Law and ordure

Quite a few years ago I found myself talking at a party to a young Dutch woman who worked for the UN.

Since both of us had lived in the USA for many years, the conversation veered towards that country, specifically its legal system.

“America’sh legal shyshtem is rayshisht,” said the young lady in fluent but accented English. “Mosht people in prisonsh aren’t white.”

“Well,” I said meekly, and I should have known better, “racism is certainly one possible explanation.”

“What other ekshplanation can there be?” demanded the UN employee in a tone that was rather the opposite of meek.

In for a penny in for a pound, I thought. “It may be that they commit more crimes,” I said, which made the young lady glower and move away from me diagonally across the room. We never spoke again at the party and haven’t since, even though her brother is a friend of mine.

I’m reminded of that incident every time there is a highly publicised case of a black person either executed or imprisoned in America. For most commentators, both there and here, proceed from the Dutch girl’s assumptions.

An article in today’s Times is a case in point. Its title is Texas Accused of Racism as Black Woman Dies, and implicitly the author feels the accusation isn’t unfounded.

All he says about the crime punished in such a racist way is that “McCarthy, who was black, was convicted in 2002 of stabbing to death a 71-year-old white neighbour five years earlier.”

That’s the truth, but it’s not the whole truth. For in this instance, as in so many others, the devil is in the detail.

Since we aren’t in a courtroom here, Miss McCarthy’s criminal record is admissible, and it does suggest she led a rather uninhibited life. Specifically, she was addicted to crack, which could be an expensive habit. McCarthy’s attempts to finance it resulted in a string of convictions for forgery, theft and prostitution.

On July 21, 1997, McCarthy asked a neighbour, a retired academic Dorothy Booth, if she could borrow some sugar.

Once inside the house McCarthy stabbed Booth five times with a butcher knife, beat her with a candelabrum and cut off her finger to steal her diamond wedding ring.

She then stole Booth’s purse and her Mercedes, and pawned the diamond ring in order to buy some crack.

It took the police all of one day to solve the crime. Evidence showed that McCarthy used Booth’s credit cards at a liquor store. A search of her house produced Booth’s driving license and the murder weapon, still glistening with Booth’s blood.

During the trial the prosecution also presented evidence linking McCarthy to the murders of two other old women, but she wasn’t charged with those crimes. There was no need: the prosecution already had enough for a guilty verdict.

McCarthy was sentenced to death in 1998, successfully appealed, was retried and re-sentenced in 2002. Since then she languished on death row until two days ago, when she was finally executed.

However one feels about the death penalty, and opinions are divided even among those on the side of the angels, Texas law has allowed it since 1976. In this case the evidence was incontrovertible and the sentence just.

So how does The Times comment on it? The author didn’t have enough column inches to give the details of the crime, but he managed to quote every one of McCarthy’s 31 last words about going home to Jesus.

He then offered some interesting but utterly irrelevant statistical information: “Thirty-nine per cent of the inmates on Texas death row are black, though only 12 per cent of the state’s population is black. In the past five years nearly 75 per cent of all death sentences in Texas were imposed on black and Hispanic people.”

I can almost hear the Dutch accent in that paragraph. Is the author implying that any deviation from proportionate representation among convicted criminals betokens racial hatred? Has he considered and rejected the possibility so indignantly discounted by the Dutch girl that the reason for this misbalance is that “black and Hispanic people” commit more crimes?

Then followed another irrelevant titbit, this time on the composition of the jury that had only one black member.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but my impression is that jurors are supposed to judge the case on the evidence presented. The nature of the evidence, such as Booth’s DNA on McCarthy’s knife, doesn’t change depending on the race of the defendant, the victim or indeed the juror.

Is the author suggesting that an all-black jury would have disregarded the evidence? Or that the white jurors accepted it even though it was unsafe?

If that was the case, then by all means it should be made. Yet the author doesn’t say there was anything fishy about the evidence. He merely seems to regret that the defence didn’t manage to turn the trial into an interracial battlefield.

In fact there have been quite a few trials, on either side of the Atlantic, where this happened. Alas, the kind of education potential jurors receive these days makes many of them ill-qualified even to understand the concept of guilt and innocence, never mind distinguishing one from the other.

This brings into question the continuing validity of the jury system, and this point would not be superfluous in a piece like that.

Instead the author cites, without explicit comment but with implicit approval, a long list of statements coming from the defence and also from several fulltime (and paid) opponents of the death penalty.

That’s it, in a nutshell – yet another sample of factually accurate but in fact deceptive reporting. It’s such journalism that joins forces with education to undermine trial by jury. The system has served us so well for so long that I for one would be sad to see it go.


This week’s biggest controversy

Exactly what is it? It can’t be Osborne’s cosmetic cuts in the welfare budget – everybody knows these have to do with politics, not economics. Cosmetics won’t improve an ugly face, George, which is the one our economy presents.

Nor is it the ruling of the US Supreme Court on same-sex marriage, which is now deemed to be in full accord with what the framers of the US Constitutions had in mind. Nothing controversial about that, unless you hoped American spivs were any different from ours.

It’s not even Boris Johnson yet again approving of homomarriage and also referring, in rather uninhibited language, to ways in which it can be consummated. There would be some controversy there if say the Pope said the same thing, but with Boris one just considers the source.

Well, I shouldn’t keep you guessing for much longer. This week’s biggest controversy has been caused by Serena Williams’s knickers. Or, to be more precise, their colour.

In common with most leading manufacturers of tennis clothes, Nike pushes a new style every year. That includes a new colour, and in this year’s Wimbledon it’s puce.

In keeping with their sponsorship deals all Nike players wear something puce, if only the logo which this year is that very colour.

Now the All England Tennis Club has a strict all-white policy throughout the year, not just during the grand slam tournament. Their charter says that the players’ clothes must be ‘predominantly white’, which I once found out the hard way by being denied access to a court there for wearing black shorts.

The conservative in me both approves of this bow towards tradition and deplores the discriminatory way in which the rule is enforced.

The reigning champion Roger Federer showed up for his first round wearing shoes with puce soles. Considering that the rest of his attire, other than the Nike logos, was snow-white, the ‘predominantly’ requirement was satisfied.

Not according to the members of the tournament committee though. They promptly expressed their outrage by demanding that Roger wear normal, predominantly white, shoes for his second round.

Federer, who pays inordinate attention to his grooming, was so upset that he promptly lost to a journeyman ranked 113 places below him. Of course other commentators came up with different reasons for his defeat, but you and I know better.

So far so good. Yet even as I write this, Serena Williams is on court, flashing her puce knickers underneath a very short white dress.

At the risk of sounding unchivalrous, the area covered by this garment is considerably larger than Federer’s shoe soles, and possibly his whole ensemble. Moreover, while Roger’s soles were only visible when he jumped, Serena’s knickers can be admired every second of the match (I did tell you her dress is very short).

Yet the tournament committee didn’t utter a single word of complaint. Discrimination or what?

I can’t for the life of me understand why women players deserve preferential treatment. Is it not enough that they get the same prize money as the men, even though they spend half the time playing their matches and, judging by their technique and conditioning, a third of the time training?

I mean, have you ever seen a fat man playing tennis professionally? I haven’t, and I watch a lot of tennis.

Yet here is Marion Bartoli of France, reproducing in her body the map shape of her native land. There’s something wrong when a professional athlete paid millions for her trade has a waist broader than her shoulders. And Marion isn’t the only one, believe me.

Now the tennis establishment has added sartorial discrimination to the fiscal kind. The egalitarian in me is aghast.

Let’s get Serena out of her knickers, I say. Let fairness rule.





Sharon Osbourne got it slightly wrong

Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are the sun towards which both Britain and America reach tropistically.

This close-knit family with three children shows that even in class-ridden Britain it’s possible to start from humble beginnings (Ozzy’s were humbler than Sharon’s) and end up with a fortune approaching a billion pounds.

Ozzy is a British heavy-metal singer who became a big hit in the States back in the seventies. On stage he pioneered such creative artistic techniques as loading a live goat with dynamite and blowing it up. Presumably his refined artistry made front-row seats cheaper than any other.

He’d also bite heads off various animals, mostly reptiles, and do all sorts of other things one has become accustomed to expect from modern performers searching for the ultimate artistic truth (I’ll spare you the details not to spoil your appetite for a week).

Off-stage, Ozzy once upset Texans by urinating on the wall of the Alamo, a fort in San Antonio that has some residual sentimental value for everyone who saw the eponymous film.

Ozzy was arrested but soon released, which went against the public demand for summary execution. “Folks who piss on the Alamo must be shoat,” was how the demand was enunciated.

Unlike Ozzy, whose ambitions are mostly artistic and pecuniary (these days they are one and the same), his wife also aims for social elevation. And Sharon has correctly identified obtaining a damehood as a useful step along the way.

The prospective Dame Sharon, one of the brightest stars in the firmament of reality TV, is prepared to go rather far in pursuit of her ennoblement or, depending on your vantage point, sink rather low.

Sharon has figured out that the way to the title lies through Prince Charles’s heart, or rather some other parts of his anatomy.

On Monday she divulged the details to American TV viewers: “I want a title. They call it a Dame … You just have to s**k his d**k.”

In case the respective spouses might feel left out, Sharon was prepared to be generous about sharing and caring: “He [Ozzy] can f**k Camilla while I’m with Charles.”

I don’t know exactly how the royal spouses have reacted to the implicit proposal, though I doubt that any reciprocity is on the cards.

But someone ought to tell Sharon that, though her desire to move up in life is perfectly consistent with British and especially American values, she has got the details wrong.

She should direct her attentions to our top politicians, not the heir to the throne. Nor does she really have to go all the way – just kissing their backsides would be sufficient.

Lamentably Sharon missed her best chance, for Tony Blair is no longer in office. Tony, you see, knew all about the importance of nobility, which is why he created 203 peers during his time in office.

Some of those noble gentlemen were Ozzy’s colleagues, for Tony had a weakness for pop music. Or perhaps he had a weakness for coming across as a pop-music lover, which is mandatory for any aspiring politician.

Can you imagine Osbourne fans voting for an MP (or a congressman) who prefers Bach to pop? If you can’t, then you realise that no such person can ever be elected. Professing affection for some sort of satanic perversion going by the name of music is a must for a career in public service.

For the Osbournes (or their moral and aesthetic equivalents), with their vile, unspeakable vulgarity, are the icons of our time. They cater to their public’s tastes, and they know exactly what those tastes are.

“Every nation,” said Joseph de Maistre, “gets the kind of government it deserves.” Quite. And also the kind of artists and TV personalities.

Our ministers don’t just break their promises

In June, 1959, Alexander Frederick Douglas-Home, Baron Home of the Hirsel, then Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations, got frightfully pissed on a club crawl in Soho, as one did in those days.

One drink led to another, and before you knew it Lord Home climbed on top of a table and went into a dance. Later he didn’t remember much of his choreographic exertions, so the exact tune and the dance steps remained shrouded in mystery.

However, both the song and the steps must have been rather energetic, for Lord Home fell off the table and broke his foot.

Later he hastened to reassure his colleagues and the local Tory organisation that no impropriety normally associated with Soho clubs was involved. In fact Lord Home was dancing not with naked strippers but with his wife Baroness Home who probably was dressed, at least partly.

Commenting on the mishap, Lord Home stuck to the bare bones: “I was dancing on a table in a bar in Soho when I fell off and broke my foot. My wife Elizabeth was with me – but thankfully she’s a far better dancer so didn’t fall off.”

No suggestion was put forth by anyone involved that the Baroness’s knack for dancing atop furniture could be parlayed into a lucrative career in that part of London.

Perhaps it was understood that a Soho couch dancer would be an inappropriate spouse for a Tory minister. Or else it was Lord Home himself who put his broken foot down (“A chap has to draw the line somewhere, what-what?”).

Instead everyone had a good laugh. For example a Tory councillor from Lord Home’s county said, “We found it hilarious and gave him plenty of stick. The imagination runs wild when you hear it was when he was dancing on a table at a bar in Soho.”

Another local activist also saw the hilarity: “Alec definitely has a fun side. Obviously we’re sad to hear he has broken his foot but we will be giving him some stick about how he did it. We’ll have to try and get him a buggy or wheelchair so he can do his usual tour of everything.”

In short, a good time was had by all – especially since Lord Home pressed on with his duties, courageously refusing to cancel his forthcoming tour of North Africa. “He’s a real trooper,” commented a ministerial colleague.

Do you believe this story? Of course you don’t – it’s too preposterous for words. No one in his right mind would believe for a second that the somewhat limited but utterly proper Alec-Douglas Home, the future PM, could have found himself in such a risible bind.

Well, you’re right. You shouldn’t believe the story because I’ve made it up.

Actually, I didn’t make up the events and the comments on them as such – I merely shifted them back to the 1950s from the time they actually happened, which was a couple of days ago.

I’ve also changed the participants’ names. So for Elizabeth read Margaret, and for Lord Home read Mark Harper, our current Immigration Minister.

Suddenly the story becomes eminently believable, doesn’t it? What would have been unthinkable for Alec Douglas-Home or any other contemporaneous minister, is par for the course for today’s politicians, Tory or otherwise.

If a modern PM can get so drunk that he leaves his children behind in a pub, why can’t a junior minister get pissed and make an obscene spectacle of himself in a public place? Or why can’t another MP be arrested for picking a fight in another public place?

No reason at all. We don’t really expect our leaders to have a modicum of dignity, do we? Of course not.

We expect them to be like regular blokes, but without the common sense many real regular blokes have to have to make their way in the dog-eat-dog world.

Our rulers needed no common sense to get into politics and they need none to stay in it. They needed all sorts of other qualities, which in no way preclude vulgar behaviour in the after hours.

Dignity? Honour? Respect for the office? Really, only a hopeless stick in the mud would expect today’s politicians to possess any of these, especially when ‘chillaxing’.

So I hope you’ll join me in wishing Mark a speedy recovery and success on his official visit to Algiers. I’m sure the Muslims will appreciate his fine qualities and idea of fun even more than we do.







Sex sells – all of us short

The other day I listened to something or other on YouTube, and a link to Chopin’s Fourth Ballade performed by the Georgian pianist Khatia Buniatishvili came up.

The link was accompanied by a close-up publicity photo of the musician: sloe bedroom eyes, sensual semi-open lips suggesting a delight that’s still illegal in Alabama, naked shoulders hinting at the similarly nude rest of her body regrettably out of shot…

Let me see where my wife is… Good, she isn’t looking over my shoulder, so I can admit to you that the picture got me excited in ways one doesn’t normally associate with Chopin’s Fourth Ballade or for that matter any other classical composition this side of Wagner or perhaps Ravel’s Bolero.

Searching for a more traditional musical rapture I clicked on the actual clip and alas found it anticlimactic, as it were. Khatia’s playing, though competent, is as undeniably so-what as her voluptuous figure undeniably isn’t. (Yes, I know the photograph I mentioned doesn’t show much of her figure apart from the luscious shoulders but, the prurient side of my nature piqued, I did a bit of a web crawl.)

Just for the hell of it I looked at the publicity shots of other currently active female musicians, such as Yuja Wang, Joanna MacGregor, Nicola Bendetti, Alison Balsom (nicknamed ‘crumpet with a trumpet’, her promos more often suggest ‘a strumpet with a trumpet’ instead), Anne-Sophie Mutter and a few others.

They didn’t disappoint the Peeping Tom lurking under my aging surface. Just about all the photographs showed the ladies in various stages of undress, in bed, lying in suggestive poses on top of the piano, playing in frocks (if any) open to the coccyx in the back and/or to the navel up front.

This is one thing these musicians have in common. The other is that none of them is all that good at her day job and some, such as Wang, are truly awful. Yet this doesn’t really matter either to them or to the public or, most important, to those who form the public tastes by writing about music and musicians.

Thus, for example, a tabloid pundit expressing his heartfelt regret that Nicola Benedetti “won’t be posing for the lads’ mags anytime soon. Pity, because she looks fit as a fiddle…” Geddit? She’s a violinist, which is to say fiddler – well, you do get it.

“But Nicola doesn’t always take the bonniest photo,” continues the writer, “she’s beaky in pics sometimes, which is weird because in the flesh she’s an absolute knock-out.

“The classical musician is wearing skinny jeans which show off her long legs. She’s also busty with a washboard flat tummy, tottering around 5ft 10in in her Dune platform wedges.”

How well does she play the violin though? No one cares. Not even critics writing for our broadsheets, who don’t mind talking about musicians in terms normally reserved for pole dancers. Thus for instance runs a review of a piano recital at Queen Elizabeth Hall, one of London’s top concert venues:

“She is the most photogenic of players: young, pretty, bare-footed; and, with her long dark hair and exquisite strapless dress of dazzling white, not only seemed to imply that sexuality itself can make you a profound musician, but was a perfect visual complement to the sleek monochrome of a concert grand… [but] there’s more to her than meets the eye.”

The male reader is clearly expected to get a stiffie trying to imagine what that might be. To help his imagination along, the piece is accompanied by a photo of the young lady in question reclining on her instrument in a pre-coital position with an unmistakable ‘come and get it’ expression on her face. The ‘monochrome’ piano is actually bright-red, a colour usually found not in concert halls but in dens of iniquity.

Nowhere does the review mention the fact obvious to anyone with any taste for musical performance: the girl is so bad that she should indeed be playing in a brothel, rather than on the concert platform.

Can you, in the wildest flight of fancy, imagine a reviewer talking in such terms about sublime women artists of the past, such as Myra Hess, Maria Yudina, Maria Grinberg, Clara Haskil, Marcelle Meyer, Marguerite Long, Kathleen Ferrier? Can you see any of them allowing themselves to be photographed in the style of  “lads’ mags”?

I can’t, which raises the inevitable question: what exactly has changed in the last say 70 years? The short answer is, just about everything.

Concert organisers and impresarios, who used to be in the business because they loved music first and wanted to make a living second, now care about nothing but money. Critics, who used to have discernment and taste, now have nothing but greed and lust for popularity. The public… well, don’t get me started on that.  

The circle is vicious: because tasteless ignoramuses use every available medium to build up musical nonentities, nonentities is all we get. And because the musical nonentities have no artistic qualities to write about, the writing nonentities have to concentrate on the more jutting attractions, using a vocabulary typically found in “lads’ mags”.

The adage “sex sells” used to be applied first to B-movies, then to B-novels, and now to real music. From “sex sells” it’s but a short distance to “only sex sells”. This distance has already been travelled – and we are all being sold short.



Was Obama sending a subliminal message?

To misname a British chancellor once may be regarded as a misfortune; to do so twice looks like carelessness; to do so three times bespeaks contempt.

With humble apologies to Oscar Wilde, this paraphrase does describe the situation adequately. For it was exactly three times in a short speech that President Obama referred to George Osborne as Jeffrey, thus confusing him with the popular soul singer.

Though acknowledging one’s own ignorance is never easy, I’m man enough to admit that until the incident Jeffrey Osborne had not exactly been popular with me. In fact I had never heard of him, which is both a necessary and sufficient definition of a celebrity.

In a further exercise of humility I have to accept that my musical tastes have no far-reaching geopolitical significance. However what may have such a significance is that in Obama’s world a pop singer clearly figures more prominently than the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Her Majesty’s minister second in rank only to the PM.

Do you suppose that was Obama’s subtle hint that even Jeffrey Osborne could make a better chancellor than George? If so, I’d be in perfect sympathy with the implication, but alas the real reasons for such forgetfulness are probably less praiseworthy.

Say what you will of the previous generation of British politicians, but one can’t recall American presidents referring to our chancellors as Henry Macmillan, John Callaghan, Rob Jenkins or George Howe.

Somehow foreign visitors to our shores tended to remember the Christian names of their counterparts. If they don’t do so now, it’s because they don’t feel such names are worth remembering, nor Britain worth respecting.

Hence American presidents won’t take a bow to the Queen, which in Britain is regarded as a violation of elementary etiquette. Fair enough, Americans stand proud in the world and feel no need to observe quaint foreign customs, especially those of no democratic provenance.

Yet all recent American presidents, and certainly Obama, go out of their way to observe Islamic or Far Eastern greeting rituals. Never mind that they look silly doing so – some customs can’t be flouted on pain of being accused of cultural insensitivity.

True enough, Britain’s standing in the world isn’t what it was at the time of Will Churchill, Hank Macmillan or even Mary Thatcher. Yet it’s still marginally higher than Burma’s, which doesn’t prevent Obama from holding his palms together in front of his chest and taking a bow when meeting a Burmese politician.

The relationship between our two countries may be special, but not in the usually implied sense of mutual admiration and respect. What’s special about it is that America has replaced Britain as the world’s leading empire – and a long lifetime after this flip-flop occurred Americans still have the urge to rub British noses in it.

Britain, on the other hand, shows every sign of the Stockholm syndrome by falling in rather obsequious love with her vanquishers. Hence the urgent need to play poodle to America under all circumstances, and certainly whenever the Americans get the urge to laser-guide some democracy onto a recalcitrant land.

The arrangement isn’t exactly reciprocal for Americans feel no corresponding obligation whenever Britain goes to war. Hence Eisenhower preventing Franco-British victory at Suez or Reagan refusing to cooperate with Britain during the Falklands War (America eventually did help with some satellite intelligence, but only because Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger acted on his own initiative).

Quite the opposite: Americans, or rather American politicians go out of their way to treat senior British officials in a rather offhand manner. Hence George W. Bush with his ‘Yo, Blair!’ or Obama tucking Dave into bed in a fatherly fashion. It’s not just Dave but Britain that’s well and truly tucked up.

The present slight could well be deliberate: a show of disdain for Europeans in general and Britain in particular is mandatory for any American politician. It’s worth several electoral brownie points for someone like Obama to be seen by the folks Stateside as a real ‘merican who can treat them foreigners like skivvies.

Perhaps the next step ought to be for Barack Hussein to assign to British politicians his own names, those he can remember. You know, the way aristocrats of yesteryear used to call every new butler James regardless of what his real name was.

May I suggest Elvis for the Prime Minister, Ray for the Chancellor and Chuck for the Foreign Secretary? Or perhaps Moe, Larry and Curly, as in the Three Stooges, would be an even better mnemonic.

That way the message will come across loud and clear, as will the true nature of the special relationship. 





Have you ever used ‘kitten’ as a term of endearment?

Chanel’s Creative Director Karl Lagerfeld does, and he won’t accept his age (77) gracefully. More power to him – he gives hope to all the old fogies among us.

The fashion guru (tsar? mogul? – one can get terribly confused by today’s vocabulary) proves that age is no obstacle to romance and even to marriage. Yet one’s palms, about ready to come together in thunderous applause, stop midway when one realises that the person the guru/tsar/mogul wishes to marry isn’t, well, exactly a person.

It’s his beloved one-year-old Siamese cat Choupette. Those of you who may unfashionably think that such nuptial plans are a tad perverse must be reassured that Choupette is female. Yet even if she were a tom, one is no longer supposed to be judgemental about such matters. Love comes in all shapes and sizes and we must welcome them all.

In fact, Karl is a traditional gent who believes it’s a man’s duty to pamper and look after his beloved – no newfangled egalitarian notions for him.

He refers to the current love of his life as ‘his most valuable possession’, which is a charmingly dated approach to romance. And he’s as good as his word: Choupette has a large staff assigned exclusively to her.

This includes three ladies-in-waiting who record for posterity (and for Karl) everything Choupette does during the day. Since cats’ activities tend not to be overly varied, the recording duties can’t be too onerous. Just copy the words ‘sleep’, ‘eat’, ‘urinate’ and ‘defecate’, paste them into the text as appropriate – any modern 10-year-old could do it.

Obviously such a refined creature as Choupette deserves her own chef assisted by several sous-chefs. Together they develop daily menus of delicacies and serve them to their (and presumably Karl’s) mistress, as she reclines on a velvet cushion.

Like most modern celebrities, Choupette is a regular jetsetter. She has her own plane and follows Karl to all sorts of exotic locations.

A creature of her time, she also maintains a blog on Twitter which boasts 27,000 subscribers. “I’m Choupette Lagerfeld,” she identifies herself. “I’m a well-known beauty who won’t eat off the floor. I have a staff of servants who satisfy my every whim,” she boasts.

One may harbour a sneaky suspicion that Chaupette’s blog is ghost-written, but then how many celebrities do their own writing? In fact writing your own stuff is positively infra dig.

“I never thought I could fall so deeply in love with a cat,” comments Lagerfeld, but then love often does arrive unexpectedly.

The old-fashioned gentleman that Karl is, one wonders if he believes in sex before marriage. He probably does – even old fogies have to make concessions to their time. Not to worry: Karl can base his sexual practices on ample theoretical support.

For example, Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics (whatever that means) allowed in 2001 that humans and animals can have “mutually satisfying” sexual relations.

“We are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes,” explained the good professor on the basis of frank self-assessment. Therefore such sex “ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.”

Even earlier, in 1991, the Dutch professor Midas Dekkers wrote an academic treatise Dearest Pet: On Bestiality which adds a whole new meaning to the concepts of heavy petting and indeed of Midas touch. Bestiality now rests on a firm scientific foundation.

According to these scholars, sex has no ethical aspect at all – it’s all about feeling, love, passion, that sort of thing. By inference, no object of such romantic emotions can possibly bring them into disrepute, and they are all worthy of being sanctified by marriage.

Unfortunately for Lagerfeld, his country of residence, France, has so far only travelled that road halfway: it still balks at allowing interspecies marriage. But exponents of the thin-end-of-the-wedge theory know that another expansion of marital bliss can’t be too far in the future. A few more years of Hollande’s government in France (and Dave’s in Britain) will guarantee the ultimate emancipation of love.

And why on earth not? If we are nothing but ‘great apes’, better than some, worse than others, why shouldn’t we be allowed to marry animals?

We may be more intelligent, but the Singers of this world have a ready argument. Only some of us are more intelligent than say chimps. What about brain-damaged or severely retarded people? Those in a coma? Some of them are no brighter than Choupette, so there goes the intelligence argument right out of the window.

When a philosophy allows such warped arguments to be made plausibly, the philosophy itself is warped. The exclusivity of man was asserted in the founding document of the West (Gen 1: 27, to quote chapter and verse), and it’s only by tossing this document aside that all sorts of degenerate variants of marriage become possible.

But this document has indeed been tossed aside, and insisting on it as the basis of our civilisation seems rather churlish. So fine, we are nothing but apes, and where does it say that apes can’t marry cats?

Thus I hope you’ll join me in wishing Karl and Choupette every happiness in the world. Incidentally, does anyone know the cat for ‘I do’?

Serena Williams breaks stereotypes at her peril

Serena isn’t just about to smash the record of the number of Grand Slams won by any tennis player, male or female.

She is also smashing many of the notions PC people hold so dear. First, she declared in a documentary that ‘I only date black men.’ How un-PC is that?

Surely it doesn’t take any particular nasal sensitivity to detect a whiff of racism there somewhere. Just picture say Caroline Wozniacki issuing a positive counterpart to Serena’s negative: “I wouldn’t date a black man.” Can you imagine the ensuing uproar?

We are all supposed to be colour-blind, are we not? A person is supposed to choose her dates on the basis of the other person’s sterling human qualities, such as intelligence, wit, kindness, general inclination towards political correctness and the liberal worldview.

At a weak moment, we may allow that appearance sometimes has something to do with the choice. But skin colour? Surely not. Nothing short of discriminatory, if you ask any person of the PC persuasion.

If Serena had fewer millions to her name, and could express herself with a wider vocabulary, she would have found a more PC way to say the same thing.

For example, she could have identified a Nubian god as her aesthetic ideal for a man. That way she would have avoided a black mark against her name and possibly diminished every PC person’s desire to scrutinise each subsequent word she utters.

To Serena’s credit she doesn’t always practise what she preaches. Thus the World Number 1 has allegedly dated the impeccably white Bulgarian Georg Dimitrov, who’s currently involved with World Number 3 Maria Sharapova. If I were Victoria Azarenka, the World Number 2, I’d be miffed about being skipped in this cavalier fashion, but perhaps her turn is yet to come.

Serena’s present beau, her French coach Patrick Muratoglu, is clearly white, though his Turkish name could partially offset that genetic imperfection. Also, under Patrick’s tutelage, and he’s one of the world’s top coaches, Serena has reclaimed her Number 1 spot, which could have endeared Patrick to her beyond a purely professional respect.

Anyway, Serena’s amorous record has partly redeemed her prior offence against PC morality – Serena may not be colour-blind in her pronouncements but at least she’s free of racial discrimination in her love life.

She was therefore seen as deserving the benefit of the doubt, a generosity that Serena has now flagrantly abused.

In an interview to Rolling Stone she made a few comments on a currently popular court case, and the PC world is up in arms.

The case involves a typical modern love story: girl meets boy (or two boys, as the case may be and in this instance is); girl gets blind drunk; boys take girl somewhere and have sex with her; girl wakes up the morning after naked and remembering nothing of the night before; girl’s memory is refreshed by the amateur film boys have placed in social media; girl screams rape; boys are convicted.

Dante and his Beatrice this ain’t, and neither is it Petrarch and his Laura, but tempora mutantur, as those chaps might have said. Serena’s problem was that she didn’t realise exactly how much the times have changed.

Asked to comment on the conviction, she told Rolling Stone, “I’m not blaming the girl, but … she’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky.

“She shouldn’t have put herself in that position,” added Serena, and she should have known better than to make a perfectly sensible statement like that. For in the PC house sensibility goes right out of the window.

“Does this mean a rape victim has only herself to blame?!?” screamed the Internet. “Does wearing a short skirt mean it’s OK to rape a woman?!?” “Did she egg them on?” “So what if she went along? She’s still a rape victim!” And so on, ad nauseum.

Hold on, lads. Serena didn’t say any of that. All she said was that in our time of accelerated growth a 16-year-old girl should know better than to get so drunk with boys that she doesn’t know what she’s doing and to whom.

Do we disagree with that? Do we think it’s perfectly all right for a girl to act this way? Especially in a bar in Ohio, where 16 isn’t a legal drinking age? Do we not think women should act in a sensible way and practise essential urban precautions?

Because that’s all Serena actually said, and she was absolutely correct. The trouble is that she wasn’t politically correct, and it’s not long before issuing such statements will put the wretch in the dock next to the defendants.

For the time being, Twitter and no doubt Serena’s sponsors screamed bloody murder, and Serena issued a grovelling apology: “For someone to be raped, and at only 16, is such a horrible tragedy. I am deeply sorry for what was written in the Rolling Stone article.” The second sentence is a complete non sequitur to the first, but that doesn’t matter.

It’s the thought that counts. Or rather absence of same, which is what the PC ethos demands. This is one match Serena can never win – one match that common sense is guaranteed to lose.



Sacrilege against Domestic Goddess

The incident involving Nigella Lawson and her husband, the art mogul Charles Saatchi, has justly attracted much attention in the press, pushing the G8 conference off the front pages.

Apparently, the couple were having dinner in the street terrace of Scott’s, the Mayfair fish restaurant. The meal was intimate: just Charles, Nigella and the several hundred passers-by who pretended not to stare, eavesdrop or take pictures.

Yet stare, eavesdrop and take pictures they did, thereby preserving for posterity the images of Charles trying to desecrate the Goddess by choking her.

Charles later explained that this was just a ‘playful tiff’, and he only accepted a police caution not to have this thing ‘hanging over us for months’. Nigella wept and, according to some accounts, has subsequently left home.

For those of you who have been living on Mars for the last few years, Nigella’s claim to divinity is based on her TV cookery show in which she tries, with variable success, to blend two of life’s greatest pleasures: food and sex.

I recall one programme in which Nigella explained why she was cutting that particular piece of meat into large chunks.

‘Some people,’ she pouted at the camera lasciviously, ‘say their mouths can’t accommodate large pieces.’ Lips pursed, eyelashes flapping, eyes doing their best to suggest sexual adventure beyond anything Kama Sutra authors could see in their wettest dreams.

‘Well, my mouth,’ Nigella half-whispered, winking lewdly, ‘can accommodate anything.’

The accent on ‘anything’, along with the gurning and the throaty gasps accompanying it, should have ensured that the show could only be aired after the 9 pm watershed, but didn’t.

One can see how this sort of thing could have upset Charles. Few men would like their wives to make such thinly veiled references to the intimatemost details of their nocturnal life, especially those hinting at a practice still outlawed in some American states.

I assume that this was indeed what provoked Charles into grabbing Nigella by the throat in a public place. Or rather I had assumed that until a sound recording of the incident found its way into my possession. I shall now let you read the transcript (expletives deleted), on condition that this stays between us.

Art Mogul (AM): Are you out of your ******* mind?!? You’re going to publish what?!?

Domestic Goddess (DG): You heard me, you **** of Baghdad.

AM: Yes, I ******* well did, and I can’t believe my ******* ears! What did you say that title’s going to be?

DG: ‘My frolics with Charlie: Nigella’s recipes for tasty, spicy, strong-flavoured sex.’

AM: Why in ****’s name would you want to do a thing like that?

DG: I have my reasons. Actually two million of them. That’s how many US dollars I’ll get in advance.

AM: In advance of ******* what?!? Making me the laughingstock of London? What did you say the chapter titles are going to be?

DG: Well, they’ll all refer to, well, stuff like positions, techniques – all in the best of possible taste, as it were…

AM: Let me see – you have them written down, haven’t you… Right… Section title, ‘That’s the way ah-ah-ah-ah Charles likes it…’ It doesn’t even scan!

DG: Well, I wasn’t in advertising.

AM: Too ******* right you weren’t! Now let’s see… Chapter 1. ‘Double Nelson’. Chapter Two: ‘Two-handed squeeze’. Chapter Three: ‘Head hold’. Chapter Four: ‘Sitting duck’. Chapter Five: ‘White swallow’. Chapter Six: ‘More power to Charlie’s elbow’… Are you ******* nuts?!?

DG: That’s what the punters want. Mick the PR man says it’ll go down well, as it were.

AM: Oh yeah?

DG: Yeah.

AM: Says who?

DG: Says I.

AM: So go **** yourself!

DG: Same to you, Charlie, with bells on. I’m an autonomous person. You can’t tell me what to do and what not to do. Mick says it’s time to spice up my melons, as it were. You understand brand building, don’t you Charlie?

AM: So what are you going to do next? Cook barearsed naked on camera?

DG: If that’s what I and Mick decide to do, then I’ll do it. You can’t stop me, you male chauvinist pig…

AM: Oh yes I can, you ******* ****!!!

DG: Oh yeah? So what’re you going to do about it?

AM: I’ll ******* show you…

DG: Arghhhhh…

Here the recording of the playful tiff ends, and you must agree it throws some new light on the incident.

As a lifelong feminist, I sympathise with Nigella unreservedly. Her success, past, present and especially – given her publishing plans – future shows how a woman can stand tall with pride, upholding her dignity in a male-dominated world.

Nigella’s upcoming book will strike an important blow (as she’ll no doubt put it) for women’s equality and honour.

As to Mr Saatchi, he should realise the public has a right to know, well, just about everything. Miss Lawson is a celebrity and her duty to her panting viewers is to stay that way – even if it means bending over backwards.

As it were.








Vlad, meet Boris

It’s no wonder Putin and Johnson have formed an alliance against Dave. The two men have so much in common, it’s eerie:

Both have Russian names.

Both used to belong to exclusive clubs, Boris to the Bullingdon, Vlad to the KGB.

Both are estranged from their wives, one de jure, the other de facto.

Both have a roving eye for the ladies (persistent rumours in Russia suggest that Vlad’s horizons are even somewhat broader than that, but we must go by facts, not hearsay).

Both have fathered children on the side, though Vlad only allegedly so.

Both are driven by powerful political ambitions, though in Boris’s case these aren’t yet fully realised.

Both like to have their pictures taken when practising their favourite sport, Boris cycling, Vlad swimming or beating people up.

Both have a way with words, though unlike Vlad Boris keeps obscenities strictly for private consumption.

Both think it idiotic to arm Syrian rebels.

Both cite the same culinary reason for this point of view: the rebels are the kind of people who prefer human organs to pork.

Both have other reasons as well, those they don’t air publicly: Vlad sells billions’ worth of weaponry to Assad and gets a warm-water naval base in return; Boris wants to make his old Bullingdon mate Dave look even more stupid than God originally made him.

Both take their own routes to this point of view, driven as they are by different motives. Be that as it may…

Both are right.

That is where the similarities between the two men end. For Boris may be all sorts of things: buffoonish,  frivolous, unscrupulous, opportunistic, shallow. But one thing he isn’t, or at least one would like to hope so, is evil.

Vlad on the other hand is an evil man in charge of an evil state. Therefore any aims he pursues can only be evil. Yet if we take their opposition to Dave’s current hobby horse at face value, then both are indeed right.

And Dave, he of the open-collared shirt fame, is terribly, stupidly, criminally wrong.

He doesn’t realise, or at least makes a good show of pretending he doesn’t realise, that the Syrian rebels, whatever their internal differences, are united in a common purpose: replacing Assad’s wicked but secular state with an Islamist one that would be even more wicked.

Moreover, given the aggressive proselytism coded into the Muslim DNA, such a state would not just be wicked internally – it would present a deadly threat to the whole region and therefore the world.

Dave’s view? “We should be on the side of Syrians who want a democratic and peaceful future for their country and one without the man who is using chemical weapons against them.”

First, the evidence of Assad using such weapons is flimsy at best, and the intelligence on which this evidence is based comes from the same people who knew for sure that Saddam was aiming nuclear weapons at Philadelphia.

Second, call me a moral relativist but I rather prefer a Syrian chieftain using chemical weapons against Islamist fanatics to one who, being such a fanatic himself, wouldn’t hesitate to use nuclear weapons against Israel – or us.

Third, I question the existence of Syrians, or any other Muslims, who are ravenous for democracy, Western style. If they indeed feel the urge to be just like us, they’ve managed to control it admirably for 1,400 years.

Moreover, at different periods throughout this time span and with variable success, they’ve tried to impose their ways on us – by the only method that comes naturally to Islam: violence accompanied by hysterical shrieks of ‘Allahu akbar!’

It is in this historical context that any action in the Middle East should be viewed by any Western leader. However, when instead of leaders we have spivs like Dave, then reality is replaced by cloud-cuckoo-land phantoms. Such as Syrian democracy-seekers who only ever eat human hearts because the West refuses to supply them with halal meat.

In fairness to Dave, he isn’t the only intellectually challenged chap among our politicians. For example, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former foreign secretary, said today that “only one in 20 opposition fighters are linked to al Qaeda.”

One would like to see the scientifically conducted polls on the basis of which Sir Malcolm has come up with such a precise calculation.

But do let’s accept this comment as fact, however improbable. The problem with this comment isn’t that it’s improbable but that it’s completely and utterly irrelevant.

The Syrian insurgency unites all sorts of Islamist groups in an ad hoc alliance aimed at turning Syria into an Islamist state. Some of those groups are linked to al Qaeda, some to other criminal gangs, some are freelance. But such differences pale by comparison to the similarities: they’re all wild-eyed fanatics and mortal enemies to the West.

Even worse, they are unpredictable. If the West knew more or less where it stood with chaps like Mubarak, Saddam, Assad and even Gaddafi, all we know about these chaps – apart from their supposed adoration of one-man-one-vote democracy – is that they hate us.

We don’t have a clue how they’ll manifest such feelings once they find themselves in power. However, if the history of the region is anything to go by, the old adage about the devil you know is amply vindicated there: every new ruler tends to be worse than his predecessor.

Playing poodle to US foreign policy largely inspired by neocon propaganda is wrong morally, intellectually, strategically and tactically. That means such a role is custom-made for Dave and his ilk.

Perhaps Boris can talk his new friend Vlad into emigrating and seeking a seat on the Tory back benches, where another anti-Dave outburst is brewing. Provided of course Vlad promises to kick his habit of having his opponents ‘whacked’. Even Dave.