Say it with jewellery: Lenin good, Hitler bad

Apart from female dignitaries accepting the odd diamond from unsavoury foreigners, jewellery tends to be rather uncontroversial. Well, not any longer. The other day a jewellery shop in Brooklyn put swastika-shaped earrings up for sale, and the $5.99 ornaments were sold out in a matter of hours.

A lively exchange followed, with Scott Singer, Manhattan Borough President, stepping outside his jurisdiction to demand that the offensive item be removed. ‘A swastika is not a fashion statement,’ he said, and Young Kim, the shop’s manager, agreed it’s so much more than that: ‘I don’t know what the problem is. My earrings are coming from India as a Buddhist symbol.’

That may be, but surely Mr Kim must be aware that this side of Tibet the swastika isn’t just a Buddhist symbol. I don’t know how long he has lived in the West, but if it’s more than a month or two he must be aware of certain sensitivities aroused by this particular ancient design. Also, while New Yorkers do tend to show a most unhealthy interest in Eastern cults, I doubt the swastika earrings became such a hot item solely on the strength of their association with reincarnation, Nirvana and disdainful detachment from this world.

So Mr Singer may be right when describing the swastika as ‘an insult to every civilised person’. However, one might observe that ‘civilised persons’ are these days rather selective in their reaction to offensive symbols. Witness the profusion of Soviet memorabilia, openly sold in shops all over the West. In the last few years I’ve espied such shops in Arezzo and Auxerre, London and New York, Paris and Amsterdam — and of course Moscow and Petersburg. Nowhere did I witness an outburst of outraged indignation, private or public.

One has to infer that the realities represented by, say, a hammer and sickle or Lenin’s profile are widely perceived as somehow being less offensive than those symbolised by the swastika or Hitler’s moustache. ‘Every civilised person’ seems to think that Soviet concentration camps and execution cellars were nice, clean fun compared to the horrors of Nazi concentration camps and gas chambers. Thousands of youngsters who wouldn’t dream of wearing SS uniforms in public proudly prance about in greatcoats exhibiting KGB insignia. The SS is nasty; the KGB, cool.

The families of the 60 million people murdered by the communists in Russia, as many again in China, and untold millions elsewhere may disagree. They are too uncool to see that murder done in the name of international socialism can’t be equated to murder done in the name of national socialism. But we, cool Westerners, know better. We are deaf to the uncool people showing, calculator in hand, that in the murder stakes the Soviets outscored the Nazis not just in absolute numbers but even in annual output. The souls of the shot, starved and tortured to death can scream all they want — we choose not to hear. But flash a swastika before a chap sporting a Lenin lapel pin, and he’s up in arms.

I wonder why the double standard. One explanation may be that people have been trained to respond to words, not  deeds. The deeds of the Nazis and the Soviets are equally monstrous, but, unlike Nazi rants, the Soviet propaganda rhetoric appeals to the largest and politically most influential sector of the Western public: well-meaning ignoramuses.

I wish I had £10 for each time a Westerner has told me that communist ideas are wonderful, if lamentably perverted by the Russians — I’d be rich. And what ideas might those be? Well, equality, sharing and caring, respect even for the downtrodden — in short, all the same things our own politicians spout every day. ‘Read the Communist Manifesto,’ I invariably suggest. ‘All the monstrosities are there in black and white. If Lenin and Stalin indeed perverted Marx’s ideals, it was by softening them.’ Just as invariably I get worried looks showing genuine concern for my mental health.

I’m not even sure that the sale of either Nazi or Soviet symbols ought to be banned: a demand will always find a supply. What I am sure about is that the only way to suppress the demand for such obscene trinkets is to educate our youngsters properly. The issue of good and evil, and how they are manifested in political theory and practice, is a vital subject to teach. As vital, one might suggest, as the use of condoms, which seems to be the cornerstone of our comprehensive education.




What Iran’s nuclear programme can do to you

Another month, another Iranian physicist blown up. The story is making a bit of a splash in the press, but it’ll be forgotten tomorrow, ousted perhaps by reports of a pop star overdosing on heroin or the price of spuds going up. NIMBY, shrug the British at every opportunity, implying that if it’s not happening in their back yard it doesn’t matter.

In 1938 Neville Chamberlain summed up this attitude by branding the conflict brewing between Nazi Germany and Czechoslovakia as ‘a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.’ And care even less, was the unspoken refrain. We know what happened next, and why the quintessentially British disdain for foreign affairs turned out to be ill-advised.

But that was yet another history lesson that went unheeded, another exam failed. Moreover, the inept pupil who failed the exam is still remembered fondly by some. For example, John ‘Maastricht’ Major once singled out Chamberlain as his role model among erstwhile British Prime Ministers. You don’t say, Sir John.

What was myopic folly in the age of Stukas and Messerschmitts can become suicide in an age of ICBMs and nuclear warheads. And yet Iran and Israel are today’s Germany and Czechoslovakia of 1938: two far-away countries that have nothing to do with us. Iran’s nuclear programme, which the Israelis are desperately trying to slow down, is being viewed with Olympic detachment. We don’t seem to realise that it’s not only the economy but also war that these days knows no private back yards. We’ve gone global, ladies and gentlemen.

There is no forensic evidence that it’s indeed Mossad that’s blowing up Iranian nuclear physicists and sabotaging factories, but we aren’t in a court of law now. Where we are, the ancient Cui bono? principle is as good as prima facie evidence. Whether Mossad is acting alone or hand in glove with the CIA is the only question still unanswered in the realm of common sense.

Most accounts of the assassination campaign one reads in the press feign impartiality, tinged with barely suppressed opprobrium — as if a country led by a frenzied homicidal madman and one living in constant fear of extinction compete on a level playing field. Are we out of our minds? Just imagine Britain being ringed by countries explicitly committed to driving her into the sea, to use Nasser’s phrase. Would we still think the odd assassination an exorbitant price to pay to delay the aggression? Rather than turning our noses up at the Israelis’ desperate attempts to stay alive, we should pray they succeed.

For the consequences of a possible nuclear war in the Middle East could well go beyond the radiation fallout that, with the winds blowing the wrong way, could affect us all. The whole world could go up in smoke, and only the Israelis and possibly the Americans can operate the fire extinguisher.

Russia’s role in the events isn’t a minor walk-on. After all, any turmoil in the region, never mind a full-blown war, is going to drive oil prices sky high. Since much of Russia’s economy and most of her exports are based on hydrocarbons, the country doesn’t want peace in the Middle East — it’s that Cui bono? again.

So it stands to reason that the Russian physicist Dr Vyacheslav Denisenko played a key part in Iran’s nuclear programme from its inception (something he denies most unconvincingly). One of his major contributions was the development of the half-sphere-shaped detonator, a device whose importance to peaceful atomic energy isn’t immediately obvious. And Denisenko isn’t the only one: the Bushehr nuclear plant on the Persian gulf has many Russian employees. Exactly how many no one knows, but, whatever the number is, it was reduced after the plane flying from Bushehr to Russia crashed last June. Five top Russian nuclear physicists died, and rumors of Israel’s complicity began to circulate instantly. I certainly hope the rumours are right.

Israel has been singled out for rough treatment in the press everywhere. Out of 196 countries in the world Israel is the only one whose legitimacy is ever questioned, and Palestinian Muslims, with their plight, are the PR stars of the anti-Israel show. We hardly ever hear much of the plight of Jews driven out of most Muslim countries, or brutally oppressed there. No one ever mentions that, say, Baghdad, whose population between the World Wars was one-third Jewish, now has exactly seven Jews left. Nor is our indignation aroused as reports of Christians being murdered in Muslim countries, from Nigeria to Pakistan, reach our ears. Give us Palestinians any day.

This almost universal attitude is usually put down to anti-Semitism, and it’s probably as much of a factor as it was during the Second World War, when Western countries weren’t exactly falling over themselves to save Jews from genocide. But worldwide propaganda waged by Muslim regimes does much to encourage such less than commendable sentiments. Bookshops even in such supposedly modern places as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are full of virulently anti-Semitic literature, with that notorious fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion displayed most prominently. Muslim radio and TV stations spew venom all over the world, expertly linking Israel’s occupation of the West Bank with the West’s colonial past. They know which guilt buttons to push, and we aren’t unduly bothered by their lack of subtlety.

Israel isn’t perfect — no country is. However, I’d say that, by every measurement that counts, it would be in the top 10% of the world’s 196 countries. Moreover, it’s the West’s staunch ally and an oasis of Western liberties in a region where they are despised. That’s astounding in a country that’s permanently in a state of war, either simmering or flaring up. By the standards of war time, Israel’s record on human rights is exemplary, though of course it’s different from ours. But just remember that the West’s most civilised countries suspend many civil liberties whenever the shooting starts. In 1941-1945 America interned all its Nisei Japanese (native-born Americans, most of them); Britain locked up all German refugees (including, illogically, German Jews) in the Isle of Man.

War wreaks havoc on traditional precepts, and Israel for all intents and purposes has been at war since it was founded. Every country has a right to defend itself, and for real politik reasons if no other, we must support Israel’s right to do so. It’s good not only for Israel but also for us that nuclear physics has become a high-risk science in Iran.







Communities are being offended all over the place — Cameron, beware

Dave ‘David’ just can’t win. No, I’m not going to bang on about his failure to gain an outright victory against the worst government in British history — that dead horse is water under Westminster bridge, as John Prescott could say. What I’m talking about is Dave’s current problems with assorted communities (don’t you just love this word?).

First, he offended the Tourette’s community by likening Ed Balls to a sufferer from that condition (any community would be offended if likened to Ed Balls). And it could have been worse. Dave could have referred to the Labour front bench as a gathering of subversive idiots, thereby offending several communities at once: subversive idiots,  non-subversive idiots and non-idiotic subversives.

Worse still, he could have made any number of crude puns based on the Shadow Chancellor’s surname, and don’t tell me he and Cleggers don’t bandy those about every time they take a quiet glass of Chateau Petrus together. A big pitfall to have avoided, that: Dave could have aroused the ire of the broad community of all those who are similarly disadvantaged with names carrying vague genital connotations, be that Cox, Clapp, C.O. Jones, Dick, Candida or — in more literary families — Goneril. I don’t know if this community is represented by a competent lobbyist yet or even if it identifies itself as a community, but if so Dave could have ended his political career there and then.

Not that such a development would be universally seen as an unqualified calamity. For just about everything Dave does offends a large, disfranchised, unlobbied-for community of true conservatives, and there are still a few left. Speaking for myself (I haven’t been authorised to speak for the whole community, but then such a snag doesn’t stop others), I was offended by Dave’s stated intention to sort out the way in which top executives are compensated. I do agree that some of their pay packages are obscene and often, these days usually, out of kilter with their performance or their firms’ success. Hence it would be a good idea to curb their appetites and to empower the shareholders to do the curbing. After all, it’s their money.

But in even a vestigially free country there ought to be a dividing line between a good idea and government diktat. The public sector’s remit doesn’t include shoving good ideas down people’s private throats. Thus our MPs should put a sock in it whenever they feel the urge to tell us to have two alcohol-free days a week. Yes, even though one doesn’t espy too many teetotallers in the House of Commons bars, for us to drink less may be a good idea. But it’s none of their business.

Similarly, the only way for our politicians to ensure that every good idea is acted upon by companies trading in the UK is to nationalise the lot, as they’ve already nationalised most banks. Then they could decide who gets how much; you pay your money, you make the music. But that would be a bit of been there, done that (remember the seventies?). Moreover, wholesale nationalisation would offend the conservative community even more that it’s offended already. Not to mention the offence caused to the much larger community of those who want a semblance of a healthy economy.

And then there’s the most egregious offence that just won’t go away: the EUSSR. Just imagine a Tory minister going behind the PM’s back to tell the world that the government’s key policy decision was a gross and easily reversible mistake. Such a minister would become an ex-minister faster than it would take him to write a Dear Dave letter of resignation. But when Cleggers does it, Dave is helpless.

This is a coalition government after all, one based on ideological kinship and united by an overriding high principle, otherwise known as powerlust. Cleggers, of course, has to keep his own LibDem community sweet — he’s not just any old Deputy PM, like John Prescott was. Too much loyalty to the PM and Cleggers won’t be able to hang on as party leader until 2015, when he’ll move to Brussels with the satisfaction of a job well botched.

One can understand his predicament, but then Dave has one of his own. Sound too much like a true-blue Tory, and there goes the much bigger wet community, offended all the way into Red Ed’s camp. Make too many pro-EUSSR noises, and not only will real conservatives be offended into Nigel Farage’s embrace, but even some undecideds may feel insulted. You know, members of the politically inert community who nonetheless incline towards euroscepticism, which they prove by chanting ‘if it wasn’t for England, you’d all be Krauts’ at football matches.

Communities, there’s no getting away from them. Whenever you please one, you upset another, so what’s a poor politician to do? One might suggest ignoring this madhouse and trying to do the right thing, provided of course he knows what that is. But such a suggestion would be offensive to the madhouse community.

Big Olympic event: throwing money out of the window

You have five seconds — all right, ten — to tell me which was the only country to have staged both summer and winter Olympics in the same year. Was it, a)… hell, never mind multiple choice, this isn’t Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and you can’t call a friend. Just tell me. But a confession first: when I was asked the same question, I didn’t have a clue. Well? Sorry, your time’s up. It was Germany in 1936.

I’ve never seen any footage of the Winter Olympics at Garmisch-Partenkirchen. But I’ve seen plenty of the Berlin Olympics, including that of England’s football team doing the Heil Hitler salute at the box where the führer himself was beaming ear to ear. I also remember that grin becoming ever so strained each time Jessie Owens punched medal-sized holes in the Arian myth. But then the Germans won the Games handily, and the smile became warm again.

Above all, I remember Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia, the first ever documentary film about Olympics. Another first was the now familiar Torch Run introduced by the Nazis who loved their torches. There was something sylvine about them, something evoking Erlkönig, hobgoblins and Wagner. Riefenstahl filmed the torches with gusto and a great deal of lamentably misused technical mastery, only matched by her earlier film about the Nuremberg rallies.

Interestingly, both the Nazis and the Soviets were at the time the greatest pioneers of cinematic tricks, and there were several Soviet directors who could give Leni a run for her money (Kuleshov, Vetrov, Dovzhenko et al). Both regimes recognised the propaganda value of cinema, which Lenin explained in so many words. And that’s what I remember most about Olympia: not the innovative tracking shots, but the propaganda.

When the Olympic torch fell out of the Nazis’ hand, it was picked up by the Soviets and their stooges. Gold medals now served to convey ideological rather than racial superiority — every time Soviet hermaphrodites, such as the Press sisters, ascended to the podium, they were seen not as a side show but as a triumph of a murderous political system. Every time female East German swimmers gave interviews in basso profundo, their voices and their bodies monstrously distorted by massive doses of steroids, a blow was struck for concentration camps.

From then on the Olympic ‘ideals’ got a divorce from not only the Greece of that Marathon chap, but also from the France of Pierre Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympic movement. It married propaganda instead, till death do us part. In that context, and it’s the only one extant, it saddens me that London has won the race to stage this year’s Games. Winning a victory ought to imply a gain. Instead, we’ll suffer tremendous losses.

We’ll lose what little is left of our integrity: picking up the relay baton from the Nazis and the Soviets is a dubious honour. The Olympic ‘project’ is irrevocably tainted, and its use as propaganda for whatever the Dave-Nick coalition stands for (will someone please tell me what it is?) doesn’t add much lustre, even if their regime hasn’t yet graduated to camps. At least Boris Johnson looked slightly embarrassed when trying to sound gloriously triumphant at the award of the Games to London; nothing embarrasses Dave and Nick. The Nazis and the Soviets were trying to gain international credibility; we’ll lose the last vestiges of ours.

And we’ll use a great deal of money too, at a time when there’s no money to be lost. How much money? No one knows. Yes, of course there are budgets, but those are more honoured in the breach than the observance. Every month brings glad tidings of Olympic budgets going over the estimates, but hey, no cost is too great for Dave-Nick to be seen as world statesmen. The suffocating, billion-losing effect on London’s (and Britain’s) infrastructure is so hard to predict that no one even tries. Suffice it to say that Montreal is still paying for the 1976 Games, and Canada has a healthier economy than we do.

Still, even though budgets are no more than a statement of intent, one of them is particularly impressive. Security alone is estimated to cost in excess of £1 billion. Estimated, get it? So double it in your mind. And it’s not just a few extra coppers on the beat. According to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, surface-to-air missiles will be deployed to protect the Olympics from too much international enthusiasm.

Since by then our armed forces will have dwindled away to nothing, I wonder who’ll fire those rockets should the need arise. Presumably it’ll be social workers, the only public servants this side of HMG/EUSSR who have secure job prospects. I do hope they’ll be trained to tell the difference between a jumbo jet descending on Heathrow and one about to crash into Wembley stadium. Just in case, remind me not to fly during the Games.

Throwing money out of the window has become a major Olympic event. However, it’ll be different from the likes of javelin, discus or hammer throw in that there won’t be any winners. There will, however, be losers: you and me. I hope you’ll join me in planning your summer holidays to fall between 27 July and 19 August. Just a symbolic gesture of course, but a satisfying one.


How our ‘Great Leader’ can sort out the NHS

Some 30 years ago I saw a copy of a North Korean propaganda magazine in English. My eye was immediately drawn to the glossy photograph accompanying one of the features. It showed a white-gowned Kim Il-sung talking to similarly clad scientists in a lab. The caption said, ‘The Great Leader teaching biochemists how to set up experiments.’

In a refreshing current development Dave ‘David’ Cameron chose to emulate this role model by offering nurses rather imperative advice on how to do their job. What with the so-called cuts in public services, he must have felt that his image needed some compassioning up. The downbeat in the rhythm of politics called for the upbeat of Dave showing us that he cares.

Call me morbidly sensitive, but I felt queasy at the sight of Dave ‘David’ doing a Kim impression by offering guidance in an area outside his area of competence. Actually, it’s hard to see what that might be (he couldn’t even score an outright victory against the worst government in British history). Fine, let’s call it his remit.

But I’m not here to criticise Dave. I’d like to offer a solution to the conundrum that’s but a PR opportunity to him and a matter of life or death to us. For the problem with NHS nurses isn’t that they don’t take patients to the lavatory often enough. The problem is that they are NHS. They are a symptom of a systemic disease.

Even as most believers refuse to discuss the existence of God, NHS worshippers treat any such suggestions as a heresy. They are ready to light the pyre, for the time being only figuratively. And yet the NHS is only a system of financing medical care. It shouldn’t be an unquestionable cult claiming a moral high ground. In fact it has no moral implications whatsoever, though it does have quite a few immoral ones, those based on universally discredited socialist premises.

If we look at it dispassionately, as we would with any other system of financing anything else, then we’d have to see its gross inadequacy straight away. Compared to medicine in any other developed country, the NHS, which is in essence people paying for medicine through their taxes, rather than direct, is simply not good enough. It’s only in our virtual world that it’s taken seriously.

In a real world, if medical care could indeed be financed by the state, it would be by expedients other than robbing Peter to pay Paul. The state could do a much better job by introducing what I call negative taxation for positive purposes. The underlying principle is that, rather than taking money away from the people and then supposedly using it for their benefit, the state would leave the money in people’s wallets and let the citizens fend for themselves. Rather than taxing people into submission, the state would exempt from tax the full cost of premiums paid for medical insurance. This would make private medicine tax-free, and consequently affordable to just about everybody.

Every taxpayer would have the choice of either handing his money over to the government or using the same amount to provide for his own health. The choice isn’t difficult: most patients even now would rather keep themselves out of the state’s clutches if they could afford it. The North Korean standards of medical care in the NHS are hardly news any longer, and people would welcome the alternative system. Not only would it be more efficient, but it would also be more moral — if merely by eliminating all those tax collectors and optimisation-facilitating, facilitation-optimising directors of diversity cum equality.

However, those who don’t pay tax anyway, for whatever reason, would derive no immediate benefit from negative taxation (they’d derive a vicarious benefit though, as the quality of medical care would improve). If they don’t pay tax for reasons of incapacity or poverty, they must be helped in other ways. For example, help could come from private charities that would be awash with money if the same negative-taxation principle could be applied to them. The state would only step in to help those who slip through the net altogether. As the number of such individuals would be small, this arrangement would place no unduly heavy load on the treasury.

Moreover, before long the state would begin to shrink to manageable proportions, and much of the power currently vested in it would be transferred to the people. They themselves would decide where they want to be treated and by whom. And, with the negative-taxation system in place, they’d be able to back up their decisions with cash. Reducing the state’s capacity to extort tax is thus tantamount to reducing its capacity to impose tyranny.

As someone cursed with rich first-hand experience of hospitals, both private and state-owned, in four countries, I can assure you that private works better. If you could afford it, and I’ve suggested one possible way, you’d have comfortable private rooms, the best doctors, equipment and drugs, good food, and nurses who really look after you. You’d be spared waiting lists — and the nauseating spectacle of our politicians doing a Kim impersonation.





What do you do when war is brewing? Disarm.

Faced with a calamitous economic situation, all Western powers are cutting their military expenditure to risible levels. They are becoming small-time players, but they are still talking a big game.

Announcing the better part of $500 billion in cuts over 10 years, and hinting at another $500 billion soon, President Obama warned all potential adversaries: the US military will be leaner, but even meaner. ‘The United States will maintain our military superiority,’ he promised, without at first specifying over whom. But then he made that clear, after a fashion: ‘We’ll be strengthening our presence in the Asia Pacific and budget reductions will not come at the expense of this critical region.’ The implication is that they’ll come at the expense of other, less critical, regions, which is encouraging news for the rest of NATO, and also Israel.

Assuming the US isn’t fearing Japan, it’s clearly China over which they’d like to reaffirm their military superiority. The idea isn’t without attraction: All those aircraft carriers rolling off China’s production lines aren’t exactly cruise liners. They’re going to threaten the Philippines and Taiwan, Japan and Malaysia — possibly even Australia. In all likelihood they’ll be used as a blackmail weapon, the same way the Soviets used their nuclear capability in the good old days. Be nice to us or else, is the unspoken message. But meanwhile, last week China’s Defence Minister told the army to prepare for war, which fact was widely covered in the Chinese press, but not in the West.

The once and future President Vladimir Putin doesn’t do unspoken messages: the Russians are no match for the Chinese in the inscrutability department. Practically every speech he delivers includes a kind reminder orbi et urbi that Russia is still a nuclear power. And it’s not just words; Russia’s military buildup is proceeding apace. The Russians have just conducted a series of successful firing tests for their submarine-launched missile system Bulava (‘mace’ in English). They plan to deploy 170 Bulavas in 2012, which will put a big pow into their already mean punch. Considering that each Bulava will be MIRVed to carry up to 10 independently targeted warheads with a yield of 150 kt each, Russia will be able to overpower all Western European countries put together with even greater ease than it can do so now.

This doesn’t mean that, with the US busy in the Pacific, Russian tanks will sweep across the plain. They won’t have to — it’s not for nothing that curricula in Russian military academies invariably include the study of the Chinese strategist Sun Tzu. Back in the 6th century BC, he taught that ‘to win without fighting is the acme of skill’, and the Russians are able students.

In the face of the opponent’s overwhelming superiority, a chess player doesn’t play to the bitter end. He resigns, which is precisely what the EU, bereft of America’s protection and devoid of what the Spanish call los cojones, will do. Col. Putin and his KGB colleagues will simply dictate the terms of surrender — much to the delight of the British press that by that time will be owned mostly, as opposed to merely in part, by KGB thugs. In any region, at any time in history, the dominant military power has always been able to ride roughshod over its neighbours. And I do hope you don’t think for a second that the ruling KGB camarilla fronted by Putin would have qualms about pressing their advantage home.

Our repsonse is truly logical: we disarm. Our army has dwindled away to the numerical strength it last had when little Ollie wasn’t even a twinkle in Mr Cromwell’s eye. And the Royal Navy has lost its carriers, a weapon known since the battle of Medway to be the key to naval warfare. In its present state our navy wouldn’t even be capable of launching another South Atlantic operation, never mind matching up to hundreds of Russian nuclear submarines armed with Bulavas. (Incidentally, when Britannia ruled the waves in the 19th century the Navy Department in Whitehall had a staff one tenth of what it has now.)

And it’s not just Russia, at least not directly — the world has many other threats and many other flash points, the Middle East prime among them. Considering that the most powerful European country has a vested interest in much turmoil there (trouble means higher oil prices, and Russia’s economy is based on the exports of hydrocarbons), and America doesn’t seem to regard the Middle East as critical any longer, who’s going to keep peace in the region? Italy? Greece? Are we prepared to live with the consequences of a nuclear conflagration a few miles south of Europe?

Britain and the rest of Europe have been relying on the US for their protection far too long. Money that should have gone into defence of the realm has instead gone into social programmes that have succeeded where the Luftwaffe failed in destroying the country. At the same time France has been talking up its puny force de frappe and slagging off les Yankees, while sponging off US military spending. And Germany neither is nor wishes to be a serious military power. It no longer wants to conquer Europe. It would rather just buy it.

Well, now that the US is taking an Asian slant in its strategic presence, what’s going to happen? Shall we continue to regard our military budget as a soft touch for debilitating cuts? You bet we will. We can’t cut social spending or foreign aid, can we now? Our politicians know how to get elected, but that’s all they know. They don’t realise that such strategic myopia may mean that soon they won’t be elected but appointed. By foreigners.






From assisted suicide to unassisted murder

According to the Commission on Assisted Dying, chaired by Lord Falconer, there’s a ‘strong case’ for killing terminally ill patients (those with less than 12 months left to live). His Lordship didn’t use the word ‘killing’, but that’s what helping others kill themselves amounts to — just as aiding and abetting murder is barely distinguishable from perpetrating it.

Had Lord Falconer based his case on hypothetically assisting in the suicide of his ex-flatmate Tony Blair, he’d almost convince me: I’d find the aesthetic, moral and hygienic argument to be irrefutable in that one instance. (Admittedly, the patient isn’t going through needless suffering, but he has caused it for many others.) As it is, the case isn’t so much strong as pathetic.

Now I’m aware how futile it would be to argue the contra position from religion, even though no workable substitute for Judaeo-Christian morality has ever been found. However, one senses that hostility to religion is too deeply ingrained for such an argument to carry much weight. But just for the sake of historical perspective it’s useful to remember that, in Christianity, suicide is a graver transgression than murder. As it’s the only sin that can’t be repented, suicides, unlike murderers, aren’t allowed Christian burial rites. The assumption is that a suicide doesn’t just destroy a human being but, implicitly, the very idea of human life. As he wasn’t the one who created it, he isn’t free to destroy it.

But, seeing that you aren’t convinced by this appeal to Christianity, I’m happy that the secular argument against ‘assisted suicide’ is just as powerful. As someone who has been warned several times of a lifespan measured in months (the last time was six years ago), I’m delighted to know that doctors can be wrong. And they are wrong not because they’re bad doctors, but because only God knows… oops, sorry, how uncool of me, nobody knows how long the patient has left. The case of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, springs to mind. In August, 2009, he was released from prison on compassionate grounds because, according to the Scottish oncologists, he had three months left to live. According to the papers, however, he’s still alive, if not necessarily well. Any honest doctor, unless of course he’s Lord Falconer’s friend, will know many similar cases where the more macabre predictions were proved wrong.

As to needless suffering, a priest may tell you that no suffering is needless. But even the most atheist of doctors will know that there are ways of alleviating even the worst physical pain. A combination of hospice care and opiates can reduce suffering to a minimum, if not eliminate it altogether. The patient may not be comfortable, but he’ll be alive — and so will the hope, however slender, that he may get better.

Having said that, doctors regularly make therapeutic decisions involving life and, regrettably, death. It may be argued, spuriously, that the decision to withdraw treatment isn’t morally different from slipping the patient a lethal pill. When doctors decide, say, that a cancer is inoperable, and no chemotherapy would work, they effectively sentence the patient to death. Policing such decision-making would be neither possible nor advisable. However, there’s a big moral difference between a doctor admitting he’s helpless, and actively abetting a suicide: realising that you can’t help a drowning man because you don’t know how to swim isn’t the same as pushing him into the river or, for that matter, helping him climb onto the bridge railings.

Though doctors have always practised passive euthanasia by withdrawing treatment, legalising active euthanasia is fraught with horrific consequences. If it’s made legal, sooner or later it’ll be made compulsory. Requirements for patient’s consent will gradually become more nebulous until they disappear into the fog of hypocrisy. Witness Holland, where, for all practical purposes, euthanasia has been legalised and enthusiastically promoted by the government. As a result, many elderly people don’t seek medical help because they’re afraid that the doctors will kill them. Perhaps that was the general idea: the fewer old people go to doctors, the cheaper will medicine be for everyone else.

Now that the NHS, and therefore the state, has replaced God as the object of worship, one detects among government stooges a distinct longing for a cull of wrinklies. After all, those freeloaders receive a lion’s share of NHS funds while contributing precious little to them. I’m sure that the government hasn’t issued a secret directive to that effect: even our politicians aren’t so crass. However, those with their noses to the wind sense the inner imperative, and act accordingly. Hence Lord Falconer, in cahoots with 1,300 ‘expert’ NHS worshippers, with their ‘strong’ case. Let me tell you, the case for keeping the likes of him out of public life is far stronger.





How to make sure there are some virgins left

The 150 good men who make up Saudi Arabia’s High Religious Council are worried. In 10 years, they say, there won’t be a virgin left in their country. They didn’t specify the minimum age of the girls on the receiving end of this moral catastrophe, but, out of respect for that august body, one has to assume double digits. Even so, disaster looms.

Now here’s the good news: the Saudi theological consensus is that this pandemic of defloration is preventable. All it takes is to keep in place the existing ban on issuing driving licences to women. For, should the ban be repealed, warns the Council, ‘the Kingdom will suffer such disasters as a sharp increase in prostitution, homosexuality, pornography and divorce.’ ‘Let women drive, and in 10 years there won’t be a virgin left,’ declares Prof. Kamal Subhi who published the results of the discussion.

Now I’m not sure about the one-to-one causal relationship between driving and chastity. It’s true that most American women, and quite a few British, have lost their virginity in the back seat of a car. But, from observation, they were usually passengers, not drivers of the van of iniquity. It’s also a safe statistical assumption that these days most young ladies enter womanhood before they qualify for a driving licence. After all, isn’t that what sex education is all about? As to ‘prostitution, homosexuality, pornography and divorce’, one has to feel that the vehicular implications of such outrages are even more tenuous. But then the Council didn’t claim universal validity — it’s only in Saudi Arabia that girls would become prostitutes, men homosexuals, and both divorced if women got behind the wheel.

However, even when questioning the global validity of the Council’s findings, one has to agree with their conclusion, especially if one is a man. I know we’re all for equality in diversity or diversity in equality, but gentlemen — between us boys, and I promise not to tell anybody — how often do you curse female drivers in an average week? How often do you put your hand on the horn, even within city limits, where you aren’t allowed to honk? Let me tell you, the mullahs are on to something.

Last year I was chatting with a retired female MP who said that Muslims didn’t even allow women to drive. Yes, I agreed, but I don’t like their religion in spite of that. It took the formidable lady a full minute to realise I was joking. And then another 10 to realise that I wasn’t.


Second thoughts about the Lawrence case

The first thought was joyous: the murderers got what they deserved. Then doubts began to creep in, not just about this case but about justice in general. It suddenly occurs to one that the murdering scum didn’t get what they deserve. They deserve to be strung up, and I do know the death penalty is no longer an option. But I’m talking about justice here, not law, and the two don’t always overlap.

The death penalty was never regarded as cruel and unusual punishment in the founding and ultimate code of the West, the Scripture. When society was more than just a figure of politicised speech, the moral validity of the death penalty was never in doubt. It was understood that murder sent shock waves throughout the community, and the amplitude of such destructive waves could only be attenuated by a punishment commensurate with the crime.

Removing the death penalty doesn’t so much assert as diminish the value of human life — by balancing the criminal taking of it against a prison sentence, no matter how long. That is one argument in favour of the death penalty; deterrence is the other. This is in dispute against all evidence, but one thing beyond doubt is that it deters the executed criminal. This is no mean achievement considering that, since the death penalty was abolished in 1965, hundreds of people have been killed by recidivists who had already served their time for one murder.

Since our laws became more merciful than the Bible, the crime (including murder) rate in Britain has shot up to such unprecedented levels that it’s hard not to speculate along the lines of cause and effect. Why did the ancient prophets and kings allow the death penalty, and our secular state doesn’t? Precisely because it’s secular, devoid of any concept of transcendence, committed to life on earth because there is no other. To such a state, and such a nation, there’s nothing worse than death. But to the nation of Cranmer, More, Latimer, Fisher and Ridley, physical death was trivial compared to life in eternity. To them death could be redemptive; whereas continuing an unworthy life could consign one to torture in perpetuity. My argument here isn’t just theological: in the first wholly secular century, the 20th, more people died violent deaths than in all the previous centuries of recorded history combined. Something to ponder there, wouldn’t you say?

And then there’s the racist nature of the murder. Will anyone explain to me why murdering Stephen Lawrence for the colour of his skin was any worse than murdering him for the brand of his trainers? Those degenerates wantonly took a human life — and human life knows no colour. One building block of our civilisation is equality before law, the other is the sanctity of human life, which means that the race of the victim is no more important than the race of the murderer. Such considerations are utterly trivial compared to the soaring enormity of the crime. It’s a bit like a doctor telling a patient that he has terminal cancer — and an in-grown toenail.

Justice — and a civilised community — must be colour-blind. It must also be blind to the human qualities of the victim. There’s no doubt that Stephen Lawrence was a lovely person, but his being lovely is inconsequential compared to his being a person. After all, the commandment says ‘Thou shalt not kill’, not ‘Thou shalt not kill a nice man; but a nasty bit of work thou canst kill.’ When prosecutors and the press carry on about the sterling qualities of the victim, they again cheapen the self-important value of human life. Any human life — that of a star pupil or a truant, of a kind or mean man, of a faithful or promiscuous woman. Their transcendent humanity towers over their incidental traits.

This concerted effort to elevate racial characteristics to a perch where they don’t belong isn’t going to allay racial tensions. It’s going to make them worse, which is the predictable outcome of any institutional meddling on a large scale. But the whole thing about the modern state is that it doesn’t care about the social consequences of its actions. All it cares about is scoring a few PC points in the hope that this will stand it in good stead in the next election. And you know what’s even worse than our politicians’ refusal to think deeply and act courageously? That we let them get away with it.




Why just guns? Ban knives and pillows too.

Predictably, fulltime lefties have responded to the horrific murder-suicide in Durham with infantile wailing and gnashing of teeth. Ban guns, they scream, or at least tighten gun-licensing laws in a way that amounts to the same thing.

It’s true that people with documented mental problems, such as the suicide-murderer Atherton, shouldn’t be allowed to own guns. If Durham police were indeed informed in 2008 that Atherton was bent on self-harm, and yet didn’t invalidate his gun licence, then they must be brought to account — as psychiatrists will tell you, violence towards oneself often goes hand in hand with violence towards others. That agreed upon, can we now talk like grown-ups?

Much as I hate to repeat a slogan of the US National Rifle Association, guns don’t kill people — people kill people. Sometimes they shoot, sometimes they stab, sometimes they suffocate with pillows. Those wishing to do murder will find a way, and where there’s a way there’s a kill. And even where guns are everywhere more people are accidentally killed with cars, and yet cars still aren’t banned. But surely the more widely guns are available, the more murders will be committed? This question ought to be answered with factual evidence, not sentimental effluvia. And evidence points to a different conclusion.

Item 1: The six million Swiss own 600,000 assault rifles and 500,000 handguns. Yet murder statistics there are so low they aren’t even kept. Item 2: Massachussetts, with some of the toughest gun laws in the USA, has three times the murder rate of New Hampshire, where a resident doesn’t need a licence to buy a rifle, shotgun or pistol. Item 3, closer to home: In the six months after handguns were banned in Britain (1997) gun crime doubled.

I could cite such statistics till the MPs come home, all showing no direct link between the availabilty of guns and gun crime. Tough gun laws hurt only law-abiding people who find it hard to do country sports or defend themselves. Wicked people will always find a gun, and if you wish to put this assertion to a test, just go to any dingy pub in South London, chat to the landlord, buy him a pint, say you’re looking for a gun, see what happens. Another quotation from the NRA, and I thought I’d never cite those chaps: If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

We live in a country where police manifestly fail to protect us. London outstrips New York hands down in every crime category except murder, where the gap is closing fast. And yet, in spite of some token gestures by our governing spivocrats, self-defence is frowned upon, to put it mildly. You’re welcome to defend yourself against a criminal, provided he doesn’t get hurt, or, God forbid, killed. If that happens, you’re almost guaranteed to be charged with manslaughter and likely to go to prison.

The spivocrats do allow us to use ‘commensurate force’ to defend our life and property. In other words, if you wake up at night to find a stranger standing over you, you must make sure you defend yourself only with a weapon he carries. If he has a baseball bat, you can use a baseball bat. If he has a knife, you can stab him. If he has only his bare fists, you can punch him. If he has a gun… well, let’s not get carried away. You’re not allowed to have a gun handy, even if you’re licensed to own one. It must be unloaded and locked up in a secure case. Much good it’ll do you there.

Now, for old times’ sake, when a man’s house is broken into, his duty is to protect his family first, himself second, his property third. And yet in a situation I described the state would rather you lay back and pretended you’re asleep, hoping that the thug has ‘only’ come for your TV, not our wife or your life. Chances are, that’s indeed the case. But are you willing to stake your life on that chance?

Forget about such outdated notions as honour — common sense alone should tell you that the intruder isn’t entitled to benefit of doubt. It’s your duty to yourself, your family and (another obsolete notion) society to assume the worst: the criminal has come to kill and rape, not to pick up 20 quid’s worth of electronic kit. His civil rights were left outside your smashed window — if you can, you are within your moral right to defend yourself with whatever you have available, regardless of any visible threat. If your house is broken into, consider your life in danger.

Alas, applying this seemingly irrefutable logic in a live situation may well land you in prison. It’s only in a free country that citizens are free to protect themselves. In our emasculating spivocracy, the state and, by logical inference, criminals have a monopoly on violence. The rest of us must rely on the Guardian and the BBC to defend us.

One suspects that the kneejerk reaction to the Atherton case will make matters even worse. You don’t really expect Dave and Nick, ably assisted by Ken, to make things better, do you?