She isn’t the PM of England

TheresaMayScotland’s fishy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is demanding direct access to Brexit negotiations. That’s to be expected from this jumped-up nationalist. What’s astounding, not to mention unconstitutional, is that she looks likely to get it.

After all, the United Kingdom isn’t a federation, like the USA. Nor is it a confederation, like Switzerland. It’s a unitary state. That means Her Majesty’s government is authorised to conduct any negotiations on behalf of the four countries under its aegis: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Scotland owes its devolved status to the most revolting personage ever to occupy 10 Downing Street: Tony Blair. Dead set on destroying as much of our constitution as possible, Blair pushed the devolution act through Parliament, granting Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales their own assemblies and greater autonomy.

However, even Blair didn’t go so far as to grant the devolved parts of the UK the freedom to set their own foreign policy. Moreover, what Parliament gives it can take away. Activating the same mechanisms Margaret Thatcher used to get rid of the Greater London Council, Theresa May could – and should – undo Scotland’s devolution. She probably has a sufficient parliamentary majority for that.

Meanwhile, Dave Cameron, who could give Blair a good run for his money in the worst-ever-PM stakes, tried to deliver another blow to the constitution of the United Kingdom by granting Scotland an independence referendum.

The blow missed: the Scots sensibly voted against. However, presaging similar tactics by the Remainers, Sturgeon’s SNP is pushing for another referendum because it didn’t like the results of the first one. The nationalists must have learned the trick from the EU they love so much: if the people vote wrong, make them vote again until they get it right.

Actually, by the looks of it, their understanding of nationalism differs from the dictionary definition. They don’t want to be independent tout court – they just want to be independent from England.

If they get their wish, break away from a Brexit UK and join the EU as an individual member, Scotland will become considerably less independent, not more. Within the EU, beggars definitely aren’t choosers, and Scotland would be totally dependent on Brussels’s largesse.

Considering the catastrophic state of EU finances, this largesse isn’t likely to be exorbitant, certainly falling far short of the handouts Scotland receives from the British Parliament. And Scotland would have to become an abject supplicant to receive even those short EU rations.

That would give it a status similar to that of Greece, a far cry from Scotland’s influence in the UK, where it has supplied one royal dynasty, seven prime ministers and uncountable cabinet members. The Scottish nationalists are thus expressing not love of independence but hatred of England, a sentiment demonstrably not shared by most Scots, especially those whose English one can understand.

Now the nationalists are holding England to ransom, threatening a second referendum, which would be a major irritant even if it delivers the same result, as seems likely. And Sturgeon’s demands are as outlandish as those of most blackmailers.

Effectively she’s demanding veto powers to any Brexit deal or, alternatively, the right to make separate arrangements with the EU. That would involve staying in the single market even if the UK opts out.

The SNP’s previous leader, the equally fishy Alex Salmond, supports her unequivocally: “Nicola Sturgeon’s red lines are that she wants Scotland to be within the single marketplace, she wants proper legal treatment for fellow EU citizens in Scotland and she wants the rights of Scottish workers, social and employment rights, to be protected.”

In other words, he wants Scotland to be an independent state, or rather one dependent on the EU, effectively reversing the result of Scotland’s referendum and ignoring the wishes of the Scottish people. That, of course, is par for the course: like any other socialist party, the SNP regards people as merely a means to its own ends.

One hopes that Mrs May will respond with the kind of fortitude that’s essential when dealing with blackmailers. In fact, she could counter their threats with some of her own, such as cutting Scotland’s subsidies or revoking its devolved status through an act of Parliament.

Unfortunately, one detects some vacillation on Mrs May’s part and a tendency towards appeasement in her initial response to Sturgeon’s blackmail. If so, this is most unfortunate: weakness on the PM’s part may achieve the opposite result to the one she desires: the breakup of the United Kingdom.

The Nasty Health Service

nhs-logoI’m sure it’s unintentional, and doubtless the parallel isn’t yet exact, but the NHS is rapidly approaching the moral – or rather moralising – standards set by Nazi medicine. Thus obese patients and smokers are routinely denied treatment, including surgery.

Now, considering that 26 per cent of all adults are classed as obese, and 18 per cent smoke, and assuming some overlap between the two groups, possibly a third of us aren’t seen as fit for the NHS’s tender mercies.

This reconfirms the immutable law: a government that does a lot for the people will always do a lot to them. Whenever the state oversteps the boundaries of its legitimate mandate, it becomes tyrannical, and the NHS is a prime example.

Whatever their declared purpose, all state Leviathans ultimately serve to extend state power. The NHS is no exception.

That nationalised medicine can be used for this purpose was demonstrated by the Nazis, whose fanatical anti-smoking campaign would be the envy of today’s NHS. Also, chemical additives and preservatives were roundly castigated by the Nazis, wholemeal bread was depicted as morally superior to breads made from blanched white flour, and preventive medicine was elevated to a religious status.

Like today’s bureaucrats, the Nazis promoted vegetarianism (practised by Hitler, Hess and many others) and attacked medical experiments on animals (unlike us, they had no shortage of enthusiastic human volunteers).

Of course, doctors in Nazi Germany were involved not only in preventive medicine but, most of them eagerly, in such less benign pastimes as enforced euthanasia. It’s comforting to observe how medicine in today’s Britain is inching in the same direction.

One can’t open the papers these days without reading a thinly veiled lament about the burden placed on the fragile shoulders of the NHS by an ageing population. And euthanasia is steadily moving towards the forefront of potential remedies.

Now, I realise that this may sound as a heresy to a modern ear, but the role of medicine isn’t to pass moral judgement and sort people out into ethical categories. It’s to treat those in need of treatment – even if the need is self-inflicted.

In any case, why reduce the number of disqualifying habits to smoking and overeating? A man breaking his leg playing football has only himself to blame. Ditto, a hypertensive who never exercises. Ditto, a heavy drinker suffering from liver disease. Ditto, an avid consumer of junk food who’s a health wreck. Ditto… well, the possibilities are endless.

How long before patients are ordered to submit their food and liquor bills before getting a quadruple bypass? This may sound ludicrous, but no more so than denying treatment to someone who lights up occasionally or prefers chips to sprouts.

We must remember that the NHS, Europe’s only fully nationalised health service, isn’t just about medicine. It’s about extending state power. And funding shortages are routinely cited as an excuse for implementing that inner imperative.

Using this justification, British hospitals everywhere cut the number of hospital beds and reduce their frontline medical staffs, while creating whole new layers of administrative jobs, all those directors of diversity, optimisers of facilitation and facilitators of optimisation.

Doctors, nurses and beds aren’t really needed for the NHS to perform its real function, while administrators are indispensable. This madness is accompanied by Goebbelsian propaganda so successful that most Britons worship the NHS in lieu of God.

The NHS, claim those poor brainwashed souls, is the envy of Europe. If so, one has to compliment those envious continentals for the courage with which they fight off the temptation to follow suit: all major European countries have mixed state-private healthcare.

Many Britons seem to think that before 1948, when the country was blessed with the arrival of nationalised medicine, people had been dying in the streets without any medical help on offer. This is nonsense.

More hospitals were built in the 1930s, hardly the most prosperous decade in British history, than in the 68 years of the NHS. Rather than being burdened with administrators outnumbering the medical staff, those hospitals were run by two people: head doctor and matron, with a bookkeeper clicking his abacus somewhere in the back room.

In those backward times, hospitals were spanking clean, and hospital-acquired infections, like those killing thousands in NHS hospitals every year, didn’t exist. A matron would run a finger over every surface, and woe betide any nurse responsible for a single speck of dust.

It wasn’t just secondary care either. Before progress arrived, patients didn’t have to wait three weeks for a GP appointment, as they do today. And they’d see the same GP every time, one familiar with their condition, rather than whomever they drew like a lottery ticket.

Moreover, doctors wouldn’t hector patients on their habits, nor – how reactionary can you get? – refuse treatment if said habits didn’t pass muster.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s not only a doctor’s right but indeed duty to give lifestyle advice when it’s needed. A patient, however, remains free to follow the advice or not.

If he chooses wrong, it’s a mistake. But refusing to treat him as a result is a crime – committed by a tyrannical state acting in loco parentis.




Free speech finds a new champion

rtThe other day the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and its NatWest branch threatened to shut the account of RT, the propaganda and disinformation extension of Putin’s KGB junta.

In response, that very station, ably supported by Russia’s diplomatic pressure, whipped up an hysterical campaign shrieking all over the world about this affront to freedom of speech.

By way of retaliation, the Kremlin threatened to freeze the BBC’s accounts in Russia and report RBS to international watchdogs, while assorted Russian money launderers said they’d take their laundry elsewhere.

As a result, RBS has caved in and withdrawn its punitive action. I suspect the threat of losing those laundered billions has proved decisive – our banks are animated by the spirit of Emperor Vespasian who, when questioned about his tax on the urine sold to tanners by public lavatories, pronounced that “pecunia non olet” (money doesn’t stink).

No surprise there. But I must admit that even I was amazed at the cynical effrontery of Putin’s Goebbelses having the gall to invoke freedom of speech.

RT isn’t a communications channel in any civilised sense of the word. It’s the mouthpiece of KGB/FSB’s disinformation service (formerly known as the First Chief Directorate), performing an intelligence task rather than journalistic ones.

The intelligence task it performs is undermining the West’s morale in any possible confrontation with Putin’s Russia. To that end RT peddles barefaced lies portraying Russia as the last outpost of conservative, Christian values desperately fighting for survival against Western aggression.

Nothing saddens me more than seeing that so many conservatives, exactly the kind of people who ought to know better, swallow those lies whole. They see Putin as a strong traditional leader, rather than what he really is: a kleptofascist KGB thug threatening world peace more than any other evil force.

RT ‘expert’ analysts routinely vent neo-Nazi messages, nuclear threats to the West, various conspiracy theories (such as the CIA organising 9/11). Producing palpably phoney evidence, RT ‘reporters’ blame the Ukraine for aggression against Russia and for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

In fact, Sara Firth, RT’s London correspondent, resigned in 2014 specifically for that reason. Blaming the Ukraine for Flight MH17, she said, was “the most shockingly obvious misinformation”.

As a result of RT’s lies, numerous complaints have been filed with Ofcom, which has upheld 15 of them. Against this background, claiming that RT should be protected by our tradition of free speech takes cynicism to a whole new level.

Putin first demonstrated his commitment to free speech just four days after taking power, when the offices of Russia’s most popular TV station NTV were sacked, and its owner slapped in prison.

On 9 September, 2000, four months after his ascent, Putin signed a vitally important document: The Doctrine of Information Security. All mass media were to be divided into two clearly delineated categories: ‘ours’ and ‘alien’.

Since then, the government has used this doctrine to bring all mass media under its control. Even online opposition magazines, such as Grani, and Yezhednevnyi Zhurnal, have been blocked for internal consumption.

Lest there might be some misunderstanding, Alexander Volin, Putin’s overseer of mass media, has explained how the junta defines a journalist’s duty. Speaking to the faculty of Moscow University’s journalism department, he said:

“A journalist’s task is to make money for his employer. You must leave students in no doubt that, having left university halls, they’ll be working for the boss, and the boss will tell them what to write, what not to write and how to write about certain things. And the boss has a right to do so because he pays them.” He didn’t have to clarify the identity of the boss.

The message was so easy to understand that it’s amazing how many Russian journalists have demonstrated learning difficulties. For those recalcitrant children, the junta doesn’t spare the rod.

Altogether 314 Russian journalists have been killed for what they write, and hundreds more harassed, beaten up or crippled. Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) ranks Russia as the world’s third most dangerous country for journalists, behind only Algeria and Iraq. But then Russia finds itself in that kind of company in most categories defining civilised society.

Common sense ought to suggest that those who are actively trying to undermine Western constitutions shouldn’t enjoy their protection. Freedom of speech isn’t a suicide pact.

Not many people in the West would object to curbs on jihadist or Nazi propaganda. It’s sheer ignorance not to realise that Putin’s disinformation machine falls into the same category, where it can claim pride of place for being by far the most dangerous.

To paraphrase an Elizabethan law report, the air of England is too pure for enemy propagandists to breathe. Any sensible government wouldn’t just slap RT’s wrists but ban it outright. That would be not so much denying as upholding freedom of speech.

Among the few contributions Russian has made to the English language, ‘disinformation’, a Russian blend of Latin components, is one of the most pernicious. The rat of Putin’s disinformation runs rampaging all over the world, yet few manage to smell it.


Today’s politicians are for turning

borisweathercock“This lady is not for turning,” said Margaret Thatcher, who had the power of her convictions.

However, today’s lot, perfectly exemplified by Boris Johnson, won’t let convictions get in the way of their pursuit of power.

To wit: during the referendum debate, Johnson published his Telegraph column, arguing the case for Brexit. Yet at the same time he also wrote a pro-Remain article, and was in two minds which one to send to the paper.

Apparently Cameron had promised Johnson the Defence slot in exchange for his support. On the other hand, leading a successful Leave campaign could conceivably land him at 10 Downing Street.

Those were the bases on which Johnson made what he then called “an agonisingly difficult decision”. Yet now that the unpublished article has seen the light of day, he claims no career motive was involved.

Johnson supposedly wrote the pro and con articles to see which argument was stronger. Having realised the paucity of the Remain position, he opted for Leave.

Pull the other one, Boris, would be my response – but not Dominic Lawson’s, who has sprung to his “old mate’s” defence. Perish the thought that Dominic’s mate be accused of “duplicity and opportunism”. This was merely Johnson’s “method of analysis – or, as it might be, self-analysis”.

Loyalty to one’s mates is highly prized in military and criminal circles. But in matters of the mind and morality it should be secondary to a superior consideration: the truth.

One’s understanding of the truth springs from a whole ganglion of philosophy, moral convictions and what Collingwood called absolute presuppositions. When these are firm, as they should be for an educated man in his fifties, intellectual and moral choices usually make themselves.

Coming to Johnson’s defence, Lawson compares his agony with Charles Darwin’s struggle over the decision to marry.

Being a rationalist, Darwin drew a list of arguments for and against. The chief among the former was possessing an “object to be beloved & played with – better than a dog anyhow”; the latter hinged on losing the “freedom to go where one liked”.

Lawson compliments Darwin on making the right decision (“Marry!”), but I have to rebuke Lawson for drawing a wrong analogy. Unlike a statesman’s choice of policy affecting millions of people, a man’s decision to marry is morally and intellectually neutral.

A better analogy would be a man considering whether to divorce or murder his unloved wife. He then sits down and does a Darwin. For murder: no bickering, legal fees, alimony. Against: messy, might get caught.

I’d suggest that, regardless of what conclusion he reaches, the very fact that the question came up shows him for the amoral sociopath that he is.

Similarly, the very fact that Johnson had to put down an extensive list of pros and cons, shows him for an unprincipled intellectual lightweight.

This he also proved in a private e-mail, which Lawson divulges with a QED finality: “Am wrestling with the Europe thing. Reasons for staying in: Britain force for good in Europe; historic need for us to be there to stop them screwing up; the Scottish problem, break-up of Union etc; exit looks negative, anti-foreigner etc”.

One has to think that only the last argument could possibly have mattered to Johnson: how his support for Brexit would look.

Truth didn’t come into Johnson’s amphigory even tangentially. Otherwise he wouldn’t have weighed Britain’s entire constitutional essence against his reluctance to look “anti-foreign”.

Not even to be – only to look. Equating support for Britain’s sovereignty with xenophobia is nothing but leftish knavery. It goes over big at Islington and Notting Hill salons, where Johnson doubtless likes to impress gasping groupies, but it hasn’t a grain of truth to it.

“I suspect that millions of voters would identify with Boris’s self-questioning approach,” writes Lawson. No doubt. The same voters wouldn’t have heard of an argumentum ad populum, and why it’s a rhetorical fallacy.

Nor do millions of voters proceed from a carefully considered political philosophy, general erudition, extensive understanding of constitutional matters and how they relate to morality. However, a statesman must.

Lawson is scathing about those who prefer “politicians who appear never to have given the slightest thought that there is more than one side to an argument”. But not all arguments have more than one side, Mr Lawson.

There exist such old-fashioned things as first principles, which must act as the starting point of any serious argument, and the ending point of some. No pro-Remain argument comes remotely close to agreeing with any first principle – or indeed with any sound thought.

But even assuming at a kind moment that an educated Remainer does proceed from some first principles, they don’t at all overlap with those supporting Brexit.

They can’t co-exist in the same breast: the holder of one set won’t even consider the other. It’s like Hugh Heffner discussing love with Benedict XVI – their understanding of the concept simply wouldn’t mesh.

That Johnson, who’s a clever if facile man, had to put those pathetic words on paper shows that he was driven only by base considerations of what would or wouldn’t play with the public.

Someone who seriously weighs the constitutional sovereignty of crown and Parliament against his reluctance to appear anti-foreign has no first principles, nor any convictions of any kind – this, irrespective of his conclusion.

Neither does he have, mutatis mutandis, any more moral sense than a man unsure if he should murder his wife or divorce her. What he does have is a keen sense of where the wind is blowing.

Now let’s canonise Dylan

bob_dylanYes, I know Bob isn’t a Christian. But you’re not going to be a stickler for such inconsequential detail, are you?

He’s popular, he’s cool, the young (and those who pretend to be) love him – what more do you need? If The Times says he’s a saint, he is.

And if you say he isn’t, you’re jealous. There’s no other possible reason for anyone to take issue with Dylan receiving any accolade, be it canonisation or the Nobel Prize.

Brian Appleyard certainly thinks so: “Come gather round, people, and admit it: the haters and doubters who believe Bob Dylan should not have been honoured are jealous.”

Brian is a sixtyish writer who dresses like a twentyish copywriter, no doubt to appear cool. That sort of thing seldom works: those with taste are more likely to wince at such stylistic solecisms.

However, dressing like a young Neanderthal is just about excusable. Thinking like one isn’t, and that’s where Appleyard errs.

Rather than throwing ad hominems at people whose taste is superior to his own, Appleyard should go through the exercise I suggested the other day: looking at Dylan’s verses and judging them as poetry. He may find it’s possible to despise such anti-poetic doggerel for purely aesthetic reasons, without committing a deadly sin.

Here are a few examples, plucked out of the website of ‘Bob Dylan’s Best Lyrics’. If these are his best, I shudder to think what his worst might be:

“You that build all the bombs// You that hide behind walls// You that hide behind desks// I just want you to know// I can see through your masks”

Modern poetry doesn’t have to rhyme, and in fact vers libre is par for its course. But Dylan obviously thinks that ‘masks’ rhymes with ‘desks’, which isn’t so much libre as inepte.

But never mind the form, feel the content. These lines are the blabbering of a 10-year-old with learning difficulties. Forget poetry; these effluvia don’t even qualify as clever doggerel.

“Idiot wind blowing every time you move your teeth// You’re an idiot, babe// It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe”

Lyrical poetry, it’s been a-changin’ since “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…” ‘Teeth’ and ‘breathe’ don’t rhyme either, but that’s their problem, not Bob’s. But what’s this obsession with blowing wind? Dylan must suffer from chronic flatulence, and his sublime poetry is a profoundly oblique reference to it.

“Every man’s conscience is vile and depraved// You cannot depend on it to be your guide when it’s you who must keep it satisfied”

Perhaps I was too generous earlier, when comparing Dylan to a 10-year-old with learning difficulties. Even that hypothetical lad wouldn’t sink to such pseudo-philosophical depths, unless helped along by a handful of hallucinogens.

“Yes, I wish that for just one time// You could stand inside my shoes// You’d know what a drag it is to see you”

One has to be as perceptive as Appleyard to discern the existential angst so expertly, if deceptively, conveyed by these lines. The rest of us might think this is just a modern barbarian spouting offensive gibberish.

The Academy’s “job is to seek out and reward a plausible candidate for the best work of the age, wherever and whatever it may be,” explains Appleyard. “Certainly the word literature is a restraint but it is pretty loose and getting looser.”

Quite. It’s getting so loose it’s disappearing up its own rectum. Literature is what anyone says it is: graffiti in a public lavatory, Dan Brown’s novels, ‘Off the pigs’ poster, Bob Dylan’s lyrics. If a pickled cow is art and deafening cacophony is music, why can’t Bob’s doggerel be poetry? The times they are a’changin’, and never mind the commas.

To support this astute observation, Appleyard approvingly quotes Salman Rushdie, that living vindication of fatwa: “The frontiers of literature keep widening, and it’s exciting that the Nobel prize recognises that.”

Expansionem ad absurdum, if I’ve ever seen it. The frontiers of everything keep widening, Salman and Brian, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Moral frontiers are now wide enough to accommodate homosexual marriage, euthanasia and abortion on demand. Social frontiers are pushed out to welcome puddles of vomit on pavements every weekend. Political frontiers have expanded to contain mass murder, surrender of sovereignty and Tony Blair.

In matters cultural especially, widening usually spells diminution – certainly these days, when our civilisation is collapsing all around us. Adding fruit and veg may constitute a welcome dietary expansion; adding poison and human flesh doesn’t.

Rather than slinging mud at those who don’t swap intellectual integrity for vain pretentions of cool, Brian ought to buy himself a tweed jacket and start thinking like a grown-up.

Then perhaps he’ll realise that at a time like ours it’s the moral duty of every educated man to be a cultural reactionary – fighting rearguard action against the barbarian assault spearheaded by the likes of Bob Dylan and encouraged by the Nobel committee.

That may delay their triumph, if not prevent it. But above all, a resolute stand against modern perversions may save one’s own soul. You know, that thing Appleyard and Rushdie probably don’t think exists.

KGB Vlad honours Ivan the Terrible

ivanEvery country honours its iconic personages, those seen to have served the nation particularly well. And the choice of icons is telling.

The English erect statues to Nelson. The French, to Louis XIV. The Italians, to Garibaldi. Acting in the same spirit, Putin’s government has just unveiled a statue to Ivan the Terrible. That’s like HMG honouring Jack the Ripper (this Repin painting shows Putin’s idol killing his son).

Vlad obviously traces his geopolitical and spiritual lineage back to the bellicose “gatherer of Russian lands”, as did Putin’s role model Stalin. Yet even Stalin never went so far as to commission a statue to the crazed monster.

Though later known for rabid attacks on Russia’s neighbours, Ivan began his reign by declaring war on his own people: “From time immemorial, the Russian people [wanted] to wipe out our whole dynasty…” To preempt that calamity, the first Russian tsar launched a punitive campaign against Russians.

Before he struck, Ivan had presciently tried to secure a fall-back position. To that end he sent his shaggy-bearded emissaries to Queen Elizabeth of England to propose marriage or, barring that, a mutual guarantee of haven if their respective subjects rebelled.

Her putative virginity must have been a factor in Ivan’s proposal, for he prized chastity in his brides. In fact, when on their wedding night his fifth wife turned out to be not quite virginal, Ivan had her drowned in a pond, as one did.

Elizabeth wasn’t so much reluctant to accept the proposal as perplexed: she had only a vague idea of Ivan or indeed Tartary, as contemporaneous English maps identified Russia. Hence she didn’t let Ivan’s wooing succeed where Leicester’s had failed.

Undeterred by amorous rejection, Ivan pressed on with his campaign regardless. To begin with, he created the first institutional organ of oppression in Russia: oprichnina, the somewhat more liberal precursor of Putin’s own KGB.

The oprichniks ransacked the land, torturing and murdering anyone who offended against the tsar’s ‘word and deed.’ In fact, those became the magic words that opened the doors of oprichnina barracks to any grass willing to denounce anyone he wished.

Those denounced would be first tortured and then, with few exceptions, cut to pieces or broken on the wheel – this even if their crime was only to have uttered a sentence beginning with “If I were tsar…” The just punishment would ensue inexorably even if the sentence then said “…I’d be even tougher on treason.”

However, the oprichniks were more even-handed than the KGB: they tortured not only the accused but also the accuser, to make sure he hadn’t borne false witness – biblical commandments had to be enforced.

Ivan, incidentally, was a pious man who knew the Scripture by heart. Nevertheless he murdered priests wholesale and practised rituals that openly mocked Christianity.

For example, Ivan set up a sham monastery for his cronies, in which they impersonated monks and he the abbot. There they alternated religious rituals with massacres, tortures of prisoners and orgies (the tsar boasted of having raped a thousand girls, many of whom he then killed in a fit of post-coital aggression).

The new statue appropriately shows Ivan raising the Orthodox cross – by serving as an extension of Putin’s (and before him Soviet) oprichnina, the hierarchy of today’s Russian church lives off Ivan’s blasphemous legacy.

Ivan also had a heightened aesthetic sense. He especially enjoyed the spectacle of his victims being sautéed in oil, to which end giant frying pans were erected in Red Square. As people were being evenly browned on all sides, the tsar would laugh and applaud whenever the executioners displayed more than average creativity.

Having thus hardened himself, Ivan opened large-scale hostilities. First he struck out in a north-westerly direction, systematically sacking every Russian town in his path.

The oprichniks murdered all prominent citizens, robbed everyone else and, as a final touch later duplicated by Lenin and Stalin, either confiscated or destroyed all grain. This worked by delayed action: those spared the oprichniks’ axes would succumb to starvation during the winter.

After capturing Tver, the oprichniks first robbed and murdered all the clergy, including the bishop. Over the next two days they sacked every house, looting what appealed to them and burning everything else.

Finally, the oprichniks rampaged through the streets, murdering everyone they could seize, including women and children. This they replicated in their subsequent conquests: 1,500 people were massacred in Torzhok alone, and it was a small town.

In January 1570 Ivan captured Novgorod. That Hanseatic city with parliamentary traditions had always irritated Ivan, and finally he had had enough.

By way of a warm-up, all Novgorod monks were clubbed to death. Then Ivan summoned the city’s aristocracy and trading elite, accompanied by their wives and children. They were all tortured ‘unimaginably’, as a contemporary described it.

Many were burnt with a chemical compound personally developed by the talented tsar, who had an aptitude for science too. Those men who were still alive were then drowned in the Volkhov river, followed by their wives, tied to their babies and pushed under the ice.

Then Ivan had all food in the city destroyed, along with all grain silos, fowl and cattle. Consequently, on top of the 60,000 corpses already swelling the Volkhov, the denizens had to suffer horrendous famines. Cannibalism was rife. Corpses were dug out of their graves and devoured.

A true pioneer, Ivan can also be credited with one of the first Jewish pogroms in Russia. When in 1563 he captured Polotsk, he massacred all the Jews living there.

Countries are like people: whatever they learn in their youth stays with them for ever. Ivan’s lesson on government has since entered the nation’s viscera. Rather than trying to expunge it, Putin gleefully shows it’s there to stay.

Tusk is right: hard Brexit or none


For once I agree with the EU. Donald Tusk, President of the European Council put it in a nutshell: “The only real alternative to a hard Brexit is no Brexit.”

A ‘soft’ Brexit means losing our vote in the EU, while still having no control of our borders, obeying the unconstitutional European Court and paying untold billions into EU coffers.

A much better exit strategy was mapped out 2,000 years ago: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” Obvious, isn’t it?

But nothing eurocrats ever say is just text. There’s always a subtext and, as befits a contrivance built on lies, it’s always perfidious.

Tusk’s next words make that clear: “The brutal truth is Brexit will be a loss for all of us.” That means for the EU, for no one is so naïve as to believe that its apparatchiks care for anybody else.

The loss will be significant. The EU’s creaking finances will lose our billions. Its already catastrophic unemployment will become even worse without Britain acting as a dumping ground for labour (and social benefits). The euro will become untenable even more than it already is.

And then there’s the real loss, the only one that really matters to this evil setup. As I – and everyone familiar with the EU gospels according to Monnet-Schumann-Gasperi-Spinelli – can’t stop repeating, the EU pursues political, not economic, ends.

Their economic pronouncements are simply subterfuge to camouflage their true purpose: creation of a single European state similar to the Third Reich, but preferably without its murderous excesses. The ultimate end is to replace politics with administration, accountability with diktat and the nation state with an amorphous blob devoid of traditional culture, language and allegiances.

Anyone who fails to realise this about the EU will never understand the first thing about it. Conversely, many seemingly senseless things perpetrated by the EU become logical if regarded in this light.

Take the single currency. Nobody, not even the likes of Tusk, is so ignorant as not to realise that this concept is unworkable and downright ruinous. Even the Nazis couldn’t quite make a single currency work successfully, and they had the kind of total political control over Europe that the EU can only dream about.

If prosperity were indeed their concern, the euro wouldn’t even have been mooted in casual conversation. However, if total control by an unaccountable quasi-fascist body is the real aim, then the euro makes sense.

It’s a political loss that gives Tusk, Merkel and Juncker sleepless nights. They fear, with good reason, that proverbial dominoes will tumble if Britain leaves.

All those disgruntled EU members, meaning almost all of them, will be shown a way to settle their grievances. And if, God forbid, Britain becomes successful on the out, there will be no keeping them in.

That’s why the eurocrats use those sleepless nights to bang their heads together, trying to figure out how to prevent Brexit or, barring that, make sure Britain suffers for it.

Since they can’t yet keep us in by force, divide et impera emerges as the only possible strategy. They have to mobilise the Euro-quislings within Britain and give them the tools to do their subversive job: stalling Brexit indefinitely or, better still, overturning it altogether.

The whole LibDem party, practically all of Labour and significant chunks of the Tories led by all those Daves and Georges, still smarting from their loss of power, are the guerrilla force run by the EU.

They draw in volunteers, such as businessmen and lawyers threatening to mount a legal challenge to Brexit, and the SNP – all those fishy Sturgeons and Salmonds, who crave Scotland’s sovereignty so much that they’re dying to dissolve it in the EU, where they’ll have nowhere near the say they have in Britain.

Of course, public opinion still matters in Britain, what with the memory of a sovereign Parliament still extant. But the public has already been so thoroughly corrupted that it mainly thinks about such issues in economic terms.

Hence the EU has set out to throw economic spanners into the Brexit works – which is exactly what Tusk is threatening, with Merkel, Hollande and Juncker vigorously nodding in the background.

Hence also a leaked Treasury forecast (don’t forget that this department is led by a Remainer, as is HMG) that leaving the single market will cost the exchequer £66 billion a year in taxes. Crikey, that’s a lot of dosh. Nations have been sold into slavery for less.

One wonders how the US, China, Japan and other wealthy economies absorb such losses and still soldier on: after all, they all do brisk trade with the EU without belonging to the single market, with all that entails. Has anyone told Japan to open its borders if it wants to flog Toyotas in Europe?

Are there enough people left in Britain with sufficiently acute eyesight to see through such tricks? Sufficient backbone to resist cynical threats? Sufficient civic morality to realise that, if their grandfathers were prepared to die for freedom, surely it’s worth suffering some discomfort for it (even assuming that it ensues)?

One hopes so – which is a click or two down the scale from certainty.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind

bobdylanAnd here’s the question: Is there any limit to the subversive, demotic rubbish receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature?

Bob Dylan, the recipient of the 2016 prize, plucks the answer out of the blowin’ wind and lays it before us. It’s an emphatic no.

His award proves that Times writers, specifically Ben Macintyre, possess prophetic powers. For two years ago Ben wrote an article pressing Dylan’s case with deep conviction, approaching religious faith in its intensity.

Actually, conviction is too mild a word to describe Ben’s belief in Bob’s greatness. Fanaticism is more like it: “…Dylan is indisputably one of the greatest lyrical poets of the age, a supreme master of language who has reinvented his art with exemplary energy and imagination for more than half a century.”

The only way to establish whether or not Bob’s greatness deserves the Nobel Prize is to read some of his poetic masterpieces. Such as:

How many roads must a man walk down// Before you call him a man?// How many seas must a white dove sail// Before she sleeps in the sand?// Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly// Before they’re forever banned?// The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind// The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

This flatulent doggerel is deemed to merit the accolade that has bypassed such undeserving scribes as Henry James, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Mark Twain, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Henrik Ibsen, Graham Greene, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Jorge Luis Borges, W.H. Auden and Robert Frost.

To be fair to Ben, he anticipated dissent in some quarters and preempted it:

“Those who insist that words can only be literature if written for the page seem quaintly old-fashioned. At a time when traditional formal poetry is in decline, informal oral poetry is booming. This is poetry written for the ear before the eye, returning the voice to verse, and now being consumed and recited in vast quantities by a younger generation. It is called rap.”

This is a time-honoured trick. The writer concocts an idiotic objection that no one in his right mind would ever make. Then he refutes it with some élan.

Someone insisting that true poetry can’t be sung wouldn’t be ‘quaintly old-fashioned’, Ben. He’d be ignorant.

Sublime poetry has been sung since the Psalms, the Song of Songs, Homer and the troubadours. Persian poets, such as Saadi, sang their poems. The Russian poet Mandelstam (who never received the Nobel either, instead dying in a Soviet concentration camp) recited his poems in singsong. So did Pasternak. So did Brodsky.

Poetry doesn’t have to be “written for the page”. But it does have to be poetry, which Bob’s excretions aren’t.

Bob is nothing but a trendy leftie who not only hasn’t written a single poetic line in his life but wouldn’t recognise one if it hit him in the eye, still aching from last night’s intake of coke. His acclaim is wholly owed to his indeed being a trendy leftie who during the ’60s appealed to the pimply youths ready to answer Timothy Leary’s call to “tune in, turn on and drop out”.

Bob’s art, such as it is, is an extension of the drug culture, which is the only kind of culture it’s an extension of. Only a tasteless ignoramus would regard his songs as poetry or literature in general (with apologies to the Nobel Committee and Ben).

But then Ben also thought that rap is real poetry, albeit “informal, oral”. He didn’t offer any aesthetic judgement to back up this assertion. His argument was entirely ad populum: “[rap is] now being consumed and recited in vast quantities by a younger generation.”

A younger generation does indeed display a voracious taste for aesthetic coprophilia. That’s why a middle-aged, bespectacled gentleman like Ben is duty-bound to educate their taste as best he can, bucking the savage paedocratic trend. Instead he serves up more of the same malodorous fare, not so much blowin’ in the wind as producing it.

A modern reader, battle-hardened in the trenches of egalitarianism, may object that I’m too harsh on Ben. He has one opinion on what constitutes great poetry, I have another. And all opinions are equally valid, aren’t they?

They may be. But not all judgements are, and the crucial difference between an opinion and a judgement is these days lost.

In my judgement, Bob’s verses, with their distorted meter, attempts to rhyme words that don’t rhyme and absence of any poetic sensibility whatsoever, are crude doggerel which isn’t so much poetry as its exact opposite.

In Ben’s judgement they, along with rap, are high poetry worthy of the highest accolade. You’ll have to judge which of us is right.

Meanwhile, now that Bob’s achievements have been recognised, it’s time to think of next year’s candidates. I’d like to nominate another great practitioner of “informal, oral” poetry, the rap group N**gaz With Attitude.

Their work too is “now being consumed and recited in vast quantities by a younger generation”, who join me in admiring these immortal lines:

“So I’ma let’em know how a nigga’s livin’// Checking the muthafuckas cause nobody ain’t givin’ a damn thing// To a nigga, a real nigga// So I’m livin’ by the muthafuckin’ trigger.”

Good luck, N**gaz With Attitude. And congratulations, Bob.

They don’t call these countries low for nothing

amsterdamNazi humanism is dead, but its spirit lives on in Holland, with Belgium also offering comfortable accommodation.

The spirit animates Dutch legislators and doctors, who enthusiastically join forces to kill not only terminally ill patients but now also perfectly healthy people. Naturally, just like the Nazis, they claim the best possible motives.

In October, 1939, Hitler signed his ‘euthanasia decree’, saying in part that: “Reich Leader Bouhler and Dr Brandt are entrusted with the responsibility of extending the authority of physicians, to be designated by name, so that patients who, after a most critical diagnosis, on the basis of human judgement [menschlichem Ermessen], are considered incurable, can be granted mercy death.”

Replace the German names with those of Holland’s health and justice ministers, and the same statement could have been written, verbatim, by Mark Rutte, Dutch Prime Minister.

The Nazis rapidly expanded their ‘human judgement’ to include people who weren’t ‘considered incurable’ in any normal medical practice. Just about any disability was deemed sufficient, particularly for those groups the Nazis didn’t like very much.

That was to be expected: any evil ‘human’ law presupposes arbitrary expansion ad infinitum, for voluntarism is the essence of humanism. You understand that I’m using the word in its true meaning, rather than its modern perversion that somehow got to mean human goodness.

In fact, humanism is a deadly superstition whose adherents worship anthropocentrism, man’s centrality to a universe created by Darwin, exhaustively explained by Marx and ruled by Freud. The antonym of humanism isn’t brutality (which is more nearly its synonym), but theism or, specifically in the Western context, Judaeo-Christianity.

A man is the sole master of his life, teaches humanism. That means he’s within his right to end his life whenever he wishes, for whatever reason. And if he’s either hesitant or ill-qualified to make that decision for himself, his intellectual and institutional superiors can make it for him.

Once such superior beings get into full swing, there’s no stopping them. Hence the Nazis used the euthanasia decree to kill healthy people as well. It’s reassuring to see how faithfully the Dutch are treading the same path.

The law being drafted at present and guaranteed to pass will legalise assisted suicide for even perfectly healthy people, provided they feel they have ‘completed life’. This represents yet another pioneering effort in a country that was the first to legalise euthanasia in 2002.

The Dutch have been taking liberties with the definition of incurable disease right from the beginning. For example, a young girl who suffered sex abuse and as a result became depressed and anorexic, was recently passed by doctors as fit for euthanasia.

But at least until now doctors have had to agree that a patient suffers from an incurable medical condition with no hope of improvement. On that basis, they’d draft a euthanasia request for an ethics commission to make the final decision, typically within a week, an expeditiousness seldom shown in other bureaucratic procedures.

About 7,000 people a year are being dispatched at present, with the number constantly growing. Yet even this already impressive achievement seems wanting to the Dutch. The process is much too slow and not sufficiently all-encompassing for their taste.

Hence Holland’s health and justice ministers have submitted to parliament their draft law. The ministers honestly admit they haven’t worked out the details, but the general thrust is to them indisputable: people who “have a well-considered opinion that their life is complete, must, under strict and careful criteria, be allowed to finish that life in a manner dignified for them.”

This represents yet another step on the road to perdition the Dutch tread with particular relish. Observing Amsterdam’s profusion of opium dens and beautiful seventeenth-century windows adorned with ugly semi-nude whores, I always feel approaches to the city should carry proud signs “Twinned with Sodom and Gomorrah”.

Before too long those imaginary signs will have to be augmented by “…and Auschwitz”. For make no mistake about it: the very next step on the same road will be that the final solution… sorry, I mean decision, shouldn’t be left to the people’s “well-considered opinion”. Other, infinitely better-qualified, individuals will be deciding on their behalf.

One can only guess how far the aforementioned road will lead. However, if I were a Dutch Jew or Gypsy, I’d begin to feel a mild discomfort, if not yet mortal fear.

Some will no doubt feel that I’m pushing the parallel between Nazi and Dutch euthanasia too far. I’m not going to argue the point because, as far as I’m concerned, it isn’t worth arguing about.

What’s absolutely critical to understand is that both spring from the same source: Enlightenment humanism with its wanton destruction of the moral and transcendent underpinnings of our civilisation.

The two exercises in euthanasia are thus the kind of parallel lines that may well defy Euclid and vindicate Lobachevsky by converging.

Our papers supply what we demand

sexypapersAll businesses function according to the law of supply-demand, postulated by Adam Smith and other obstetricians to modernity.

Hence, if the demand for potassium cyanide is greater than for potassium chloride, that’s what our chemical firms will sell. And if HMG tries to interfere, it’ll be hit with the uppercut of Edmund Burke’s warning that “the moment that government appears at market, the principles of the market will be subverted.”

If today’s music lovers like to have their music played by giftless semi-nude girls, they’ll be treated to a steady diet of Yuja Wang and Khati Buniatishvili, performing what a reader of mine calls Concerto in 34D Major.

If the market wants assisted-suicide clinics, that’s what the market will get. There’s no God but supply-demand, and money is its profit.

Newspaper publishing is like any other business. If the press barons of the past were at times driven by considerations other than supply-demand, today such things are seen as quaint oddities.

The reading public gets what it wants to read, and what it wants most is something that tickles its naughty bits. That means sex involving celebrities. coercive sex, drunken sex, group sex or just sex.

If you wish to take issue with this observation, here are eight of the first 24 stories appearing on the website of our most conservative newspaper, and I wonder what the other lot are printing. By the time you read this, both the stories and their ratio will probably change, but the general tendency won’t:

Wheelchair-bound woman is gang-raped by six migrants at Swedish asylum centre after asking if she could use the toilet

The migrants’ religious identity is left to the readers’ imagination, but you only get one guess. I must say an asylum centre of any description wouldn’t be my first choice of a pit stop, especially if my mobility were limited, but tastes differ. Anyway, I suspect next time the woman will opt for a lay-by or a bar.

Man, 59, rushed to a Vietnamese hospital in agony after ‘breaking’ his penis trying an exotic sexual position

A bit of a cock-up, that, but the nature of the exotic position is cruelly withheld. The people have a right to know, if only as ‘don’t try this at home’ precaution.

So DOES size matter? Women debate the importance of penis size in a very frank chat that will make every man blush

It DOES matter, but not as much as what you do with it or the attendant “emotional stuff”. You can see me wiping my brow even as we speak.

‘What’s the box for?’ ‘It’s for you’: British father, 66 is jailed for raping his son from the age of six and locking him in a wooden crate for hours at a time in Ireland

One wonders why the British father had to go to Ireland for that purpose. “The boy, now 13, was placed in foster care in 2011 where he was further sexually abused by a child,” informs the paper. The poor lad simply can’t win.

‘It wasn’t time for a conversation’: Ched Evans tells his rape retrial he didn’t speak to his victim before thy had sex

The strong silent type then. Women used to shun me for such men, and that still rankles.

Muslim father rapes his daughter as punishment because she had become ‘too Westernised’ living in Norway

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECARI) is going to hear about this. Hasn’t the EU expressly banned British papers from using the word ‘Muslim’ in such contexts? The first word in the headline should have been ‘Norwegian’.

Male nurse who plied a drug addict patient with beer and had sex with her after contacting her on LinkedIn is suspended for a year

“The woman, who was addicted to heroin, had worked as a prostitute to feed her habit,” says the paper, but apparently that’s no mitigating circumstance.

Judge who quit the government’s child sex abuse inquiry after just 18 months was handed a £90,000 payoff – including flights home to New Zealand

The inquiry, says the paper, is beleaguered, leaving it for the reader to work out any possible causal relationship with the judge’s remuneration.

Far be it from me to deny the variable newsworthiness of all these stories. By all means, if that’s what our comprehensively educated public wants to read about, it should be given the chance.

But eight out of the first 24 stories? A third? Verily I say unto you: they publish and we perish.

Not physically, you understand. We are perishing as a civilisation worthy of the name, but at least it’s all in a good cause. The law of supply-demand won’t be repealed for any reason, and that’s one noble cause worth dying for.|