Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Ain't that the sorry truth?

Brendan O'Neill made the acutest remark about the US visa fuss yesterday.

This is the surreal and painful truth: if Hillary had won there's a very good chance she'd be bombing Syrians and Yemenis, rather than simply denying them visas, and no one would have protested.

The uproar at the temporary suspension in admission to the US from seven countries, in which Nato governments, former president Obama and crowds (organised, one suspects, with money from Soros) have taken part is extraordinary and worrying. 

Trump has not targetted Muslims, as he promised to do during his campaign. As his critics point out the Muslim countries which have produced most terrorists active in the USA have been ignored. But, at a subconscious level where emotions rule, Trump, by blocking entry of foreigners into his country in an admittedly crude and chaotic way, is felt to have sinned against the inchoate new religion of human rights, globalism and free movement of peoples.

He should be criticised for introducing the visa rules clumsily but that is not the reason why Western European politicians are shocked. Nor why former president Obama, not observing the tradition that former presidents do not comment on their successors, asked people to go out on the streets and protest. He did so because 'American values are at stake'. 

European post-national values are even more at stake. European elites are trying to create a space of pure values, free from history and ethnicity.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Trump paradigm shift

Maybe Trump will be to social media what Luther was to printing.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Trump's first ten days

Donald Trump is very scary.

Only 1989 was a more extraordinary time in my lifetime. And even 1989 made much more sense than Donald Trump.

The next four years will be hair raising for us all but for those who hate even mild conservatism they will be very gruelling.

Trump's strategy is to do something that outrages progressives each day until they simply don't know how to respond to the different shocks or to remember what they are outraged about.
They will be continuously on DEFCON 1, the highest state of alert for

Saturday, 28 January 2017

This is the explanation for why Trump won

In the past, imperial and colonial governments provided resources to minority groups and encouraged people to identify with them, so as to enhance the government’s ability to divide and rule. The governments of nation-states, in contrast, attempted to promote the unity of their people, the development of national consciousness, the suppression of subnational regional and ethnic loyalties, the universal use of the national language, and the allocation of benefits to those who conform to the national norm. Until the late twentieth century, American political and governmental leaders acted similarly. Then in the 1960s and 1970s they began to promote measures consciously designed to weaken America’s cultural and creedal identity and to strengthen racial, ethnic, cultural, and other subnational identities. These efforts by a nation’s leaders to deconstruct the nation they governed were, quite possibly, without precedent in human history.

These words are from Samuel Huntington's “The Clash of Civilizations”, published in 1993 and explain why Trump won.

Why is Mrs May in Turkey sucking up to Erdogan?

Why is Mrs May in Turkey sucking up to Erdogan? As she sucked up to the Saudis, praising the Bahraini regime? Next thing you know she'll be talking about values.

I see the papers have stopped talking about the crimes of the Syrian regime, while saying nothing about those of the Syrian rebels. We still hear nothing of war crimes committed by Iraqis on both sides in the siege of Mosul.

I am very sure Mrs. May wanted Hillary to win and almost said so. She belongs to the trade union of global leaders and is also, like Hillary, a swot or, as they now say a wonk - no doubt she has neat handwriting and thinks Donald Trump an ogre from the Brothers Grimm. Nevertheless, she will do everything to keep close to him and it is very promising for Britain that she has started well.

But Erdogan?

Theresa May says she wants no more interventions in foreign countries yet wants Assad to go. She is a Hillary trying to be a Trump- lite. Had Hillary won Theresa May would have sent our troops to waste their lives in Syria.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Theresa May goes to Washington

Theresa May has received the signal honour of being the first foreign leader to be invited to pay court to King Trump and she has delivered herself of a good speech. (Good in the sense that it rips up the idea of more liberal wars, not in the sense of being eloquent in wording or delivery.)

'The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over.'

These words are very promising and are very different from what she would have said had Hillary won. What a depressing idea that now seems. Hillary, you recall, said in October that toppling Assad was 'the number one priority'.

Everything in the speech was intended to appeal to Trump and the Trump-men. 

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Donald Trump and how to play your political opponents like a fiddle

Donald Trump has started as he means to go on. His investigation of voter fraud is a brilliant move. 

Undoubtedly some fraud did happen and by raising the issue he wrongfoots the Democrats, who are forced to play on his ground in a battle they can't really win. 

Raising the question of Mexican illegal immigrants, Muslims, and illegal voters are issues that 'trigger' every left-winger. And while the left is falling for Trump's voter fraud bait meanwhile he gets on with whatever he wants to do. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

North Atlantic tiger

Theresa May has learnt by talking to EU governments that their biggest fear is that the UK becomes 'Singapore-West', a low tax, free trade economy. So she and Boris are threatening them with this if they don't cooperate over trade.

My question is: why doesn't Great Britain copy Singapore? It would mean freedom, prosperity and, incidentally, only a limited number of rich immigrants.

We could be the North Atlantic tiger. 

Society cannot exist without inequality

I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation but the mystery of social order: it links the idea of inequality to heaven which prevents the rich person from being murdered by the poor. How can there be order in the state without religion? Society cannot exist without inequality of fortunes and the inequality of fortunes could not subsist without religion." (Napoleon.)

The priests and professors no longer justify inequality but inequality is necessary and must be justified.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

"You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany."

Donald Trump on the EU: "You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany."

This is very crude, but basically true. The EU and the euro do help Germany enormously by enabling exports while being catastrophic for the South.

Trump sounded like Nicholas Ridley, a British cabinet minister who had to resign in 1990 after saying the proposed Economic and Monetary Union as "a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe". He went on to say that giving up sovereignty to Europe was as bad as giving it up to Adolf Hitler.

Germany leads Europe, not because Germans want to but because somebody must and no other country can. Germany's attitude is 'tie me down before I kill again.' Germany sees Europe as an answer to the German Question (how to unite Germany while avoiding conflict with or domination of their neighbours), just as France sees Europe as a substitute for the Napoleonic empire. 

What a difference eight months makes

"U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Monday it was "inappropriate" for Donald Trump to brand German Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy "a catastrophic mistake".
"I thought frankly it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping into the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner," Kerry told CNN."
Today on CNN.

"US President Barack Obama has warned British voters that the UK would find itself "at the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the US if they vote against staying in the European Union in the June 23 referendum.British proponents of a so-called Brexit said they were outraged that an American president appeared to be trying to influence the outcome of such a crucial vote.
Obama said on Friday during his three-day visit to London that the UK's influence on the world stage was "magnified" by its membership of the 28-member bloc.
"I think this makes you guys bigger players," he said at a joint news conference with David Cameron, the British prime minister."

23 April 2016, St George's Day. This intervention won votes for Leave, a Readers' Digest opinion poll showed.

President Trump should be better for Great Britain than Mr. Obama who told us to go to the back of the queue. These words, incidentally, were clearly drafted by someone in UK, presumably by George Osborne, as Americans don't know the word 'queue'. They say 'line'.

No doubt Donald Trump's words will help Frau Merkel win votes.

Monday, 16 January 2017

"You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany."

Donald Trump on the EU: 

"You look at the European Union and it’s Germany. Basically a vehicle for Germany."
This is very crude, but basically true. The EU and the euro do help Germany enormously by enabling exports while being catastrophic for the South.

Trump sounded like Nicholas Ridley, a British cabinet minister who had to resign in 1990 after saying the proposed Economic and Monetary Union as "a German racket designed to take over the whole of Europe". He went on to say that giving up sovereignty to Europe was as bad as giving it up to Adolf Hitler.

Germany leads Europe, not because Germans want to but because somebody must and no other country can. Germany's attitude is 'tie me down before I kill again.' Germany sees Europe as an answer to the German Question (how to unite Germany while avoiding conflict with or domination of their neighbours), just as France sees Europe as a substitute for the Napoleonic empire. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Living in a poorly-written spy thriller

"Living in a poorly-written spy thriller is, frankly, getting kind of stressful." 

This line from the left-wing American paper Jezebel puts it well.  

I know it's partly the left-wing press's attempt to subvert Donald Trump but it is getting terribly weird.

At one point the US election seemed to hinge on what Julian Assange posted on the net from his laptop in his bedroom in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Then on highly confidential emails from Hillary Clinton on the computer of someone accused of sending pictures of his male member to young women. Now a dossier about prostitutes doing unspeakable things to Donald Trump in Moscow. 

Did the head of the FBI want to make Donald Trump President? Answer: obviously not, although Nobel laureate and prize ass Paul Krugman thinks he did. 

Does the CIA want to subvert Trump? Who knows? I doubt it but Peter Oborne thinks it does, abetted by MI6. It is extraordinary, as Bob Woodward said, that the CIA and MI6 took such a 'garbage dossier' seriously, with the result that it became public.

In fact living in a thriller is what we have all been doing since September 11th. Though some would go back further to the Cold War. Or even the German waiters scare of 1908.

Social media is full of bizarre conspiracy theories and what seems like and usually is fake news, but what could be less likely than Donald Trump becoming President of the USA? After the way he conducted his campaign, tweeting insults to girls in beauty contests. 

Or Angela Merkel inviting an unlimited number of migrants without papers to descend on Germany? 

Or Muslim immigrants killing innocent people around Europe? 

Or Great Britain leaving the E.U.?

Besides all that, Russia annexing the Crimea and fighting proxy wars in Ukraine seems tame.

I keep recalling that line, referring to the Edwardian thriller writer, from Graham Greene's The Ministry of Fear.
The world has been remade by William Le Queux.
Come to think of it, William Le Queux was responsible for the German waiters scare of 1908.

It's been three centuries since you could be prosecuted for theological opinions in Scotland

It's been three centuries since you could be prosecuted for theological opinions in Scotland but you can now and in the rest of the UK.

The police are cooperating with the Bishop of St. Andrew's and Primus (head) of the Scottish Episcopalian Church to impose good relations between Christianity and Islam.

The Guardian has the story.

A Muslim youth was invited to give a reading from the Koran at a service on Epiphany at St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow. He read "a passage from the Koran relating to the Virgin birth". 

This need not necessarily have been heretical - at least Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth, unlike quite a few Anglican clergy. But the passage from the Koran that was read out contained a verse saying Jesus was not God and shouldn't be worshipped. 

This raised very strong feelings among people who consider Islam a false religion.
"A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We can confirm we are investigating reports of offensive comments made towards St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Glasgow and inquiries are ongoing. Police Scotland will not tolerate any form of hate and encourages all communities to work together to ensure no one feels threatened or marginalised.”
I am in favour of peace between world religions, if possible, but not of suppression of free speech or suppression of conservative theology by the police. 

Perhaps Donald Trump, half Scottish as he is, will in time change the zeitgeist even in his mother's native country. Who knows? 

I hope so.

People who are horrified that Donald Trump is about to become US President should understand why

People who are horrified that Donald Trump is about to become US President should understand why. 

He is a very remarkable man, a force of nature, but also a reaction to and judgement on 8 years of Barack Obama, following 8 years of George W. Bush.

The old Republican party tradition is exhausted. It's meaningless. 

The new Democrat party based on identity politics, that thought Third World immigration was guaranteeing its future, is in big trouble. 

I hope the Democrats can be rebuilt without identity politics, but I doubt it. This is sad because, unlike the Bushes, they will come back to power. 

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Quotations for Saturday

"The habit of ignoring nature is deeply implanted in our times. I had to find some special occupation, some kind of work that would not force me to turn away from the sky and the stars, that would allow me to discover the meaning of life."
Marc Chagall

"May you never feel small or insignificant. You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself." 

Alan Watts

“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realise is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
Flannery O’Connor

"Every major question in history is a religious question. It has more effect in molding life than nationalism or a common language."
Hilaire Belloc

“[The modern age] knows nothing about isolation and nothing about silence."
Wallace Stegner


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What is truth? said jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer.

He was an early relativist. Evelyn Waugh said, how truly I know not, that Pilate was canonised by the Ethiopian (Coptic) Church.

'It is not given to any of us to see more than a fraction of a shadow of the truth.' 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Trump and Churchill

Replaying his press conference of two days' ago now, it's clear, if it wasn't before, that Donald Trump is a genius. I hope he will be a good president. I have a feeling he will. I hope he does not turn out to be what Evelyn Waugh called Churchill 'merely a great radio personality'.

From my sitting room this morning

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A full moon on Friday 13th

My telephone couldn't do justice to the big yellow moon over Colțea and St. George's church.

A full moon on Friday 13th -how often does that happen? Slightly more than once every twenty years? But here it is 'Tuesday 13th' that is unlucky. Because Constantinople fell on a Tuesday.

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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Trump's news conference was a tour de force but he should sell his businesses

Donald Trump's news conference was a tour de force (especially his refusing to take CNN's question in favour of Breitbart) and promises four years of fun. 

He swatted away the allegations, completely without evidence, that he had been compromised by Russian spies who filmed him having a prostitute urinate on him in the bed where the Obamas had previously slept. He simply pointed out his famous fear of germs. 

(He refused to shake anyone's hand until he was told he would have to if he wanted to run for president and he made a big thing in a radio interview about having a separate bathroom from his wife - or was it wives?)

The best comment on this disgusting story, which was copied all over Facebook and Twitter, was Brendan O' Neill's:
Twitterati in 2016: Stop spreading fake news! Stop being post-truth! My god, you uneducated little people would believe anything.
Twitterati in 2017: Hey, come here, guess what. Donald Trump hates the Obamas so much he once travelled to Moscow just so he could stay in a hotel room they stayed in and hire hookers to piss on their bed, and the whole thing was secretly filmed by Russian intelligence, and then Russian intelligence blackmailed Trump and said to him: "You must become president and destroy America for us or we will show everyone you and the prostitutes pissing on Obama's hotel bed." Really. That's how he became president. Shocking, isn't it?

But what is shocking is that Mr. Trump will continue to own his business empire, which will be run by his sons. 

So, if you want to put money in his pocket, you do business with his companies. 

I am not sure this is not illegal under the US Constitution.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 says:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
How to stop the Trump businesses receiving money from entities owned by foreign governments? 

And in any case, whether owned by foreign governments or not the conflict of interest is clear and surely not acceptable.

God-Emperor Trump: comparing the Donald with figures from antiquity

I thought I used the Trump Roman Emperor analogy first:

"I increasingly feel that we may be living in a period like the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the golden age where Gibbon starts his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Come to think of it, there is something of an outlandish late Roman emperor about Donald Trump, perhaps a rich wheat importer who got his position in an auction held by the Praetorian guard. "
I used this as part of an analogy between the present age and the reign of Marcus Aurelius, where Gibbon begins the Decline and Fall.

In countless ways Romania is more civilised than England

In countless ways Romania is more civilised than England. A small example: girls wear high heeled snow boots.

Princess Martha Bibescu said that the Romanians are a Latin race who know their home should be in the south. Every winter seems to strike them with horror and astonishment. 

The snow seems to get shifted better nowadays. After they started using snow ploughs, 
the snow was piled up to a great height on the pavements and these embankments of snow were much more of a hazard to the long-suffering pedestrians of Bucharest than the snow itself or even the treacherous ice. If you wanted to cross the road at a busy junction (where I work, P-a Victoriei) there would be a 3 foot high hill of snow to climb and young women ahead of me climbing the snow in high heeled boots. 

I said in a Facebook status from 7 years ago: 'Getting to work this morning was like a 1970s disaster movie.' I suppose they played the love interest, I the humorous, eccentric Englishman. In Hollywood films English actors usually play the villain but I am probably too nice.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Trump did not mock the disabled man

Pace Meryl Streep, Paul Krugman and other groupthinkers it is perfectly clear from this clip that Trump did not mock that disabled man. Though the fact checkers did not tell us this.

Nor did he destroy Libya. 

Had Hillary won it would have been US-UK intervention in Syria and 4 years of investigating her emails.

This is Hillary joking about the death of Gadaffi, who died by being sodomised with a bayonet. And people say she doesn't have a sense of humour.

Four thoughts

'Generally the better educated are more prone to irrational political opinions and political hysteria than the worse educated far from power. Why? In the field of political opinion they are more driven by fashion, a gang mentality, and the desire to pose about moral and political questions all of which exacerbate cognitive biases, encourage groupthink, and reduce accuracy. Those on average incomes are less likely to express political views to send signals; political views are much less important for signalling to one’s immediate in-group when you are on 20k a year.' Dominic Cummings

'If you believe the doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe the military, nothing is safe.' Lord Salisbury

'As communists realised from the beginning, to control language is to control thought—not actual thought, but the possibilities of thought.' Roger Scruton

'The man who has begun looking for God has already found him.' 
Graham Greene found comfort in these words of Pascal.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Eurosceptics think it’s worth living in a bedsit for a bit

"Within hours of the EU referendum result, May got the reality of Brexit quicker than any other fellow ‘reluctant Remainer’. And she ‘got it’ that the UK’s loveless marriage to the EU now had to end in divorce. May is like the divorcee who is ready to give her ex the big house, most of the CD collection and the car, and is willing to pay some alimony for access to the kids. She’s just relieved to be out of there - and she’ll never be forced to host his relatives ever again. And as with many divorces, Eurosceptics think it’s worth living in a bedsit for a bit until they get a bigger place of their own again. Just how long or how difficult life in that bedsit will be, we have yet to see."
Paul Waugh in the Huffington Post today

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Down with the divine right of experts

'We have not overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts.'

Harold Macmillan anticipated Michael Gove at Strasbourg, August 16, 1950.

Aleppo and Christian civilisation

Vanessa Beeley is very committed. She is very strongly opposed to regime change in Syria (and Iran) and calls Israel an 'illegal state'. 

She says she works as a journalist in Syria without a minder but she has a translator and I doubt if Syrians would feel comfortable criticising the Syrian government while being recorded talking to her. 

All that said, the interviews (click here) she records with people from Eastern Aleppo, who are delighted to be free, have the ring of truth. 

But they are ignored by the mainstream media, while, up until the rebels surrendered and dispersed, the opinions of opposition 'media activists' were quoted at length in the British and American newspapers.

One refugee interviewed by Miss Beeley said, "They killed our families, destroyed our homes, stole from us."

There were no doctors, and the hospitals said to have been hit by Russian bombs were only for the use of rebel fighters. Such food as came in as relief was mostly withheld from civilians. People who tried to escape were killed. 

This is more or less what one would have expected, I think.

Meanwhile, here is a story that recently did get into the Economist, of an extremely brave Catholic prior in Syria, Father Jacques Mourad, who was taken captive by ISIS but managed to escape. 

He said, after his escape:
"If the world is really serious about putting an end to the ravages of the fanatics, then it will have to stop doing business with Saudi Arabia. Because

Fake news is itself fake news

Fake news is itself fake news. The fact checkers spread untruths. Post truth politics is a fiction. It's all a way for people who think they are progressive to explain why the masses vote against progress and to try to stop them doing so in future.

Try to stop them, that is, by controlling what information the people have access to on the internet.

Facebook has already started controlling fake news but the political slant of Facebook is clear when you consider that some Facebook employees wanted to censor some of Donald Trump's remarks, on the ground that they constituted hate speech, and the discussion went all the way up to Mark Zuckerberg.

He ruled that censoring the Republican nominee for President really wasn't a good idea.

Donald Trump said that Barack Obama was the founder of ISIS and the fact checkers, Snopes of course, solemnly averred that this was false. This is all you need to know, really, about fact checking.

After Donald Trump petulantly said actress Meryl Streep was overrated, AP fact checked this

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Brexit and Trump's victory are attempts at regime change

Anne Applebaum, who embodies all that's wrong with 19th century or early 20th century liberalism, said a while back that the problem was not that Donald Trump supports Putin but that he thinks like Putin. An acute observation. Both are old fashioned leaders not Wilsonians. I hope Trump doesn't invade any countries like Putin and George W. Bush did and Hillary wanted to.

I suppose Trump's victory is an attempt at regime change. I don't mean the end of the Obama era but the end of the whole bipartisan consensus, for there is one in the US dexpite partisan gridlock. There is one in every country except when civil war breaks out.

Brexit too is regime change. Let's be glad these regime changes are non-violent and look, I believe, pregnant with hope.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Britain has world’s strongest economy 6 months after Brexit vote

"I think people in this country have had enough of experts,'" said Michael Gove during the referendum campaign. 

This made the expert class very sneery indeed, but it turned out that Mr. Gove was right and, what's more, the people were right.

Andrew Haldane, chief economist at the Bank of England, said yesterday that the failure to predict the 2008 crisis and the prediction of a crisis if Leave won the referendum were Michael Fish moments. This is a reference to the famous BBC weather forecaster who promised there would be no hurricane hours before one happened in 1987.

Britain ended last year as the strongest of the world’s advanced economies with growth accelerating in the six months after the Brexit vote. 
Funny old world, isn't it?

The British economy grew by 2.2 per cent last year — more than the six other leading nations, including the US, Germany and Japan. 

Far from a deep recession ensuing after Leave won, as the Treasury and the Bank of England had predicted, growth improved very slightly in the last two quarters of 2016 compared with the first half of the year.

Snow in Bucharest

Thick snow and I have decided to work from home. I wish I had a coal fire but I have never seen an open fire in 18 years in Romania. Le tout Bucarest is still away, on distant islands posted annoyingly on Facebook.

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Artists Really, Really Don’t Want Their Work On Ivanka Trump’s Walls

The left's reaction to Trump promises four years of fun, fun, fun. 

The world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel, as Horace Walpole said.

For example, Huffington Post informs us that some artists who sold their paintings to Ivanka Trump now say they don’t want their work on Ivanka’s walls, but they don't offer to buy it back.

Theirs is not a new dilemma of course. Millais was very upset when Pears the soap manufacturers bought 'Bubbles' and used it as an advert but there was nothing he could do.

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It's a terrible painting anyway. Someone said that had Ruskin's marriage to Effie Gray been consummated he'd have written Bubbles.

If I were Ivanka I'd bring out a book illustrating her entire collection and give the proceeds to a charity for young artists in deprived inner cities.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Permanent Under-Secretary at FCO would have resigned over Europe

"That the Foreign Office hates Brexit is not news. It is to Europe what the Ministry of Defence is to the army, and the Department for International Development to management consultancy. It is the reason for existing. I once asked the department’s old boss, Michael Palliser, if he had considered resigning over the Falklands. No, he said, he had had to do his duty by the government of the day. The only issue that would cause him to resign, he said ominously, was Britain leaving Europe."

Simon Jenkins today in the Guardian.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

A lost city discovered in Wales

Man who used life savings to buy a field discovers ruins of an entire lost city under the ground

A great headline for a great story in today's Telegraph. It contains these golden words.

"I should have really bought a house and got out from my parents', but I thought: 'To hell with my parents, I will stay at home and I shall buy a field instead," he said. "People said 'you must be mad'."

The World's Greatest Troll: the Humour of Donald Trump

"America doesn't need a hero. It needs a troll and it has been blessed with the very best."

So says this "short documentary on how Donald Trump has trolled the world." I urge you to watch. As historian Ruth Dudley Edwards said, it's astonishing and enlightening.

I've a feeling that Donald Trump is going to be good.

How We Were Misled About Syria

Syria cuts across left and right.

Tim Hayward is Professor of Environmental Political Theory at Edinburgh University, founding Director of the Just World Institute and the Ethics Forum, Convenor of the Fair Trade Academic Network, and Programme Director of the MSc International Political Theory. He sounds incredibly progressive and left-wing but he is sceptical of the role of Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) in reporting Russian atrocities in Eastern Aleppo. 

In his blog he makes these points. I blame myself for not having thought of them before.

"But if none of MSF’s international doctors have been on the ground in Syria’s war zones since 2015, how can MSF claim to bear witness for what is happening there?

Laughed? I could have cried

100 British comedians have been asked to choose their favourite one-line jokes and the three that came top were these, all from television comedies.

1 Captain Mainwaring to Pike, when asked his name by a U-boat captain: “Don’t tell him, Pike.” (Dad’s Army)
2 Tony Hancock, on learning how much blood he has to give during a blood donation: “A pint? Why, that’s very nearly an armful.” (Hancock’s Half Hour)
3 Father Ted tries to explain perspective to Father Dougal, saying: “These [toy cows] are small. But the ones out there [real cows] are far away.” (Father Ted)

The first and third are favourites of mine but I like even more this, by Bob Monkhouse.

They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well, they're not laughing now.
But for the best telling of a joke ever I vote for this clip of Terry-Thomas.

Sic transit Sir Ivan Rogers

It sounds to me that Sir Ivan Rogers, who has resigned as British Ambassador to the EU, is a very able diplomat and experienced negotiator but wanted HMG to go for a soft Brexit. Better that he goes.

We see here the limitations of experts and the importance of politics. Unclever politicians are needed to direct experts (and most politicians, like Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn, Hillary Clinton, etc. are not clever at all). Donald Trump is very clever but not in a civil servant way.

I wondered if Sir Ivan leaked his prediction that leaving Brexit would take ten years. If so he certainly deserved to be pushed out, but it seems that he blames No 10.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

King Charles II's and other royal shoes

Close-up of King Charles II's shoes, from this interesting blog about socks and shoes

You can see Catholic and absolutist tendencies. He would have supported Remain.


Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

What we have been seeing worldwide is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
The Intellectual Yet Idiot has been wrong, historically, on Stalinism, Maoism, GMOs, Iraq, Libya, Syria, lobotomies, urban planning, low carbohydrate diets, gym machines, behaviorism, transfats, freudianism, portfolio theory, linear regression, Gaussianism, Salafism, dynamic stochastic equilibrium modeling, housing projects, selfish gene, election forecasting models, Bernie Madoff (pre-blowup) and p-values.

But he is convinced that his current position is right.

Christmas in Essex

I spent Christmas at Colchester.

As a boy I loved everything about Christmas except going to Mass. Now in middle age that's my favourite part.

The Mass at the Orthodox monastery at Tolleshunt Knights was wonderfully numinous. Afterwards a feast within limits of Advent vegan fast which lasts till Mass on Easter morning. Halva, dry bread, olives, fruit tea. I tried to convince a Romanian architect that Donald Trump had not been installed by omnipotent international Jewry and in fact that he proved that democracy did work. The architect said, as evidence for his assertion, that he knew no-one who supported Trump, but around our table most did. Partly because Trump was concerned about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. 

Christmas in England

Two and a half hurried days in London before Christmas. It's a great city to be in at or just before Christmas.

I went to the City University Club Annual Steak and Kidney Pudding lunch, which takes place on the last day the club is open each year - 1840s food and my favourite meal. A senior London banker told me that about 40% of people in the City like Brexit. It's mostly European immigrants who object.

Then Chelsea, an enchanting though morally ambiguous place, and a drink in The Surprise with an old friend. It is many years since I lived round the corner aged 24 and I felt emotional. 

2016 was a wonderful year

If you want to understand why I think 2016 was a wonderful year, I refer you to what I said at the end of 2015. I said that that year was 

a very tragic turning point in world history, because of Germany's inexplicable decision to take in a million soi disant refugees. The murders by ISIS in Paris might be a very useful wake up call for us to be conscious of Europe's huge demographic change, but alas I doubt it will wake up our rulers. If only we had a De Gaulle instead of being governed by the students of 1968 now become fat cat Eurocrats, quangocrats and university lecturers. And the quixotic daughter of an East German Communist pastor.

What a difference a year makes. The people have woken up and things begin to change. I am doubtful that 2017 will see further big changes like Brexit and President Trump, but I think both of these are going to do a lot of good. The people like a sleeping giant has awoken.

A lot of famous people died in 2016 but the only famous death that moved me was William Trevor's. And slightly Ronnie Corbett's who endured motor neurone disease.

I hadn't listened to Leonard Cohen nor Bowie except for Major Tom, a great song. What does sadden me is the people who have died in Syria and Yemen. And the drowned migrants for whose deaths Angela Merkel is, I'm afraid, to blame.

Seven life hacks for 2017

I am very behind with my blog and if I owe you a New Year's Message it is this.

2016 was a year of revolutions like 1848 and 1989. Dryden, on the eve of the 18th century in 1699, said it well:

'Tis well an old age is outAnd time to begin a new.

The 18th century didn't go well, but that is the human condition. At least the British Empire expanded, despite American treason. Happy New Year everyone.

Garry Kasparov on New Year's Day on Facebook quoted an entry from Tsar Nicholas II's diary exactly 100 years earlier.

"The cursed year of 1916 is finally over. 1917 will surely be better!" 

Here are seven so-called 'life hacks'.

"We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." Kurt Vonnegut

"No man can please others who does not please himself." Frederic Harrison

"The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes everything as either a blessing or a curse." Carlos Castaneda

"Life is difficult. This is one of the greatest truths because once we truly get it- we transcend it. Once we accept this, then life is no longer difficult. Because once we accept it, the fact that it is difficult no longer matters." Scott Peck

"Things can be done. The people in life who get them done are the ones who know that, and the ones who don't are the rest." Tony Hawks

"The self-bound individual always forgets that his self would be safeguarded better and automatically the more he prepares himself for the welfare of mankind, and that in this respect no limits are set for him." Alfred Adler
 "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody in the room." General George 'Mad Dog' Mattis