Right things at a wrong time

It’s funny how faith leaders start rediscovering their faith when they stop being leaders.

When he was still the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey did much to contribute to aggressive secularisation (if only by not resisting it robustly enough). Amazingly secularisation is still called ‘liberal’ whereas in fact it’s the exact opposite of that.

Now Lord Carey attacks Dave’s government in The Mail for ‘aiding and abetting this aggression every step of the way’. How true. And how much more weight such accusations would have carried had Lord Carey levelled them ex cathedra, say in 1999, when the previous lot of spivocrats were abusing Christianity in most egregious ways. Dave doesn’t call himself ‘heir to Blair’ for nothing.

Mind you, Carey’s first paragraph shows that he’s still sitting on the fence: ‘I like David Cameron and believe he is genuinely sincere in his desire to make Britain a generous nation where we care for one another and where people of faith may exercise their beliefs fully.’ But at least he’s now on the fence, rather than consistently remaining on its wrong side.

From then on, Lord Carey, now freed from the shackles of high office, says all the right things, which perhaps could suggest that he doesn’t like Dave as much as he professes.

Listed are such outrages as the government’s plan ‘to turn the 700-year-old Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi-faith prayer room so that gay couples can get married there.’ Homomarriage itself comes in for rough treatment, as Lord Carey is ‘very suspicious that behind the plans to change the nature of marriage, which come before the House of Lords soon, there lurks an aggressive secularist and relativist approach towards an institution that has glued society together from time immemorial.’

‘Suspicion’ is the political for ‘certainty’, and once a politician always a politician. But the situation is as dire as Lord Carey ‘suspects’. Dave is an oxymoronic modernising Tory, and such modernisation includes hatred of Christianity as an essential constituent. This ineluctably leads to distaste for all traditional institutions that collectively add up to what used to be called Christendom.

For just as Christ begat Christianity, Christianity begat Christendom, our ancient civilisation. That’s what the likes of Dave strive to modernise, which is the political for destroy. As far as they are concerned, Christian symbols which they are banning from public life don’t just transgress against other religions – they offend against the very essence of modernity.

Dave presumably hopes that the crucifix will be replaced by the blue rosette as the unifying symbol of what he calls modernisation. In fact it’s much more likely that the new dominant symbolism will be provided either by the crescent or the hammer and sickle or perhaps even a version of the swastika.

For, when Christianity goes, Christendom goes with it – the two are linked by an unbreakable umbilical cord. Christian civility, love of fellow man, sublime art, justice, charity will all have a door slammed in their face, just as another door will be flung wide-open to beastliness and barbarism.

But the event we’ll be celebrating tomorrow shows that death does not have to be final, that it’s possible to rise from the dead and start a new, higher life. This applies to Christ, Christianity – and we must all pray that it holds true for Christendom as well.

Happy Easter!















History is screaming parallels. Is anyone listening?

The 1929 stock market crash and the subsequent Great Depression left the American economy in dire straits. About 11,000 banks, half the total number, had failed. Unemployment stood at 25 percent. The ‘dust bowl effect’ had emptied farms.

Parallel 1: The US economy suffered a similar shock in 2008. Unemployment skyrocketed. Venerable financial institutions either collapsed or had to be rescued.  The motor trade, America’s pride, went bankrupt.

President Roosevelt instigated the New Deal, increasing state interference in the economy to an unprecedented level. Regulations multiplied, an alphabet soup of new state agencies were created. The printing press began to churn out banknotes, the gold standard was abandoned. Yet after an initial surge the economy began to suffer again.

Parallel 2: Following the 2008 financial crisis, the US administration became an even more active player in the economy. The state stepped in to bail out banks, financial institutions, industrial concerns. The Fed’s printing presses went into high gear.

Henry Morgenthau, Roosevelt’s Treasury Secretary, admitted before Congress that the New Deal had failed (no current politician would make a similar admission): ‘We have tried spending money,’ he commiserated. ‘We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. I say after eight years of this administration, we have just as much unemployment as when we started… And an enormous debt to boot!’ As a competent economist, Morgenthau knew that the economy was suffering from a chronic disease, not a temporary malady.

Parallel 3: For all its much-touted recovery, the USA is bankrupt: its liabilities exceed its assets. America’s $16.5-trillion debt now stands at 73 percent of annual GDP, not counting internal debts, such as the depleted Social Security trust fund. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the debt is on course to reach 93 percent within 10 years and nearly 200 percent in 25 years. Only Weimar-style hyperinflation would then be able to manage the debt, but the treatment would be even worse than the disease.

Roosevelt, though obviously a more benign politician than Hitler, reached the same conclusion: only a major war could correct the structural defects of the economy. Europe conflagrated in 1939, but there was no domestic consensus for America to join in. Hence Roosevelt hoped that either Germany or Japan, both aggressors of no mean attainment, would launch a pre-emptive strike, the sooner the better. To that end the US government suddenly froze all Japanese assets in American banks, simultaneously imposing an embargo on the export of oil. Japan’s foreign trade instantly shrank by 75 percent and her oil imports by 90 percent.

Parallel 4:  Operating either through the UN or unilaterally, the USA imposed crippling sanctions on North Korea, the most aggressive state in the world’s most vibrant region. On 7 March the UN approved fresh sanctions on Pyongyang; North Korea said this gave it the right to a ‘pre-emptive nuclear strike’ on the US and especially its Pacific and Korean bases.

Anticipating a Japanese strike, Roosevelt left Pearl Harbour, the US major naval base in the Pacific, defenceless. Realising that the next naval war would be fought in the air he withdrew the carriers from Pearl Harbour, leaving obsolete battleships as bait. Japan promptly struck, drawing America into a war that went on to solve her economic problems for decades to come.

Parallel 5: Yet to be drawn. However:

Annual military drills and fresh UN sanctions have angered North Korea, while recent US bomber overflights have made it see red.

State news agency KCNA announced that Kim Jong-un ‘judged the time has come to settle accounts with the US imperialists’. US actions, said Kim, represented an ‘ultimatum that they will ignite a nuclear war at any cost on the Korean Peninsula’.

On 12 December, 2012, North Korea launched a three-stage rocket, a UN-banned test of long-range missile technology.

On 12 February, North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test, its third after those in 2006 and 2009.

On 11 March, annual US-South Korea military drills began.

On 19 March,  B-2 and B-52 nuclear-capable bombers overflew the peninsula following several North Korean threats to attack US and South Korean targets.

On 20 March, South Korea was hit by a mysterious cyber attack, almost certainly launched by the North.

On 27 March, North Korea cut the military hotline with South Korea – the two countries are no longer on speaking terms.

On 28 March, B-2 stealth bombers overflew the Korean peninsula again, demonstrating, said US officials, an ability to deliver ‘precision strikes at will’. North Korean missile forces were put on stand-by.

According to Euclid, parallel lines can never meet; Lobachevsky showed how they could. In this instance, the clearly discernible parallels can only meet at a crucible of a major war, possibly to be fought with the kind of weapons that were barely tested the first time the USA found a quick way out of its economic difficulties.

Will they or won’t they? Let’s just hope that the time hasn’t come yet for Hilaire Belloc’s macabre forecast of decades ago to be proved right: ‘Like all our modern evils, this evil will not get better. It will get worse. The only remedy for modern evils is catastrophe.’



Oscar Wilde says Melvyn Bragg is a criminal

‘All crimes are vulgar, all vulgarity is a crime,’ declared Wilde through half a dozen of his protagonists (Oscar was ahead of his time in practising responsible recycling).

If we accept this definition of vulgarity, then Melvyn Bragg is a serial offender. By devoting his career to carrying ‘culture’ to the masses he has contributed to reducing everything to mass culture. The result is enduring, emetic, all-conquering vulgarity – just the ticket for the BBC and other broadcasters.

As his recent article in The Times testifies, Lord Bragg has now directed his attentions, unencumbered by any conspicuous knowledge of the subject, towards Christianity. He must have surmised correctly that vulgarity would be a deadlier weapon against it than hysterical hatred, à la Richard Dawkins.

Specifically he set out to correct all the wrongs the church has perpetrated upon women in general and Mary Magdalene in particular. To that end Bragg decamped for Israel, spent a couple of weeks there and solved all the mysteries by neatly blending Ernest Renan and Dan Brown with a dollop of anti-misogynist self-righteousness. The resulting concoction is revoltingly rancid, but then Bragg’s taste buds have atrophied by now, if he ever had them in the first place.

‘Was Mary Magdalene a saint or a prostitute?’ he asks in the first sentence, establishing his ignorance from the start to avoid any subsequent confusion on the reader’s part. Clearly, according to Bragg she could not have been both. Presumably he thinks saints don’t just imitate Jesus Christ – they are Jesus Christ, born without sin, untouched by the original Fall.

Elementary knowledge of Christian hagiography, not to mention history, shows this simply isn’t, nor can be, the case. People achieve sainthood by the grace of God and until they do they remain fallible and, quite often, fallen. St Augustine, for example, sowed a lot of wild oats in his youth, and quite a few other cereals as well. So did St Francis. St Margaret of Cortona was a right slapper as a girl. St Paul prosecuted Christians. St Peter betrayed Christ himself – thrice.

Such is the auspicious beginning of Bragg’s article. From then on it’s all either Renan or Brown, with a bit of Richard Dawkins to spice things up (though Bragg tries to dissociate himself from the latter’s ‘glib criticism’). Thus Bragg-Renan: ‘The gospels are – minus miracles – reasonably convincing accounts of a unique man.’ Thus Bragg-Brown: ‘…evidence may lead one to the conclusion that she [Mary Magdalene] was his [Jesus’s] wife.’ Thus Bragg-Dawkins: ‘[Pope Gregory’s] superb and effective act of misogynist propaganda.’ ‘Celibacy… has led the organised church into so many abuses and crimes and distorted lives.’

Gospels without miracles wouldn’t be gospels – they owe their very existence to a miracle, and Christ is ‘a unique man’ precisely because he isn’t just a man. To say that he is means accusing the evangelists of lying.

Bragg himself points out that the gospels ‘were written at a time when fictional, that is mythological, writing simply did not have this kind of detail.’ I wonder if he ever asked himself why. He probably didn’t, for the only persuasive answer would have been that the gospels, miracles and all, are true, and this answer would be unacceptable to an ideological atheist like Bragg. Well, he’s a Labour peer after all. Comes with the territory.

It’s not celibacy but the fallen state of man that has led some members of the ‘organised church’ (as opposed to a disorganised one?) to naughtiness. Yet clerical and monastic celibacy also focused men’s minds on serving God, rising above their collective and individual sinfulness.

As to Mary and Jesus having been an item, one wonders why Lord Bragg had to travel as far as Israel (sorry, Palestine – ‘Israel’ is only favoured by the BBC in negative contexts) to uncover the relevant evidence. He should have rung me instead and I would have recommended such unimpeachable sources as Holy Blood, Holy Grail and indeed The Da Vinci Code. Add to this a brief scan and loose interpretation of a couple of apocryphal gospels, and he could have saved the BBC the price of airfare.

It takes ignorance elevated to the level of worship to suggest that the entire history of the church has been devoted to suppressing the importance of women. Has Bragg actually read the gospels? If he had, he would have noticed that women, including Mary Magdalene, come across much better than men. St Mark’s gospel in particular holds women up as examples of true discipleship, contrasting their role to that of men.

Not only did Jesus first reveal himself to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, but she was also among the women who witnessed the crucifixion: ‘There were also women looking on afar off: among them was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome.’ Not so the male disciples: ‘And they all forsook him, and fled.’

In apostolic denominations the Virgin is worshipped side by side with her son, and Mary Magdalene, ‘the apostle to the apostles’, isn’t far behind. Misogyny? Personally, I think the church ought to be charged with misandry – and Bragg with what Oscar Wilde defined as a crime.











Do the French show us the way?

I spent last Saturday at a cross-party seminar featuring an alphabet soup of eurosceptic groups, each bristling with passion and leaflets.

Depending on the exact conduit of the passion and content of the leaflets, their ideas varied in detail but they were all united in, well, desperately seeking a referendum. I agreed with some, disagreed with others, but either way it was good to rub shoulders with likeminded individuals.

On Sunday morning we drove from our place in London to chez nous in north Burgundy. The plan was to stop in Paris for an early dinner and then, suitably lubricated, zip through the remaining 120 miles of the journey. That, however, wasn’t to be. North Paris was gridlocked by marchers protesting against same-sex marriage and, well, desperately seeking a referendum. France too has my likeminded individuals, I thought, veering off to Versailles.

Thus both London and Paris can pride themselves on having people who think as I do, albeit on different issues. But there was a salient difference between the two places.

In London my likeminded individuals, about 30 of them, met at a private club, perfectly civilised if fashionably integrated. In Paris my likeminded individuals, between 300,000 (official estimate) and 1,300,000 (unofficial one) of them, were out in the streets, braving police batons and tear gas. Much as I generally prefer the British way of tackling thorny issues, in this instance it was hard to escape the thought that perhaps the French were on to something.

For in both our countries, and possibly the rest of the West, the time for civilised discussion has passed. Those of the seminar attendees who talk about negotiating or renegotiating with the EU are clutching at straws, which as we know constitute the main ingredient of a pie in the sky.

For any negotiation to be meaningful it has to be conducted in good faith. This minimum requirement can never be met when Dave (or any other spivocrat) sits down to talk with Rumpy-Pumpy (or any other eurocrat). The spivocrat would be talking about repatriation of some powers, but his real concern will be the perpetuation of his own power, however curtailed by EU diktats. The eurocrat’s concerns would be essentially similar: the perpetuation and expansion of EU power and derivatively his own.

Cut as they are of the same cloth, the two parties would probably reach an agreement that would have enough PR appeal to mollify the restless natives, while strengthening the spivocrat’s electoral position. He could then do a Neville Chamberlain by stepping off the plane and waving a piece of paper promising something or other in our time.

Both the spivocrat and the eurocrat would know that at best the piece of paper would mean a temporary diversion, a bone tossed to the British electorate off the EU table. The electorate will gnaw on the bone for a while and, when there’s no more gristle left on it, will dump it into the bin on top of other similar bones already piled up.

None of the ideas kicked about at the seminar sounded as if they would work, and indeed their enunciators themselves distinctly lacked conviction. For what is at fault isn’t the transfer of this or that piece of sovereignty from London to Brussels – it’s the cosmic philosophical, moral, and therefore political, shift that made any such transfer possible or indeed thinkable in the first place.

‘Let’s not forget that the EU has done some good things,’ said one of the speakers, he of the Labour persuasion. Well, I for one can’t see a single one, and the venerable gentleman offered nothing to clarify my vision. Even had he done so, by mentioning some minuscule advantage brought by the EU, everyone present would still have agreed that the minuses far outweighed the pluses.

What some of them may not have realised is that the whole weighing exercise is spurious. The problem with the EU isn’t that it’s incompetent and not even that it’s undemocratic – the problem is that it’s based on evil premises, pursues evil ends and employs evil means. It is evil.

Hitler built those autobahns and put Volkswagens on them, Mussolini made the trains run on time, Stalin fixed the price of bread and vodka. Their apologists may mention those achievements till they’re blue in the face, but that would be missing the main point: those men and their regimes were evil. So is the EU.

Its purpose is to throw all European nations into a giant crucible and boil the mix into a uniform stew that would nonetheless accentuate whatever is rancid in each ingredient. The scum, ruthless bureaucrats with totalitarian aspirations, would rise to the surface of the amorphous concoction, and the stew would no longer be visible underneath. The bureaucrats’ power would then solidify for centuries.

Negotiate with this lot? But of course – if what we really want is to hasten their triumph. Munich, Teheran, Yalta, Potsdam (and the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, to mention a more recent example) should all act as reminders that totalitarians can use any treaty, whatever its ostensible content, to advance their own aims.

Nor is there any value to thinking that our self-serving nonentities, all those Cameroons and Milibandits, can possibly get a reasonable deal out of the EU even if – and it’s a massive if – we get a referendum and win it.

If we want Britain to get out of the EU, we must first get that lot out of Westminster. In the absence of any difference, as opposed to distinction, between the two main parties, even millions of votes cast this or that way won’t achieve this aim. But millions of people in the streets might.

Such rallies, ‘manifs’ as the French call them, never happen by themselves – they are carefully planned and meticulously organised. The group now in existence that has the public presence and authority to unite such organisation under its aegis is UKIP, the only one of the four main parties that calls for outright withdrawal from the EU.

The energies of other eurosceptic groups ought to be channelled into either building up the financial, electoral and communication strength of UKIP or coming together into another single group they feel could do the job better.

The chances of UKIP forming a government in the next several parliaments are slim. Its chances of reshuffling the political cards by renationalising the British political discourse are much stronger, and this, as things look now, is our only chance.

There’s so much more I could tell you about this, but I’m pressed for time. There’s a thick wad of leaflets I’ve got to read.













Another one bites the dust

Boris Berezovsky’s death may remain ‘unexplained’ in the language of the investigating police officers. But this side of forensic certainty there’s no shortage of explanations, speculations and theories.

Most of them centre around the possibility that Berezovsky was, in the language of his nemesis Putin, ‘whacked’ – this even though the body was found in the bathroom and not in ‘the shithouse’ that figured so prominently in Putin’s threats. 

So did Putin ‘whack’ Berezovsky or didn’t he? Some say he did, some say he didn’t. However, no one says he couldn’t possibly have done, and ultimately this is what really matters.

Intelligence officers are trained to think that, if coincidences number more than two, they’re no longer coincidences. Regarding the event in that light, one has to observe that the British climate seems to be perilous for Putin’s enemies, while it’s more sparing of his friends and acolytes, such as Abramovich.

In 2006, for example, the high content of radioactive substances in London’s air did for Col. Litvinenko, though that time few claimed his death was ‘unexplained’. In 2008, Berezovsky’s partner Badri Patarkatsishvili, 52, died ‘from a suspected heart attack’ in Surrey, and surely a competent post mortem could have pinpointed the cause of death more precisely. Also in Surrey Alexander Perepelichny, 44, died while jogging last November. ‘His death,’ say the papers, ‘remains a mystery’, although Perepelichny’s planned testimony at a money-laundering trial could perhaps demystify matters a bit.

In all these instances Putin had not only a motive but also the means, for there’s little doubt that such a scientifically and technologically advanced country as Russia is capable of inducing heart attacks that look natural. So did Putin kill Patarkatsishvili, Perepelichny and Berezovsky (we know as near as damn he had Litvinenko ‘whacked’)? I don’t know. But he could have done.

Such a distinct possibility delivers yet another crushing blow to today’s useful idiots who point out that Russia has changed, presumably for the better. True enough, unlike his predecessors Lenin and Stalin, Putin ‘whacks’ his victims by the dozen, not by the million. But then the same could be said about his predecessors Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov – so were they democrats as well?

Fundamentally, what Reagan described as ‘an evil empire’ may now be less imperial than in the past, but it’s no less evil. Once we’ve established that, the number of its victims becomes a purely actuarial matter.

Evil regimes don’t necessarily murder millions – but they can. The differences between institutional ability and numerical fact are all purely tactical. Such regimes murder as many as they need to: dozens if that’s what it takes, millions if that’s what’s required.

For example, in the first few years of his rule Hitler kept his score sheet several orders of magnitude lower than what he ran up in the subsequent few years. Did he suddenly become more evil? Of course he didn’t. Hitler didn’t change; the situation did.

Be that as it may, I’m hard-pressed to find it in my heart to mourn Berezovsky. Nil nisi bonum… and all that, but in his heyday Berezovsky was exactly what the title of Paul Klebnikov’s book said he was: ‘Godfather in the Kremlin’.

(Incidentally, by way of literary criticism the author himself was in 2004 gunned down in central Moscow. Putin’s colleagues immediately spread the rumour that Klebnikov, Forbes bureau chief, was killed by a jealous husband. Two jealous husbands apparently, for there were two submachine guns involved in the drive-by shooting.)

Such people sow the wind and they reap the whirlwind. Berezovsky in particular went much further than most other gangsters tend to do. Typically, these gentlemen cultivate political contacts as a way of protecting their business interests. Berezovsky and Abramovich reversed the process: they used their ill-gotten cash to run the country, more or less.

Both men, then loyal partners, called the shots within the Yeltsyn camarilla, as the president was drinking himself to death. Having used Berezovsky’s media empire to re-elect Yeltsyn against overwhelming odds (his approval rating was a mere six percent going into the campaign), the partners essentially appointed the cabinet. And it was Berezovsky who engineered Putin’s ascent to the Kremlin.

‘The godfather’ thought the obscure KGB colonel would be putty in his hands. Inadvertently but predictably, once the figurine was moulded it turned into a monster capable of devouring its creator. Abramovich, his nose of beagle sensitivity, realised this, which is why he’s still thriving in the London climate, his billions intact. But Berezovsky’s olfactory sense was too dulled by hubris.

So he died. Whether he killed himself, died of a heart broken by loss of power and wealth or was murdered is immaterial. Berezovsky tried to fight the monster of his own creation and died in the attempt.

One can only hope that his death will help our useful idiots to become less idiotic, to learn to recognise monsters for what they are. Mind you, I’m not holding my breath.  







Home truths and House lies

Next door to us there’s a small Italian restaurant we call ‘home away from home’. Whenever I feel too lazy to cook we pop over for a plate of fresh but inexpensive pasta, a glass of wine and a chat with the owner.

Yet we and our neighbours didn’t do this often enough, for yesterday the owner told me he was closing down. ‘How much would it take to keep going?’ I asked.

‘Sacchi di soldi,’ he said, and then translated, ‘A lot.’ ‘What’s a lot?’ ‘Well, we need to advertise, hire more staff…’ ‘How much, Mario?’ I pleaded, cutting to the chase. ‘Oh, a quarter-million or so,’ sighed Mario wistfully.

‘Not a problem,’ I answered, whipping out my chequebook. ‘Here, you can pay me back later…’

I’ve just told a lie. I didn’t give Mario £250,000 – I don’t have it to give. The only way I could possibly have bailed Mario out would have been either to start an illegal counterfeiting operation or re-mortgage the house.

Occasional speeding apart, I don’t do illegal, and a new mortgage would reduce me to penury. So I just shook Mario’s hand and wished him good luck.

Judging by his new budget, George ‘Subprime’ Osborne doesn’t have similar qualms about the national economy. His scale is obviously larger, but he’s doing exactly what I was reluctant to do: he takes on ruinous debts, then counterfeits money to pay them (or not, as the case usually is).

Unlike Adam Smith, George and his likeminded thinkers don’t believe housekeeping principles apply at the macro level of national economy. Here’s a typical statement by Samuel Brittan, the FT economics guru: ‘Since my undergraduate days, I have been pointing out that a government budget is not the same as that of an individual…’ He is right about that; it’s not, not these days. That’s precisely the trouble.

Nor do this lot learn from even recent history. Otherwise they’d cast a quick look at the 2008 crisis (that’s still with us) and ask themselves what were its immediate causes.

Let’s see. Bill Clinton and the Federal Reserve system decided to do a Thatcher and promote wider property ownership. To that end they kept interest rates artificially low, while encouraging, bribing and coercing banks to offer a subprime mortgage to anyone asking for it.

The assumption based on nonexistent and counterintuitive evidence was that property prices would defy gravity by only ever going up. Yet in short order prices began to stagnate, inflation beckoned and the Fed in its wisdom quadrupled interest rates overnight.

A deluge of defaults ensued, the property market collapsed, so did other markets, so did some venerable banks, so did the rest of our securely globalised world… Now if you were our Chancellor, what lesson would you learn from this?

Here’s the lesson George has learned, and I bet it’s different from yours. Having inherited an economy severely compromised by Labour’s suicidal spending and borrowing, so far George’s shilly-shallying accompanied by cheap PR stunts has done nothing to improve the situation. His response is to follow the US model – not of getting out of trouble but of getting into it.

George will continue to keep interest rates low, while using the public purse to underwrite 95-percent mortgages, mostly for first-time buyers. This, he says, will stimulate the housing market, and no doubt it will. Then what?

The public purse is worse than empty – it’s saddled with debt approaching 90 percent of our GDP. The cost of servicing this debt already equals our defence budget, and anyone who studied economics for five minutes knows that this sort of thing is unsustainable. What will you use for money, George?

This is where the Canadian wizard Mark Carney, the newly appointed Bank of England Governor, comes in. When he takes over in three months, he’ll push the button on the old printing press and put it into a high ‘queasing’ gear, piling billions on top of the 375 of them already counterfeited… sorry, injected into the economy to such a resuscitating effect.

Generally speaking I refuse to don Cassandra’s mantle, for fear of looking silly if my predictions don’t come true. This time, however, I’m fairly confident.

The first whammy of George’s one-two, cheap and easily available loans, will boost the demand for properties and it’ll quickly outstrip the supply. Prices will skyrocket, and mortgage sizes along with them. Having reached the new plateau, there the prices will more or less stabilise, for Newton showed that nothing can go up indefinitely.

When the second whammy belches out another couple of hundred billion in counterfeit cash, inflation will climb, further boosted by the rise in property values. Visions of Weimar, street battles and wheelbarrows full of banknotes will flash before our spivocrats’ eyes. Even they will know that hyperinflation would have to be prevented at all cost.

The only way of doing so would be to make money more expensive, that is to raise interest rates. Suddenly mortgage repayments will at least double, a spate of defaults will follow and you know what’ll happen next – 2008 all over again.

So why is George, egged on by Dave, doing this? It’s not an economics textbook but the calendar that provides the answer.

Our spivocrats are gambling on the timing of the boom and bust. They hope that the former will come before the 2015 election and the latter after it. If this pans out, the Tories just may be re-elected, and that’s what politics is all about, isn’t it?

And you know what’s really scary? The other lot are even worse.



Germany should learn about economic miracles from Cyprus

Back in the 1950s Germany’s economy did a Phoenix by rising from its RAF- and SAC-produced ashes. This rags to riches story is often referred to as ‘the economic miracle’ (Wirtschaftswunder for short as I, unable to conceal my admiration for the morphology of the German language, always add).

They call that a miracle? Really. What’s miraculous about it? A miracle is something one doesn’t understand, something solely attributable to supernatural forces. Germany’s recovery, on the other hand, is an illustration to basic economics taught in the first year at every decent university.

Konrad Adenauer and his economics advisor (later the Federal Republic’s Economics Minister, then Chancellor) Ludwig Erhard exceeded their authority under the law imposed by the occupying powers. Rejecting the Keynesian practices mandated by the Anglo-Saxons, Erhard freed up the economy in one fell swoop by removing price controls and introducing a stable currency.

He took that plunge on a Sunday, when American and British Keynesians had a day off and were thus in no position to stop him, as they surely would have done on any other day of the week. At the same time, Adenauer and Erhard told the Germans in no uncertain terms that there would be no huge deficit spending on a Bismarck-type welfare state, not in the immediate future at any rate.

This would come when the economy got up on its feet. Until then the Germans were told to tighten their belts, work hard and count their pfennigs. The ploy worked to perfection, and within a few years of low inflation and rapid industrial growth the country climbed to the economic summit where it has more or less stayed to this day.

Hence there was nothing miraculous about it at all – just applying the values and practices of good housekeeping to a national economy, something our FT analysts insist we must never do. Now if you want to know what a real economic miracle is, answer this question: which foreign country is the biggest investor into the Russian economy?

Is it a) China, b) the USA, c) Germany? The answer is d) none of the above. By far the greatest influx of foreign capital into Russia comes from Cyprus, a country of 1.1 million population whose economy, one is led to believe, isn’t exactly shipshape.

According to Rosstat, Russian state statistics agency, in 2011 alone Cyprus-based businesses invested £52 billion in Russia. That is almost four times Cyprus’s GDP, and surely Russia isn’t the only conduit for the Cypriots’ enterprising spirit.

The spirit is formidable. No other country has ever managed to invest abroad several times the amount of wealth it produces. In fact, those cynics among you who don’t believe in miracles might question these data.

‘O ye of little faith…’ as St Matthew once wrote, in Greek as it happens. The information is absolutely kosher, to borrow a term from another Abrahamic religion.

The cynics should take their cue not from economics but from biochemistry, specifically from the circulation of oxygen in nature. Plants and animals breathe in oxygen and exhale it to the air and water as carbon dioxide (CO2). Algae and green plants then take the CO2 and convert it into carbohydrates, with oxygen being a by-product. The world lives on.

For plants and animals, read Cyprus. For oxygen, read the flow into Cyprus of the ill-gotten money of Russian ‘businessmen’ and ‘politicians’ (all their money is ill-gotten by definition). For CO2, read reinvestment into the Russian ‘businesses’ that had produced the ill-gotten gains. For by-product oxygen, read more money then laundered again through Cyprus banks.

This is a bright example of how one science can elucidate another, a bit like physics and metaphysics or else philosophy and theology. In fact, it’s to theology that we must turn next to understand the Cypriots’ eagerness to act as a player in a game that is proscribed by criminal laws in just about every country on earth.

For there is an authority much higher than men’s law. Both Cyprus and Russia are Orthodox, and it must be their denominational solidarity that accounts for this show of Christian cooperation, so rare in our heathen times. Surely there can be no other explanation? And if you think there is, it’s you who are heathen (I know I am, at least in this context).

Now imagine the same story unfolding in countries that are less devout, say Germany and Luxembourg. What if it became public knowledge that tiny Luxembourg is by far the greatest foreign contributor to Germany’s on-going Wirtschaftswunder?  One can’t help thinking that the questions asked under such circumstances would be somewhat more probing than those posed about Cyprus and Russia.

Even as we speak, the Cyprus finance minister is in Moscow, doing an Oliver Twist. Please, Comrades, can we have more? All in the spirit of Orthodox solidarity of course. ‘More!?!’ scream the Russians, scaring the poor lad out of his wits. ‘What’s in it for us?’ they demand in the same Christian spirit.

What’s in it for them is the possibility of acquiring a Mediterranean colony, complete with sizeable gas reserves, but then I already suggested this a couple of days ago. So I’m sure the Russians will come round one way or the other.













Socialists, Christian socialists and the BBC

For purely medical reasons I hardly ever listen to Radio 4 – their usual vulgar, pea-brained, heavily biased twaddle is contraindicated for hypertensives.

There are aesthetic reasons as well, for it’s my conviction that serious issues ought to be discussed at depth or not at all. Discussed the BBC way, they are at best vulgarised and at worst falsified.

But the title of their programme Lenin in Letchworth caught my eye and I did listen to it. I must say I was pleasantly surprised.

It’s not that the programme wasn’t shallow, biased and vulgar – it was all those things, for the BBC can do no other. But at least they did mention, albeit at the very end, that Lenin mustn’t be confused with Dr Schweitzer or Mother Theresa. They even went so far as to quote Lenin’s order to hang kulaks (industrious peasants) publicly, pour encourager les autres.

Such quotes run the risk of undermining the dominant conviction among our ‘liberals’, emphatically including the BBC staff, that nastiness in the Soviet Union only started with Stalin. Lenin, on the other hand, was a sincere, if possibly misguided and slightly too energetic, champion of the poor, a bit like Jesus.

Apart from that one quotation, it was business as usual. The programme mulled over the hypothetical possibility that Lenin might have visited Letchworth during the 1907 Fifth Congress of the Russian Socialist Party held in London.

The implication was that Lenin was acutely interested in the same bien-pensant agenda that drove Edwardian socialists like Ebenezer Howard or GB Shaw. The former was largely responsible for creating eyesore abominations called ‘garden cities’, of which Letchworth was the first and the truly hideous Milton Keynes the last, or at least one hopes so.

The programme’s general attitude towards socialism, either Christian or Edwardian, was typically sympathetic, and it was at pains to contrast Lenin’s ‘shaft of steel’ approach to ‘the transformation of the human spirit’ with GBS’s ‘soft, gentle’ idea of ‘creating a new world’.

This demarcation is both essential and comforting to BBC socialists, which is to say the BBC staff. The trouble is, it’s utterly false.

The difference between Soviet Leninists and British socialists is that the former managed to grab total power and the latter so far haven’t, although, as their current attack on free press shows, they appear to be well on the way. This explains what the programme referred to as ‘the difference in means’.

Had Shaw and his friends seized power in Britain, they would have perpetrated all the same monstrosities and possibly worse. Lenin, after all, didn’t suggest that all old people should be culled because they outlived their usefulness, and Shaw did: ‘Undesirables should be killed for the good of the whole’.

(It’s comforting to see how euthanasia is steadily moving towards the forefront of our ideas on improving the NHS – one can’t open the papers these days without reading laments about all those wrinklies undermining the otherwise unimpeachable socialised medicine.)

Along with the whole Bloomsbury set, Shaw admired not only Lenin and Stalin, but also their fellow socialists Mussolini and Hitler. But he reserved his warmest feelings for the Soviets. This is what he declared upon visiting Stalin’s Russia in the middle of the artificially caused 1931 famine that killed 15 million recalcitrant peasants:

‘It is a real comfort to me, an old man, to be able to step into my grave with the knowledge that the civilisation of the world will be saved. It is here in Russia that I’ve actually been convinced that the new Communist system is capable of leading mankind out of its present crisis, and saving it from anarchy and ruin.’

Radio 4 doesn’t quote such pronouncements by Shaw and other British socialists for this would make it harder to preach its belief in what the programme called ‘a different understanding of socialism.’ The understanding is the same, chaps, it’s the country that’s still slightly different.

Nor did the programme find anything wrong with Christian socialism, an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one. Christianity is in fact the exact opposite of socialism, not its religious expression.

Socialism is by definition materialistic and therefore atheist. The likes of Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the ‘garden city’ movement, and Rev. J Bruce Wallace, the driving force behind the creation of Letchworth, were engaged in social engineering, pure and simple. Their garden cities sprang from the same ideology as today’s council estates; they reflected the collectivist, socialist idea of how people ought to live.

What Radio 4 called a ‘new way of living’ is in fact the old idea of changing human nature in line with a set of preconceived ideas. Such attempts will always fail not because the execution is inept but because the underlying idea is evil. Unfortunately though, wherever such attempts are made in earnest they only fail after millions have had to die.

Other than drawing our attention to the commendable ideology behind ‘garden cities’, one wonders what exactly was the point of Lenin in Letchworth. Vitali Vitaliev, the Russo-English writer who is himself a resident of Letchworth sums it up neatly: ‘One thing I can say is that I don’t care a damn if Lenin, Hitler or another murderer and tyrant had visited Letchworth. If he indeed did and liked it, it is disturbing!’ Hear, hear.







Germany attacks Russia – run for the hills

The proposed raid on bank deposits in Cyprus is highway robbery, and only lazy commentators have failed to describe it as such.

The description is fair: from 6.75 to 9.9 percent of people’s money held in Cyprus will be summarily confiscated. And 100 percent of those deposits have been sequestered until the confiscation has taken place, which wise measure renders account holders unable to do anything about it. In parallel, and even industrious commentators mostly missed this, capital gains tax in Cyprus will be hiked 2.5 times, adding up to a crushing double whammy.

The question is why the ECB and IMF, which is to say Germany, made this raid a precondition for the bailout of Cyprus? After all, they were more lenient when bailing out Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. Why single out Cyprus for rough treatment?

The answer is obvious: Cyprus is a floating refuge and laundromat for dirty Russian money. The exact amount of Russian cash held in Cypriot banks is hard to assess because much of the capital is fictitiously held by local proxies. Also, huge amounts come into Cyprus but only stay long enough to be rubbed clean before returning to their country of origin.

Of the available estimates the figure of around £40 billion sounds the most plausible. It’s thanks to this that Cypriot banks hold deposits equalling about eight times the country’s GDP.

Even more virtuous countries than Russia would translate economic domination into political leverage, and Russia has naturally done this. But it’s more than just about exerting influence on Cypriot politics – potentially the Russians hope to gain the elusive prize they’ve been pursuing since the late 16th century: a foothold on the Mediterranean.

To capture that prize Russia fought Turkey 13 times between 1568 and 1918, with Russia emerging victorious more often but never succeeding in achieving her historic aim. This pursuit was always in the back or even the forefront of the Russians’ mind in all their wars, those involving not just Turkey but also Britain, France – and Germany.

In the last 100 years Germany and Russia fought twice. The first time, in 1914-1918, both sides lost, and – more important – so did the rest of Europe. This regardless of which side offered or accepted surrender.

For as a result both countries fell to the most satanic regimes in history, with awful and predictable consequences for themselves and the world. Part of the reason Germany and Russia could inflict such damage the second time around is that initially they joined forces. Mutual hostility came later, but before they fell out on 22 June, 1941, the two totalitarian brothers had got on famously.

Their friendship was partly ideological, but mostly strategic. Germany wouldn’t have built up her military muscle without a steady supply of Russian raw materials, nor would Russia have created the most formidable military machine in history without German technology, know-how and credits.

While still friends, the two regimes signed several treaties, some publicised, some secret, effectively dividing Europe between themselves. It was as allies that they attacked Poland, with the Russians getting into the act when it was still touch and go.

The Poles had managed to regroup, with their army group forming a strong defensive perimeter on the Vistula. The Germans, after the initial success of their blitzkrieg, were getting bogged down, partly because their munitions, especially aircraft bombs, were running perilously low.

The Russians kindly replenished the stock of German bombs (a service they later provided during the Battle of Britain) and then, for good measure, attacked Poland from the east, ending the conflict. The two predators divided both Poland and the rest of Europe between them, a cosy relationship that lasted for about two years.

Germany then attacked Russia in what the Nazis claimed, and all serious historians now accept, was a preemptive strike – recently uncovered documents show that Hitler beat Stalin to the punch by only a few weeks. In the ensuing conflict the two countries lost about 40 million people between them, but this time both emerged as strategic winners: Russia gained half the world, and Germany was launched on the road to economic domination of Europe.

However, for all her de facto and de jure territorial gains, Russia still failed to get entrenched on the Mediterranean: this was where the suicidally obliging Roosevelt and Churchill drew the line.

The German raid on Russian money in Cyprus (to call a spade a spade) is ostensibly perceived in Russia as a direct attack. Putin immediately described it as  ‘unfair, unprofessional and dangerous’, but one can almost see his eyes light up.

For, unlike the previous German attack, this one can conceivably turn Russia into a Mediterranean power. Gazprom, the world’s biggest producer of natural gas, has already offered to restructure Cyprus’s debt in exchange for exclusive exploration rights on the island. The Russians are also prepared to underwrite the whole bailout for the right to use a naval base on the island.

I don’t know how this whole thing will end – only a handful of men do and they aren’t talking. It’s highly unlikely though that the Germans didn’t consider the Russian angle before launching their confiscatory raid. Yet they pressed ahead, which raises all sorts of possibilities.

Could it be that yet another deal between Germany and Russia has been struck? After all, historically the two countries have demonstrated their ability to conclude secret treaties whose ramifications become known only decades later. The 1922 Rapallo Treaty, the 1926 Treaty of Berlin, the 1939 Non-Aggression Pact and Treaty of Friendship all had their secret protocols that left the rest of the world none the wiser.

With the German federal election coming on 22 September, and Merkel’s victory far from guaranteed, it’s hard to imagine her government undertaking such a hugely controversial measure at this time. After all, a catastrophic run on banks in the entire eurozone is a very possible consequence.

It’s not unimaginable that the proposed raid is but a diversion manoeuvre. With the tensions reaching breaking point, Col. Putin will ride in on a white steed and save the day. Germany won’t have to pay up, Merkel will win another term – and Putin will achieve what the tsars and the commissars failed to do: establish Russia on the Mediterranean.

This is of course mere speculation. But the propensity for underhand, backstage dealing in both the EU and Russia leaves much room for educated guesses. Anyway, we’ll know for sure in a few days.





No need for a royal charter, comrades!

These days I often find myself out of my depth trying to understand how Britain is governed.

The upcoming vote on press regulation is one such occasion – I simply can’t get my head around the maddening complexity of the issues involved. Mercifully I can rely on my good Russian friend Mr (formerly, and in his heart still, Comrade) I.L. Kutchaheadoff to sort me out.

I.L. happens to be in town this week, to approve the British advertising campaign for his new Russo-Anglo-Italian bank Londra Unlimited. A keen connoisseur of all Indo-European languages, Comrade Kutchaheadoff has misgivings about the proposed slogan: Londra for your money.

Yesterday he met with the advertising agency at a Mayfair casino where my friend spends most of his time whenever he’s in London. ‘Doesn’t Londra sound like laundry?’ he asked while putting £100,000 on red. ‘I’ve heard of truth in advertising, but this is ridiculous.’

‘Londra means London in Italian, that’s all,’ argued the creative director. ‘It conveys the international nature of the organisation.’ The red came up, which put I.L. in a jovial mood. ‘I don’t know, lads,’ he beamed happily. ‘Mull this over, will you? If the campaign doesn’t work, you’ll become structural elements in my new office tower, currently under construction. You know this, I know this, my partner Vlad Putin knows this.’

By association this reminded Comrade Kutchaheadoff that he still hadn’t returned to me with his ideas on press regulation. He turned to his secretary/bodyguard/mistress Svetlana Putitin and began dictating:

‘Comrades Cameron, Miliband and Clegg! Your collective heart is in the right place, but you’re overcomplicating the issue. And anyway, “Royal Charter” sounds like a tour operator – you don’t want this ambiguity.

‘My good friend and partner Vlad Putin likes to keep things simple, and he shows you the way. In our country every journalist is free. No one restricts his freedom in any way. He’s free to write – in his own words! – whatever Vlad wants him to write. And Vlad is free to choose among various means of protecting this freedom: shooting, beating, defenestration – you name it, total freedom of choice all around.

‘Everyone understands how the bone crumbles, no need to wash your Londra – I mean laundry – in public. Hell, there we go again. Don’t write this down, Svetlana, but this bloody name just won’t work for my bank, not in this country. Not yet anyway.

‘Give you an example. Last year this defence reporter at Kommersant abused his freedom by publishing a piece about us sending missiles to Comrade Assad on the sly. And what do you know, he got so upset when he realised what he’d done that he threw himself out of the window with so much force he took the window frame down with him.

‘Now we in Russia have a different culture, I appreciate that. But you’re coming round to our way of thinking, which is good. What you don’t need is all this glasnost. It’s not our cup of vodka, and it shouldn’t be yours either.

‘Just let your ministers and newspaper owners meet for a drink at a public house – did you know this means ‘brothel’ in my country? – and work out an understanding. Oh by the way, just thought of a funny one. What do you get if Conrad Black buys The Mail? The Black Mail, that’s what. But enough of this Levety. As in Leveson, geddit?

‘The understanding can be as simple as sturgeon pie. As the ministers are all legislators, they can lay down the law, isn’t that the idea? So they say to the hacks, you undertake to publish what we tell you and there won’t be any need for undertakers.

‘Now isn’t that beautifully simple? Happiness all around, no need for press regulators, royal charters and all that nonsense. But hey, I’m no stick in the mud. I understand you English can’t live without forming yet another government agency. So here’s an idea for you.

‘Comrade Cameron’s defence policy leaves no room for the SAS, so what do you do with all those unemployed chaps? You turn them into press regulators, that’s what. They have all the right training already. We did this with our ex-Spetsnaz, and it worked gangbusters.

‘This way everyone does what he’s trained to do. Legislators legislate, reporters report, observers observe, guardians guard, ex-SAS regulate. We become like you, you become like us – perfect foundations for lasting peace.

‘Oh well, got to run. There’s this Londra business to sort out. Keep up the good work, Comrades. And don’t worry about Parliament. Next time I’ll teach you how to make sure good people never cast bad votes.’