The French are good at burning things too — another flash point in the EU

The wise EU policy of putting the jackboot of politics over the head of economics and culture has created multiple flash points all over Europe. Some have already burst out; some are still smouldering. Some, such as the current riots in Greece, are widely covered. Some, such as thousands of cars being turned to torches in France, less so. And yet the explosive potential is even higher there, going way beyond the petrol tanks of the cars going off.

The EU can’t be held solely responsible for every ill — national governments, including that of France, are doing their fair share too. Over 42,000 cars were burnt in France in 2010, about 30,000 of them in the banlieues around Paris. The figure for 2011 isn’t available yet, and won’t be for a while, considering that most police chiefs refuse to divulge such data. The French press, scornful of the British tendency to wash private linen in public, goes along, tacitly agreeing not to wash even public linen.

That’s why this propensity for immolating private transport only gets an airing during major elections, especially those in which a member of the Le Pen family is a candidate. Then the issue is buried until next time, a few years later. The assumption is that flogging that dead horse (or rather those dead cars) might foster racism, Islamophobia and other fashionable vices that, as we all know, are much worse than social disintegration.

It would be neither racist nor Islamophobic but merely factual to observe that the banlieues, where most of the vehicular auto-da-fés (no pun intended) take place, are belts of public housing built around French cities specifically to accommodate some 10 million North Africans currently resident in France. Thus having assuaged their social conscience and post-colonial guilt, the French then began to pump welfare billions into the banlieues, with the implicit understanding that no stream of humanity must be pumped back into the city centres. As long as the denizens kept themselves to themselves, they were left more or less alone.

No serious attempt to encourage them to assimilate was ever made, partly because the French believe that their language alone is sufficient for any native speaker of it to be French, acquiring thereby an innate superiority over anyone of less fortunate nativity. The North Africans speak French, n’est ce pas? Well then, that’s all we need to know. It’s just best that these particular French speakers stay put in their ghettoes and stew in their own juice.

A social catastrophe flowed out of this attitude the way vin rouge flows out of a tipped bottle. Up to 50 percent of the banlieues’ residents are unemployed, and for young people the figure is believed to be closer to 75 percent. One doesn’t have to be an expert sociologist to realise that such areas will in short order become brutalised and criminalised.

And so it has transpired. The banlieues have turned into urban jungles, bearing little resemblance to ethnic areas in London or Birmingham. The British go to such areas to buy exotic spices in Brick Lane or to have a quick curry at a place that lets you bring your own beer. The French don’t ever go to the banlieues and whenever possible avoid driving through them. Even the police steer clear of those places, fearful of the automatic weapons in the hands of the populace. (Those are in plentiful supply; various Eastern European mafias make sure of it. The Serbs, for example, buy AKs for €450 apiece in their native land and flog them in the banlieues for €2,500.) If les flics ever do dare cross the line, it’s in armoured cars. That’s not to say we don’t have problems with the alienation of minorities — only that the French problems are much worse.

Saint-Denis, just outside the Paris Périphérique, used to be known for its basilica where French kings are buried. Now it’s known for French cars being burned. Most of the cars there are ready for the knacker’s yard anyway (even in nicer areas the French tend to drive heaps that no self-respecting Brit would be caught dead in), but that’s no excuse. The question is, how long before the fires, fanned by multi-culti sanctimoniousness, spread over into the nicer areas? At a guess, it wouldn’t take many more downgrades in France’s credit rating.

Europe is full of such disasters waiting to happen. The tectonic plates have been set in motion by the calamitous bien-pensant policies of the national governments, squared and cubed by the EU. If the current EU madness continues, before long the plates will clamp together, and then it won’t be just cars that’ll go up in smoke.





It’s not more democracy those Greek arsonists want. It’s more money.

Spivocrats and federasts are fiddling their expenses as Athens burns. The two are closely related, for most economic and social woes are at heart moral.

The problem with the European Union, its economies collapsing and its cities aflame, isn’t a deficit of democracy. It’s a dearth of morality, both public and private. As proof of that, compare the strategy pursued by the EU with that followed by our own democratic government.

Every serious political philosopher, from Plato and Aristotle onwards, has been aware that unfettered democracy is problematic. They have all known that democracy has to be limited and checked by other parallel forms of government, for otherwise it runs the risk of becoming mob rule.

If getting into power requires only the purely arithmetical exercise of counting heads, then those seeking power have to develop, to the exclusion of all others, the skills known to produce favourable counts. A few generations of that, and a new type of politician emerges: the unprincipled, self-serving, power-seeking spiv able to talk to electorates only in the language of shameless demagoguery. Part of the process is buying allegiance, or rather votes, with public funds, bribing the electorate as effectively, and as immorally, as stuffing £100 bills into their pockets.

This creates the vicious circle of corruption: corrupt politicians have to corrupt voters to vote the right way. This — and only this — is the reason for the welfare state, and any parallels between that and charity are mendacious. Erstwhile recipients of alms were grateful for what they got, and it would have never crossed their minds to demand more. Today’s welfare recipients do demand more as of right because they know they can: politicians depend on their votes to remain in power. It’s as if residents of an almshouse could oust the board of their charitable foundation and appoint one that would be more generous.

Yesterday’s giveaways become today’s entitlements, and even those few politicians who are aware of the immorality of this arrangement will claim nothing can be done about it. It’s a non-negotiable fait accompli. They also know that, should they demur, social unrest will follow — nothing like a few riots for the corrupt underclass to augment the power it already wields at the voting booth.

What works with individuals can also work with states, as proven by Prussia in the 19th century, when it set out to bribe (or force) other German states into unification. The Prussians created the Zollverein, a customs union ostensibly aimed at easing trade among various German areas. In parallel, they showered other principalities with free loans and subsidies, only demanding that all currencies be pegged to the Prussian thaler (or vereinsthaler, as it eventually became). Finally, the populations of the weaker principalities thoroughly corrupted, Germany became a single state with a single currency, called the mark since 1873.

Sound familiar? Of course it does. This is exactly the strategy Germany, assisted by her poodle France, used in the second half of the 20th century, after the failure of her rather more direct attempt to unify Europe. However, what could be regarded as a qualified success in the 19th century is proving an unqualified disaster in the 21st. For, unlike the German principalities of yesteryear, the European countries of today are heterodox. They vary immensely in their economic philosophies, work ethic, labour relations, expectations — you name it. German business practices, commendable as they may be, depend heavily on what Max Weber called the Protestant work ethic. In the absence of that, what’s Germany’s meat will become other countries’ poison.

However, one thing all European countries have in common is a corrupt political class self-perpetuating by creating a corrupt underclass. Whatever variations are observable are those of degree, not kind.

Sizeable and growing sections of European populations now expect to survive nicely without having to work much, if at all. Such expectations, already created by their national governments, have been boosted no end by the cheap bribery money pushed their way by German and French banks.

Then suddenly they are told it has to come to an end. The bribery funds are running dry, chaps. You may have to work for a living. But work is hard. Setting fire to a few hundred buildings is so much easier.

No doubt this isn’t the whole story. Considering their recent history, many Greeks must also resent being told what to do by the Germans — especially when what the Germans tell them to do is tighten their belts, go to work and wait for the Wirtschaftswunder to arrive. That’s ‘economic miracle’ in English. I doubt the term translates into Greek.

But such resentments ought not to be confused with a quest for democracy, which the Greeks experienced for only about 40 years of their history. (Any invocation of Athenian democracy in this context is frivolous: it bore no resemblance to our free-for-all. Only about 30,000 of Attica’s 250,000 citizens were entitled to vote, and the voting was direct, with no system of representation.) It more closely resembles nationalism.

Both our modern democracies and the non-democratic EU have similar problems of fundamental design, not mechanics. As they both ineluctably breed corruption, the problems are above all moral. They wouldn’t go away if the EU suddenly became more democratic — at best, nothing would change. Britain should get out of the EU not to get more democracy but to get more sovereignty, a much more important political and moral consideration.

Twenty-five European countries have succumbed to Germany’s and France’s blackmail to trade a lot of sovereignty for a little money. Many of them are finding out that they end up with neither. Before too long they all, most emphatically including Britain, will realise this.

And then real conflicts will begin, those between the classes that work and those that receive, the nations perceived as rich and those regarding themselves as poor, the North and the South, the West and the East. The Greek arsons are just the first spark of a massive conflagration. Is your fire extinguisher in working order?





The government doesn’t want us to be lonely. Just single.

It has been two years since Steve Hilton, the strategic ‘mind’ behind Dave Cameron, founded a ‘behavioural insights team’ at Number 10. The team includes a ‘behavioural nudge’ unit, whose mission is to nudge people towards the kind of life Dave thinks is good for them. What people themselves think is naturally immaterial.

Now my assumption, one that has yet to be proved wrong, is that, when the government has to attach unsightly names to its projects, the projects have to pursue unsightly aims. If an official is called a facilitator of optimisation or an optimiser of facilitation, you know he’s up to no good. When an office is called a diversity unit or social adhesion group, you know it’s a quango for mindless, immoral bureaucrats.

Witness the latest ‘insight’ by David Halpern, director of the ‘behavioural nudge’ unit. But before I tell you what it is, what’s the greatest problem the government has with old people? Right. There are too many of them, too many wrinklies soaking up their pensions, depriving the state of the funds badly needed for foreign aid and to pay all those facilitators of optimisation. With people living longer, the giant pyramid scheme called National Insurance simply can’t cope: too many able-bodied young people are encouraged to sponge off the government to have much left for the elderly.

And the solution? For people to retire later and die earlier. This puts the ‘insight’ into its proper context, and do remember that Dave Halpern works for Dave Cameron. According to Dave H, retirement is worse for old people than smoking: it makes them lonely, and they die sooner. It’s much better for them to work till they are carried out, feet first. ‘Work matters, particularly for older people, not just for money but absolutely for social contact,’ was how Dave H expressed his ‘insight’, with the elegance we’ve learned to expect from government stooges.

I’m deeply moved by this show of concern for our well-being. My eyes are misting over, but I’m still able to make out the outlines of a canard. First the state taxes our income mercilessly, making it hard for us to provide for our own retirement. Then it yanks out another 12 percent in National Insurance ‘contributions’ — an amount that would make an average Brit a wealthy, BUPA-treated retiree if he could invest it into a private pension and insurance. And then the state tells us that we haven’t spent enough years ‘contributing’, so could we please spend more. It’s for our own good.

Call me a cynic, but I have a sneaky suspicion that in this instance the context determines the text. The state, due to its own criminal, self-serving wastefulness, is — to use a technical term — skint. It’ll try anything in this desperate situation, in this case under the guise of touching concern for our ‘social interaction.’

I’d like to offer my own insight to the two Daves: you don’t have to have a 9-to-5 job not to be lonely. Neither my wife nor I go to an office, and yet we never suffer from solitude. We have our friends, our colleagues (mostly writers for me, mostly musicians for her), our families, our church. And, above all, we have each other.

In fact, marriage is the best way of preventing loneliness, and you don’t even have to buy a dog. Hence if the state struck a blow for marriage, it would strike one against loneliness. So how can the state do that?

By activating the only effective mechanism at its disposal: taxation. Or rather by using what I call negative taxation for positive purposes. It should gear the system of taxation towards rewarding marriage at the expense of bachelorhood or unmarried cohabitation. The idea is hardly ground-breaking: just about every Western country has marriage tax allowances, designed to promote the most crucial social institution in any society — and, as a corollary, to help people not to feel lonely in their old age.

And this is precisely the measure that our government has refused to introduce in its next budget. Advice to Dave C and his hangers-on: spare us your nauseating, touchy-feely bleating. We’ll sort ourselves out, thank you very much. Just don’t enslave us with extortionist taxation, nor fritter away our money on all those ‘behavioural nudging’ units.

Another insight of my own I can offer is that a government that pretends to do a lot for you will inevitably do a lot to you. To that there are no known exceptions. If this insight could help you ‘nudge’ this lot out of government, that would be no bad thing aesthetically. In practical terms, however, one struggles to come up with any alternative within our political class. They are all the same.


Reviewing a reviewer: Sandbrook on Preston on Franco

As an honest man, I have to state that I haven’t read Robert Preston’s book The Spanish Holocaust. As someone who has read his other works on the subject, I promise I won’t read it in the future either. That is, I would be prepared to read it if the author had revised his ideology, which generously colours and grossly distorts every word he writes. But, judging by Dominic Sandbrook’s review in The Times, he hasn’t. So I won’t.

The review itself is a remarkable piece of work — seldom does one get to read such unabashedly biased and ignorant views committed to paper. The 1,000-word article dutifully catalogues the atrocities committed by the Nationalists during, and immediately after, the Civil War of 1936-1939. Shootings, rapes, tortures and other such niceties committed by Franco’s troops fill the space to the brim, and Preston is praised for his courage in revealing them to the hitherto unaware public. (Considering that this kind of attitude is prevalent in academic circles, I’m not sure where courage comes in, but we’ll let it pass.)

Of course, this being a Western paper and not the Pravda of that bygone time, some sense of balance had to be introduced: ‘Of course such atrocities had their counterpart on the Republican side…’ That’s it: 11 words out of 1,000. A bit light for balance.

This piece of shoddy journalism wouldn’t be worth commenting on if Preston, Sandbrook and their ilk hadn’t been so shrill — and, alas, successful — in imposing their interpretation of the Spanish Civil War on an unsuspecting public. What passes for their thinking has been widely accepted by the smart set.

Let’s set the record straight. No, I’m not going to deny the harrowing facts that turn Sandbrook on so much. Yes, the Nationalists did commit their fair share of atrocities: show me a civil war where this wasn’t the case. When brother turns against brother, Cain against Abel, only one of them will be left standing. England in the 17th century, France in the 18th, the USA in the 19th, Russia in the 20th were all soaked in blood. In fact, America suffered greater casualties in the Civil War than in all her other wars combined. The Russians killed a better part of 15 million in theirs. The French, a million. And so forth.

Nor was the civilian population exempt in any of those, perhaps with the possible exception of the English Civil War. In fact, most of the Russians killed in 1918-1921 weren’t in uniform. And I hope you don’t think that Sherman’s ‘scorched earth’ march through the South didn’t leave thousands dead in its wake.

And yes, Franco’s atrocities ‘had their counterpart on the Republican side’. To be more precise, the cruelty (and the body count) of the Republicans — and not just ‘the far-left anarchist gangs in the first months of the war’ — easily matched that of the Nationalists. If I wished to stoop to the same dishonest (or ignorant) stratagem used by Sandbrook, I could knock off not 1,000 but 10,000 words describing in stomach-turning detail the torture and murder of priests, the rape and evisceration of nuns (not always in that order), the mass murder of the ‘rich’, the almost total elimination of the traditional ruling classes, the looting and destruction of property. And then I could add towards the end a short paragraph to the effect that the Nationalists were quite nasty too. Job done — I bet you wouldn’t even notice the disclaimer.

The last I looked at his photographs, Franco didn’t have wings on his back. He wasn’t an angel, far from it. It would have been so much better if the man picking up the banner of anti-communism had been an amalgam of Mother Teresa and Winston Churchill. One suspects, however, that he wouldn’t have succeeded.

Nor was that option on offer. The choice wasn’t between St Paul and St Peter. It was between Franco and Stalin. Given that option, I’d take Franco any day and twice on Sundays: history shows that wherever the communists took over, they invariably wiped out about 10 percent of the population, to begin with. No doubt the trendy lefties like Preston and Sandbrook would still prefer Stalin — even though the review (one hopes not the book) doesn’t mention that name once.

How it’s possible to write even 100, never mind 1,000, words about the Spanish Civil War without mentioning that the Republican side was financed, armed, trained and in many instances led by the Soviets is beyond me. Soviet pilots were flying their Soviet I-16 fighter planes over Madrid (one of them managed to execute an emergency landing on Castellana, Madrid’s major thoroughfare); Soviet tank crews were driving the BTs into battle; the Soviet NKVD was butchering other leftist groups, including the POUM anarchists; Soviet ‘advisers’ (each with a Spanish code name) were leading divisions and armies; the International Brigades, the best troops on either side, were the army of the Komintern, Stalin’s mercenaries.

Had Franco not stepped in, Spain today would be like Rumania, and many Spaniards realise this. Franco’s tomb in the Valley of the Dead remains a national shrine, and thousands of Spaniards come every day to pay their respects. Are they all lovers of tyranny? Some no doubt are. But a majority have a firmer grasp of history than Sandbrook — or even Preston, who proves that an ideology, especially a wrong one, can never allow a compendium of facts to become valid history.

The type of absolutist quasi-thinking evinced by our glorious duo has become typical in the West. It often lies at the foundation of foreign policy. In the assumption that any regime not closely resembling American-syle democracy is as rotten as any other, our states unseat one tyrant after another — only to discover that every subsequent tyrant is worse: for example, the Shah Pahlevi, Mubarak, Batista and even Saddam were better than their alternatives. So was Francisco Franco.

Now it’s ‘Psycho’s’ turn to be racist

The search for a new England manager is filling the papers — and not just the back sections. Meanwhile, Stuart Pearce, affectionately known as ‘Psycho’, has been appointed for just one game, a friendly against Holland on 29 February.

There are perhaps a hundred men in Britain who are truly qualified to assess Psycho’s technical qualifications for the job. But England managers aren’t selected strictly on the basis of their footballing nous. They are also expected to combine a set of qualities that seldom inhabit the same breast.

An England manager is supposed to be an orator of Cicero’s prowess. A public-relations genius on a par with Max Clifford. A monogamous man never even suspected of playing away from home. An atheist or, at a pinch, someone who keeps his mouth shut on religious subjects. A man innocent of any fiscal impropriety, or, barring that, never charged with it, or, barring that, acquitted. Above all, his views on multiculturalism and race can’t diverge one iota from those proclaimed over a glass of Chardonnay in the Georgian terraces of Islington.

If such are the selection criteria, then even his mother would probably agree that old Psycho falls short on most of them. But some of the deficits could be overlooked: we are, after all, talking about one game, a friendly.

Some deficits, yes — all, no. For even such a brief tenure demands simon-pure credentials on the last requirement, one dealing with racial issues. And — oh horror! — it’s in this vital area that Psycho fails on two counts.

First, in 1994 he insulted his England team-mate Paul Ince with the John Terry triple whammy, only replacing the first word with ‘arrogant’. Soon thereafter Pearce apologised, and anyway that incident happened 18 years ago.

Under the 1974 Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, the rehabilitation period is five years for most non-custodial sentences, seven years for prison sentences of up to six months, and 10 years for those of between six and 30 months. After that the ‘previous’ can be ignored.

Now if you’re familiar with today’s length of custodial sentences, you’ll know that the last category covers most multiple burglars. They’re entitled to forgiveness after a mere 10 years, but then their crimes were committed against private property. Why would state officials be overly vindictive towards someone who is in the same business they are, redistribution of wealth? On the contrary, similarity breeds content.

It’s quite a different matter when someone encroaches on the state’s instruments of power, of which political correctness takes pride of place. Here school’s out. Use the word ‘black’ in a pejorative context, and you are blackened for ever. You can break some of the ten commandments, and not just those in the misdemeanor category, and expect compassionate understanding. But say one word that places you outside the state-enforced PC consensus, and you’re a pariah.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not condoning racial abuse. Someone insulting a man for the way he was born commits an offence not just against the victim, but also against the standards of civility and human dignity without which a decent society is impossible. All I’m suggesting is that we put things in perspective and grant the offender the same mercy we proffer to burglars and muggers.

Someone who grew up on a mean council estate, where crime was rife and violence not just the last resort but the first, can’t be realistically expected to have Dr Schweitzer’s alertness to ethnic and racial subtleties. For example, when Pearce managed Nottingham Forest years ago, he delivered a pep talk to his dressing room full of Columbians, Nigerians and Italians, telling them to toughen up because they were all English. So even without the latest revelations, Psycho would probably fail a post-graduate course on diversity.

And it gets worse: Pearce’s elder brother Dennis is a BNP member, and I don’t mean Banque National de Paris. That’s not nice but, speaking as someone who refuses to attend any conservative do at which the BNP is likely to be represented, I still don’t see the relevance of this revelation.

‘My brother’s political views are his own,’ Psycho is quoted in The Times. Quite. But the same paper points out, as proof of Dennis’s (not Stuart’s) racism, that he ‘claims that Islam is incompatible with British culture.’ If that’s all, then ipso facto Dennis is no more racist than I am. He could, for example, be a keen student of Britain’s culture, the constitutional history of the realm, and comparative religion. Anyway, what does it have to do with Stuart taking charge of England for one game?

Looking at the pristine character expected from England managers, I recall the one about a woman buying a chicken. She pulls the wings apart, sniffs under them and says, ‘This chicken smells.’ ‘Madam,’ replies the irate butcher, ‘are you sure you could pass the same test?’








Welcome to Babel (it’s just down the road)

If the NHS were a person, he’d be an amazing polyglot. It speaks and writes every conceivable language, including some I’ve never even heard of, and I have a degree in languages. (Whether this disparity in our linguistic attainment says more about the NHS or me is a matter of opinion.)

Obviously, if the NHS were a person, he’d be paid a lot for this linguistic expertise. But we don’t have to  anthropomorphise it, for the NHS is indeed paid a lot, by us: £23 million a year to provide interpreting services for Her Majesty’s subjects who haven’t bothered to learn Her Majesty’s language. And, I suspect, much more than that to translate and print thousands of meaningless forms, questionnaires and leaflets, each easily outscoring the United Nations in the number of official languages.

Now add those millions together, multiply them by the number of the sharing-and-caring government departments, and you’ll come up with a staggering amount. I’d happily do the sums for you, but I can’t quite count so high. Whatever the sum is, it would be worth paying just to revert to English as the sole, unifying language in which the UK’s official business is transacted. Anything else is distinctly non-U. You know, ‘U’, as in ‘United’.

One of the first punishments visited by God upon mankind was to ‘…confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.’ In that sense our government is doing God’s work, punishing us for staying meek in the face of this multi-culti terrorism. For relegating English to the status of merely one language among many relegates England to the status of a faceless, barbaric wad of humanity — a body-strewn battleground of social engineering.

Ultimately, this multi-culti Babel will destroy our culture, what’s left of it. It’ll rip to shreds our social fabric, already riddled with holes. And it’ll do fatal damage to our wonderful language. For, if many British subjects can’t adapt enough to speak at least rudimentary English, English will have to adapt to them. That will create a myriad jargons vaguely based on English, with government translators plugging the ensuing communication gaps when push comes to shove.

And English is already suffering greviously from having become the lingua franca of the world. Many (too many) Englishmen travel abroad, confidently expecting the natives to speak English. Then they come back triumphant: ‘Everybody in Holland [Sweden, Germany, Belgium, you name it] speaks English!’ Well, I think the statement ‘Nobody in those places speaks English,’ while not exactly true, is much nearer the truth.

There’s more to a person than his skeleton; there’s more to a language than its bare bones. Using English solely as a means of communicating practical information rips its heart out. Gone are its wit, its style, its layers of meaning, its precision, its cultural references — its beauty. What remains is a brief glossary at the end of a hotel guide for the whole family.

Every lingua franca the world has ever known (Latin springs to mind) has collapsed under such an onslaught. But, as the NHS so kindly reminds us, English is under attack not only externally but also internally. If this goes on much longer, the tower of Babel will come tumbling down, burying us all under its cultural rubble.

When I lived in Texas many years ago, debates were raging on about introducing bilingual education in the state schools (just two languages, not the dozens in the NHS lexicon). Bills to that effect were passed by the legislature every year, with the governor always vetoing them. His explanation was simple: ‘If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.’

The good governor might not have been a biblical scholar, or indeed a scholar of any kind. He probably had small Aramaic and less Greek, but he had a firm grip on sociocultural realities in the West. One nation, one language. Many languages, no nation. ‘Every city or house divided against itself shall not stand’ — just as the good book says. In English.



Why I think leftwingers aren’t just wrong but usually stupid

These thoughts are inspired by the recent article by Michael Hanlon, the Daily Mail science editor, who questions, correctly, the recent findings of Canadian scientists linking conservatism with a lower IQ than that boasted by those of the leftwing persuasion.

Equally correctly he suggests that the political terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ are in need of revision. He is absolutely right. For example, Margaret Thatcher is usually described by readers (and writers) of some other newspapers as ‘extreme right’. When one examines her political beliefs (if not always things she actually did), one finds that they fall, without remainder, within the domain of traditional liberalism: free markets, personal liberty, small state and so forth. In British terms she is an out and out Whig, though she misleadingly led the Conservative party, which too is these days a misnomer.

Now, the same pejorative term, ‘extreme rightwing’, is applied by the same people to the likes of Hitler. If A equals B, and B equals C, then A equals C. Adapting this proven logic to the task at hand, we have to conclude that Hitler was a Whig too. However, even a cursory examination of his views shows that they are socialist: state control, if not outright ownership, of the economy; socialised medicine and education; cradle to grave welfare; institutionalised atheism — plus the kind of genocidal practices that in modern times are associated with socialists of either the national or international hue. And socialism is clearly leftwing.

Thus anyone who calls both Lady Thatcher and Hitler ‘extreme rightwing’ isn’t just wrong but ignorant. And any ignorant person who doesn’t mind airing his ignorance in public is stupid enough not to be aware of it. Ergo, most Guardian readers are stupid — regardless of how high or low their IQ is.

And that brings me to my areas of disagreement with Michael Hanlon. Most immediately, he seems to accept that IQ measures intelligence. It doesn’t. It measures intellectual potential, which relates to intelligence roughly the same way as musicality relates to musicianship. The former one is born with, the latter needs careful and dedicated nurtuting over a lifetime.

Real, what’s sometimes called ‘high’, intelligence is made up of multifarious elements, only one of which is measured by IQ tests. Such tests are indeed the most reliable single predictor of practical succes in life. However, neither Guardian readers nor indeed Mr Hanlon would probably equate practical success with intelligence.

IQ tests measure the ability to solve practical problems quickly, and this is essential for a businessman or advertising copywriter. However, it is more or less irrelevant to answering the seminal questions of existence, where methodical depth is much more essential than facile cleverness. Someone like Miss Vorderman no doubt has a high IQ: she solves little riddles instantly. By contrast, Thomas Aquinas was notoriously slow and ponderous in his thinking. Yet I doubt that many of those qualified to pass judgment on such matters would claim that Miss Vorderman is more intelligent.

While most successful PR consultants and stockbrokers have IQs higher than average, many great scientists, especially in theoretical fields, don’t. For example, William Stockley, who won the 1956 Nobel Prize in physics, had a modest IQ of 110. Carol Vorderman would run rings around him in any TV quiz show, but even those who design IQ tests probably wouldn’t put her up for a Nobel Prize.

Another, more important, area where Hanlon’s reasoning is suspect is his obvious belief that espousing ‘enlightened’ (as in the Age of Enlightenment) liberalism is a sign of intelligence. To me it is a sign of voguish intellectual laziness, something against which a high IQ can’t immunise.

One sign of true intelligence is an ability to analyse available evidence dispassionately. Such an analysis would show the the Enlightenment was an unmitigated disaster socially, culturally and politically. Every problem in these areas that we are experiencing now is directly traceable back to this calamitous development.

Constraints of space won’t allow as broad and deep an analysis of the Enlightenment as that which I attempted in a couple of books on the subject. So I’ll single out just one aspect: Darwinism, which most leftwingers treat with the same reverence that believers reserve for the Trinitarian God.

Yet, Genesis aside, any systematic analysis of available data, especially in biochemistry, but also in paleontology, cosmology, physics and every other relevant science, would blow Darwin’s halfbaked theory out of the water. That is not to suggest that no microevolution, a species adapting to its environment, has ever taken place. It’s just that modern science proves both empirically and theoretically that this falls far short of being the sole and universal explanation of any biological life, let alone man.

This is clearly understood by any serious scientist, regardless of his religious beliefs. For example, the late Francis Crick, one of the discoverers of the DNA double helix, was an atheist. Yet he instantly saw that his discovery invalidated Darwinism there and then. Unable to bring himself to God, Crick had to ascribe the creation of life to aliens from another planet, which in purely scientific terms amounts to the same thing: he knew that biological life could not have self-generated as a result of some accidental event not inspired by an outside influence. Crick also realised that certain mechanisms within the double helix simply could not have evolved: as they would have been unable to function in any other than their present form, they had to be created once and for all (this is called ‘irreducible complexity’ in science).

Traditionally, if a theory (and even the most strident champions of Darwin’s evolution never claim that it’s anything more than that) doesn’t become scientific fact within a generation, two at most, it’s relegated to the status of museum exhibit. That Darwinsim is still regarded as valid, and is being taught as Gospel truth (to the exclusion of Gospel truth), is due to its being consonant with the rather vulgar values of the Enlightenment. Fundamental to it is belief in predetermined progress, with man and society steadily improving with the passage of time.

Darwinism, along with other determinist theories of modernity, such as Marxism, dovetails neatly with this purely fideistic beleif. Hence unquestioning belief in the Enlightenment has to presuppose similar faith in Darwinism, regardless of how much proof to the contrary is on offer. Far be it from me to denigrate unquestioning faith. However, persevering with it against all available evidence is hardly a sign of intelligence.

The same can be applied to any tenet that has come out of the Enlightenment. They are all incompatible with deep thought and an ability to analyse evidence and draw correct inference from it.

For example, the Enlightenment belief in the primacy of economics as a sufficient social and moral regulator has been proved wrong by numerous social and cultural disasters — and even by the current economic one. Contrary to what the Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith believed, the sum total of private interests by itself doesn’t always add up to public virtue. And a deficit in public virtue will inevitably hurt private interests, even those defined in narrow monetary terms.

Proceeding along Enlightenment lines will inevitably lead a thinker into an intellectual cul-de-sac. Even if he has a genius IQ.

America’s national sport is coming to the hospital near you

Why do the same medical procedures often cost three times as much in America as in British private hospitals? The answer is, malpractice litigation, much of it spurred on by lawyers’ contingency fees, ‘no win, no fee’ in common parlance.

I remember once complaining to a lawyer at a New York party that one of my numerous medical problems had at first been misdiagnosed. ‘Sue!’ he half-shouted, as New Yorkers do. ‘But I’m not sure it was their fault…’ I objected meekly. ‘Whaddaya, a lawyer?!?’ He added a few decibels. ‘It’s not YOUR job to decide whose fault it is! That’s what we’ve got JUDGES for! And JURIES!! YOUR job is to sue everyone you know when something goes WRONG!!!’

Such division of labour between ambulance chasers and those in the ambulances has effectively destroyed, or at least greatly compromised, what used to be a most effective system of medical care. Worse still, it gave President Obama an opening to indulge his socialist instincts by reviving the late Teddy Kennedy’s pet project: socialised medicine.

Obama is obviously inspired by the resounding success of our dear NHS, whose champions nowadays defend it by saying that on balance it helps more people than it kills. But it’s a two-way street: Americans learn socialism from us; we learn ambulance chasing from them.

Apparently £15.7 billion, one seventh of the NHS budget, is set aside for settling malpractice claims, many of them brought up on a no win, no fee basis. Last year the number of negligence claims went up by 30 percent on the year before, with about £1 billion paid out in settlements and God knows how many more billions outstanding. Many of these billions are a direct result of Lord Justice Jackson’s 2010 endorsement of contingency fees in Britain.

The concept has a different meaning in Britain, compared to the USA. There lawyers are allowed to receive a cut of the settlement, often as high as 60 percent. Here this practice is still banned, but no win, no fee lawyers are allowed to charge much higher fees if they win than they would do normally. The American system encourages tort lawyers to press for the highest possible award; ours encourages them to draw out the litigation as much as possible. Both are iniquitous.

Obviously victims of gross negligence, especially of the kind that leads to loss of income, ought to be entitled to compensation, and their ability to seek it shouldn’t depend on their wealth. There should exist a network of public-spirited advocates to handle such claims for small fees provided by either Legal Aid or the claimant, and much of this is already in place. Effectively, however, this means that the system is biased towards those who are either rich enough to afford legal fees or poor enough to qualify for Legal Aid.

Empirical evidence suggests that those in the second category are much more likely to sue for malpractice than those in the first. And they can do so at no risk to themselves: even if their claim is patently frivolous and they lose as a result, they bear no costs. The winners are those lawyers who are paid by Legal Aid; the losers are tax payers. You and me.

The thin-end-of-the-wedge argument doesn’t always work, but it does in this case. I’m certain that the culture of litigation will spread like brushfire here, just as it did in America decades ago. For example, it’s a foregone conclusion that sooner or later our tobacco industry, just like its American counterpart, will have to pay out billions in claim settlements — as if smokers had been unaware of the link between smoking and lung diseases.

Before long we’ll be reading about cases like the one I remember in New York, where a woman once claimed that, as a result of a bus jerking to a stop, she had become frigid. She, or rather her lawyers, estimated the monetary equivalent of that trauma at a million dollars. Given the aesthetic and legal problems involved in obtaining forensic evidence against the claimant, the City of New York settled out of court for $50,000, which was serious money back in the 1970s.

High as the amusement value of such accounts may be, I doubt many of us would like to pay for this type of entertainment out of our own pockets. But this is precisely what we do now, and will be doing on a higher scale soon, unless someone puts an end to that madness.

That will never happen, for such an action would undermine the real purpose of today’s public spending: pumping money out of private purses into those belonging to the administrative, legal and ‘help’ personnel in and around the government, with the state taking its cut off the top. This is a crying shame, and it’ll be people like you and me who’ll do the crying.

Fast food of dubious provenance. Baseball caps worn backwards. Verbs made out of nouns. And now ambulance chasing. Why is it that we borrow only bad things from Americans and never the good things, such as their industry, enterprise and good-natured equanimity towards others’ success? Admittedly those fine qualities are diminishing even in their native habitat, but that’s no reason not to learn from them.

So why do we only follow the rotten examples? Must be human nature, I suppose. And also a society that no longer suppresses the bad part of human nature, nor encourages the good.





Russia wants to give war a chance

Russia’s veto of the UN resolution on Syria is much in the news, with most commentators (of whom Ian Birrell is perhaps the most incisive) highlighting the nature of the relationship between the two countries as the explanation for this apparently subversive action.

They are right: Syria is, and for the last 60 years has been, Russia’s client state. Strategically, the Russians feel about Syria the way Americans feel about Israel: it’s their most reliable ally in the region. Moreover, it’s home to their only military base outside the erstwhile borders of the Soviet Union.

Economically, Syria is the major purchaser of Russian arms, from infantry weapons to missile systems, from sophisticated fighter-bombers to tanks. That gives the Russians a vested interest in warfare there, civil or otherwise: the more materiel is used up, the more the Syrians will buy.

And it’s not just weapons: as Russia has invested billions in the exploration, production and processing of Syria’s hydrocarbons, it’s only natural that it should want to protect its investment. After all, if Assad’s government is replaced, it’ll probably be by a revolutionary Islamist regime (I’ll let American neocons fantasise about the likelihood of Jeffersonian democracy there), and those have been known to be rather fickle in their commitment to existing treaties and contracts. Moreover, in Syria’s case, a revolutionary regime can only take over with the West’s help, so it’ll be more likely to buy F-16s than SU35s.

All these factors have been commented upon, but it’s worth mentioning a few omissions. The most important of them is that Russia has a vested interest in any Middle Eastern turmoil, regardless of the specific parties involved. This interest is again twofold, both economic and strategic, and it’s no longer easy to see where one ends and the other begins.

As far as the Russians are concerned, any Middle Eastern conflict, the more calamitous the better, will drive up the price of oil. While ruinous to the West, this would be like a Christmas present to the Russians: about 40 percent of their revenues come from hydrocarbons. That’s why, for example, Russian scientists have been working for Iran’s nuclear programme from its inception — just imagine what would happen to oil prices if NATO and Israel were to attack Iran or, conversely, Iran were to become a nuclear power equipped with ballistic missiles.

Russia also has a geopolitical or, if you will, geopsychological need to stir up trouble in the Middle East. Great-power aspirations are built into the country’s DNA regardless of its current standing in the world. This has been the case at least since Ivan III (d. 1505) married the daughter of the last Byzantine emperor and declared Russia to be the natural messianic successor to the empire, ‘third Rome’ in the words of the monk Philoteus (‘and there will not be a fourth’).

Though Russia is of course unrecognisable compared not only to the 15th century but even to 100 years ago, this aspiration has remained constant. To fulfil it these days Russia has to oppose — and to be seen to oppose — the West in any conflict brewing anywhere in the world. Whether Russia is run by a totalitarian or merely authoritarian regime (other possibilities are a pie in the sky), this will always be the case.

At times Russia will form ad hoc alliances with the West, as it did during the Second World War. Thus if we were to plot the country’s hostility to the West on a curve, it would have a jagged shape. But, for all the peaks and troughs, the overall direction is as unmistakeable as it is inexorable: up and up.

In today’s Syria, Russia’s economic and geopolitical desiderata converge: Putin and his acolytes don’t want a resolution to the conflict, one way or the other. Given the choice, they’d take Assad over the rebels, but what they really crave is a smouldering conflict, a state of dangerous-looking uncertainty.

This puts the West in an invidious position. Our politicians, backed up by much of the media and academe, feel ideologically duty-bound to be nice to the Russians. The triumphalist outburst in the wake of all those glasnosts and perestroikas is still spreading shock waves, however attenuated. The received opinion is that, certain growth pains notwithstanding, the Russians either are our friends already, or desperately wish to be. 

While a Russia run by the communist party may have been an ‘evil empire’, in Reagan’s phrase, the assumption is that a Russia run by the KGB has found religion. So, for all the friendly, ‘constructive’ criticism in our press, the KGB clique fronted by Col. Putin is having a free run in the West.

Given the history of the passionate affair between the Soviet Union and Western intellectuals, which affair reached its ecstatic stage post-1991, this situation is unlikely to change. But our general ignorance of what Russia stands for shouldn’t mean we can’t assess each situation on its merits.

In the Middle East generally and Syria in particular the situation is crystal-clear. Given the choice between a good war and a even bad peace, the West has not just a vested but a vital interest in the latter. The Russians, on the other hand, will take a bad — and preferably prolonged — war over even a good peace. That’s what they want; that’s what they are working to achieve.

And if China’s decision to go along with Russia’s veto hints at the possibility of a long-term strategic alliance between the two, we have more to fear than a steep rise in the price of oil. Russia’s military and natural resources would dovetail naturally with China’s endless supply of cannon fodder and loose cash. It’s a marriage made in heaven — or, if you are a Westerner, in hell.


I was one of the men taken in by Crystal Warren

Miss Warren hasn’t bothered to tell any of her 1,000-odd partners that she started life as a man. ‘There must be a lot of angry men out there,’ she said.

Before my wife’s wrath, in the shape of a frying pan, comes crashing down on my head, I hasten to swear that I never had sex with Miss Warren, either in her present incarnation or when she was still Christopher Snowden. The former isn’t my taste; the latter, my inclination.

It’s just that the other day I wrote a piece on Crystal without an inkling that she used to be Christopher. Had I known it then, I would have written something different, something along these lines:

Free will is one of the seminal doctrines of Christianity, which is to say our civilisation. Without complete freedom to make a choice between good and evil, man would be an automaton, with his buttons pushed by either God, if you believe in Him, or Darwin, if you believe in Richard Dawkins. And automata can’t do what the religion demands: imitatio Christi.

When our civilisation began to be shaped not by Christianity but by market transactions, the doctrine was stolen from its rightful owner, shifted into the secular realm and turned into a consumer’s freedom to choose anything he can (or even, these days, can’t) afford. At first this freedom extended to things like socks, furniture and household appliances.

But eventually, people were encouraged to exercise their free choice to refurnish not just their houses, but also their bodies. And why not? If a man recognises no authority higher than himself, then his sovereignty over his body is absolute. Out comes the scalpel, wielded by surgeons the way sculptors wield chisels. Except that the surgeons’ media aren’t marble — it’s noses and chins, eyelids and lips, breasts and buttocks.

Thousands of men and women have given a whole new meaning to ‘self-made’, redefining their bodies in search of elusive happiness, to which we are all entitled. Sometimes things go awry, as in the current case of faulty breast implants, most of them cosmetically motivated. Soldier’s chances, I’d say — the road to happiness, even when defined in this trivial way, is often thorny.

Some of the men and women, however, aren’t just unhappy about their various bits. They are unhappy about being men or women. They want to be what they aren’t, or at least weren’t born to be — and who says there’s anything wrong with this? We all believe in social mobility, so why not the sexual kind?

Since then the medics have found appropriately recondite terms to describe the urge to change one’s sex. Sometimes it’s referred to as ‘gender dysphonia’, at other times it’s described as GID (Gender Identity Disorder).

The second term is contentious: many experts deny that transsexualism is indeed a disorder. It is rather a perfectly valid desire to bring one’s body in line with one’s natural conduct. It’s not our biological sex, they claim, but our social environment that affects our behaviour. And, if a man acts in a feminine manner, then he is more of a woman; for him to be at peace with himself, his body must be altered accordingly.

Now, if professionals disagree on the background to the problem, a rank amateur like me has no chance of sorting it out. But even today’s rankest of amateurs are aware of chromosomes, XY in men, XX in women. This is the sole criterion used by, say, sports authorities to decide an athlete’s qualification to compete in women’s events.

When the chromosome test was first introduced in 1966, many female athletes from communist countries (the Soviets Tamara and Irina Press, Tatiana Shchelkanova, Klavdia Boyarskikh, the Rumanian Iolanda Balàzs, the Pole Ewa Klobukowska and many others) announced their retirement. The test was, and still is, deemed sufficient to determine a person’s sex, regardless of the putative self-perception.

We are also aware of many conclusive tests showing that testosterone is a major factor of aggressiveness in general and sexual aggressiveness in particular. When female mice are injected with large doses of the male hormone, they begin to act like males. And even in our liberated times, when women fight in pubs, any unbiased observer will notice that pugnacity comes more naturally to men. We seldom cross over to the other side of the street when a couple of girls block our path, and it’s men, not women, who tend to start wars.

This may explain Crystal-Christopher’s atypical sexual voracity. Someone born a man has testosterone coursing through his veins, and subsequent hormone treatments probably can’t quite change this.

I’ve known a few ex-men who act in a similar fashion. One chap (let’s call him Nick) converted himself to a woman (let’s call her Alexia). Unlike Crystal-Christopher, Nick, as a man, had never had sex with men. On the contrary, he was an unusually aggressive heterosexual predator, trying to drag women into the lavatory at office parties and so forth. When Nick became Alexia, he/she did take a couple of men out for a trial run, only to find them wanting. Alexia then became a lesbian, pursuing women just as ardently as before, but this time consummating the conquests differently.

Nowt as queer as folk, as they say upcountry, and I really have nothing to add to that simple statement. In fact, there is nothing to add without plunging into the depths of metaphysics, thereby branding oneself as a hopelessly uncool individual.

There is one thing though: I genuinely pity people who are so confused that they are prepared to mutilate themselves. I’m willing to pray for them — but I’m not willing to pay for them. If they wish to act out their odd urges, they ought to pay for the privilege out of their own purse.

I suspect Crystal became Christopher on the NHS. Boys will be girls and all that, but this shouldn’t be allowed. I suspect that even Richard Dawkins will agree.