Monday, November 27, 2006

Merkin On Tom Stoppard

Delightfully named Daphne Merkin tries and fails to psychoanalyse the elusive Tom Stoppard in a wordy, worthy NYT interview. It seems Merkin is famous primarily for boasting about her delight in spanking. Perhaps this is what makes Stoppard a bit wary of her.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Alexis de Tocqueville and Despotism

The Economist reviews Hugh Brogan's new biography of Alexis de Tocqueville.

Tocqueville's view of the importance of the citizen in government is topical, it chimes in with much well-meant rhetoric today.

He saw that "good citizens matter more to free societies than good institutions." He also saw that democracy can breed despotism as easily as other forms of government, an insight confirmed during his life by the election of the "populist demagogue" Louis Napoleon as French Emperor.

A scion of the ancien régime, Tocqueville's best-known work is his paean of praise, published in 1835, to Democracy in America.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Marie Antoinette And Powerlessness

Camille Paglia, writing in The Chronicle Review, remarks that Marie Antoinette's reputation is recovering somewhat from the "let them eat cake" travesty which defined her for so long, nothwithstanding Edmund Burke's spirited contemporaneous defence of her.

Ms Paglia herself concludes, with fitting, if infuriatingly vague, grandiloquence:

"The return of Marie Antoinette suggests that there are political forces at work in the world that Western humanism does not fully understand and that it may not be able to control."

Could be. Although such unknowable "political forces" have always been with us, and always will be. It could also be that Marie Antoinette's story is at once irresistibly romantic and symbolic - yet continuously controversial - a rare combination guaranteed to keep her in the limelight.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Neo-Nazis Do Quite Well In German Elections

The NPD, Germany's leading neo-Nazi party, got just over 7% of yesterday's vote in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and in Berlin. This makes the party stronger than the Greens and the Left Party.

The NPD is often described as "anti-democratic" but this is a misnomer. The NPD is democratic if (and it's a big if) one identifies the German demos as being exlusively (racially) German. It is also democratic in that in an effective populist way it is articulating important issues - if politically incorrect ones - issues left largely untouched by "mainstream" parties and media. The specific policies advocated by the NPD on its website are as follows:

- Repatriation of all foreigners from German soil (one presumes this includes all Jewish citizens, although this is left unspecified, perhaps out of sqeamishness);

- Withdrawal from NATO, the EU and the euro;

- The creation of an "Interventionsfähigen National- und Sozialstaates" (interventionist national- and social-state), priorising the State over the market economy;

- "Resistance" to the US' "Frankenstein-concept" of nation building and the "Imperium Americanum";

- Removal of all foreign troops from Germany.

It is the familiar mixture of nationalism and socialism which has always characterised the Nazis.

In some ways, however, especially in its anti-Americanism and anti-capitalism, it is quite similar to the bien-pensant bromides embraced by the mainstream left and centre of German politics. Indeed, the NPD sees itself as the "Third Way" between capitalism and communism, quaintly reminiscent of Tony Blair and of Gerhard Schroeder.

There is also a strong "environmental" aspect, which echoes both historical Nazi, and current mainstream preoccupations. One feels sure that these NPD chaps and the tree-hugging Al Gore would have much in common beyond their abhorrence of George W. Bush.

Beyond this resonance with the Zeitgeist, one secret of the NPD's success is its acitivists´ targetting of young voters in relatively disadvantaged, unemployment-blighted areas, especially in the east, and its exploitation of widespread dissatisfaction with mainstream politics. Germany is having a harder time coming to terms with globalisation than, say, the UK, Switzerland and Holland, and political debate is inhibited by a set of outdated, politically-correct assumptions.

The only sure way mainstream parties can spike the appeal of parties like the NPD is to reconnect with voters and work out effective policies to deal with unemployment. Unfortunately, the current coalition gopvernment is hamstrung by its inherent contradictions, and current polls show that its support is weakening.

Whilst this doesn't mean that Germany as a whole is about to embrace the NPD's endearingly dotty policies, it does make it unlikely the NPD will just fade away - as the media and political mainstream appears to hope. It isn't enough - nor even accurate - simply to denounce the NPD as "anti-democratic". That makes a mockery of their electoral success. The NPD may in some ways be a pathetic throwback, but it articulates important themes, in a taboo populist rhetoric. Its notions also to a large extent overlap with those of the German mainstream, as with their opposition to the war in Iraq, George W Bush, and their environmental scaremongering.

It is the vocal populism of the NPD - not just the impractical, wobbly, wrongheaded policy platform - which frightens off the mainstream parties; it inhibits them from grappling with the issues, from taking the NPD to pieces by argument, rather than falling back on their practised, ineffectual "anti-democratic" reflex-cries.

The success of the NPD is a disgrace to Germany - not because of what the NPD represents, but because its success is bred by indifference, on the part of the German mainstream, to what it represents.

Link to the NPD site (German only)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Rivers of Blood" versus the "Noble Lie"

Roger Scruton, writing in the New Criterion on Enoch Powell's (in)famous "Rivers of Blood speech, lays into liberalism and its "noble lie", by which, he argues, the dangers of large-scale immigration were masked. Powell's extravagant quotation from Virgil, he believes, made it easy for liberals to dismiss Powell's stance as "racist" and so avoid the need to debate his arguments. But the arguments, Scruton says, were far from being racist.

"Nor is it racist" (he writes) "to argue that indigenous people must take precedence over newcomers, who have to earn their right of residence and cannot be allowed to appropriate the savings of their hosts. But it is easier for me to write about these matters in an American intellectual journal than in an English newspaper, and if I tried to write about these things in a Belgian newspaper, I could be in serious trouble with the courts. The iron curtain of censorship that came down in the wake of Powell’s speech has not lifted everywhere; on the contrary, if the EU has its way, it will be enshrined in the criminal code, with “racism and xenophobia”—defined as vaguely as is required to silence unwanted opinion—made into an extraditable offense throughout the Union."

One suspects Scruton of over-egging the cake a little with some of this - his contention that the EU is aiming to make discussion of immigration illegal, his view that "an iron curtain of censorship" exists in these matters. Neo-Nazi parties, after all, thrive in Belgium, Germany, France and Italy. But this element of slightly camp posing has always been part of Scruton's appeal.

Link to Scruton's article:
The New Criterion — Should he have spoken?

Scruton on J.S. Mill the prototype leftist.

"Global Alliance Against Nuclear Terrorism"

Graham Allison, writing in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, reckons a terrorist nuclear attack on America is probably "inevitable", although "preventable". He says that the pusillanimity of western governments in this matter is caused by the same failure of imagination that failed to foresee the possibility of 9/11 and calls for a Global Alliance Against Nuclear Terrorism.

Link to Allison's article:
The ongoing failure of imagination |

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

NATO In The "Cradle Of 9/11" - Call For More Manpower

America, Britain, Canada and Holland are the only NATO members currently engaged in resisting the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, despite NATO's Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's urgent call for reinforcements.

The absence of large European countries like France and Germany is significant, if hardly surprising. Their governments appear wilfully blind to the price of failure in "the cradle of 9/11. In part, this reflects their voters' dangerous amivalences. But it is their own citizens who will suffer if the terrorists are allowed to win through the indifference and pusillanimity of their governments.

Telegraph | Comment | Nato's members must share burden of fighting

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Scandal Over Multiple Iraqi Idenitity-Papers In Germany

An Iraqi immigrant to Germany, who arrived illegally, was given three different identity passes by German authorities (in Schwelm). His papers featured different names and ages, but the same photographs and physical descriptions.

This is somewhat embarrassing given that the German Home Office is currently reviewing its security aparatus. If German civil servant happily allow illegal Muslim immigrants to be so flexible with their identities, there can be no real expectation that Germany can keep any meaningful surveillance over this highly dangerous community, which has already contributed much to international terror.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Parallels Between Iraq and 1936 Spain

Stephen Schwartz draws some parallels between the war in Iraq today and the Spanish Civil War.

The main one being that European pusillanimity, in refusing to support the Spanish Republicans against Franco, paved the way for WWII.

Schwartz posits that a similar pusillanimity regarding the war against Islamic fascism may have similarly disastrous consequences.

PREVIEW: 1936 and All That

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Foucault's Second Thoughts (II)

Foucault is still a hero to many leftists, who see him as an early champion of "identity politics" and the political correctness with which it is associated. In fact, Foucault's thinking moved on and eventually rejected it, says an article by Richard Wolin in next month's Chronicle (link below). It isn't the first instance of Foucault's thinking discomfiting his original, left-wing audience. As we wrote last year, Foucault, visiting Iran in 1979, had understood that its revolution wasn't against Western values, but against the corruption of the Shah's regime. His coverage of this enraged contemporary leftists.

Foucault, in rejecting "identity politics" as intrinsically narcisstic, and recognising that his analysis of "horizontal" power (in Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality) had dismissed the claims of subjectivity (and the self) in the face of impersonal power shifts, reverted to the Classical concept of "the beautiful life" - aesthetic self-cultivation.

This aesthetic means of creating a self he preferred to what he (and Nietzsche) saw as the self-renunciation of Chritianity, as well as the narcissism of modern self-expression and identity politics.

The Chronicle: 8/31/2006: Foucault the Neohumanist?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Former Waffen-SS Man Has Book To Sell

Günter Grass, the walrus-moustachioe'd leftist bore, has been forced to come clean about his membership of the Waffen-SS, 60 years after the event. Grass used the intervening time to good effect, posing as a morally-superior, politically-correct scourge of capitalists and Christians, whom he flayed with deadly hauteur and patronising put-downs. Grass even received the Nobel Prize for Literature, and - most ironically - Honorary Citizenship of Danzig/Gdansk - something Lech Walesa, for one, now deeply deplores. Grass was foremost amongst those who cast their verbal stones of contempt at President Reagan and Chancellor Kohl for visiting a graveyard containing, amongst others, a few tombs of his less fortunate former SS comrades. This episode now seems scandalous for Grass' barefaced impudence alone.

The timing of Grass' "admission" is most fortuitous. It seems that it was forced, as the relevant documents were due to be made public early next year. Pre-empting that has greatly helped him gain attention for his memoirs. It has also made it possible for him to pretend to the mantle of moral superiority and heartsearching. An earlier admission, on the other hand, would have made his subsequent career impossible.

Whilst there is nothing new about Nazis transforming themselves from committed national socialists into equally committed international socialists and greens, it is unusual for the process to be as exhibitionistic, and with as much moral superiority, as Grass made his trademark during the past 60 years. Through all this time, his crackpot views have been listened to with respect. Thankfully, all that nonsense can now come to an end.

BBC NEWS | Europe | Grass to retain Nobel despite row

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

RIP: Syd Barrett

Syd Barrett, who died last Friday in Cambridge, founded Pink Floyd in 1965 and led them to their initial success - with very English songs like Arnold Layne and See Emily Play - before dropping out of the band as a result of taking too much acid and coming to gigs in a "catatonic" state, unable to play more than a note, if at all.

He wrote a fifth of the songs on the Pink Floyd retrospective greatest hits Echoes album, even though he was only with the band for a fraction of their career. Two solo albums, released after he left, were not hugely successful in terms of sales, but were massively influential in terms of their spaced-out, sometimes mellow, sometimes manic music.

The song Dominoes is one of the finest ever produced, and echoes of Syd's sound live on in hundreds of hugely popular indie bands today.

Telegraph | News | Syd Barrett

Thursday, July 06, 2006

RIP: Philip Rieff, 83

Philip Rieff, who died last Saturday, was a conservative sociologist who published "Life Among the Deathworks" earlier this year after a silence of 26 years.

"Deathworks" were "an all-out assault on something vital to the culture". Famous deathworks included Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs, and the whole range of Sigmund Freud's theories, which Rieff saw as an "extended deathwork".

Rieff recommended inactivism, as even the best-intentioned action could only make things worse. Now he has achieved that state, may God have mercy on his soul.

Philip Rieff, 83; Noted Sociologist Wrote Books About Cultural Decline - Los Angeles Times

Diving Portuguese Show-Ponies Booted Out of World Cup

The current Portuguese football team have made themselves notorious with their play-acting and diving during this World Cup, and they were roundly booed last night. The preening Cristiano Ronaldo and ageing Figo were the most glaring offenders. Both of them spoil their undoubted skill with histrionics and below-the-belt tactics.

The game in which they "beat" Holland to reach the quarter finals was especially disgusting. In the second half, hardly any football was played, as the Portuguese acted out their neuroses on the pitch, desperately defending their lead against a superior side by rolling hysterically on the ground whenever a Dutch player so much as looked at them.

Noone, aside from the Portuguese themselves, will be sorry to see them go. They represent the apogee of gamesmanship - something which is rife in the game (even Franz Beckenbauer, who fancies himself a bit of a gentleman, praises German players who gain a penalty by diving in the box). Most players sometimes succumb to it, but it should be resisted. Ronaldo complains that too few cards were handed out by the referee in the game against France. This is laughable, and would be true only if the cards were given out to players who indulge in diving and play-acting. But that is obviously the opposite of what the "show-pony" Ronaldo meant.

Having said all that, football players, like any of us, can change, and mature with time. One hopes the Portuguese team will shake off this unpleasant aspect of their otherwise attractive play in time for the European Championships in 2008.

BBC SPORT | Football | World Cup 2006 | Teams | Portugal | Ronaldo defiant after crowd abuse

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Curse of Von Esens - Joschka Fischer Quits

Joschka Fischer, the policeman-beating ex-Maoist Green who became Germany's Foreign Secretary in the late, disgraceful Schroeder administration, has finally upped sticks and is leaving Europe to go teach "international crisis management" in Princeton.

This blog had nothing but contempt for Fischer whilst he was in office, as he grandstanded his way through insults to the USA, a major visa scandal, and the abandonment of Green party policies, even to the extent of advocating arms sales to China. Now that he's gone, unable to do any more harm, here's a sympathetic piece about Fischer, focussing on his good-blokeishness:
Telegraph Blogs: Foreign: Kate Connolly: June 2006: Joschka Fischer packs his bags

Friday, May 26, 2006

Chairman Mao Was "The Greatest Drug-Addiction Therapist In History"

Theodore Dalrymple says that a criminal tendency is likelier to lead to drug addiction than drug addiction leads to crime, and that "whatever caused them (drug addicts) to commit crimes in all probability caused them also to take heroin: perhaps an adversarial stance to the world caused by the emotional, spiritual, cultural and intellectual vacuity of their lives."

Dalrymple writes that it is relatively easy to give up heroin, and that Chairman Mao, who threatened to shoot addicts, was "the greatest drug-addiction therapist in history." The romanticising of addicts began with De Quincey's Confessions of an Opium Eater, he continues, and is sustained today by the "compassion industry," which is always on the lookout for victims on whom to lavish high-profile concern.

Article | Poppycock

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Misunderestimating German Humour

Preposterous article by Stewart Lee in today's Guardian asserts that German humour is limited by, amongst other things, the stricter structure of its language. Lee sounds halfway convincing - until he gives an example of a "joke" he believes isn't translatable into German because it relies on an unexpected "pull back and reveal" at the end:

"I was sitting there, minding my own business, naked, smeared with salad dressing and lowing like an ox ... and then I got off the bus."

This is actually quite easily translatable into German, if someone thought it worth their while to do so. But it would no more raise a laugh in Germany than it would in England.

Lee also blames German compound words for being less flexible, and so less potentially funny, than English tacked-together-descriptors: "Thus (Lee writes) a federal constitutional court, which in English exists as three weak fragments, becomes Bundesverfassungsgericht, a vast impregnable structure that is difficult to penetrate linguistically, like that Nazi castle in Where Eagles Dare." Difficult to see what Lee is driving at here, but the gratuitous reference to the difficult-to-penetrate-linguistically Nazi castle suggests desperation rather than insight.

Everyone knows humour is the last thing one gets in learning a new language. Lee's article demonstrates this in spades. He doesn't get German humour, but then he doesn't appear to have grasped the English variety either. Mangelhaft.

Postscript - German joke:
Two men are discussing WWII. They're on the subject of concentration camps.
"My grandfather died in Auschwitz, as it happens."
"So sorry to hear it, how awful!"
"Yeah, he fell out of his watchtower one night, pissed out of his mind."

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Lost in translation

Neo-Nazis and the World Cup

Germany is understandably worried that its neo-Nazis will stage some high-profile outrage during the World Cup.

Over the past year, Nazi and other left-wing extremist violence has been on the increase: in 2005, there were 958 acts of Nazi violence (up from 776 in 2004), whilst leftists committed 896 (up 72% from 2004). In the east, support for the neo-Nazis is about 10% amongst young men. Politicians have been lining up to warn foreigners, especially black ones, to avoid "no-go areas" in Berlin (such as Lichtenberg, Friedrichshain and Marzahn) and the province of Brandenburg which surrounds the capital.

"The slapheads (die Glatzen) mustn't be allowed to spoil our World Cup", said CDU/CSU politician Bosbach, clearly more preoccupied with the PR effects of violence than the violence itself.

In an intriguing but unsurprising development, German Nazis are planning to support Iran's football team during the tournament. This is a "reward" for the Iranian president's call to "wipe Israel from the map." It is unlikely, however, that this new sense of brotherhood will be of much use to Arabic-looking fans who stray into the sights Nazis on the prowl in Lichtenberg. By the same token, the likeliest threat of violence (according to Germany's Home Minister Schäuble), is from Islamist terrorists, whose targetting is notoriously colour-blind, and is as apt to kill Nazis as Muslims.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Scruton on J.S. Mill

Roger Scruton argues that J.S. Mill, the Utilitarian, foreshadowed statist leftism, valuing a collectivist approach to society and happiness above individualism, and that Mill didn't understand that wisdom is rarer than rationality. It was Mill, we read, who first described the Conservative Party as "the stupider party".

Scruton (who has himself metamorphosed into a latter-day country squire) points out that the squires who surrounded Mill in Parliament may well have been intellectually inferior to Mill, but that they "recognised the limits of the human intellect" and were thus wiser than the liberal sage.

Scruton himself, we infer, is an example of that rare species, an intellectual who has kept hold of his common sense.

OpinionJournal - Featured Article

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Ayaan Hirsi Ali Stripped Of Dutch Citizenship

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, conservative Dutch MP and champion of Islamic women's rights, is to be stripped of her Dutch citizenship for lying about her name when she first applied for asylum. She has resigned as an MP and says she will be leaving Holland.

In her statement, she says she used an assumed name because she feared her Somalian clan would track her down if her real name was publicised. She sought asylum primarily to escape an arranged marriage with her distant cousin.

The decision to revoke Ali's Dutch nationality was made by the Foreign Affairs minister, Rita Verdonk. It has been greeted by dismay and is now being reviewed. [Update (June 28th 2006): The decision has now been revoked and Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be allowed to retain her Dutch citizenship.]

Since the murder of Theo van Gogh, who filmed her screenplay Submission, Ali has been under constant police protection, as the Islamist Hofstad group has repeatedly plotted to kill her. Her neighbours had successfully petitioned for her to be forced to move house, as they did not feel safe living next door to her.

Ali is consistently controversial and this denouement is entirely in keeping. She claims that she has been considering a move to the USA for some time, so that she can spread her message, that elements within Islam are incompatible with an open Western society. QED.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's statement on the VVD website:

"I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Yahoo Accused of Shopping Chinese Journalist

Reporters Without Borders claims Yahoo supplied information which got a Chinese journalist, Shi Tao, convicted.

Shi Tao has been sentenced to 10 years for forwarding a message to western websites, a message in which the Chinese authorities had warned his newspaper (Dandai Shang Bao) of possible destabilisation by dissidents returning for the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre.

If this is true, then the passive willingness of Google, MSN and Yahoo to censor their information, has become active collaboration with the Chinese regime in suppressing the Chinese people. That is a depressing progression. It gives the lie to the supposedly liberalising effects of globalisation.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Anti-Smoking Terror Continues

Markos Kyprianou, the EU Commissioner for Goats, is threatening to take Germany to court for allowing tobacco to be advertised and, indeed, smoked in public places. Apparently this is now illegal in the EU.

Ever since Kyprianou personally went round Europe testing 200,000 of our goats last year, he has been casting himself as some kind of expert in matters of heath, and looking around for something equally useful to occupy himself. This is why he has shifted his attentions to smokers. Most European countries have fallen into line with his interfering strictures and are now persecuting smokers and tobacco companies. Only Germany has stood firm. Now it looks like the Commissioner for Goats will crush the poor Germans under his officious heel too.

"Islamic Terrorism" Banned From EU "Lexicon"

The idea behind banning the phrase Islamic terrorism from the EU's official documents, as announced today, is to avoid "unnecessary offence". The EU thinks further "radicalisation" may be sparked off by such wording. This may seem a foolish fear, and a somewhat pious wish, on the part of the EU's lexicon-makers. It is sure to spark off "political correctness gone mad" type reactions.

But it's actually a nice way of accentuating the fact that terrorists are not true Muslims. This is still something that needs reinforcing. Doing so will make it easier for our Muslim brothers in Europe to condemn Islamist terrorism, and help us all create a more agreeable society. So for once the blog can say, "Well done, EU bureaucrats!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Berlusconi's Cherries

Jeff Israel, commenting on Berlusconi's election defeat, reveals how the media mogul once moved a sofa all by himself, and how he once ate some cherries from a porcelain bowl ("his left arm was practically wrapped around it," Israel discloses). Israel reckons Berlusconi's defeat may leave him, leader of the largest single party, the most powerful politician in Italy. Interesting, if somewhat surreal, perspectives. How Berlusconi Can Win By Losing -- Page 1

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


A zany article by Alan Wolfe attacks President Bush for hating ideas so much that he acted on neoconservative ones. Now the original sponsors of those ideas (the equally zany Fukuyama foremost amongst them) - who supported the actions inspired by their ideas (invading Iraq) - say they were actually terrible ideas which only a moron could have acted on.

Bush, these idea-mongers say, should shift to "realistic Wilsonianism". This means having the same objectives but not using military means to achieve them. "The details can be filled in later", says the idea-monger Wolfe. A dangerous idea, that.

The Chronicle: 4/14/2006: How Bush's Bad Ideas May Lead to Good Ones

Monday, April 10, 2006

Nuking Iran

Seymour Hersh writes a very long piece in the New Yorker, with quotes saying that President Bush has a "messianic" urge to nuke Iran's bomb-building capability. Hersh's sources say Bush thinks regime change will be the sure-fire result of such a holocaust. Bush is urged to sit down and talk to the Iranians instead. Or try a "charm offensive" aimed at weaning young Iranians from the unpopular Iranian regime.

This may well be an excellent plan. But what happens if the talk and charm lead nowhere? Nobody actually knows how close the Iranians are to active nuclear capability, although everyone agrees they are developing it. Will everyone ever agree that nuking Iran is the only way to stop it from nuking Israel first? It seems most unlikely. And yet it seems equally unlikely that the Iranian regime can be stopped without at least the threat of a nuclear strike.

The New Yorker: Fact

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

V.S.Naipaul Flays Dickens, Austen and James

V.S. Naipaul, a knight and holder of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has attacked English writers like Charles Dickens and Jane Austen for being too parochial, concerned only with English themes.

"English writing is very much of England, and is not meant to travel too far," he said.

Naipaul, himself notably cosmopolitan - of Indian descent, brought up in Trinidad, educated in England, and impeccably well-travelled - has previously attacked James Joyce ("I cannot understand the work of a blind man"), E.M Forster (went to India to seduce gardeners' boys; Passage to India has "only one real scene"), and Indian writers, for their stifling obsession with oppression and suchlike faddish nonsense.

It would be better for literature if more writers were as outspoken as V.S. Naipaul.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Naipaul attacks literary giants

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Community Rights" Crush Individual Rights

Francis Fukuyama writes (in Slate) that Europe's demographic/Islamist crisis is caused by its failure fully to integrate moderate immigrants into society.

Europe, unlike the USA, was more concerned to "tolerate" incoming communites as a whole, even if this meant overriding European values. Oppression of individuals within those communities (especially women and homosexuals) could thus continue, whilst deserving individuals who may have been westernised became radicalised instead.

Fukuyama thus urges European politicians to ignore calls from the "blood and soil" strand of the American right.

It's a valid point, as Europeans will not solve their "demographic crisis" simply by going to church and having more babies (even if politicians somehow found a way of making them do so, which seems unlikely). Then again, one should question the alarmism of those who fan and publicise this crisis, too. Some are actually hailing the crisis as a harbinger of the return of traditional patriarchy.

Europe vs. Radical Islam By Francis Fukuyama

See also: Fukuyama's End of Neoconservatism

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Science and Religion's "Parochial" Links

John D Barrow is professor of mathematics at Cambridge and he has just won a few hundred thousand pounds with the Templeton Prize. He writes nicely in today's Telegraph - how parochial, he laments, are "our attempts to find or deny the links between scientific and religious approaches to the nature of the Universe."

Telegraph | Opinion | Astronomy illuminates the glory of God

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Western Baby Dearth Will Lead To A Conservative Patriarchy, Says Conservative Patriarch

Phillip Longman argues that the failure of western societies to reproduce at replacement levels means that they will soon be run by the kids of people who are reproducing at relatively higher rates.

These people tend to be patriarchal conservatives, traditional Europeans who love their country, have nothing against armies, and take a dim view of bastardy. Hence, Longman concludes, Europe is set for a return to conservative patriarchy.

Longman's thesis is seductive. It disregards, however, another fertile source of patriarchal revival in Europe: Islam. The effect of large immigrant families on Longman's rosy patriarchy-building scenario is difficult to determine.

It could as easily nurture a revolt against patriarchy as an entrenchment of it. Large numbers of children brought up under the thumb of "repressed" Muslim patriarchs might well stage a backlash in favour of liberal, "progressive" values.

As with Mark Steyn, who ploughs the same demographic furrow from the other side of the field (ie: western baby dearth will lead to Islamic Europe), the argument is built up on the assumption that the childrens of patriarchs, both western and Muslim, will perpetuate precisely the kind of society their parents advocate. This outcome is possible, of course, but hardly inevitable. The Muslim immigrant, for one, is unlikely to believe that everything back home is fine and dandy, or he'd have stayed at home in the first place. And children of western patriarchs are notorious for turning against the values that shaped them - wasn't this one of the wellsprings of the whole countercultural lefty 1960s scene anyway?

Foreign Policy: The Return of Patriarchy

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Poland, Holland Oppose Moves For European Foreign Minister

Jacques Chirac, beleaguered President of France, has been pushing for the early adoption of some elements of the draft EU constitution (which was rejected by voters in France and Holland). One such is a stronger role for Javier Solana, currently the EU's foreign policy spokesman/co-ordinator. Chirac wants Solana to assume quasi Foreign Ministerial powers.

This would certainly be in the interests of the big EU countries such as France and Germany, whose mouthpiece Solana would become, but would tend to override the interests of smaller states. Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, who is in Berlin today to meet Chancellor Merkel, observes that such a move would be premature and undemocratic (the interview will be in tomorrow's Frankfürter Allgemeine Zeitung).

Kaczynski is supported in The Hague, where the Dutch government recently protested about Javier Solana's apologies to Muslims, during last month's controversy over some unfunny cartoons published in a selection of European newspapers.

Solana's apologies were impertinent, as it is no business of the EU (nor of national governments) to interfere with the freedom of expression of European newspapers published in sovereign countries.

Similarly, whilst big countries such as France and Germany opposed US actions in removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, others (Poland and Holland among them) came out in support of regime change. In light of such continuing conflicts of interest, it would be otiose to instal a European Foreign Minister to parrot the opinions of the larger European nations.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Man To Watch: Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland

Some thoughts from Polish President Lech Kaczynski, prior to his visit to Germany this week (his first ever). Some folk describe him as a right wing nationalist, but he comes across rather well: statesmanlike, and - in contrast to most European politicians' disconnectivity to European voters - able to talk about things that concern ordinary people:

- the most important event in his life was the restoration of Polish sovereignty in 1989 and this experience drives his suspicion of Russia;

- his experience as mayor of Warsaw showed him that many EU directives were utterly unsuited to the situation in Poland;

- he is in favour of Ukraine and Turkey joining the EU;

- his aim is to restore Law and Order in Poland, specifically, to act against the crime caused by an unholy alliance between the local MAFIA and the ex-communist security forces;

- the deal between Germany and Russia's Gazprom to build a new gas pipeline (brokered by ex-Chancellor Schroeder, who is now an employee of Putin's at Gazprom!) is against Poland's interests;

- Kaczynski is proposing an "Energy NATO" to the European Union, involving the creation of a new pipeline, in order to protect the European supply which, as we saw this last winter in Ukraine, is at least partly the mercy of Russian whims.

Kaczynski's views are timely in several respects. First, the energy crisis facing Europe requires a new vision, and Kaczynski is the first politician in Europe to come up with one. Second, Kaczynski's instinctive mistrust of federalist power is shared by many in Europe - voters who rejected the draft EU Constitution in Holland and France foremost amongst them, but many more, who were not allowed to vote on the question by their own politicians. Recent efforts (by Angela Merkel and others) to revive the document are dangerous becuase they persist in seeing the problems of Europe as caused by the nation state. But these days it is EU institutions themselves that are demonstrating myopia and an inability to listen to their citzens' concerns. Europe needs more politicians of Kaczynski's calibre who are willing to challenge this corporatist orthodoxy.

Troop Withdrawal From Iraq By 2008

The most senior British general in Iraq, Lt-General Nick Houghton, is saying that there are plans for all British - and, one assumes, US - troops to be out of Iraq in two years' time.

If this is true, it marks an abandonment of the position - previously promulgated by President Bush and Tony Blair - that coalition troops would remain until Iraq was stable and democratic. It is also a strange contradiction of their previous opinion that only the terrorists and insurgents would benefit from a timetable for withdrawal. If General Houghton is right, it seems that that timetable now exists.

So why this change of direction? The following possibilities come to mind:

- the direness of the situation in Iraq has been grievously exaggerated and everything is nearly under control;
- the competence of the Iraqi security forces has been grievously underestimated;
- the unpopularity of the war is forcing Bush and Blair to adapt their tactics;
- the political, financial and human cost of securing Iraq has become too high.

If the withdrawal is mainly driven by some mixture of the first two possibilities, then the allied invasion of Iraq has been a splendid unacknowledged success. If the withdrawal is mainly driven by the last two possibilities, then the terrorists appear to have won in Iraq.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

European Protectionism Undermines Single Market

In the past week, protectionism by national governments has stopped a bid for the Suez energy company in France (the government is merging Suez with the state-owned Gaz de France), and the bid by E.On for Spain's Endesa power company.

Italy's Silvio Berlusconi is now calling for retaliation against the French. The EU Commission is gearing itself up to take action.

Protectionism should be challenged, whether it's at the national level, as now, or at the European level, as with the EU's actions against Microsoft or against cheap leather goods from China. The difficulty for the EU Commission is not taking sides. In the case of the Chinese shoes, the EU's tariffs seek to protect Italian and French manufacturers at the expense of European consumers. In the case of these energy bids, this time round, the open market requires the protectionist European governments to be taken to task. In the case of the shoes and Microsoft, the EU is promoting its own brand of protectionism.

In other words, the EU is happy to override protectionism driven by "national pride" - a pride it actively wishes to destroy - whilst being equally happy to promote a protectionism which harms consumers for the benefit of cross-border manufacturing groups. At some point, the EU's internal contradictions on this matter will come to a head.

Telegraph | Opinion | The single market and Gallic delusions

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The EU's "Shoe War"

Citing "serious state intervention in the leather footwear sector" in China and Vietnam, EU Commission spokesman Peter Power is heralding tariffs on shoe imports as of April. This will put about one euro on the cost of a pair of shoes from those countries.

We can only hope that this new piece of protectionist actionism doesn't lead to the disasters incurred by Peter Mandelson's "Bra Wars" of last year, when retailers were stopped from taking delivery of orders they'd made prior to the ban on textiles from China. Empty shelves and bust businesses resulted - in what was described as "the worst retailing crisis since WWII" - before a compromise was patched together to save Commissioner Mandelson's face.

Mandelson is still at his post But the new protectionist move - just like the last one - is supported by countries with strong leather goods industries and a tradition of state protectionism, such as France and Italy, and opposed by those which don't, such as Holland and the Scandinavian countries. It is a most unhelpful move from the EU at a time when protectionism - not merely European, but American too - is increasingly jeopardising the consumer benefits of global markets.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Fukuyama's "End Of NeoConservatism"

Francis Fukuyama's somewhat tendentious piece in the New York Times flays President Bush and his neo-conservatives for perceived inadequacies in the conception and planning of the Iraq war and its aftermath.

Fukuyama makes some bizarre comparisons, contrasting the supposedly "Marxist" thesis of his book, The End of History with the "Leninist" ideas of Bush and his neo-cons. Bush et al are "Leninist", says Fukuyama, in the sense that they think that the use of power can help push history along, as the world blossoms into democracy. Whilst these are eye-catching, media-friendly comparisons, they are also singularly unhelpful and tending to muddy the waters.

At one point, Fukuyama says that it may have been better to let the regimes of Afghanistan and Iraq be, that it was wrong to "stir the (Middle Eastern) pot". Better to have stuck with America's "authoritarian friends". American "over-optimism about postwar transitions to democracy" is criticised in this context. Later on, though, Fukuyama seems to endorse "Wilsonian" idealism (ie spreading democracy and freedom) - provided it is "more realistic" than it has been under Bush. This is also somewhat unenlightening advice. One man's "realism" is another man's "appeasement", after all. And the lesson of Reagan's successful, hardline stance against communism is not one which Fukuyama challenges.

When Fukyama advocates the creation of more "overlapping" multinational institutions alongside the UN and NATO, he may be on to something, for sources of international legitimacy for action against terrorists and rogue states are indeed scarce on the ground. The again, overreliance on international legitimacy may lead, as seems likely with Iran, to impotence.

Fukuyama points out that the neo-conservatives saw that social engineering within nation states was counterproductive when it comes, say, to controlling crime. Better clamp down locally on graffiti and panhandling, say, than launch well-meaning but abstract affirmative action programmes. He then wonders why, if the neocons saw this so clearly, they could not also see that Wilsonian social engineering on an international scale (ie spreading democracy to the Middle East) was also doomed to fail. Here Fukuyama is, apparently wilfully, misrepresenting the nature of American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. America has, after all, dealt in the most direct and practical way in those countries. His comparison also misrepresents the nature of terrorist and rogue state crimes and the practicalities of preventing them. For whatever its drawbacks, regime change has indeed removed two rogue states from the scene, staunching their crimes, in a way that positive action programmes do not remove graffiti or panhandlers. Fukuyama's analogy is thus inept.

The effect of regime change on the incidence of terrorism is another question. It can be argued either way, as no figures exist to determine the effects of action versus inaction. Fukuyama clearly believes regime change in Iraq has exacerbated terrorism, but provides nothing to back up his assertion.

All in all, Fukuyama's piece comes over as a piece of high-profile recantation - one not so much of neoconservatism, as of Fukuyama's own thesis in his now foolish-seeming book The End of History. Perhaps one should say he offers a correction of the commonly-held interpretation of his book, which, he implies, has been so sorely misunderstood.
After Neoconservatism - New York Times

Valley of the Wolves - Turkish Rambo Flays Evil Americans

A Turkish Rambo-type film, Valley of the Wolves, glamorises a struggle against evil Americans - amongst whom a Jewish doctor who takes out the organs of living Turks. Some politicians (like Edmund Stoiber, Prime Minister of Bavaria) are calling for the film to be banned.

But it hardly makes sense to relinquish the right to free speech over a film of this sort. Aside from setting a woeful precedent, banning it will only make the film more glamorous and popular. It will also underline the thesis that Islamic culture is being suppressed by the west.

In any case, the anti-Americanism of this film hardly surpasses that of its far slicker equivalents in Hollywood.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Berlusconi: "I Am The Jesus Christ Of Politics"

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, described himself as "the Jesus Christ" of politics last Saturday, setting off a predictable storm.

Berlusconi has given much entertainment over the years, being slightly more outspoken than most European politicians, even in Italy. He compared a German socialist to a Nazi concentration camp guard and has said that western civilisation is superior to Islam. Last time he compared himself to somebody else, it was to say he was like Napoleon - "only taller."

On January 30th, he also vowed to remain "completely celibate" until after the Italian elections on April 9th. Berlusconi, a former cruise-ship crooner, has recorded two CD's of love songs as part of his re-election bid. His poll numbers aren't looking too good, so he probably needs all the help he can get.

Telegraph | News | Berlusconi says he is like Jesus

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Indonesia And The Unfunny Danish Cartoons

Mainstream Muslims continue to call on their co-religionists to temper their outrage over the unfunny Danish cartoons. Din Syamsuddin, of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Muslim group, who is also a member of Indonesia's highest Islam authority (MUI), says that the over-the-top protests will paint "an image of Indonesia's Islam as an intolerant, rigid and anarchic society."

The cartoons were reprinted in Peta, a small-circulation magazine in Indonesia. The police are now determining whether its editor, Abdul Wahad Abdi, committed a crime in reprinting the tendentious drawings. Our advice is that whilst it wasn't a crime in the eyes of the law, it was a crime against good taste.

Aljazeera.Net - Radicals 'exploiting cartoon backlash'

Abu Hamza Jailed and Shamed

Under the catchy headline "Hook and a Hooker", the inimitable Sun today reveals how "hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza cheated on his first wife with a hooker" and that this contributed to his becoming Al Qaeda's recruiting sergeant in Britain, with an especial animus against brothels.

Full story: The Sun Online - News: Hook and a hooker

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Controversy Caused By Unfunny Cartoons Whipped Up By Extremists Of All Stripes

Christopher Hitchens, in a somewhat confused contribution to Slate, mocks faiths of all sorts:
Cartoon Debate - The case for mocking religion. By Christopher Hitchens:

"It is revolting to me," Hitchens writes, "to breathe the same air as wafts from the exhalations of the madrasahs, or the reeking fumes of the suicide-murderers, or the sermons of Billy Graham and Joseph Ratzinger."

In mixing up what is truly "offensive" with what is pumped-up hysteria (as both Islamists and the right-to-blasphemers are feverishly doing) many new misunderstandings are actively being evolved, as this whole wretched "cartoon controversy" unwinds.

To equate the new Pope in a list with suicide bombers, as Hitchens does, is tendentious at least, especially in light of the Pope's first encyclical, God Is Love. But it's an understandable thing for a polemicist, who is only interested in stoking up controversy, to write. Equally understandable that jihadist imams should encourage their flocks to burn down Danish embassies. It's in the nature of such people.

It is however foolish for us mere people, who live and work among Muslims - or indeed Jews and Christians - to allow the concepts "freedom of speech" or "the right to blaspheme" to be degraded to a kind of moral duty to insult people of faith. It is foolish in the same way as it is for mainstream Muslims to allow their religion to be hijacked by jihadist psychopaths, eagerly sniffing out new sources of mortal offence.

Freedom of speech certainly contains the right to provoke. But the one should not be substituted for the other. Nor should "freedom of speech" become a "duty to insult," as Hitchens implies. That just allows the debate to be hijacked by extremists and polemicists from all sides, something which is close to happening - to the cost of all us non-extremists, alas.

"Garden of Eden" in Papua Yields New Species

New species, including a honey-eater bird, twenty new kinds of frog, butterflies believed lost, and five new palms, have been discovered in an isolated region of Papua, Indonesia.

Species thought to have been hunted to near-extinction, such as the Golden-Mantled Tree Kangaroo, and other rare species such as Barlepsch's Six-Wired Bird of Paradise, and the Long-Beaked Echidnas, have been photographed and studied for the first time.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | New species found in Papua 'Eden'

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Doom Of Europe

Theodore Dalrymple writes about Europe's decline in today's Cato Unbound. He says Europe's decline is relative, and that widespread predictions of doom (by writers like Mark Steyn, for example) are predicated on the notion that historical hindsight, and current trends, can be used to forecast the future. This, Dalrymple says, may be quite unfounded: the future overturns most settled predictions.

Having thus hedged his bets, Dalrymple nevertheless gives a clear diagnosis of Europe's ills. An "immovable" political class, with its plans for a united Europe not desired by its citizens, and the "anti-economic" bureaucracy which, in almost every European country, fetters prospects of growth.

The typical reaction of "Europe" to the open global market is that it is a threat to its economic security and to "social justice". This leads to counter-productive protectionist measures - which in turn reinforce the self-fulfilling prophecy of the "evils" of the unfettered market.

Dalrymple also blames the weakened cultural confidence of Europe's political elite for contributing to the failure to assimilate Muslim immigrants.

Whilst much of his piece is unobjectionable right-wing lore, it is pessimistic in tone and clearly Dalrymple doesn't for a moment believe Europe can shake off its habit of decline. Admittedly, if Europe is concurrently failing at the economic, cultural and political levels, as Dalrymple asserts, then a large measure of gloom is perfectly justified.

At the same time, even if our decline is only "relative", Europe must soon be approaching the point where it no longer makes sense for poor people to emigrate into Europe. The flow should then start going the other way, and completely overturn the demographics of doom. And even if that doesn't happen, continuing decline will force Europe to confront and reform its sclerotic institutions - maybe in a peaceful way, if its politics allow such flexibility, otherwise in violence and conflict. The idea of a gentle continued "sleepwalk" to decline - Dalrymple's closing thought - seems the least likely scenario.

Cato Unbound ? Blog Archive ? Is ?Old Europe? Doomed?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bishop Marx: Bombshells Among The Bromides

Bishop Marx of Trier, a man as leftie as his name, gives an interview to the Rheinische Post today, full of bromides about the need for Germany to retain its "sozialen Marktwirtschaft" (socially-driven economy) in the face of "radikaleren Kapitalismus" (more radical capitalism). This is German code for tedious leftist doctrine. It isn't even especially controversial to hear it spilling from the mouth of a Catholic bishop.

More dodgy is the bishop's advocacy of collectivism, as when he warns: "Die Gesellschaft darf sich nicht weiter individualisieren" (Society mustn't become more individualistic). He also makes the unprovable and tendentious claim that terrorism has increased as a result of the "illegal" (völkerrechtswidrig) war in Iraq.

Clearly a highly politicised bishop, Marx has nothing of interest to say about the Pope's agreeable first encyclical. Maybe Marx's own collectivist, state-based views conflict so openly with the Pope's that it would be indecent to do so. After all, this is what Benedict wrote the other day:

"The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy, incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person — every person — needs:- namely, loving personal concern."

Instead of heeding his pontiff's wise words, "Bishop" Marx prefers to address what he concedes is the suboptimal state of the Church in Germany by means of his socialistic impertinences. This politicised prelate's partisan pronouncements deserve to be deplored. The blog will be praying for Bishop Marx's immortal soul.

On Alexandra of Denmark - by Claude de Bigny

Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who married Edward Prince of Wales and became Queen of England upon the death of Queen Victoria, has had a mixed press, writes Claude de Bigny, the blog's historical correspondent.

Her beauty may have had something to do with that - as it appears to have obsessed not merely the men who surrounded her, but also herself.

I am writing about her today because a malicious rumour has been circulating that she was unfaithful to her husband - a rumour which is not only unfounded, but appears to have been made up quite recently. Certainly no credit has ever been given it before. Hero, who is a distant cousin of Alexandra's through Hero Oomkens von Esens (who married Irmgard von Oldenburg, niece to Christian I and first cousin to Frederik I of Denmark) as well as through the Prussian von Quooß and von Gaudecker families, has asked me to set the record straight.

For over 25 years Princess Alexandra enjoyed the chaste and exalted love of her husband's equerry, Oliver Montagu, younger son of Lord Sandwich. This was well known to all, including the Prince of Wales, and was widely seen as a purely platonic affair of the heart. As Louisa, Lady Antrim wrote:

"The Princess floated through the ballroom like a vision from fairyland.She went out a great deal, and chief among her cavaliers was Oliver Montagu. Her husband by this time was living in a very fast set, indulging in many flirtations. It is surprising that, young and lovely as she was, the Princess never gave any real occasion for scandal. I think it must have been due to Oliver Montagu's care for her. He shielded her in every way, not least from his own great love, and managed to defeat gossip."

Claude de Bigny

Friday, January 27, 2006

Satellite Road-Toll Plans: The "Spying State"

Disturbing details from EU Referendum about how plans for road-tolls are well underway and that several European countries - the UK and Holland among them - are participating. The plan hasn't had a lot of attention, but it will surely compromise citizens' freedom of movement and right to anonymity - as well as their wallets. It smacks of the "Spying State" - overarching, intrusive official powers in the name of the common good, the worse because these plans come across as so covert.
EU Referendum

Demographics May Destroy Euro, Bolkestein Reckons

Another demographic horror story: Frits Bolkestein, ex-EU Commissioner, warns that the ageing population will place "ruthless" pressure on the euro in 10 years' time. Pensioners will then outnumber the working population, thus forcing governments to increase borrowing and increase their deficits, undermining the euro.

In truth, this undermining of the euro is already in full swing. The laughably toothless Stability Pact, which sought to limit contries' deficits, has been ignored by the bigger countries. In a way, Bolkestein's warnings understate the pressure on the euro.

As to the impending pensions crisis, it appears the only way to avoid it is to increase immigration into Europe. But that, of course, will only exacerbate the other scenario of doom - the "EU under sharia law by the mid 21st century" - a scenario tirelessly propagated by Mark Steyn.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

RIP: Michael Wharton

Michael Wharton died earlier this week. He was by far the funniest writer ever to have written for the Daily Telegraph, whose pages he adorned for 49 years, writing for the Way of the World column as Peter Simple.
Telegraph News Comic fantasy of Michael Wharton comes to a close

Assisted Suicide

Boris Johnson, writing in today's Telegraph, comes out in favour of assisted suicide, partly to end the ridiculousness of British people having to go to Switzerland to kill themselves legally. Johnson rather oddly writes that his main fear about assisted suicide is that he "might change his mind" - that, at the moment of truth, he would back away from his own death, thus embarrassing himself in front of his weepy relatives. A strange preoccupation: to fear this mild level of familial embarrassment more than death itself.
Telegraph Opinion Assisted suicide is problematic, but better than months of agony

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

God Is Love

Here's Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est - God is love.

He writes about the many different kinds of love and, without dismissing Eros, points out that a false conception of sexual love diminshes people and turns them into mere "commodities." He makes many links to the Old Testament and to the role of Israel. He writes about the afflictions of Job and quotes St Augustine's Sermo 52:

"Si comprehendis, non est Deus"

(If you understand him, he is not God.)

He is careful to separate the role of the church from that of politics. He posits that a personal relationship with God excludes participation in terrorism.
Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Human Rights Watch" Flays EU and USA

Hunan Rights Watch's new annual report lays into US abuses in the matter of alleged torture, "disappearing terror suspects" and Guantanamo Bay - as one would expect - but also rips apart any pretensions the EU might ever have had to represent even a modicum of decency in this area.

The EU's stance on Russia, China and African abuses is highlighted. The EU "made the US defence of human rights seem vigorous", the report states. It recalls the unseemly competition between Britain's Blair, France's Chirac and Germany's ex-Chancellor Schroeder over who could fawn most over Russia's President Putin, in pursuit of their respective business interests. Schroeder, of course, has since become Putin's employee, so he seems to have "won" - a standing disgrace to the German Chancellorship.

The efforts of France and Germany to lift the arms embargo on China are duly deplored. This blog waged a long, ultimately successful campaign against these disgusting designs - one supported by Richard Gere and Prince Ferfried von Hohenzollern, and given the final seal of approval by Schroeder's emphatic rejection by German voters last November. His successor, Angela Merkel, is opposed to lifting the embargo.

One episode not highlighted is the EU's stance on Cuba. As this blog first noted in February, the EU, to its shame, stopped inviting Cuban dissidents to its cocktail parties, in response to pressure from Cuba's communist dictator. Once again France was in the vanguard of the appeasers.

All in all, a pretty repulsive picture, and one not likely to win the approval of any but the most slavishly Realpolitik-minded voters.

"Society's To Blame": Time To Get Rid Of Society?

"Society's to blame" used to be the left's lazy shorthand for the causes of all crime, poverty, and social unrest. These days, it has become the lazy mantra of the right. What with all this unanimity, it's clearly time to do away with society for good.

Here is the societal mantra of today's right: "State-sponsored single parenthood and idleness, easy contraception and divorce, the effective abolition of value judgments, the undermining of the traditional nuclear family - all these were propagated by progressives and lefties and, through them, enforced by the state. The state should roll all these things back and bring back the 1950's or a more tolerant version of them."

Increasingly, also, people who would, in the past, have been on the left, (social and youth workers, teachers, for example) have started to see their old progressive agenda as a dangerous and irresponsible creed. Shaun Bailey sounds like one of them and he writes about it in today's Daily Telegraph.

The piece is persuasive and underpinned by personal experience. No-one will argue with what he describes as "common sense" - only, perhaps, with the implied means of administering it. For if the state is the only agency able to correct these wrongs, its good intentions and actionism in doing so will lead to terrible unintended consequences just as awful as the good intentions of the 60's and 70's did. Society will still be to blame.

The question to ask, in light of all this unpleasantness, is whether, in letting state policies veer us from one well-meaning platform to the next, we are surrendering the ability to live our lives separate from state meddling at all.

Margaret Thatcher is deeply unfashionable at the moment, to the extent of having been partially disowned by the new Conservative leader, David Cameron. But she saw our dilemma clearly enough, twenty years back, when she said that "there's no such thing as society". Whilst one can argue the semantics, in its essence, she was right and remains right: politics should not seek to influence an amorphous abstract ungraspable entity known as "society", but deal on a more precisely individual level, with people - families, associations and interest groups - on their own merits, and with a view to minimising any meddling in their affairs by "society" or the state.

What we need is a plan to get society off everyone's backs. Only then will society no longer be to blame - and we can get back to blaming each other instead.
Telegraph Opinion The reason our streets are so violent

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Uses Of Paranoid Polemics: Al Jazeera's Ghannoushi vs Steyn

Soumaya Ghannoushi, writing in today's Al Jazeera, expresses the oppression she feels in today's Britain with its "racist agenda at home and an expansionist policy abroad."

There is paranoia in what she writes - and inaccuracy too, such as her assertion that there was no link between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda - and in this paranoia she is the mirror-image of Mark Steyn, whose piece we linked to the other day. Steyn is convinced Europe will succumb to wave after wave of fast-breeding Muslim immigrants which will swamp its indigenous culture and political institutions.

If public discussion of the future of east and west were left to such polemicists, paranoia would be well-founded. Trouble is, public discussion has taken on an increasingly polemical tone of late.

Is this because partisan polemics are what people really want to read, or because polemicists of this stripe are the best writers available? Both options are depressing, if not quite depressing enough to infect the blog with a corresponding paranoia.
Aljazeera.Net - Europe vs Muslims: No Turning the Clock Back

Monday, January 09, 2006


Michael Shermer, in a short piece in Scientific American, coins the word "murdercide" for the actions of suicide bombers. He points out that suicide bombers aren't suicidal by the accepted definition of the word.

He also underscores the fact that "murderciders" (and it isn't a very compelling or elegant coinage, is it?) are usually well-educated, seemingly well-integrated members of society, a point which has often been made here. He recommends democracy for the Middle East as the best antidote.
Science & Technology at Scientific Murdercide -- Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers

Friday, January 06, 2006

Mark Steyn Flays Cameron Diaz And Predicts Islamic European Union By 2050

Mark Steyn kicks off the new year in familiar guise, in the New Criterion, with his trusty demographic diagnosis concerning the future of Europe, which, to him, looks distinctly Islamic.

Persuasive, up to a point. Steyn says Europe will see a Muslim majority by the middle of the century. "Native" Europeans are no longer having enough babies, whilst Muslims represent the biggest growing segment of the population in many regions. Ergo, Steyn reckons, the Muslim majority will soon achieve either civil war or Sharia law.

As often, Steyn lays into liberal pieties and unwary, loose-tongued celebrities with gay abandon - Cameron Diaz gets it in the neck, and some throwaway otiosities she made are duly skewered.

Good knockabout fun. But one has to wonder whether the millions of Muslim citizens - who come to Europe to make money in an environment where it is possible for them to do so, are really clamouring to dismantle the system from which they benefit.

So how keen are Muslims to be ruled by mullahs, once they have lived in the west? It is true that westernised Muslims of the most well-integrated sort sometimes turn to Islamist jihad, as the suicide bombings in Britain last July showed. But they are a tiny minority amongst Muslims. Some would say that the riots in France this winter, which had little to do with a global jihad, show that marginalised Muslims will easily turn to violence against the laws of their host countries. But it is difficult to accept this as a model for what will happen across Europe, if only because so many Muslims are prospering here, and have been doing so for generations now.

Mark Steyn's demographic diagnosis is designed to make our flesh creep. He fails, not so much because his argument is overfamiliar, but because it is based on a false assumption: that the Muslim majority is gunning to establish shariah law across Europe. Further, Steyn discounts the effects of wealth creation on the attitudes of Muslim immigrant families. Long may they prosper.

The New Criterion ? It?s the demography, stupid