Dummy to Putin’s ventriloquist

Every time I promise myself to ignore Hitchens’s sycophantic effluvia about Putin’s Russia (“the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe”), he writes something that can’t be ignored.

This time his very first sentence says everything one needs to know about this hack: “How all the Russophobes hurried to believe in the faked death of the Russian Arkady Babchenko in Kiev last week.”

I don’t know if Hitchens deliberately uses every venomous shibboleth spun out by Putin’s Goebbelses, or it’s simply a coincidence, puny minds thinking alike.

But tarring everyone who opposes Putin with the brush of Russophobia is exactly what they all do. If you hate Putin’s kleptofascist regime, you hate Russia because Putin is Russia. Without Putin, there’s no Russia, according to Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the Duma.

And without Russia, enlarged Putin in his usual deadpan manner, there won’t be a world left. In other words, should Putin feel threatened, he won’t hesitate to unleash a nuclear Armageddon.

According to Hitchens and other Putin shills both in and out of Russia, hatred of Russia is the only possible motive for detesting this evil regime. Hence all those hundreds of thousands of Russians who protest by walking into skull-splitting police truncheons, do so because they hate Russia.

Those dozens of courageous journalists who write anti-Putin articles knowing that every word could be their death warrant do so out of irresistible Russophobia. They need Hitchens to teach them Russian patriotism.

“It’s easy to accuse the Kremlin of directly killing people because they are nasty, dishonest, violent and secretive, which they are,” continues Hitchens. Really? And there I was, thinking Putin’s Russia is “the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe.”

That’s his standard ruse, designed to ward off accusations of sycophancy, or worse. Having made this sop towards Russophobes like me, Hitchens feels free to shill for Putin in earnest:

“But [Russophobes’] gullibility was turned up to maximum as soon as they heard of Mr Babchenko’s supposed death, a ludicrous fake involving bags of pig’s blood, and the coldly cruel deception of Mrs Babchenko…”

The other day I wrote that every supporter of Putin’s regime is an accomplice to its crimes. But few are more insistently complicit than Hitchens. And few can match his moral callousness and cynical disregard of truth.

How would Hitchens feel if informed by the police that a $40,000 contract has been taken out on him? Try to imagine his reaction, though this would stretch your imagination to breaking point: no one would value Hitchens’s life as highly.

Moreover, he’s the small fry at the top of the list including 30 really big-time marks. And the only way to save himself and others is to take part in a sting operation, which, looking down from his dizzying moral ascendancy, Hitchens dares to call “a ludicrous fake”.

Would Hitchens heroically decline such an offer and proudly go to his death, closely followed by the deaths of many others? If you believe that, there’s a bridge over the Thames I’d like to sell you.

Here’s how movingly Babchenko himself describes his ordeal, in the stream of consciousness style he sometimes uses:

“You come home from the morgue, the stench of blood and formaldehyde can be smelled a mile away, not having slept for 24 hours, having lived through your own murder, having walked about for a month with a target on your forehead, waiting for that shot, a month lived with the realisation that your death is paid for – your death is paid for. This thought is piercing – you hug your wife who’s no longer even hysterical, the hysterical phase ended several days ago, and what’s left now is total, absolute emptiness, deathly senselessness, everything has been squeezed out… you don’t know how long you’ll live, for how long you’ll be followed by bodyguards, you don’t know when you’ll simply be able to live with open curtains and your daughter will be able to play with other children… and those c**** write about this without having a f****** clue about the hell I’ve been through, and may God spare them knowing or living through this, so go on writing, while I’ve just come back from such darkness, climbed out of such abyss…”

That’s Russophobia, as far as Hitchens is concerned. Then comes the didactic bit, from a man Babchenko would describe as a c*** who pretends to know all about Russia, but really knows f***-all (I myself would never use such language):

“Don’t rush to conclusions too easily about this part of the world. The Wild East is a murky place, with more than one villain in it. It’s as likely that such murders (when genuine) are the work of gangsters not under direct government control.”

One has to admire craft, however it’s applied. The parenthetical phrase is a subtle hint at the likelihood that most (all?) political murders may not be genuine.

They have been staged for the benefit of gullible Russophobes, and trust Hitchens to see through the ploy. Verily I say unto you, Hitchens must possess Christ-like resurrecting powers.

Any day now we’ll see walking through the door Anna Politkovskaya, Galina Starovoitova, Boris Nemtsov, Natalia Estremirova, Sergei Magintsky, Alexander Litvinenko, Paul Khlebnikov, Atyom Borovik, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anastasia Baburova and hundreds of other victims of Putin. Any day now we’ll see the passengers and crew of Flight MH17 smiling from our TV screens.

When it comes to political assassinations, there is indeed only one villain in Russia: her criminal ruling elite, which is an organic fusion of the secret police and organised crime.

The cocktail has been blended so thoroughly that even people who know Russia infinitely better than Hitchens (such as myself, false modesty aside) find it impossible to see where one ingredient ends and the other begins.

No Western government has the same concentration of billionaires as Putin’s clique, led by the good colonel himself, reputedly the world’s richest man. How do you suppose they came by their billions? Saving up by taking bag lunches?

The demarcation line between Putin’s government and gangsters exists only in what passes for Hitchens’s mind. Even JFK’s administration tried to use the Mafia for wet jobs. In Putin’s Russia the gangsters are the administration, and the administration are the gangsters.

Hitchens insists that those blaming this group for political murders have no proof. True enough, the murderers don’t carry in their pockets a licence to kill so-and-so signed by Putin personally. Actually, it wouldn’t matter if they did: they’re practically never caught.

But it takes either a madman or a Putin propagandist (paid or voluntary, makes no difference) not to see the common element over which all Putin’s victims overlap: they detest what he has done to Russia.

Hitchens’ standards of proof loosen up remarkably when it comes to shilling for Putin: “I’d guess [my emphasis] such gangsters probably killed the brave reporter Pavel Sheremet, whose car was blown up… in Kiev in July 2016 shortly after he’d criticised pro-Western Ukrainian militia leaders and their links with organised crime.”

Right. It was the dastardly Ukies what done it, having taken time out from firing missiles at Malaysian airliners. The same Ukrainian villains who had usurped power that rightfully belongs to Putin and his stooges. (That’s how Hitchens routinely interprets the popular uprising in the Ukraine.)

One can only wonder on what basis Hitchen guesses that, considering that, unlike Putin’s kleptofascist gang, Ukrainian leaders have never been suspected of political murder before or since – and Sheremet had had to flee Russia one step ahead of Putin’s goons.

(Babchenko’s reaction at the time was different. Addressing Putin’s gang, he asked in his article: “What did you kill Pasha Sheremet for, degenerates?”)

Yet Putin would be to blame for such murders even if a few of them were indeed committed by individuals driven by personal urges.

For over the last two decades, Putin’s totalitarian propaganda has systematically created an atmosphere of military hysteria and psychotic hatred. Falling victim are millions of zombified Russians, who have been brainwashed to regard every pro-West opponent of Putin as at best their personal enemy and at worst a target.

Or certainly a Russophobe, the term favoured by the most strident propagandists. Such as Hitchens.

Adam Smith Trump ain’t

Listen to Adam, Donald; the man knows what he’s talking about.

To the horror of my conservative friends (which is to say all my friends), I must admit I don’t like Donald Trump.

I find him brash, vulgar, egotistical, uncultivated, impulsive, uncultured, sartorially challenged and surprisingly ignorant for someone who went to all the top schools.

That, however, is neither here nor there because I do like most of his policies. While he wouldn’t be my choice of a dinner guest, he would be my choice of US president, especially considering the options available.

There’s no contradiction there whatsoever. Take the reverse of all the adjectives mentioned above, and I doubt you’d find a single politician in history to whom they’d apply.

For all those reverse qualities would probably prevent a man from seeking political office, and they’d certainly prevent him from gaining one. For such reverse qualities preclude powerlust, which is an absolute sine qua non for an aspiring politician.

So fine, I dislike Trump personally, but I like most of his policies. Most, however, doesn’t mean all, and those I don’t like spring from Trump’s hare-brained take on America First.

This slogan was inscribed on the banners of isolationists in the run-up to the Second World War. Much as I hate to say this, those good people were wrong and the awful FDR was right – on his own terms.

His own terms were set by the entire US policy of several preceding decades. That policy was aimed at achieving global domination, and it was not the isolationists but FDR who was in touch with it.

From the standpoint of that aspiration, Roosevelt was a spectacular success. He managed to push the Lend-Lease programme through Congress, using a spurious, demagogic simile of a ‘garden hose’.

If your neighbour’s house is on fire, wouldn’t you lend him your garden hose? he orated. You would, if not out of altruism then for fear that the fire could spread to your own house.

The Lend-Lease was tantamount to America entering the war six months before Pearl Harbour. After Pearl Harbour, largely provoked by Roosevelt’s policies in the Pacific, the US entered the war formally and started to churn out mountains of armaments both for export and for her own use.

As a result, the US emerged from the war richer than she had been at entry. While the other parties had bled white, the US achieved her imperial goal at a cost of merely 300,000 or so casualties. The British Empire had been killed; the US empire was born; FDR was vindicated.

The world began to be globalised, with the US successfully fighting off one challenge after another to her position at the top of the hill.

Now Trump is viscerally isolationist, but he’s also an American imperialist. Alas, he doesn’t seem to realise that the two desiderata are at odds.

As an isolationist, he has misgivings about Nato, to the point of even threatening to pull out if the other members don’t pay their fair share of military costs.

I agree unequivocally that Europe shouldn’t rely on America for her defence. Defence of the realm from every threat, foreign or domestic, is after all the most, not to say only, legitimate function of the state.

To fulfil this mandate, European countries should at least double their defence budgets. Otherwise they’ll be in default of their duties.

Yet few modern wars have ever been fought, and none won, by one country on her own. Some kind of alliance has always been formed, and I dare say Nato has proved its value more than other military alliances I can think of.

It’s thanks to Nato – and emphatically not to the EU, as particularly inane Eurocrats claim – that Russophones like me are still in the minority among British subjects.

That Europe contributes to Nato three times less than the US in terms of GDP per capita is unfair and, more important, potentially dangerous. But playing the world’s leader is a role that requires expenses, which all previous empires, including our own, can confirm.

Roosevelt realised that, but Trump doesn’t. Hence he must decide whether he wants America to stand on her own two legs or continue in her role of the world’s leader. He can’t have both, not in today’s world.

Trump’s isolationist instincts also push him towards protectionism. Now if his stance on Nato may be debatable to some extent, his slapping tariffs on steel and aluminium imports is downright ignorant – as is the promise Trump made to Macron, that he would not rest until the last Mercedes had disappeared from the streets of New York.

If you don’t want Mercs, Donald, make sure American cars can be made better and cheaper. That’s the only sensible way.

Here too Trump should take his cue (in terms of how not to run an economy) from FDR, specifically the way he tried to fight the Depression.

The depression only began to bite after Roosevelt’s protectionist measures went into effect. And that makes sense.

As von Mises, Hayek and every Chicago economist worth his salt have shown, the success of a reasonably free economy is determined by the consumer, which is to say by a strong, voracious demand.

And what boosts the demand is free competition among suppliers, regardless of which country they come from. In such conditions they are forced to offer better products, lower prices and more efficient services.

It’s demand that decides the issue. You can only help the economy by helping the consumers, says the conventional wisdom. You can’t do so by hurting them.

This can only mean that protectionism can’t help the economy. It almost certainly will cause untold damage, by mollycoddling domestic production behind a protective wall of near-monopoly. That anyone should deem this necessary can only mean that domestic production was ineffective to begin with.

Yet when its incompetence is artificially protected, it’ll have little incentive to get its act together. Quality will go down, prices will head in the opposite direction, funds will be channelled into the least – and away from the most – productive areas, and consumers will bear the consequences.

There is now, or was at the time of the Great Depression, nothing new about any of this. Bright economists from Smith, Turgot and Ricardo onwards had known it and written about it.

Thus, for example, Smith: “To give the monopoly of the home-market to the produce of domestic industry… must, in almost all cases, be either a useless or a hurtful regulation. If the produce of domestic can be brought there as cheap as that of foreign industry, the regulation is evidently useless. If it cannot, it must generally be hurtful.”

Slapping, as Trump has done, protectionist tariffs of 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium means that everything made out of those metals will cost US consumers more.

This may protect jobs in the industries that produce steel and aluminium, but many more jobs will be lost in other sectors, whose products consumers may no longer be able to afford. And that’s before the countries on the receiving end begin to retaliate, making US exporters less competitive in global markets.

‘Liberal’ is a dirty modifier when attached to almost everything, but liberalised trade is one exception. It’s a factor of prosperity, and it’s regrettable that Trump is ready to sacrifice it for the narrow political goal of confirming his populist credentials.

Hooray: the family is no more

When Britain’s most senior family judge welcomes the collapse of the ‘nuclear’ family (which is to say the family), you know it’s the end of the world.

It’s beyond belief that a man as manifestly unfit, morally and intellectually, to head the High Court’s Family Division as Sir James Munby got the job.

In his recent speech Sir James made the most subversive attack on the very notion of the family ever launched by a public official, this side of Lenin at any rate.

He began in a way that raised expectations. Finally someone in charge of family law realised the social, demographic, economic and moral catastrophe that had befallen the family. Sir James Munby-Punby certainly got his facts right:

“People live together as couples, married or not, and with partners who may not always be of the other sex. Children live in households where their parents may be married or unmarried.

“They may be brought up by a single parent, by two parents or even by three parents. Their parents may or may not be their natural parents.

“They may be children of parents with very different religious, ethnic or national backgrounds. They may be the children of polygamous marriages.”

He left out babies conceived and gestated in a test tube, but otherwise the dystopically nightmarish picture is complete. We’re witnessing the collapse of society’s cornerstone and therefore of society itself.

After all, it would be tedious to cite the masses of statistical data directly linking the offspring of such families to high levels of crime, joblessness, alcoholism, drug use and just about every type of sociopathy known to man.

Surely Sir James has all such data at his fingertips, and thank God here’s a man in a position to do something about it.

The reality, summed up Sir James, is that many Britons “live in families more or less removed from what, until comparatively recently, would have been recognised as the typical nuclear family.”

And then came a thunderous fist banging on the table, with the listeners made to jump up and hold their breath. This was followed by a rise of 20 decibels in Sir James’s voice and a mighty roar: “THIS HAS GOT TO STOP!!!” Right? Alas, no.

No fist banged down; no roar came. What came was a Munby-Punby squeak: “This, I stress, is not merely the reality; it is, I believe, a reality which we should welcome and applaud.”

Since one can’t think of anything more diabolical than the situation Sir James described in such loving detail, the inference has to be that any reality, especially a new one, must be welcomed and applauded.

This is in line with the current thinking on just about every issue of import. One hears such progressivist twaddle everywhere, from Parliament to the Cabinet to a run-of-the-mill dinner party. “Things change,” mouth nincompoops who think they are actually saying something.

The implication is that every change and every new reality resulting therefrom is for the better, and hence none should be decried or resisted. This sort of thing confirms the Darwinist fallacy of man descending from lower organisms.

For such inane thinking wouldn’t be out of place in a conversation between two amoebas. Their presumed descendants couldn’t have evolved all that much, since they can neither acknowledge the facts nor draw proper conclusions.

If all change were for the better, today’s philosophy dons would be an improvement on Aristotle or at least Collingwood, the Beatles on Bach or at least Handel, Damien Hirst on Vermeer or at least Chardin.

More to the point, Tony-Dave-Theresa would be an improvement on Burke, Wellington or Churchill. Even more to the point, a pygmy like Sir James would tower over giants like Lord Chief Justice Holt (d. 1710), King’s Serjeant Davy (d. 1780) or Lord Chief Justice Mansfield (d. 1793).

Those great lawyers made a vital contribution to the abolition of slavery, and all three cited a ruling from a 1569 case, that “England is too pure an air for a slave to breathe in.” Lord Holt also stated unequivocally that “as soon as a negro comes to England he is free; one may be a villein in England, but not a slave”.

I can just hear what Munby-Punby would have said in similar circumstances: “The reality is that many English families own slaves, which, I stress, is not merely the reality; it is, I believe, a reality which we should welcome and applaud.”

Slavery was reprehensible because it struck at the foundations of our society: treating men as livestock makes mockery of the very essence of humanity as established in the founding documents and events of our civilisation.

The disintegration of the family is just as, if not even more, reprehensible. For the family isn’t just a building block of society – it’s also the model on which many traditional institutions were built. Welcoming and applauding its demise is either cosmically stupid or deliberately subversive.

I don’t know which of those possibilities apply to Sir James, some combination of the two most likely. What I do know is that the very fact that he occupies such a position says a lot not just about him but also about every one of us.

Look in the mirror, Germaine

It hurts me to say so, but on the subject of rape Germaine Greer has a point. Too much of one, actually.

The point is that rape has become politicised to a hysterical level.

Women are brainwashed into claiming it’s the worst thing that can happen to them, leaving them psychologically traumatised for the rest of their lives.

I’ve ridiculed this idea many times, giving long lists of things that any sane person would think considerably worse than rape. How about being killed? Left brain-damaged after a beating? Losing an eye or two? Having every bone broken?

Anyone blessed with a modicum of imagination can extend this list until there’s no paper left in the house. Miss Greer certainly can, and on this issue at least we agree.

“We are told it’s one of the most violent crimes in the world. Bullshit,” she says (make allowances for her Aussie origin). After all, the majority of “rapes don’t involve any injury whatsoever”.

The first statement is correct, the second one betrays what in less progressive times used to be called ‘woman’s logic’.

For a violent rape may cause no physical damage, for example if the rapist holds a knife to his victim’s throat during the act, threatening to kill her and her children if she doesn’t comply. But this sounds fairly violent to me, injury or no injury.

Most rape isn’t rape, continues Miss Greer, dumping a truckload of rubbish on a kernel of truth: “Most rape is just lazy, just careless, just insensitive. Every time a man rolls over on his exhausted wife and insists on enjoying his conjugal right, he is raping her. It will never end up in a court of law.”

As to the last sentence, it’s factually incorrect. If Miss Greer read the papers, she’d know that a whole new legal category of marital rape has been brought into existence. Many a man has been convicted for helping himself to a bit of how’s your father without first obtaining explicit (written?) consent from his wife.

Such sex is indeed lazy, careless and insensitive, and men who practise it have no manners whatsoever. Yet it shouldn’t be criminalised in any sane society, which ours no longer is.

However, Miss Greer doesn’t even notice that what she says is self-refuting. For she equates marital sex without permission with common or garden rape, where a stranger jumps out of the bushes in the said common or garden and forces himself on a woman.

In other words, she implicitly supports the very attitude of which she accuses our courts and society in general. Moreover, she hints at the extreme feminist position that even consensual nuptial sex is rape.

Discrimination of any kind is a dirty word these days, but no judgement, intellectual, moral or aesthetic, is possible without it.

By equating bad sex with rape, Miss Greer effectively endorses treating the former as the latter in the courts. Judges oblige, and insensitive husbands often end up sharing a prison cell with violent degenerates.

Discrimination relies on establishing narrow, concrete categories. But Miss Greer’s categories are wide enough to let an articulated lorry through.

Rape to her is “sex where there is no communication, no tenderness, no mention of love.” On that criterion, I’d guess 90 per cent of all men married for longer than a few years should be banged in pokey.

Miss Greer disagrees. According to her, no rapist should receive a custodial sentence. Some 200 hours of community service should suffice, especially if no injury was involved.

Now that idea is provocative, which is fine: if an idea doesn’t provoke, it’s not an idea but a truism.

The trouble is that Miss Greer’s idea isn’t just provocative, but deliberately provocative: something uttered for shock value only. This always means the idea has no other value at all.

In the next breath she suggests that rape be reclassified as GBH, which would result in a lighter sentence. When it’s her word against his, and the potential punishment is seven years, says Miss Greer, no jury will convict.

This again doesn’t add up. First, if it’s just her word against his, no jury should convict anyway, although many do. Second, the maximum sentence for GBH is life, and the normal sentencing is in the three to 16 years range. So how will such reclassification produce a lighter sentence? And anyway, should we go no higher than 200 hours of community service?

Miss Greer’s mind may be smallish, but her ability to self-promote through iconoclasm is gigantic. She has devoted her whole life to blowing up every traditional (and the only true) view of women, men and family – and it has paid.

The nuclear, which to say normal, family is to her the worst possible environment for women to raise their children.

I haven’t investigated her position on this subject deeply enough to find out what the best environment would be. A single slut on social raising several children by different fathers in a space filled with crushed beer cans and crumbled cigarette packets?

To be truly free, women, according to Miss Greer, should abandon monogamy and put themselves about like uncaged animals. Hence perhaps the hypothetical woman of my morbid imagination above is really Miss Greer’s paragon of female liberation.

Bralessness is another essential component. On this subject, she loses me altogether, even though I was rather lost already.

“Bras are a ludicrous invention,” she once said, “but if you make bralessness a rule, you’re just subjecting yourself to yet another repression.”

So wearing a bra is as repressive as not wearing one. What’s a well-endowed girl to do if she doesn’t want to play footie with her endowments? How does double mastectomy as a blow for liberation strike Miss Greer?

She is right to point out that the concept of rape has been so widened that perfectly innocent men have been convicted for, say, not stopping in the middle of a consensual act just because the woman felt like stopping. Or else a woman having sex with two men and then deciding she doesn’t fancy one of them after all. (References to specific cases available on request.)

However, when throwing her stones, she doesn’t realise she herself lives in a glass house. For she should look no further than herself and mindless fanatics like her in search of those who have ripped to shreds the fabric of our society.

It doesn’t occur to her that, if she or anyone else is incapable of uttering two words on this subject without one word contradicting the other, then perhaps the premise is false.

Fair enough, our society, cast adrift from its roots, is ready to respond to any twaddle with Hitlerjugend-type alacrity. But Miss Greer has added quite a few lashes of her own to the whipping up of destructive hysteria.

Now she looks at her creation and realises she doesn’t quite like it. She is the female Herostratus disillusioned with arson, or rather some of its consequences. Yes, she became famous, job done. But perhaps Ephesus doesn’t look quite right without that temple.