US Senate to punish Putin: a right idea for wrong reasons

The heart, said Pascal, has its reasons that reason knows not of. The same can be said of today’s politicians on either side of the Atlantic.

Thus Sen. Blumenthal came up with a scheme that can only have its provenance in the heart, not reason. Hence a certain deficit of logic, attractive in a man who speaks from the heart.

“The Syrians could not conduct this war without Russian financing,” Blumenthal said in a letter co-signed by three other senators. “We can freeze their assets. We can stop them from doing business in the United States, prevent their employees from travelling here and, in effect, impose very heavy financial pain on the Russians.”

In other words, the Russians have been naughty. They’ve prevented Sen. Blumenthal and his likeminded colleagues from bombing Syria flat. For this they must be flogged where it hurts: in the pocket.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, but the stride isn’t long enough. After all, as preliminary head counts showed, the motion on bombing Syria flat was going to be defeated in Congress.

That means that most of Sen. Blumenthal’s colleagues are Putin’s accomplices in the crime of preventing Sen. Blumenthal from killing a few more Syrians and then establishing al-Qaeda rule in Syria.

If I understand jurisprudence correctly, this makes them equally culpable. Justice Blumenthal-style therefore demands that their bank accounts be frozen too. Let the Honourable Gentlemen sell their furniture for food, see how they like it.

As it happens, the idea of freezing Russian accounts all over the West is a sound one. It’s only the reasoning behind it that’s risible.

The Russians must be deprived of their ill-gotten wealth because it’s indeed ill-gotten. It’s safe to assume that every sizeable bank account held in the West by Russians represents the proceeds of illicit activity.

The cause of this takes us back to the first years of the post-Soviet state. There were many reasons for the Soviet nomenklatura to consign the Soviet state to posterity.

But the human factor came from the realisation that its wealth was denominated in non-convertible and therefore worthless (what the Russians call ‘wooden’) roubles. That meant that the nomenklatura could just about match the living standard of the Western middle class, but not much higher than that.

The only way to get their hands on those 500-foot Mediterranean yachts was to convert roubles into dollars, breaking the state’s monopoly on hard currency possession. For that to happen, the nature of the state had to change – hence all those perestroikas.

Since the massive conversion of the nomenklatura’s wealth into dollars had to bypass official channels to a large extent, the Party and the KGB intermingled with the crime barons of the shadow economy. This created a new elite, wherein Party apparatchiks, KGB officers and gangsters fused into a cohesive, homogeneous group.

Perhaps the biggest influx of personnel into the new elite, especially its ‘business’ end, came from komsomol, formally a youth extension of the Party that in fact had closer links with the KGB, acting as its breeding ground.

Thus three post-war KGB heads, Shelepin, Semichiastny and Andropov, came up through the ranks of komsomol. The same arrangement existed in Soviet satellites as well. Their equivalents of komsomol were just as tightly attached to their equivalents of the KGB. (This raises interesting questions about Angela Merkel who held a nomenklatura position in East Germany’s Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands.)

It was from the ranks of komsomol that much of the freshly minted business elite was drawn. If you scratch most post-perestroika ‘oligarchs’, such as Khodorkovsky, Nevzlin, Abramovich, Berezovsky, you’ll uncover a former komsomol apparatchik or at least activist.

The Russians refer to this group as ‘appointed oligarchs’. They were indeed appointed to act as guardians of the new elite’s wealth, of which they were given a leasehold, not a freehold.

Their reward was the means to live the life of Riley off the interest, even abroad if such was their wish. Their obligation was to remember they were the monkeys, not the organ grinders.

When they forget this crucial precondition, their memory is refreshed in ways ranging from assassination to imprisonment. For example, Khodorkovsky, the richest ‘appointed oligarch’ and former komsomol head of a Moscow borough, has been in prison for 10 years.

The top-to-bottom criminalisation of commercial activity in Russia guarantees state control not only of business but also of politics. Since no transaction in Russia can be conducted without some illicit money changing hands – if only by way of paying protection kickbacks – the whole self-employed community is effectively held hostage to the government, indeed to Putin personally.

One step away from the well-trodden path of obedience and sycophancy, and they can be imprisoned on ostensibly criminal, but in fact political, charges.

The European Court of Human Rights will then rule, as it did in Khodorkovsky’s case, that the charges were not politically motivated. True enough, in any civilised country the prosecution would have won a similar criminal case on prima facie evidence alone.

But in Russia the case would not even have been opened had Khodorkovsky not stepped out of political line. The lesson has been learned. Since even bogus democratic politics requires heavy funding, and since no rich man is going to finance opposition parties on pain of imprisonment, no effective opposition to Putin can arise.

Any civilised state would be within its rights to confiscate assets illegally obtained. Sanctions of this sort have traditionally been applied to pariah states, of which Putin’s Russia is certainly one.

This is what Sen. Blumenthal ought to occupy his flaming conscience with – not with Putin’s charitable act of saving Messrs Barack, Dave and François from their own stupidity.




Either Posh is racist or the world is mad

Victoria Beckham, formerly known as Posh Spice, has made the list of racist designers, as compiled by the supermodels Iman and Naomi Campbell.

The list also includes a veritable Who’s Who? of haute couture: Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Chanel, Armani, Gucci, Saint Laurent and Roberto Cavalli. Characteristically absent is John Galliano, who’s much given to video-documented anti-Semitic diatribes in bars.

In one such, he confused a group of Italians for Jews and ranted, “I love Hitler… People like you would be dead. Your mothers, your forefathers would all be f***ing gassed.” For all such multiple if at times misdirected efforts, Galliano failed to make the rather long list of racist designers.

So what did Posh do to qualify? It had to be something more egregious than anything Galliano has perpetrated. Indeed it was: Mrs Beckham’s catwalk show appeared to involve only one non-white model, as defined by Iman and Campbell to whom Asian models don’t count as non-white.

In their open letter to the governing bodies of the fashion industries in New York, London, Paris and Milan the dynamic duo, assisted by the ex-model Bethann Hardison, wrote:

“Eyes are on an industry that season after season watches design houses consistently use one or no models of colour. No matter the intention, the result is racism.

“Not accepting another based on the colour of their skin is clearly beyond ‘aesthetic’ when it is consistent with the designer’s brand.”

Following ‘another’ with ‘their’ shows that the authors must have suffered from educational discrimination, which alone is these days accepted as the reason for functional illiteracy. Yet, considering that they’ve made millions in an industry dominated by white designers, their prima facie evidence in support of the case against professional discrimination is somewhat weak. 

Their case for accusing Posh of racism is even weaker, and let’s face it: this is about the worst accusation that these days can be levelled at anyone – worse than murder, treason or even having sex without permission.

Realising this, Naomi was quick to offer an oral disclaimer: “We’re not calling them racist, we’re saying the act was racist.” It’s good to see that grammatically challenged persons are still capable of drawing such fine distinctions.

Not being privileged to know Mrs Beckham personally, I don’t know if she harbours any racial prejudices. What I do know is that the demographic composition of her catwalk crew proves nothing in that department, one way or the other.

‘The act’, Naomi, is neither racist nor aesthetic. It’s commercial.

Models in any marketing promotions, be that TV advertising, in-store posters or catwalks, are chosen on the basis of the market segment to which the promoted products are designed to appeal. Such decisions are made on research data, not personal idiosyncrasies.

Thus if John Galliano’s market research showed that his dresses appeal mostly to Jewish women, every one of his models would have a huge Star of David dangling between her half-bared breasts. Anti-Semitism would be strictly for after hours.

Every model agency has a thick book close at hand, matching the credibility of every model to every imaginable market segment. The subsequent choice is then made not by the couturier but by the calculator.

The cost of engaging a model (in the case of Iman and Naomi, the exorbitant cost), is weighed against her projected effect on the revenue. The more positive the balance, the greater the likelihood that the model will be used.

For my sins, I spent 30 years in the advertising industry on both sides of the Atlantic. Sensitivity to the sales potential of spokesmen and models is particularly fine-tuned on the American side, where there are many advertising agencies exclusively catering to the black and Hispanic markets.

No one has accused such agencies of complicity in racial discrimination. It’s understood that appealing to specialised markets requires specialised expertise. It’s further understood that some products appeal to some markets more than to others.

For example, once in New York I was writing copy for a female-hygiene product. Research and sales records showed that the market for the product was about 90% black.

Our first inclination was to choose a black model for all ads. However, further research told us not to be too hasty. Apparently, the likely buyers of the product were ready to accept a white woman as aspirational (don’t ask me why).

In the end, we chose a white model but had her so severely backlit that her skin colour was ambiguous. I can swear on a stack of Bibles that no racial, never mind racist, considerations played any part in any of the choices. It was nothing but cold-blooded commercialism.

Never having been involved in the fashion industry, I don’t know exactly how the houses choose their models. But I bet my annual income against Naomi’s daily fee (or the hourly profits of the Russian oligarch she’s cosy with) that the process isn’t dissimilar.

Of course racism these days is anything anyone says it is. If our millionaire models feel underprivileged, they are.

So Posh should watch her step. Since racism is not only decried but criminalised, one day she may find herself in the pokey for making business decisions.


Our governments should be fronted by actors (Ronald Reagan showed the way)

Alas, poor Dave. The chap just can’t win.

He has papered over the gaping holes in all his policies without the focus groups being any the wiser.

Prospective voters don’t seem to mind his firm commitment to destroying the institution of marriage.

They turn a blind eye on his economic policy with its phoney, and predictably catastrophic, focus on turning us into a nation of estate agents. We’ll all grow rich by selling houses to one another – until the bubble bursts and 2008 returns with a much bigger bang.

But since the implosion isn’t likely before the next election, Dave doesn’t mind that. And neither do the focus groups.

They even let Dave get away with one of the most pathetic foreign-policy fiascos ever suffered by a British PM, when his clamorous commitment to bombing Syria was quickly replaced by a craven agreement to let Putin call the shots.

The focus groups winced but swallowed – as they did the never-ending list of promises Dave has broken. I mean, does anyone even remember his Big Society?

And yet Dave is on course to losing the next election because he’s out of touch with women. ‘He does bugger-all for women like me,’ said one former Tory voter. Actually he also does bugger-all for men like me, for reasons I’ve outlined.

But what are the women’s reasons? They must be compelling and numerous: after all, Dave has managed to convert a 5% lead among 2010 woman voters into a 13% lead for Labour among the same group.

Apparently, the strongest reason is that Dave is posh. He has the gall to have been educated at Eton and Oxford, rather than at a comprehensive in a bad part of town and South Thames College. This automatically means he can’t possibly understand today’s women. Even though he too went to Oxford, Ed Miliband does much better with girls, and he’s not even that handsome.

I’m disappointed with Dave. Fair enough, what’s done is done, he can’t undo his educational qualifications. But can’t he do a better job pretending to be a man of the people? This is after all the only ironclad requirement for electoral success these days.

It’s not as if he hasn’t tried. Calling himself a voter-friendly Dave rather than a toffee-nosed David was a good start, but clearly more work needs to be done. Pronouncing his name as Dive would show willing but it can’t stop there.

Dave ought to make more of being married to a tattooed woman, thereby reducing the gap between himself and council estate dwellers. Referring to Sam as ‘me trouble’ wouldn’t hurt either, as in “me trouble ‘ad ten Mahatmas down the pub, got elephant’s and wallaced on the rory.” (For non-British readers unfamiliar with Cockney rhyming slang, trouble and strife = wife; Mahatma Gandhi = brandy; elephant’s trunk = drunk; Wallace and Grommit = vomit; Rory O’Moore = floor.)

Of course it’s not just the lines but also the delivery that matters, and this must be the hitch. Dive would be employing all the lexical tools I’ve suggested, and then some, if he felt he could pull it off phonetically.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to possess even the modest talent Tony Blair displayed in that area when he began to drop his aitches in mixed company. At times Tony forgot in which company he should do so and in which he shouldn’t, but he got top marks for trying.

This brings me to the kernel of my proposal. Since women voters demand downmarket sensibilities from politicians, and since Dave doesn’t seem to be able to fake those convincingly enough, the Tory party should put an actor at its head.

Look at the sterling job Ralph Fiennes (the blighter even pronounces his Christian name as ‘Rafe’ – they don’t come much posher than that) and Sir Ben Kingsley did. The first played a London gangster in the film In Bruges, the second in Sexy Beast.

With some help from a speech coach, both men sounded convincing enough as Cockney speakers to fool foreign viewers, if not quite authentic enough to make Ray Winstone or Bob Hoskins seek a career change.

Why not cut to the chase and appoint one of the four men, or better still a professional impressionist like Rory Bremner, as leader of the Conservative party? In reality they’d probably do a better job than Dave-Dive – it’s hard to do a worse one. More important, they’d run away with the top prize in the perception sweepstakes, and that’s all that really matters to our comprehensively educated electorate.

This isn’t to say that some clever chaps couldn’t back up the chosen actor with policy advice. That kind of arrangement worked gangbusters for Reagan who wasn’t quite compos mentis in his second term. So his Chief of Staff James Baker ran the Reagan administration while Ronnie was wheeled out to deliver folksy asides  whenever needed.

Djahmean, Dive? It’s the tin tack for you, me old China. Or, in your parlance, you’re hereby sacked, old boy.




Col. Putin, our saviour

Just as Barack, Dave and François found themselves at odds with their countries, in rode Col. Putin on his white steed.

I’m not sure he saved the day, but he certainly saved the inglorious trio from looking even more pathetic than God originally made them. Now the rumour has it that they’ll join forces to adorn Col. Putin with the Nobel Peace Prize.

One wonders whether Heinrich Himmler would have been similarly feted in the 1960s had Germany managed to hang on in 1945. Probably, if he had ousted Hitler and begun to re-establish Nazi Germany as a world power.

There’s little doubt that KGB Vlad has pulled a fast one on the West. He was trained to do just that, so no surprises there.

Neither should one be surprised at the cosmic ineptitude of the dynamic trio who have allowed a KGB thug with neo-Stalinist ambitions to outmanoeuvre them with such contemptuous ease.

First, Obama made the classic geopolitical blunder of plunging in without leaving himself an out. Intelligent statesmen leave their options open. Obama, who’s neither intelligent nor a statesman, didn’t.

Any use of chemical weapons by Assad, he declared, would mean crossing the red line. America would punish the brute by using her own weapons tipped with morally acceptable warheads.

So it would have happened had Barack’s friend Dave not thrown a spanner in the works. Dave, you see, had been agitating for attacking Assad for months. With the next election but two years away, he desperately needed to change his well-established image of a feather-light, self-serving spiv into that of a global statesman.

There was a hitch though. Dave’s focus groups were showing that his own party felt about him the way a tree feels about a dog, and for pretty much the same reason. Moreover, people were less likely to vote for him if he sacrificed more British lives and money for no obvious reason.

Enough to give a chap cold feet, what? But Dave too had already committed himself to a strike on Syria so unequivocally that pulling out was guaranteed to make him look even more of a wishy-washy, shilly-shallying prat. Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t.

I don’t know which advisor came up with the face-saving ploy. Perhaps it was Dave himself, he’s devious enough. Either way, Dave appealed to Parliament to save him from himself (and also from Sam who was so moved by suffering in Syria that she was pushing hubby-wubby to inflict some more). Parliament duly obliged.

Dave was rescued. He could now turn a lose-lose situation into a win-win one. He could now tell the world and his friend Barack that he personally remained a moral crusader for every immoral cause. But hey, bloody Parliament bound him hand and foot. You love democracy, don’t you, Barack? Well, it has spoken.

Dave’s beacon lit up the path for Barack to follow. For his focus groups told him pretty much the same story: few Americans supported yet another asinine action with easy entry and no exit.

Personally, Barack didn’t give two flying bucks about that, what with his own tenure ending in 2016 no matter what. But his party began to make threatening noises.

Dave’s brilliant turn of spivery showed the way. “Me!” shouted Barack. “Me too! I’ll put it to Congress! Democracy! Consent of the governed! Michelle!”

François was feeling left out. He had done enough in his presidency to be hated by most Frenchmen and despised by all. So his first inclination was the same as Dave’s: bomb the living merde out of somebody, anybody.

But, unlike Barack, he had something to lose personally. So François was reminded that he too had some sort of parliament to which he was accountable. After a fashion. “Moi!” he screamed. “Moi aussi!”

In that spineless manner the three ‘leaders’ found themselves in limbo, except in theirs purgatory beckoned on both sides. They had saved their political hides for the time being, but Syria was still out there. So was Assad. So were chemical weapons.

Enter KGB Vlad. We have “every reason to believe”, he declared, that it wasn’t Assad but his al-Qaeda enemies who had used the nasty compounds. To prevent them from doing so again, we should transfer Assad’s chemical weapons to international control, Putin’s own for preference.

Logically this didn’t quite add up, but this wasn’t a university debate. It was Russia reaching for the brass ring of dominance in the region. If in the process she could remind the West that it was ruled by nonentities, so much the better.

To prove that’s exactly what they were, the ‘international community’, meaning Barack, Dave and François (Angela kept her mouth shut on this one) heaved a huge sigh of relief. Focus groups were going to love this.

And the Syrians? Well, if anyone tried to implement Vlad’s scheme seriously, which no one will, it would take several years at best. In the meantime, Syrians will keep dying in growing numbers.

Vlad will supply Assad with stuff that can do the job just as well as gas but without causing moral indignation. Barack et al will probably offer similar support to Syrian al-Qaeda. And Vlad will collect his Nobel, thank you very much.

Here we have a thug who suppresses free speech, imprisons and/or murders dissidents, attacks one former Soviet republic and several provinces, blackmails his neighbours, makes a mockery of elections, runs the most criminalised major economy in history, enriches his cronies and himself on an epic scale, rearms his country for the express purpose of countering the West.

Still, as Descartes said, all knowledge is comparative. So how bad do our ‘leaders’ have to be to make Vlad look good?













The NHS is doing well in one category: death rates

Patients in NHS hospitals are 44% more likely to die than in their US counterparts – and five times more likely to die from pneumonia.

Overall, our hospital death rates are among the West’s highest, 22% higher than the average in the seven countries investigated by Prof. Brian Jarman, and 58% higher than in the best of them.

“I expected us to do well and was very surprised we didn’t do well – but there is no means of denying the results as they are absolutely clear,’ says Prof. Jarman.

What’s really surprising is his surprise. The NHS is a Leviathan born to an ideology, not inspired by common sense. As such, its failure is not just lamentable but predictable.

In commenting on these findings, Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, demonstrated both a surfeit of ideology and a dearth of common sense: “The fact is we have a health service that is admired around the world, founded on the cradle to grave principle. But the other fact is we still have too many patients dying in our hospitals when their relatives were expecting them to come home.”

So what exactly do people around the world admire, Sir Bruce? Too many patients dying? Some of the lowest cancer survival rates in the West? Overloaded emergency services?

If this were true, all those Johnny Foreigners would be falling over themselves to emulate our stellar achievement – yet they don’t. Britain proudly and ill-advisedly remains the only Western country with fully nationalised healthcare.

However, we ought to be grateful to Sir Bruce for his self-refuting comment. For he unwittingly hinted at the real problem of the NHS: the principle on which it’s founded.

He called it ‘cradle to grave’, but that’s not the principle, it’s an implementation guide. The principle is post-Enlightenment egalitarianism, the pernicious tenet that, perhaps more than any other, goes against the grain of human nature.

First enunciated in a secular context by the American Declaration of Independence, this idea has been corrupting Western societies ever since. And because it’s false it has to be shrouded in a tissue of lies. The universal admiration for the NHS falls into that category, but it’s comparatively innocuous.

The most emetic lie is equating atheist egalitarianism with the Christian notion of equality before God. Aristotle identified this problem before the Incarnation: democracy, he said, arises when people think that if they are equal in one respect, they are equal in all.

With admirable sleight of hand, the modern state picked up the mantle of Christian equality before God and squeezed its own bulk into it. Alas, the garment turned out to be a straitjacket.

As the NHS demonstrates, equal is the enemy of good – it’s only at the lowest common denominator that any equalisation is possible. But the lie persists, and the Leviathan’s minders keep insisting on its charitable nature.

Many draw a parallel between the welfare state, the NHS in particular, and Christian charity. In fact, they are more nearly opposite than alike.

Charity, without which according to St Paul we have nothing, was so much more than a system of financing social services. It was understood to elevate spiritually both the donor (especially an anonymous one) and the recipient – the former because he follows the commandment of loving his neighbour, the latter because in asking for help he displays humility.

Giant welfare projects, such as the NHS, have exactly the opposite effect. They corrupt both the state (the donor) and the populace (the recipient).

The state uses such Leviathans to increase its own power over the individual – essentially politicians buy their votes with our money. The people lose any sense of responsibility for their own wellbeing and treat handouts as an entitlement.

As is inevitable with all such projects, eventually they achieve goals opposite to those intended or even proclaimed. Rather than closing social and economic gaps among people, they widen them.

Comprehensive education, animated by the same egalitarian impulse as the NHS, has removed the social hoist of grammar school from the less well-off. Rather than eliminating privilege, this enshrined it forever. Since the advent of redistributive egalitarianism in the economy, the income gap between the top and the bottom has grown wider by an order of magnitude.

The NHS has had exactly the same stratifying effect. Rather than submitting themselves to the death traps of NHS hospitals, those who can afford it – and increasingly many who can’t – buy private insurance. BUPA thrives while the NHS languishes.

In common with all giant state enterprises, the NHS is committed, in deed if not word, to serving itself rather than patients. Frontline medical professionals and hospital beds are getting fewer, while administrative staffs are ballooning.

Doctors and nurses are being replaced by directors of diversity, facilitators of optimisation and optimisers of facilitation. For example, a Birmingham hospital recently cut the number of beds for lack of funds. At the same time they appointed, at a cost of £100,000 a year, a Director of Diversity who immediately began to issue illiterate circulars.

All this is accompanied by dark hints that before the arrival of the NHS people had been dying in the streets like stray dogs. In fact, more hospitals were built in the 1930s (hardly the most prosperous decade in British history) than in the 63 years of the NHS.

For an institution to be admired, Sir Bruce, it has to be admirable. The NHS isn’t.











BBC Radio 4: abuse of women has nothing to do with religion

The BBC is often accused of a leftwing bias. Why, even its ex-boss Mark Thompson manfully admitted the accusation isn’t wholly unfounded.

Following that bout of self-deprecation, inveterate reactionaries (among whom I mournfully number myself) have had a field day.

The BBC’s general tendency to place itself to the left of every mainstream party on just about every issue has been pointed out. Its choice of The Guardian as the only paper privileged to run the BBC’s appointment ads has been castigated. Its knee-jerk touting of PC, multi-culti rectitude has been rebuked.

Well, I’m man enough to admit that we, reactionaries, have been wrong. That is, we weren’t wrong in pointing out that the BBC violates its charter by eschewing objectivity.

After all, as even inveterate reactionaries like me pay the licence fee, it’s not immediately clear why we should be subjected to clearly unbalanced journalism. At least, with The Guardian we have the option of not buying the paper, an economy measure denied even to listeners of BBC radio stations (we pay for them through our taxes).

However, the leftwing bias must have something going for it. It evidently enables its possessors to delve the depths of human nature inaccessible to fee-paying reactionaries.

This dawned on me as I drove down the A40 yesterday, listening to a Radio 4 report on what was coyly identified as ‘grooming’ prevalent in the Bangladeshi community. This, contrary to what you may think, has nothing to do with meticulous attention to one’s appearance.

As the report eventually made clear, ‘grooming’ is the BBC for rape. Apparently older men chat up young girls, rape them and then pass them on like so many relay batons among their friends who rape them too. The girls go along with this because they are too ashamed and, more to the point, scared to complain.

Radio 4 lamented the indisputably lamentable fact that this practice has reached endemic proportions. It then discerned the discernible link between ‘grooming’ and forced marriage, another widespread practice among British Muslims.

So far, so good. But then came one of those startling insights for which the BBC is so justly famous. It’s tempting, said the report, to ascribe such manifestly un-British behaviour to the offenders’ culture or religion. But of course the real reason lies much deeper than that.

That’s when I realised the error of my ways. I, along with every inveterate reactionary of my acquaintance (and to my eternal shame there are many), thought nothing was much deeper than culture or religion.

They aren’t the sole motivators of human behaviour, but the others have a dubious claim to greater depth – and no claim at all when they are explained in Freudian terms.

Alas, the report didn’t identify the real triggers, which made it harder to accept its assertion that such rather cavalier treatment of women has nothing to do with culture or religion. The simpletons among us thus feel justified in clinging to our reactionary beliefs.

BBC gnosticism, like any other kind, is based on facts known to the gnostics only. The rest of us have to rely on facts in the public domain, and these seem to suggest that culture and religion do have something to do with the propensity to abuse women.

According to St Paul, “…there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” This is, to put it mildly, not exactly the position taken by the holy book of Islam. The Koran, for example, states unequivocally that “men are a degree above them [women] in status.” (2:228)

Though the Koran prohibits rape, this pecking order is reflected in its treatment of relations between the sexes. Thus, “. . . If you fear highhandedness from your wives, remind them [of the teaching of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them.” (4:34) Or else, “Women are your fields: go, then, into your fields whence you please.” (2:223)

Numerous studies show that such seeds fall on fertile ground. For example, a 2008 survey by the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights found that more than 80 percent of Egyptian women have experienced sexual harassment. Nor did they ask for it by wearing unchaste Western clothes: the majority of the victims wore Islamic headscarves.

In all fairness, abuse of women is typical not just of Muslim countries but of all those untouched by Judaeo-Christian morality. This month’s UN study of various parts of Asia has revealed an interesting fact: an astounding proportion of men admit to having committed rape at least once.

Papua New Guinea Bougainville Island leads the way with 62% (a piece of avuncular advice to girls: don’t go to Bougainville on holiday), but others achieve respectable scores as well. China: 22%. Urban Indonesia: 26.2%. Sri Lanka: 14.5%. Rural Bangladesh: 14%.

Without having ready data at one’s disposal, one could still venture a guess that no country that used to be Christian (none still is) would boast such numbers. For instance, I can’t think offhand of any rapist among my friends in half a dozen Western countries.

But that’s clearly an irrelevant observation. According to the BBC, neither religion nor culture has anything to do with it.


Sex and abortion: post-Christian and pre-Christian come together

The Crown Prosecution Office has refused to prosecute doctors who authorise abortion on the basis of the foetus’s sex.

That the expected child is female is accepted as sufficient grounds for an abortion. And our post-Christian subversives don’t even realise that they are being torn apart by conflicting pieties.

On the one hand feminists insist on a woman’s sovereignty over her own body – hence abortion on demand. But then they undermine their own feminism by implicitly acknowledging that women are inferior to men.

Of course opposing abortion on any grounds whatsoever is so uncool that such sentiments can’t even be voiced in polite company.

Yet, though it helps, one doesn’t have to be a Christian to oppose infanticide. After all, for old times’ sake if for no other reason, Western countries are committed to regard human life as sacred.

Does abortion constitute the taking of a human life? Is the foetus a part of a woman’s body over which she has sovereignty or is it an independent human being over whom she has the duty of care?

The latter, has to be the answer based on any considerations one cares to name: physiological, medical, philosophical, moral – never mind religious.

At what point in the pregnancy should abortion be banned? This argument is waged with much arm-flapping passion but without much logic. Swift’s big-enders and little-enders must have provided the inspiration.

For example, reducing the allowable limit from 24 to 12 weeks is seen as a significant achievement. In some ways it is, for the number of abortions will probably go down. But the logic of the argument defeats me.

On the 24-week side, I can’t see any moral or rational difference between killing a child three months before birth or three months after. Babies born prematurely were able to survive even before the introduction of modern technology, and scans show that a six-month-old foetus is a fully formed person.

What about three months then? Here we must answer the critical question: at what exact point does a human life begin? The logic followed by the 12-week little-enders has to be that it begins at 12 weeks plus one day. In other words, a foetus is but a part of a woman’s body at 84 days but an autonomous person at 85. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it?

No one endowed with intellectual honesty can argue that human life begins at exactly 84 days and not a day earlier. Could it be 83 days perhaps? Or, at a pinch, 82?

The only logically defensible, morally indisputable and scientifically verifiable point at which human life begins is the moment of conception. Therefore abortion constitutes the taking of a human life, otherwise known as homicide.

Now, as in any homicide, there may be mitigating or even exculpating circumstances, such as the likelihood that the woman won’t survive childbirth. However, such cases must be considered individually, and they don’t justify abortion on demand.

As to pushing girls to the front of the abortion queue, this practice lacks even novelty appeal. Its roots go back to the pre-Christian world of Hellenic antiquity.

In those days, as Plato explained in his Republic and especially Laws, the polis was next to everything and the individual next to nothing. In Rome too, res publica rode roughshod over res privata. There was no res privata worth speaking of – the value of a human being was determined on the basis of state interests.

As a predictable fallout from that utilitarian ethos, unwanted children, mostly girls, were often dumped to die by the roadside. Wild animals provided the service nowadays delivered by abortion clinics.

Christianity changed all that. Every human being came to be cherished not because of any towering achievement or superior character but simply because he was indeed human.

In fact, people incapable of achievement, like those frail boys routinely drowned by the Spartans or unwanted baby girls left to die in the woods by the Romans, began to be seen as God’s creatures to be loved before all others.

Though some people may have been wicked, some weak, some moribund, none was useless. They all had redeeming qualities because they had all been redeemed.

Therein resides the only meaningful equality – this is the only sense in which ‘all men are created equal’. And in this context, as in the amorous one, man embraces woman.

It is noticeable in every walk of life how dispensing with Christianity has pushed us back to Hellenic times rather than driving us forward. Except that neither a Plato nor a Praxiteles nor a Sophocles is anywhere in evidence. Nor, more to the point, is a Pericles.

The state again claims primacy over the individual who is supposed to serve res publica, as personified by the Tonies and Daves of this world. And as the interests of a secular state aren’t threatened by millions of aborted babies, why not allow abortion on demand? Why not leave the decision of which babies to abort and which to keep strictly to the parents’ and doctors’ discretion? No reason at all.

Except the one mentioned by Hilaire Belloc: “‘We are tickled by [the Barbarian’s] irreverence, his comic inversion of our old certitudes and our fixed creeds refreshes us; we laugh. But as we laugh we are watched by large and awful faces from beyond; and on these faces there is no smile.”

G20: first look at last day

My St Petersburg friends only agreed to send me the transcript when I swore it would be for my eyes only. Hence, in the good tradition of journalistic ethics, I’m publishing it immediately.

Putin (VP): This meeting will come to order! Everybody sit! Refusal to do so will be treated as an escape attempt! Sorry, inside joke.

Merkel (AM): Jawohl, Herr Oberst! But I’m not going to sitzen next to François. He always plays footsies.

Hollande (FH): Listen, sale boche, I’d rather play footsies with a dog!

AM: Ja. Like a rottweiler.

FH: Don’t you dare call Valerie that!

Cameron (DC): Can we please get back to the business at hand?

VP: Shut up, Dave. No one ever listens to you. Or your little island.

DC: Oh yeah?

VP: Yeah. Da.

DC: Says who?

VP: Says I.

DC: Well, I’ll have you know that our little island has made a big contribution to the world. We gave you the Beatles, Sid Vicious, Amy Winehouse…

FH: Amy Woo?

DC: Not Woo. She wasn’t Chinese, for heaven’s sake. Winehouse!

FH: Woo is Amy Winehouse?

DC: No, Woo is Chinese. Amy was a great British artist – as great at Mick Jagger and…

AM: You’re a fine one to talk about culture, Dave. You can’t even speak German.

DC: Oh yes I can! All Englishmen are multilingual!

AM: Ah so? Say something in German then.

DC: Er… Also, Schweinhund, vee’ve got vays to make you talk…

VP: Silence! We are world leaders, not squabbling fishwives! Speaking of which, Angela, why isn’t your foreign minister here? Westerwelle?

AM: Guido had to fly back home. His husband doesn’t know how to operate the dishwasher.

VP: I thought Guido was the husband…

AM: Not this week.

DC: He’s the husband to every man and the wife to every woman…

VP: Shut up, Dave, no one listens to you.

DC: A propos Guido, Vladimir, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about gay rights in Russia…

VP: Gay? Does this stand for Got Aids Yet?

FH: C’est pas drôle. Is not funny. Valerie is worried…

VP: I’ll tell you what she should be worried about, suka. Your going along with that mudak President Obama on Syria, that’s what. And where do you think you’re going, Barack?

Obama (BO): To the other end of the table. I’m not gonna sit next to you. Not after what you’ve just said.

VP: Oh really? Well, let me tell you this: you drop one bomb on Syria, and we’ll whack you in the shithouse!

BO: You will, eh? Well, let me tell you, we can bomb Syria flat and there’s zilch you can do about it!

VP: One bomb, Barack, one bomb, and we’ll sell Assad something to blow your ships out of the water to tsardom come.

BO: You do that and we’ll impound all your laundered cash in our banks.

VP: And we’ll dump all our dollars, a trillion of them. Your dollar will be worth nothing! Or a yen, which is the same thing.

Taro Aso (TA): I don’t rike the imprication.

Hu Jintao (HJ): I do. We have a couple of trillion of our own, please, Mr Obama. We could dump them too.

BO: You could, eh? So who’s going to buy your plastic underpants and polyester shirts?

FH: Hu is going to buy his own underpants?

BO: I’m asking, not telling. Who’s going to buy your stuff if the dollar goes kaput?

AM: See, Dave, Barack speaks German.

BO: What I mean, Hu, is stop making empty threats. See you at the noodle factory.

TA:  I don’t rike any of this. No agreement on Syria seems rikery.

BO: No kidding. Well, this is an economic summit, ain’t it? So we’re economical with agreements.

VP: As the chairman of this conference… What is it, Angela?

AM: I’ve heard a funny one lately. Knock, knock!

DC: Who’s there?

AM: No, it’s not Hu. It’s Angela.

DC: Funny, very. You Germans are known for your sense of humour.

VP: Shut up, Dave, no one listens to you. The meeting is adjourned. Dismisssed!

AM: Himmelherrgott! Take your hand off my knee, you bloody Frosch!

FH: Woo are you calling a frog, you sale boche

Attached to the transcript was a copy of the joint statement by European Commission President Barroso and European Council President Van ‘Rumpy-Pumpy’ Rompuy:

“The G20 has proven its worth, in the face of the major challenges the global economy has experienced over the last five years, as the world’s premier forum for economic cooperation: all G20 members remain determined to implement our ambitious commitments and take further steps on the way to strong and sustainable growth. We are pleased that the European Union’s objectives for this summit have been broadly achieved.”






G20: a demonstration of Russian diplomacy and British dignity

To kick off the G20 meeting in St Petersburg, Col. Putin’s aide described Britain as “just a small island no one pays any attention to”.

He forgot to mention that the only reason people listen to Russia is that she’s both willing and able to blackmail them into rapt attention with either nuclear weapons or oil, or usually both.

Dave’s reaction? An indignant “I don’t accept that for a moment.”

Exactly what doesn’t he accept? Britain is undeniably an island, neither the smallest nor indeed the largest one.

Yet, as a British diplomat commented in response, our economy is still much larger than Russia’s. Moreover, our income, unlike Russia’s, doesn’t mostly come out of the ground. Nor does it then get laundered before being paid in.

And yet the Russians are right: not many countries listen to us any longer. The reason for this is that Britain lacks a sense of purpose and our ‘leaders’ a sense of dignity.

The problem isn’t, as Times pundits and other lefties clamour, that we’re alienated from the EU. It’s that we aren’t alienated enough.

Nor is Britain’s refusal to go along with yet another idiotic US adventure a factor in our diminished status. It’s that normally we’re too eager to play the dummy to America’s ventriloquist.

The world’s financial centre, fifth largest economy and one of the West’s three nuclear powers deserves respect. But first such a country has to respect herself.

This self-respect is manifestly lacking in our ‘leaders’, which is why they are prepared to swallow any insults assorted thugs throw in their faces.

When Ed’s brother Dave (not to be confused with Ed’s spiritual twin Dave who’s our prime minister) was Foreign Secretary, he once made some perfunctory remarks on human rights to the Russian foreign minister Lavrov. The latter’s response was predictably thuggish: “Who the f… are you to lecture me?”

Any minister who respects himself and the great country he represents would have walked out, banging the door behind him. HMG would then have issued a note demanding an abject official apology, barring which diplomatic relations would be severed.

Alternatively or additionally, no holders of Russian passports would be admitted into Britain, and those already there would be summarily deported. This would include the oligarchs who, according to the proud boast of Putin’s minion, have “bought up Chelsea”.

Instead, Dave Mark I went on as if nothing had happened. So has Dave Mark II this time in Petersburg.

He should have got up and left, firing a parting shot that no civilised discourse is possible with manifestly uncivilised louts. Unless Russia wants to find herself in a position of an even worse pariah than she is already, Putin had better paper-train his spokesmen (and himself) to keep a civil tongue in their heads.

But then Dave has form in being spineless. Shortly before he became prime minister he agreed to appear on the talk show hosted by the hideous vulgarian Jonathan Ross. No self-respecting statesman would have done so, but hey, it’s Dave we’re talking about.

In his inimitable style Ross then asked Dave if, as a youngster, he used to wank to a picture of Margaret Thatcher. At this point, not just any self-respecting statesman but indeed any self-respecting man would have got up and left without saying a word. Not our PR Dave – he just smiled and went on being a man of the (vulgar) people.

To be fair to Dave, he isn’t the only Western politician prepared to lap up Russian spit off his face. Commenting on John Kerry’s accusation that Russia had supplied poison-gas technology to Assad, Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Putin’s staff, accused the US State secretary of “lying through his teeth” (the Russian expression he used is actually ruder). The undiplomatic word ‘lie’ was also used by Putin himself.

Diplomats don’t talk that way; thugs do. A foreign minister of a respectable country doesn’t lie. He may misrepresent facts. Perhaps he may be misinformed. His information may not be quite accurate. His accusations may be groundless. But – read my lips, Messrs Ivanov and Putin – HE. NEVER. ‘LIES’.

Any diplomatic representative of his country would be completely within his rights to leave the meeting there and then, saying that no further conversation is possible with louts. Talking to the journalists he may then say something along the lines of “Yes, we all know that Syria has a thriving missile production of her own.” But his immediate reaction ought to be a mighty bang of the door.

Take it from someone who spent his youth being bullied by Putin’s and Ivanov’s KGB colleagues: neither meekness nor reasoning works. Russian – and for that matter any other – bullies pounce at any sign of weakness and recoil from any show of strength.

Perhaps Messrs Kerry and Cameron should consult the history books to see how their predecessors used to handle loutish foreigners. On second thoughts, perhaps they shouldn’t – it wouldn’t do them any good.