It’s July that’s the cruellest month

Eliot got it wrong when he gave that honour to April in The Waste Land. Well, not wrong exactly, but right only on his own metaphorical terms.

However, if we segue from Eliot’s sublime poetic imagery to the nuts and bolts of modern political history, then July has to take pride of place in any cruelty contest. For the fourth and fourteenth of that month mark the two cataclysmic events, each driving nails into the coffin of our civilisation.

The fourteenth is Bastille Day in France, celebrating the day when a mob stormed that symbol of oppression in 1789. In Robbie Burns’s poem The Tree of Liberty, the eponymous tree “… stands where ance the Bastille stood,/ A prison built by kings, man,/ When Superstition’s hellish brood/ Kept France in leading strings, man.”

The mob heroically stormed the undefended prison, to find that “Superstition’s hellish brood” kept “in leading strings” not all of France, but just seven inmates. Rather tame, as far as oppression goes, but it was the absence of thought and overabundance of emotion that mattered.

(Scotland’s national poet was definitely national, but not much of a poet. Italy had Dante, England had Shakespeare, France had Racine, Germany had Goethe, Russia had Pushkin – and Scotland had a spinner of bawdy doggerel.)

Since that day, France has been straining every sinew trying to live down the awful consequences of the French Revolution, with variable success. But the earlier July event, one that happened 246 years ago today, has had a different effect on the perpetrators.

Rather than trying to mitigate the negative effects of their own revolution, Americans have since been trying to do their utmost to exacerbate them. One such was the typical neophyte zeal they display when protesting their patriotism.

Patriotism is a kind of love, and real love is a quiet emotion. If a man walks around screaming at all and sundry how much he loves his wife, he’s probably stupid or even insane. In the very least, he is a vulgarian who might have learned his manners at a correctional facility for young delinquents.

Moreover, sane, intelligent and well-mannered people will instantly think that the chap doth protest too much. He sounds as if he were out to convince not so much others but above all himself of the feeling he tries to manufacture but doesn’t really have.

The same goes for patriotism. Loving one’s country is both natural and commendable, but shouting that love from the rooftops is neither.

When I lived in America, I tried to sequester myself on the Fourth of July. Even before I knew better, I winced at the sight of multitudes obediently putting their hands over their hearts on cue. The gesture is clearly Masonic and heathen, like much of American livery – from the cyclopes pyramid on the dollar bills to the pagan temples in Washington’s Tidal Basin.

Even more cringe-making was the ubiquitous phrase “God bless America”, which is the de rigueur ending to every soliloquy delivered by every politician, even a rank atheist.

To be fair, the popular sacralisation of America didn’t start with the Revolution. When the first settlers arrived on the Mayflower, their leader John Winthrope immediately likened the new land to the city on a hill mentioned by St Matthew.

That was understandable then. The settlers were threatened by feral animals, scalping Indians, inclement weather, uncertain food supply, the foreboding mass of a huge, unpredictable continent. They had to believe God was with them because no one else was.

But now that the West has gone atheist, this “God bless America” business is naff. It would be fine as a line in the national anthem, but not as part of a spiel used by a politician to trick votes out of the electorate. In that context, the line ill-serves both America and God.

I can’t for the life of me imagine any British politicians, including jingoistic ones, ending a speech with “God bless Great Britain”. I attended a few gatherings of UKIP, a party for which patriotism was its whole programme, and I’m friends with one of the party’s former chairmen. But never once did I hear any UKIPers, including those I knew to be extremely pious, shout the patriotic beatitude – the laws of good taste haven’t quite yet been repealed here.

Anyway, how is America blessed more than any other residually civilised country? It has much natural beauty, but then so does every country I know. And if we accept that God also blesses people aesthetically, by inviting them to emulate His creative powers, then American cities don’t show many signs of such a blessing, especially when compared with, say, Italy or France.

America’s youth doesn’t work as an explanation here, for much of both Paris and London was built in the 19th century, when America was already going strong. Yet either place is more aesthetically ‘blessed’ than any American city.

Loving one’s country is indeed love, a manifestation of both God’s essence and His way of dealing with the world. But loudmouthed protestations and festooned pageants vulgarise this noble emotion, while making one doubt its sincerity.

The same goes for the American obsession with greatness, something she shares with Russia, if in a more benign fashion. A person or, by way of extrapolation, a nation should strive to be good, not great. And then perhaps it will become great.

The criteria of goodness are indisputable, especially for a nation that squeezes God’s name into every imaginable context, including inappropriate ones. For details, look up the writing of the author I mentioned earlier, St Matthew. Acting as his teacher’s mouthpiece, he explains what it means to be good and what kind of people are blessed.

The criteria of greatness, on the other hand, are subjective. Both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Donald Trump doubtless want America to be great, but they define the concept differently. The only way to decide the issue is to ask the electorate, which by itself shows how relativist this whole idea is.

Greatness may be associated with military strength, territorial expansion, universal prosperity, free medical care, rampant egalitarianism, black lives that matter more than any others, low taxation, high taxation, more immigration, less immigration, abortions banned or available on demand – and who’s to say what adds up to greatness and what doesn’t? One man’s greatness is another man’s Donald Trump.

On this day in 1776 American founders signed the clearest statement of Enlightenment values before the French Declaration of the Rights of Man. Some of those signatories, such as the country’s second president John Adams, later got to regret that act bitterly.

“Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation of the human race and the whole globe ever since?” he wrote in 1811.

And Tolstoy wrote that every man is a fraction, where the numerator is what he is and the denominator is what he thinks of himself. The same applies to nations, and I’m not sure the product of the American fraction is as unequivocally positive as many Americans so fervently believe.

Still, there is something endearing about so many people celebrating their national holiday with so much enthusiasm. So happy Fourth of July to all my American readers. A country that can produce so many such people can’t be all bad.

Pride Day comes before a fall

The other day I watched a Sky News report on the preparations for the upcoming Pride parade.

The camera panned as if on crystal meth, while London was being turned into a megalomaniac version of the Weimar Republic with a touch of a Nuremberg rally thrown in. Neither the reporter nor the presenter could contain their rapture.

I’ve probably never seen, and definitely never experienced, so much unbridled joy. The two women were laughing, gasping, jumping – exulting. The BBC radio broadcast on 8 May, 1945, was before my time, but I’m sure the victory announcement had to be more restrained and less triumphant.

Floats were getting a trial run, rainbow flags and Take Pride posters were flying everywhere, and the two Sky women helpfully informed us that this was the 50th anniversary of the event. I was bracing myself for them to squeal “Happy anniversary!!!” or else sing “Happy birthday”, but they managed to desist, if not without some effort.

Will the police be in attendance? asked the presenter. Yes, acknowledged the reporter, they will be. But in civilian clothes, of course, because those prideful multitudes may see police uniforms as a symbol of oppression.

How wrong she was. When the great spectacle engulfed central London yesterday, a fully uniformed police unit marched in step with the prideful ones, with nary a demur. An army platoon followed, marching in their inimitable style, arms swinging, boots beating the tattoo on the tarmac.

Speaking of tattoos, there were millions of them on offer, drowned in the sea of gaudy costume jewellery, face paint, glitter and sequins. One tattoo was exhibited by the Labour Deputy Leader Angel Rayner who marched hand in hand with her boss Sir Keir Starmer (a socialist knight of the realm is a bit oxymoronic, don’t you think?).

Angie established her hetero credentials early, when she got pregnant at 16, had to leave school and eventually became, at 37, the youngest grandmother ever to sit in the mother of all parliaments. And, as far as I know, Sir Keir’s enthusiasm for the LGBTQ+ cause is also disinterested and so much the purer for it. But the duo feel duty-bound to express solidarity with any subversive cause going, and this one is as subversive as they come.

The event was billed as “the biggest and most inclusive in history”, but the guru of British homosexuality, Peter Tatchell, is disappointed. The parade, he complains, has become “too corporate and commercial” and not political enough.

Now I have some history with Mr Tatchell. Some 11 years ago, I wrote a piece in The Mail about Boris Johnson, then London mayor, allowing homosexual advertising on buses but banning a Christian response in the same medium. Fair should be fair, I wrote, using the word ‘aberration’ in the process, but strictly in the dictionary sense of a deviation from the norm.

Tatchell was aghast. He immediately published my photograph, along with contact details, in his paper PinkNews, inviting his readers to express their feelings. As a result, I received hundreds of abusive e-mails, some containing death threats.

So yes, he is right. Homosexuality is no longer a perversion, and not even just a perfectly legitimate choice of a lifestyle (dread word). It has become, like everything else nowadays, a political issue.

If Mr Tatchell wishes to make it even more political, that’s his privilege. I still find something odd, however, about a man whose chosen form of political self-expression is buggering another man. Yet I realise I’m hopelessly behind the times there.

That’s why, I suppose, I also struggle with this movement calling itself ‘Pride’. I just don’t get it. How can anyone be proud about the type of sexual intercourse that gets him through the night or, in this case, through Hampstead Heath?

My classically educated friends tell me that the Ancient Greeks had two words for pride, but the one that applies here has come down to us as ‘hubris’. Its meaning in ancient times changed depending on the context, but in legalese it meant assault or sexual crimes.

Is that what those marchers mean by pride? I doubt it, but perhaps they should. Sexual assault on public morality and decency seems to describe the 50 years of these abominations accurately. I doubt our civilisation can withstand another 50 years without collapsing in on itself.

Now we are in the classical mode, Ovid wrote: Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. Times change, and we change with them.

Some 60 years ago, the American comedian Lenny Bruce got in trouble for telling this joke: “A boy asks his father, ‘Daddy, what’s a degenerate?’ ‘Never you mind and keep sucking’.” Lenny was arrested for obscenity. Today, the same joke would get him arrested for homophobia.

Putin confuses me

I like some modern politicians more, or usually even less, than others. Yet I pride myself on understanding them all, good, bad or indifferent.

Their motives are hardly enigmatic. Anyone blessed with a rudimentary understanding of human nature, especially if laced with a soupçon of scepticism, can read politicians like an open trash novel.

Thus I’m sometimes pleased, more often disgusted, but hardly ever confused. Yet Putin has succeeded where so many have failed: I’m man enough to admit I’m utterly mystified.

What has produced this rare effect is his comment on Sweden’s and Finland’s impending entry into Nato. This has a direct bearing on the on-going war, or rather the reasons for it put forth by the Russian side.

Putin, his propagandists, emissaries and Western agents, witting or unwitting, have been screaming that the eastward expansion of Nato presents a mortal threat to Russia. One such Western groupie (who will henceforth go unnamed lest I may be accused of waging a personal vendetta) has been playing this theme with no variations in his Sunday columns for at least 15 years, hardly ever omitting it.

The theme had a crazy logic to it. Nato has devised an anti-Russian conspiracy. At its heart is the strategy of encircling Russia with Nato members, like a noose tightening on the neck of this saintly, peaceful country.

Nato leaders are waiting for a propitious moment to catch Russia unawares and strike. But not on your nelly, says Putin and his aforementioned cohort. Russia is forever alert, ready, in the ignored words of the British anthem, to confound her enemies’ politics and frustrate their knavish tricks.

What those Western scoundrels describe as Russia’s acts of aggression against her neighbours are actually preemptive attempts to beat Nato to the punch. Russia has to lash out because she has been severely provoked and menaced by Nato’s expansion.

This story bears no relationship to reality, but it adds up on its own terms. Nato has indeed been expanding eastwards over the past 30 years. Russia may indeed feel threatened, even if no threat actually exists. But perception is reality, didn’t Andy Warhol say that? So, if Russia perceives danger, it’s real.

Alas, seen in that light, the attack on the Ukraine diverts from the ironclad logic of the narrative. First, no plans had been afoot to admit the Ukraine to Nato, certainly not in any foreseeable future. But fine, if Putin felt such a development was imminent, it was.

But how was the attack on the Ukraine supposed to roll Nato back? What response did Putin envisage? That all the recent Eastern European members would rush to the exit? Not very likely, is it? Much more realistic was to expect that even those countries that had until then resisted Nato membership would be frightened into joining.

That’s exactly what happened with Sweden and Finland, and these – with no disrespect for such Nato members as Albania or North Macedonia – are serious and prosperous Western countries. Moreover, Finland in particular has been shoring up her defences against a possible Russian aggression ever since 1945.

The Nato Summit at Madrid fast-tracked their membership, which instantly proved that Putin’s professed strategy was counterproductive. Rather than emasculating Nato, the attack on the Ukraine tightened Nato’s muscles. Rather than limiting Nato membership, the attack has expanded it.

One would expect Putin to respond by visiting the ten Egyptian plagues on those pesky Scandinavians or at least by making credible threats to that effect. And sure enough, that was his immediate reaction. But that happened before the Madrid Summit.

Now he has changed his tune. Speaking at a press conference the other day, Putin said: “We have no problems with Sweden or Finland, of the kind we regrettably have with the Ukraine. We have no territorial issues, no disputes, nothing to worry us about Finland’s and Sweden’s Nato membership.”

Excuse me? There I was, thinking that Putin gnaws at his fingernails day and night worried about Nato breathing down Russia’s neck. Yet now he has “no problems” with Nato getting another 830 miles of border with Russia. Moreover, that border now runs a mere 240 miles from Petersburg.

Just a few months ago Putin fretted about the missile flight time from Poland to Moscow. Yet Poland is 867 miles away, as the missile flies. So what about the flight time from Finland to Petersburg? Putin ought to be weeping and wailing and gnashing his teeth, yet he just shrugs: “No problem”.

Let’s walk backwards now. Putin clearly isn’t worried about Nato launching missiles at Russian cities because he knows no such threat exists. Ergo, he isn’t really worried about Nato’s eastward, or for that matter northward, expansion, not for any military reasons at any rate.

Ergo, he didn’t attack the Ukraine to stop that development, especially since the Ukraine herself had no chance of being admitted into Nato at least for a generation. Ergo, he did so for some other reason.

In search of what that might have been, I backtrack to 24 February and find out that Putin’s stated aim was then to “demilitarise and de-Nazify” the Ukraine. Since every Russian (and the nameless pundit I mentioned earlier) knows that the Ukraine’s commitment to both militarisation and Nazification is unwavering, that aim could only have been achieved by occupying the whole country and installing a puppet regime.

Yet, as if committed to deepening my confusion, Putin says that: “Nothing has changed. I did say that in the early morning of 24 February, and I said so publicly to the whole country and the whole world… I specified the ultimate goal: liberating the Donbass, protecting those people and creating guarantees of Russia’s security.”

That means leaving those militarised Nazis to their own vices and devices in the rest of the Ukraine. It also follows that at issue here is the security of Russia herself, not just that of the denizens of the Lugansk and Donetsk provinces of the Ukraine.

Hence, if I understand correctly which I’m sure I don’t, it’s not Nato in general, but specifically those two provinces that threaten Moscow and Petersburg. Is that what Vlad is saying? I’m no longer just confused. I’m befuddled.

In any case, how does the terroristic bombing of schools, hospitals, kindergartens, residential buildings and shopping malls, like the one in Kremenchug, fit into this redefined plan? It doesn’t. That’s why nothing like that ever happens.

Thus Putin: “The Russian army doesn’t strike civilian targets – there’s no need.” However, Russia does strike such targets even in the absence of a need, unless of course all the video footage of fires, ruins and corpses is fake. Or unless the Ukies are killing their own civilians to make Russia look bad.

But wait a moment. Just as I was ready to accept that version of events, the Russian Defence Ministry admitted that the Kremenchug shopping mail was indeed destroyed by a Russian rocket, although that wasn’t its intended target.

This doesn’t really clarify matters. If anything, it obfuscates them. Surely even the legal sense for which the Russians are universally famous should stretch to realising that the defence of “I didn’t mean to open fire on that crowd of schoolchildren, it just happened” wouldn’t cut much ice in any court.

There’s only one way out of the growing confusion, mine and no doubt yours. We must ignore the noises produced by Putin and his shills, both in Russia and in the West.

Instead, we should rely on the evidence before our eyes, as processed by the minds God gave us. Then none of us will be confused.

We’ll know that Putin’s evil fascist regime attacks its neighbours because it can’t stand the thought of their joining – no, not Nato, but Western civilisation. Membership in that club potentially comes packaged with the kind of freedom and prosperity Russia has never had, not ever will have unless she too travels the same road.

Fascist regimes can’t compete against civilised countries – they can only try to destroy them, either by occupation or by sabotage or by indiscriminate bombing. For fascist regimes are by their nature terroristic, and this is what terrorists do – they wreak destruction.

Like werewolves, Russian ghouls can only be stopped by a silver bullet. This is a metaphor for a resolute Nato response – whatever form it has to take. (Note to Nato leaders: expressions of concern and half-hearted arms supplies don’t qualify.)

Pronouns matter more than anything

When a major bank happily loses accounts to uphold a pernicious ideology, you know it’s the end of the world.

A harbinger of that apocalyptic catastrophe was provided by Halifax, one of Britain’s biggest banks. The company posted the picture on the left, accompanied by the slogan ‘Pronouns matter’.

Since the badge identifying ‘Gemma’ seems to be pinned to the lapel of a man’s jacket, pronouns she/her/hers probably do matter in this case. They save customers the trouble of deciding whether the clerk they are talking to is a man, a woman or a proud member of one of the other 70-odd known sexes.

Halifax explained that the new labelling was designed to avoid ‘accidental misgendering’. This concern for people’s feelings is commendable. After all, if a conspicuously male clerk named Gemma is addressed with a masculine personal pronoun, he/she/it may go into an irreversible psychiatric tailspin, with suicide looming large.

Alas, Halifax customers lack similar sensitivity to things that really matter in life. More than 10,000 instantly complained about the bank’s “antics with pronouns”. A conflict between principle and business was brewing, but the bank stood its ground.

Halifax’s social media manager belied the common image of bankers as people who’d sell their daughters into slavery for a small amount. “If you disagree with our values,” he/she/it countered, “you’re welcome to close your account.”

Hundreds of Halifax customers have already taken the bank up on that kind offer by closing their accounts, cancelling their credit cards and discontinuing their insurance policies. But hey, as the great adman Bill Bernbach once said, “A principle isn’t a principle until it has cost you money.”

Much as I despise the principle involved, I find the bank’s steadfastness strangely appealing. But then I’m neither its customer nor, more to the point, one of its shareholders.

You know, shareholders? The kind of people to whom publicly held corporations owe fiduciary duty? If hundreds of absconders turn into thousands, those investors are bound to see their holdings rapidly heading in the direction of brown wrapping paper.

Will they then share Halifax’s commitment to wokery über alles? Somehow I doubt that, but I may well be mistaken. It’s quite possible that the rot has already set so deep that the whole society is tottering.

If you are still struggling with the definition of totalitarianism, this is it. Totalitarianism isn’t about mass executions, torture cellars and concentration camps. All these are symptoms that may or may not show.

The essence of totalitarianism is a dominant ideology so pervasive and bossy that it rides roughshod over everything else: morality, common sense, sanity or, in this case, money.

Contrary to what a character in a popular film said, greed isn’t good. But it’s better than this.

Political crimes of sex

The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, and especially the verdict of 20 years for sex trafficking, makes me wonder just how independent our courts are.

Speaking of Britain and the US, the two countries I know well, I’m convinced that their courts are indeed more or less independent – of the government, that is. I don’t think either Biden or Johnson can enjoy the Putin prerogative of predetermining the defendant’s guilt and deciding on the punishment in advance.

But there exists – or rather doesn’t exist – another judiciary independence, that of the zeitgeist. This is especially vital with the jury system common to both countries, where 12 jurors, none with any legal training, pass a verdict.

Jury selection is a critical aspect of any trial, but no matter how adept the counsel are at that, they can only choose from the available pool of humanity. And that pool has been poisoned by a flood of dumbing-down, brainwashing information, with every byte forming that all-important zeitgeist.

Neither the judges nor the bodies sending down sentencing guidelines are immune to that influence either. And when it comes to sex crimes, their thinking is shaped by the inordinate significance attached to sex crimes nowadays.

The current definition of a sex crime is elastic, showing an endless capacity for expansion. After all, hate crimes against women, with the sex variety as their subset, are no longer perceived as victimising a particular woman. They deliver a blow to womankind, that oppressed minority that incongruously outnumbers the majority.

Thus having sex with a woman who was at first willing but then changed her mind in mid-stroke will be punished more surely and severely than, say, beating a man within an inch of his life or, for that matter, betraying one’s country.

And even planting an unwanted kiss on a woman transcends the trivial significance of the act as such. It’s not just frisky behaviour and awful manners, but a hate crime against all women.

Such miasmas penetrate the zeitgeist and soon begin to dominate it. This creates a ridiculous imbalance between crimes and commensurate punishments. Juries and judges draw in lungfuls of the zeitgeist and decide that rape is the worst thing that can happen to a woman even if she suffers no physical damage in the process.

Most young women today will agree with gusto. Worse than being murdered? Yes. Crippled for life? Definitely? Blinded? But of course.

Their mothers probably, and grandmothers definitely, would have found such questions idiotic to the point of insanity. For today’s lot, they go to the very core of the matter. And when today’s lot sit on the bench or in the jury box, they act accordingly.

This explains the draconian sentence given to Ghislaine Maxwell. I must stress that what concerns me here isn’t this thoroughly objectionable woman, but the small matter of justice.

In the US and Britain, many people committing manslaughter get away with sentences considerably smaller than 20 years. A bunch of thugs can break into an old couples’ house, beat them both up and rob them of every valuable possession. In the unlikely event the criminals get arrested, tried and convicted, what kind of sentence are they likely to receive? Five years? Out in two-and-a-half?

When my mother-in-law lay dying in hospital, two thugs broke into her house, stole thousands of pounds’ worth of stuff, then tried to set the house on fire. Amazingly, they were arrested, and the police officer told me he thought the Muslim practice of chopping off thieves’ hands had a lot going for it. In that case, he would have happily administered the procedure himself.

After year-long proceedings, they were sentenced to time served and walked free. Was Maxwell’s crime 20 times as bad as theirs? Or four times as bad as manslaughter with such mitigating circumstances as the defendant’s tough childhood and a deficit of parental hugs?

I hope you realise I’m not trying to justify what she and Epstein did. If their constantly repopulated harem included underage girls, then a custodian sentence would certainly be just. And flying girls for illicit purposes all over the world breaks all sorts of US laws.

The Mann Act, for example, made it a felony to transport women across state lines “for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery”. Now, unlike the definition of sex crimes, the definition of debauchery gets narrower and narrower in our permissive times. These days the Act applies strictly to prostitution or other illicit sexual acts.

I’m sure that, even if Miss Maxwell didn’t violate the Mann act, she must have broken other similar laws. She deserved to be punished. But let’s keep things in perspective, shall we?

To make sure the perspective isn’t distorted, let’s discuss the issue without resorting to psychobabble, that capital crime perpetrated on language by the zeitgeist. Let’s forget about the lifelong trauma suffered by the young ladies Miss Maxwell steered into Epstein’s bed and her own, along with the beds of their friends.

We all have traumatic experiences going through life, and many of us, even those who have never been exploited for sexual purposes, can match those girls ten to one. And let’s not forget that, for all the talk about coercion, they acted of their own free will.

One could argue that any man wooing a woman seduces her with whatever tools he has at his disposal. It could be charm, sex appeal, dazzling conversation, easy access to cocaine, expensive gifts, cash, wining and dining, first-class travel to exotic places, lies, promise of career advancement – you name it. If the man’s aim is to get the woman into bed, he’d rummage through his bag of tricks and select one he knows will get him there more quickly.

How is that different from the way Ghislaine recruited Epstein’s harem? From what I’ve read, she didn’t use any physical force.

She might have misrepresented the situation, but then many men and women talk themselves up when out to seduce. Once Epstein and she had their jollies, they routinely passed the women on, but the women acquiesced.

They, including Lord Macpherson’s daughter, weren’t kept in a dungeon under lock and key. They could leave at any time, and they certainly didn’t have to keep going back for more, in some cases for years.

They did so because they loved the chance to live high on the hog in spectacular palaces, with private jets carrying them from one to another. Most of them also got paid handsome amounts, and some have since monetised their misfortune to the tune of millions. I’m sure there’s a valid moral difference between that and prostitution, but it escapes me at the moment.

That the Ghislaine and Jeffrey act was sleazy is beyond question. I wouldn’t even argue against its being criminal. I will, however, argue that a court that sentenced Miss Maxwell to 20 years was in its own, milder way as politicised as the Soviet kangaroo courts of my childhood.

At a time when morality came from God, rather than febrile political propaganda and books by mountebank shrinks, Miss Maxwell would have been fined and possibly banished from the capital for a few years. Now she stands a good chance of rotting in prison until she dies.

Then again, we all believe in progress, don’t we? Everything new is by definition better than anything old, including morality.

It’s our mission to fill in the rubrics left blank in the scriptural foundations of our civilisation, such as homosexual marriage, abortion on demand and the right to choose from the menu of 76 sexes. It’s only against this backdrop that Ghislaine Maxwell’s sentence makes sense.

Defence is cheap at the price

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is saying all the right things about spending more on defence. There’s no need to quote – just think of all the right things, and that’s exactly what Mr Wallace is saying.

Lisa Nandy, my idol (today)

And what do you know – Labour agrees. Speaking on Sky News this morning, Lisa Nandy, Shadow Secretary for Levelling Up [sic!], also said all the right things. In fact, for the first time ever I found myself agreeing with everything a socialist says.

The government’s first duty is to defend its citizens, said Miss Nandy. Yes! This issue should transcend partisan bickering. Yes!!! She agrees with Ben Wallace: defence budget must be increased. Yes!!!!

Don’t think the Ukraine war is far away. It’s on our doorstep. Yes!!!!! This government has been grossly negligent in stripping the army down to a negligible size. Well, yes. But not just this government, Lisa, and I thought this issue went beyond scoring cheap political points.

Since that Russian perestroika lulled the West into a false sense of security, all governments, Tory, Labour, Tory-LibDem coalition, have treated the defence budget as a hunk of salami. Whenever other departments got hungry, the government would hack off a piece. What’s the point in spending money on defence when there’s no one to defend against?

Lest you may think I’ve got it in specifically for the British government, other European countries have been even worse. At least Britain has tried to meet the pledged Nato minimum of two per cent of GDP. Germany, for example, has hovered just above one per cent for years.

The interviewer Kay Burley then asked the inevitable question: “Where is the money going to come from, in these hard times of growing inflation and dropping living standards?”

That was counterproductive. No politician, red, blue, green or piebald, will ever give a straight answer to that question. Did Kay expect a Labour politician to say she was prepared to reduce social spending? Stop throwing billions down the bottomless NHS pit? Refuse to succumb to union blackmail? Really.

Lisa said none of those things. Instead, in the good tradition of democratic politics, she repeated word for word what she had said before, even though that didn’t answer the question. But at least she had said all the right things before.

While we are on the subject of money, building up the defence industry doesn’t have to impoverish a country. Just look at the US before and after the Second World War, and you’ll agree that a vast defence effort can also spell boom, not just bust.

I suppose we must thank Vlad Putin for making our politicians at least pay lip service to the first (more radical people than I will say ‘only’) duty of any government: protecting the nation from foreign and domestic enemies.

It’s not a government’s job to eliminate poverty: only robust economic activity can do that. In any case, every war on poverty declared by any government in modern history has only succeeded in making more people poor.

Spending enough money on defence to ensure national security should be the only non-negotiable item of expenditure. Instead, it has been the only expendable item.

Last year, our Tory government, with the newly hawkish Ben Wallace its Defence Secretary, pledged to reduce the army to 72,500 soldiers by 2025. The last year in which Britain disarmed herself to such a derisory level was 1823. Two centuries ago, when the population of Britain was about 10 million.

Our newly hatched hawk, then still a dove, explained that we didn’t need any more soldiers. In fact, our “increased deployability and technological advantage” meant we didn’t need any.

Just joking: he didn’t say we didn’t need any soldiers. That’s just my logical inference: since our military technology is bound to get more and more sophisticated, the need for boots on the ground will continue to diminish. Our troops’ “deployability” will increase, and will continue to do so until we have no troops to deploy.

The response of Britain and other civilised countries to Russia’s bandit raid on the Ukraine shows that, when they perceive what Americans call “a clear and present danger”, they begin to do something about it. Sluggishly, reluctantly, begrudgingly, overcautiously – but they do take their collective finger out, after a fashion.

Since they have done nothing like that since the end of the Cold War, one can deduce that they had never seen Russia as a factor of danger until 24 February, 2022. This shows a gross failure of intellect, character and understanding of history.

Generally speaking, I dislike the hubristic “I told you so” school of writing. But since I accuse Western governments of strategic negligence, it’s essential that I establish my bona fides.

In that spirit, with no hubris anywhere in sight, I started writing about the imminent danger of the post-perestroika Russia in the early 1990s. At that time Major Putin still spied on the West out of the KGB’s Dresden station, figuring out how he could skim enough off the operational funds to buy a Grundig stereo and possibly a Bosch washing macine.

It was already clear to me that the much-vaunted glasnost and perestroika were merely a transfer of power from the Party to the KGB. That’s why no Nuremberg-style closure ever happened. How could it if essentially the same people remained in charge?

The country needed a few years to regroup, but there was no doubt what it had to regroup for. The first task was to plunder Russia and turn the new ruling class into dollar billionaires. Given the richness of Russia’s natural resources, that didn’t take long.

Then came the time to rebuild Russia to her former grandeur, understood as a carte blanche to occupy or at least bully her neighbours. As the country regained some of her former strength, the need for subterfuge diminished. Russian chieftains stopped making emollient noises for the consumption of Western ‘liberals’. More and more, the bugles of supremacist diatribes began to command airwaves.

The West didn’t hear the bugles because it didn’t want to hear. If early on the KGB (in its new guises) was doing its utmost to dupe the West, now there was no need. The West was more than happy to dupe itself, getting fat on what was then called the peace dividend.

Defence budgets dwindled away to practically nothing, trillions poured into Russia as investments or payment for her natural resources. Gangsters and KGB operatives (by then the two groups had largely merged into one) began to hobnob with Western politicians, dominating the social scene in European capitals.

Russia was committing one atrocity after another, murdering dissidents all over the world, pouncing on her neighbours like a rabid dog – and still the likes of Mr Wallace and Miss Nandy closed their eyes, sometimes pulling their eyelids down with their fingers.

As for their German colleagues, they kept their eyes wide open – to the opportunities of collaborating with Russia’s now transparently fascist regime.

I don’t know if Angela Merkel was a Russian agent and neither do I care. For it’s not immediately clear how differently she would have acted had she indeed been recruited by Putin. (The opportunities for such an arrangement were rife when Putin was a KGB spy in Dresden and Merkel a nomenklatura official in Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands in Leipzig, 70 miles away.)

She systematically eliminated most domestic sources of energy, making Germany’s economy hostage to Putin’s good graces. She admitted more than a million aliens, putting a great strain on the German economy and indirectly increasing its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons. And she reduced the Bundeswehr to a level that even any self-respecting police force would consider risibly inadequate.

Better late than never, they say. Western Chamberlains aren’t exactly turning into Churchills, but neither are they still rushing to become Quislings. Thank God for small mercies.

Had they acted earlier, the danger of a major war wouldn’t be as real as it is now. And Ukrainians wouldn’t be paying with their blood for the West’s cupidity and stupidity. A consistently strong, strategically deployed Nato would have kept Putin’s appetites down, and no need to fight would have arisen. Now it’s very real, and the consequences are unpredictable.

That’s what happens when all Western cabinets lack an essential member: C.O. Jones. Sorry for the crude pun.

Putin hits strategic targets

According to the Russian government’s spokesman, the latest volley of missiles fired at Ukrainian cities targeted “decision-making centres”.

Truer words have never been spoken. After all, shoppers in malls do decide what to buy. Residents of apartment blocks decide whether to walk up or take the lift. Kindergarten pupils decide whether to play tag or hide and seek.

Hitting such strategically vital installations has to downgrade the Ukraine’s military capability no end. If not, people are likely to bandy about such words as “savagery”, “barbarity”, “fascism”, even “Third World War”, and that won’t do, will it?

Putin’s actions can only be properly understood in the context of the street gangs that self-admittedly shaped his personality (“I was a common street thug,” was Putin’s nostalgic recollection of his youth), with the KGB then adding the finishing touches.

His speeches abound in references to that formative experience: “You should always hit first”, “Don’t make threats – if you pull out a gun, shoot”, “We’ll whack them in the shithouse” and so on. More important, Putin’s actions spring from the same inspiration.

Having had to deal with Russian street thugs in my youth, I recognise the pattern of gradual escalation favoured by Putin. The Putins of my youth would approach a boy from a decent family and ask for a trifling amount of money, say 20 kopecks.

If the boy meekly handed the coin over, they’d ask for a rouble. And so forth, one demand at a time: “Can you spare these gloves?”, “You don’t really need this hat, do you?” If the boy demurred, then came the clincher: “Oh yeah? So what are you gonna do about it?”

Before the poor chap knew it, he became first the thugs’ mark, then their bitch. The rest of his youth would be spent in fear, sneaking in and out of the house, always looking over his shoulder, asking his parents to accompany him to school.

Braver souls knew there was only one way to respond to the first demand to prevent follow-ups: a punch on the nose. A brawl would ensue, and the mark would win even if he lost. Bullies seldom want to fight; they are out to intimidate. Faced with staunch resistance, they’ll look elsewhere.

Over the past 20 years, the street thug in the Kremlin has been escalating his banditry in incremental steps: Chechnya, Georgia, the Ukraine, Syria, the Ukraine again. In parallel, he’d commit acts of anti-Western terrorism that in the past would each have been seen as a casus belli: a cyber attack on US elections, the murder of Litvinenko with a nuclear weapon in London, the attack with military-grade chemicals in Salisbury.

And each time the thug asked the West, that boy from a good family, the same sacramental question he learned in his youth: “So what are you gonna do about it?”

In reply, Putin got expressions of concern, serious concern and grave concern, accompanied by reductions in defence budgets. Nothing to fear, in other words. Oh well, it was clear the boy was a wimp. That punch on the nose never came. Putin was emboldened.

Heroic Ukrainian soldiers, outnumbered and outgunned but never outfought, are paying for the West’s cowardice and stupidity with their blood. The same cost is exacted from peaceful Ukrainian civilians, who also have to throw in their murdered children, raped wives, destroyed and looted houses, devastated infrastructure, dwindling food supplies – everything that was their normal lives.

The recent blood-curdling attacks on the shopping mall in Kremenchug and civilian targets in Kiev were timed to coincide with the G7 conference in Bavaria and the Nato conference in Madrid. That was Putin’s way of asking that same lapidary question, hoping that the wimp would cower yet again.

The West has responded by increasing seven-fold, to 300,000, the number of troops on high alert in Europe, or rather stating the intention to do so at some time in the near future. Promises to increase arms supplies to the Ukraine were also reiterated, but with all the usual provisos: no rockets or artillery with enough range to hit Russian territory, no risk of humiliating Putin – and certainly nothing that could possibly provoke an attack on a Nato country.

At the same time, calls, nay demands, for Zelensky to agree to peace negotiations are becoming more persistent and shrill. Just give Putin Donetsk and Lugansk provinces, and he’ll be happy. A capitulation would be even better, but we dare not ask. Not yet anyway.

After all, for all his belligerent talk, Putin secretly yearns for peace. Doesn’t he? Of course, he does. After all, as a particularly cretinous hack opined in The Standard, if Putin continues the war, the electorate will punish him at the polls.

When I read that, I gasped. What [expletive deleted] electorate? What [expletive deleted] polls? But then I remembered who owns The Standard, and everything fell into place.

Allowing the Lebedevs to buy important British newspapers with KGB money was another example of a wimpish boy acting as a thug’s bitch. And ennobling Lebedev fils was tantamount to handing the thug the keys to the house, in this case of Lords.

General Sir Patrick Sanders, Chief of the British Army, said yesterday that Britain is facing a new “1937 moment” and must be prepared to “fight and win” to prevent the spread of war in Europe. The reference to Hitler rolling on to a world war is clear enough, but surely Sir Patrick must remember that 1937 was followed by 1938.

The Anschluss of Austria in March, the Munich Treaty in September, occupation of Czechoslovakia later that month – all these followed the original 1937 moment. And, vindicating both chronology and the practice of street thuggery, 1938 was followed by 1939.

Sir Patrick hopes that Britain, and the West in general, strides through 2022 equipped with the valuable knowledge of the 1930s. He can rest assured that we have indeed learned all the right lessons, those in cowardly appeasement and futile attempts to pacify the street thug.

To be fair, we’ve added new chapters to the same book. Back then, nobody was cautioning against humiliating Herr Hitler, nor feeling certain that a war would spell an electoral disaster for the Nazis. Chamberlain and Daladier had the power of their craven convictions.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” wrote George Santayana. This aphorism is often repeated but never properly understood.

I’m sure General Sanders knows the saying. So do Messrs Johnson, Macron, Scholz, Draghi and other polite boys from good families. So does the street thug in the Kremlin, who is asking “So what are you gonna do about it?”

If he likes the answer, he’ll stick the boys’ gloves in his pocket and reach for their hats. Are we going to punch him on the nose? Sir Patrick would doubtless like to. But the bigger boys won’t let him.

P.S. “Britain is broken,” writes Tony Blair, and for once I agree with that revolting man. He should know. After all, he did much of the breaking.

If money talks, what does a million in a bag say?

Prince Charles is being accused of naivety. That’s one way to describe it.

Turns out HRH accepted three cash gifts of about a million each from Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, the former prime minister of Qatar.

HRH deposited the money into the accounts of the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund, which finances the causes Charles holds dear. I don’t know if speech therapy for plants is one of them, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

One way or the other, the transactions aren’t believed to have been illegal, so HRH isn’t going to have his collar felt, which is comforting to know. However, his moral judgement is appalling.

He failed to perform due diligence, which in this case could have boiled down to a simple question. What kind of people pay or receive millions in cash?

After all, most people, including many rich ones, have never even seen a million pounds in cash. Why would they? We have at our disposal many instant methods of money transfer. Tap in a few numbers, push a button, and Harun al-Rashid is your uncle.

I’ve seen Penelope do that many times, if with amounts considerably smaller than a million quid. And if some small French firms still haven’t yet got their heads around electronics, she sends them a cheque. No bags (or, in our case, envelopes) of cash ever see the light of day.

We have quite a few wealthy people among our friends, and some of their transactions are much bigger than ours. Yet they don’t stuff bundles of banknotes into briefcases either. So who does?

The kind of people who need to keep payments off the books for any number of reasons, few of them praiseworthy. In other words, dishonest people. In still other words, criminals.

An example from my experience, if I may. Penelope’s niece went to one of Britain’s top schools for girls. The annual tuition costs about £70,000 now, but when our niece went there, it was about half that amount.

Like most such schools, it attracted many foreigners, those for whom money wasn’t an object, but social prestige was. Some of them were Russians, those who are misleadingly called oligarchs, but who are in fact gangsters.

And gangsters keep much of their assets liquid, which is good for a quick getaway. Cash is also less traceable than any transfers involving banks, which offers obvious advantages to chaps whose gains are ill-gotten.

One such Russian had the apple of his eye admitted to that school, but the headmistress informed him that an annual fee had to be paid in advance. Not a problem. The man walked to his car, came back with a briefcase full of £500 notes and nonchalantly tossed the requisite number of bundles on the headmistress’s desk. Job done.

Not quite. To her credit, the headmistress refused to accept the cash payment. She knew what our future king (perish the thought!) doesn’t: that cash carried around in such amounts is almost certain to be covered with dirt or even blood. And the good woman didn’t want to sully her hands with either substance.

Had she accepted the purloined cash, she would have done nothing illegal. And of course these days legality has subsumed morality. Not doing anything wrong isn’t an issue any longer. Only not getting caught is.

I’m not qualified to ponder the fine legal print involved, although I fail to see a valid moral difference between accepting stolen property and purloined cash. But fine, if that’s the line the law draws, we have to accept it – even if we think it’s drawn in some funny places.

One just wishes that our future king (perish the thought!) had enough moral sense to compile a mental list of the kind of people who routinely handle millions in readies. Any such list would include Colombian drug barons, American mafiosi, Russian friends of Putin, Chinese friends of Xi, foreign or homegrown gangsters and tax evaders, money launderers – and assorted sheikhs.

Our royals’ hobnobbing with such people and accepting their lavish gifts brings the monarchy into disrepute. And our monarchy can ill-afford coming across as any old group of people scrapping for whatever they can get.

The principle significance of this institution is transcendent, rising above politics and other quotidian concerns preoccupying most people. That’s why our royals should neither look nor, more important, act like most people.

They should hold themselves to the highest moral standards for, if they fall short, too many people will start wondering what the monarchy is for. Such questions will arise anyway when the Queen goes, and it will be up to her successors to provide satisfactory answers.

Accepting millions in dubious cash doesn’t qualify as one such. HRH should refuse such gifts in the future, even at the risk of his plants continuing to speak with a stutter.

P.S. How many suitcases full of cash did it take for Qatar to secure the 2022 World Cup? Just wondering.

Three cheers for the US Supreme Court

As anticipated, the Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe vs Wade ruling that enabled the federal government to legalise abortion on demand throughout the country.

Megan The Stalion, Biden’s kind of girl

I’ve written on the moral and philosophical aspects of abortion quite a bit. If you are interested, tap ABORTION into the SEARCH rubric in this space and you’ll get the story chapter and verse, several times over. Today, I’ll comment strictly on the politics of the issue.

Roe vs Wade was another battle that centralism won in its war on localism, and this war defines modern politics more than any other. For, having first supposedly empowered the people, the modern state immediately began to shift power away from them and towards its own good offices.

While the traditional conservative state devolved power to the lowest sensible level, the modern state reverses this process. It divests individuals and local bodies from as much power as possible this side of concentration camps. A small group of people sitting in the capital assume the prerogative of micromanaging affairs in remote parts of the country, hundreds or, in the US, thousands of miles away.

Such is the essence of socialism, the dominant trend of modern politics. If we ignore its mendacious mock-Christian claims made for PR purposes, socialism is about transferring as much power as possible to the central state. The ideal is for the state to get its hands on every lever of control and, though no Western country has quite achieved that goal, they can all boast close – and increasingly closer – approximations.

The tangible effect of burgeoning centralisation is steady diminution of liberty. The greater the distance between the government and the governed, the less are the latter able to uphold their much-vaunted sovereignty – and the more latitude does the former acquire to put its foot down.

This tendency is observable throughout the West, but the exact mechanisms differ from country to country, depending on their own constitutional experience. In the US, the eternal conflict is between the federal government and state rights. This was the constitutional bugbear ever since the Constitution first saw the light of day.

That conflict led to the bloodiest war in American history, the Civil one, in which more Americans died than in all the other American wars combined. Centralism won the day over localism then, but the issue wasn’t settled once and for all. Nor will it ever be.

Today it provides the clearest line of political demarcation. Political (as distinct from social or cultural) conservatism is defined by a quest for individual liberty, with local institutions keeping centralising encroachments at bay. Conversely, socialists (incongruously called liberals in America) mask their indifference to individual liberties by pretending these would be best protected by an omnipotent central state.

‘Liberals’ are in effect statists. Their main concern is building up and padding up a single centre of power that would be easier for them to control. They don’t care at what cost to liberty such an arrangement could be reached.

Whenever the issue of state rights comes up, their knees jerk and they instantly join ranks against conservatives, for whom liberty is more than just an empty slogan.

It’s in this context that the Supreme Court’s ruling should be viewed. America’s highest judiciary body struck a blow for liberty by denying the federal government the power to browbeat individual states into issuing a blank licence to abortion on demand.

Individual states can now decide for themselves whether abortion should be totally banned, partly banned, offered on demand or offered with some limitations. Thus the principle of liberty inscribed on the banners of the American Revolution has for once been upheld, if only in this narrow area. One would think that most Americans would rejoice.

This, irrespective of their stand on abortion. Even those who love the idea of having fully formed foetuses scraped out of the womb bit by bit must have enough residual attachment to the founding principles of their republic. Must they, hell.

Instead, America is tearing her political fabric to tatters over this ruling. A widening hole appears, through which frenzied multitudes stick their heads out to scream their trademarked idiocies.   

The chorus is led by that self-proclaimed pious Catholic, Joe Biden. Joe’s take on Catholic doctrine is uniquely his: he seems to think abortion is some sort of sacrament. That suggests he is unaware of the distinctly dated nature of human sacrifice.

Even more worrying for those who voted him into the White House is that Joe is equally ignorant of some basic political fundamentals. This he showed by promising to fight every future election on the promise of overturning the overturners. After all, as far as Joe is concerned, state rights spell less liberty, not more.

“Yesterday, I spoke about the Supreme Court’s shocking decision striking down Roe v Wade,” he said. “Jill and I know how painful and devastating the decision is for so many Americans.” Well, not on Joe’s watch. He’ll strain every sinew to “protect women’s health”.

This commitment to women’s health is laudable. However, one has to infer that having an abortion is akin to taking vitamin supplements, doing regular exercise and following the Mediterranean diet. This means Joe’s thinking on medicine is as idiosyncratic as his take on Catholic doctrine, but I’m the last man to rebuke independent thought.

In passing Joe created a whole new branch of medicine: “Millions of women in America will go to bed tonight without access to the healthcare and reproductive care they had this morning. Without access to the same reproductive healthcare that their mothers and grandmothers had for 50 years.”

What on God’s green earth is reproductive healthcare? To me the term sounds like minimising women’s health risks throughout pregnancy and birth. Surely Joe doesn’t think abortion is a factor of reproductive health? I’ve known at least a dozen women rendered barren by abortions. How many has he known?

But never mind medicine. Joe is a politician, and it’s politics we are talking about. Promising to make abortion on demand the central commitment of any future campaigning, Joe said: “This fall, Roe is on the ballot. Personal freedoms are on the ballot. The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on the ballot.”

This man, who has dedicated his whole life to politics in a residually free country, thinks that the likes of him riding roughshod over local communities is tantamount to pursuing “personal freedoms, the right to privacy, liberty, equality”.

He left out the magic D-word, democracy. You know, a political dispensation enabling Joe Biden to dictate to the people of, say, Alabama how they should conduct their family affairs.

Emboldened by their president, professional rabble rousers have called hysterical mobs to arms all over the country, so far only figuratively. Emboldened by their president, mobs are taking over the streets to make sure everyone knows they are even more feebleminded.

The battle cry was issued by the rapper Megan The Stallion: “My body, my motherfucking choice!”

I am shamefully unfamiliar with this young lady’s corpus of work, though I’m sure she is a most accomplished musician. But her grasp of zoology is infirm. A stallion, after all, is a male horse but, as the photo above shows, Megan seems to be female, although these days one can never be certain.

Nor does she (he? it? they? ze?) realise that a foetus isn’t a part of the woman’s body. The Stallion should look up some scans on the net, especially those taken a couple of months into pregnancy. She may stop neighing on this subject then.

But we aren’t going to argue against people whose IQ is dangerously close to a courgette’s, are we? Instead I wonder how well most Americans understand their constitution. Not very, if their president is any indication.

But the Supreme Court clearly does, and my hat’s off to it.

Well, stone the crows

This old Cockney gasp of amazement applies both figuratively and literally to the excerpts from Nicholas II’s diary posted by a friend.

Another bird has flown its last

Russians like to argue in the past subjunctive mood about the course Russian history would have taken had a stronger leader than Nicholas been at the helm in 1917.

Now, I like to say that a country doesn’t need a strong leader. It needs a strong society. However, like many aphoristic statements, this one is correct only up to a point.

True, the leader’s personality doesn’t matter very much when a country sails on an even keel. In fact, a weak leader minding his own business may be even preferable when a society is strong enough and balanced enough to run itself.

A strong, energetic leader may well upset that balance by his meddling. Ignoring folk wisdom, he may try to fix what isn’t broken and break it as a result.

But when a storm is brewing or already raging, a strong hand on the tiller is essential – provided that limb is wired to a wise head and a noble heart. When a country needs a Churchill, a Chamberlain won’t do (and, incidentally, vice versa).

The excerpts my friend posted date back to 1904-1905, when Russia was, not to cut too fine a point, falling apart. A disastrous war against Japan was followed by a revolution. The government managed to survive, but only just. Wise heads knew the writing was on the wall, and it spelled E-N-D.

It’s in this context that one can fully appreciate the concerns preoccupying the Tsar of all Russias at the time.

“I had a good walk with Misha, killed a crow.” (7 April, 1904)

“Walking for a long time, killed a crow.” (19 April, 1904)

“He killed the crow.” (29 April, 1904)

“I walked, killed a crow and went kayaking.” (17 May, 1904)

“I walked for a long time and killed 2 crows.” (25 May, 1904)

“Went for a long walk and killed 2 crows.” (27 May, 1904)

“Killed 2 crows. Went for a ride in a kayak.” (June 2, 1904)

“I have read a lot. I rode a bicycle and killed 2 crows; one yesterday.” (4 June, 1904)

“It was a wonderful day. Rode a bike and killed 2 crows.” (5 June, 1904)

“Walking for a long time, killed three crows.” (6 October, 1904)

“We walked together, then Alix came home, and I continued walking and killed five crows.” (10 October, 1904)

“Went out and killed a crow.” (8 November, 1904)

“I went for a walk and killed three crows.” (25 January, 1905)

“Went out and killed a crow.” (27 January, 1905)

“Went out and killed 4 crows.” (19 February, 1905)

“Walked around, killed two crows.” (17 March, 1905)

“He killed the cat.” (8 May, 1905)

“Rode a bike and killed 2 crows.” (28 May, 1905)

“I have read a lot. He killed a crow.” (29 May, 1905)

“He killed a woodpecker.” (10 September, 1905)

When Russia was going to the dogs, her absolute ruler was waging war on crows (and the odd cat and woodpecker). Really, he – though not his family – deserved ending up in that satanic cellar filled with gushing blood.

Russian nationalists like to say that Russia is there to teach the world a lesson. I agree: a lesson in how not to do things.

Now, as the world is balancing on a knife’s edge, take a roll call of Western leaders, to find which of them has the strength of mind and character to be up to a salvation job. Biden? Johnson? Macron? Scholz?

Then remember that worthy heirs to the ghouls who filled that cellar with blood now have their fingers on the red button. And Russia is just 1,000 miles from London – as the crow (or the missile) flies.