Do we secretly hate the Dutch?

‘Secretly’ is the operative word here, for I can’t think of a single ethnic slur for the Dutch on either side of the ocean.

The Dutch invader gets his prize

That’s odd, considering how many exist for just about everyone else: blacks, Jews, Spaniards, Mexicans, Latin Americans, Vietnamese, French, Germans, Chinese, Italians, Czechs, Poles, Russians, Indians, Pakistanis, Arabs – did I leave anyone out?

However, no other nation comes anywhere near the Dutch in the number of negative idioms in which they are mentioned. Why?

After all, idioms appear for a reason; they reflect some deep-seated perceptions accumulated over time, often centuries. Even when such perceptions no longer pertain, idioms elucidate a nation’s mentality more brightly than just about anything else.

For example, many idioms refer to Dutch drunkenness, even though here the British are the pot calling the kettle black: Dutch courage, Dutch cheer and Dutch milk all mean booze; Dutch concert is drunken noise; Dutch headache is hangover; Dutch agreement is one made by drunk people; Dutch lunch is liquid.

The Dutch are also supposed to be pedlars of fake goods. Thus Dutch leaf is false gold leaf and Dutch gold is the yellow alloy of copper and zinc.

Though Sweden has the highest suicide rate in Europe, we describe suicide as Do the Dutch, not Do the Swede.

Double Dutch means gibberish, even though, being a Germanic language, Dutch is more comprehensible to an Anglophone than, say, Finnish, Hungarian or even Russian.

Dutch treat or to go Dutch means splitting the cost of a meal, with an implication of  meanness.

To be (or get) in Dutch means to be or get in trouble.  

To beat the Dutch is to exceed expectations, and That beats the Dutch! is an exclamation of surprise.

Dutch relations also come in for rough treatment. Dutch uncle is a compulsive fault finder; while Dutch wife or Dutch widow is a prostitute.

Dutch comfort is cold, telling distressed people that things could be worse; Dutch defence is sham defence; Dutch talent is more brawn than brain; to get one’s Dutch up is to lose temper; to Dutch something means to ruin it; neither Dutch bed nor Dutch bath would meet your expectations; Dutch cough is flatulence.

And so on, ad infinitum: dozens of such expressions exist or have existed. One gets the impression that whenever the English dislike something they describe it as Dutch. Why?

One may think that such hard feelings go back to the Anglo-Dutch fight for maritime supremacy in the 17th century, and indeed some of the cited idioms go back to that time. It was early in the century that Shakespeare wrote of “Those frothy Dutch men, puft with double beer, That drink and swill in every place they come, Doth not a little aggravate mine ire.”

Yet most of such expressions date back to the next century, the 18th. What happened then for the English to see the Dutch as a bunch of duplicitous, tight-fisted, drunken, riotous, licentious swine?

True, in the second half of the 17th century, after Holland gained her independence from Spain, England and Holland fought three wars.

During the second of them, in 1667, Admiral De Ruyter inflicted on the Royal Navy one of the worst defeats it has ever suffered. De Ruyter’s armada sailed into the Thames estuary and then into the Medway, where the British fleet was routed (Ruytered?).

Yet Holland isn’t the only country ever to win a war against England: the French Normans conquered England in 1066.

Then between 1337 and 1453 England and France had a series of clashes known as the Hundred Years’ War. During that conflict between the Houses of Plantagenet and Valois, England won every major battle but lost all her holdings in France, roughly the western third of the country.

So why doesn’t the English language reflect any hostility towards the French? All we get is French letters and French leave, for which the French equivalents pay back the compliment: capote anglaise and filer à l’anglaise respectively.

This, though the latest wars against France (1803-1815) were fought more recently than England’s wars against Holland.

So what is it about the Dutch? One might find plausible explanations for each swathe of pejorative idioms, but not for the sheer number of them.

For example, the Dutch brought gin, the corruption of the Dutch word jenever, to England, where it became known as ‘mother’s ruin’. That may partly explain the idioms referring to Dutch boozing.

Also, Holland had some of Europe’s busiest ports, where beached sailors must have drunk up a storm. Prostitution was also rife in port towns, which may account for all those Dutch widows or wives.

Then Holland is a predominantly Calvinist country, and parsimony is a doctrinal requirement in that dubious version of Christianity – hence Dutch treat and variants. Holland is also a trading nation, and traders tend to be accused of double dealing, rightly or wrongly.

However, the French brought wine to England, and yet they haven’t rated any drink-related idioms. Also, Spain and Portugal were great trading powers competing with England, and yet we don’t talk about Spanish gold or Portuguese leaf.

I suspect that the Dutch were singled out because Holland was the only post-1066 country to have occupied England. For unfathomable reasons that occupation went down in history as the Glorious Revolution of 1688-1689.

The stadtholder of Holland, Prince William of Orange, and his wife Mary, daughter of James II, came to England on the crest of anti-Catholic animus. James II was a Catholic and, when in his 50s he produced a son, some aristocrats and bishops worried about a possible Catholic restoration in England.

A Dutch invasion was preferable, and they committed what anywhere else would have been regarded as high treason by inviting William and Mary over. The stadtholder’s fleet of 500 ships promptly landed a force of 21,000 men.

The loyal army, dispersed all over the country, was pushed back. The Dutch entered London, and it stayed under their military occupation for 18 months. The English king was deposed and deported to France.

The invasion was accompanied by a Dutch propaganda offensive, claiming that William came to protect Englishmen’s liberties and the Church of England. Yet his real aim was to use English troops to fight the French on the continent.

That he proceeded to do, sending some two-thirds of the English army to the Low Lands. His heart was in Holland, and his body soon followed when he too left to fight the French.

It was because of this foreign invasion that the constitution of England changed to emphasise the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown. The wearer of that headgear lacked legitimacy, and his power was weak. The 1689 Bill of Rights simply reflected the status quo.

The Bill quelled the growing popular resistance, involving most Londoners and eventually most Englishmen. But it didn’t reduce the popular resentment against the Dutch invaders. Is that why so many negative idioms involving the Dutch appeared after the Glorious Revolution?

Let me tell you, if that Revolution was Glorious, then I’m a Dutchman.

Covid also infects minds

The WHO, whose collective mind was never the sharpest, has come up with an interesting simile.

Yes, this could work too…

It’s quite possible, said its spokesman, that coronavirus will stay with us for ever. We’ll just have to learn to live with it, like we’ve done with HIV. Not the aptest of comparisons, is it?

Learning to live with HIV is a doddle: all one has to do to stay safe is steer clear of certain types of sexual intercourse with certain types of people, and forswear shooting up with dirty needles.

One can’t catch HIV by just walking down the street or touching a doorknob. One can indeed catch coronavirus that way. Big difference – big enough, actually, to make that simile frankly idiotic.

Then our lovely mayor Sadiq Khan has proved yet again that he missed his true calling. Rather than trying city administration, for which he has no aptitude whatsoever, he should have gone into the extortion gig full-time.

Even when Sadiq only practises it part-time, his talent shines through. This morning, for example he sent this message to Boris Johnson, who used to have Sadiq’s job (I’m not sure I’m quoting verbatim, but the content is intact):

“Listen, you sh*te, you got till end of play today to slip two billion quid under me door. You don’t, I’ll cut the throat of London transport, making those human sardines travel in a crowd. I don’t give a monkey’s if thousands more will then croak, djamean?”

Whenever Sadiq’s career ends, as it regrettably must one day, he won’t have to make a crust by delivering speeches after boozy dinners, which, as a good Muslim, he must abhor. Instead, he’ll be able to live high on the hog (if, as a good Muslim, he’ll pardon the expression) just sending out notes opening with the words “If you ever want to see your [children, wife, parent, sibling, best friend] again…”

Speaking of good Muslims, you know how a silly question gets stuck in your mind, and you can’t have a moment’s rest until you’ve found the answer? Well, that’s happening to me even as we speak.

The question is, what about those gorgeous and other creatures sporting burqas? If we are all obligated to wear facemasks, will they get a special dispensation not to? Otherwise, would they wear those masks underneath or over the burqa? We the people have a right to know.

In conjunction with that impending requirement, I’d like to resuscitate the proposal I made a few weeks ago – a proposal that, false modesty aside, betokens my unrivalled ability to think outside the box.

Since our industry clearly can’t cope with the demand to produce 65 million facemasks, an even more severe shortage is bound to arise. At the same time, seeing that Londoners don’t seem to bother muzzling their dogs, there must be a glut of unused dog muzzles swelling warehouses all over this great land.

These can be profitably used as improvised facemasks, and we won’t even have to walk on all fours, chase cats around the block, drink out of puddles and get amorous with strangers’ legs.

Something to ponder there, on this Thursday afternoon. And please don’t bother sending me messages to the effect that it’s my mind that has been infected. 

Russian ventilators are really hot

Q: What’s the difference between a coronavirus ventilator and an improvised incendiary device (IID)? A: The manufacturer.

Coronavirus may have unexpected side effects

And, when the manufacturer is Russia, the borderline between the two devices may be blurred. First, one ventilator made at the Urals Instrument Factory ignited in a Moscow hospital on 9 May.

One patient died, hundreds of others were forced to evacuate. Then yesterday another Aventa-M ventilator made at the same factory short-circuited and created a fire in St George’s Hospital, Petersburg, killing five.

“The ventilators were being pushed to their limits. Our preliminary information suggests there was an overload and the equipment caught fire,” explained a Russian source. Oh well, that’s all right then.

Those Russian medics made the fatal mistake of actually using those ventilators, rather than keeping them safely tucked away in a warehouse. That was a mistake the Americans learned from.

For in early April Russia kindly sent a consignment of the same model ventilators to the US, where a shortage was expected. The Russians extracted much publicity value out of that transaction, promoting it as a selfless gift of humanitarian aid.

They must have been congratulating themselves on making a big stride toward the lifting of US sanctions, for the factory in question belonged to one of the sanctioned companies.

Meanwhile the Americans objected that the transfer hardly qualified as a gift, seeing that they had to pay for it. Preoccupied with that technicality, they almost lost sight of the tragic truth that Russian gifts may keep on giving.

Almost, but not quite. Following the two conflagrations, New York, that received 30 Aventas, and New Jersey, grateful recipient of 15, have returned the machines to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), saying they had no intention of using the de facto IIDs.

What FEMA is going to do with them now is anyone’s guess. Perhaps it may take only minor modifications to convert the ventilators into flamethrowers or, better still, Kalashnikovs. That’s one of the few Russian products that actually do what it says on the tin.

If Virgil were still around, he could give the Americans a good piece of advice: “Timeo Russi et dona ferentes.” But that Latin would be all Greek to FEMA.

Living argument against atheism

Atheism can make even bright people sound dim. For someone like Richards Dawkins, it’s deadly.

“There is no god; therefore, Britain should remain in the EU.”

Dawkins isn’t really a new phenomenon; he merely represents one. People like him have always been with us, those trying to support a silly idea with a load of illiterate gibberish.

What’s new these days is that there now exist millions ready to listen. That’s testimony to the abysmal level of public education, with people no longer taught to discern puny arguments and crepuscular logic.

Dawkins’s readers don’t even realise that he uses words he doesn’t understand. Just follow his latest rant about “religion’s pathetic bid to trump science”. He then proceeds to accuse “religious people” of “a pathetic lack of logic”.

Now, Dawkins levelling that accusation is akin to Hitler decrying anti-Semitism. His glass house has been shattered, reduced to glistening shards on the ground.

Dawkins’s lack of intellectual rigour shines through his use of the word ‘science’, which he clearly thinks means natural science only. I could recommend a few books on that subject, specifically those by Jacques Maritain, but I’d hate to take Dawkins out of his depth – the poor lad clearly hasn’t opened a book of philosophy in his life.

In fact, theology and philosophy are both sciences, each with its own object of study and methodology, though these largely overlap. The two sciences occupy a higher rung on the intellectual ladder than natural science because they deal with higher things.

To paraphrase Wittgenstein, natural scientists may get only as far as wondering how the world is – but not that it is, and especially not why it is. Only philosophy, mostly, and theology, exclusively, deal with such questions.

The answers to them are called first principles, and everything, including natural sciences, can be traced back to them. In fact, natural scientific inquiry has become more or less the exclusive domain of the West specifically because only our civilisation has come up with a coherent, intelligible narrative of first principles.

A natural scientist, at his best, tries to discover some universal laws of nature, taking as read the axiomatic assumption that such laws exist. Yet the greatest scientists realise that the existence of rational laws presupposes the existence of the natural law-giver.

That’s why more than half of today’s scientists believe in God, according to a mournful admission by Lewis Wolpert, as strident an atheist as Dawkins, but, unlike him, a real scientist.

All this goes to show that religion can’t by definition try to “trump science”. The two fields of endeavour are simply too different to step on each other’s toes, although they can complement each other.

In fact, the more natural mysteries scientists uncover, the more they realise that their findings support the theological view of the world.

For example, the Big Bang theory, put forth not by curates but by astrophysicists, proposes a cosmological model that vindicates Genesis. And in Dawkins’s own field, when Watson and Crick, both incidentally atheists, discovered the DNA helix, they realised it put paid to Darwin’s slapdash theory.

Actually DNA has something to do with Dawkins’s latest diatribe. Apparently, “religion” (another word he doesn’t understand) takes issue with his pet theory of RNA having originated as the simpler form of DNA.

That’s where “religion” displays what Dawkins calls ‘a pathetic lack of logic’: “Science of course has gaps in it… But to say… religion can fill that gap is utter nonsense – religion hasn’t the faintest idea how to fill that gap.”

That much is true: religion isn’t in the business of solving the conundrum of DNA and RNA. No serious religious thinker would suggest otherwise, which is why one suspects this particular conflict is a figment of Dawkins’s fecund imagination.

This is an old technique perfected by Stalin, Richard’s fellow atheist. He too would come up with an imaginary stupid opponent, only then to demolish his made-up arguments.

Meanwhile, Dawkins forged ahead: “You cannot say ‘we have here two possible ideas, A and B: A has an enormous amount of success under its belt but there are little gaps still remaining to be filled; B has absolutely nothing going for it, but because there’s a gap in A’s understanding, therefore B must fill it’ – utterly illogical.”

One can’t argue against such crazed rants. All one can do is put a hand on Richard’s forehead, solicitously enquire after his health and tell him in a quiet voice to take things easy for a while.

I especially like the part about B (that is, our civilisation resting on the two Testaments and the great body of resulting thought), having ‘absolutely nothing going for it’. Dawkins ought to ponder the fact that Trinity College, Cambridge, – just one college in one Western university – has produced 34 Nobel Prize winners in natural sciences, whereas the entire Islamic world has merely managed six.

I’m not suggesting Dawkins consider great Western music, art, architecture, philosophy, political institutions or legal tradition, all inspired by what he calls ‘religion’ – such things are clearly beyond him. But perhaps he would be capable of pondering his own field properly, if he weren’t too busy frothing at the mouth whenever he hears the word God.

Dawkins does have political views though, ignorance being no hindrance there either. They can be broadly summed up as “There is no God, therefore Britain should remain in the EU”. That’s what one expects from the master logician.

See you in October, deer

Dogs are supposed to take on the character traits of their owners. But what about wild animals?

“Shall we join the girls, Nige?” “What for? I got mine last October.”

London’s Richmond Park is the place to answer that question. It was laid out in the 17th century for Charles I to do some deer stalking.

Some 700 red and fallow deer still roam the park, and I’ve been observing them for 32 years. (These days one can look, but one can’t stalk.)

And what do you know? The social interplay between the stags and the does is remarkably, well, English.

Most Englishmen are in no rush to go home to their wives after work. Typically they go ‘down the pub with the lads’, sink a few pints, spend an evening chatting about football or those twats back in the office and then catch the train home, to arrive at 10pm or so.

“What you looking at, sunshine?”

Women, they often say, are only good for one thing.

Some chaps even insist that ‘wife’ is actually an acronym, standing for ‘washing, ironing, f***ing et cetera’. Yes, it’s jocular banter, but jokes always have a smidgen of reality about them.

Now, I lay no claim to being a present-day Konrad Lorenz, that great observer of animal behaviour. Yet I too can observe, and those stags in Richmond Park are clearly English.

They stick together or wander off on their own, leaving the does to their girlish chatter. In the absence of pubs, the stags go grazing, always making sure there’s plenty of green grass between them and the does.

“What are the boys doing?” “Oh, playing silly buggers again.”

Where they differ from Englishmen is in the frequency of their use of females for the only thing they are supposed to be good for.

For, contrary to malicious French claims, English libidos demand gratification more often than once a year.

In that sense, those Richmond stags are more English than the English. The only time they go anywhere near the does is during the rutting season in October. The rest of the time they turn their backs on the females and go off to graze together.

“Don’t wait dinner on me, love. I’ll grab something in town.”

What do those stags and does talk about among themselves? One can only guess.

But the guesses don’t have to be uneducated: much can be deduced from the animals’ body language.

All I can say is that, whenever they spot me, their body language isn’t altogether complimentary.


“Who’s that biped then?” “Never mind. Just another fat poser.”

Abortionists are saints

Such is the view of the Rev Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, president of the US National Abortion Federation (NAF). To a British ear this acronym sounds like an aptonym, though I don’t think it evokes the same phonetic associations in America.

She ought to be unfrocked, much as one would be appalled by the purely physical imagery of such an act

The Rev Katherine has issued a statement, saying, inter alia, that: “Abortion providers are some of my personal heroes and modern-day saints.”

These words would sound incongruous when uttered by just about anybody, never mind a Christian minister. Then again, it’s conceivable that the Episcopal Church, to which the Rev Katherine belongs, has its own standards of sainthood.

It certainly has its own, generally accepting, stand on abortion, even though the Anglican Church, with which it’s in communion, still opposes it, if only halfheartedly.

If pressed, the Rev Katherine would doubtless argue that neither Testament contains an explicit injunction against abortion.

However, such a literalist stand, typical of Protestant denominations, would set her up for a counterargument: homosexuality, on the other hand, is prohibited in both Testaments, which doesn’t prevent the Rev Katherine being married to another woman. How consistent is that?

Actually, she interests me much less than the relevant general question. Can a Christian, lay or especially ordained, be pro-abortion? Both apostolic Churches, Western and Eastern, answer this question unequivocally: no.

However, most mainstream Protestant denominations give a different answer, mainly because Christian tradition means nothing to them. As St John Henry Newman once put it, “To be deep in history is to cease to be a Protestant.”

Yet my subject here is neither the inherently heretical nature of Protestantism nor the Rev Katherine’s objectionable personality. For I don’t think an argument against abortion can only be made from a theological, indeed any fideistic, viewpoint.

One can argue the case persuasively from secular morality (if such a thing exists), logic, or even Aristotelian philosophy. For a sensible exponent of any religion or none will accept this starting moral position: any innocent human being has an inalienable right to life.

Hence any abortion advocate has to argue that a foetus isn’t a human being. Thus the whole complexity of the issue can be stripped down to its bare bones. We must simply agree when a human life begins.

There’s the rub – we can’t. Proceeding by elimination, we can agree when it clearly doesn’t begin: at the moment the neonatal baby crawls out of the womb. Those who think otherwise will face an unenviable task of arguing that a foetus becomes a human being one minute after delivery, but not one minute before.

That’s illogical on any number of levels, including the biological one. Prior to delivery the baby already has the same DNA, organs and sensitivity to pain it’ll have immediately thereafter and for life.

Clearly, all those aspects of a human being are developed at some time during gestation. But when exactly?

In the UK abortion is allowed 24 weeks into pregnancy. Implicitly therefore, the authorities believe that’s when a foetus becomes a human being with an inalienable right to life.

That belief is flawed. What about 23 weeks and six days? Precisely what happens in that seventh day of the 23d week to change the foetus’s status so dramatically?

And what about 23 weeks and five days? Four? Three? In other words, it’s easy to show that the 24-week cut-off point, as it were, is arbitrary. In fact, at any time during gestation at least some doubt should persist that abortion just may be tantamount to killing a human being.

Now, our jurisprudence demands proof beyond reasonable doubt to sentence a pickpocket to six months in prison. Shouldn’t at least as rigorous a standard apply to a situation where a human life may be at stake?

The only point that’s not open to such speculation is that of conception. Any other point is subject to reasonable doubt, which has to rule abortion out.

As far as I’m concerned, this clinches the argument. However, I mentioned Aristotelian philosophy earlier, and it can be brought in by way of reinforcement.

The anti-abortion argument can draw on Aristotle’s teaching about potentiality and actuality. As applied to the issue at hand, the argument from potential will point out that, unless its development is interrupted, a foetus will eventually become a person. That’s the potential that abortion nips in the bud.

Opponents of the argument from potential, such as the ‘philosopher’ Peter Singer (who, as a side line, advocates sex with animals) argue that a foetus hasn’t yet developed a consciousness and hence the will to live. Nor can it survive without its mother’s body.

Yet Prof. Singer would be hard-pressed to argue against post-natal abortion on that basis (actually his ilk don’t argue — they pronounce).

After all, a new-born baby’s consciousness is no more developed the day after delivery than the day before. And in neither case can it survive on its own. It can, however, develop to term in vitro from an early stage of gestation, with mother’s body nowhere in evidence.

As ever, the apostolic Christian position on this issue is more rational than any other. Although one has to admit that the Rev Katherine is a living argument in favour of postnatal abortion – say, 60 years after delivery.

VE Day vs. Victory Day

Watching Her Majesty’s inspiring, dignified speech yesterday, I realised there’s something we have to thank coronavirus for.

Brothers in arms: Guderian and Soviet general Krivoshein celebrate their joint victory against Poland

Because of it, the world has been spared yet another emetic show of aggressive militarism, pagan worship and hatred for the West. That spectacle is otherwise known as the military parade in Red Square, cancelled this year for obvious reasons.

In Britain VE Day celebrations feature prayers of thanks, memorial services, survivors’ recollections, photo retrospectives and reprints of old newspaper articles. The Victory Day in Russia is only the culmination of incessant, all year round hysteria with distinct pagan overtones.

The victorious war seems to be the only ideological adhesive today’s heirs to Stalin have identified as a means of keeping the nation together. They also insist that, by having played the leading role in the defeat of Nazism, and having suffered greater casualties than all the other combatants put together, Russia is entitled to a leading status in the post-war.

Such claims are impossible to sustain without presenting a lying version of the events, and here the Russians can indeed claim primacy. Their politicians and ‘historians’ travel a well-trodden path: all the same lies were packaged and served by Stalin’s clique.

It’s partly for that reason that Stalin is again being extolled as a great leader who saved the world from Hitler. Amazingly, most Western historians lap up and regurgitate the same lies.

Falling by the wayside is the food and drink of history: facts. The most obvious of them is that, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Soviet Union entered the war as Hitler’s ally.

The two predators agreed to divide Europe between them, and Stalin effectively untied Hitler’s hands. Germany, whose economy was only kept afloat by the printing press, had no option but to go to war. The Pact gave her a temporary guarantee of a secure rear, allowing her to concentrate all her efforts on the Western campaign.

Stalin gave Hitler invaluable help with raw materials, especially oil. (In 1939 Germany had barely a million tonnes of oil in its reserve. By contrast, Britain had 30 million, and the US 275 million.) Then the Soviet Union also attacked Poland, described by Molotov as an “ugly child of the Versailles Treaty”, enabling the Nazis to end the campaign before winter.

Stalin’s plan was simple: let Germany get bogged down in the western carnage, similar to the First World War. Then, when both sides got exhausted, the Red Army would roll over Europe.

Stalin, that ‘leader of genius’, badly miscalculated. He didn’t think that the Wehrmacht, whose build-up only started in 1935, would be able to take over the continent so quickly.

Stalin’s other mistake was in believing that Hitler would never dare attack the Soviet Union. The ‘great leader’ compared the two forces and found that the Soviets enjoyed an overwhelming superiority in both personnel and armaments.

In tanks, for example, the Soviets outnumbered the Nazis six to one – and that’s just the machine deployed in the western military districts. And the new generation of Soviet tanks, the KV and the T-34, didn’t have even approximate German analogues.

Every strategic plan revealed in the Russian archives provides for an in-depth offensive operation, with map arrows pointing at Krakow, Warsaw, Prague and so on. No other plans ever existed.

Alas, the Germans knew what was going on, as they were bound to: it was impossible to conceal millions of Soviet troops and thousands of trainloads of armaments moving westwards. As Hitler explained in a letter to Mussolini, “I have decided to cut the Soviet noose tightening around my neck.”

In what he described as the toughest decision of his life, Hitler ordered an attack because he felt, rightly, that he had no other choice.

What followed was the greatest military catastrophe in the history of warfare. In just eight days, the German army advanced over 300 km into the Soviet Union. In the next couple of months, the Soviet regular army ceased to exist – by December the Germans had taken over four million POWs (one of them my father).

How was that possible? How could an army greatly outnumbered in every category advance at marching speeds? How could the greatest casualties suffered by the Soviet army be in the POW and deserter categories, not wounded and killed?

That was another gross mistake by Putin’s favourite leader: he thought wars were fought by tanks, cannon and planes. They aren’t. They are fought by people, and the Soviet people didn’t want to fight for bolshevism.

This brings us to the crux of the matter. In 1917, Lenin identified his goal as “transforming the imperialist war into a civil one”, thereby gaining power.

That he did, and the world is still reeling from the result. Yet the observation that escapes even many historians is that Russia’s three wars described as ‘Patriotic’ were all civil wars at the same time.

The relationship between the Russian state and its people is traditionally that of masters and slaves, not government and citizenry. And, when the state is otherwise occupied, the people rebel.

Afterwards, professional liars (or simply misinformed patriots, like Tolstoy) paint the picture in the rosy colours of patriotic heroism, and the image is implanted into the collective psyche by mass propaganda.

Thus, Tolstoy’s version of 1812, expounded in War and Peace, has become the official history, taught to this day. The writer talks about the Russians “picking up the cudgel of people’s war and smiting the French with it.”

Said cudgel was indeed picked up, but it came down on the heads of local administrators and land owners. Several dozen popular revolts broke out all over Russia, and the army had to dispatch a whole corps to quell the unrest at the critical moment of the war, after the Russians had abandoned Moscow.

What happened in the first months after the Nazi attack was a version of the same thing: Soviet peasants, dispossessed, humiliated, starved, enslaved and murdered en masse refused to fight. They threw away their weapons, abandoned their tanks and artillery, and either ran away or marched into German captivity.

That rebellion was suppressed by the same methods as all others: with unrestricted violence. Military tribunals were passing verdicts, 2.5 million of them during the war. Of those convicted, 157,000 were shot – and easily as many without even that travesty of justice.

The Soviets thus inflicted heavier casualties on their own army than the Nazis managed to score on the Allies in their Western Front. At the same time, Stalin ordered his air force to strafe Soviet POW camps – and of course the soldiers were informed that their families were hostages to their bravery (the infamous Order 270).

Those measures, assisted by the Nazis’ brutality, worked, and the Red Army began to fight. Yet only in the second half of 1943 did the ratio of killed, wounded, taken prisoner and deserting reach the level traditionally expected in a fighting force.

The skill of the Soviet generals increased as the war went on, but their regard for soldiers’ lives didn’t. The Red Army didn’t win a single battle in which it didn’t enjoy an overwhelming numerical superiority, and even those victories came at an awful cost.

The Soviet Union lost 27 million in the war, but it would be wrong to say that the survivors won. And here we come to the real difference between VE Day and Victory Day.

Yesterday, the British people, led by the Queen, celebrated the heroic defence of the country’s freedom that ended in the defeat of one of history’s two most satanic regimes. Today, the ex-Soviet people celebrate the victory of their enslavers over those who wished to assume that role.

This isn’t to say there’s nothing to celebrate. The defeat of Hitler undoubtedly reduced the amount of evil in the world – after all, one satanic regime lording it over the continent is better than two.

And the memory of those 27 million deserves remembrance and a mournful glass or two. However, having played their role in liberating Europe from Nazism, the Soviet people didn’t gain one iota of their own liberty.

Popular revolts against the Soviets were raging throughout the war, and in West Ukraine and the Baltics they continued till the late ‘50s. And let’s not forget that some 1.5 million Soviet citizens fought with the Nazis during the war – in the vain hope that Hitler would bring freedom from Stalin.

Soviet soldiers had high hopes too, and those were similarly frustrated. Having replaced the old ‘proletarian’ slogans with imperial ones (those still going strong today), the Soviets celebrated the victory with mass executions, the GULAG – and yet another artificial famine, this one killing some two million victors in 1946-1948.

Eastern Europe, occupied by Stalin, replaced one brutal regime with another. Yesterday, the foreign ministers of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia joined the US Secretary of State in issuing a joint statement to that effect:

“While May 1945 brought the end of the Second World War in Europe, it did not bring freedom to all of Europe. The central and eastern part of the continent remained under the rule of communist regimes for almost 50 years. The Baltic States were illegally occupied and annexed and the iron grip over the other captive nations was enforced by the Soviet Union using overwhelming military force, repression, and ideological control…”

So yes, thanks to coronavirus for making the contrived enthusiasm in Russia more muted and less nauseating. At least, we haven’t been treated to another Red Square show of strength, accompanied by brainwashed patriots screaming “On to Berlin!” and “We can do it again!”

Giscard d’Estaing fessed up

No, the former president of France hasn’t confessed to anything, quite the opposite. The title above is just a feeble bilingual pun based on the French word for buttock: fesse.

Criminal and victim

For it’s that anatomical feature that figures in an accusation of sexual assault allegedly committed by the frisky nonagenarian.

In 2018, when Mr Giscard was 92, he was interviewed by the German reporter Ann-Kathrin Stracke. At some point Miss Stracke asked Mr Giscard to pose for a photo with her, thus paving the way to her eternal victimhood.

According to her filed complaint, “the former president wrapped his arms around her, touched her waist, and placed his hand on her buttock.”

I’d suggest there were two possible ways of dealing with such brutal assault. One was to remove the offending hand; the other, to bring charges.

To her credit, Miss Stracke tried the first course before resorting to the second. She valiantly attempted to remove the ex-president’s hand from her buttock, but he proved too strong. According to her, “I tried to push back the hand of Mr Giscard d’Estaing, without however succeeding.”

Considering the culprit’s age it’s possible that he simply used Miss Stracke’s buttock for support in order to stay upright. Then of course it could have been a nostalgic statement of carnal interest conveyed semiotically. One way or the other, one has to congratulate Mr Giscard on his wrinkled hand still being too strong for a hale 37-year-old woman to dislodge.

Still, hand on buttock or knee, while doubtless constituting brutal assault, is still more nuanced than Joe Biden’s alleged technique. According to his victim’s accusations, he pinned her to the corner, “penetrated her digitally” and said, “I want to f*** you.”

Mr Giscard communicated the same message in a more subtle and less invasive manner, but then he is heir to Gallic subtlety that stands in marked contrast to Anglo-Saxon directness.

On the face of it, Miss Stracke’s case is somewhat weakened by her having waited almost two years to bring the charges. Yet one has to assume she was so deeply traumatised that she had to wait for the shock to subside. That way she was able to assess the damage and decide how deep the trauma was.

This might explain her own explanation: “At first, I didn’t think about filing a complaint, especially since I had no idea how French justice works.” Of course, in our Internet age the requisite information could have been obtained in some 10 minutes, but clearly not by someone in protracted shock.

But then Miss Stracke compromised the purity of her motives by admitting that she was encouraged to act by the growing momentum of the MeToo movement: “This movement has shown me how important it is to debate these issues in society.”

Quite. In fact, it’s hard to think offhand of any issue more important to debate than the odd stray hand on buttock. One might suggest that perhaps there’s a difference between debating and filing criminal charges, but one shouldn’t, on pain of being named as an accomplice.

Anyway, bring charges Miss Stracke did. Yet the culprit refused to admit his guilt, or fess up, if I wish to persist with that puerile pun.

According to Mr Giscard’s spokesman, “If what is alleged against him were true, he would of course be sorry, but he does not remember anything.” The culprit’s age makes this statement eminently believable. A nonagenarian can’t possibly remember every buttock he used as a crutch two years ago.

But seriously now, if I am to retain a modicum of respect for French jurisprudence, I hope the judges will throw out this complaint faster than one could say ‘woke publicity-hogging’.

Miss Stracke ought to build her career on journalism, not the subversive campaign to destroy normal relations between the sexes. Real women, even those blessed with architecturally sound bottoms, used to know how to discourage unwanted attentions.

All it took was a smile, a sweeping move with the hand or, as in Miss Stracke’s case, possibly just a step sideways. That was all part of an eternal game, the give and take of courtship and flirtation.

By mentioning such things in the same breath as real sexual assault, and equating cheekiness with brutality, MeToo ideologues devalue actual rape. Does Miss Stracke feel she deserves to stand side by side with, say, Lara Logan, the CBS reporter assaulted by hundreds of Egyptians who tore her clothes off, ripped her hair out and raped her with their hands and sticks?

I wonder if these modern cretins have in their minds an ideal world they’d like to create. If they do, I certainly wouldn’t want to live in it.

Houston, you have a problem

I tend to follow news in general, but especially if it concerns places where I live now and have lived in the past.

What happened to the Houston I used to know?

Houston is one such place, and I look back on my 10 years there with mixed feelings. In broad strokes, I hated the city but liked the people who lived there, and Texans in general.

There were invariably hidden depths there, and I always wondered how such interesting people could live in such an unremittingly dull and ugly place. Many other American cities are just as ugly, but at least nature provides patches of beauty all around them.

Houston holds the rare distinction of being equally ugly in its man-made and natural aspects. And the climate isn’t much help either.

For some seven months every year it’s what I called 95/95: the first number being degrees Fahrenheit and the second, per cent humidity. This is accompanied by at least one annual flood, one tornado, and a hurricane every other year.

The worst one, Hurricane Harvey, hit the city in 2017, leaving 80 people dead and 800,000 homeless. That was worse than Hurricanes Sandy and Catrina combined, which is going some.

In my day, Houstonians took disasters in stride. If they blamed them on anything, it was themselves for having incurred God’s wrath. But much has changed since 1984, when I last lived there.

God is no longer a consideration, but global warming is. All natural disasters are deemed to be the work of that wrathful deity, and in some quarters it’s even implicated in coronavirus.

I would have thought Houston would be the last place to succumb to that cult, and perhaps it was. But succumb it has, judging by the news.

Its mayor has announced a plan to move the city to 100 per cent renewable energy, with the long-range goal of making Houston carbon-neutral by 2050. Houston’s Climate Action Plan also includes a commitment to “developing more public transportation options”.

Now any public transportation would constitute an improvement over the Houston I remember. In my day, I vaguely heard of a bus route or two, but I never saw a single bus. One had to hop in a car to buy even a pint of milk or a pack of cigarettes.

Most streets had no pavements, on the correct assumption that the weather was usually so awful that no one would go anywhere on foot anyway. One moved from an air-conditioned house to an air-conditioned car, to an air-conditioned office, to an air-conditioned bar, to the air-conditioned car one was by then in no condition to drive, and then back to the air-conditioned house.

So yes, some public transport, provided it’s air-conditioned, would be an improvement. But the rest of it?

I’m not going to repeat my usual diatribes against foolhardy, ideologised attempts to phase out fossil fuels. I shall, however, comment on the staggering hypocrisy of pushing for that in Houston.

Amazingly, in commenting favourably on this development, our papers omitted to mention that Houston is the world capital of the oil, gas and petrochemical industry.

If there exists a major one-industry city, Houston is it. Oil courses through the city’s veins. You can wake any five-year-old in the middle of the night, and he’ll give you yesterday’s Brent price of crude to the last cent.

There are some 5,000 energy-related firms in the city, 17 of them Fortune 500, making the city the country’s top job provider. Even businesses that ostensibly have nothing to do with awl (that’s oil to all you Yanks and other foreigners out there) live off hydrocarbons and petrochemicals.

For example, I worked for an advertising agency, but all our accounts were related to the oil or petrochemical industry, and our competitors were exactly the same. Even the Johnson Space Center, where I had worked before, was built by Brown & Root, mainly known for designing and manufacturing offshore platforms.

Houston turning against awl and touting the virtue of renewables is like the City of London declaring that trade in securities is evil and committing itself to being speculation-free by 2050.

Except that, and this is where hypocrisy comes in, even if Houston turns itself into one giant solar panel and uses nothing but renewables to keep the thermostats low, it’s not going to wipe out its whole economy and perhaps 90 per cent of its jobs, is it?

Of course not. Houston will always be dedicated to supplying the world with sinful hydrocarbons, even if it itself switches to virtuous renewables. If you’ll forgive another simile, that’s like a ‘dry’, Bible-thumping town built around a brewery providing all the local jobs and exporting beer around the world.

I wonder what my old Houstonian friends are going to say about this plan. At a guess, “Those folks are so full of shit it’s coming out of their ears.”

Gospel according to Sir John

The Times obituary of Sir John Houghton says as much about the paper as about the eminent environmental scientist.

Sir John was a fanatic of AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) who co-chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the driving force behind the Kyoto treaty.

In recognition of this body’s achievement in drawing the world’s attention to warm weather, it was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which distinction it shared with Al Gore and Yasser Arafat…

Sorry, slapdash research there. Yasser received his Nobel in 1994, and it was only Al who got a share of the 2007 accolade. Both awards, however, bolstered the credibility of the Nobel Committee no end.

The obituary was as eulogising as the genre requires. Also, whoever wrote it wasn’t reticent about letting his own views on the issue known. On purely professional grounds, I admire the skill involved in conveying bias with only a few words in a long article.

Thus, Sir John “spent his career getting people to listen to the scientific consensus on climate change”. It would be tedious to list all the scientists who stand outside that consensus, but trust me: the list is long.

Or, “Houghton persuaded the world to listen to what the vast majority of scientists were saying about climate change, namely that it was extremely likely that human activity was the main cause of it.” Ditto.

That a serious and widespread scientific opposition to AGW exists never got a mention. Instead, the reader was made to believe that the only opposition came from countries “whose economies rely on oil… those whose economies relied on revenue from fossil fuels… [and] some countries that, for reasons of self-interest, tried to obscure the growing evidence for anthropogenic climate change.”

All this is par for the course. One would be foolish to expect a liberal paper to buck the liberal consensus, and the writer’s bias is hardly worth a mention.

What does strike me as unfortunate, on the part of both the obituarist and his protagonist, is the attempt to use biblical references as justification for what’s so aptly called Gretinism.

Sir John was an evangelical Christian, which term I find misleading — all Christians are evangelical because Christ told them to be. However, the way that designation is used, it’s synonymous with ‘fundamentalist Christian’ and hence also with ‘rubbish at theology’.

Those chaps can twist the scripture into supporting any message whatsoever. All it takes is a nimble mind, and, by the sound of him, Sir John’s was as nimble as they come.

Thus, says the obituary, “He… thought that Christians were obliged to act on climate change by their duty to be Good Samaritans, as it would affect poorer countries more than rich ones.”

This is nonsense on several levels, not all of them theological. What would affect poorer countries is the removal of fossil fuels, which provide 85.5 per cent of world energy. Obliterating them would lead to famines, epidemics and violence all over the globe, but especially in its downmarket part.

Scientists, those outside the aforementioned consensus, estimate the likely death toll of that exercise at somewhere between one and two billion souls. Not very Good Samaritan, is it?

Then, claims the obituary, Sir John believed that “God commanded humanity to look after the planet in Genesis 1: 28.”

According to that verse, “… God said unto them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”.

Deriving the Kyoto treaty from this verse takes no mean sleight of hand. The operative words there are subdue and dominion. These words [in the original, kabash (כָּבַשׁ) and radah (רָדָה) respectively] mean that the Earth was created for man to rule, dominate and use for his own ends.

Employing the obituarist’s language, this interpretation is based on consensus formed by the vast majority of theologians. The Earth and everything in it is there to serve man, not the other way around.

That doesn’t preclude responsible environmentalism: for the Earth to fulfil its God-given mission, it should be used rationally and lovingly. The nature of the argument here is exactly what practices are consistent with that goal, and the consensus on that is nowhere near universal.

Like most things these days, this issue has become thoroughly politicised. By way of proof, try this test on anybody you know.

Ask him a series of political questions designed to establish where on the right-left spectrum he belongs. In nine cases out of ten, you’ll find that those on the right won’t be suffering from Gretinism, and those on the left will.

Since the second group is more numerous, active and vociferous, it has succeeded turning this issue into an ideological battleground. The late Sir John Houghton was in the vanguard of the wrong side, for whatever reason. One can only wish he hadn’t used the Bible as a weapon of mass instruction.

Sir John Houghton, RIP