Saturday, 22 July 2017

Trump ends covert CIA program to arm anti-Assad rebels in Syria

President Trump has decided to end the CIA's covert program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels battling the Syrian government.

About time. There was never any American interest in overthrowing the cruel Assad regime and replacing it with what?

"Embrace the discomfort of transformation"

In a depressing article today entitled 'Diversity and Disintegration', the always interesting Mark Steyn makes a good point.
In a developed world where the low-skilled service jobs are automating, there is no economic rationale for mass immigration. That leaves only the cultural consequences.

Austria Hungary, an EU before the EU

'It is sometimes said that the Austrian Empire was a "natural unit;" this catch phrase only means that it was large and had existed for a long time. Many economic ties had grown up with the centuries; these were certainly not "natural." There was no geographic unity. ...... As for the Bukovyna, it was cut off from everywhere, a meaningless fragment of territory for which there could be no rational explanation.' (A.J.P. Taylor)
I love those lethargic places cut off from time, space and economics by borders. The Northern Bucovina, separated from its southern hinterland, which was in Austria and is now in Romania. The noble former Ottoman capital Adrianople (Edirne), a couple of miles from the very slow Greek and Bulgarian border crossings. The whole of Eastern Europe was such a place, until 1989. 

Even Transnistria, cut off from Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and its real home the USSR, has a boring charm. 

Catholic priest unsuccessfully prosecuted for saying homosexuality is a sin

Hate speech laws are a way of silencing opinion. As measures are taken to prevent Islamists using the net for their purposes, this will become more and more the case.

In Barcelona a priest has been unsuccessfully prosecuted for saying 
"Homosexuality is a sin against nature". He was prosecuted for enunciating Catholic doctrine, in (formerly?) Catholic Spain.

La Muse Endormie sold for $57 million

Related image

The item which Christie's sold for the highest price in the first half of this year was this wonderful bronze cast, La Muse Endormie (1913) by Constantin Brâncuși. The Romanian was perhaps the greatest sculptor of the last century. It was sold in New York for $57.4m (£44.1m), a record for Brâncuși.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


We never love anyone. Not really. We only love our idea of another person. It is some conception of our own that we love. We love ourselves, in fact.
William Boyd

Were EU laws to blame for the Grenfell fire?

The Grenfell tower block, which caught fire in a poor enclave in the richest borough in London, cost no-one knows how many lives. It has become a symbol of what is wrong with England, as terrible tragedies do. They become mythology.

The same thing happened with the murder of Jamie Bulger, a 2 year-old boy who was abducted, tortured and murdered by two ten-year-old boys in 1993. His murder had nothing to do with John Major, but seemed to symbolise the breakdown of society after fourteen years of Toryism and free market economics. I thought so too at the time.

What does Grenfell show us? Like the Rorschach test, in which subjects' perceptions of inkblots are recorded, it shows us what we want to see. The fire is reported to have been caused by a fridge freezer catching fire in the flat of an Ethiopian, who packed his baggage before leaving. This suggests to some that faulty fridge freezers are dangerous. Undoubtedly they are right. Other people in social media place the blame on Ethiopians.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Calibri may leave Pakistan sans Sharif

I had been following, out of the corner of my eye, the story of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. His government might fall because his daughter Maryam submitted documents to the Supreme Court dated before January 31, 2007 and typed in Calibri, a font which only became available on that date. This is interesting, but more memorably it is the occasion for possibly the best headline I ever saw.


‘I started as a rebel against rebellion.’ Sir Roger Scruton

'Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.' Carl Gustav Jung

'To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.' Miguel de Unamuno

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Quotations about childhood

We look at the world once, in childhood. The rest is memory. 

Louise Glück

For writers it is always said that the first twenty years contain the whole of experience - the rest is observation - but I think this is equally true of us all. 

Graham Greene

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The old order changeth?

When I started my first job in the House of Lords I picked up and lunched with pretty, nicely brought up Tory MPs' secretaries (Labour secretaries were rarely desirable) who said things like "I think people were much happier when they knew their place". Do young Tory girls still say things like this?

Michael Deacon sees that Theresa May is really, really not cut out to be PM

An incisive sketch by Michael Deacon in the Telegraph kills Theresa May with kindness.
"Those few words tell us such a lot. She said she didn’t watch the exit poll because “I have a bit of a superstition about things like that”, but come on. The reason she didn’t watch it, quite nakedly, is that she was frightened. Frightened of failure, of humiliation, of rejection.
He sees that she is too scared to read the press and this is why she gets her husband to do so for her.

"I've Worked with Refugees for Decades. Europe's Afghan Crime Wave Is Mind-Boggling"

I hadn't heard about problems caused by Afghan refugees in Europe until I read this interesting and very dismaying article in the very respectable American magazine 'National Interest' by Cheryl Benard, who has worked for many years in refugee programmes and says she found it very hard to write. She details a dismaying history of rapes and sexual assaults and tries to find explanations.

The following explanation is very worrying. It was 
offered by an experienced Afghan court translator in Austria whom she quotes. 

The myth of Britain’s decline

Robert Tombs, who supervised me at university, has written a timely piece on Brexit and declinism entitled
The myth of Britain’s decline
 with the encouraging sub-headline
Our glory days are not over – they’re in full swing
I quote him.
Who would deny that Britain is no longer the great power it once was? Well, speaking as a historian, I would. Declinism is at best a distortion of reality, and


They may talk as they please about what they call pelf,
And how one ought never to think of one's self,
And how pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking--
My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking
How pleasant it is to have money, heigh ho!
How pleasant it is to have money.
A.H. Clough

Sublime wine, sublime pizza

This blog tries to be useful when it can. This is an example. I scarcely ever go to bars but my friend Claudia took me to perhaps my favourite, the lovely Bruno's, in the old town at Str. Covaci 3, where I once projected a birthday party, and introduced me to the most wonderful wine, Bauer Cabernet Sauvignon. Chalky perfection.

Buy a case, people.

In return I introduced her to the best pizza outside Naples - from that amazing shop on the corner of Lipscani and the boulevard. Do go there.

White marble and white supremacy

In a recent article, Professor Sarah Bond, of the University of Iowa, reminds us that classical statues were painted in lifelike colour (they must have resemble Madame Tussaud's) and argues that "the equation of white marble with beauty" contributes to "white supremacist ideas today". 

“The assemblage of neon whiteness serves to create a false idea of homogeneity — everyone was very white! — across the Mediterranean region - [provides] further ammunition for white supremacists today, including groups like Identity Europa, who use classical statuary as a symbol of white male superiority.”

This is not just another crazy America story but an example of a very important trend in current thinking. It's connected to the reasons why many clever Americans thought Donald Trump, by extolling the West in his Warsaw speech, was racist.

If you want to know what Bucharest is like, it's like this

This house I pass every day. The picture is by the talented American photographer and Bucharest resident Davin Ellicson.

My walk to work yesterday

Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Image may contain: outdoor

Is the French revolution responsible for most of the world's problems today?

'For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution.' Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
An academic called Dr Cliff Arnall in 2005 discovered that the third Monday in January is the day when the English are most unhappy. He now informs us that July 14th is the day when we feel happiest each year. 

I love the balmy days of July in Bucharest, despite the merciless heat, but July 14th is Bastille Day and not a day on which a conservative can rejoice.

I have always been one of those who blames most of the world's problems on the 1914-18 War but I start to think Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn may be right. 

Thursday, 13 July 2017


It is impossible to live pleasurably without living wisely, well, and justly, and it is impossible to live wisely, well, and justly without living pleasurably. Epicurus

The presence of oceans on much of the earth's surface makes it impossible for any state to achieve global hegemony. John Mearsheimer

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

'The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible'

'The cold biological truth is that sex changes are impossible.' Camille Paglia

'A sexy woman can have almost any man she wants. And a rich guy can have almost any woman he wants.' Oliver Markus

Posted on Facebook by the late Peter Risdon

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, text and outdoor

How much I wish he were here to comment on the fall of Mosul on Facebook, even though I am sure I would completely disagree with him - as I always did on the Middle East.

The language of the 21st century

"Globally, people now spend nearly four times as much time accessing the Internet from mobile devices as they do from desktops. 'Computers' are on their way to becoming an anachronism rarely seen outside of the office. I’d argue that even the way we think is increasingly mobile in nature: for better or worse, small visual bites have replaced big chunks of text as the language of the 21st century."
Ryan Holmes

5 quotations

"The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge."
Daniel Boorstin

A man may be in as just possession of truth as of a city, and yet be forced to surrender.
Sir Thomas Browne

Monday, 10 July 2017

3 quotations

'Love is what makes growing up bearable.' Eve Pollard

'All tobacconists are fascists.' George Orwell 

[Enver Hoxha, who kept a tobacco kiosk in Tirana's main square as his cover, before becoming a bloodthirsty Communist tyrant, was the exception.]

'Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.'
Sylvia Plath

Mosul has fallen after a 9 month siege - no mention of war crimes

Mosul has been retaken from ISIS after three years and much hard fighting by Iraqi soldiers trained and helped by Anglo-American forces. Barack Obama hoped it would happen on his watch but it has taken much longer than he and others expected. The 9-month battle for Mosul fight lasted longer than the siege of Stalingrad and like Stalingrad involved street-to-street fighting and huge loss of life.

I wonder how many civilians were killed and what war crimes were committed in the taking of Mosul and the fall of Eastern Aleppo. The media do not know. They treated Syrian rebel propagandists as bona fide journalists, asked us to grieve when the

Sunday, 9 July 2017

The Glory is Departing from the Land

A lament for hunting from Anthony Trollope, a great hunter. It is unbelievable and heart-breaking that fox hunting is now illegal in England.

"I can't understand," said Glomax, "how any man can be considered a good fellow as a country gentleman who does not care for sport. Just look at it all round. Suppose others were like him what would become of us all?"

Wunderkind violinist

I had the luck to hear Alexandru Tomescu play the violin in Turda, at the Ratiu100 weekend to mark the hundredth anniversary of Ion Ratiu's birth this summer, thanks to Indrei Ratiu. 

Here Tomescu plays Ciprian Porumbescu's wonderful ballad, on a Stradivarius.

Peter Risdon has died

Image may contain: 1 person

Peter Risdon tweeted that a few days ago and now he is dead. 

He was a brilliant, clear-minded and deep thinker. He was one of my closest Facebook friends, someone who made Facebook worthwhile despite all the idiots and bores. I am so glad I finally met him in real life in March in Ely. 

Peter broke the opticians' monopoly in the 1980s. Later he was mixed up with Darius Guppy and Peter recorded Guppy's conversation with his school friend Boris Johnson.

7 quotations

Cecily: ''When I see a spade, I call it a spade".
Gwendolyn: "I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade. It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different."
The Importance of Being Earnest

No man is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.

The 10 Worst Prime Ministers We Never Had

John Rentoul makes an enjoyable article out of a thread on Twitter, which discussed the worst Prime Ministers that England never had and was lucky to escape. Contrarian though I am, I think I agree with all ten, with the possible exception of Lord Halifax, who would have probed the possibility of peace with Hitler in 1940.

The lesson to be drawn from the list of outstanding names, that include Fox, Curzon and a gaggle of  more recent men (and one woman, poor Mrs. Leadsom), is that statesmen who

Saturday, 8 July 2017

EP President: Europe faces "an exodus of biblical proportions"

"Europe is "underestimating" the scale and severity of the migration crisis and "millions of Africans" will flood the continent in the next five years unless urgent action is taken, Antonio Tajani, president of the European Parliament, has said in an interview with Il Messagero newspaper. He predicts
"an exodus of biblical proportions that would be impossible to stop if we don't confront the problem now. ... The only solution is massive investment in Africa to dissuade people from leaving in the first place."

He is right about the problem but the solution he proposes is irrelevant. Making Africa

The future belongs to those who show up for it

Here is a graph that you should look at.

No automatic alt text available.
By the way, education of women is what reduces birth rates, rather than welfare states, prosperity, secularism or even feminism. This is why the countries of Eastern Europe, which have exiguous welfare provision, are dying, as is Iran. In Iran more women go to university than men, though they do not go out to work. (They often go to university to find husbands.)

Fertility rates fell in Eastern Europe in the late 19th century almost as quickly as in Western Europe even though economic development and standards of living lagged by decades.

Trump: Does the West have the will to survive? Answer: This question is racist.

Reading liberal journalists fulminating about Donald Trump's speech in Warsaw in defence of Western civilisation makes it clear how important it was and that, for all his grave faults, he has the makings of a good, even very good, President. 

If he continues to listen to Steve Bannon rather than Ivanka or the Republican establishment.

Peter Beinart, writing in The Atlantic, was very cross indeed. He asserted:

The West is a racial and religious term. To be considered Western, a country must be largely Christian (preferably Protestant or Catholic) and largely white.
Trump’s speech, he thinks, was racist, because some Europeans are Muslim, and the term West excludes countries like India and Japan.