NHS problems, all sorted

nhs-logoThe other day I read Dr Pemberton’s article The Biggest Problem With Our Crumbling NHS? Everyone Thinks It’s Free.

That reminded me of the American writer William F. Buckley, who once put down a Moscow tour guide proudly telling him that healthcare in the Soviet Union was free. “Nothing is free, child,” said Buckley, in his usual supercilious manner.

Now, being an incurable pedant, I unfailingly turn the page when reading sentences like “One patient of mine failed to show for a Saturday appointment they’d begged for.” Who did the begging, Dr Pemberton? The patient or the mysterious ‘they’?

As a lifelong champion of PC, I naturally accept that unwarranted use of singular personal pronouns (with the possible exception of ‘its’) should be treated as a felony. But presumably Dr Pemberton knew the patient’s sex, which surely would have qualified as a mitigating circumstance if he faced trial for using ‘he’ or ‘she’.

However, the offensive sentence came in the middle of the article, while at the beginning I felt I’d found a soulmate.

“I have absolutely no interest in… ensuring the survival of the current system simply because of ideology,” wrote Dr Pemberton. Neither do I, I thought, overlooking at first the word ‘simply’, which should have put me on guard.

That word suggests that, in addition to ideology, the current system ought to survive for other, more substantial, reasons. But they don’t exist. The NHS was founded by socialists as purely an ideological construct, and it indeed survives “simply because of ideology”.

Socialism is based on lies, and it’s true to form in this area. The impression conveyed by NHS champions is that until 1948, when all NHS services came on stream, people had been dying in the streets like stray dogs.

In fact, when medical care in the UK went socialist, we had about 400,000 hospital beds. Now, 68 years later, we have 150,000, even though the population has since grown by 14 million, and we have millions of visitors for whom the NHS is indeed free.

Nor did outpatients have to wait weeks for GP appointments, which is a norm today – and they were prescribed drugs strictly on therapeutic, rather than financial, bases.

Moreover – are you ready for this? – the rich and the poor received the same drugs, which is far from being the case in the supposedly egalitarian NHS, with its postcode approach to healing.

The problem with the NHS is that it’s a megalomaniac structure sitting on the subsiding, termite-eaten foundation of a defunct ideology. Hence the only solution would be to slide it off that foundation and into the real world, where the private and public components of healthcare complement each other.

To his credit, Dr Pemberton knows how awful the NHS is. He bemoans the on-going closures of hospitals along with emergency and maternity units. The NHS, he says, “is becoming increasingly unsafe”.

And yet: “The NHS is, broadly speaking, the cheapest and fairest system, so it would be wrong to simply try to move to another model entirely”. Not just PC solecisms but split infinitives as well – a soulmate first found and then lost.

And it isn’t just grammar: he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between fair (or ‘equitable’, used in an earlier sentence) and the same for all. A poor man treated by top doctors in a municipal hospital is being treated equitably – even if a rich man is treated by the same doctors in a private room complete with extensive menus and wine lists.

Yes, the NHS costs less per capita than medical care does in most developed nations. But then no medical care at all would be even cheaper – and the NHS is clearly gravitating towards this cost-saving measure.

Yet what Dr Pemberton is proposing is just a bit of tinkering. First, he says, we should solve the NHS’s “biggest problem” by realising that it’s free only at the point of delivery, not in absolute terms.

Really? And I thought that no one had to pay for those CT scans and IVF treatments, that they all came courtesy of Father Christmas. In fact, I didn’t think that – and neither did anyone else with an IQ above 70.

But fine, we’ve solved the metaphysical problem of the NHS by recognising that we pay for it through taxes. What now? How do we translate our new-found wisdom into concrete physical steps?

Dr Pemberton’s suggestions are risible. The government should spend millions on “a national campaign” telling people “how much drugs and treatments cost” – and then admonish them paternalistically whenever they miss an appointment, like Dr Pemberton’s patient with their [sic] plural personality.

That’s it. Sorted. The NHS survives and thrives.

If the first part of Dr Pemberton’s solution treats us like fools, the second seems to assume we’re clinically retarded. How much of the £116.4-billion NHS budget would his penny-pinching save? Would it even pay for the cost of the “national campaign”?

I’m afraid Dr Pemberton is in the thrall of the same ideology he professes to decry. This prevents him from realising that, in his language, the problem with the NHS is systemic, not merely symptomatic.

What he’s suggesting is tantamount to treating brain cancer with two aspirins. I’m afraid improving our pathetic healthcare will take more than ill-considered palliatives.

The power of negative thinking

pealeThe news that Trump describes Norman Peale, the author of the self-motivational book The Power of Positive Thinking, as his mentor didn’t surprise me. But it did scare me.

I’d better state my position straight away: I regard such shamanistic self-hypnosis as the height of vulgarity. But then Trump’s photograph, along with representations of his taste in interior design and wives, should be in the encyclopaedia, next to the entry for Vulgarity, n.

Courses in self-motivation are all based on the assumption that, if you will your problems to go away, they’ll obediently do so – provided you repeat your wish regularly and with dervish-like repetitiveness.

This sort of thing is doubtless useful in training insurance salesmen. Trainees are brainwashed to wake up and repeat several times “I’ll make 50 phone calls today”, even though 45 targets will tell them to perform a ballistically improbable procedure on themselves. But their positive thinking would enable them to take it in stride, knowing that the remaining five punters are prospects.

I think even my American friends (and family members) will agree that the salesman is the central figure of American life. It’s inevitable that a land defined by market pursuits will see buying and selling as its focal activity.

That national mindset has made the country materially successful, albeit at some cost to other aspects of life. It has also made most Americans, including those for whom sales isn’t ostensibly their occupation, attach universal significance to what’s essentially designed as a sales training course.

‘Positive thinking’ is thus widely accepted as a virtue, and so it may be for people who flog things to one another, or campaign for political office, which in the US amounts to the same thing. But it’s lethal to statesmanship, as any vulgarity is.

This isn’t to say that a statesman must be a man of subtle mind and refined tastes. Some of the most effective US presidents weren’t. Ronald Reagan, for example, was arguably the best post-war president, and yet he acted in Westerns, dyed his hair and wore brown suits.

But Reagan was endowed with the power of realistic and moral thinking, which is the most essential quality for a statesman. Realistic means neither positive nor negative in itself, but, to remain realistic, it has to gravitate more to the negative end, eschewing bien pensant positivity.

Ever since Augustine told the story of Adam and Eve in Christian terms, the concept of original sin has shaped Western thought, including political thought.

The assumption is that we’re fallible because we’re fallen, and it’s the assumption on which every successful commonwealth was ever built. Conversely, all attempts to erect a political structure on the positive premise of man’s inherent goodness have ended in disaster.

The Enlighteners were influenced by Rousseau’s positive thinking. The Swiss postulated that man’s primordial goodness was compromised by Christendom. Remove that pernicious pimple from the noble sauvage’s face, open the paths for all and sundry, and every problem will vanish.

Inspired by this positive thinking, chaps like Robespierre and Marat culled all and sundry in apocalyptic numbers. They thus expressed their disappointment with people, who yet again frustrated a beautiful ideal, as they inevitably do.

Hence a statesman shouldn’t inspire himself the way a salesman does. Things won’t happen because he wills them to happen, especially in foreign policy. Most other countries see life differently, and they can be safely assumed to be run by imperfect –often evil – people.

Now Donald Trump is an international property developer, which is a salesman par excellence. His stock in trade is talking people into risking millions in the hope of making tens of millions.

This activity can benefit from Peale’s platitudes, and it can also turn one into an effective motivational speaker. Trump certainly is that, although his facial expressions could do with some work – unless he expects to become a professional gurner.

But this ability is secondary in his new job, and I hope his advisors will explain to him what is primary. A statesman must understand the world not in terms of deals and sales, but in terms of power relationships and how they reflect our civilisation.

Unlike a salesman, who doesn’t think beyond his next contract, a Western statesman must think back to the millennia of Western civilisation and forward to at least the next several decades. For a treaty (a deal, in Trump’s parlance) may look good and profitable in the short term, but prove suicidal over the long run.

For example, there’s every indication that Trump plans to do some horse-trading with Putin and arrive at a mutually beneficial division of sales territories… sorry, I mean areas of influence. That would make global extinction a distinct possibility, but perhaps not in the next four or even eight years.

Supping with the devil, which is Putin, Trump needs to bring the long spoon of overwhelming military force. Just delivering a sales spiel and having the punter sign on the bottom line isn’t going to do the job.

I’m not sure that Trump can think in those terms, no matter how positive he is. One just hopes he’ll have advisors who know how to think realistically, which usually means thinking negatively.

 

Who on earth is Leonard Cohen?

leonard_cohen_2190A few months ago I asked a friend this question, only to be put to shame over being so irredeemably ignorant. Now he’s dead, the sense of shame has come back, deepened immensely by the page-long obituaries in all the broadsheets.

One such obituary described Cohen as a “poet, songwriter and singer, whose intensely personal lyrics exploring themes of love, faith, death and philosophical longing made him the ultimate cult artist”.

It’s when reading about men like Cohen that one realises how futile one’s own life has been. There was no escaping now: I had to listen to the lyrics covering so densely the territory between first principles and last things.

However, Cohen wrote hundreds of songs and, while my own ‘philosophical longing’ is strong, it doesn’t stretch that far. A choice had to be made, and what better aesthetic guide can one wish for than The Guardian, the paper for exactly the kind of people whose own longings overlap with Cohen’s?

So I’ve dutifully listened to what The Guardian described as “10 of his best songs”, and I hope you appreciate the lengths to which I go for your sake. Had I not felt duty-bound to quench your occasionally understated thirst for my insights, I would have quit after the first couple of verses.

For Cohen instantly made me upgrade my aesthetic ranking of our ex-Chancellor’s favourite rap group N**gaz With Attitude. The musical content of both is roughly equal, which is to say equally negligible, but the rap chaps have the distinct advantage of not being cloyingly pretentious, quasi-intellectual pseuds.

 Admittedly, N**gaz and Cohen aim at different, and to me equally alien, audiences. But at least they don’t camouflage their savagery the way Cohen hides behind the mask impenetrable to Guardian readers.

Far be it from me to impose my tastes on you, or to believe that an attempt to do so would have the slightest effect. You can make up your own mind, using The Guardian’s list as a lantern lighting the path leading up to Cohen’s towering genius.

Give me crack and anal sex! Give me back the Berlin Wall// Give me Stalin and St Paul

“Terrible, terrifying fun,” says The Guardian. That’s one way to describe it. However, my first impulse is to suggest that N**gaz With Attitude sue Cohen’s estate for plagiarism – not of words but of the underlying ‘philosophical longing’.

 If you want a doctor// I’ll examine every inch of you

One would think that most people outgrow the desire to play doctors and nurses at some point. Apparently not – philosophical poets retain the urge forever. But I’m curious what kind of doctor we’re talking about here. Gynaecologist? Dermatologist? The public has the right to know.

Your faith was strong but you needed proof// You saw her bathing on the roof// Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya// She tied you// To a kitchen chair// She broke your throne, and she cut your hair// And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

There’s no better proof of one’s own strong faith than to watch a girl bathe on the roof at night (how did she carry the bathtub there?) and then have her tie one to a kitchen chair. I may be missing some of the philosophical subtlety here, being a congenitally insensitive sort. But Hallelujah isn’t the first word this pseudo-poetic rubbish draws from my lips.

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin// Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in// Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove// Dance me to the end of love

Given the choice of being touched with a girl’s naked hand or glove, I’d opt for the former, provided said hand isn’t holding a burning violin, doubling as a dance partner. I’ll pass on first-degree burns, thank you very much. Again, the subtlety eludes me altogether.

There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning// They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever// While Suzanne holds her mirror

If the heroes are in the seaweed, they don’t mix with children in the morning. The heroes are dead, while the children are presumably alive. And is Suzanne holding her mirror to the drowned heroes or is she using it to spy on the precocious children gagging for love? Art’s fine line between the enigmatic and unintelligible is being overstepped here, methinks.

I’m standing on a ledge and your fine spider web// Is fastening my ankle to a stone [while in the past you] held on to me like a crucifix

It’s a man who holds on to a crucifix, not the other way around. And if there’s nothing but a fine spider web fastening Leonard’s ankle to the stone ledge, he’ll tumble into the abyss, and wouldn’t that be a shame.

You treated my woman to a flake of your life// And when she came back, she was nobody’s wife

Allow me to translate from the intensely personal, poetic and philosophical: somebody bonked Leonard’s girlfriend but wouldn’t marry her, so she came back to Leonard.

Enough? Certainly is for me. If that were the only choice, I’d take N**gaz With Attitude any day.

Leonard Cohen, RIP.

 

East is East and West is in trouble

BFYA64 RUDYARD KIPLING English writer born 1865 in India. Died 1936 in England.

The EU’s megalomaniac expansionists should have heeded Kipling’s prophecy that “never the twain shall meet”.

Their rush to admit Eastern European countries brings the Trojan Horse to mind, and we all know what happened to Troy. Then again, like all wicked contrivances the EU has a knack for digging holes for itself.

The depth of this particular hole has just been emphasised by Bulgaria’s presidential election, won by Putin’s stooge Gen. Rumen Radev. As a result, Boyko Borisov’s government has resigned, leaving the field open for other Russian puppets.

Gen. Radev’s election is a fruit fallen off the tree of the Russians’ systematic campaign to undermine the West, whose part they mistakenly think the EU is. It isn’t.

The EU is an ideological construct and, as such, it transcends geography, along with every other academic discipline: history, economics (and its mathematics), political science. What the Eurocrats don’t realise is that its ideology is self-refuting.

Admitting Eastern European countries means admitting their high officials into the inner sanctum where key decisions are made. But these countries were corrupted by two generations of Soviet rule, while most of their leaders – especially those from a security or army background – are either run by Moscow or are at least receptive to its friendly suggestions.

Gen. Radev’s first post-election pronouncements made no secret of where his heart is. “I will closely work with the government and EU colleagues to achieve the lifting of the sanctions [against Russia],” he announced. He also praised President-elect Trump for “seeking more dialogue with Russia”.

Perhaps I’m unfair to the EU. Its chieftains are driven not only by ideology but also by their ignorance of some basic facts of life.

FACT 1. Communism corrupts. Everyone knows that communists kill millions. Fewer people realise that they also kill civilisations by severing their moral, religious and social roots.

FACT 2. Once the roots are severed, the civilisation dies. It can be replanted and may in due course regrow to its past luxuriance. But that takes time.

Conservatively speaking, I’d estimate that period to be at least the length of the communist rule – longer in places where the civilisation wasn’t particularly strong to begin with, or where regeneration efforts are bogus. Hence I’m more optimistic about, say, Hungary than about Bulgaria or indeed Russia itself.

FACT 3. Russia hasn’t been a communist country for the last 34 years, in the sense of being run by the communist party. That stopped not in 1991, as is commonly believed, but in 1982. KGB head Yuri Andropov became dictator in that year, setting Russia on the way to becoming a KGB fiefdom.

FACT 4. Gorbachev’s glasnost in 1989 and Yeltsyn’s perestroika in 1991 completed that process de facto, while Col. Putin’s 2000 ascent did so de jure.

FACT 5. Other than suppression at home, the KGB’s principal job has always been and still is to destabilise the West, whose desiderata the KGB correctly sees as being incompatible with its own.

FACT 6. Until 1991 de jure, and ever since de facto, much of the Eastern European elite has been made up of Russian agents or at least sympathisers receptive to KGB cajoling.

FACT 7. Therefore admitting these elites into the command structures of organisations like the EU and NATO is tantamount to injecting a patient with cancerous cells.

FACT 8. Neither the EU nor especially NATO can afford to have poisonous discord at a time when the KGB/FSB-run Russia represents what the Americans call a clear and present danger to the West.

Perhaps ignorance of these facts plays even a greater role than ideological proclivities. NATO, for example, is a non-ideological defence alliance, but it too is capable of shooting itself up with KGB poison.

For example, in 2008 the Hungarian Sandor Laborc was appointed head of the NATO Committee for Security and Intelligence, whose function is to coordinate the intelligence efforts of 28 countries.

Now Gen. Laborc is an 1989 honours graduate of the KGB Dzierjinsky Academy in Moscow. In order to study there, the aspirant had to demonstrate not only the requisite ability but also the kind of loyalty to the KGB cause that couldn’t have been faked.

Hence Gen. Laborc sold his soul to the devil, and this kind of transaction can never be reversed. Such was the man who acquired unrestricted access to NATO secrets, and he wasn’t the only one.

Now Bulgaria – a member of both NATO and the EU – has re-entered the KGB orbit. In the old days, it wasn’t so much a satellite of the Soviet Union as practically its member. In fact, Russians used to quip that “a chicken isn’t a bird, Bulgaria isn’t abroad” (a paraphrase of the old saying “a chicken isn’t a bird, a wench isn’t a person”, a misogynist sentiment I, as a lifelong champion of equality, disavow unreservedly).

If Bulgaria again starts to revolve in that orbit, and especially if it’s joined by other former Soviet satellites, it won’t be just sanctions that’ll bite the dust, but the consensus to resist KGB aggression against its former slaves. A catastrophe beckons.

Ideally the West should introduce a quarantine period before admitting Eastern Europeans into the fold, until they can be pronounced free of infection. But we all know that ideals aren’t achievable in this world.

Score one for Col. Putin, who outranks Gen. Radev.

Why Christians voted for Trump

donaldtrumpsignOne has to admit that Donald isn’t everybody’s idea of a pious Presbyterian. Though he still maintains some loose connection with his parents’ confession, his behaviour is, how shall I put it, more Playboy than Presbyterian.

And yet he won over Christians by a wide margin: 52 per cent of all Catholics, 58 per cent of all Protestants and 82 per cent of all evangelicals voted for him.

The Catholic vote is particularly notable. After all, some 40 per cent of US Catholics are Hispanics, and, putting it mildly, Trump didn’t go out of his way to endear himself to that group.

Why did Trump win the Christian vote? Here I recall a conversation I once had with a friend, a good Catholic and a good man, even though his politics are somewhat to the left of mine.

The conversation veered towards Franco, whom I described as a saviour of Spain. The man had no wings, but the choice Spain faced wasn’t one between Franco and an angel. It was between Franco and Stalin, and, had Franco lost, Spain today would closely resemble Romania.

My friend didn’t exactly share my enthusiasm for the Caudillo. But, he admitted, had he lived at the time, he would have supported Franco, begrudgingly. Because, he explained, “the other side was killing Catholics”.

But what about a place where no priests are being murdered? Should faith in Christ still skew a person’s political convictions and, if yes, how?

The question is valid, for the dual nature of Christ demands a synthesis of the physical and metaphysical. This is the cornerstone of Christianity, and it’s no accident that the deadliest heresies in history preached the evil of the physical world.

Yet, when Christ said that his kingdom wasn’t of this world, he meant that his kingdom was higher than this world. He thus established the primacy of the metaphysical ideal, which ought to determine how the physical life is lived.

Hence one’s faith should at least influence one’s politics. Otherwise the metaphysical thesis and the physical antithesis won’t meet at the counterpoint of synthesis, thereby flouting the dialectical essence of Christ.

Now skipping some intermediate logical steps, I’m convinced that it’s a Christian’s moral duty to vote for the most conservative (or the least socialist) candidate on offer.

For Christian Socialism (predominantly Protestant) is an oxymoron, as is its Catholic doppelgänger Democratic Socialism. Socialism can no more be Christian than it can be democratic.

Socialism, in its multiple variants, is the most toxic offshoot of that etymological cognate of Lucifer, the Enlightenment. Its animus was rebellion against Christendom, starting with its founding religion. That was the original revolt of the masses, to use Ortega y Gasset’s term.

When it erupted in a violent 1789 outburst, hundreds of thousands of Christians were killed. But the damage went even further than that: the Enlightenment also killed Christianity as the dominant social, cultural and political force.

Everything about post-Enlightenment modernity is an active denial of everything about Christianity: modernity’s statism, materialism, mendacious premises – and its natural political expression in socialism.

The essence (as opposed to verbiage) of socialism is deifying the omnipotent central state, transferring most political and economic power from the individual to a bureaucratic elite ruling in the people’s name. This is the exact opposite of Christian subsidiarity, devolving power to the lowest sensible level.

Financing the giant provider state through extortionate taxation is also the opposite of Christian charity: a man giving his money to a beggar acts in the Christian spirit; one giving his money to a mugger doesn’t.

Ascribing an undue significance to the process by which the ruling elite is formed bespeaks the characteristic modern obsession with formalism. Having failed to replace the Christian content of our civilisation with anything of remotely similar value, the modern lot are obsessed with forms rather than essences.

Hence their fixation on method of government, masking the fundamental kinship of all modern governments, whatever they call themselves. Equally hostile to the traditional organic state, they’re all different parts of the same juggernaut rolling over the last vestiges of Christendom (I make this argument at length in my book How the West Was Lost).

A Christian must feel the inner need to slow down this juggernaut as best he can, even if it can’t be stopped. Hence he’s duty-bound to support the most conservative candidate, in the only valid meaning of conservatism. Only thus can he preserve his intellectual integrity.

Many Christians must perceive this viscerally, even if they haven’t thought it through philosophically. Hence their support for Trump – no matter how thoroughly most of them must be appalled by his vacuity and vulgarity.

I don’t see Trump as a fellow conservative. Had he stood against a George Canning or at a pinch a Ronald Reagan, no right-minded person would vote for him. But, even as the alternative to Franco was Stalin, not an angel, the alternative to Trump was Hillary, not a George Canning or at a pinch a Ronald Reagan.

It’s a damning comment on our time that believers in absolute truth have to become political relativists, choosing not the greater good but the lesser evil. Trump, they decided, was just that – and, God help us all, they were right.

Junk’s army makes no sense

J-C.JunckerJean-Claude Juncker (Junk to his friends) must have his brain addled by Glenfarclas whisky, which he’s rumoured to consume in toxic amounts.

Since president-elect Trump doesn’t have much time for supranational setups, his ascent casts a dark cloud over Junk’s vocation, which is making all power in Europe concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable Brussels elite.

So much more desperate Junk is to look for a silver lining. Now he thinks he has found it in the fact that Trump’s distaste for supranational setups seems to extend to NATO.

Of course, Donald’s experience has taught him to see life primarily in terms of dollars and cents. Preferable as this outlook is to one based on ideology, it’s inadequate when applied to geopolitics.

But be that as it may, Trump’s objection to NATO springs largely from the inequitably large contribution America makes to its budget. I see his point: the US pays 70 per cent of NATO’s budget though the other 27 members have a greater combined GDP.

Moreover, only five of them comply with the NATO guideline of spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence – which number doesn’t include Germany, France, Italy and Spain. Britain qualifies, but only by including MI6 in the defence rubric. And Latvia and Lithuania, who have more than most to fear from Russia, spend hardly anything on defence at all.

All this is outrageous. But it takes an awful lot of Glenfarclas to deduce that therefore the EU needs its own army acting, in Junk’s words, as “the principal global security provider”. He must have been in his buckets, not just cups.

Leaving the logistics of this aspiration to military professionals, even a rank amateur equipped with a pocket calculator will know that, to begin to realise this aspiration, Europe will have to double its defence spending – at least.

Junk and his jolly friends surely must understand this. Implicitly, therefore, they are ready to invest in rebuilding Europe’s defences – hoping that the Russians don’t attack during the years such a massive programme would take.

But if the EU is prepared to boost its defence spending to such an extent, Trump’s major objection to NATO vanishes. Following it out of the window is the need for an EU army, presumably led by Junk as generalissimo and Tusk as the vanguard commander.

An EU army wouldn’t just compete with NATO – it would destroy it. That would surely put an end to any US presence on the continent, leaving the EU to its own devices. One can see Col. Putin’s eyes light up even as we speak.

For Russia would have Europe badly outgunned even in the unlikely scenario of Europe doubling its defence spending. At the moment, the two European nuclear powers, Britain and France, have 515 nuclear warheads between them. Russia has 7,300.

Also, Russia has 15,398 tanks, including the new generation that has revolutionised tank design. Britain, Germany and France together have about 1,300 tanks, many of which are just armoured self-propelled guns. Even doubling that number would leave Europe in dire straits.

The same picture pertains in every weapon category. The upshot of it is that Europe can’t defend itself against Russia without America’s help.

But forget armaments. The most vital weapon in any country’s arsenal is its wisdom to perceive danger and its will to defend against it. Alas, one observes a deficit in those areas on the part of both the EU and the US.

Junk’s musings have nothing to do with defence. They represent nothing but an attempt to increase the EU’s power by drawing more resources under its umbrella. Indirectly, there’s also a hope that Britain will reverse Brexit, having found herself in a military vacuum between the US and the EU.

Should push come to shove, the EU would effectively surrender faster than you can say ‘Munich’. This wouldn’t represent an intolerable change of status for Western European leaders: they’d simply become satraps to Moscow rather than Brussels.

There’s no logic to Junk’s hare-brained ideas at all, other than federalist self-aggrandisement. However, there’s no logic to Trump’s distaste for NATO either.

Europe needs America, but then America needs Europe too. To put this into mercantile terms so dear to Trump’s heart, for Europe to act as a profitable trade partner it has to be prosperous, which it wouldn’t be under Russian domination.

For historical evidence, look at the economies created before 1990 by the same Germans in the west of the country and in the east. When it comes to economies, Russia has a Midas touch in reverse, even if she doesn’t occupy the space physically.

However, the most powerful arguments for collective security lie outside Trump’s comfort zone. Americans have had an innate belief in their historical mission ever since 1630, when their leader, the Puritan lawyer John Winthrop, delivered an oration in which he alluded to Matthew 5:14 by describing the new community as a “city upon a hill”.

People – including many Americans – who see America as merely a business concern with uncertain cultural antecedents are making a bad mistake. They ignore the messianic metaphysical premise that’s as important to Americans as their vaunted pursuit of happiness.

A country can change its economy, military alliances and even laws. One thing it can’t change is its metaphysical premise, provided it’s deeply enough ingrained. Thus America has to pursue a global role to remain America. The sooner Trump realises this, the better it will be for his own country.

NATO is a proven instrument of America realising such ambitions – whatever we, or Junk, may think about them. Casting Europe adrift is simply not an option for either party.

Hence, while Junk’s idea of a Yank-free defence is downright crazy, Trump’s isolationist noises are ill-considered too. He must think again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump’s school report

youngtrumpCandidates in general and Trump in particular say an awful lot, and a lot of it is awful. But Trump has also hinted at some excellent policies.

Of course, once elected, no candidate can do all he says. Some such failures will come from his having made promises he had no intention of keeping. Others may be caused by constitutional curbs on executive power.

But every president will put into effect some of his proposed policies. While it’s too early to tell which ones Trump will realise, it’s still possible to assess those he has mentioned.

Such assessment should be dispassionate and rational. Otherwise one risks sounding as ignorant as Max Hastings did in his anti-Trump rant: “America’s Founding Fathers would be appalled by the hijacking of the democratic system they crafted so carefully”.

But the Founders didn’t ‘craft’ a democracy. They created a republic, and it’s unfortunate that people who pontificate on politics don’t know the difference.

The Founders themselves did. In 1806 John Adams wrote in disgust: “I once thought our Constitution was a quasi or mixed government, but they had made it… a democracy.”

And Thomas Jefferson added that “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one per cent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

But back to Trump now. How would we mark his proposed policies if he were a pupil?

Protectionism. Trump wants high tariffs on trade with Mexico and China. He thinks that’ll save American jobs – but it won’t. Such measures will protect underperforming industries and punish successful ones (along with consumers): E

Trade. In the same vein, Trump wants to repeal some trade treaties, such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Bad idea: F

Corporate taxes and red tape. “70 per cent of regulations can go,” says Trump, and he also proposes more than halving company taxes. These are proven measures to energise the economy: A

Terrorism. Trump wants to “bomb the hell out of ISIS”, “put more boots on the ground” and “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding”. Right spirit, but one detects little subtlety in Trump’s thinking on such subjects: B-

Personal taxes. Trumps is in favour of vast simplification and overall reduction. Brilliant: A+

Rebuilding infrastructure. A good idea in itself, but Trump wants to solve unemployment thereby. That sounds like FDR’s New Deal, with its TVA and other megalomaniac socialist projects. Rotten idea: E-

Energy and climate. Trump wants to increase the production of hydrocarbons and put an end to all those New Age ideas. He also refers to global warming as “a hoax” and “weather”. Right on all counts: A

Gun laws. Gun ownership “should be legal in all 50 states,” says Trump, who sees no connection between murder rate and availability of firearms. All good: A+

Islam. Trump pledges to impose “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. He’d “strongly consider” closing the more radical mosques. Good luck to him, but the idea is solid: A

Immigration. Trump favours kicking out 11 million illegal immigrants and building a wall all along the Mexican border. The first is good in principle but hard to carry out. The second is silly, and I hope he didn’t mean it: C

Cleaning up Washington. Five-year ban on ex-officials becoming lobbyists, reducing the size of the state and “the corrupting influence of special interests”, a hiring freeze on government jobs. Excellent: A+

Collective security. The combined GDP of other NATO members is greater than America’s, and yet their total defence budgets are less than half of America’s. Trump is right to demand a drastic change.

But this technicality can be sorted out once the underlying principles are agreed upon. Chief among these is that Western countries should present a solid defensive bloc wherein an attack on one is an attack on all. Trump makes little effort to conceal his contempt for this principle and has made nasty-sounding isolationist noises.

He seems to think that collective security undermines American national interests, but he’s wrong. Practically from the day she was born, America has been pursuing an ever-accelerating imperial policy driven by messianic self-perception. Abandoning the policy would mean abandoning the self-perception, which might be advisable in theory but would be catastrophic in practice.

Isolationism, while always mooted, has never made serious headway in the US and never will. Nor, the national psyche apart, is it in the country’s geopolitical and economic interests: F-

Russia. I wrote about this yesterday, but repetition is the mother of all learning, as they used to say (repetitio mater studiorum est).

This is potentially the most disastrous misconception Trump has. He favours peace with Putin, which is good, provided it means neither surrender nor betrayal of all America’s allies nor a cynical ploy to divide the world into inviolable spheres of influence.

I’m afraid Trump’s views fail to satisfy those provisions. In part that’s attributable to his business background, and here I disagree with those who believe that running a company prepares a man for running a country.

Business is immeasurably simpler than politics. Nowadays it’s also amoral: a modern businessman, especially a wheeler-dealer like Trump, will do anything for a profit, as long as it isn’t illegal – or even then, if he can get away with it.

However, though a statesman can’t always act on his principles, he must have them – and they must be correct. Trump clearly doesn’t understand the evil nature of Putin’s Russia, nor sees it as an imminent danger to world peace.

If history teaches anything at all, it’s that appeasing an evil regime means emboldening it (Munich). And even an agreement on spheres of influence can only be short-lived (Nazi-Soviet Pact). America and NATO must close ranks and present a strong, united front to the KGB junta striving to destroy the West as a moral and political entity.

Trump doesn’t seem to realise any of this, and one can only hope that his advisors will talk sense into him before a calamity occurs: F-

Britain. Trump seems to see Britain as a more promising European outpost than the EU. There are also rumours that he’s considering Nigel Farage for a ministerial post. I’m not sure a non-citizen can serve in that capacity, but it’s the thought that counts. The best for the last: A+

A mixed bag, really, and I’ll leave my American friends to calculate the GPA. Donny is clearly a promising pupil, but there are some worrying, and potentially catastrophic, lacunae in his education.

America makes her Hobson’s choice

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks in front of a crowd on Jan 19 at the Hansen Agriculture Student Learning Center. At the rally, not only did Trump talk about economic and healthcare reforms, but as was also endorsed by former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

A reader once asked me how I’d vote on 8 November if I could, to which I replied: “Trump, weeping all the way to the booth.”

Having followed US elections for almost half a century, I can safely say that I’ve never seen a contest featuring two such awful candidates. Both of them are corrupt in every possible way, of which fiscal corruption is the least important.

I distinguish between peripheral and fundamental corruption. The former is a politician using his position to help himself to a bung or a bang; the latter, a politician corrupting the very principles of government.

For example, Edmund Burke’s finances probably wouldn’t stand up to today’s exacting standards. And yet this great political thinker courageously battled in Parliament against every threat to the realm. His fundamental integrity was beyond doubt, and that’s what really matters in a statesman.

This is more than one can say for Trump, who won by using the whole repertoire of vulgar populism. His business experience has taught him how to trick rich people into giving him money. Now Trump has used similar techniques to trick poor people into giving him votes.

To that end he has done an about-face on 17 major issues, which doesn’t bode well for the next four years. His elasticity on every serious matter of intellect and morality makes it impossible to predict what he’ll do as president.

Conservative noises feature prominently in Trump’s brand of populism. Indeed, it’s hard to find fault with most of his pledges on domestic policy: cutting taxes, reducing social spending, undoing Obamacare, tightening immigration controls.

Some of his ideas on foreign policy aren’t bad either, such as repudiating Obama’s nuclear treaty with Iran. His motivation for it, however, is open to doubt.

Reintroducing sanctions on Iran would reduce the supply of oil and therefore increase its price. This would benefit every oil producer, but most of all Putin’s Russia, bringing us to potentially the most dangerous aspect of Trump’s presidency: his apparently reciprocated affection for the Russian dictator.

This may not be entirely disinterested. Trump’s son Don once admitted that, “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets… We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”

I’m not convinced that Trump is capable of looking beyond his business interests, or of considering foreign policy in any other than mercantile terms. Hence, for example, his manifest contempt for collective security underpinned by NATO: America’s partners, he believes, aren’t pulling their budgetary weight.

That’s true, but if Trump regards this as sufficient reason for America not to come to the aid of a NATO member attacked by Putin’s Russia, we’re in for a rough ride. Any sensible president would reconfirm America’s commitment to the NATO Charter first, and only then put pressure on other members to contribute their fair share.

I don’t know whether or not Trump’s presidency will benefit Putin. It is, however, certain that Putin thinks so.

His mouthpieces, both on TV and in the Duma, were screaming for weeks that the choice between Trump and Clinton was one between peace and nuclear war. Putin’s Goebbels Dmitri Kisiliov has reissued in this context his favourite threat to turn America into radioactive dust, which was reiterated even more stridently by the leader of Russian Lib/Dems Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

Another mouthpiece, Sergei Sudakov, predicts that Trump will see his principal task in restoring trust between America and Russia. Therefore “he’ll move away step by step from the politics of globalism and American hegemonism.”

Dmitri Mikheyev of the Hudson Institute confirms my suspicion that the Russians are banking on Trump’s predominantly mercantile worldview. America, he writes, “can’t fight wars against all and all over the world… That’s expensive, so Trump will strike a deal with Russia – that’s cheaper.”

Dr Deliagin, of the Institute for Globalisation Problems, is ecstatic: “Trump’s victory is one of reason, hard work and dignity over corporate madness and a real danger of a world war. America has decided to go to work rather than destroy mankind…” which contextually was Hillary’s goal.

Everything points at Putin’s preference for Trump, and Vlad clearly did all he could to help his friend Donald: having Assange drip-feed compromising revelations of Hilary’s numerous misdeeds, using the bombing campaign in Syria to punctuate Trump’s messages at critical points in the campaign, computer hacking.

In fact, Michael McFaul, Hillary’s man and former US ambassador to Russia, tweeted a sardonic sour-grapes message to that effect: “Putin intervened in our elections and succeeded. Molodets [Well done].”

Interesting times lie ahead. It’s conceivable that, by appealing to Trump’s business sense, the Russians will try to talk him into striking a global version of the Nazi-Soviet Pact, dividing the world into mutually respected spheres of influence.

If that’s the case, the outcome of such a ‘deal’ (a word understandably over-represented in Trump’s vocabulary) may well be the same as that of the original pact – with even more cataclysmic consequences.

All we can do at the moment is pray, rejoice in Hillary’s demise – and take solace in the amount of spittle sputtered by the neocons at the very mention of Trump’s name. Their enemy has a decent shot at becoming my friend, but Trump has a long way to go.

Nuremberg rallies are still going on

[Scherl] Reichsparteitag 1936, Der große Aufmarsch der Wehrmacht auf der Zeppelinwiese. 13346-36 ADN-ZB/Archiv Faschistisches Deutschland 1933 - 1945 Reichsparteitag der faschistischen NSDAP in Nürnberg 1936 Der große Aufmarsch der Wehrmacht auf der Zeppelinwiese. 13346-36

Nuremberg saw the halcyon days of Nazism so expertly filmed by Leni Riefenstahl. To keep things in balance, 13 years later it also saw 10 corpses hanging off the gallows.

Yet now Nuremberg rallies are back. The pomp and circumstance aren’t quite the same as in the good old days, but the animating spirit has survived intact.

The current pageant is staged by a far-Left mob demonstrating against the City Council that banned a malignantly anti-Semitic display at the Nuremberg Left (!) Literature Fair.

The display in question is a travelling exhibit of racial hatred, an interactive photographic installation on which passers-by write what they think about Jews in general and Israel in particular.

Passers-by readily comply, producing exactly the sort of stuff for which Julius Streicher danced the Nuremberg jig. Here are a few choice bits:

Jews, writes one concerned citizen, are “an elite of criminals, the New-World-Order-Mafia, enslaves the rest of the world and controls politics, media and corporations.”

Another chap draws historical parallels: “Hitler is the past, but Israel is the present.”

Yet another expresses himself pictorially, by producing a Der Stürmer-style cartoon that shows a Jew, draped in an American flag and a Star of David, scoffing a child off the end of a fork. A glass of blood next to his plate completes the picture.

The installation has a distinct sense of déjà vu, which lessens its novelty appeal. More interesting is the hysterical anti-ban campaign, featuring fisticuffs and clashes with police.

What’s especially symbolic about this brouhaha isn’t just its place but also its timing. For tomorrow and the day after mark the anniversary of Kristallnacht, when similar sentiments found such a shattering expression.

Also fetching is the protesters’ appeal to freedom of speech, a liberty to which the Left has only a rather selective commitment.

For example, the show organisers represent Arbeiterfotografie, a group that regards Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as “one of the greatest statesmen in the world”. Yet if he deserves this accolade, it’s definitely not on the strength of Iran’s dedication to free speech.

Now these chaps are accusing the Nuremberg Council of censorship, which is prohibited under the German Constitution. I haven’t got its text handy, but, if that venerable document countenances unqualified verbal licence, it’s seriously flawed.

For, contrary to the liberal cliché, freedom of speech can’t possibly be absolute. It has to be a matter of consensus, which by definition makes it relative. Every society is justified in censoring speech it finds dangerous to its survival. Every society has done so – including today’s Germany.

For example, the country criminalises Holocaust denial and bans Hitler’s masterpiece Mein Kampf . Without passing judgement on such measures, one can’t deny the existence of precedents.

The earliest precedent can be found at the birth of our civilisation, midwifed as it was by Christianity. Even though free will and the resulting freedom of the spirit are cornerstones of Christianity, Jesus made it clear that some speech is acceptable and some is not:

“And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

Hence an offensive word may confine the utterer to eternal hell, a considerably harsher injunction than a ban on Nazi propaganda masquerading as art.

My earlier statement about the Left’s understated commitment to any free speech that doesn’t comply with the Left’s diktats opens up another interesting area of discussion.

A persuasive argument could be made that no constitution should protect those who seek to destroy it. The Left, especially its extreme wing exemplified by the snappily named Arbeiterfotografie, has no more moral right to demand freedom of speech than Julius Streicher would have to insist on the impartiality of the press.

The law of self-preservation hasn’t so far been repealed, and every society has a right to defend itself against those who do it physical or moral harm. Freedom of speech isn’t always good, nor is some censorship always bad.

In art specifically (and such installations don’t qualify as such even when they don’t carry cannibalistic messages) there are two types of censorship: proscriptive and prescriptive. The former tells artists what they can’t do; the latter tells them what they must do.

While the latter kills art stone dead, there’s no evidence that the former unduly inhibits self-expression. In fact, one could argue that the greatest masterpieces of art and literature were created in the conditions of some censorship, while its absence seems to have a stifling effect.

Free speech can’t be allowed to act as a weapon in the hands of those who wish to destroy free speech. A group – predictably Left-wing, just like its Nazi progenitors – that promotes both jihadist or anti-Semitic propaganda thereby relinquishes its right either to defend free speech or to claim its protection.

It’s civilised people who should do so, and they must be careful not to overstep the line beyond which justifiable social self-defence ends and tyranny begins. Yet they’re unlikely to confuse the two – for otherwise they wouldn’t be civilised.

Whose idea was the EU anyway?

marx_and_engelsChampions of this wicked contrivance like to trace its origin back to the Holy Roman Empire or, further back, imperial Rome. Such retrospective claims don’t hold up to scrutiny.

It’s counterproductive to look for any ancient precursors to today’s political Leviathans. American democracy shares nothing but the name with the Athenian kind. The French Republic doesn’t even remotely resemble the Roman one. And the adhesive of Charlemagne’s empire was Christianity, which in the EU is at best marginalised.

EU antecedents are much more recent than that. Here are a few quotations, and if I told you they came from Juncker, Delors or Barroso, you’d probably believe me.

“It is only on the basis of a republican federation of the leading countries that Europe will be able to fulfil itself completely… The economy will be organised in the broad arena of a European United States as the core of a worldwide organisation. The political form can only be a republican federation…”

Therefore, “recognition of every nation’s right to self-determination must be supplemented by the slogan of a democratic federation of all the leading nations, by the slogan of a United States of Europe.”

And “The peoples of Europe must regard Europe as a field for a unified and increasingly planned economic life…Without this supplementary slogan the fundamental problems of Europe must remain suspended in mid-air.”

Neither Juncker nor Delors nor Barroso said that but, if one of them was your guess, you were warm. For this lucid exegesis of European federalism came from their fellow socialist, Leon Trotsky.

You know, the chap who argued that his socialist colleague Joseph Stalin was too soft, an argument that Uncle Joe refuted with an ice axe. Unlike Stalin, who preferred deed to word, Trotsky had the gift of the gab and put it to good use on many subjects, including European federalism.

But he can’t claim all the credit for his deep grasp of the idea. For his socialist precursors Giuseppe Mazzini and Karl Kautsky (“… universal trade policy, a federal Parliament, a federal Government and a federal army – … the United States of Europe would possess… overwhelming power”) said all the same things long before Trotsky, and his socialist contemporary Adolf Hitler said similar things too.

Yet even they can’t claim to be pioneers. “I owe everything to Marx,” Hitler once said, and the notion of a single European state was one of the things he owed.

Both Marx and Engels detested a Europe of sovereign states. On the contrary, they saw a United States of Europe as a shining ideal for which to strive.

In the 1848 Communist Manifesto, they anticipated that “in place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency,” capitalism would lead to “intercourse in every direction, universal interdependence of nations.”

When in 1893 Engels was asked whether he envisaged a United States of Europe, he replied: “Certainly. Everything is moving in that direction. Our ideas are spreading in every European country.” He was half a century before his time, but the prescience is undeniable.

Why did the original socialists, along with their internationalist, nationalist and ‘democratic’ followers, favour a single European state? That question can be asked only by someone who finds it hard to strip socialism of its carefully cultivated virtual image.

Socialists like to portray their creed as a secular answer to Christianity, whereas in fact it’s its ghastly caricature. Those who insist on drawing parallels between Christianity and socialism always hate the former and love the latter.

Socialism’s kingdom begins and ends in this world. Politically, divested of its meaningless waffle about sharing and caring, socialism is all about transferring power from the periphery to the centre, from the individual to the omnipotent central state.

This is the diametrical opposite of the Catholic concept of subsidiarity, devolving power to the lowest sensible level. Socialism’s raison d’être is to concentrate all power at the highest possible level, the central state.

Whether it was called national, international or democratic, this is the only aim any kind of socialism has ever achieved everywhere it was tried in earnest. This is the only aim it has ever really wanted to achieve.

It stands to reason that socialists would loathe any traditional nation state, whatever method of government it uses. Whether it’s a republic like France, a republican federation like Switzerland or a constitutional monarchy like Britain, a nation state would have excreted and wrapped itself in an elaborate cocoon of custom, legality, culture, political ethos and whatnot.

Since in the West these derive from Christian antecedents, they are fundamentally at odds with socialism, which can only triumph by riding roughshod over such irritating obstacles. Hence its inherent urge to expand has to make it overstep national borders sooner or later.

The EU has much more in common with, say, Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia than with any organic Western nation state. The ineluctable logic of supranational universalism is coded into socialism’s DNA, and it’s those genes that gave birth to the EU monster.

“Workers,” wrote Marx and Engels in their Manifesto, “have no motherland”. One could replace ‘workers’ with ‘socialists’ or ‘Eurocrats’ with no detriment to the meaning.