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For decades now we have been importing war. The massive immigration of Muslims into western countries – began with the aftermath of the Algerian war in France and with the opening of West Germany to hundreds of thousands of Turkish gastarbeiter, “guest-workers” whose grandchildren are there still – has inevitably brought to the West the native pathologies of Muslim societies, that is, the tendency to assert themselves by violence and the disregard of any law that is not Sharia – or rather, their interpretation of Sharia.

It does not matter, from that point of view, whether or not the majority of Muslims is peaceful or respects the law. No doubt they do. But the same may be said of their correligionaries in their countries of origin, and yet all those countries suffer from the same pathologies, unless they are repressed by force. I can personally testify what a pleasure it is to work with one particular Egyptian client – pleasant and warm in manner, accurate in all they do, paying on the dot, and as upright as a flagpole. Yet we have seen that Egypt as a country has only two choices – military oppression, or religious savagery; and that the people themselves have eventually preferred oppression to letting their own large religious minority loose on the country.

I do not have to show why or how that is; it is sufficient to remark that it is so – and it is certainly so. Muslim countries are affected by civil violence on a scale unknown to pretty much any other civilization, and are correspondingly backward in all that we regard as advanced civilization – from health care to industrial prosperity; since all those things depend on a stable and decently non-violent state of society.

We have pretty much ignored the rising local symptoms of this pathology in our own countries, because, in effect, what can a few lunatics with knives do to a society whose defence is in RPGs, armoured vests, machine guns, rocketry, aircraft and aircraft carriers? Muslim violence, even where it prevailed, has always been treated as a public order problem. But now we no longer have that luxury. Terrorists no longer come with home-made explosives and handguns bought on the local black market. Because of the existence of vast war zones where armies meet with armies, each armed with modern weapons and increasingly learning military tactics, Mumbai first, and Paris now, have met with terrorists who moved and fought like trained commandos.

Some people like to say that this is the West's own fault; but that is nonsense. I was totally against the idiotic support for the so-called Arab Spring, that put Egypt, the largest Arab country, into deadly danger, and turned Libya and Syria into militarized wildernesses; and I have the blog posts to prove it. I said four or more years ago that the so-called Arab Spring in Syria was nothing but a Sunni insurrection – whatever few deluded secularists and democrats may have tried to join or direct it – and I gave my reasons to think so; and facts proved me right. But the fact is that long before the folly of Cameron, Obama and Hollande, before even Bush II's misconceived invasion of Iraq, events in the Muslim world were moving in that direction. The first state in the Muslim world to collapse into a welter of warlords and religious militias was Somalia, and that was long before Bush II came to power. Then there was the matter of Chechenia, and while the Russians may be blamed for that, Chechenia's hopeless jihad against the Bear was entirely the result of internal pressures. Certainly the Russians cannot be said to have encouraged the rebel factions against themselves, as the West insanely did in Syria and in Libya.

In effect, the Muslim world has been drifting towards civil war for at least a quarter of a century. Libya, Syria, Iraq, are latecomers to the party; and the forces that tore them apart had been sharpening their claws in Somalia and in Nigeria, in the Caucasus, in Afghanistan, in Bosnia, and – so far as anyone is allowed to know – even in Chinese Turkestan, in spite of the immense military and police apparatus that faced them there. Veterans of each jihad move to each new battlefield; we hear of Chechens, Uighurs, Iraqis, Libyans. In effect, a manifold insurrection has been brewing in all sorts of places, few of which we even got to hear from – who apart from me has ever paid any attention to the jihad in the Central African Republic?

And as we had little or no real part in the genesis of this war, so we have no real choice in whether to fight it. Nobody is going to like it. The Anglo-American expeditions to Iraq and to Afghanistan nearly tore apart both countries and the whole western alliance from the inside: the idea of having to face jihad now as it dominates the Fertile Crescent and Libya, let alone everywhere else in Asia and Africa, is so unimaginable that few people or nobody even dare speak of it. And yet the so-called Islamic State is an immediate and deadly threat, it not to our territorial integrity, then at least to our internal peace. The underground railway of volunteers, fed by the treacherous Turkish government of Recip Erdogan, is by now bringing not dozens but hundreds of Muslim volunteers from all European countries to the front line, where they are trained not even, as iin the Afghan and Pakistani terrorist camps of the recent past, in explosives handling and suicide bombing, but in modern warfare. When they come back, which they regularly do, they have become not just a public order threat, but a military one. We have no choice. The war has come to us at last, decades after we began to import it, and we will be made to fight it whether we want to or not.

And let us not delude ourselves that the mere repression of the Islamic State – which would be well into the power of European countries even without American support, if only they wanted to – will be enough. This war moves like a mole to any of a dozen possible frontlines, and once the European extremists have learned how to reach them, they will reach them. Sooner or later, our troops will be back in Afghanistan – possibly in the company of Chinese divisions – as well as in Nigeria, in Central Africa, in Somalia. This is the logic of events.


Jul. 21st, 2014 10:48 am
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The narrow defeat of the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case has sent its supporters into ecstases of rage and hate that have to be seen to be believed, and that in some cases can only be described as murderous. I am glad I don't live in the USA. But this fury, that bewilders many conservatives and independents, does not bewilder me. The Mandate was criminal from the beginning, criminal in its prehistory. Remember how deliberately the President lied to poor Bart Stupak and destroyed his career. And the Mandate is really much more basic to the Obama project than people realize, because they can't see its actual purpose. Le me draw a historical parallel.

Ireland has one of the saddest modern histories of any country in the world. Repeatedly invaded and devastated by the larger neighbouring island, its Catholic majority was reduced to a pulverized peasantry, paying tax they could not afford to Protestant landlords and being tithed for Protestant parsons; a miserable swarm of penniless, ignorant and leaderless grubbers of the soil, fed by potatoes, with no middle class or aristocracy or any consistency. But what you have to realize is that, the destruction of the Irish educated classes, in spite of the frightful massacres and repeated wars, were not the result of military oppression or even of mass murder; they were, in the main, the result of laws. England wrote dozens, indeed hundreds,of laws, to destroy the Irish nation as elaborately and as legally as possible. As the Irish Protestant Edmund Burke said, the English laws against Irish Catholics - or "penal laws", as they are shamefully called - were "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

The Mass, of course, could not be said: to have it said or to say it meant life imprisonment. But neither could Catholics be educated: to set up a Catholic school was equally a matter of life imprisonment. And Catholics were to be robbed by law: "Every Roman Catholic was... to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did not believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy." The law encouraged Protestants to steal from their Catholic relations, or even pretended relations; and not just large amounts, but everything - every bit of property they had. "When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion, along with the property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him."

"....Catholics, condemned to beggary and to ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to learn the principles of letters, at the hazard of all their other principles, from the charity of your enemies. They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the measure of their necessity and profligacy,"

"Examples of this are many and affecting. Some of them are known by a friend who stands near me in this hall. It is but six or seven years since a clergyman, of the name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor accused of anything noxious to the state, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the functions of his religion; and after lying in jail two or three years, was relieved by the mercy of government from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this country whilst its glory is any part of its concern, was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among common felons, and only escaped the same doom, either by some error in the process, or that the wretch who brought him there could not correctly describe his person,—I now forget which. In short, the persecution would never have relented for a moment, if the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near relation to whom she had been a friend and benefactor; and she must have been totally ruined, without a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a special act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice of its own statutes..."

It says enough about the power of brute prejudice, of a kind we see in the highest places today, that this unanswerable attack on a disgraceful law lost Burke an election he should have won. The English had been taught to hate Catholics so much that they evidently thought that nothing done to them could be wrong or unjust.

What the Mandate is designed to do, mutatis mutandis, is exactly this. This is why the political and media leadership of your country has fought for it so obstinately, so savagely, and so underhandedly; this is why it took even a narrow defeat with murderous rage. It is because the real purpose of this abomination is to exclude Christians and especially Catholics from economic life. In a world in which money is the only power that can really affect politics - as Obama and his people know all too well - it is intolerable to them that there should be a number, however small, of rich people and of company owners who take their Christianity seriously. In this day and age it is not yet possible to make it legal for a man of the government's party to simply steal the property of his dissenting relatives; and besides, there is not - or not yet - a simple test of identity to separate the government's friends from its enemies, as membership in the "Protestant" church was in Burke's time. But they can impose a tax for a purpose that no Christian can accept, and then savagely penalize them - not by jailing them, which is not what they want, but by fining them into ruin.

Look at it in this light, and the whole mechanism becomes lucid, clear, rational and perfectly designed for its purpose. It is intended to make it impossible for Christians to have any independent economic activity in the USA, by making sure that they either have to resign their principles or be taxed into bankruptcy for them. Of course, they could not possibly declare their purpose; of course they lied from beginning to end. But that, and nothing else, is what this Mandate does.

Incidentally, this also gives you an insight into the real view that Obama and his henchmen have of the political process in your country, and of the nature of political power. This law is not meant to strike at Catholic or Christian faith. It does not try to obtain conversions. It does not set up anything like the imposing apparatus by which republican France, after 1875, worked tirelessly to break the ancestral Catholicism of its masses. The only thing that matters, the thing for which they have fought, the thing for which they have lied, the thing for which they ruined Bart Stupak and compromised the word of the President of the United States of America, was to be sure that no rich Catholics or Christians should exist. Wealth had to remain exclusively among people who had no problem with paying tax to distribute IUDs and abortifacients with a shovel. Because in the eyes of Obama and his crowd, only the very rich are politically significant. This attempt to winnow the Christians from their numbers makes it perfectly clear.
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I never heard anything stupider than the notion, seriously entertained by the European leadership, that they could appeal to the G20 non-European powers for help. Don't the idiots realize that there is such a thing as imperial overhang? That there are people in Beijing, Brazilia or Djakarta who would just hug themselves with delight at the thought of Europe ruined and begging? Don't they realize that, thanks to villains like Edward Said, even those who are too young to remember (and indeed, those who can remember the days of the empires feel less bad about them than those who don't) have been taught at school to resent the very notion of European power? Europe must recover by its own unaided efforts; end of story.
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For at least thirty years, most Western countries - Italy least of all, because capitals shortage has long been a national problem - have effectively been transferring the power to decide and direct public policy to what are commonly called "the markets". These "markets" have grown enormously in capitalization and in autonomy. Even the authorities that controlled them - the Stock Exchanges of New York, London, Frankfurt, etc - have been largely privatized and frequently been objects of mutual takeover efforts. Whether or not these were successful, they were the public evidence that the public power - the state - did not wish to have any role of control or even of supervision over these boiling, rabid oceans of ill-controlled money.

The reason Greek philosophers, and their successors until the Enlightenment and beyond, treated democracy with nervousness if not with contempt is that they dreaded mob rule. Ancient democracy, such as prevailed in Athens, was based on the assembly of free citizens, and was constantly in danger - unless managed by a strong and respected politician such as Pericles - of reverting to mob rule. And in mob rule, the philosophers dreaded not so much the element we think of most easily - the unleashed violence of the mob, street murders in revolutionary Paris or lynchings in the old South - but its fecklessness, its inability to settle on any goal and achieve it, its being, politically speaking, quicksand. Mob rule means the lack of any sense of public direction, of any boldness or moral authority, and of any ability to say yes or no.

Well, the unrestricted power of the markets is mob rule, and mob rule with a terrible refinement - it is ultimately not human. A mob made of human beings is at least susceptible to human influences; classical accounts are full of crazed mobs brought to their senses by some respected individual, an Aristides or a Memenius. And that is not only a matter of ancient legends: we have seen, in our lifetimes, an instance of the most terrible of all mobs - an armed mob of soldiers - stopped in their track by the moral authority of three people. But the current "markets" are a cyber-mob, trained to mindlessly follow the buy or sell orders automatically issued by their number-crunching machines - like the damned sheeple in Dante, who, having never shown any personality of their own at all, were condemned to pursue for all eternity a meaningless rotting rag instead of a flag.

Now we have come to the last pinch of the vise. Having devoured all sense of public authority, having insulated themselves against any kind of control, having, indeed, grown by means that no legitimate authority would tolerate - one estimate claimed that as much as 20% of the capital swilling around the world's market was of illegal origin; as good a reason as any to legalize the drugs trade - the markets now discovered that without the voice of authority, the titles and deeds and capitals they trade are worth nothing. And so they yelp for the very authorities whose authority they have devoured to save them from the logic of their machines, hammering their own stocks with mechanical persistence; at the same time as they reject each successive attempt by the public authorities to impose some control as inadequate and not credible.

Ultimately, this is connected in various ways with the disastrous series of decisions that have entrenched debt at the centre of modern economies and privatized everything that was not nailed down and plenty of things that were. To tease out the various ways in which these things are interdependent would take more time than I have right now, but I may return to the subject.
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One thing ought to be clear, even though reporting from this most long-running and savage of all wars has been shamefully scarce and ignorant: the North would never even have considered allowing the country peace, let alone an independence referendum, unless they had first experienced total, catastrophic and irreversible defeat on the field. I say this because anything else is simply unthinkable. A desperate guerrilla army with no support from any foreign power and with no weapons except what it could take from its oppressors must, beyond any reasonable doubt, have defeated and demoralized a modern army with tanks, aircraft, flanking Jamjaweed slavers and every device of terror available to a government that could sell oil to pay for them.

The South Sudanese have nothing to help them build their state, except courage. But at a time when freedom seems to going back everywhere from Russia to South Africa, they have the opportunity to crown their epic struggle for freedom, one of the most awe-inspiring ever seen on the face of the Earth, by establishing a free commonwealth under the rule of laws rather than men. The precedent of Eritrea is not encouraging, but it does not have to bind a different society. May God help and be with them.
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In the old days, comedy leads were either cast as bewildered young men (Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin - Chaplin kept his juvenile looks into his fifties) or people with naturally funny faces (WC Fields, both Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy). Leslie Nielsen, who had spent his youth playing lead in minor movies and TV productions, looked like a president and delivered his lines with authoritative aplomb; responding to the Western public's growing suspicion, already strong in the seventies, that we are really governed by clowns.
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As I said a couple of days ago, the "markets" are in a state of blood lust where no reason can prevail. And the trouble is that the current generation of politicians, raised and bred in the superstitions of Ronald Thatcher, regards these ugly mobs of gamblers barely out of their teens as a good thing rather than a bad one, and has no mind to fighting them as they ought to be fought. Now they will not be satisfied until either the euro is broken, or thousands of them are broke and bankrupt. The next few weeks will witness a murderous rage from the "markets" not seen since the destruction of the pound and the lira in 1993. One day a politician will come along who will realize that these people have to be controlled.
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For the first time, I am worried about how this crisis might end. I do not know enough finance to have a clear idea of the forces involved; but I do have a view of the psychological forces. It has always been my view that the Eurozone countries would never just let the Euro go without a fight. On the other hand, it also is my long-held view that you understand nothing about the so-called "markets" unless you apply mob psychology to them. They are not rational, indeed they are essentially mindless. And the Eurozone leaders have essentially just challenged a mob of twentysomething macho men to do their worst. The reasons why "the markets" will now go berserk is that this is as good as looking at them in the eyes and saying: "Come on, if you think you're hard enough". From now on, this is not about the real strength of the Irish and Portuguese economy, but about who is the hardest.

More folly

Sep. 5th, 2010 07:13 am
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Once upon a time, when I was a lad and dinosaurs walked the earth, the countries of continental Europe used to have enormous stores of grain and other foodstuffs. Having seen starvation from very close up during and after World War Two, their leaders had decided n the early fifties that, whatever happened, they were no longer going to depend on food supplies that could be cut by war or catastrophe and whose violent variations in price were a threat to their citizens. A massive system of state subsidy for agriculture, state purchase of excess produce, and state storage, was put in place, and for decades food prices were controlled both on the production and on the distribution side.

Then a more enlightened political generation arose, to whom all this was corruption and waste. Grain mountains and wine lakes became terms of outrage, and we were all taught by a well-managed press to consider them corrupt impositions upon the consumer. All political sides in Europe became equally committed to the elimination of this expensive landscape of food hanging around doing nobody any good. And lo and behold, they were gone. It is not clear that this did much to correct the indubitable corruption of the European institution, but what the heck - it's always a first step, right?

After all, nothing much could go wrong. We will never have again another economic crisis, let alone one of the proportions of the Great Depression that starved democracy nearly out of existence so many decades ago. And you can't imagine that the two most populous countries in the world, China and India, should experience such an improbably swift economic growth as to remove hundreds of millions of people from near-starvation to near-prosperity, and multiply their demand on world food markets. And it was obvious that no natural catastrophe, even in combination with human malfeasance and unexpected weather, could possibly so batter the two immense breadbaskets, Russia and the Ukraine, as to force their governments to forbid export of grain just in order to keep their people fed. And it would be indeed absurd to propose that at the same time vast rural areas in Pakistan, inner China, and north India, should be threatened by floods to the point of being turned from massive food producers to dependents on the world's charity. The floods, after all, should be of unprecedented magnitude to cause such havoc. And even if any of that happened, it would surely be unimaginable that a faddish Brazilian government should reduce the supply of grain in order to convert some food production to make ethanol; nor, that, in the end, on top of all these combined disasters, a pitiful little squeak for help should be heard from the poorest country on Earth, Niger, where the produce of the last crop was not enough to feed the people till the next harvest. Only a fool would think such things possible at one and the same time - right?

Now the organ of the world's elites, the UN, is holding talks on how to meet the multiple food crisis that has gripped the whole planet, probably in the expectation that hot air may replace the long-term food stocks that no longer are there. And we have yet another demonstration of how far-sighted and well-thought-out the fad of Thatcherism was, and how brilliantly it worked to preserve precious and irreplaceable assets.
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On the early morning of Sunday 25 July, I saw a long (half-hour) BBC interview with Eileen Gittins, the founder of the print-to-order company Blurb. (Print-to-order companies are internet-based businesses that allow anyone to publish a book and make as many or as few copies as they can sell or pay for. The best-known is Lulu.) The interviewer was Zeinab Bedawi, an elegantly Western-looking Muslim lady, quite chic, gracefully made up and coiffured, and with not the shadow of a veil in sight.

From the beginning, Ms.Bedawi was visibly hostile, and her questioning was clearly aimed at showing, either that there was something unethical – as in the case of old-fashioned vanity publishers – about print-to-order, or that it would lower the level of communication. For the first ten minutes or so of the interview, I felt that this was the caste arrogance of the professional journo coming out – we cannot allow all that blogger rabble to pollute the sanctuary of mass communication with their muddy boots and vile manners.

But then, at first from behind a tangle of words and claims, and then more and more clearly, another agenda showed itself. Suppose someone published something that was offensive. Well, answered Ms.Gittins, we have mechanisms in place – we don’t vet everything ourselves, but we encourage the public to make complaints. Ah, said Ms.Bedawi, but what about things offensive to particular groups? Like, say, the Danish cartoons? She started really hammering at this point, which is when I switched the TV off – though I must say that Ms.Gittins was being admirably stout and refusing to privilege a group’s claims over freedom of expression.

This made me think. It seems evident to me that what Ms.Bedawi instinctively opposed was the thought of thousands, maybe millions of people, each publishing freely - what is already happening with the internet, but in the more permanent and respected medium of paper. Where the surface of caste prejudice and the inner reality of religious threat meet, was in hating the idea of mass action - mob action - in the print media. Now militant Muslims, especially Sunni Muslims, of the kind who feel strongly about Danish cartoons and the like, certainly do not dislike mob action as such. That is how they make themselves felt: yelling crowds of bearded youths pouring from mosques on hot Friday afternoons. On the other hand, the appeal clearly made by Bedawi to non-Muslims in general is clearly coded in a language of snobbery, intended to reach the elites and those who regard themselves as elite. It says: "Don't allow this banausic mob of Sunday scribblers to take control of the media from you - you who are educated, professional and enlightened. See what risks you run when you allow Uncle Tom Cobbley and all to say what they think about things they know nothing of - such as Islam?"

In other words, there is an inherent attempt to co-opt the non-Muslim societal leaderships into the job of extremist Muslim repression, by flattering their intellectual and social presumptions. You can hear it in the constant but never justified claim that anyone who criticizes or opposes militant Islam does so because he is ignorant: this is frequently repeated by establishment friends of Hamas and the like - and you can see that the assumption involved helps them accept the claim, by flattering their own self-image. Hey, you don't understand Islam - because we do! Who else but us, the educated, the enlightened?

So a religious party or area that lives on the unleashing of its own mobs, even aiming them at Muslim elites and even to Muslim majorities, also advances by flattering the natural snobbish and repressive instincts of the elites of opposite groups; that is, not just by the implicit threat of their violent methods. Open violence is not necessary when you can just arouse their own contempt - laced by unspoken and above all unadmitted fear - for the mobs in their own world. Of course, fears remaining a useful unadmitted motivation, but there is no need to ever mention it: to the contrary, you may act for all the world like the most quivering of cowed dhimmis and still see in the mirror the face of a paragon, a hero of enlightened vision and principle.

I want to underline that my point is not so much to attack the lucky Ms. Bedawi (if it had not been her, it would have been someone else) so much as to describe the realization I had about the mechanism of validation by vanity and self-righteousness by which Western elites become joined at the hip with Muslim militants.

I would go further and say that the result of the prevalence of soixante-huitards, old hippies and those who model themselves after them, in the current social leadership, has led to a situation where democracy - by which I mean the mechanism which leaves ultimate political power in the hands of the adult people - is resented, placed under surveillance, and under constant attack. That is the common, radically mutual interest that joins Islam and the current Western elites; and that is why the Western elites genuinely do not feel under threat by Islamic terrorism. They regard that kind of Islam as an ally in the placing under control of all "unprogressive" elements. And control is the essential thing.

After all, that generation was quite clear about its goals right from the start: "We shall make a new world". This was a straightforward claim for political power - how else was a "new world" to be "made"? Or as an Italian singer put it: "We shall make a revolution, but not a single cannon shall be fired". Convenient, too, since firing cannon - going to war - has two major flaws: it requires sacrifices and courage, and it is uncertain in its results. Plenty of revolutions have been crushed. No, this self-declared founding aristocracy of a new world, intending to make a civilization that would be different from anything their fathers had ever imagined (except when they had imagined it), went about it the safe way, by colonizing institutions and corporations.

An essential help in this was the pre-existent evil that is the institutional structure of parties. I have no words strong enough to say how much I hate parties and party mentalities. I think it may be shown that the institution of parties (which is not found in any democratic Constitution) was intended from the beginning to occupy the space of democratic politics, denying access to it to anyone who was not an apparatchik. Professional Tories replace professional Labour, professional Gaullists replace professional Socialists, professional Republicans replace professional Democrats - each of them more in debt to the party structure that took them where they are than to the electorate which they see, at best, once every four or five years, and whose existence they are free to otherwise ignore. (And by the way, God be praised for the fractiousness and breakability of Italian parties, which has saved us from the dreadful destiny of two- or three-party rule.) And as they were already intended to limit and control the choices of the people, these parasitic structures were peculiarly suited to being colonized by soixante-huitards. And colonized they were - along with trades unions, charities, foundations, institutional bodies and the judiciary. Even the Churches suffered their soixante-huitard infiltration; no later than a couple of weeks ago, I found that a certain Keith Harrison, who had become notorious in the seventies for theorizing the "progressive" censorship of the contents of public libraries, had not only been, unbelievably, ordained a Catholic priest, but that he was actually connected with the London Oratory - a supposedly conservative Catholic institution!

The reason why the elites are so committed to contrasting goals such as feminism, gay rights, and the promotion of Islam in its most militant and folkloric fashion, is that they are not really goals. They are means. In one way or another, they are intended to limit the space of public debate, of free deliberation, of citizen intervention. What radical Islamists and gay rights activists have in common is their commitment to the politics of offence, to demanding that anyone whose views they find offensive should be silenced by force, and ultimately that any law whioh offends them should be suppressed. This places power in the hands of minorities and away from the mass of the people. It is not even good for the large numbers of decent, hard-working, law-abiding Muslims - such as my beloved friend [personal profile] kikei - because it threatens their own rights just as it threatens everyone else's; and I would say the same to gay men and feminists, if it were possible to reason on these matters.

The politics of outrage and constant claim, backed by the occupation of institutions by a single ideological group, are resulting in an anti-democratic revolution from above. Elections will increasingly become an empty ritual - unless somewhere a political leader emerges who can not only break the stranglehold of the culture of offence, but also have the nerve to impeach and send to jail those judges and civil servants who have used their position to rewrite the laws and oppress opponents, and to demand that the laws and the will of the people be respected in every area.
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In a just world, the scumbag Willie Walsh would be sacked by the shareholders. But British Airways has this moronic tradition of macho management and attempted union-busting. It has never done it any good, it has repeatedly led to disastrous strikes as well as other ruinous developments (such as the disaster of the opening of Heathrow Terminal 5, which was botched because nobody dared tell management that they were making a mess of it), but they cannot seem to see through it. It's always someone else's fault. Well, in this case the fault is entirely management's, and I hope they bloody well pay for it.
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Historically, no country has fought harder and against more colossal odds for its freedom than modern Greece; and very few have done so much to lose it afterwards.
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One of the habits of mind induced by a Marxist education is to consider the economic and political battlefield as a zero-sum game. This lasts even after any belief in socialism has died out, and results in the frequently observed phenomenon that ex-Marxists and ex-Communists make the most brutal, rapacious and conscienceless capitalists. It is, in particular, incredibly easy to spot in the destructive and profoundly stupid behaviour of the People's Republic of China.

This government, knowing perfectly well that international Islamism is at least as much its enemy as the West's, nonetheless looks with unconcealed sympathy and support to the Iranian government's pursuit of the atom bomb, and looks for advantage and alliances in the Islamist fever-swamp that is the government of Sudan. As far as they are concerned, anything that diminishes their imagined enemies in the West, however dangerous and destructive, must necessarily be to their advantage. That the West and China might both lose out if the maniacs of Tehran build an atom bomb does not begin to cross their minds. That there might be mutual advantage in fostering order in the region would never seem to them anything but a piece of pied-piper propaganda intended to get them to perform to their enemies' tune.

Some apologists for Beijing say that Chinese foreign policy is driven by the need to secure sources of raw materials; but this is nothing but a different manifestation of the same pathology. The fact is that raw materials are available to anyone who can afford to pay the going rate. Japan and Italy, two countries who have to import every major industrial raw material from iron to oil, have rarely had any problem. It is only in the mythology of ignorant (by choice) hard left groups, that the Americans have invaded Iraq "to steal its oil": that oil was available to them freely without the expense of a war, as is any mineral from bauxite to zircon. Only China does not think in terms of competing for resources on a free market; it wants to "secure sources of raw materials" - language that should concern any mining country from Congo to Australia.

The one reason that makes this kind of talk a bit less irrational is itself a product of the same post-Marxist zero-sum-game attitudes. China is effectively at a disadvantage on the market for raw materials; not because it does not have army bases in Iraq, but because its currency is notoriously undervalued. And it is undervalued for a purpose: to maximize the Chinese competitive advantage in industrial exports. The same juggling with exchange rates that allows Chinese manufacturares to destroy whole areas of competing Western enterprise, also makes it more expensive for them to buy the raw materials they need. But since the zero-sum-game mentality inevitably leads to paranoia, the Chinese don't think of the remedy - allowing the renminbi to reach its natural market value. As they are always looking out for enemy conspiracies to do them down, they would interpret such a suggestion as an attempt to rig the market in favour of their enemies.

The aggressive Chinese export drive, backed by a massive industrial espionage apparatus, has been unsettling Western economies for decades. The West long ago made a strategic decision to do nothing about it: the prospect of inserting the huge and dangerous empire of Mao Zedong into the world of civilized exchange and industrial progress seemed worth the pain of accepting aggressive competition and dubious pricing. However, when purely internal Western follies brought about a severe resettlement of American finance, the Bush II and Obama administrations did not try too hard to rescue the dollar. They, too, had discovered the game of overcharging for imports and undercharging for exports, and badly needed to find ways to raise employment.

This left the Euro alone on the top of a mountain. The result is the sluggish economy that conservative Americans make so much of. No matter how efficient and high-quality may be the Eurozone's productive sector, it is difficult to compete with rivals of whom the largest deliberately allow their currencies to float at well below ours. And that is, in my view, the reason for the otherwise disconcerting lack of eagerness about rescuing Greece. Greece has certainly been placed in the national equivalent of administration, and will have to go through the most painful process of internal change in generations. But the truth is that the current slide of the Euro is getting the real big boys of the Eurozone - Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy - out of a situation for which they had absolutely no enthusiasm. The truth is that nobody wanted the Euro to be the world's new reserve currency, and certainly not at this price. The result, however, is that, with the dollar, the euro and the renminbi racing each other to the bottom, the world no longer has a real reserve currency.

What we need is a new Bretton Woods. The trouble is that it took a world war and fifty million dead to get the survivors to agree to the first Bretton Woods, and I doubt that anything today could make the same impression.
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As I repeatedly argued, demographic trends are not ironbound - much less "destiny" - and can change in the blinking of an eye. And those of you who had so much to say about my country would do well to read this: http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/abortion_in_italy_declines_while_fertility_inches_up/

EDITED IN One feature of this report that deserves more attention is the increasing unpopularity of abortion among doctors. The number of objectors in Italy is exceptionally high, but it is rising, I believe, across the West. In Britain, fifteen years ago, the NHS was a one-party state where abortion was concerned: be heard to openly question it, and you endangered your career and your employment. Now, however, the number of doctors who do not include it among their services has silently risen so far that it is causing serious problems in the distribution of it. One manager in Hull, two years ago, was heard to suggest that nurses should be allowed to perform it. While the British mind is still closed with respect to abortion, I think that the person was right who commented that people do not become doctors in order to rip human bodies to pieces and expel the bloody remains with a rubber tube. The mere disgustingness of the procedure works against it.
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Once again, President Obama shows that he has more sense and a better ear for outright idiocy than his supporters. His clear statement that he did not think racism was a major feature of the opposition to his plans, and that at the heart of it was anti-state feeling, shows once again that disarming ability to sound as though he understood his opponents that is one of his major assets. Maureen O'Dowd, Jimmy Carter and the rest have been made to sound like the out-of-touch fools they are. Not that the opposition will thank the President, since in fact one thing that is clear is that his plans will plough forward whatever interpretation is placed on the resistance to them. In a sense, the interpretation does not matter, except in that it has again made Obama sound wise and moderate - whether he is or not.

The Western consensus that President Ahmedinajad's Holocaust denial will do nothing but harm to his standing in the world's eyes is, I regret to say, a pious hope. Of course, it is an outrage to Europeans most of whose families have personal memories of murdered dead in the Hell of what is often still called "the war", or to Americans who share our memories for many reasons - kinship, the memory of American troops who came here, etc. But what is to us both the blackest and the best remembered episode of our own past may well be, in countries with no direct connection, at best half-forgotten folklore, and at worst a matter for debate. I well remember my horrified astonishment at hearing a charming, attractive, well educated Chinese lady from Singapore state that she thought Hitler was on the whole right, because his policy was to improve the race, and that was a good thing! I think I managed to convey to her how far beyond the pale such views really were (and in London of all places!), but it took some effort. And if that is what comes out of educated mouths in a comparatively cosmopolitan place such as Singapore, God only knows what we would find among the rising classes in India and China. Economic growth is drawing people out of poverty and into a middle-class standard of living by the tens of million every year, but there is no guarantee that their cultural background is making the leap to anything like the same extent. And God only knows what ideas would find at play in the rest of Asia, in Africa, even in Latin America. To many people, even outside the Muslim world, Ahmedinajad's statement will have been both arguable and not particularly shocking.
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IN the last few weeks, there have been gang murders in at least three parts where I have lived, and knew well, and felt fairly safe in - Walthamstow, Ilford and Leyton. And a few months ago, an innocent Polish woman was shot down as she found herself in the middle of a shoot-out between gangs, a couple of miles down the road from here. Last Monday, hundreds of kids charged at the police at the end of the Notting Hill, apparently bent on breaking and smashing everything in their path. There seems to be no end to it.
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What genius decided that the only American city to be touched by the Olympic torch was going to be San Francisco, home of every professional protester in North America?
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Imagine: the Hungarian public finds out that its ruling Prime Minister has "lied and lied and lied" to win the last elections. And what do they do? They get angry! Hungary, evidently, has not yet properly grasped the real point of democratic elections - that is, to bestow on a small group of self-selecting parties a chrism of approval. Here in Western Europe, where we have a longer habit with the thing, nobody would give such a statement a second look.
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When I posted about the Muhammad cartoon controversy, I did not realize that it was becoming a worldwide affair. Read more... )
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I think that the future of the whole world depends on two monstrous gambles, in which most of us are concerned. One is to do with Islam: the effort to tame the rebellious and Titanic spirit of this religion by continued acquaintance and collaboration with a world that now includes not only the West but also the Far East and India. The other is the Chinese leadership's gamble that they can keep the colossal Chinese rate of economic growth going for another generation, absorbing the immense mass of unemployed in new businesses (the unemployed in China are estimated to be anything up to fifty or a hundred million) and stabilize the Chinese state on the income from taxation. If that fails, China might collapse into another of its civil wars, which are historically her reaction to change; but a civil war in a country of 1.4billion and with the atom bomb simply does not bear thinking about.

(That is why I was alarmed by [profile] bufo_viridis' offhand reference to the likelihood of China invading and taking over Taiwan by force. This would be a disastrous step; even supposing for a second that the US and Japan would not become involved in such a war, Taiwan is a virtually independent country that is one of the world's top ten economies. Its investments abroad, and foreign investments in it, are enormous. Its sudden destruction in a surely bloody and expensive war - Taiwan is armed to the teeth, as far as its small size allows it to be - would be a worldwide economic disaster; and China itself would suffer as much as anyone. The after-effects might be just as bad, if China's export markets suddenly start feeling mistrust towards it. Altogether, I can imagine no foreign-policy development more likely to stop the great Chinese growth in its tracks and endanger the great Chinese gamble.)


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