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Barmy Prince Charlie

Like anyone else Prince Charles is entitled to express eccentric views, but there exists a fine line between eccentric and deranged. And this is the line HRH oversteps with growing regularity.

Especially worrying is his apocalyptic view of warm weather, an impending catastrophe he regards, according to his spokesman, as “the number one threat to the planet and it is the thing he cares most passionately about”.

Anyone less dedicated to monarchy than I am could be forgiven for turning republican on the strength of that statement alone. Really, Your Royal Highness? Nothing more worrying in the world?

How about the complete brutalisation of your loyal subjects who en masse regard wallowing in their own vomit as a good night out? Educational standards way below Victorian times? Our pyramid-scheme economy? Collapsing NHS? Muslim terrorism, threatening to go nuclear? Several flashpoints in the world, each capable of triggering a global war? Growing atomisation of society? Spiritual, intellectual and cultural standards rapidly descending to those of a pre-colonial Africa? Totalitarian political correctness stifling free speech more effectively than the Gestapo ever did?

Well, at least all of them are demonstrable facts, not politically inspired hypotheses, which anthropogenic global warming most emphatically is.

After all, the anthropogenic nature of warm weather is the first discovery in the history of science made not by scientists but by a political body, the UN. Much as one admires the epic successes this organisation has achieved in its own field (Yugoslavia springs to mind, among many other examples), one has to say that the evidential base of the theory is, to be charitable, weak.

The political base, however, is massive, and the banners of fictitious global warming have drawn all the same people who oppose nuclear energy, shale gas, medical experiments on animals, free enterprise and everything else that can improve and prolong human lives.

Prince Charles’s latest contribution to this destructive propaganda is his suggestion that every weather forecast include a detailed report on the damage perpetrated on ‘our planet’ by climate change. Floods, hurricanes and tidal waves must be unequivocally blamed on the UN’s scientific breakthrough.

TV weathercasts are already too long, but at least they have the benefit of being a politics-free zone (it goes without saying that all political statements aired in that medium oscillate between stupid and subversive). Now Prince Charles proposes that they become interminably long and intolerably politicised. Good one, HRH.

One shouldn’t be too hard on people for saying silly things. He who is without sin… and all that. Yet I’m genuinely worried about our future king’s mental health.

This heartfelt concern wouldn’t be completely justified if this proposal were the only symptom. Alas, it isn’t. There have been many other manifestations, enough to indicate a progressing degenerative disorder.

This was especially acute last year, when HRH, his eyes glistening frighteningly, blamed climate change for the on-going crisis in the Middle East. That geopolitical analysis for once rendered me speechless.

Since HRH believes that at base all religions are the same, he obviously couldn’t blame Islam, with its 1,400 years of blood-soaked history. But at least he could have suggested that partly to blame was the idiotic attempt to carpet-bomb the Middle East into parliamentary democracy initiated by the Americans and supported by Blair.

He didn’t though. Instead HRH went so far out into left field as to be in the stadium car park.

According to him, our wanton disregard for the environment begat “five or six years of drought” in Syria; the drought begat the 2011 uprising; the uprising caused the civil war; the civil war begat 250,000 deaths; the deaths begat 11 million running away from home; and the combined effect of all those disasters presumably begat the hundreds of massacres perpetrated by Muslims over the last 20 years.

This whole chain of begets is traceable back to anthropogenic climate change, believes our future king, so next time you whip out that aerosol spray, I hope you’ll be suitably ashamed of yourself. The blood of all those Muslims and their victims will be on your head, vicariously at least.

Compared to that peak of acute madness, HRH’s current display of his obsession suggests that the disease is entering a chronic phase. There’s no need for an immediate chemical cosh; some gentle therapy may keep the condition at an even keel.

Anything will do to keep Charles’s mind off his idée fixe. For example, I don’t know if he has lost interest in his friends’ wives, which was a major preoccupation of his younger days. Yet if the old embers are still smouldering, it’s the therapist’s task to fan them into vigorous life.

However, Charles should be discouraged from referring to his friends’ wives as ‘hot’ or using expressions like ‘cold comfort’, ‘a warm feeling’ or ‘hot to trot’. HRH’s staff would also be well-advised to make sure HRH stays in an air-conditioned space on hot days and only goes out when it’s below freezing.

Actually, I’m hereby offering my services in amateur psychotherapy. It’s the duty of every patriot to do his bit for the realm.

Tawdry demagoguery, good first act

The first thing President Trump did in his new job was issuing an executive order to take apart Obama’s awful healthcare plan.

That has improved the bad taste left in my mouth by the vulgar inauguration ceremony and especially Trump’s cheaply populist inauguration speech. The former is unavoidable in a democratic republic: it takes at least a millennium of monarchic tradition to get pomp and circumstance right.

The latter, however, could have been avoided, but wasn’t. On the plus side, Trump’s oration didn’t include openly tyrannical statements, like those Kennedy made in his own inauguration address.

Amazingly, Kennedy’s promise of despotism is still regarded by many Americans as a great speech. Here’s the first such promise:

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

Had so many Americans not had the critical faculty bred out of them (Alan Bloom describes this accurately in The Closing of the American Mind), they would have realised that Kennedy was issuing a commitment of eternally escalating imperialism – something, incidentally, that Trump promises to stem.

Then Kennedy thundered: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country!” Allow me to translate from demagogic into English: you are to serve the state, not the other way around. That pronouncement took us back to the politics of ancient Athens, except that a Plato or an Aristotle was nowhere in evidence. Nor, more to the point, was a Pericles.

If Kennedy’s speech sprang from the Enlightenment survival of statism, centralism and internationalism, Trump’s speech capitalised on another bequeathal of that pernicious period: jingoistic populism.

“We are,” declared Trump, “transferring power from Washington, D.C.. and giving it back to you the people.” This is nonsense – unless he meant he was declaring democracy null and void.

Beyond choosing which wing of neo-Enlightenment is going to lord it over them for the next few years, “the people” have considerably less control over their lives in a modern democracy than under the most absolutist monarchies of Christendom.

A ‘democratic’ state presupposes burgeoning centralisation, and a US president has infinitely more power over his citizens than, say, Louis XIV had over his subjects. If Trump doesn’t realise that, he’s ignorant. If he does, but still says it, he’s mendacious.

Trump exacerbated that dichotomy when adding: “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people.” One wonders how, say, a car mechanic in Mobile, Alabama, will exercise his control over Trump’s administration.

“A nation exists to serve its citizens…” Trump and, which is worse, even his advisers are clearly unaware of the difference between ‘state’, ‘government’, ‘nation’, ‘people’ and ‘society’. Such taxonomic ignorance used to disqualify people from high office, but hasn’t for over a century. That’s called progress, in case you’re wondering.

Then on to economics: “For many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry… And we’ve spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay…”

Quite. Some of us have even created global business empires of 500-plus companies with equity investments and licensing agreements worth billions in dozens of countries, including some iffy ones.

China, Saudi Arabia, Duterte’s Philippines, Erdogan’s Turkey and Putin’s Russia spring to mind, but there are also many others where some US politicians have extensive business interests. Let’s not name names, let’s just comment in Franglais: “Hypocritical, moi?”

But let’s not be cynical; perhaps Trump meant his family will divest itself of its vast overseas interests when saying: “We will bring back our wealth, and we will bring back our dreams.” So far most of Trump’s own dreams of wealth have come true abroad – do we take this statement as a promise then?

“Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength,” was how Trump explained his ignorant take on economics. It won’t. It’ll lead to the exact opposite. An ideology, this time populist, shouldn’t trump reason and experience (pun intended).

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.” I wouldn’t put it past Trump to be ignorant of the pre-war America First Committee of Charles Lindbergh, Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father, et al.

That group neatly combined isolationism with anti-Semitism and pro-Nazi sympathies. I’m not accusing Trump of harbouring the last two of these vices – in fact, he’s considerably friendlier towards Jews and Israel than his predecessor.

But if he didn’t mean to sound like a follower of the Ku-Klux-Klan and other nativist groups, which I’m sure he didn’t, then he should have chosen different words.

For example, “American before foreign interests” would have conveyed the same thought without evoking unpleasant parallels. It’s that ignorance again, casting doubt on the supposedly sterling intelligence of Trump’s advisers.

Trump ended with a de rigueur “God bless America”. Now God’s ways are unknowable, and He may well bless the first constitutionally secular country in Western history.

Also I’m sure God in His infinite mercy will even forgive vulgar platitudes and national self-deification. I mean, can you imagine a British PM finishing his maiden speech with “God bless Great Britain”? We only sing “God save the Queen”, and I do hope He does.

All in all, a C- for Trump’s speech, but an A+ for his first act. That gives him a head start on what in his country is called Grade Point Average. Hope he maintains it.

Flash, Russian style

Igor Sechin, head of Rosneft, Russia’s state-owned oil company, drives around Moscow in a car equipped with flashing lights and a siren. You know, like an ambulance, a police cruiser or the limousine of a high government official accompanied by armed outriders.

This has drawn the attention of some intrepid, nay suicidal, journalists who at a press conference dared question Rosneft’s spokesman about the nature of Mr Sechin’s entitlement to such automotive privileges.

What followed is sufficiently instructive to tell you all you need to know about Putin’s Russia. Everything else can be confidently inferred.

Rosneft is the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, which no doubt makes Sechin’s job quite big. However, one wouldn’t think it’s big enough to turn its holder into the country’s second most powerful individual.

Yet in Russia it’s not the job that makes a man powerful but proximity to the throne, currently occupied by you-know-whom. And no one is closer to Putin than Igor Sechin, not even Donald Trump.

The two graduates of Leningrad University have been good friends for 30 years, since the glory days of the KGB First Chief Directorate, for which Sechin worked under diplomatic cover in Mozambique.

When he returned to Petersburg in 1999, he embarked on a stratospheric career as Putin’s flunky, following the good colonel from job to job and from city to city. He was Putin’s chief of staff in Petersburg, then second-in-command in several government offices led by Putin, then head of the prime minister’s (Putin’s) secretariat, then deputy chief of President Putin’s administration.

Then, as a temporary downturn in his career, Sechin did a stint as deputy prime minister under Medvedev. But his most important and present job came Sechin’s way in 2004 when, according to the American global intelligence company Stratfor, he became “the FSB’s hand in Russia’s energy sector.”

In that capacity Sechin led two raids on Yukos, which led to its head Khodorkovsky going to prison for 10 years and Sechin’s Rosneft plundering his assets, thereby growing to its present size.

Whereas in the West political power usually follows economic success, in Russia the sequence is reversed. Thus Sechin owes his economic prowess to having hitched his wagon to Russia’s political star, Putin. Rosneft is his bonus for loyalty; his growing political power is its ineluctable consequence.

Sechin became a major geopolitical player, for example securing deliveries of armaments and nuclear technology to Hugo Chávez’s Venezuela. Especially relevant to his political influence in today’s world is the $500-billion joint offshore venture that Rosneft formed in 2012 with Exxon, at that time led by Rex Tillerson, Trump’s appointee for Secretary of State.

Tillerson married Sechin in the nick of time: two years later the US government sanctioned Sechin in response to Russian aggression against the Ukraine. The sanctions include a travel ban to the US, freezing of all Sechin’s US assets and a ban on business transactions between US citizens and Sechin.

How the US Congress will view Tillerson’s appointment and its potential conflict of interest is anybody’s guess, but it’s not my subject here. Suffice it to say that Sechin is justifiably regarded as Putin’s unofficial second-in-command in Russia and a persona non grata in the West.

Now I’ve mentioned these two geographical entities in the same sentence, let’s allow our imagination to run free. Imagine an influential American oilman, say Tillerson as he recently was, abusing his position by claiming privileges to which he isn’t legally entitled.

Let’s further imagine that his PR spokesman is queried about such abuses at a press conference. What would be the spokesman’s reaction? I can’t see anything beyond abject grovelling, claims of some misunderstanding and promises to correct the situation immediately.

It can’t be otherwise: in the West the Fourth Estate is a power to be reckoned with. When the press casts aspersion on a public figure’s probity with ample justification, he’d better try to talk his way out of trouble in a most woebegone way. For trouble is what he’s in even if the president is his personal friend.

No president will be able to save the culprit’s career if he’s guilty as charged: the press in the West is immune to the vertical pressure exerted by government (though not to the horizontal pressure exerted by social trends, these days predominantly political correctness).

If you accept that this is a test of a relatively free society, observe how gloriously Mikhail Leontiev, Sechin’s VP for public relations fails the test.

He responded to the perfectly natural and polite question in the language a cultured Russian of 100 years ago wouldn’t have used even when chastising a domestic servant: “Please, go f*** yourself” (note the polite use of the magic word), “What the f***?” “Stop picking up s***.”

Say no more. He who has any analytical aptitude will use this little incident to reconstruct the big picture of Putin’s Russia – one truer to life than that painted by either ignorant or disingenuous apologists (Peter Hitchens, ring your office).

Germany in the forefront of fashion

KnickersEver since Hugo Boss designed those cute SS uniforms, the Germans have been known for making fashion statements consonant with social and political trends.

That glorious tradition continues with a breakthrough accessory answering a growing demand: rape-proof knickers.

As all good advertising does, the ad for the new product first establishes a need for it: “Scarcely a day passes without headlines of sexual assaults”. That’s truth in advertising at its best.

Indeed, Germany’s generous commitment to multi-culti probity is reaping a rich harvest of rape. In one of those inexplicable vagaries of life, the blossoming of rape coincided with the arrival of Muslim masses yearning to be free, something the ad doesn’t mention.

For one thing, it goes without saying. For another, that’s just not something one can commit to paper without risking a charge of… well, choose your favourite ism.

One way or the other, a need exists, and the law of supply-demand has never been repealed. Hence the new product, a modern-day answer to the chastity belt.

Those poor, persecuted migrant children dragging a kicking and screaming woman into the bushes and pinning her to the ground are in for a nasty surprise. Having ripped off the victim’s outer clothing, they’ll be stopped by an impenetrable barrier.

The rape-proof knickers come equipped with a combination lock and a 130-decibel alarm automatically set off by any tampering. And the fabric of the knickers is so sturdy that it’s almost impossible to cut or rip through.

Rather unsporting, if you ask me – those poor sex-starved people don’t stand much of a chance of claiming their fundamental human right. Or do they?

Though lacking any hands-on experience on either side of rape, I still have to doubt the efficacy of the new product on general principle. One such principle is that rape has nothing to do with sex.

Or perhaps ‘principle’ is the wrong word – ‘mantra’ is more appropriate. Feminists have always maintained that rape is a crime of violence, not sex.

Admittedly, an Austrian court recently punched a hole in that conviction by passing a lenient verdict on a migrant Muslim who had raped a 10-year-old boy. The asylum seeker claimed, and the court accepted, that he had had no sex for four months and was therefore deprived of his human rights. And the boy was a willing participant anyway.

But principles die hard, and, as a lifelong champion of progressive causes, I have to insist that sex without permission is simply an outlet for violent misogyny. That poses a serious problem for the new product.

If the assailants seek nothing but such an outlet, won’t they be frustrated if denied their first choice? Surely they’d then take their frustration out on the victim in some other ways?

Of course, and this is another popular mantra, rape is the worst thing that can possibly happen to a woman, worse than losing an eye, worse than any number of broken bones, worse than maiming – worse even than death.

Any of those things may well happen when the assailants can’t find a way through. I mean, people have been known to commit extreme violence in defence of their rights.

But even if they insist on the sex element, surely this barrier can be bypassed even if it can’t be penetrated. Holding a knife to the victim’s throat and asking her to provide the combination to the lock should do it, especially if in her heart of hearts she doesn’t really believe that rape is worse than death.

Then, and I don’t know how to put this without offending anyone’s sensibilities, there exist certain forms of rape that don’t necessarily violate the area so securely protected. These do require some cooperation on the victim’s part, but the same knife to the throat ought to do the trick.

For the time being the €100 fashion item is selling briskly, with on-line stores rapidly running out of stock. But I confidently predict that the new product won’t be able to satisfy the growing demand for long.

To begin with, as the aforementioned court case demonstrates, a line extension into the men’s market must be on the cards. But that’s only a start.

More inventive measures will be required, such as, for example, imbedding rashers of bacon into undergarments. I’ll leave the possibilities for the Germans to consider; they’re known for their creativity.

Personally, I’d be tempted to ponder the root causes of this upsurge in sexual violence – and do something about it. The Germans’ rich experience in deportation should come in handy, this time in a good cause.

The best speech since Maggie

TheresaMayThis distinction belongs to the speech Theresa May delivered on Brexit, which admittedly isn’t saying a lot.

The four prime ministers we’ve had since Margaret Thatcher’s tenure were easily among the worst half-dozen in British history, failing on every criterion of character, morality and intellect.

Their speeches and, more important, deeds reflected their deficiencies with remarkable consistency. I can’t recall offhand a single speech any of them made that could be remotely described as sound, clear and decisive. Vacuous, vacillating and vapid are the alliterative adjectives springing to mind much more readily.

Mrs May’s speech undoubtedly merits the first set of modifiers rather than the second, and that’s a good start. Of course, one should judge politicians on their deeds rather than words, but such speeches go a long way towards blurring the line of demarcation between the two.

Dead are the feeble puns based on Mrs May’s name (such as “may or may not”). To use Donald Trump’s favourite metaphors, the cards have been dealt, the chips are down, and there’s no bluffing.

We’re definitely leaving the EU, shaking its toxic dust off our feet. Though not legally bound by the Brexit referendum, Mrs May (originally a lukewarm Remainer herself) feels bound by it morally and, no doubt more important for her, politically.

Leaving the EU also means leaving the Single Market, no may or may not about it. It also means countering any punitive economic measures the EU is likely, nay guaranteed, to impose. Since Britain’s post-exit success may start those European dominoes toppling one by one, the EU may well cut off its nose in the vain hope of keeping its body.

However, still being unable to ignore the Donald Trump course on the English language, I’d say that we have a strong hand in any unfolding game. Not quite a royal flush but perhaps a three of a kind, which beats the EU’s low pair (everything about the EU is low).

However, it says a lot about the modern world that Mrs May mentioned the possible lowering of corporate taxes only as an extreme counterattacking measure, rather than an essential economic policy.

One doesn’t have to be a professional economist (in fact, nowadays such credentials are actually a disqualifying circumstance) to realise that business would thrive if doing business became cheaper. It takes woolly economic thinking to believe that high tax rates translate into high tax revenues.

A 30 per cent tax on 100 produces 30, while a 10 per cent tax on 1,000 yields 100, and it’s astounding how many economists can’t get their heads around this simple arithmetic. Arthur Laffer once constructed a scientific-looking curve on what is basic common sense.

Emmanuel Macron (who terrifyingly is making headway in France’s polls) threatened a post-Brexit Britain with the dire status of a Jersey or Guernsey. I’ve always said we should take that as a promise, not a threat. Turning the UK into the world’s greatest tax haven would put Great back into Britain, and I’d suggest we should do that regardless of how pliable or intransigent the EU will be.

But Mrs May can’t be expected to be as radical as that no matter what. It already took more courage than one expects from a politician to mention such a business model as the sword of Damocles ready to decapitate the EU.

The speech has already produced one tangible and welcome result: the eurocrats are squirming and running scared. Such agitation is bound to make people babble gibberish, which psychological observation has been confirmed by Guy Verhofstadt, chief negotiator in the European parliament.

He said: “May’s clarity is welcome but the days of UK cherry-picking and Europe à la carte are over. Threatening to turn the UK into a deregulated tax haven will not only hurt British people, it is a counterproductive negotiating tactic.”

To paraphrase what Mary McCarthy once said about Lillian Hellman, every word in that statement is nonsense, including ‘and’ and ‘but’.

Offering an equitable trade treaty can under no circumstances be considered cherry-picking: it’s simply an invitation to fair play and an implied threat to retaliate against unfair play. Cherry-picking would be leaving the EU, while staying in the Single Market and the ECJ, which Mrs May specifically said we wouldn’t do.

It takes the fundamental economic illiteracy one expects from an EU apparatchik to believe that attracting business from all over the world would ‘hurt British people’. And Mrs May’s isn’t just a productive but the only possible negotiating tactic. One can only negotiate on one’s own two feet, rather than lying supine, Dave-style.

One wishes she could capitalise on this decisive speech and call a snap general election. Judging by the disarray in the Labour Party, Mrs May would increase her parliamentary majority and get rid of the stigma of not having won a popular vote.

More important, she would be justified in interpret the vote as a clear mandate for her negotiating stance against the EU, thereby defanging any possible dissent in either House. This, even if she wisely refrains from turning the election into a Brexit referendum Mark II.

There, I’ve done it: for once I’ve found something good to say about a politician. I can only hope Mrs May doesn’t make me eat my hat. Tweed is rather indigestible.

Trump, in his own jumbled words

Donald_Trump_profileThe other day Donald Trump was interviewed by Michael Gove and Kai Diekmann, former editor of the German newspaper Bild.

I sat down to write a balanced account, fully intent on finding some good things to say about the president-elect. Then I read the whole transcript – and shook with fear.

Some of the things Trump said were sound enough, some weren’t. But what caused my involuntary reaction was that they all, right or wrong, were expressed in ignorant, illiterate gibberish.

One can hear more cogent and enlightened rhetoric at my local King’s Head on a Saturday night, when everyone is on his seventh pint.

On Nato:

“I took such heat, when I said Nato was obsolete. It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days.

“And the other thing is the countries aren’t paying their fair share so we’re supposed to protect countries but a lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States. With that being said, Nato is very important to me.

“There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much, from 22.”

First, a minor point. Last I looked Nato had 28 members, not 22. And, apart from the US, only one country, Britain, pays what members are supposed to be paying, two per cent of the budget.

Then it’s debatable whether it’s the job of this defence alliance to chase terrorists. One could argue that anti-terrorism is a police function, while Nato was created to keep Russia’s expansionism in check.

Trump’s statement is tantamount to saying that Russia is no longer expansionist or, if it is, its expansionism shouldn’t be resisted. The first view is ignorant; the second, immoral. And why is Nato so important to him if it’s obsolete?

As a comic aside, this was greeted with jubilation in the Russian press and parliament. They emphatically agree that Nato is obsolete. But, considering Nato’s purpose, they would, wouldn’t they?

On sanctions:

“They have sanctions on Russia – let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But you do have sanctions and Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit.”

Deciphering this gibberish delivered in the idiom of a used car salesman, one gets the impression Trump will lift the sanctions in exchange for some sort of a ‘deal’ on nuclear weapons. Does he know that Russia has violated every such past treaty, starting from SALT 1? Or that the sanctions were imposed in response to Russia’s use of conventional weapons to attack the Ukraine, and electronic weapons to attack the US? No, perhaps not.

On the Iran treaty:

“Well, I don’t want to say what I’m gonna do with the Iran deal. I just don’t want to play the cards. I mean, look, I’m not a politician, I don’t go out and say, ‘I’m gonna do this – I’m gonna do – ’, I gotta do what I gotta do. But I don’t wanna play. Who plays cards where you show everybody the hand before you play it? But I’m not happy with the Iran deal, I think it’s one of the worst deals ever made, I think it’s one of the dumbest deals I’ve ever seen, one of the dumbest, in terms of a deal.”

I agree. But never mind the content, feel the form. That’s the leader of the free world speaking, ladies and gentlemen.

On the Paris conference:

“The problem I have is that it makes it a tougher deal for me to negotiate because the Palestinians are given so much – even though it’s not legally binding it’s psychologically binding and it makes it much tougher for me to negotiate. You understand that? Because people are giving away chips, they’re giving away all these chips.”

True. But don’t you just love all those references to trading and gambling? The man clearly sees foreign policy in the light of a deal to build yet another Mafioso casino.

On Brexit:

“You guys wrote it – put it on the front page: ‘Trump said that Brexit is gonna happen’. That was when it was gonna lose easily, you know, everybody thought I was crazy. Obama said to go to the back of the line.”

I can’t decide whether this locution reminds me of Demosthenes or Cicero. In either case, the last sentence is a non sequitur.

On the EU:

“I think it’s tough. I spoke to the head of the European Union, very fine gentleman called me up.”

Trump wisely refrained from naming the ‘very fine gentleman’. When he tried to do so earlier, he confused Donald Tusk with Jean-Claude Juncker. For once I can’t blame him: that’s an easy mistake to make.

On trade:

“It’s going to be different – I mean Germany is a great country, great manufacturing country – you go down Fifth Avenue everybody has a Mercedes-Benz in front of their building, right – the fact is that it’s been very unfair to the US, it’s not a two-way street. How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Maybe none – not too many – how many – you don’t see anything over there – it’s a one-way street – it’s gotta be a two-way street – I want it to be fair but it’s gotta be a two-way street and that’s why we’re losing almost $800, think of it, $800 billion a year in trade so that will stop.

“I would tell BMW if they think they’re gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the US without a 35 per cent tax, it’s not gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen – so if they want to build cars for the world I would say wish them luck – they can build cars for the US but they’ll be paying a 35 per cent tax on every car that comes into the country…”

One sees more Mercedes in Manhattan than Chevrolets in Germany because the former are great cars and the latter are rubbish. The rest of it betokens ignorance of what’s called Economics 101 in Trump’s country. Protectionist tariffs are more likely to make trade deficits worse, not better. And as to the 35 per cent levy on imports, that would never be approved by Congress.

The grand finale:

“I love the world, I want the world to be good but we can’t go – I mean look at what’s happening to our country – we are $20 trillion – we don’t know what we’re doing – our military is weak – we’re in wars that never end, we’re in Afghanistan now 17 years, they told me this, really – 17 years, it’s the longest war we’ve ever been in.”

So Trump is going to strengthen the US military while eliminating the $20 trillion sovereign debt (I assume that’s what he meant), ending all wars and in general making the world good. Good intentions, every one of them. Rest easy, the world’s future is in safe hands.

Like father, like son?

Donald_Trump,_Jr._(30309593310)The conflict between fathers and sons was highlighted by Ivan Turgenev in 1862. One hopes the now proverbial discord still perseveres in the Trump family in 2017.

Specifically, one hopes that no causal relationship exists between two statements, one made by Donald the father, the other by Donald the son.

Son: “… Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

Dad: “If you get along and if Russia is really helping us, why would anybody have sanctions if somebody’s doing some really great things?”

If the two statements are directly linked, then impeachment will be too light a punishment for Dad. If America’s new president does Putin’s bidding for personal fiscal gain, we’ll be talking not indiscretion but high treason.

Scraping together the few residual crumbs of respect I still feel for modern politics, I have to reject this possibility – certainly until the above-mentioned link has been proved.

So let’s accept Dad’s statement at face value: he’s prepared to lift the sanctions imposed by his predecessor (and, incidentally, all other Western governments) if Russia does “some really great things”, specifically helps the US fight Islamic terrorism.

That’s like saying that a murderer must be let off because he helps old ladies across the street. Regardless of any “great things” Russia may do in the future, the sanctions were imposed for two crimes it committed: the first batch, for its aggression against the Ukraine; the second, for using electronic means to undermine the US electoral process and therefore Constitution.

Trump has acknowledged that Russia, or specifically Putin, “might have been” (the political for ‘was’) behind the hacking scandal, although he denies that the outcome of the election was in any way affected. Here’s another everyday simile: that’s like saying that attempted but failed murder is no crime.

Sabotage of a country’s constitution is a capital offence when committed by an individual. When committed by one country against another, it’s an act of war.

Dismissing it as lightly as Trump is doing, if for the sake of some mythical “great things”, bespeaks crassness even assuming, as I do for the time being, that he’s acting in good faith.

In fact, regardless of whether Trump is a legitimate candidate or a Manchurian one, Putin’s electronic warfare and the subsequent kompromat dossier have already succeeded in hamstringing the new presidency before it has even begun.

For one thing, it poisoned Trump’s relationship with both the media and the intelligence services. The latter have often had problems with politicians, never more so than in the 1970s, when Sen. Frank Church’s committee emasculated US intelligence gathering. This disaster looks likely to be repeated under Trump.

He has ascribed political motives to the spooks for passing on the compromising dossier. He’s probably wrong. Intelligence agencies tend to regard information as valuable ipso facto, regardless of its political effect.

If they felt that the dossier was sufficiently credible, it was their duty to act before the information was made public. Since the released part of the dossier has many blackened-out bits, I have no way of judging its verisimilitude. What’s clear is that Trump took its release as a personal affront, and his likely retaliation may impair America’s eyes and ears.

It’s also evident that Trump’s relationship with the media is starting off on the wrong foot. That most mainstream media favoured Clinton in the election is a fact. However, it’s up to Trump to regard this as either casus belli or a challenge to overcome.

He gives every indication of opting for the former, which is a bad omen. US media will henceforth be dissecting Trump’s presidency with relentless vigour, especially in relation to Russia.

Any attempt at a rapprochement will be presented as indirect proof of the Manchurian charges; any display of toughness, as an overreaction to them. And any US president at war with the media is on a losing wicket.

For example, the predominantly leftwing US press began to scrutinise every half-step made by Richard Nixon after he led the congressional committee investigating Alger Hiss and other Soviet agents. Following Hiss’s 1950 conviction for perjury, the press started digging up dirt on Nixon, finally succeeding with Watergate.

In no way excusing Nixon’s crimes, one could still suggest that the press would have been less diligent in investigating similar acts by, say, one of the Kennedy brothers. With Trump, they’ll be using not so much a magnifying glass as an electron microscope to find any speck of dirt.

It’s tragic folly for a great country to leave a hostile act against it unpunished. This is a shortcut to losing its greatness in a hurry. Obviously, when dealing with a country capable, in the language of Putin’s propagandist-in-chief, of “reducing America to radioactive dust”, punishment must be exacted with caution. But exacted it must be, and severe trade sanctions are the most realistic option.

Trump’s presidency elicits knee-jerk reactions pro or con on both sides of the political spectrum. One such knee jerked in my direction, when an American reader responded to my previous criticism of Trump by calling me ‘a liberal’, a charge not often levelled at me.

We’ve been conditioned to think about politics in terms of the largely meaningless and definitely relativistic left-right divide. As far as we’re concerned, truth doesn’t matter – we agree with Pontius Pilate’s rhetorical question “What is truth?”, implying that it’s either nonexistent or unknowable or irrelevant.

Being a hopeless retrograde, I tend to judge politics from the perspective of absolute truth and morality, not transient expediency. It remains to be seen whether Trump will stand up to such judgement – though we’ll all benefit if, as I hope, he does.

Ban illegal settlements!

HoustonDelegates from 70 nations meet in Paris to condemn continued US occupation of traditional Mexican territories, such as Texas (or Tejas, as it must properly be called).

Moreover, American occupiers continue to defy international law by building and expanding illegal settlements, including the one named after the arch-coloniser and war criminal Sam Houston.

It was Houston who provoked the great Mexican leader Antonio López de Santa Ana to advance into the traditional Mexican territory of Tejas. Having lured Santa Ana into East Tejas in 1836, Houston treacherously attacked the Mexican heroes while they were having their customary siesta.

In the ensuing battle of San Jacinto, Houston won his perfidious victory and established the illegal all-you-can-eat restaurant San Jacinto Inn. San Jacinto Inn thus became one of the first, though lamentably not one of the last, illegal American settlements in the occupied territories.

The delegates, echoing the righteous indignation of the entire progressive humanity, are expected to demand a two-state solution to the 180-year-old conflict. Displaced persons of Mexican descent have an irrefutable claim to at least 80,000 square miles of Tejas territory, reflecting the proportion of eternal Tex-Mex refugees in the state’s population.

The international community is united in its outrage at the plight of the displaced Tex-Mex people, making up 39 per cent of the state’s population. The Tex-Mex have to take degrading jobs at Tex-Mex restaurants and on building sites.

There, exercising their constitutional right to free wolf-whistling at passing females exposes Tex-Mex persons to ethnic slurs, including, though not limited to: wetback, spic, spicola, greaser, greaseball, beaner, brownie, tacohead and tamali destroyer. This, the delegates agreed, violated the Tex-Mex persons’ basic human rights.

Trying to defend their indefensible position, US delegates argued that the Tex-Mex residents of Tejas enjoy full democratic rights and a standard of living incomparably superior to that of their ethnic relations in Mexico itself.

That was a moot point, according to the Tex-Mex leader Jose ‘Abbas’ Rodriguez. “When my great-great-great grandfather was born in Galveston, his father, my great-great-great-great grandfather told him never to forget that American occupiers live on stolen land. Mexicans have lived in Tejas for at least 10,000 years, as the archaeological findings in Nacogdoches confirm. Down with occupation! Ban illegal settlements! Kill all Yanquis!”

Presiding over the session, the delegate from Andorra asked the Tex-Mex delegate to moderate his pronouncements, after which the latter withdrew his last statement.

“When we talk about driving Texans into the Gulf, what we really mean is deep-sea fishing expeditions,” said Mr Rodriguez. “When we get our independent Tex-Mex state, we’ll encourage Texans to fish for red snapper, plentiful in the Gulf.”

The US delegate accepted that the Tex-Mex population has a legitimate claim to its own sovereign state. The US, he declared, welcomes the two-state solution, provided Mr Rodriguez and other Tex-Mex leaders acknowledge the right of Texas to exist as an American state.

In response, Mr Rodriguez, speaking not only for the displaced Tex-Mex community but also for the entire oppressed Third World, delivered a rousing oration: “The oppressed Tex-Mex people will never have a moment’s rest until the last American occupier is driven onto those deep-sea fishing boats in the Gulf. ¡Patria o Muerte!” he concluded, “¡Viva pargo [red snapper]!¡Venceremos!”

Reports say a draft statement for the meeting calls on the US and the Tex-Mex community “to officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution” and avoid taking “unilateral steps that prejudge the outcome of final status negotiations”.

The US delegate’s suggestion that the report be rephrased in English was met with the derision it deserved. Moreover, the delegates unanimously demanded a summary demolition of illegal American settlements in the traditional Tex-Mex territory of Tejas.

The submitted list of said colonial outposts, included, though wasn’t limited to, Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso and San Jacinto Inn. The delegates delivered a rousing ovation after the Tex-Mex leader Mr Rodriguez read out the complete list. At the end, Mr Rodriguez became so agitated that he had to be removed from the premises by security guards.

The delegates then restated their commitment to the peace process, the two-state solution and putting all Texans on deep-sea fishing boats. The conference continues.

Just a bit of blazing criticism

BurningSynagogeCall me an alarmist, but the sight of a synagogue aflame in Germany evokes some unpleasant historical associations – whoever strikes the match.

Back in 1938 the Germans were self-sufficient enough to do the job themselves without relying on gastarbeiter, a group nowadays indispensable to the country’s labour-short economy.

As with most migrant labourers moving up from the Third to the First World, German gastarbeiter are encouraged by the indigenous population to do the jobs most Germans are unwilling to take. Such, for example, as painting anti-Semitic graffiti on synagogues or torching them.

The latest encouragement was offered by a German regional court in the city of Wuppertal, Rhine-Westphalia. Last Friday that body ruled that, by tossing Molotov cocktails into the local synagogue, three Palestinians were expressing legitimate criticism of Israel.

Far be it from the justifiably angry young men to be motivated by anti-Semitism or, for that matter, Islam, explained the judge. They simply wanted “to draw attention to the Gaza conflict”.

What adds a delicious touch to the court’s decision is that the original Wuppertal synagogue was burnt down during Kristallnacht, presumably also as justifiable criticism of something or other.

The court handed down suspended sentences, explaining, by way of mitigating circumstances, that the defendants had consumed alcohol before blazing their trail – and anyway, nobody died.

Had the whole congregation been burnt to cinders, as presumably was the intent, a short custodial sentence could have been called for, although the court declined to indulge in such hypothetical speculation.

Nor did the court comment on the truly outrageous fact that these young Muslims were drunk on the job. If they obey Mohammed’s commandment that Jews be killed, they should also heed their prophet’s injunction against boozing. Their local imam is going to hear about this.

Now one has to believe that Germany, currently having an interlude of being a relatively free country, provides enough outlets for less incendiary criticism of foreign states. And in relatively free countries, tossing Molotov cocktails into buildings is seen as a vicious crime rather than an expression of disagreement.

Perish the thought, but were those Westphalian judges perchance venting their own anti-Semitism by encouraging that of the three critics? Verily I say unto you, if Israel didn’t exist, the Muslims and their apologists would have to invent it.

Another such perfect outlet for their pent-up critical spirit would be hard to find. This way Israel can be blamed for Islamic violence all over the world, most of which would take a rather convoluted dialectical process to ascribe to the Jews.

Specifically, looking at the last 20 years or so, one could mention the conflicts between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims throughout the Islamic world, Bosnian Muslims and Christians, Côte d’Ivoire Muslims and Christians, Cyprus Muslims and Christians, East Timor Muslims and Christians, Indonesian Muslims and Christians in Ambon Island, Kashmir Muslims and Hindus, Kosovo Muslims and Christians, Macedonian Muslims and Christians, Nigerian Muslims and both Christians and Animists, Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, Chechen Muslims and Russians, Azeri Muslims and Armenian Christians, Sri Lanka Tamils and Buddhists, Thailand’s Muslims and Buddhists in the Pattani province, Muslim Bengalis and Buddhists in Bangladesh, Muslims and Protestant, Chaldean Catholic and Assyrian Orthodox Christians in Kurdistan.

The impression is hard to avoid that Islam manages to overcome its natural instinct to be a religion of peace with remarkable perseverance and consistency. Obviously one can’t allow the thought to cross one’s mind that Islam is really not so much a religion of peace as a primitive, innately and insanely violent cult. I’m slapping my own wrist even as we speak.

Merkel’s Germany has already admitted more than a million such youngsters inclined to indulge their critical faculty with Molotov cocktails, guns and knives. This is quite worrying, especially in view of Germany’s recent history and its current rise of simon-pure native neofascism.

Other European countries are following suit, if not yet quite on the same scale, both in flinging their doors wide open to Muslims and turning a blind eye on their own burgeoning extremism.

A message to the European powers that be: chaps, are you out of your minds? Don’t you realise what kind of powder keg you’re sitting on? Can’t you see that outrageous court rulings, such as the one in Westphalia, are lighting the wick sticking out of the powder keg?

Don’t you remember that in the seven years following Kristallnacht almost three megatons of explosive were dropped on Germany – this in a pre-nuclear age? By refusing to stand-up to attempted homicide, you’re committing suicide. It’s like playing Russian roulette with an automatic.

Such entreaties are likely to fall on deaf ears. So perhaps German courts will be more receptive to this idea on criminal proceedings:

When Muslims rape a German girl, this should be treated not as a violent crime but justifiable criticism of Western decadence. This moral decline is evident in the fact that German women are allowed to walk the streets – sometimes after dark! – unaccompanied by a male relation.

Moreover, they provocatively display their naked faces and often other parts of their anatomy. In fact, it’s not the rapists but their victims who should be charged: with corrupting the morals of peaceful youngsters who can’t help being critical.

Britain won’t talk to France…

LePen…if Marine Le Pen is elected President. Not if Lord Llewellyn, our man in Paris, has anything to do with that. He made this astonishing promise when talking to Parliament about the upcoming French election.

“With respect to the Front National, we have a policy of not engaging. There’s a long-standing policy,” he said. Asked whether this intransigent stance would change should Marine move into the Élysée Palace, he repeated: “That is the policy that has been the policy for many years and that is the policy.”

Since Ed Llewellyn became Lord Llewellyn in recognition of his loyal service as Dave Cameron’s Chief of Staff, one shouldn’t be surprised at the inept phrasing. But I’m still amazed that Her Majesty’s ambassador would make such a politically inane statement about the potential head of a (more or less) friendly state.

Since Lord Llewellyn has only been a diplomat for a few months, he hasn’t yet mastered the basics of his new profession. One such is trying to stay on speaking terms with heads of Western democracies, no matter how objectionable.

I suppose the urge to score cheap political points becomes irresistible after a few years rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dave. Lord Llewellyn clearly thinks that this particular point isn’t just cheap but free, for Marine stands no chance of putting him in an awkward position.

I wouldn’t be so sure. Le Pen is currently leading the Gaullist candidate François Fillon (not to be confused with François Villon, who isn’t standing in this election) by a slender margin, with the independent leftie Emmanuel Macron in the bronze medal position and the Socialist candidate having as much chance as the aforementioned François Villon.

However, if, as predicted, Fillon and Le Pen contest the two-horse second round, all other parties are expected to gang up on poor Marine to give Fillon a two-to-one landslide.

Yet Lord Llewellyn’s experience as an anti-Brexit shill ought to have taught him the dangers of complacency. If political polls were reliable, Britain’s membership in the EU would last as long as the EU itself (not too long, one hopes), and Hillary would be inaugurated on 20 January.

Odds-on favourites can lose, especially when they’re default candidates rather than charismatic leaders (which none of the French candidates is).

Fillon is a traditional Gaullist apparatchik, regarded for some unfathomable reason as an Anglophile libertarian. This first claim is puzzling, considering that he leads a party as institutionally committed to detesting the English as its founder was so committed personally.

De Gaulle sensed during the war that the English didn’t take him as seriously as he took himself, a slight that no Frenchman ever forgets. To make matters even worse, the British played a key role in liberating France, a good deed that de Gaulle set out to punish.

Fillon’s claim to Anglophilia mostly rests on his British wife Penelope. However, unlike my English wife Penelope, Mme Fillon is Welsh, an ethnicity that doesn’t automatically presuppose an all-abiding affection for the English.

Fillon is seen as something of a Thatcherite and, comparatively speaking, he is. After all, the other candidates are closer to Marx than to Hayek in their economic views. Since Fillon is merely committed to a huge, rather than gargantuan, state and favours a paltry 50 per cent marginal tax rate, rather than near total expropriation, he may come across as an economic libertarian.

But, as the French say, ‘comparison n’est pas raison’, contradicting their own philosopher Descartes who claimed that all knowledge is comparative. In any Anglophone country Fillon would be regarded as a rank socialist, which all French politicians really are. What’s undoubted is that Fillon is a great admirer of Putin, a sentiment hard to reconcile with libertarian Anglophilia.

At least his affection for Putin is disinterested, which is more than can be said for Le Pen, who has helped herself to Putin’s rouble and is hoping to do so again. What’s astounding about Marine is that she’s routinely described as right-wing.

She’s no such thing: her economic ideas place her to the left of Hollande. Le Pen’s politics is a cocktail of socialism, nationalism and demagogic populism. These are the hallmarks of fascism, the real ideology of the Front National.

Marine is more tactically aware than her father, which is why she underplays such endearing traits of her grassroots party as rabid anti-Semitism. But she’s a fruit fallen off the same tree.

The third candidate, Manny Macron, was Hollande’s finance minister. A few months ago, realising that the Socialist ship was sinking, Manny emulated the proverbial rodent and went independent.

By way of a parting shot he warned that Brexit would have the catastrophic consequence of turning Britain into a Jersey or Guernsey, Manny was undecided which. He didn’t specify whether that was a promise or a threat, a lamentable omission considering that both islands have a 20 per cent tax rate and no crime.

Standing against such opposition, and given the French propensity for supporting outrageous candidates like Hollande, Marine may well win, defying the polls and common sense.

The voters may experience the same rush of populist blood to the head as les Yankees did when voting for Trump. They may feel that neither Fillon nor Macron is sufficiently dissociated from the same establishment that’s ruining France.

That would make Lord Llewellyn eat either crow or his hat, whichever is his culinary preference. One thing is for sure: he wouldn’t be having that repast at the British embassy in Paris.