Richard Dawkins, my hero

Mea culpa. In the past – even recent past! – I’ve been beastly to Richard.

Many a time I’ve questioned his intelligence, sanity, erudition, scientific attainment, integrity, ability to use words in their true meaning.

My comments on his statement that “Darwin told us why we exist and that’s not an easy question to answer. It’s not just us, it’s all living things” were nothing short of bilious.

It isn’t indeed an easy question to answer this side of Genesis, I hissed vituperatively. That’s why Darwin never attempted to do so. He merely tried to explain how all living things that already were got to be as they are.

Even that, I ranted, he didn’t do all that convincingly. I went so far as referring to Darwinism as a half-baked theory kept alive by politicised hard-boiled adherents, of whom Richard is the most strident.

I even dared to remind Richard – as if he didn’t know! – of the difference between microevolution (species adapting to their environment) and macroevolution (one species turning into another).

The former, I suggested, is demonstrable and irrefutable. The latter, however, has been debunked by just about every modern science: cosmology, physics, palaeontology, genetics, biochemistry, geology, microbiology.

To my eternal shame, I poked fun at Richard’s revelation: “that life evolved out of nearly nothing, some 10 billion years after the universe evolved out of literally nothing, is a fact so staggering that I would be mad to attempt words to do it justice.”

Such words, I jested, were already attempted 2,500 years ago by Parmenides: ex nihilo nihil fit or whatever it was in Greek. Nothing comes out of nothing, an idea Newton later expressed in his First Law of Thermodynamics. But then Richard, I added venomously, is woefully ignorant of philosophy, history, rhetoric and most other things in His creation.

“Dawkins,” I went on, “is the village atheist lampooned by Chesterton. That’s why he can only appeal to the village idiot.” Harsh words, and those I now regret bitterly.

For my new friend Richard finally uttered God’s own truth. “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge,” he said – much to the dismay of every loyal Dawkinsian.

Some even went so far as to accuse my new friend Richard of bigotry, which I to my regret used to do myself in a different context.

Belying his reputation for rhetorical inadequacy Richard responded to the criticism with quite some élan: “A statement of simple fact is not bigotry. And science by Muslims was great in the distant past.”

Well put. Richard didn’t stoop to citing the exact numbers, which are 32 Nobels won by the Trinity scientists versus 10 by the Muslims. But had he done so, he’d have had to add that only two of those 10 overachievers were scientists, two others writers, while six were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which has little to do with science, or indeed peace.

Among those worthy laureates one finds such unwavering champions of peace as Yasser Arafat. You know, the chap immortalised in the PLO anthem “Yasser, that’s my baby, Nasser, don’t mean maybe…”

I understand why my new friend Richard then had to say that “science by Muslims was great in the distant past.” He knows it wasn’t, but hey – Islam isn’t Christianity. One can’t be too bolshie in attacking it. By way of intellectual discourse one can get one’s throat slit if one isn’t careful.

In fact, while back in the Middle Ages the Muslims did create some superb architecture, decorative art and poetry, their original contribution to science was well-nigh nonexistent.

For example, crediting the Muslims with the invention of algebra is simply wrong. Algebra predates Islam by at least four centuries and probably longer. The Greeks and Indians invented; the Arabs merely transmitted.

They invented algebra in exactly the same sense in which the generally admirable Averroes and Avicenna invented Aristotle and scholasticism.

Even my late friend Bertie Russell, who otherwise had more time for Islam than for Christianity, had to admit that “the views of the more scientific philosophers come from Aristotle and the Neoplatonists in logic and metaphysics, from Galen in medicine, from Greek and Indian sources in mathematics and astronomy…”

His minor glitch about the Muslim science of yesteryear notwithstanding, I wish I could now take back everything I said about Richard in the past. Alas, I can’t – my sheer bloody-mindedness won’t let me.

As it is, I can only say that even a strident, militant ignoramus who pronounces on thousands of things is statistically bound to get one of them right sooner or later.

I’m truly sorry that Richard is being pilloried for the one thing he has ever got right rather than being drawn and quartered (metaphorically, I hasten to add) for everything he has got wrong. He must complain to God about this.  







Who’ll give the ‘fruitcake test’ to The Guardian?

Life is full of mysteries. Why does sour cream have a sell-by date? Why do seers never win the lottery? Why is there only one Monopolies Commission? Why did sports shops in Russia sell 500,000 baseball bats last year, but only three baseballs and one baseball glove?

Difficult as those questions are, I could venture an answer, if after long deliberation. One mystery I’ve never been able to solve is how The Guardian has acquired its reputation as a serious newspaper.

It’s not only that it’s madcap left wing, though this by itself suggests a certain degree of cerebral frivolity. It’s just that its writers are – how shall I put this politely? – rather remiss in the area of intellectual rigour and basic education.

Witness Leo Benedictus (an alias, one hopes) who the other day attempted a piece of satire aimed at UKIP. Now any student of the Swift, Thackeray, Austen, Waugh school of satire will know that it can only be effective if based on reality, however remotely.

A satirist can’t just pick up any stray thought hitchhiking down the road – some of those will end up stealing his mind long before he arrives at his destination. Satirists who don’t realise this are fools. Those who pass falsehoods as reality are knaves.

Yet it’s not necessary to choose between these two Shakespearean extremes. Benedictus’s piece Quiz: Would You Pass Ukip’s ‘Fruitcake Test’? shows it’s possible to be both.

In common with every other political party, UKIP is making its prospective candidates in the European elections answer a vetting questionnaire designed to filter out unfit candidates.

Benedictus proposes his own version of the quiz designed to pierce UKIP’s heart with the rapier of wit. Instead he bludgeons himself with the axe of ideology divorced from any recognisable reality.

He offers several questions, each with three answer options. Option 1 is The Guardian orthodoxy springing from the cloud-cuckoo-land ideology the paper espouses. Option 3 is the answer that a UKIP candidate of The Guardian’s fevered imagination would give. Option 2 is somewhere in between.

Option 3 and partly Option 2 are where satire is supposed to come in, bringing along its time-tested device of hyperbole. But satirical hyperbole is like a caricature: it works by exaggerating something real. If it exaggerates nothing but the author’s ideologically inspired silliness it’s zero multiplied by 1,000 to produce, well, zero.

Take Question 3, for example: “What measure would you prefer to use to limit immigration?” The view supposed to reflect UKIP’s philosophy is Option 3: “A 50ft electrified fence around coastline of the British Isles.” The Guardian’s philosophically and politically correct answer is Option 1: “None. Immigrants enrich British life, improve international relations and contribute growth to the economy.”

Now I probably know more UKIP members than Benedictus, yet I’ve never heard anyone express a view of which Option 3 is supposed to be a satirical hyperbole. My UKIP friends are opposed to excessive immigration, especially when it involves millions of people aggressively hostile to everything that has historically defined Britain.

They say it’s folly to believe that we can have the same country with different people – and they’re right. 

The Guardian’s Option 1 confirms that the paper has no wish for Britain to remain Britain. Well, it’s certainly entitled to its own opinion. But it’s not entitled to its own facts.

These show that the only long-term growth to which massive immigration contributes is that of the welfare state. Already by 1997 only 12 percent of the arrivals from what used to be called the British Empire came for work purposes. The rest, in overwhelming numbers, have become a burden on our creaking social services.

As to improved international relations, it’s hard not to notice that in the Muslim world hostility to European, and specifically British, civilisation has grown exactly at the time when all checks on Islamic immigration have been removed.

No doubt some immigration can enrich British life. No UKIP member will argue that Henry James, Rutherford, Hayek, Wittgenstein or T.S. Eliot should have been kept out by an ‘electrified fence’. One doesn’t even hear many complaints about the 300,000 Frenchmen now living in London.

What UKIP objects to isn’t immigration but colonisation – which is the only way to describe thousands of mosques across the country, and whole cities, such as Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford, Leeds and inner London, that are 20 to 30 percent Muslim.

Nor would any normal person, especially if he’s opposed to female circumcision, be able to see exactly how the arrival of 50,000 Somalis a few years ago enriched Britain. Next year’s confidently predictable advent of hundreds of thousands of Gypsies also finds few champions among UKIP members or indeed any sane people not blinded by The Guardian’s ideology.

Or take Question 4: “If you had to lead Britain into war with any country, which one of these would you choose?”

The Guardian, supposedly clever, answer is: “Syria, reluctantly, as part of a UN-led humanitarian effort.” The UKIP answer is supposed to be “France!”

Thus the intelligent people are supposed to escalate to war precisely the policy that has turned Syria from a stable, if unpleasant, country into a blood-soaked land torn apart by civil war. Yet Nigel Farage, who speaks several European languages and is married to a German, is supposed to hate France because he doesn’t think Britain should be ruled out of Brussels.

Reluctant as I am to drag myself into it, I share UKIP’s distaste for the EU. Yet I’m writing this in France, where I spend almost half my time and where I probably have more friends than the entire editorial staff of The Guardian put together.

When the weapon of satire misses its mark, it turns into the boomerang of self-mockery. In the words of the mayor in Gogol’s Inspector General, “Whom are you laughing at? You’re laughing at yourselves!”




Cairo massacre: are democracy fanatics happy now?

Hundreds, possibly thousands of people were killed yesterday, when Egyptian security forces stormed two camps Muslim Brothers set up in Cairo last month.

The Brothers were protesting against the ousting of the democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi, a theocrat in all but name. The army in its turn made a weighty argument for secularism.

The rest of the West must sit back and rue its own gullibility. For, largely as a result of neocon propaganda, America and her allies have got things criminally wrong.

It was 11 years ago that Americans girded their loins, hoisted democracy up on the flagpole and launched an aggressive war in the Middle East.

All along they were egged on by the neocons eager to sell their harebrained vision of the world to the world. Never mind religion, history, culture, ethnicity, race. The world of the neocons’ fancy is neatly divided along the watershed separating democracy from any other method of government.

It escapes their attention that most people in His creation despise democracy. It’s not the American way of life they crave but the American standard of living. Yet the neocons will have none of that.

According to them all Muslims daydream of American-style democracy and are only held back by ‘Islamists’, ‘Islamofascists’ and whatever other neologisms the neocons coin.

Hence it’s in the West’s and America’s interests to introduce democracy by force, thereby isolating the Islamists, making ‘moderate Muslims’ deliriously happy and turning the Middle East into an oasis of tranquillity.

Well, things haven’t quite worked out that way, have they? As a direct result of this idiocy Iraq and Afghanistan have been turned into cauldrons full of bubbling blood, Syrians are dying in their thousands – and relatively secular, if nasty, rulers have been replaced by wild-eyed madmen anxious to murder infidels.

On the rare occasions that neocon purveyors of democracy admit that things have gone awry they blame everyone but themselves. Yet it’s a good rule of thumb that whenever a massive undertaking fails, there’s something wrong with the intellectual platform from which it was launched. The Middle East is no exception.

For the real adversary of the West isn’t Islamism, Islamofascism or even Islamic terrorism. It’s Islam.

The neocons make the typical philistine error of believing that everyone either is or is dying to be just like them. They themselves ignore religion and usually regard it as an annoying irrelevance – therefore they assume that Muslims are roughly similar. But that assumption is wrong.

The levels of piety vary throughout the Middle East but nowhere do they drop down to the level of the West’s indifferent agnosticism. That’s why the green banner of Islam still has more unifying power than any other modern institutional symbol.

And history shows that Islam has been doctrinally hostile to the West for 1,400 years. In the past it was supposedly so because the West espoused a wrong religion; at present, it is presumably because the West espouses none.

Such hostility has seldom been allowed to seethe under the surface – usually it has been expressed through violent action, of which 11 September is only one small example. 

The conclusion is straightforward: the more consistently Muslim a state is, the greater danger it presents to America, Israel and the West in general. Therefore it’s in the West’s interest to support the most secular Muslim regimes, while isolating or trying to undermine those run by proselytising believers.

In practice this means supporting the most undemocratic regimes, for most Muslims, unlike most Christians and Jews, are active believers and practitioners of their creed. A democratic election is therefore likely to bring to power an Islamic theocracy – and this is exactly what happened in Egypt, to cite one example.

Alas, this strategic conclusion escapes Americans, particularly those of the neocon persuasion. Rather than encouraging more or less secular, which is to say non-democratic, regimes in the Middle East, the Americans have gone out of their way to help them on their way out.

Historically the army is the only force in the Islamic world that’s capable of reducing Muslim piety to peaceful worship. But the generals are unlikely to take over by democratic process. It’s military coup that’s the normal expedient.

This has been the case in Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lybia – well, in every place where variously vile, nationalist but generally secular regimes were installed. Of course democratic demagoguery wouldn’t wear it.

Anyone with half a brain and elementary knowledge of modern history will know that an Ayatollah is the only realistic alternative to the Shah, the Muslim Brotherhood to Mubarak, tribal cannibals to the Ba’athist regimes in Iraq and Syria, Erdoğan to a secular government beholden to the army. A George Washington isn’t an option in any of those places.

Forgetting that their own state was born with the midwifery of a military coup, the Americans feel called upon to decry military coups on form rather than content.

Their God of Democratic Formalism is athirst and they don’t care how many will be sacrificed at its altar. Now John Kerry sheds crocodile tears over the hundreds killed in Cairo – forgetting that it was American meddling that brought them into the streets in the first place.

Our own Dave contributed an insight that violence is “not going to solve anything” and there must be “compromise from all sides”. Well, there was no violence in Egypt before Americans and their British poodle began to agitate for the ‘Arab Spring’.

The only compromise needed is between the neocons’ strident, half-witted ideology and life as it actually is. And this compromise will remain beyond reach – ideologues will never allow facts to interfere with their lapidary stupidity. 



Arrivederci Roma, sing Romanians and Bulgarians

All over Eastern Europe Roma Gypsies are on their bikes, which is a figure of speech for old vans and caravans.

Eastern Europeans, who have been inundated with gypsies for much of their modern history, don’t mind. Let the Gypsies be someone else’s headache.

European borders now hospitably open, Gypsies have learned that France or Italy are better places to live than Romania or Bulgaria. How long they’ll remain better places, given the influx of Gypsies, is anybody’s guess.

The problem isn’t racial, but cultural. Gypsies, who originally were probably Indian outcasts, are nomads. As such, they seldom seek steady jobs or try to integrate into host countries.

If they ever did so in the past, it was usually by working in what today would be called the entertainment industry. If you read Pushkin and his 19th-century Russian contemporaries, you’ll notice that, when the night was still young, the gilded youth inevitably went ‘to the Gypsies’.

This meant restaurants featuring singers of lachrymose songs on stage and somewhat naughtier delights backstage. For most Russian youths of a certain class ‘the Gypsies’ provided the same initiation rites as those that used to be available to young Texans at La Grange, the home to what was later immortalised in a musical as ‘the best little whorehouse in Texas.’

Those Gypsies who in the old days didn’t have musical talents usually made their living by rustling, fortune telling, begging or petty crime. Horses are few now, but the other occupations are still practised widely and profitably.

In France, where I’m writing this, there are now about half a million Gypsies, most living in dingy and frankly dangerous shanty towns. Many ply their trades in Paris, for which we had another confirmation the other day.

Paris is even emptier now than it normally is in August. “Toute la France est en vacance,” say the natives, which means that most factories, offices, restaurants and just about everything else are closed for the month.

Visitors like us have the glorious city all to ourselves, with only German, Dutch and American tourists there to keep us company. And Gypsies of course.

You see them begging at every corner or engaging in what New Yorkers call panhandling (trying to wash windscreens unsolicited) at busy crossroads. Many beg on tube trains, much to the disgust of the locals. We heard one of them tell a beggar that she had a laxative effect on him (‘Vous me faîtes chier’ if the Francophones among you are interested).

More enterprising Gypsies run mugging and pickpocketing rings, mostly using children and teenagers. These artful dodgers can relieve a tourist of his possessions in seconds, as some did a week ago by surrounding two Americans in the centre of Paris at breakfast time. Within 20 seconds they were gone, and so were the tourists’ phones, wallets and cameras. One has to admire skill, however misapplied.

Some rings, just like the Soviet factories of the past, have production quotas. One crime boss, for example, employs girls who are each supposed to deliver at least €300 a day. Failure to do so is punished by beatings, cigarette burns or sometimes rape.

The gangs operate around most tourist attractions, but the pickpockets have their really productive periods next to the prominently displayed ‘Beware of pickpockets’ signs. When espying one of those, almost every man instinctively touches the pocket containing his wallet, thereby communicating its exact location to the Gypsies.

The French being less forbearing than the Brits, and their police being just as accommodating to petty thieves, citizens often take the law into their own hands. Gypsy camps and shanty towns are routinely attacked with weapons ranging from baseball bats (their sales are soaring even though nobody plays baseball) to petrol bombs.

Rather than solving the problem, such attacks create a new one. Lawlessness goes up, respect for the law heads in the opposite direction – society suffers every which way.

Unless you plan a visit to France, you may think all this has nothing to do with you. Alas, that’s not so.

Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Borders and Immigration, has just admitted that Labour, when in power, overestimated the number of potential arrivals from Eastern Europe. That’s putting it mildly.

When our borders were open to the Poles in 2006, the government’s highest estimate of the number of possible immigrants was 13,000. This proved to be out of kilter by a factor of 50.

Nor was the bad arithmetic necessarily accidental: Peter Mandelson admitted honestly if somewhat cynically that there was method to this madness. Not to cut too fine a point, Labour was importing Labour voters.

When it’s Poles, who are after all Christians, the problem is manageable, just. When the imports involve millions of Muslims, the whole fabric of society risks being torn to tatters. Gypsies fall into the same category.

On 1 January, Romanians and Bulgarians, which will probably mean mostly Gypsies, will be welcomed to Britain. HMG led by our heir to Blair assures us that the total number won’t exceed 10,000. Applying the ironclad quotient to this estimate, one multiplies it by 50 and gets 500,000.

That’s about the same number as in France. Now if you’re excessively mindful of your possessions, t’s easy to give Paris a wide berth on this summer’s holiday. Doing the same to our homes next winter will be harder.  



Gee! No, G20

No one has ever accused President Obama of consistent behaviour, but still.

First he announces that, because of Russia’s beastliness in granting asylum to Edward Snowden, he’s cancelling his Moscow summit with Putin.

Then, in the next breath, he declares that he’ll still attend the G20 meeting in St Petersburg.

I’m confused. Cancelling a meeting with a fellow head of state is tantamount to declaring that Russia is sufficiently hostile to America’s interests to preclude any civilised contact. An enemy, in other words, or at least a potential one.

Yet attending an economic meeting in the same country sends an opposite signal, namely that America’s interests are the same as Russia’s or at least not so divergent as to preclude any civilised contact. Russia is a friend, in other words, or at least an ally.

Hence one may conclude that Obama sees nothing wrong in treating as an economic partner a country that boasts history’s first major criminalised economy. It’s only Russia’s welcome to a minor NSA clerk that upsets him.

However, I know of some Channel Island financial firms that refuse to accept Russian funds. And some Manhattan condominiums refuse to sell units to Russians whose source of finance is suspect, which is to say most Russians who can afford Manhattan condominiums.

Can such outfits apply stricter moral standards than a US president? One gets the impression that, as his administration’s finances get tighter, Obama’s moral standards become looser.

The president made his confused feelings known on an appropriate platform: a comedy chat show hosted by Jay Leno. The Russians, said Obama, really get him going: “There have been times where they slip back into Cold War thinking and a Cold War mentality.”

If by Cold War mentality he means opposing the West all over the globe, then the Russians don’t just do that “at times”. To make sure the fish had bitten, they led the West on for a couple of years after 1991, when, according to our neocon friends, history had ended and democracy had triumphed all over the world.

Since then it has been business as usual. In fact, the much cherished ‘collapse of communism’ was nothing but a transfer of power from the calcified Party to the more flexible KGB. Hence the subsequent change of language, and hence also the continuation of the same policy by different means.

But forget the Cold War. What really makes Russia wicked in Obama’s eyes is its ban on the propaganda of homosexuality to children.

“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” he said. He then implicitly accepted the parallel Leno drew between this legislation and the Nazi Holocaust.

This foul parallel is offensive, stupid and factually ignorant. The Nazis didn’t ban Jews from teaching Judaism in schools. They murdered six million of them. Equating the two events, in however remote a fashion, betokens an atrophied moral sense and never developed mental faculties.

The Russians had their own Holocaust, outscoring the Nazi version several times over. During the 40 years from 1917 Putins’s first employer, of whom he’s still self-admittedly proud, massacred 60 million Soviet citizens, and quite a few others.

It would have been appropriate to mention this in the context, but Obama’s moral indignation doesn’t go that far. He did however hint at the possibility of boycotting the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Again, he took exception to Putin’s promise that the law against homosexual propaganda will be enforced during the Games. This got the bandwagon rolling, and many others, including our own Stephen Fry, have jumped on.

“We wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently,” said the president.  “They’re athletes, they’re there to compete.” 

True. But Mr Obama ought to have asked his advisors what events they’ll be there to compete in. That way he would have avoided the embarrassing remarks that came next:

“And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Any judgment made “on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam” would be irrelevant to the Winter Olympics, for none of those is featured there. It’s more like ski slopes and skating rinks, Mr President.

But never mind the details; it’s the thought that counts. Messrs Obama and Fry may not like the idea of protecting children against homosexual propaganda, and they’re all in favour of eliminating the word ‘perversion’ from our dictionaries. Fair enough.

But Putin never said that homosexual athletes would be banned. All he said was that he’d want them to restrict their urge to convert tots to the delight of homosexuality. Surely it’s no hardship to refrain from doing so for a fortnight? “They’re there to compete,” after all.

I’m in favour of boycotting the Sochi Olympics too – but not for such spurious reasons.

Taking part in the event would be tantamount to endorsing an evil regime that tortures, murders or imprisons dissidents and journalists, runs a Mafia economy, supresses civilised liberties and conducts an assassination programme all over the world. Decent people, or countries, would besmirch themselves by having anything to do with such a regime.

But one of Russia’s few just laws shouldn’t be used as the reason for shunning her any more than, say, Saudi Arabia’s much harsher anti-homosexual laws should be held as the grounds for banning her oil imports.

Moreover it’s at best hypocritical and at worst immoral to boycott the Sochi Olympics while attending the Petersburg G20. But then it’s not democracy that governs the West these days. It’s moral relativism, abetted by PC totalitarianism.






The lessons of Detroit unheeded in London

‘Social democracy’ is among the most pernicious word combinations known to man, which is worrying. After all, most Western countries are social democracies now.

‘Social’ in this context means ‘socialist’, which is demonstrably bad news by itself. Whenever this approach to life was tried independently from democracy, it produced a swift calamity typically accompanied by unrestrained violence on a scale hitherto unknown to man.

Democracy adds a delayed-action mechanism to the primed socialist bomb, but it’ll still go off sooner or later. For socialism attempts to repeal economic laws rooted in human nature.

The underlying assumption is that if ideology contradicts human nature, it’s the latter that has to change.

Alas, human nature never stops proving that it’s created by an authority infinitely higher than any political dispensation. Only that authority could effect a meaningful change, and so far it has been refusing to do so.

Thus social democracy reliably produces a huge class of those whom the late Oriana Fallaci called ‘Mr I-Know-My-Rights’.

These people learn that they can provide for themselves not by working hard but by voting right (or rather Left). Elect a social democratic candidate (these days are there any other?) and subsistence is guaranteed. Things like food, accommodation, clothes, pensions, medical care become free.

Well, not exactly free because someone still has to pay for them. Except that the ratio of payers and payees keeps shifting away from the former. If in most Western countries this ratio used to be 5:1 not so long ago, these days it’s perilously close to 2:1 – or worse.

One reason for this is an aging population; another is, well, human nature. Most of us like the idea of getting a greater return for a smaller effort, or preferably no effort at all. Because of this universal trait, the availability of social benefits and the number of those desiring them exist in a symbiotic relationship.

A gap develops, and it can only be closed by promiscuous government spending financed by the printing press.

There’s no shortage of government officials eager to resort to this trick: social democracy breeds not only a certain type of voter but also a certain type of politician. Those prepared to sell their votes have no shortage of those willing to buy.

The outcome of this is clearly visible all over the Western world. But Detroit, which three weeks ago filed for bankruptcy, provides a useful microcosm.

In 1960 Detroit had a population of 1.6 million, 70 percent white, 29 percent black. The difference between the two groups was merely chromatic: they all worked hard, mostly in the motor trade. Detroit, then the fourth largest US city and the world’s automotive centre, was prospering.

But then the ‘social’ part of democracy kicked in, and the blacks were told that society owed them a debt for the injustices they had suffered 100 years earlier. The repayment could be claimed by earning without working.

Since work was now optional, education became unnecessary. In any case, much as socialists strive to change human nature, they’re fearful of developing human minds. After all, educated people could notice that an average politician is capable of committing several solecisms in one sentence.

Meanwhile in order to pay for the new entitlements the city had to raise taxes, especially those on property. These are now the highest in the country.

The hard-working people reacted in a highly predictable way: they ran away to sunnier economic climes. Moving in instead were people who didn’t know how to work but did know how to vote.

Now the city’s population is 707,000, with 85 percent of them black. Except that most of these aren’t the same people who used to work on Ford and GM assembly lines.

Skin colour, when it’s just that, matters only to racist pond life. Skin colour, when it becomes an ideology, matters to everyone.

Detroit has the highest murder rate in America and the lowest literacy: only seven percent of pupils can read properly. For every six OAPs there are only four people of working age.

How many of those four are actually working is anybody’s guess. The official unemployment rate is 10 percent, but of course such statistics can be massaged in any number of creative ways, such as excluding part-time workers or people on sick benefit.

Such creativity can distort the picture beyond recognition. Sick-benefit statistics in Britain, for example, show that the country has more invalids than in the wake of either world war. The cynic in me suspects that many of those beneficiaries should really be classified as unemployed – but honest accounting is contraindicated to dishonest politicians.

Mutatis mutandis, the situation in Britain is closer to that in Detroit circa 2013 than to Detroit circa 1960. How much closer depends on whom you’re listening to, but the parallels are there for all to see. The same ideology that corrupted Detroit’s blacks is indiscriminately corrupting all races in Britain.

The time bomb that’s social democracy is ticking away and one is tempted to say it’s up to us to stop it from going off. But then one looks at the available political options, and the temptation dwindles away.

Rouhani, the voice of Muslim moderation

On the eve of his inauguration, Iran’s in-coming president Hasan Rouhani spoke from his moderate heart:  “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”

Now this statement might in some quarters be said to belie Rouhani’s widely acclaimed moderation. One begins to harbour ugly suspicion that perhaps he’s not as moderate as he was widely portrayed after his election victory two months ago.

The suspicion becomes even uglier when one tries to picture ways in which the desideratum of removing the wound can be achieved. The Muslim devil, just like our own, is in the detail.

For the body of Islam to be healed, Muslim countries must first secure military victory over Israel. Imagining for the sake of argument that they have the wherewithal to do so, what would be the consequences of the medical procedure?

It doesn’t take much suspension of disbelief to realise that every Israeli who doesn’t manage to flee will be murdered in all sorts of imaginative ways for which Islam is so justly famous. This is the outcome Rouhani desires and towards which he no doubt will tirelessly toil.

This brings into focus the question I asked two months ago: “Exactly how moderate is Rouhani anyway?”

Barristers are trained only ever to ask a question in court to which they already know the answer. My query followed that legal technique.

The answer is, there’s no such thing as a moderate Muslim. There are only Muslims and non-Muslims, those who are Islamic in the same sense in which Leon Trotsky was a Jew or Richard Dawkins is a Christian. Born to a religion, they neither follow its practices nor live by its doctrine.

Such chaps may very well be moderate. What they can’t be is Muslim. For there are over 100 verses in the Koran that directly call for the murder of apostates, infidels, Jews – you name it. Free will not being at the top of the list of Islamic virtues, the dictates of its scripture must be followed to the letter on pain of death.

Thus a ‘moderate Muslim’ is an oxymoron, a bit like ‘a young person’, ‘a Christian atheist’ or ‘Dave the Tory’. And a Muslim cleric is as likely to be a moderate as he is to make the GQ’s best-dressed list.

Far be it from me to suggest that everything is relative, but some things definitely are. Moderation is one of them. My moderation may be your radicalism, his licence and their fascism.

Yet since the 1979 Islamic revolution Iran has been generally regarded as rather immoderate even by Muslim standards. By comparison, the Shah with his torturing secret police began to look like a humanitarian trying to get in touch with his feminine side. At least he drank decent wines and never threatened to develop nuclear weapons and blow up half the world.

Since then, whoever was democratically elected in Iran, the country has always been run by its Supreme Leader, first Ayatollah Khomeini then, after his death in 1989, Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

It’s the Ayatollah who decides who’s allowed to stand for the presidency of the Shi’ite republic and, by a multitude of variously subtle mechanisms, who’s allowed to win. In this type of democracy, it doesn’t really matter who wins. It’s all the same Shi’ite. Moderation really isn’t part of it.

Now the moderate Mr Rouhani wishes to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and murder everyone there. Here his cherished dream has to deviate from that of any decent Westerner.

The strategically inclined individuals among us realise that Israel is the West’s bulwark in its historical confrontation with Islam. Should hot lava yet again burst out of the volcano that is the Muslim world, Israel will be the West’s only reliable ally in the region.

Those whose thinking goes beyond pragmatic geopolitics remember that Israel and Christendom share much of their canon. Israel also acts as guardian of the sites held as sacred by Christians, and it takes little imagination to picture the devastation of such sites should the Muslims vanquish.

And those who think along neither geopolitical nor religious lines proceed from a purely aesthetic judgment.

All knowledge, wrote Descartes, comes from comparing two or more things. Comparing Israelis with, say, Palestinian Arabs, a Westerner is bound to see that the former are more or less like him, while the latter might as well have come from another planet. He will also notice that while the Israelis manage to turn a desert into an orchard, the neighbourhood Muslims are more likely to turn an orchard into a desert.

For these and many other reasons, we must take Hasan Rouhani at his word. Muslim leaders aren’t like ours: they tend to mean what they say. Occasionally they even do it.

So next time we read about Rouhani’s moderation in The Guardian, let’s reach for that grain of salt – and think what we must do about both Iran and The Guardian.

No Russian vodka please, we’re gay

Hitler was a monster who murdered millions. Much as we deplore that outrage, we must grudgingly accept that there wasn’t much wrong with Adolf’s love of dogs. He was almost British in that respect.

Stalin was a monster who murdered even more millions than Hitler. However, because of that one can’t take exception to his liking, even appreciating, real music. One may even lament that our own ‘leaders’ prefer listening to the anomic, anti-musical stuff screamed by tattooed plankton to the accompaniment of the same three chords the world over.

Putin is still lower on the monstrosity scale than either Stalin or Hitler, but then he has at least 12 productive years ahead of him. Considering his apprenticeship in the KGB, history’s most murderous institution, and his propensity for either imprisoning dissidents or bumping them off, he may still match Stalin’s achievements.

Yet this doesn’t mean that every piece of legislation ordered by Putin and passed by his rubber-stamp parliament is ipso facto bad. For example, I quite like Russia’s flat 13-percent income-tax rate. Wouldn’t it be nice if we had it here? Why, we wouldn’t even bother to cheat.

Of course the Russians pay other, less publicised taxes in the form of bribes, kickbacks, protection money, extortion by every government official from a traffic cop to a financial inspector. But that’s a different story, one that has nothing to do with the arguments pro or con flat income tax.

By the same token, any decent person will be appalled by the frequent assaults on homosexuals in Russian streets. These are conducted with the acquiescence, sometimes participation, of the police, and the perpetrators are seldom prosecuted, never mind convicted.

Such abominations, however, don’t cast aspersion on the intrinsic value of the law recently passed by Duma, the country’s legislative body. The law in question bans the promotion of ‘non-traditional’, meaning homosexual, relationships to children.

When it was passed a couple of months ago, all progressive mankind was up in arms. Not counting myself a member of this elite group, I’m tempted to ask why. Do they think it’s a good idea to promote homosexuality to children? Perhaps they do, which is part of what progress is all about.

The rest of us wouldn’t mind having such a law here, along with one banning the promotion of heterosexuality as well. One could even be so subversive as to suggest that perhaps it would be more productive for our schools to teach little tots how to read and write, rather than how to use condoms for contraceptive or prophylactic purposes.

Such shocking beliefs aren’t shared by the good folk who own British gay bars and clubs, including those run by the influential G-A-Y Group. If these chaps equate sexual licence with liberty, they ought to ponder the fact that the first major country liberalising homosexuality was Soviet Russia between 1917 and 1934, a place and time not otherwise known for a laissez-faire attitude to life.

Be that as it may, gay drinking establishments in London and Manchester are now refusing to stock Stolichnaya and Russian Standard vodka brands. Considering that the latter alone sells 2.9 million cases a year, and that clubs of that orientation still constitute an infinitesimal proportion of its business, the damage done to the Russian economy will be mostly symbolic.

And the customers at those venues will be better off, for they can now switch to better vodkas than either Russian product.

I would especially recommend the superb if little-known Sterling Tanqueray, made by the same people who make the gin. Absolut, Finlandia and Smirnoff Black aren’t bad either, and Grey Goose is excellent, if overpriced. In fact, Gerry’s off-licence in Soho carries 130 vodka brands, and most are at least Stoli’s equals.

The only real casualty in this vodka war is the truth. For rather than opposing the neo-fascist Putin regime for its brutality, suppression of the free press and playing fast and loose with elections, it is now being criticised for one of the few things it has got right.

In their desperation some conservative Christians, feeling betrayed by their own governments, even turn to Putin as their last hope. This is misguided intellectually, though understandable emotionally.

Criticise Putin’s regime and boycott Russian products by all means. But do so for real, not spurious, reasons.