Would you like to live in Texas?

Gen. Sheridan (d. 1888) once said, “If I owned hell and Texas, I’d rent out Texas and live in hell.”

According to Michael Burleigh’s panegyric in today’s Times, Texas has come a long way since then. By the sound of it, given the choice between living in Texas and paradise, Prof. Burleigh would rent out the Garden of Eden.

He’s of course entitled to that opinion, as we’re entitled to ignore it. I certainly would – if this bizarre article didn’t evoke so many thoughts and recollections.

Recollections first: for my sins I actually lived in Houston for 10 years as a young man. Now if I were to seek an afterlife metaphor on the basis of that experience, I wouldn’t describe Texas as paradise. I’d describe it as comfy hell for the whole family.

This assessment is so diametrically opposite to Prof. Burleigh’s that so must be the criteria from which we proceed. As so they are: his are entirely material and mine aren’t.

This is worth a comment, for underneath it all one detects a clash between victorious modernity, as personified by Prof. Burleigh, and my hopelessly forlorn clinging to what used to be known as Western civilisation.

The benefits of modernity are all expressible in numbers, and Prof. Burleigh did his homework. His trusted calculator close at hand, he leaves one in no doubt that Texas is rich, its cities are growing faster than anywhere else, and it creates more jobs than the rest of the world combined (or words to that effect).

Even operating at that level, I’d be tempted to add that Texas’s riches are almost totally beholden to the market price of oil. Every Texan baby knows today’s value of a barrel, for his comfort depends on it.

When oil prices soar, the influx of immigrants from other states and countries is as impressive as Prof. Burleigh finds it. When they plummet, it’s impossible to hire a U-Haul truck – everyone is rushing for the exit (spoken from personal experience).

But with crude at today’s $115 a barrel, Texas is indeed as prosperous as Prof. Burleigh extols. So what more do we need?

Quite a few things, actually. First, I can solemnly swear that Texas is by far the ugliest place I’ve seen on my travels.

Houstonians say that you can stand on a stool and see into Oklahoma, and it’s only a slight exaggeration. The state is as flat as Prof. Burleigh’s prose – one has to drive 100 miles north of Houston to see hills the height of Hampstead Heath.

The space in between and for hundreds of miles in any other direction is barren, filled with ‘the brush country’, desert to you and me. Scorched earth with the odd bush about a foot high is all one sees, and the ugliness is so unremitting that one almost welcomes the sight of venomous snakes wiggling their way towards one’s boots.

That footwear, in addition to its symbolic folksy value, thus has life-saving significance: most snakes can’t sting higher than the top of a boot.

Add to this Phillip Johnson’s skyscrapers disfiguring the downtown areas of Texas cities and one can safely say that, yes, everything is big in Texas. But nothing either natural or manmade is beautiful.

Prof. Burleigh’s view seems to be that a house with a swimming pool would outweigh that drawback, but it takes living there for a few years to realise how deadly visual deprivation can be. Just imagine years of saying nothing beautiful at all, not a patch of forest, not a picturesque river, not an interesting landscape, not a building that’s neither dull nor a dreadful eyesore.

Trying to find some relief, people drive to the beaches of Galveston or Freeport on the Gulf of Mexico.

There they park their trucks right on the water edge and start tossing empty beer cans and burger wrappers all over the beach. Stepping on one of those would be unpleasant but less so than stepping on a tar patch.

These are more numerous than cowpats on a ranch, for just a couple of miles offshore one can see oil platforms pumping the source of Texas wealth, some of which settles as tar patches on the sand. Step into one and it’ll take about a fortnight to wash it off.

After I left Houston I took my English wife there for a few days. I wanted her to be amused and it worked: she couldn’t stop laughing for a second.

The first thing that caused her mirth was a musical-instrument shop (she’s a concert pianist) that advertised its wares by perching a grand piano on top of a 100-foot mast towering over a spaghetti junction.

Then I took her to a cute, mock-European plaza where every shop was called ‘Chez Michel’, ‘Chez François’ or ‘Brocante Parisienne’. Only one shop eschewed European flavour. It was simply called GUNS, in blazing 6-foot letters.

Then we had a drink at a lovely outdoor café styled after those in the Côte d’Azur. We sat under a multi-coloured umbrella looking at palm trees that could almost be real. But they weren’t: the outdoor café was actually four stories underground in The Galleria shopping mall, the cultural highlight of Texas.

Add to this seven months of 95 degrees-plus heat and 95% humidity every year, regular floods, hurricanes, and tornados, and you’ll have a realistic picture of hell on earth. (In his tourist enthusiasm Prof. Burleigh remarks blithely that “with air-conditioning, it’s not even as hot as it once was”. True, but that means spending one’s whole life in an air-conditioned space, never venturing outside for longer than a few minutes.)

Prof. Burleigh confuses standard of living with quality of life, and in this he’s truly a man for our times. Perhaps he should move to Houston or Dallas. Being an inveterate retrograde, I’ll take even Hull any day.

Y’all have a nahce day now, ya heah?

Our courts aren’t Christian – even worse, our judges aren’t bright

Sorry to be so rude to Their Honours, but how would you describe a person capable of writing this sentence?

“A child’s best interests have to be assessed by reference to general community standards, making due allowance for the entitlement of people, within the limits of what is permissible in accordance with those standards, to entertain very divergent views about the religious, moral, social and secular objectives they wish to pursue for themselves and for their children.”

This reminds me of the American quip about a Polish godfather: he makes you an offer you can’t understand. Except that the author of the sentence isn’t a Polish mobster but Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division.

One of our leading judges, in other words, and if you aren’t quaking in your boots you’re made of sterner stuff than I am. If this is the best our legal profession can throw up, no wonder the country’s going to pot.

What on earth does he mean? Clarification, sir, please.

Sir James dutifully obliges: Britain may be a Christian nation, but judges “[are] secular… serving a multicultural community of many faiths sworn to do justice to all manner of people.”

Who exactly is sworn, judges or the community? Was His Honour’s address originally written in German and then translated into English by a Hungarian?

The confusion deepens, but trust Sir James to straighten it out: “We live in a society, which on many of the medical, social and religious topics that the courts recently have to grapple with, no longer speaks with one voice. These are topics on which men and women of different faiths or no faith at all hold starkly different views.”

So far so good, said a man falling down past a 20th floor window. People who live in Britain may differ on a number of points. I think we can all agree painlessly.

But then the pain starts, at first as a headache but threatening to afflict the area called gluteus maximus in the medical parlance. The common law, declares Sir James, must show a “malevolent tolerance” of cultural and religious diversity.

I don’t know what ‘malevolent’ means in German, as translated into Hungarian and then, by way of Chinese whispers, into English. But in the target language this word is generally free of positive connotations.

Yet the judge unwittingly put his finger right on it: the kind of tolerance he’s talking about is indeed malevolent. So much so that in effect it means its exact opposite: intolerance, specifically of Christianity and English legality.

“A secular judge must be wary of straying across the well-recognised divide between church and state,” explains Sir James. Who, to quote Byron, will explain his explanation?

Actually Britain is one of the few Western countries in which Christianity isn’t separated from the state, at least until the accession of our Defender of All Faiths.

This bit of trivia may be too arcane for Sir James, but he must have gone to law school at a time when they still taught the historical and religious antecedents of Western legality.

Surely he must be aware of the link between Judaeo-Christian morality and our common law? No, perhaps not.

But he definitely must have heard of equality before the law, the cornerstone of our liberties. That means one and the same law for everybody, which in this country means the English Common Law.

Sir James must also know that this legal system is based on precedents going as far back as we can trace them.

Now most of those precedents go back to the time when England was still a savage, backward land on which no light of multi-culti virtue had yet shone. You know, when she had chaps like St Anselm, Byrd and Shakespeare.

At that time judges hadn’t yet abandoned, as according to Sir James they now have “rightly” done, “their pretensions to be the guardians of public morality”.

Judges then understood that public morality was shaped by Christianity and the courts’ function was to translate this into secular justice. Those fossils hadn’t yet been imbued with the undoubtedly progressive idea, so dear to Sir James’s and Rowan Williams’s heart, that some elements of Sharia law must be recognised as valid in England.

Britain’s legal system, says Sir James, must tolerate anything society may find undesirable, provided the law isn’t broken. If non sequiturs were an Olympic event, he’d win the gold medal.

Not only Britain’s but any conceivable legal system is by definition obligated to tolerate anything that doesn’t break the law. What Sir James means is that our law should be replaced with another, expanded to include some Sharia provisions.

Not all, thanks be to Allah. Such provisions must be tolerated “so long as they are legally and socially acceptable and not immoral or socially obnoxious or pernicious.”

Sir James does explicitly brand as “beyond the pale” things like forced marriage, female genital mutilation and “grotesquely misnamed honour-based domestic violence”.

What about polygamy? Islam allows chaps to have up to four wives – how does this sit with family law of which Sir James is in charge? (A purely hypothetical question, as I hope my wife understands.)

Should our laws recognise polygamy for Muslims but not for Christians? Surely Sir James doesn’t mean that equality before the law has been abandoned?

And please, please don’t tell me that the stoning of adulterers will be allowed – I don’t want to see most of my friends emigrating.

I hope I haven’t done an injustice to Sir James by misinterpreting his pronouncements. If so, I apologise, but then I have little German and no Hungarian.

The real threat to this country isn’t so much genital as mental mutilation, both female and male. Look, even our top judges have fallen victim.





How to get rid of British manufacturing in three easy steps

Yesterday Dave visited a Mini factory in Oxfordshire, as one does when one has to come across as a man of the people who feels their pain.

He then made a speech designed to reinforce that impression. With UKIP breathing down his neck, Dave knew exactly what he had to say.

“You go round factories in our country and half the people have come from Poland or Lithuania or Latvia… But as a country what we ought to be saying is ‘no’.”

Did you hear this, you prospective Tory-wreckers from UKIP? Dave doesn’t want any bloody foreigners here any more than you do.

Yes, but what about Dave’s more, shall we say, progressive constituency? Is this the message he wants them to receive? You bet it isn’t.

“You can’t blame them,” Dave hastened to add. “They work hard. They see the jobs, they come over and they do them.”

God forbid we blame foreigners, that just isn’t The Guardian way. Then whom do we blame?

It’s the fault of our schools, explained Dave plausibly, because British youngsters aren’t “fully capable” of holding down jobs. ‘Not fully capable’ means ‘fully incapable’ in political, in case you’re wondering. Like not being able to read, write and add up, while having a rotten attitude and no work ethic.

Add to this a welfare system discouraging work, continued Dave, and the problem is there in a nutshell. Also, of course – and don’t get Dave wrong – he loves foreigners, but there are just too many of those ‘hard-working’ Eastern Europeans here.

But being a prime minister who wants to stay that way, Dave can’t just identify problems; he must offer solutions. Decisive, intelligent, no-job-too-big-or-too-small solutions. Otherwise the natives will get restless and vote for Ed, even if this means cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Dave didn’t disappoint. Far from it – he offered not one, not two but three solutions:

“First, let’s get our education system right… Second, let’s reform the welfare system so that it doesn’t pay to be out of work. And third, let’s have sensible controls on immigration. Crack those three problems together [my emphasis] and we’ll create an economy that really generates wealth for our people.”

That’s it. Not a dry seat in the audience, deafening sounds of “hear, hear”. But the rest of us are ever so slightly confused.

‘Together’ is a good word in politics, however it’s used. We all adore togetherness. But does it really apply, in essence and not just in sound, to the problem at hand?

Let’s imagine a plausible timetable for Dave’s tripartite programme, back to front. How long will it take to introduce ‘sensible controls on immigration’? What will it take?

As the people Dave mentioned specifically come from EU countries, they have a legal right to work here. For that to change so must our relationship with the EU.

Britain will have to demand controls over her own borders, and something tells me those chaps in Brussels just may say no. What then?

Why, have an immediate in-or-out referendum, or at least threaten to have one. Assuming that Britain wins the resulting standoff and stares the EU down, and this isn’t a safe assumption by any means, how long before we can drastically reduce immigration?

At least a year, I’d say. So that’s Dave’s third point taken care of. One year, more probably longer, most probably not at all. But do let’s be optimistic and agree on 12 months.

Next point, reforming the welfare state. Compared to the previous task, this one is a doddle, it could be done in one fell swoop. Just announce that as of next month able-bodied young people won’t be getting any state assistance. Job done.

Or is it? We’re after all talking about millions of people, most of whom aren’t ‘fully capable’ of working for a living. Are we going to let them starve? Of course not. We’re going to train them, which brings us to Dave’s Point 1, getting ‘our education system right’.

How long will this take, assuming (and that’s another unsafe assumption) that we remove all the stops, reinstate grammar schools, introduce a voucher system, attract good teachers by paying them more and so on, whatever it takes?

With the best will in the world, even in theory it’ll be impossible to see any positive and sizeable results in less than a generation, more likely two, educational cycles being what they are. But let’s again be kind to Dave, let’s say 20 years.

This leaves a gap of at least 19 years between slamming the door into those Eastern European faces, reforming our welfare and producing in sufficient numbers those willing and able to work.

If we accept Dave’s figures at face value, then half the labour force will disappear from our factories for almost two decades. This means at least half of our factories, and probably more, will shut down. So when those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed youngsters are ready to get jobs, there won’t be any jobs for them to get.

There’s got to be something wrong with my calculations. Surely our venerable PM can’t be so cynical, brazen and lightweight as to say such things with no hope of ever making them come true? Don’t bother answering.

Anti-immigration vans inflame murderous Tory xenophobes

We all know the instant knock-on effect propaganda can have.

Repeat ‘ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’ often enough, and perfectly well-behaved Germans will start gassing Jews.

Devote enough column inches to Islamic terrorism, and no corner shop in the north of England will be safe.

Pass a law banning homosexual agitation in schools, and those Russians will start ambushing anyone with a slight lisp and a neatly trimmed moustache.

Are you with me so far? Do you agree that propaganda inevitably has such an immediate effect? That a sweet little boy who likes violent films is guaranteed to turn into a murderous sadist? That a little girl watching a film about prostitutes will tell her mummy that she wants to be a hooker when she grows up, if not sooner?

Well then, you have to agree with Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian leader of Labour MEPs in the European Parliament and Ed Miliband’s best friend.

Displaying the same unshakeable belief in one-to-one causality that I sketched in the previous paragraphs, my friend Hannes (we haven’t met, but any friend of Ed’s is a friend of mine) came up with a ringing – and well-justified! – accusation of the British Tories and especially those vipers from UKIP.

You see, a few days ago a young Italian waiter, who had only arrived in Britain 10 days earlier but had already found a job at a Maidstone restaurant, was beaten to death by English thugs, each one presumably inclined to euroscepticism.

My friend Hannes, no doubt wishing to score some much-needed political points for our mutual friend Ed, put his finger right on the cause of this heinous crime: “The xenophobic, aggressive climate inflamed by populists and by the rhetoric of the Conservatives in government is now leading to murder in the streets of Britain.”

“Campaigns such as vans with slogans telling immigrants to ‘go home’ and continuous negative rhetoric against foreigners – including EU citizens – are creating an ugly mood in Britain,” he added, displaying the unimpeachable logic for which EU officials are so justly famous.

How right he is! Truer words have never been spoken. The Tory government, only barely restrained by its civilised LibDem partners, has unfurled a hateful campaign based on the malicious misconception that anyone living in England should be here legally.

How dare they! The next thing you know they’ll say that everyone living here must be able to read NHS circulars in English, rather than in any of the 17 languages into which they are translated. Then we’ll really know that concentration camps are just round the corner.

What’s the likely – nay, guaranteed – effect of such fascistic propaganda? You’re right, there can be only one outcome. Militant English nationalists will take to the streets looking for Johnny Foreigners to stamp to death.

And this is exactly what those Tory-corrupted, UKIP-inflamed English yobs did in Maidstone. The ultimate blame must be put squarely on the Tories and those UKIP vipers, though the actual perpetrators can’t be wholly excused.

And now it’s time to name and shame those ghastly Brits charged with the murder of the young Italian.

They are: Aleksandras Zuravliovas, 26, Tomas Gelezinis, 30, Saulius Tamoliunas, 23 and Linas Zidonis, 21. Each one of them a Little-Englander whose latent British jingoism was dragged to the surface by the Tories. Makes one ashamed to be British!

These despicable Little-Englanders… Hey, hold on a moment. I’ve just noticed something… The names don’t sound, well, don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly no English jingoist but, and I mean this with all due deference and respect… well, the names don’t quite have the same ring as Thompson or Jones.

Let me check my sources… Oh well, what do you know. The four murderers are actually not English! They happen to be Lithuanian migrants. Blow me dry, wonders will never cease.

Suddenly, and it deeply saddens me to say so, my friend Hannes’s rhetoric begins to sound a smidgen less persuasive. Why, the Tory xenophobes among us may even suggest – wrongly, inexcusably, I hasten to add! – that the case is an argument not for indiscriminate immigration so dear to the EU’s heart but rather against it.

No, that can’t be right. A high EU official imbued with all the intellectual and moral probity of that august organisation can’t possibly be so earth-shatteringly moronic. Especially when he’s a socialist and Ed’s friend.

So he’s got to be right. Any campaign against illegal immigration is guaranteed to have only one possible result. Lithuanians will start murdering Italians en masse, and then woe betide all those French people in Fulham – the Poles and the Czechs know where they live.

Oh to be in the EU, now that autumn’s here. Makes one want to reach for one’s Browning.




Why not a Satanist king, Your Grace?

By the sound of it, one would think Prince George was baptised not into the Church of England but into a lifelong subscription to The Guardian.

Actually, scratch that. Had that been the case, the BBC wouldn’t have mentioned the event in a little footnote. It would have been the first item on the 9 O’Clock News.

Following the christening, the Archbishop of Canterbury was asked if he’d have any objections to the prince eventually becoming a Buddhist.

Not at all, replied His Grace. He’s ‘perfectly entitled’. And so he would be – as a private person. However, as third in line to the throne, he isn’t, and it’s shocking that the head prelate of our established church would give such an ignorant, wishy-washy answer.

I would have been tempted to ask the Archbishop how far he’s prepared to go in his subversive ecumenism. How about George eventually becoming Muslim King, by the Grace of Allah, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas? He could be referred to as the Ayatollah and Supreme Leader George VII, thus ensuring the lasting triumph of multi-culti rectitude.

Or a Satanist perhaps? There are quite a few Satanists in Britain and it’s a shame they aren’t represented in the royal succession. If he converts to this venerable faith when he grows up, Prince George will be able to officiate a Black mass and perhaps sacrifice one of those 40 virgins he could borrow from the Muslims.

On second thoughts, we’ve already had a Druid (i.e. pagan) Archbishop of Canterbury. Why not a Satanist king? No reason at all.

Now it’s useful to remember that such archaic, stick-in-the-mud, not with-it but still valid charters as the 1689 Bill of Rights, the 1701 Act of Settlement and the 1800 Act of the Union are unequivocal on succession. Even someone who is, ever has been, or is married to a Catholic is disbarred.

At the risk of trespassing on His Grace’s theological territory, one may suggest that the distance between Catholicism and Anglicanism is considerably shorter than that between any Christian confession and Buddhism – or any other non-Christian creed.

Is the Most Reverend Justin Welby aware of the constitutional makeup of the realm? Or is he so consumed by the urgent desire to be liked by everyone that he simply doesn’t care about such inconsequential details?

He isn’t the only one. HRH Prince Charles, who – one shudders to think – may become king in our lifetime, keeps insisting that he wants to be known as ‘Defender of Faiths’, not by the traditional (since the sixteenth century) title of ‘Defender of the Faith.’ Jack of all faiths, Supreme Governor of none.

Britain, HRH correctly observes, is multi-culti, and her head of state must reflect in his person the absolute equality of all subjects and therefore of all faiths. Yet equality of everything presupposes belief in nothing. All faiths can be deemed equal only if one regards them as equally irrelevant. And even if HRH feels that way, he’s best-advised to keep such thoughts to himself. His ancestors used to behead people for less.

No wonder Prince Charles dreads becoming our king, a feeling widely shared by many of his future subjects. He describes the throne as a ‘prison’ and claims that he’ll only discharge royal duties ‘joylessly’ as they’ll make him less free to pursue his other interests. In that he’s beginning to sound exceedingly like his ‘I-Want-To-Be-Me’ ex-wife.

Whatever the Prince’s outside interests are, they clearly include neither history nor constitutional law nor theology. He’s so pre-occupied with the environment that he has no time to contemplate how the environment came into being.

Oh, would the next generations of our royals remember that their rights as individuals are superseded by their duty to serve the nation. At times one begins to suspect that they are all republicans at heart.

If that’s the case, then their actions and pronouncements become intelligible – what better way of undermining our constitution than having its living embodiments treat it in such a cavalier fashion.

Her Majesty clearly realises that her power is derived from God – as defined and worshipped by the Christians. Too bad her successors don’t.

Perhaps they should seek guidance from our prelates… No, forget I said that. Let’s just pray that the Queen stays with us for many more years.




Royal Marine shoots a Taliban in a most literary way

Say what you will about the failure of our public education (I know I often do), but in isolated instances it can boast of impressive results.

Occasionally it produces an amalgam of erudition and slight roughness around the edges. Both were evinced by a Royal Marine sergeant who, along with his two comrades, is facing court martial for murdering a Taliban prisoner.

Sweeping up a field in which a Taliban attack had been stopped in its tracks by an Apache attack helicopter, the three soldiers found a badly wounded Taliban fighter.

After a brief discussion of how to deal with the dying man, the sergeant in command of the party put a 9mm round into his chest. In doing so he delivered himself of a Shakespearean quote, offset by a word more commonly used in our schools.

“There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil you c***,” said the sergeant. “It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.” Turning to his men, he added, “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere, fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”

The incident was captured by the soldiers’ helmet cameras and later downloaded by an investigator who then informed the authorities. Now the three men are on trial for their lives.

There’s no doubt they behaved in a beastly fashion, and it’s not up to me to pass judgment on the minutiae of the legalities involved. The sergeant himself knew he had violated the Geneva Convention, and he should know. He may well have broken, as the prosecution states, the rules of war.

My contention, however, is that in this day and age it’s utter hypocrisy to insist that any war, and especially counterinsurgency, can be waged to a set of immutable rules. Just look at some of the offences proscribed by the very same Geneva Convention the defendants self-admittedly broke.

Some of the gravest breaches of the Convention include:

Wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health

Presumably this refers to inflicting such things on those not directly engaged in battle, especially civilians. Out of interest, how does this tally with carpet bombing of inhabited areas? The answer is, it doesn’t. Such bombing may be dictated by military necessity and, much as we all regret that civilians have to die, we accept it – Geneva Convention or no Geneva Convention.

Taking of hostages

How else can a regular army protect itself when fighting against guerrillas supported by practically the whole population? Let’s say an army occupies a town, where women and children, not to mention the men, routinely carry out terrorist acts, killing soldiers in all sorts of savage ways. How many corpses with their genitals stuffed in their mouths will it take for the army to start taking hostages – and carrying out retaliatory executions if the murders continue? How likely will the occupying force be to stick to the letter of the Geneva Convention, not to mention the ethos of human rights?

Extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly

Was the destruction of Dresden justified by military necessity? Dropping A-bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? A sustained bombing attack on Belgrade, when no war had been declared? How much property was destroyed (if not appropriated) when the bombs hit the Chinese Embassy there? Was it militarily necessary? Or was it unlawful and wanton? Western forces fighting against Taliban insurgents routinely bulldoze houses from which shots have been fired – even if the snipers have already been killed. What does the fine letter of the law have to say about that?

This isn’t trying to justify what the defendants did. It’s just that we have to accept that the same behaviour that’s unquestionably criminal in peacetime isn’t always so unequivocal in war – especially when fighting against an enemy that wears no uniforms and perpetrates unspeakable atrocities not only on the occupying force but also on its own people.

The Marines shot the terrorist at a time when Taliban was conducting an indiscriminate bombing campaign of both civilians and Western forces in Helmand.

The sergeant’s own Commando Brigade had lost seven dead and 42 wounded. The insurgents had dismembered some of the dead (possibly before they died) and hung their body parts off trees, for the delectation of their surviving comrades.

Soon thereafter three of the survivors, including the Shakespearean scholar, shot one of the presumptive dismemberers. The sergeant may well be convicted by the court martial, and this may well be just, but I doubt he will be blamed by his comrades who know that any day their own body parts may be found dangling off trees.

Stating the case for the prosecution, David Perry, QC, said that the victim “was entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.” Well, respect is a two-way street. Expecting soldiers to respect those who butcher and carve up their comrades is presuming too much on human goodness.

Personally, I hope the judges will find mercy in their hearts, while the defence will blame it all on Shakespeare so beloved of the defendants:

Oft have I heard that grief softens the mind,
And makes it fearful and degenerate;
Think therefore on revenge and cease to weep.

Blood, gore and urine: modern tastes are so-o-o refined

“But what is liberty without wisdom, and without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition or restraint.”

Edmund Burke wrote this in 1790. One wonders what he’d say if he could come back in 2013. Can’t you just hear him say it? “This is hell. Can I please go back to heaven?”

And that would be even before he saw a beheading video on Facebook. Mind you, in Burke’s own time people weren’t averse to taking in the odd execution. In the absence of electronic communications it was Tyburn Hill that provided the ghoulish entertainment.

Thousands used to gather to watch people dancing the Tyburn jig, which wouldn’t be my first choice of choreographic display. But different times bring different mores – and different experiences.

Burke wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at the sight of faeces, animal or otherwise, adorning most London streets. We on the other hand would probably wince and pinch our nostrils.

On the other hand, the great Whig would have been appalled by the dominant atheism of modernity, something we regard as par for the course.

It’s in this context that Facebook’s decision to allow decapitation videos must be seen. If in 1790 attending public executions went against the diminishing but still dominant ethos of society, watching beheadings today fits right into the ethos.

It was mostly riffraff that flocked to Tyburn. It’ll be mostly the middle classes glued to the screen as a human head gets chopped off in full colour.

If cheap, vulgar, embarrassing voyeurism was a spice then, today it’s the main course. Our desensitised, dehumanised, debauched masses have little else to dine on.

Oh yes, we have art, as defined and touted by Nicholas Serota and other champions of modern aesthetics. What would Burke say if before returning to heaven he had a short stopover at Tate Britain?

He’d stare with blank incomprehension at the sculpture of a man urinating into a bucket. When told that this foul vulgarity is the frontrunner for our top prize this year, he’d demand a clarification. If Serota or some other subversive cretin then explained to him that this is art, Burke would probably express solicitous concern for the chap’s mental health.

If this is liberty, he’d say, give me tyranny any day. Then he’d try to explain that, when liberty is divorced from concomitant responsibility, it becomes a suicide pact. Serota wouldn’t understand.

This is what people want, he’d argue. There’s no higher law than that of supply and demand. People demand, we supply.

If people’s taste for high art can only be satisfied by pickled animals, unmade beds and men pissing, who are we to argue? And if millions want to watch a torrent of blood spurting out of severed veins and arteries, isn’t it our duty to put the show on their computer screens?

It’s true that these days no higher law than supply-demand exists. It’s also true that a society built around the needs, tastes and interests of common man will inevitably be defined by free-market transactions.

Burke would, in fact on numerous occasions did, argue that such a society could never be just, virtuous and long-lived. But today such arguments would fall on ears deafened by spiritual, aesthetic and moral vulgarity reigning supreme.

On second thoughts, having allowed my imagination to run wild enough to fancy a confrontation between Burke, our great thinker, and Serota, our illustrious director of the Tate, perhaps I should go a step further.

What if the next decapitation video featured Nicholas Serota as the star attraction? Suddenly the idea seems to have some merit, wouldn’t you say?





We should all be thankful to Germany’s SD

Don’t be silly: of course I don’t mean Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS, the intelligence arm of the SS.

That SD is no longer in business. However, the German Social Democratic party still is, and it may yet save Dave from himself and us from Dave.

You see, Angela Merkel’s near-landslide victory in the last elections didn’t get her a parliamentary majority. A coalition is necessary, and Angela’s previous partners, Free Democrats, got wiped out. This leaves the latter-day SD in pole position.

This is bad news for my friend Angela and even worse news for my friend Dave. The plan they hatched together to make Dave look like a statesman may well be lying in ruins.

The plan bears every hallmark of Angela’s capacity for dialectical thinking she developed when holding a nomenklatura position in East Germany’s Kommunistischer Jugendverband Deutschlands. Officially the youth league of the communist party, it was in fact the breeding ground for the secret police.

If a combination of communism and spying can’t teach an impressionable youngster dialectical thinking, I don’t know what can. Being a bright person, Angela got the full benefit of her training.

The key concept there isn’t that the end justifies the means. It’s that the means, whatever they are, don’t need justifying. The end is all that matters.

You may call this cynicism if you wish, but I’ll call it ideal training for modern politics. This Angela demonstrated when Dave came to her with his hand outstretched.

Dave, in common with all our spivocrats, has staked his political future on keeping Britain in the EU. Not because this is good for the country, you understand, but because it’s good for Dave.

The trouble is that not only is Dave facing a stiff and growing opposition within his own party, but UKIP is threatening his continuing political survival from without.

To placate those described by John Major as ‘bastards’ Dave had to promise on a stack of Bibles (New Edition) to hold a national in-or-out referendum after the next election, thus painting himself into a corner.

Even assuming that he wins the next election outright, and this isn’t the way to bet, Dave will then have to ensure the ‘in’ vote in the referendum. The ‘out’ result will mean not only out of the EU but also out with Dave. An immediate leadership challenge will move into Number 10 a young Eurosceptic who’ll claim he was right all along.

Yet launching a no-holds-barred campaign for an ‘in’ vote is a non-starter for Dave. It would only serve to deepen the rift with his own party, while further empowering UKIP.

That’s where Angela’s dialectical thinking came in handy. Dave, who isn’t manifestly endowed with a capacity for dialectical or any other thinking, came to her for help and she didn’t disappoint.

“Dave,” said Angela, “don’t be a dummkopf. You’re not as deep in the dreck as you think. You can still do it, mein schatze.”

“Yeah,” said Dave dolefully. “And pigs will fly.”

Schweinen don’t fly,” explained Angela sternly. “But politicians, even Englische politicians, must think.”

She then outlined her dialectical stratagem. Dave will declare that he could repatriate every conceivable power from the EU, making departure from the Union redundant. For her part, Angela will use her influence to toss Dave enough repatriation bones to make Britain appear relatively independent.

Once the ‘bastards’ have gnawed on the bones, and Dave has been firmly ensconced at Number 10, the bones will be withdrawn. It’ll be business as usual. Job done.

“Yes, but will it work?” asked Dave, his voice full of hope.

“Don’t be a dummkopf, Dave,” said Angela. “We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again. Don’t you worry your pretty little head, schatze. Alles will be in ordnung.”

The best laid schemes of mice and men, and all that. The problem is that Angela’s likely partners in the next coalition, the SD party, never received training in dialectics courtesy of the communist party and its secret police.

They are quite obtuse in their commitment to a single pan-European, and ideally global, state. Pure Marx, that, unadulterated by KGB dialectics.

This means they won’t allow even token concessions to Britain that might grant her a special status within the EU. So there goes Angela’s plan right out of the fenster (window to Dave).

Much as I find the ideals of social democracy hard to sympathise with, in this isolated instance I feel like screaming, “Hoch SD!” These Germans may yet even out the English playing field.








FA commission is unfair, says the calculator

If you need any reminder of the abyss into which we’re falling, look no further than football.

However, if you do want to look further than football, you may. Why, you can even cast your eye across the Atlantic. You’ll find the same nonsense there.

But football first. Greg Dyke, the FA chairman, has put together a commission to pull English football out of its dire straits. Now he has been forced to make an abject apology.

Not for putting a commission together, you understand, but for including only white males in it, eight of them.

Helen Grant, who combines two portfolios (Sports and Equality) no sane country should have at all, piled her two hats one on top of the other. “Sports’ governing bodies,” she decreed, “must reflect the make-up of the diverse society that we live in.”

Presumably this means that four of the members ought to be women and at least one black. To everyone’s regret, the commission is too small to be comprehensively representative, which suggests only two possible solutions.

First, some members of the new-fangled body should combine in their bodies several of the groups demanding a fair shake. One, for example, could be a crippled black Muslim lesbian, while another could be an Indian homosexual Buddhist. This is just a suggestion – the possibilities are endless.

Another solution, and this is probably the one our government would prefer, is to enlarge the august body, let’s say by a factor of 10. That way Helen could have a broader canvas on which to paint her demographic picture. And while at it, she could also insist that Greg Dyke change his surname to a more politically correct Alternative-Lifestyle.

Interestingly, the competence of the prospective candidates to do the job didn’t even come into it. Never mind the suitability, feel the calculator.

This kind of madness isn’t confined to football. In politics too, our governing bodies, executive, judicial or legislative, must have this piebald quality before anything else, or rather to the exclusion of anything else. By anything else I mean the actual ability to govern, which is no longer an essential requirement.

Yet relying on actuarial techniques in composing any governing body is neither grownup nor clever. Like most PC perversions, including the notion of political correctness itself, we got this one second-hand, courtesy of our partners in the ‘special relationship’.     

Americans, being as they are a genuine melting pot of a nation, are obsessed with calculating proportions of various groups, for example those serving in Congress or sitting on the Supreme Court. It’s as if the 27 current amendments to the US Constitution have been augmented by a 28th: “The demographic composition of every political institution shall faithfully reflect that of the nation at large.”

This type of thinking is seen not only among assorted lefties, who don’t know any better, but also among conservatives, who should. Thus American ‘paleoconservatives’ routinely accuse the neoconservatives of being more loyal to Israel than to the good ole US of A.

This accusation is based on nothing other than the high proportion of Jews, all secular, among the neocons. Amazingly the neocons themselves agree to think along the same lines.

Thus spake the founder of their movement Irving Kristol: “…a disproportionate number of neoconservatives are Jews.” The word ‘disproportionate’ suggests some transgression against the 28th Amendment, yet unwritten.

By using this word, Kristol, who was himself of Jewish origin, regurgitated the old anti-Semitic arguments used against pernicious cabals, such as Russian revolutionaries, to name one. These arguments are usually unsound even on the crude level at which they are pitched.

For example, the proportion of Jews in the first Soviet governments, while higher than in the whole country, was roughly the same as the proportion of Jews in the urban (in other words literate) population – and actually lower than the proportion of those with secondary education or higher. It was these groups whence most Bolsheviks came.

There are enough valid reasons to criticise the neocons not to have to take issue with their ethnic make-up. Similarly, our craven, incompetent, self-serving political parties – and the bodies they put together – must be not only criticised but, in an ideal world, disbanded for the damage they do.

Anticipating such criticism, and trying to preempt the more decisive steps, they try to do exactly what Helen has accused Greg of not doing: making sure they incorporate a satisfactory number of those from the groups perceived as oppressed minorities (women qualify as such, whatever the calculator says).

Personally, I wouldn’t mind having a cabinet exclusively made up of camp black cripples, provided they could do the job better than the current lot (not a tall order, actually). Conversely, if eight white men is the best the FA can do, fine. I mean I don’t know many women who possess world-class expertise in training generations of footballers.

Alas, such views are in a despised minority. Which is why our government will continue to do what it sees as best for the country. In other words, sweet FA.





Let’s get rid of Roy Hodgson and half the dictionary

Never mind the sack. Roy Hodgson, according to the groundswell of opinion, deserves to be drawn and quartered.

He may feel proud of himself for coaching England into the World Cup. But if he thinks that’s any excuse for offending the delicate sensibilities of modern footballers, he’d better think again.

You may suggest that said footballers don’t always present a picture of refinement to the outside world. Most of them can’t string two words together without inserting an obscenity in between. And numerous videos of swinish behaviour, fisticuffs, orgies and drunken all-nighters do suggest that not all of their behavioural patterns have come from Debrett’s Etiquette for Girls.

But make no mistake about it: underneath the rough exterior lurk delicate, sensitive and easily woundable souls. Even though these metaphysical entities may not have been informed by any traditional civilisation, they take their cue unerringly from our infinitely more progressive time.

They hear the call of Zeitgeist in every tonal detail, if only as an inner voice. And it communicates in no uncertain terms the first commandment of modernity: thou shalt take offence. What thou taketh offence at is immaterial.

If any perfectly normal word can also have a pejorative meaning, then it’s offensive even if used in its usual sense. You may not actually feel offended, but that doesn’t matter. You must feign offence to strike a blow for Zeitgeist, to show you too can get in touch with your feminine side.

During his halftime talk at the England-Poland match, Hodgson tried to communicate to one footballer that he should pass to another more often. To illustrate the point, he told a feeble joke involving an astronaut and a monkey launched into space together. The monkey is told to perform all the in-flight procedures, and when the astronaut wonders what on earth he’s supposed to do, he’s told, “Feed the monkey.”

Now no one will ever confuse Roy Hodgson with a stand-up comedian but, as far as illustrations go, this unfunny joke works, while its offensive potential isn’t immediately discernible. At least that’s what you’d think.

Well, you have another think coming. You see, the footballer who was supposed to be fed passes more often is part black, and the word ‘monkey’ can be used as a racial slur. Granted, it can also be used in a stylistically neutral fashion, to denote a small simian, which is how Hodgson clearly used it.

But that doesn’t matter. Our courts have ruled that a racial offence is anything the chap on the receiving end regards as such, and never mind linguistic casuistry. And what’s good for our judges is certainly good for footballers or anyone else.

The only way to avoid having to issue a humiliating public apology, which is what Hodgson had to do, is to ban the use of potentially offensive words, whatever the context. Never mind the denotation, feel the connotation.

The trouble is that there are so many such connotational epithets that it’s no easy task to expurgate them all from every dictionary. But that’s fine for our cause is just. We have time. Whatever it takes.

‘Monkey’ must be the first to go, followed by ‘banana’, which is henceforth to be described as a ‘curved yellow fruit’. 

‘Hook’, the boxing term, is no good because Jews are often called ‘hook-nosed’. Let’s call it a ‘sideways blow’ instead.

‘Bean’, used in some quarters to insult Mexicans, must be called ‘pulse’, as in ‘green pulse’, ‘kidney pulse’, ‘haricot  pulse’ and so forth.

‘Niggardly’ is out (in fact a New York official once had to apologise for using the word in a speech), as is ‘reneging’. Even ‘Niagara Falls’ is suspect for sharing too many letters with you know what. 

‘Towel’, combined with ‘head’, may be used to insult Muslims. It should therefore be renamed ‘large drying cloth’.

‘Frog’ must become ‘jumping amphibian’, while ‘sauerkraut’ will be replaced with ‘pickled cabbage’ to avoid any offensive confusion with Frau Merkel in a bad mood.

The film ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ must change its title to ‘Curve It Like Beckhalalbeef’ or else ‘Spin It Like Beckosherchicken’.

The term ‘Monkey Trials’ doesn’t belong in history books. I’d suggest ‘Trials to uphold the God-given right to teach that there is no God.’

It’s not my intention to come anywhere near to compiling a comprehensive list. This will be the job for our government’s next Royal Charter, which they must draw up while they are at it. My task is more modest: to outline the direction we should all follow to avoid the kind of trouble Roy has found himself in.

And you don’t know the half of it: I for one was deeply offended to hear Roy Hodgson lead his team in a pre-match rendition of God Save the Queen. Surely it ought to be Allah Save the Female Constitutional Monarch?