or threatened results to provide, or to assist in providing, a sought-for satisfaction; and they are related in terms of their power to seek or to make such offers or to threaten or resist such refusals, and perhaps also in the recognition and use of such instruments (e.g. money), practices (e.g. promises) or maxims (caveat emptor) as they may have devised to promote the effective use of their power.”

If you can, you’re a better man than I am, even if you’re a woman. And I must admit to shameful pride: I hate it when others can understand things I can’t.

I have an exaggerated (some will say misplaced) trust in my mental acuity. As part of it, I believe I can get my mind around anything conceived by another mind, provided it’s in an area I know something about, even if it’s not that much.

Such areas include history, political science, theology, linguistics, various branches of philosophy, law – that sort of thing. Humanities, in a word.

Mention something like quantum mechanics and watch my eyes glass over. It takes a secondary school textbook to take me out of my depth, and I only refrain from saying ‘primary school’ out of the same foolish pride.

But my ability to understand things I mentioned is decent, though it isn’t innate. Over a lamentably long lifetime I’ve trained myself to read, comprehend and occasionally even to write books on such subjects.

Thankfully, most of such books I’ve read, and all I’ve written, are in English. There’s indeed much to be grateful for, because English is marvellously suited to communicating complex thoughts in simple sentences.

Anyone who has tried to read, say, Hegel, Fichte or Kant will confirm that not all languages are like that. The Germans don’t seem to mind convoluted thought and involuted style. Their minds must work that way, God bless them.

The English mind doesn’t (and neither, by adoption and co-option, does mine). That’s why that mind has produced over millennia the best possible language, this side of Latin, for putting complex thoughts simply – or at least as simply as possible.

English has by far the largest vocabulary of all European languages, three times as large as in Russian, for example. That often enables a writer to find one precise word to communicate something that in other languages may take a dozen. Try saying ‘privacy’ in a single Russian or French word and you’ll know what I mean.

Also, English revolves around the verb, which gives it the dynamism other languages lack. The Germans tuck their verbs to the end of sentences, the French surround them with swarms of parasites, and the Russians often dispense with them altogether.

Partly because of its reliance on verbs, English is less welcoming than other languages to strings of subordinate clauses. These prefer nominal antecedents, fleeing from verbs the way demons flee from the cross. English will at times be kind enough to accept one or two, but it’ll turn most away (one wishes our immigration services practised the same approach).

English also encourages, nay demands, concision. It’ll grudgingly accept a longish sentence, provided it’s easy to read. But it’ll indignantly reject tangled-up jumbles like the quoted 94-word monster.

For all these reasons English is a precious gift to a writer on the subjects I mentioned earlier. But the gift is reciprocal. English doesn’t just give; it also demands.

It creates not only battalions of lucid and precise writers but also armies of readers who expect lucid and precise writing. I’m one such, and I abhor complicated prose as much as I welcome the complex kind.

I try – how successfully isn’t for me to judge – to compliment the reader by believing he can grasp any of my thoughts, and to reward him by making it as easy as the thought allows. This is a simple courtesy and, as with all simple courtesies, also a duty.

This brings me back to the quoted sentence. It comes from the book On History, which has adorned my bookshelves ever since Michael Oakeshott published it in 1983. Once a year or so I embark on the obstacle race of reading it, only to stumble each time over yet another hurdle.

Occasionally I can backtrack once or twice, inhale deeply, take a longer run-up and clear the verbal obstacle. Often I can’t.

It has taken me 33 years to wade through two-thirds of On History, which is the point where the quoted sentence stopped me dead this time.

Yes, I know that the late LSE professor is beautiful, a conservative philosopher and generally one of the PLUs (People Like Us). But, nil nisi bonum and all that, he was rude.

He refused to pay me the courtesy of making his prose understandable. So I don’t see why I should pay him the courtesy of reading what sounds like an inept translation from bad German.

Oh, I suppose one must keep trying. I must overcome my natural suspicion that involuted writing is there to camouflage convoluted thought. We are, after all, talking about one of the LSE’s finest, a conservative oasis in a desert of Fabian tosh.

But please help me over this hurdle so I can get on with it. What does the damn sentence mean?

Is Blair actually human?

Denying the humanity of those we dislike is wrong on many levels.

Theologically, we thereby deny that we’re all siblings in that we all have the same Father.

Philosophically, we thereby deny several millennia’s worth of historical evidence (not to mention the doctrine of original sin) by implying that evil is so alien to human nature that evil people can’t possibly be human.

Scientifically, we thereby deny that all people are put together roughly the same way. No, Blair is definitely a Homo sapiens and, if those Miranda reports are true, in his younger days he was also a Homo erectus.

On these bases, I shan’t insist that Blair isn’t human. But surely one is allowed to pose the eponymous question rhetorically?

For Blair lacks most characteristics associated with humanity. One such is morality, against which most of us transgress.

Blair doesn’t. Unlike most of us, he simply has no concept of right and wrong. Whatever suits him at the moment is right, whatever doesn’t is wrong, it’s as simple as that.

Corollary to that is his inability to feel shame, as demonstrated by his brazen attempt to regain power. Yet the Chilcot report, regrettably not followed by a criminal charge, proves that Blair lied to get us into the Iraq War.

And that’s not all. Having criminally caused the on-going Middle Eastern disaster, Blair vandalised our constitution by creating unnecessary bodies, such as the Supreme Court, and emasculating the necessary ones, such as the House of Lords and the office of Lord Chancellor.

In 2004 he also went along with the EU’s suicidal decision to admit unlimited numbers of immigrants from places where hatred of the West is an article of faith. All that would be enough to make most people withdraw into solitude and try to come to terms with their shame. Not Blair.

Nor is he burdened with such a basic human virtue as gratitude. Just look at his relationship with Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch created Blair politically. Without Murdoch’s News Corporation, Blair would have remained an obscure Labour MP shunned by his parliamentary colleagues for his insane ambition unsupported by any discernible qualifications.

Gratitude would have been in order, but what did Blair do? He had an affair with the old man’s young wife, doubtless causing him no end of grief.

When entertaining Mrs Murdoch, Blair was no longer PM. He was busy making millions, every one of them in ways consistent with his amorality. Blair has never met a bloodthirsty tyrant he couldn’t love, provided the cheques didn’t bounce.

For example, no self-respecting man would want to sully his hands with the dirty lucre paid out by Nursultan Nazarbayev, who turned Kazakhstan into one of the world’s biggest Mafia families. Yet Blair is proud to have that despot among his clients, one of many such personages on his list.

The scary news is that Blair has launched a political comeback. Having spotted “a massive hole in British politics”, he clearly expects the currently unelectable Labour party to bring him back, putting all its rotten eggs into one bastard.

To that end he has launched a comeback campaign, marshalling the support of cross-party malcontents, especially those like Nick Clegg who are desperate to undermine Brexit. Keeping Britain in the EU at all costs is the Trojan horse Blair has saddled to ride back to power. The ensign flapping off his lance has ‘second referendum’ written on it.

His “mission” is to persuade Britons to “rise up” against Brexit, even though they’ve unreservedly risen up for it. Yes, but they did so “without knowledge of the true terms of Brexit”.

That may be true, but the implication is that the Remainers had weighed every one of those ‘true terms’ in the balance before casting their vote. In fact, they’re just as ignorant – or even more so, for they don’t realise that there’s only one ‘true term’ that matters: Britain’s sovereignty, to be either regained or lost for ever.

According to Blair there’s “a way out from the present rush over the cliff’s edge” spearheaded by 52 per cent of the voters: “If a significant part of that 52 per cent show real change of mind, … we should have the opportunity to reconsider this decision.”

I’m not an unequivocal champion of democracy, but Blair pretends he is. Doesn’t he realise that, using the same logic, every democratic vote can be reversed – certainly including all those elections that got this amoral nonentity into 10 Downing Street?

The Brexit majority was solid by any modern standards, and the subsequent Commons motion to invoke Article 50 was passed by one of the greatest majorities in parliamentary history. So shall we ignore Parliament as well as the popular vote?

“This issue is the single most important decision this country has taken since the Second World War,” Blair says, “and debate can’t now be shut down about it.” What, ever? Suppose he gets his illegal second referendum and loses it. Should we then have another one and then another, ad infinitum? Can anything shut this debate down?

Also, I dare say ‘the most important decision’ has been to debauch our constitution at Maastricht by turning Her Majesty into an EU citizen – not the decision to restore the status quo that goes back two millennia.

Technically speaking, Blair is human. But he acts like an animal brought into this life to do just one thing, with no inner freedom to do anything else.

Blair’s real ‘mission’ is Blair, just like a predator’s mission is to kill and devour weaker creatures. A tiger pounces when it smells a prey; Blair pounces when he smells an opportunity for self-aggrandisement.

In pursuit of this mission he displays superhuman determination – and subhuman ghastliness.

A kind word for Trump

Even his mother wouldn’t insist that Trump’s presidency is off to a flying start. However, we shouldn’t let our milk of human kindness turn sour. Even if we can’t sympathise with the president, let’s try to empathise with him.

Yes, he lacks the subtlety without which it’s hard to get anything done in US politics. Yes, his links with Putin are suspect, and those of his advisors are even worse. Yes, he doesn’t realise that some ideas good in theory aren’t achievable in practice. Yes, there might be skeletons buried in his cupboard.

All that is true. However, none of it was a secret on 8 November, 2016, when his country voted to put Trump into the White House.

As my regular readers know, I have reservations about modern democracy run riot. However, Americans are confident that arithmetic, rather than, say, philosophy, history or political science, is the best discipline to apply to the task of choosing their government.

Operating within this system of political thought, once chosen, the government must be allowed to get on with its job. The US, after all, is a republic, not a direct democracy. People don’t make political decisions – they choose those who make decisions for them.

Now, looking at the anaphoric paragraph above, where every sentence starts with “Yes’, and realising that none of that prevented Trump from being elected, we should expect the country to unite behind him and let him do his best.

This should include those who didn’t vote for Trump or may even abhor him. They must realise that the country has much to gain from his success and much to lose from his failure.

Now, I’ve often deplored Trump’s links with Putin. If it can be proved that Trump isn’t acting as a free agent in that relationship, this would constitute grounds not just for impeachment but for criminal prosecution.

Yet since no such proof has so far been presented, we’re duty-bound to discard this possibility and ascribe Trump’s obvious affection for Putin to ignorance, a failing he shares with too many people to mention.

Other than that, he obviously lacks the experience required for his job. But then, unless a president is elected for a second term, the same can be said about any candidate – none of them has been president before.

I’m not sure to what extent experience in other political jobs prepares a person for US presidency. Hillary Clinton, for example, has plenty of political experience. So, to balance things politically, does Sarah Palin. Would either of them make a better president than Trump?

The president is ludicrously accused of trying to suppress freedom of the press – just because he referred to the Fourth Estate as “enemies of the American people”.

The phrase ‘enemy of the people’ was coined during the French Revolution and popularised by the Soviets via Ibsen. Hence Trumps’ use of the phrase is unfortunate, but then he probably neither knows much about the French and Russian revolutions nor has seen the Ibsen play.

In his press relations, Trump does act like a cornered animal. But could it be because he’s indeed cornered? As Golda Meir once said, even paranoids have real enemies.

Look, for example, at how the media pounced when Trump’s statement about Muslim immigration to Sweden could be construed as a reference to a specific terrorist act. He should have phrased more precisely, but violence is being committed by new arrivals to Sweden every day. Stockholm bystanders are killed by hand grenades tossed by Somali gangsters. Malmö, which is 40 per cent Muslim, has more murders than the rest of Scandinavia combined.

Freedom of the press, or of anything else, comes packaged with responsibility. The latter is the price of the former.

Whatever one thinks of Trump, it’s impossible to say that the press has treated him responsibly. Ill-founded, savage, almost universal attacks are the order of the day, with Trump being routinely compared to Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and other unsavoury personages.

I don’t recall anything remotely like that since Watergate – and Nixon had committed a crime. Exactly what crime has Trump committed?

We could go over his proposed policies and find some of them good (such as lowering business taxes) and some questionable, such as his protectionism – especially since it’s expressed in the language of a barroom in a bad part of town.

It was quite funny when the president extolled Made-in-America rectitude when standing in front of a Boeing aircraft featuring a Rolls-Royce engine, along with hundreds of other imported components. But funny doesn’t mean criminal.

The ‘progressive’ media are baiting Trump not for anything he does but for everything he is: someone who refuses to accept the PC Zeitgeist encoded into the DNA of progressivism. They sense he’s hostile to everything they stand for – and act accordingly. Unlike the country at large, they have a vested interest in Trump’s failure.

Now I detest that Zeitgeist as much as Trump does, probably more. I also like to think that I can express my opposition in a more reasoned and informed way. But then I can only talk about my opposition – he can actually do something about it. Inasmuch as the media are trying to sabotage his whole presidency, they’re indeed enemies and deserve to be treated as such.

One only wishes that Trump learned that charging the windmills of the media, judiciary and intelligence agencies with quixotic abandon isn’t the best way of going about it. More subtle tactics than a frontal assault are required.

Is Trump capable of them? Somehow I doubt that a 70-year-old man used to having his way can change dramatically. If Trump can’t, he’s unlikely to make life better. But he’s guaranteed to make it interesting.

Muslim terrorism doesn’t exist, but global warming does

Such is Pope Francis’s view, mercifully communicated only to a gathering of California clergy.

Had he spoken ex cathedra, rather than to a conference on inequality (whatever that means), every thinking Catholic might experience grave doubts.

When all is said and done, Christian doctrine is infinitely more complex than quotidian affairs. Hence when the pontiff talks bumptious nonsense on the latter, one may be tempted to question his competence on the former.

Here’s what His Holiness said in his wisdom: “Christian terrorism does not exist, Jewish terrorism does not exist, and Muslim terrorism does not exist… [It’s just that there are] violent individuals in all peoples and religions.”

The tail end of the statement is God’s own truth – so much so that a less reverential person than me might describe it as a truism. Ever since Eve bit a piece out of that fruit, man has been sinful. And it can’t be gainsaid that some people are prone to express their sinfulness violently.

Can’t fault His Holiness there. Where he leaves himself open to derisory criticism is in the little bit of moral equivalence preceding the truism. What the Pope is actually suggesting is that people’s actions aren’t affected by their beliefs, which is an odd thing for a priest to say.

No religion is more likely to inspire terroristic violence than any other. None of them matters; people act of their own accord and, say, a Buddhist is as likely as a Muslim to spray a crowd of children with AK rounds. After all, there are violent individuals in all religions. A creed that commands to kill enemies is, in any practical sense, no different from one that enjoins to love them.

If that’s what the Pope thinks, isn’t he admitting, among other things, that Christianity in general and his life’s mission in particular have failed? That people only pay lip service to religion without letting it interfere with their behaviour?

His Holiness should bring Aristotelian logic to the problem at hand. After all, this intellectual tool has been highly productive in Catholicism ever since the 13th century, when Aquinas baptised the Greek philosopher and co-opted him into Christianity. The essence of Aristotelian logic is a posteriori induction, reaching general conclusions on the basis of empirically observable facts.

Essentially the Pope is implying that Christians and Jews are as likely as Muslims to blow up innocent bystanders. If so, then the relative number and frequency of such acts have to fall within the same statistical band.

But they don’t, not even close. In 2015 there were 452 suicide attacks in the world, 450 of them by Muslims. Between 1979 and 2017, 19,840 people were killed by Islamic terrorism worldwide. (Typically, the ratio of the wounded to the dead is 3:1. Do your own maths.) The number of those killed by even nominal practitioners of other religions is lower by two orders of magnitude.

Moreover, just before pulling the cord of the explosive vest or the AK trigger, the suicide killers invariably scream “Allahu akbar!, not “Next year in Jerusalem”, nor “I love Jesus”, nor even a secular slogan, such as “Freedom to so and so” or “Hands off such and such”.

Then, extrapolating from sensory observation, one looks at those 300 Koran verses that specifically call for the killing of infidels, compares them to the scripture of other religions, and realises that the Pope isn’t so much thinking as feeling.

His ideology trumps his faith and his emotions supersede his thought, which is most unfortunate for a Catholic prelate – especially since his ideology is wrong and his feelings are in no way informed by anything other than his ideology, not even by his faith.

Then on to the second part of the papal exhortation: indisputable global warming and its “denial”, which the pontiff anathematised, in a manner of speaking. “Time is running out,” thundered His Holiness. “Let us act”.

He didn’t specify what ecclesiastical actions he had in mind. Fiery homilies against aerosol sprays? The excommunication or perhaps autoda of global warming deniers? Banning the clergy from using any polluting transport?

No, just more meaningless generalities:I ask all of you, people of all backgrounds including native people, pastors, political leaders – to defend Creation.”

One wonders how intimately His Holiness is familiar with the scientific disciplines tangentially touching upon anthropogenic global warming, such as physics, chemistry, astronomy, astrophysics, palaeontology, geology and so forth. I suspect not very.

Those scientists who do specialise in such disciplines aren’t in agreement on this issue, which isn’t surprising. After all, the initial discovery of mankind endangering Creation with aerosol sprays came not from scientists but from the UN, which explains its heavy slant into politics.

I’m no expert in those branches of science myself, but, casting my layman’s eye over the two sides, I think that ‘deniers’ make more sense, their arguments are more solidly scientific and less garrulously ideological. The Pope may feel differently, but surely even he must see that there’s much room for doubt – enough to refrain from apocalyptic pronouncements.

One craves confident, inspiring papal statements on doctrine. Instead one gets ill-advised and ill-founded entreaties on secular matters that His Holiness doesn’t really understand in sufficient depth. Pity, that.

Gorilla warfare

War has broken out among gorillas. This should upset anyone who recognises the animals as our simian siblings.

If we believe the Darwinists’ frank self-assessment, chimpanzees, gorillas and other primates are basically like us. They share most of our genetic material and, since genetic material is all there is to a human being, they’re human.

Therefore we expect the same moral standards to apply to our simian siblings, holding them to account whenever they embark on unprovoked military…

Oops, sorry. My wife has just looked over my shoulder and said I was going soft in the head. I should read, not just scan, newspapers. The article that set me on the wrong track talked about guerrilla, not gorilla, war.

Mea culpa. But the bloody words are pronounced the same way, so that’s an easy mistake to make, especially for a person using English second-hand.

But not only for such an outlander. Apparently, millions of native-born, mum-and-apple-pie Americans can make the same error. Tennis commentator Doug Adler found that out the hard way, by receiving a sacking notice from the broadcaster ESPN.

The former player was commentating on a match involving Venus Williams, who was thrashing her opponent. Taking creampuff second serves on the rise, Venus would chip them deep and charge the net to put away a volley.

This ‘chip and charge’ tennis is also known as ‘guerrilla effect’, which was how poor Doug put it. Not only is the term precise, but it’s also widespread, having been first popularised by a 1995 Nike commercial. For example, Tennis magazine has used the word to describe Agnieszka Radwanska’s playing.

However, there’s a chromatic difference between Radwanska and Williams. The former is white, while the latter, well, isn’t.

Obviously, every decent person must vigilantly watch out for the slightest affront to the dignity of black… sorry, Afro-American persons. Short of murder, a Euro-American (is that the correct term? one gets so terribly confused) can commit no worse crime than uttering a racist word.

Or one that can be construed as such by the most ignorant listener. That’s the nature of egalitarianism, isn’t it? Catering to the lowest possible denominator?

Of course it is. If a battalion marches at the pace of the slowest soldier, language should advance at the pace of its slowest user.

Why, a few years ago a New York councillor had to grovel publicly for having used the word ‘niggardly’ in a speech. House-trained victims of mandatory free education cried foul. They didn’t know the word ‘niggardly’, but they did know – and deplore! – the racial insult that has nothing to do with it outside some vague phonetic similarity.

As the councillor was tearfully pledging to expurgate that unfortunate word from his provocatively large vocabulary, libraries all over America were tossing out copies of Mark Twain’s novel Huckleberry Finn, from which, according to Hemingway, all American literature had come.

Henceforth American literature can come from elsewhere. For the explicitly and emphatically anti-racist novel features a character called Nigger Jim, Huck’s friend and a runaway slave.

Twain was depicting the way people spoke in those days. He would have happily called his protagonist Afro-American Jim, but unfortunately the term didn’t exist then. And even if it had, the people inhabiting Twain’s pages wouldn’t have used it.

If an American classic and a respected NY politician are treated that way, what chance did poor Doug have? The words ‘snowball’ and ‘hell’ spring to mind.

Thus, when poor Doug referred to Venus’s guerrilla tactics, the racially aware, educationally challenged citizens screamed bloody murder. The word they heard wasn’t ‘guerrilla’. It was ‘gorilla’, the yob insult levelled at blacks by the kind of white trash who, in England, toss bananas onto the pitch when a black footballer touches the ball.

Now let’s assume that poor Doug is such a man. Let’s further assume that, on his days off, he stuffs his pockets full of bananas and goes out to harass blacks, calling them what Twain’s characters called the runaway slave Jim.

Even then he’d never use a simian slur on air, unless of course he decided to commit professional suicide – at best. At worst he’d be charged with inciting racial hatred or some such. It would have taken a madman to do that, which poor Doug isn’t.

This he proved by trying to mollify the care-share-be-aware mob braying for his blood. Please forgive me, pleaded poor Doug, though there’s really nothing to forgive.

For all I know, he might have undertaken never again to use, in any context, such racially insensitive words as ape, black, yellow, brown, Nigeria, niggle, muzzle or chink in the armour. Just to be on the safe side, he might have foresworn the word ‘neglect’ too.

In any case it didn’t help. ESPN summarily sacked poor Doug for his subliminal insensitivity. He’s now suing the broadcaster, claiming that the capital charge of racism has caused him “emotional distress”.

This whole affair causes me distress too, of the moral and cultural kind. Is there any Western country that shows courage in the face of ‘diversity’ by eschewing such monkey business? Can one emigrate there?

Nato is about to attack Russia

That’s the impression one may get from reading Stephen Glover’s article. By the sound of him, he gets all his knowledge of Russia from his Mail colleague Peter Hitchens, from whom Mr Glover must also take lessons in logic and rhetoric.

First, a perfunctory de rigueur disclaimer that “Putin is evidently not a nice man. He has cracked down on a free Press, and locked up, and occasionally killed, his enemies… Russia behaved illegally when it seized Crimea from Ukraine in…”

The cause of sensible balance thus served, it’s time for inane apologetics. “However…the peninsular had been long part of Russia until given to Ukraine in 1954”.

He should have followed that erudite observation by saying that, give or take a couple of years, Britain acquired and lost India at the same time Russia acquired and lost the Crimea. Let’s annex Assam then – the logic is exactly the same.

Speaking of logic, would Putin be also justified to reclaim Finland and Poland? Both had belonged to Russia until 1917 and what more reason does he need?

“Then the West…” committed the faux pas of “…wooing Ukraine, which has a large Russian-speaking population, and is regarded by many Russians as the cradle of Mother Russia.”

India has an even larger English-speaking population and is regarded by many Englishmen as the jewel in the crown. Send the Royal Marines to Bengal.

Surely what matters about a sovereign nation is how it sees itself, rather than how it’s seen by acquisitive neighbours? Czechoslovakia regarded herself as a sovereign nation in 1937, which she stopped being in 1938 because Hitler regarded her as an extension of Germanic culture.

The Russians have a similar historical reason to feel that way about the Ukraine. Kievan Rus’ was more Scandinavian than Russian, and in any case it had disappeared centuries before the word ‘Ukraine’ crossed anyone’s lips. Modern Russia owes much more to the Golden Horde, which, following Mr Glover’s logic, should give her a valid claim to Mongolia and northern China.

And let’s not forget that “Putin has brought a degree of order to Syria, which the West signally failed to do”. Paraphrasing Tacitus, now that we’re in the realm of historical allusions, “they make a desert and call it order”. Mr Glover’s chagrin over Russia’s indiscriminate bombing of civilians is decidedly understated.

Russia, explains Mr Glover, is “a largely Christian country”, even if it does bomb civilians indiscriminately. I suggest that, on the basis of this ignorant statement (Russia’s church attendance is even lower than ours), Putin should occupy Istanbul. After all, the Scandinavian prince Vladimir got Russia’s religion from Constantinople, as Istanbul then was.

You see, I’m learning the art of shaping an argument from the best. Nothing like modern hacks to teach one how to reason logically.

“Nato… signed up the Baltic States – Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – right on Russia’s borders… Suddenly, Russian leaders were faced with the reality of American and other Nato troops being stationed on their doorstep. You can hardly blame them for feeling paranoid.”

No one can be blamed for suffering from paranoid delusions – it’s a disease, and in Russia’s case one of considerably longer standing than Mr Glover fancies. Russia has always felt threatened by the West, an irrational feeling her rulers utilised to compensate for the dire conditions in which the Russians have had to live throughout history.

Ever since the reign of Ivan III, the last Grand Duke of Muscovy, the Russians have talked about the West presenting an imminent threat. That justified the consistently aggressive stance Russia adopted towards all her neighbours – including the Baltics.

In recent history they and the Ukraine suffered unimaginably at the hands of the Russians. A quarter of the Baltics’ population perished in the purges. Five million Ukrainians died in the artificial famine created by the Russians in 1932-1933. The culture of all those republics, including their languages, was stamped into the dirt. How much wooing do you think it took for them to want to shake Russia’s dust off their feet?

As to Russia being encircled by Nato, a small-scale example from quotidian life if I may. I’m surrounded on all sides by neighbours, most of whom are younger than me and some considerably bigger (and the men are bigger still).

Yet I don’t feel threatened, much less paranoid. All those youngsters are well-spoken and well-dressed, and none seems to harbour hostile intent. Extrapolating ever so slightly, Mr Glover’s statement would only make sense if he felt that the Russians have a justifiable fear of Nato aggression.

If he actually thinks that, it’s he who’s deluded. Nato is deployed strictly in a defensive formation, consistent with the doctrine of containment it has been practising vis-à-vis Russia since the 1950s.

Then comes another display of ignorance straight out of Hitchens’s book, verbatim. Russia’s economy is smaller than Italy’s, hence we have nothing to fear from Putin. One can infer on that basis that Italy could take Russia one on one in a war.

Mr Glover’s strategic thought probably provides for such an outcome. After all, Russia is pathetically weak because Nato spends more on defence, and “Nato troops (including 800 British soldiers) [are] being sent in sizeable numbers to Eastern Europe.”

It has been known since before the invention of gunpowder that it’s not the overall military power that matters, but its concentration on a critical strategic direction. The Germans, grossly outnumbered and outgunned by the Russians in 1941, proved this by routing the Soviet regular army and taking more than 4.5 million POWs between June and December, 1941.

So what “sizeable numbers” are there? The formidable force of 800 British soldiers is augmented by a US brigade of 3,500 recently deployed close to Russia’s borders.

By contrast, Russia has amassed 330,000 motorised troops on her western border. They are equipped with 10 times more tanks than Britain, Germany, France and the US contingent in Eastern Europe have altogether.

But wait a minute, Russia has a “sole 30-year-old aircraft carrier – a rust bucket… The U.S. has ten modern aircraft-carriers. Even Britain will soon have two.”

Fine, a carrier commissioned in 1990 is a rust bucket. But do let’s apply this agism to all of them. So what do we call those five US carriers that are older than the Admiral Kuznetsov and those four commissioned in the same decade? Why, we call them modern of course.

And saying that “Britain will soon have two” means that at present she has none, which makes a mockery of the country’s entire history: for the first time since 1815 France is stronger than Britain at sea.

Unlike Britain, Russia has never depended on being a major naval power. Neither did Genghis Khan’s Horde. Nevertheless both countries did reasonably well militarily by relying on an overwhelming land presence.

The only thing that makes even remote sense about Mr Glover’s article is its conclusion that the West, specifically President Trump, should try to find some peaceful accommodation with Russia before letting ICBMs fly.

He should have left it at that, sparing us his pathetic analysis. But then those column inches need to be filled, don’t they?

Who’s next?

Carter Page. Paul Manafort. Now National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. One Trump confidant resigning over intimate links with Putin is unfortunate. Two is suspicious. Three is bound to raise the question in the title.

After all, as Col. Putin was doubtless taught at the KGB academy, when coincidences number more than two, they aren’t coincidences.

My money is on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, proud possessor of Russia’s Order of Friendship personally presented by Putin. Said friendship was annealed during Tillerson’s tenure as head of Exxon, in which capacity he did billions’ worth of business in Russia.

Mr Tillerson leads the race to the next Russia-related scandal. If Michael Flynn had to resign over the possibility of being blackmailed by the Russians, Tillerson has a blackmail target painted over his whole body.

There’s this minor detail that, as a current holder of $151 million in Exxon shares, whose value would skyrocket if sanctions against Russia were lifted, Mr Tillerson has what in some quarters may be described as a conflict of interest.

Yet that detail is indeed minor, in that it’s common knowledge and, as such, can’t expose the Secretary to blackmail. Other things could, those we don’t know about but could confidently surmise.

I have yet to hear of a single massive deal involving Russia in whose consummation some backhanders didn’t change hands. If all those mega deals that earned Mr Tillerson Russia’s highest award for foreigners were pristinely clean, I doff my hat and bow to him in reverential admiration.

However, for the time being my hat remains firmly in place: I know how big business is transacted in Russia. A bribe is seen as a de rigueur courtesy there, a bit of grease on the wheels of private enterprise. Left unlubricated, the wheels will grind to a screeching halt, which Exxon’s manifestly didn’t.

Hence, if news broke tomorrow of Mr Tillerson resigning over malicious allegations involving his friend Putin, I’d be appalled but not surprised. As I’m not surprised about the news of Gen. Flynn’s resignation.

Late last year Gen. Flynn, then strictly a private citizen, had a series of conversations with Russian ambassador Sergei Kysliak, and by all accounts they weren’t just comparing the weather in Moscow and Washington D.C.

The subject of sanctions came up, or rather the promise to repeal them after Trump’s inauguration. In proffering that promise, or indeed discussing any foreign policy issues with an agent of a foreign government, Gen. Flynn might have broken the US law that allows only diplomats to be engaged in diplomacy.

Even worse, he was stupid enough not to realise that foreign diplomats’ phones are routinely tapped by US intelligence services. Those services immediately vindicated Luke 8:17, which says “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest”.

The president-elect and his VP-to-be Mike Pence (who had vouched for Flynn) were informed. Mr Pence immediately reiterated that no member of Trump’s team had had any contact with Russia during the campaign.

To suggest otherwise, he added with righteous indignation, was “to give credence to some of these bizarre rumours that have swirled around the candidacy”. Yesterday President Trump confirmed he had “complete confidence” in Gen. Flynn. Translated from political into English, this was as good as a sacking notice.

A few hours later so it proved, with Gen. Flynn resigning, no doubt voluntarily. His parting words showed that he too is fluent in political. He had, admitted Gen. Flynn, “inadvertently briefed the vice-president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador”.

Yet again my translation is called for. In plain English this statement means “I lied through my teeth.” Yet it’s likely that this lie is a double bluff.

Gen. Flynn’s love affair with the Russians goes back quite a bit further than last December. On December 10, 2015, Flynn sat next to Putin at a gala reception for the 10th anniversary of RT, the Russian propaganda channel.

He then made a series of paid appearances on RT, each time advocating closer cooperation with Russia. If we employ the trick of moral equivalence so beloved of the left, that’s akin to, say, Cordell Hull preaching friendship with Nazi Germany on a Goebbels radio channel in 1937.

In a Washington Post interview, Gen. Flynn was brought to task. “Why would you go on RT, they’re state run?” asked the interviewer. “Well, what’s CNN?” replied Flynn, displaying an ignorance astounding in someone Trump then considered as a possible running mate and later appointed National Security Adviser.

CNN, General, is a division of Time Warner Inc., not of the US government. But even if it were a state network, like PBS, it would be run by a broadly civilised government, not the KGB/FSB.

But never mind Flynn’s ignorance of Time Warner’s corporate charter. Let’s also forget about US laws Flynn might or might not have broken. Instead let’s get back to the issue of double bluff.

Flynn had to be authorised even to talk sanctions with the Russian ambassador and certainly to promise that they would be lifted. Did he do so on his own behalf?

Believing that stretches my credulity even further, and it’s already at breaking point over Tillerson’s dealings with Russia. This brings us back to the question in the title.

Anyone who cherishes the West’s security, understands the critical role America plays in it and knows that Putin’s Russia endangers it should pray that the answer isn’t Trump.