Russia and America: two jaws of the same vise

I’m certain that no collusion exists between the two nuclear powers, and they haven’t surreptitiously joined forces to blow up the world. But one can be forgiven for getting that impression.

Ever since the first Iraq war, America has been plunging headlong into every conflict going, or starting them if there weren’t any on offer. The pretexts for their involvement varied: protection of oppressed minorities, elimination of weapons of mass destruction, restoring order, preventing genocide – above all, making sure that democracy reigns everywhere, including countries where it’s not schoolchildren but adulterers who get stoned.

Now even though the intellectual level of America’s foreign-policy crowd can make one reassess Mike Tyson’s mental power, even they can’t seriously believe their own slogans. Surely they must see that every regime they’ve ever conspired to unseat, from Diem’s onwards, has been replaced by something much worse.

The removal of the Shah of Iran, in which they, as a minimum, acquiesced, ought to have tipped them off. The Shah could under no circumstances be compared to Archangel Gabriel or even to Mother Teresa. He was undeniably a nasty bit of work, but two things he wasn’t: a) an Islamist, b) a threat to world peace. Just as undeniably, the regime that replaced him was, and still is, both.

America is like an octogenarian, to whom anyone under 50 looks the same age. Either you’re a Jeffersonian democrat or you’re evil, and no gradations of wickedness are supposed to exist. But they do: Pahlevi is better than Khomeini, Mubarak is better than the Brotherhood, and even the indisputably evil Saddam, Gaddafi and Assad are better than the crazed Islamist regimes that have replaced them already or will do so soon.

It’s as if America had undertaken to mobilise the forces of Islam under the green banner of jihad. Thus her exercise in laser-guided democracy over Yugoslavia created a Muslim republic, Kosovo, smack in the middle of what historically has been Europe’s most troublesome region. America’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan has set up a triumph of Taliban fanatics who hate the West and are doctrinally committed to annihilating the West’s sole ally in the region. Her air support for the ‘Arab Spring’ may yet lead to a nuclear winter, what with the secular regimes in North Africa returning to the ethos so eloquently enunciated by Nasser.

And yet, with frankly idiotic obduracy, America is now pressing ahead in Syria, supporting the Islamist rebels morally and assuring them of her laser-guided democratic backup should this become necessary. If those responsible for the US foreign policy actually believe in the wisdom of their actions, they are fools. If they don’t, they are knaves. Can’t think of a third possibility.

And where is Russia while all this is going on? Same place it has been for a century: trying to fish in troubled waters, playing – if you’ll forgive the mixed metaphor – both ends against the middle. The Russians’ perennial assumption is that what’s bad for the West is good for them, and vice versa.

Thus, while supporting the 1990 UN sanctions against Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait, the government of the West’s best friend Gorbachev was egging Hussein on, assuring him of unwavering support. That triggered off Hussein’s brazen adventure and America’s predictable reaction. The Russians wanted the Americans to get bogged down in the region, and American democracy fiends were only too happy to oblige. Now, 22 years later, they’re still there.

The same trick worked in Serbia. While publicly rebuking Milosevic for his violence, privately Yeltsyn encouraged him, hoping that the US would get mired in a protracted guerrilla war with born-again Chetniks. However, as the Americans are technologically more advanced than the Nazis were, that particular hope was frustrated. Yet after the US pitched in with a couple of laser-guided democratic raids, the Russians got their second-best wish: a deeply criminalised Muslim republic was created in the Balkans, and the situation there can now be destabilised at the drop of a bomb.

All this explains Putin’s continuing support of Assad. The real reasons for the Russian veto in the UN Security Council has little to do with their naval base in Syria, or the billions in the on-going armament contracts with Assad’s regime. What they are after is another major pool of troubled waters, for neither Syria nor Iraq can possible remain whole without America’s direct involvement.

Both countries are artificial, and relatively recent, concoctions made up of disparate tribal, religious and ethnic groups. Violent break-ups, possibly setting the whole region aflame, are extremely likely, as is America’s further involvement for generations to come. US troops may be going home, but two American carrier groups in the Gulf can unleash hell, otherwise known as laser-guided democracy, at a moment’s notice.

In the same vein, Putin’s Russia is arming Ahmadinejad’s Iran, as it had armed Assad’s Syria. Sooner or later, either the Israelis or the Americans, or most likely both, will have to take out Iran’s nuclear capability. But Russia’s air-to-ground missile systems are already in place to make sure there will a cost attached. Nor is it impossible to imagine that, should the attack happen after Iran has produced a nuclear warhead, such a warhead could be launched at Israel, Enemy Number 1 of any Islamist regime.

You’ll remember that, when the Americans attacked Iraq in 1990, Saddam’s first response was to launch missile attacks on Israeli cities. Mercifully, all he had at his disposal was the Scud (SS1 in Soviet nomenclature), designed by von Braun’s Germans for the Russians in the late 1940s. Iran, on the other hand, is armed with several thousand short- and medium-range mobile missiles. In particular, the Shahab-3/3B with a range of up to 2,100 kilometres is seen by experts as a serious strategic threat.

Add to this Assad’s formidable arsenal of chemical weapons likely to end up in the hands of Hezbollah within days, and the situation could not be much more fraught with disaster. The handle is being turned, the jaws of the vise are about to close. Let’s hope we don’t get caught in the middle.

Either our ministers are stupid or we are – you decide

Grownups expect little children to believe in Father Christmas. Yet confidently holding the same expectation with teenagers should give grounds for concern. Someone there is stupid: the children if the parents’ expectation is justified; the parents themselves if it isn’t.

Dave’s recent pronouncements extrapolate the same logic onto foreign trade, with us cast in the role of children who are either little or retarded. First HMG proudly announces that in the last three months, for the first time since the 70s, 51 percent of our exports have gone outside the EU. According to our triumphant spivocrats, this bears testimony to their sage and tireless toil in the service of the British economy.

Leading the way are the exports of Rolls Royce and Bentley motorcars, with Scotch whisky, especially single malts, also doing well. Upon hearing this news we’re supposed to rejoice and toss our hats up in the air. Well, I hope you’ll forgive me if mine stays perched on my pate.

First, Rolls Royce and Bentleys are no longer British cars in any other than the purely sentimental sense. The company that makes them is jointly owned by Volkswagen and BMW, meaning that, whatever the cars’ final destination, all the profits go to Germany.

True enough, British workers at Goodwood and Crew keep themselves fed and clothed by tightening the bolts at the Rolls and Bentley assembly lines. Yet their relationship with their German owners is exactly that of colonial fruit pickers and, say, Del Monte Foods. This sort of thing was envisaged by the leaders of the Third Reich – Europe providing the coupons for the Germans to clip. So the Fourth Reich is being built on a solid historical foundation.

Our spivocrats do acrobatic contortions patting themselves on the back, but it’s not their wise policy that has shifted some of Rolls and Bentley exports to Asia and America. In case they haven’t noticed, Europe is going through what can only politely be called a recession. Among other things, this means that fewer people there can nowadays afford Rolls Royce and Bentley cars, which tend to be jolly expensive. It takes championship-calibre sleight of hand to offer any other explanation.

The same goes for single malts that typically cost around £30 a bottle at the low end. This is undeniably an indigenous British product, and so it’ll remain until Scotland has declared her increased dependence on the EU, otherwise known as her independence from Britain. Yet here too our spivocrats should suspend their self-congratulations.

Generally speaking, economic disasters are good for distilleries, for people try to drown their sorrows in booze. What kind of booze is a different matter, and it stands to reason that a newly impoverished Italian would rather spend a tenner on cheap grappa than five times as much on Lagavulin. The newly enriched Chinese, on the other hand, can’t get enough of the stuff, even though they can’t handle it.

But let’s pretend for a second that our intellectual age got frozen at a distant point in the past. Good little children, we’re prepared to believe what our elders are telling us: it’s thanks to their sagacity that our exports are becoming less Eurocentric. Now what?

How does this tally with their assurances that, unless we’re ruled by a Fourth Reich gauleiter, we’ll starve? Surely, the glad tidings suggest that a new trend is under way? Perhaps we don’t depend on the EU all that much after all, Dave? Perhaps we can even leave it, or at least be allowed to decide whether we want to or not? Ask such questions again and you’ll be grounded for a month, you naughty brat.

‘Britain’s interest – trading a vast share of our GDP – is to be in those [EU] markets,’ says Dave. ‘Not just buying, selling, investing, receiving investment, but also helping to write the rules. If we were outside, we wouldn’t be able to do that.’

That’s arrant nonsense. The rules of foreign trade have always been established by enforceable mutual interests, not by clueless bureaucrats getting together to decide how much they can claim in tax-free income, expenses and pensions.

It’s in the EU’s interests to do business with us because they enjoy a positive trade balance with the UK. This means that a lot of their jobs depend on trade with Britain, and they wouldn’t want to jeopardise those, particularly at a time like this. And should they, in a fit of pique, decide to do so anyway, we’d have a full arsenal of retaliatory weapons at our disposal: protectionism begets protectionism, sanctions beget sanctions. That’s how the real world works, Dave.

At the same time as they come up with such lame arguments, Dave and his jolly friends, increasingly detested by their own party, are dropping vague hints at some future referendum. Considering that at least a third of the Tory parliamentary party, and twice as big a proportion at the grass roots, are in open rebellion on the issue, Dave’s motivation is clear. But, while he and Hague are mouthing 100-quid ‘re’ words like ‘realignment’, ‘reassessment’ and ‘repatriation of powers’, their underlings put in their own penny’s worth.

The other day Europe Minister David Lidington wrote, or rather published, an article in Le Monde in which he unequivocally ruled out a referendum on Europe now or in the future. The choice of the publication is curious for a so-called Tory: first, Le Monde is French and second, it’s considerably to the left even of The Guardian. But the stratagem is transparent: Dave makes reassuring noises to mollify the real Tories, while his junior ministers tell the EU to ignore such noises. It’s just our domestic politics, Angie and François, don’t worry. Otherwise, it’s business as usual.

How stupid do they think we are? How stupid do we think they are? Or rather how corrupt, how self-serving, how dishonest? You know the answers.









Right or wrong, Germans remain Germans

A friend of mine recently overheard a fascinating exchange on a London bus. A misbehaving little boy got a light smack from his mother, a working-class woman by the sound of her. Such brutality offended a middle-aged woman, German by the sound of her.

‘In Germany, ve don’t smack children,’ she said. ‘In England,’ replied the woman, ‘we don’t gas Jews.’ End of conversation.

This exchange shows that cultural differences within the presumably monolithic EU still exist. And though the English and the Germans may be ethnic cousins, they might as well be from different planets culturally and behaviourally.

Tact, for example, used to be an English virtue, though this, along with other English virtues, is being wiped out. The Germans, on the other hand, have never been known for their tact, as recent developments prove yet again.

One such development is a long article in Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine, poking fun at our preparations for the Olympics. The article is full of heavy-handed humour, typical of a nation that regards defecation as ipso facto hilarious. But that aside, the infuriating thing is that the article is absolutely right in its criticism, particularly in the part that deals with the Olympic security provisions.

‘Almost twice as many soldiers as Britain has in Afghanistan, a helicopter carrier and special forces units armed to the teeth will make the city look like it’s under siege,’ says the article. This statement doesn’t quite live up to the Germans’ reputation for precision, for the size of the force on the security detail will be a mere 75% greater than our contingent in Afghanistan. But this is nit-picking: the point is absolutely valid, and much fun can be had.

But it’s the Germans’ tact we’re talking about, not their factual accuracy, and it’s in this area that the article is amiss. The words ‘teapot’, ‘kettle’ and ‘black’ spring to mind when one recalls that the second time the Germans organised the Games, in 1972, nine Israeli athletes were kidnapped in the Olympic village and murdered. Something along those lines may still happen in London, though we all pray it won’t. But one way or the other, it’s not up to the Germans to exercise their world-renowned humour at the expense of our Olympic security.

Admittedly, the first time they organised the Olympics, the security was alles in ordnung. But then at that time, in 1936, the Germans had that special way of ensuring docility. Though indisputably effective, this came at some cost to liberty and the life expectancy of a certain ethnic group, something to which that English woman alluded in her conflict with the German tourist.

In another recent lapse of tact, a judge in Cologne ruled against circumcision, suggesting that the baby’s right to ‘physical integrity’ trumps any demands imposed by religion. Assorted hacks instantly jumped on the bandwagon, yelping about ‘male genital mutilation’ and how it imposes unwarranted suffering on neonatal boys. Those who disagreed mentioned that most newborn boys are routinely circumcised in the USA, where the procedure is believed to confer hygienic and medical benefits. Americans argue on the basis of clinical evidence that this practice reduces the risk of venereal diseases, such as AIDS (which, according to some pressure groups, isn’t a venereal disease at all, but rather a dastardly plot by the conservative establishment to hurt homosexuals along with, on the rebound, patients in need of blood transfusion and all those excessively gregarious people who like to put themselves about).

Not being a doctor, I’m not going to argue the case on medical advisability, pro or con. Nor am I going to suggest that no religious ritual should ever be banned. Some, such as female genital mutilation, are clearly beyond the pale, as it were. Yet equating male and female circumcision betokens an ideology-induced madness – the female variety is closer to male castration than circumcision, which after all doesn’t ruin the man’s sex life and even enhances it, or so they say.

Still, though I find the case against ritual male circumcision to be terminally weak, I’m prepared to accept that some judges may take a different view. But, considering that this ritual is essential to the religion half of whose exponents were murdered by Germans in my parents’ generation, it’s unbelievably tactless for a German judge to make such a case.

But then we all know that tact isn’t the most salient of German national traits. One wonders if the Germans know it. 



Blame it on Rio: the elder brother ploughs in

Poor Anton wasn’t the only Ferdinand to have endured abuse last season. After that unfortunate incident involving John Terry, every time his elder brother Rio touched the ball in an away game he heard thunderous chants of ‘Anton is a c…’.

Shared misfortune tends to bring families even closer together, and the other day Rio tweeted a counterattack. Upset with his, now presumably former, friend Ashley Cole, who had acted as character witness in Terry’s defence, Rio enthusiastically endorsed someone else’s description of Cole as ‘choc ice’.

For those of you who aren’t up on racial invective, ‘choc ice’ or ‘Bounty’ means black on the outside, white on the inside, what in America used to be called ‘Uncle Tom’. Since all people are exactly the same colour on the inside, the putdown clearly has nothing to do with anything biological. The implication is that skin colour must impose a certain mentality and behaviour, and, if it doesn’t, the offender must be rebuked.

In other words, negritude isn’t always, and never merely, just a chromatic, physical incidental. It’s a metaphysical concept, a sort of noblesse that obliges. One could even go so far as to suggest that, in today’s mostly colour-blind West, it’s practically nothing but that.

For example, it’s hard not to notice that blacks tend to vote in overwhelming numbers, as a rule around 90%, for the leftmost candidate on offer. The assumption is that they are leftwing because they are black. In fact, if we accept that being black is mostly a state of mind, the reverse seems to be true: they are black because they are leftwing.

Going another step farther, perhaps negritude may be defined the same way as Jewishness: one is if one believes oneself to be, and, this side of Hitler, if one doesn’t one isn’t. This point was emphasised by Sasha Baron Cohen in his brilliant send-up of the gangsta Ali G. Mr Baron Cohen, who is and looks Jewish, had no trouble being accepted as a black by numerous interviewees. No blackface or other makeup was required: all he had to do was walk the walk and talk the talk for otherwise sensible people to ignore the evidence before their eyes.

As far as I can tell, and I may well be wrong, things are different in France. Here someone like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who, like the Ferdinand brothers, is half-white, is never described as a black tennis player. He is French, and so is his colleague Gaël Monfils who’s 100% black. Moreover, all Francophone footballers born in Africa, such as Didier Drogba, are also regarded as French – even if they moved to France as grown-ups and actually play for their African motherland.

So why can’t the Ferdinands, and they are typical, see themselves, and be seen, as human beings first, British second, English third, Londoners fourth, Peckham lads fifth – and black a very distant sixth? It’s not a question that can be answered concisely, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be answered.

Perhaps a good start would be to comment on the nature of British society, where atomisation isn’t just accepted but actively promoted, encouraging people to stick to the margins. Britishness, steadily undermined by government policy for decades, no longer provides a sufficient sense of group identity for most people. It has to be replaced by tribal loyalties to one’s football team, political party, social class, the country of one’s ancestry – and race.

I once knew an advertising man on a six-digit salary plus bonuses who said he always voted Labour because he was ‘working class’. It wasn’t his mind or conscience that determined his vote, it was his tribe, in this instance defined in social terms. He was ready to dissolve his individuality in collective identity, and let the latter shape the former.

Walk through the streets of any British city, and you’ll see crowds of such downtrodden ‘working class’ lads casually tossing their Armani jackets on the back seat of their Mercs and Beemers [sic]. And, if you’re as lucky that day as I was a few years ago, you could even espy Anton Ferdinand laden with shopping bags from the best brands in Sloane Street.

Ali G wouldn’t be caught dead with clothes that don’t display logos in 80-point type; he unswervingly remained loyal to the values of his phoney race. Anton, however, was on that day clearly a traitor to the code he’s obligated to uphold, one imposed to him by a totally inconsequential biological quirk. Would Rio call him ‘choc ice’ too? All this is too silly for words.













History screams parallels. Is anybody listening?

To paraphrase Marx, history repeats itself first as a tragedy, then as a song. The one I have in mind contains these lyrics: ‘Once I built a railroad, made it run// Made it race against time// Once I built a railroad, now it’s done// Brother can you spare a dime?’

Applying the same sentiment to our situation and adjusting the language towards British usage, one finds the fit just about perfect. Thank you, Dave and George, for your bright idea to spend our money on another 800 miles of railways.

The song in question was written in 1931, quickly becoming a hit and the anthem of the Great Depression. And in 1933, America found a new leader at the helm. Franklin D. Roosevelt campaigned on the promise to end the depression, and, unlike Dave and George, he actually meant what he said. As he was a socialist, it’s only natural that he took the socialist route to prosperity: giant construction projects financed out of the public purse. (FRD’s fellow socialist took over Germany the same year and adopted the same anti-depression measures – but we won’t push this parallel to any logical conclusion.)

In America, the impression was that  Roosevelt, waving the megalomaniac Tennessee Valley Authority in one hand and National Relief Administration in the other, rode in on his white steed and saved the day. Alas, that impression proved to be wrong.

After Roosevelt’s ill-advised measures ran out of steam, trouble came back in force. By 1938 unemployment was again nearing 20 percent, recession returned, and suddenly even the intellectually challenged realised that the depression had not really gone away. It had merely been camouflaged, and confirmation of this came from unexpected quarters.

Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary, admitted before the House Ways and Means Committee that the New Deal had failed: ‘We have tried spending money,’ he commiserated. ‘We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work… We have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot!’

A little illustration can show that such an outcome was entirely predictable. Imagine, God forbid, that you find yourself out of a job. To solve the problem, you decide to pay yourself to build a new driveway and perhaps a conservatory. Even if you set your own remuneration at the minimum-wage level, sooner or later you’ll find that, as you become busier, you get poorer. Soon enough your money will run out, and you’ll have to counterfeit some more or go bust.

That’s precisely the situation in which both Roosevelt, with his Hoover Dam, and Hitler, with his autobahns, found themselves. Rather than reneging on his promises, Hitler found a more radical way of keeping the population occupied. And Roosevelt, overcoming a reluctant Congress and an even more reluctant populace, did everything he could to drag America into the war. That was the only realistic way to end the depression, once the cracks, papered over for a while by the giant public works, opened again.

It’s in this historical context that we must assess our government’s plan to spend £40 billion on infrastructure, including railways, roads, power stations and other such schemes. As most of the money is supposed to come out of our long-suffering pension funds, Dave and George possibly hope to achieve their three main goals in one go.

Goal 1: As history proves, this method of spending the country’s way out of trouble can work for a few years before backfiring spectacularly. What with the next election only 2.5 years away, Dave and George (or whoever has replaced him by then) may just find themselves back in power. What else can these selfless public servants possibly wish for?

Goal 2: By socialising even more of the economy, Dave and George (or whoever) will further increase the power of the state over the individual.

Goal 3: By depleting what’s left of our pension funds, they’ll make more of us dependent on the state (see Goal 2). Job done.

A mere £40 billion doesn’t sound like much compared with the trillion-pound debt our spivocrats have already saddled us with, but remember: that’s just a conservative (coalitional?) estimate, a point of departure for the moon. Anyone who follows HMG’s track record in tallying their actual and estimated bills will confidently multiply the estimate by at least four or five. For example, take the Olympics. Estimated cost: £2.5 billion. Actual cost: £11 billion so far and climbing. When we apply this sort of coefficient to the £40 billion, before long we’ll be talking serious money, and much of it will be counterfeited by the printing press.

All in all, Dave and George are treading a path well-trodden by others some 75 years ago. I don’t wish to be branded an alarmist, but we do remember exactly where that path led. Of course, Dave is a more benign leader than Hitler, and a less intelligent one than Roosevelt. For all we know, and this is only a very remote possibility, he may actually believe the twaddle spouted by his economic advisers. 

Query those chaps, and they’ll talk your ear off explaining their charts, graphs, models and paradigms. If we believe them, before long we’ll all be marching to the soup kitchens, singing, ‘Brother, can you paradigm?’





Let’s hear it for a nation gone mad

France celebrated her national holiday yesterday, 14 July. On this day the mob stormed the Bastille, razed it and erected on the site what Robbie Burns described metaphorically as The Tree of Liberty.

Heard ye o’ the tree o’ France,

I watna what’s the name o’t;

Around the tree the patriots dance,

Weel Europe kens the fame o’t.

It stands where ance the Bastille stood,

A prison built by kings, man,

When Superstition’s hellish brood

Kept France in leading-strings, man.

Considering that on that day, 223 years ago, the Bastille kept just seven prisoners ‘in leading-strings, man’, which fell somewhat short of all of France, the poem was a bit of an overstatement. But then no one ever accused Auld Robbie of being a serious political analyst. The amazing thing is that the general sentiment reflected in the poem has become received thinking on the subject.

Do let’s get the facts right. That day, 14 July, 1789, inaugurated the worst politically inspired violence Europe had ever known. When the ideas of the Enlightenment were put into practice, Frenchmen, and their Scottish champion, thought they were handed liberty on a platter. But upon closer examination this piece of proverbial chinaware was instead found to contain a pile of severed heads.

First, the ruling class had to be democratically brought down a peg. Then the merchants had to be democratically dispossessed. Then the clergy had to have their property democratically confiscated. Then the army officers had to be democratically cashiered (violent hatred of the last two groups was one of Robespierre’s less endearing characteristics). Then the farmers had to have their crops democratically requisitioned.

And then they, along with many others whose sole crime was that Robespierre and his cronies didn’t like them very much, all met under the democratic guillotine. The latter went into high gear and ran up a score never before even approached by any authoritarian state not listing universal brotherhood among its desiderata.

The only people set free in the process were the rabble: free to murder, rape and plunder. Soon, however, the newly elected tool of the people’s power had to conscript the mob into the National Guard, so as to gain some control over it, while trying to counterbalance the old army that inclined towards scepticism about the advent of liberty, equality and fraternity. Almost overnight the country’s armed forces swelled from 100,000 or so to three times that number, and France fell under military control, which sooner or later was bound to produce a Napoleon.

In short, the country went mad. First she exterminated her upper classes, then set out to conquer the world, losing two million men in that deranged attempt, then brought the royalty and aristocracy back only to send them packing again a few years later. At that point the madness went from its acute to its chronic stage, but it has never been cured. Just count on the fingers of both of hands the types of government France has had in the last 223 years, including her five republics, assemblies, directories, dictatorships, empires and monarchies, and tell me that’s not mad.

All those fits of insanity were set off on the day France celebrates so effusively. Not all of France though. Last night, we and our French friends raised a glass to the Bourbons, a gesture that’s becoming increasingly common in this utterly confused republic. Also, one can’t help noticing that people with any claim to aristocratic titles flaunt their lineage much more energetically than do their counterparts in Her Majesty’s realm.

But our quiet toast to the last sane government of France was drowned in the blasts of fireworks exploding over this normally sleepy Burgundian village. ‘Rockets blasting in air,’ I thought, in reference to another event inspired by the Enlightenment. Obviously, most Frenchmen felt they had something to celebrate. Poor sods.




Anton Ferdinand found guilty of racism (by me only, I hasten to add)

John Terry has been acquitted of racial assault, and you’d think that’s it, case closed. Not according to Garth Crooks, latterly of Man U and Spurs, but nowadays of the Kick It Out campaign. According to him, ‘this isn’t the end of it.’

His fellow kick-it-outer Paul Elliott, a former Chelsea player, agrees: “[Terry’s case] highlighted the re-emergence of such issues [as racism in football] and we have to attack that with vigour, with education at the grassroots.”

Truer words have never been spoken. Myself a tireless campaigner for multiculturalism and political correctness, I too think that many vital issues have emerged during the trial. However, perhaps my take on the issues is different from that of Messrs Crooks and Elliot.

You see, the word ‘black’ that, according to the court verdict, Mr Terry used in self-defence only, wasn’t just grossly offensive to every progressive person (in my yesterday’s post I go so far as to suggest that this egregious adjective be banned altogether, regardless of how it’s used). It was also incorrect.

The Ferdinand brothers, or bruvvers as they prefer to call themselves, aren’t really black, which is fairly evident to anyone who has ever seen them. Their facial features and indeed the Pontone reference of their skin instantly identify them as half-white. That a person’s racial provenance should be identifiable at all is of course an affront to every principle I hold sacred, and in due course we ought to file a class-action suit against God, citing Drs Mendel, Morgan, Weissmann, Watson and Crick as co-respondents, all but one of them posthumously.

Still, however offensive this state of affairs is, it is nonetheless a fact. This was made plain yet again by the court appearance of Mrs Ferdinand, the mother of Anton and Rio. This very charming woman sported translucent white skin and a nice head of auburn hair, leaving one in no doubt of her racial origin. I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting the brothers’ father, but, even assuming he’s completely and laudably black, they are only half-black.

So why do they call themselves black, and not half-black or half-white? If they find the hyphenated words too cumbersome, why not call themselves white then? Of course they are free to choose one or the other half of their racial makeup, but one can’t help noticing that most half-casts both here and in the USA describe themselves as black, not white.

This smacks of reverse racism to me, and yet the issue never comes up, not even in the pronouncements of such prominent anti-racism campaigners as Messrs Crooks and Elliot. A suspicion begins to creep in that, given the choice, it pays to be black rather than white.

Thus Barack Obama won his first presidential term, and is likely to win the second, mainly on the glittering promise of becoming the first black president. Closer to home, centuries ago I worked at NASA, where one of my co-workers was a girl, oops, sorry, I mean a person, who had one black great-grandparent. To anyone with a modicum of mathematical nous this would mean that she was seven-eighths white. Yet she was described, and self-described, as ‘black’ in all her papers. Affirmative action being what it is, that self-designation made her practically unsackable, and Nancy wasn’t bashful about boasting about that to anyone willing to listen. I was one such willing listener for she was very good-looking, a quality that’s bound to make a female person a most welcome interlocutor.

In hindsight though it’s hard not to think, this time seriously, that regarding anyone with a particle of black blood as a black is sheer racism, not a million miles away from the Jim Crow variety formerly practised in the south of the United States. Having lived there for a number of years, I can testify that in those days the region had plenty of despicable, usually half-drunk roughnecks saying things like ‘a drop of tar, all nigger.’ I found that sort of thing disgusting then and I find it disgusting now.

So much more distressing it is to see the same mentality, if with a different spin, reappear these days in both the USA and Britain. Neither Mr Obama Sr nor Mr Ferdinand Sr produced offspring by parthenogenesis. There were human mothers involved in each case, and yet their humanity is being contemptuously dismissed. If this isn’t discrimination, I don’t know what is.

This brand of racism must also be ‘attacked with vigour’, to borrow Mr Elliot’s phrase. However, somehow one doubts that he’ll lead the attack. And neither will Mr Crooks take upon himself the onus of ‘education at the grassroots’.





So John Terry hasn’t been hanged, drawn and quartered

By acquitting John Terry of racial abuse, Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle of Westminster proved he doesn’t move with the times.

As a guardian of modernity in general and its politically correct language in particular, I’m aghast. John Terry, you’ll remember, inserted the chromatic adjective ‘black’ between the participle f…… and the noun c…, both described by the BBC as ‘extreme sexual swear words.’

This shows that even the BBC, a news organisation typically not only ready to join my crusade for political correctness but indeed eager to lead it, doesn’t understand the nature of the offence Terry didn’t commit. There’s nothing remotely offensive about the words ‘f……’ and ‘c…’, and neither epithet is extreme.

If you don’t believe me, stage this simple experiment. Drink 12 pints of beer if you’re a man or 12 vodka cocktails, preferably with whipped cream on top, if you’re a person. Then, if you’re a man, pull one skirt of your shirt out of your trousers or, if you’re a person, undo your blouse to show some skin below the bottom edge of your brassiere. For the experiment to be pure and statistically significant, there should be some dry or, ideally, fresh vomit on either garment.

Now scream the words ‘f……’ and ‘c…’ at the top of your voice in a public place of your choosing, such as a bus, street, stadium, church or political rally. You can use the words either together (‘Whatchu lookin at, you f…… c…?’ or any other rhetorical question along the same lines) or divided by other words (‘F…… Cameron is a c…’). To expand the experiment, the first word can even be used as an adverb (‘You f…… what, you c…?’)

These are just some sample uses, and you can let your imagination go way beyond this rough outline. The important thing is to enunciate the key words distinctly and loudly. After the specified amount of alcoholic refreshments, the second task is more easily achievable than the first, but mercifully both words are easy to get out, and even if you swallow a phoneme or two (‘Kin cu..), the nature of your utterance will be contextually comprehensible, especially if you prolong the vowel in the second word.

Proving my point that neither word is either offensive or extreme, no one is likely to take issue with your language, and even a policeperson, should one be within earshot, is likely to feign deafness. Thus it was neither one of the flanking words that landed Terry in the dock. In fact, at the risk of besmirching the sterling reputation Mr Terry shares with most of his colleagues, including those who speak English as a second language, one could venture a guess that he must have been overheard bellowing those words before, drawing no opprobrium and certainly no legal consequences.

No, the word that made the sentence culpable was the one in the middle: ‘black’. Now this word, ladies and gentlemen, undoubtedly is offensive, irrespective, in my unbiased opinion, of how it’s used. Terry’s barrister managed to get him off by claiming that Mr Ferdinand, the victim, had called Mr Terry ‘f…… b…. c…’ first, or else had accused Mr Terry of calling him ‘f…… b…. c…’, thereby forcing Mr Terry to repeat the words ‘f…… b…. c…’ in his indignant refutation: ‘Mr Ferdinand, how could you conceivably have intimated that an upstanding pillar of the community like me, a male person who avidly contributes to every b…. charity in Her Majesty’s realm, could possibly have referred to you as a ‘f…… b…. c…’?’

The fact that this refutation was delivered in the dying moments of an ill-tempered football match, and that neither those present nor subsequent lip readers detected any words preceding ‘f…… b…. c…’ doesn’t make the case for the defence any less airtight. Not being a legal male person myself, I’ll refrain from commenting on the legal aspects of the case. These are in any case secondary to the main point.

Which is that the word ‘b….’ must be made illegal, however it is used. There is always a possibility that someone may be offended by it, and offending persons of any faith, creed, religion, belief or colour must be avoided at all costs. Wasn’t that Washington D.C. politician made to apologise in 1999 for having used the word ‘niggardly’ in a speech? Yes, he was, and yet again we’re lagging behind the Yanks. To close the gap, the word ‘b….’ must be expurgated from our language and replaced with ‘nowt’, which stands for ‘not white’.

Thus, when talking to a friend on your Nowtberry in public, you’ll be made, on pain of severe legal repercussions, to talk about Nowtpool, nowt pudding, Nowt & Decker and so forth. If you choose, you may use the words ‘f…… c…’, especially in the plural, when talking about champions of political correctness. Like me.

The British army is ready for action – opportunity beckons

As you know, HMG in its wisdom is about to reduce the size of our army to 82,000. The claim is that this reduction will make the army more ‘flexible and agile’, which is to say more battle-worthy, which is to say better.

This new New Model army, or rather about 20 percent of it, is about to be put to an important test: protecting the Olympic Games from internal and external threat. The private contractor G4S originally undertook to provide a security force of 10,000 but has fallen 3,500 short, which deficit the British army will fill – in addition to the 13,500 soldiers it was going to deploy anyway.

For those of you who follow HMG’s history of reconciling estimated and actual numbers, a private contractor coming in under the estimate, as opposed to several times over it, must provide a refreshing change. For example, the original estimate of the overall cost for the Olympics was £2.5 billion. The actual cost already tips £11 billion, and it’s rising faster than you can say ‘incompetent spivs’.

But our government can redeem itself in my eyes and yours by taking advantage of a unique, if costly, opportunity to kill several birds with one stone. Let me outline the opportunity by following presentation techniques normally employed by successful salesmen. The first thing they do is sketch in front of the potential wide-eyed customer the dazzling prize he can win by buying what’s on offer.

So here’s my pitch. How would you, Ministers, like to achieve all these objectives in one fell swoop? First, you make Olympic security airtight. Second, you prove that its improved agility and flexibility have indeed made our army an even more formidable fighting force. Third, you improve the army’s morale no end. Fourth, you amortise the cost of the Channel Tunnel once and for all. Fifth, you settle, again once and for all, any problems that have arisen, or are ever likely to arise, between Britain and the EU. Sixth, you re-establish Great Britain as a world power. Six of the best for the price of one, what do you say? Sounds good, doesn’t it?

What, how it’s to be done? Glad you’ve asked that. So here it is, are you ready for it? First look at the situation. We are deploying a force of 17,000 highly trained, heavily armed soldiers in the London area, within striking distance – good phrase, isn’t it? striking distance, get it? – of the St Pancras International Terminal. In addition, we’ve also mobilised 7,500 private mercenaries provided by G4S – that’s 24,500 fighting men ready for action and backed up, among others, by its own missile force. And that’s not all: also available will be at least 30,000 policemen. Admittedly, not all of them have had weapons training – normally this isn’t needed for Britain is conspicuously lacking in violent criminals who can only be stopped with guns. But if they are all issued rifles and told how to slam a magazine in, release the safety, aim and pull the trigger, the policemen will instantly become a menace to any adversary.

Are you with me so far? We have, Ministers, a 54,500-strong force of fighters, bursting with testosterone and ready for anything within and without reason. Add to this as many or more reservists and TA enthusiasts, and we aren’t far short of the 119,000 strength of Wellington’s army at Waterloo. Do you get what I’m driving at? Are you excited? What, you want me to spell it out? Be happy to.

Once the Games are out of the way, with all those nasty terrorists thwarted in one way or another, we take this force to St Pancras, load them on Eurostar trains, add a few freight carriages full of tanks, cross the Channel, the English Channel, not their bloody La Manche, and take over France and Belgium first, the rest of the EU second. Given our new New Model’s army agility and flexibility, this will be a doddle, a walk in the park.

Just look again at our list of six objectives, Ministers, here it is. Which one of them wouldn’t be achieved if you were to act on this utterly sensible proposal? None of them, wouldn’t you say? Bet this is the best offer you’ve had for a long time. Three years short of two centuries, to be exact. What do you say? Where do we sign, is that not it? Here, let me countersign it. 

The uniquely English art is still alive, thanks to Annie Harrison

Everyone in Europe laughs at everyone else. Some, like the French and the Dutch, laugh at Belgians. The Russians laugh at Georgians. The Hungarians laugh at Romanians. The Spanish laugh at their Portuguese neighbours, and vice versa. Everybody laughs at Germans.

None of them, however, has the moral right to such mirth because they never pay the requisite price: laughing at themselves. The French, for example, take themselves extremely seriously, much as they love to have fun at everyone else’s expense.

For example, the French commentary on the Wimbledon final between Federer and Murray was one continuous giggle. Guy Forget and the other chap were laughing at everything: Murray’s facial expressions, his falls, Federer’s wife, British flag-waving fans, London weather, you name it. Yet their acute sense of humour was nowhere in evidence in the earlier rounds, when French players still remained in the draw. Then gravity was ousting levity, along, incidentally, with surnames. It was Jo-Wilfried this, Gilles that, Julien the other. Lopsided and scurrilous humour gave way to earnest and heart-felt affection.

The English and the Jews are the only people who deserve the right to laugh at others because they’re all too ready to laugh at themselves. As far as I know, Annie Harrison isn’t Jewish, but she’s definitely English, and in her new book The Oddball English she elevates the traditional English art to a height seldom scaled this side of P.G. Wodehouse and Noel Coward.

Her every line reminds us that humour can caress, not just cut. She laughs and we laugh with her, for once secure in the knowledge that no one is getting hurt. That’s not to say that Harrison’s humour lacks bite. It has plenty of it, but her teeth draw juice, not blood. Add to this her hawk-like eye, perfect aural pitch, a rare talent for social observation, inexhaustible imagination, and the book becomes irresistible.

But judge for yourself. When was the last time you laughed, and nodded agreement non-stop as if suffering from Parkinson’s, when reading a long list of anything? Well, let me tell you, Harrison could rewrite a phone directory in a way that would have you rolling on the floor.

Here are a few items from her very long list of those that sum up English aristocrats: ‘Golly gosh! frightfully posh; land-owning, fagging, shagging, debagging; the English summer season is quite exhausting; costly divorce, spring water bottled at source; Guards’ Polo, Savile Row, Ferragamo, Tally Ho!; po-faced, taxman-chased, showing hoi-polloi distaste; Sunday Times Rich List, in the Bullingdon Club getting pissed; old boys’ network, classical concert in one’s park’ – tell me where to stop.

English working class is described in the same vein: ‘Coronation Street, Heat, mechanically-reclaimed meat; England football team, slot machines, salad cream, lottery dreams; daytime TV, Page 3, Wii, KFC, WWE, QVC, OMG; The Royle Family, large plasma screen LG; mushy peas, where’s the rent money?; plastic front doors, soccer scores; bargain booze, white shoes, tattoos, stretch limo; cash for gold, Cheryl Cole, the dole; out on the razz with the lads; single mums, fairground fun, Blue Nun, The Sun; community hall, sod all; tool bags, WAGs, packet of fags; Blackpool, Margate, ‘It’s sorted, mate’; allotment shed, white sliced bread…’

Lest you might think that those in the middle were spared, rest assured – they weren’t: ‘Earl Grey, Coldplay, skiing in Verbier, latte, yay!; BUPA, brunch, credit crunch, meet for lunch; organic, balsamic, colonic; Prada bag (quality fake), cup cakes; Waitrose, Apple, Kindle, pension funds that dwindle; cashmere sweater, composter, Air Miles collector; ‘Do sign the guest book before you go’; antibacterial hand cleanse, having black friends; free range, climate change?; Rick Stein, large glass of wine, Jeremy Vine…’

And it’s not just the long lists one wishes were even longer. The book has sections on English food, sarcasm, xenophobia, speakin’ wiv a London accent – it’s England herself, in a couple of hundred pages. I bet Annie Harrison had a lot of fun writing this book – but not nearly as much as you’ll have reading it.

The Oddball English is for the time being only available on Kindle. By Harrison’s own criteria, this would make her middle class. By my criteria, people who can write so well can’t be pigeonholed within any social group; they’re always classless. This calls for another list, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps, but it would be very short indeed.