Archive for the 'Britain' Category
Posted by David Foster on 11th May 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
Vladimir Bukovsky was prominent in the dissident movement within the old Soviet Union, and spent 12 years in prisons, labor camps, and psychiatric hospitals. He has lived in Britain since the late 1970s, and has been a vocal opponent of Vladimir Putin, referring to Putin and his cricle as the heirs of Lavrenty Beria–Beria being Stalin’s notorious secret-police chief. Bukovsky also expressed the opinion that the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko (in Britain, by radioactive polonium) was done at the behest of Russian authorities. So you can be pretty sure that Bukovsky isn’t on Vladimir Putin’s list of 10 favorite people.
Recently, Bukovsky has been charged with child pornography by British authorities. Claire Berlinski believes that he was likely framed by the Russian regime. (More from Claire here.) It certainly seems quite possible that Putin’s intelligence agencies planted the evidence on Bukovsky’s computer, and I am happy that Claire is going to be further investigating this matter, which has received little attention from the legacy media.
I tend to believe that Claire is right and Bukovsky is innocent, though I have no way of putting probabilities on this at the moment. I am also impressed by the logic of Diana West’s question: “Is there a sentient person, naturally revolted by the thought of child pornography, even five or six images’ worth, going to believe for one minute that the British state, for decades having turned the blindest and hardest and most craven of eyes against the sexual despoilment and prostitution of generations of little British girls at risk at the hands of criminal Islamic “grooming” gangs, has suddenly developed some compelling interest in protecting the welfare of children, and thus turned its avenging sword on … Vladimir Bukovsky?”
Above and beyond this specific case–and it is extremely important to ensure that Bukovsky gets fair treatment by the British judicial system, which seems unlikely without considerable sunlight on the matter–there an overwhelmingly critical general issue involved here: that of national sovereignty. There is little question that Litvinenko was murdered at the behest of people in the Russian government. There is no question at all that the ayatollahs running the Iranian government called for the murder of Salman Rushdie, a citizen of Britain, because they didn’t like something he wrote. There is no question at all that many imams throughout the Islamic world are calling for the murder of people in other countries, based on the opinions of those people, and there is no question at all that Iranian authorities are actively encouraging acts of violence against Israel. And there is no question at all that German authorities are prosecuting a comedian for the ‘crime’ of insulting a foreign leader, at the behest of Turkish ruler Erdogan.
John Kerry, America’s idiot secretary of state, recently talked to a group of college students about a borderless world, which he apparently either believes is inevitable or of which he actually approves. But in the universe that actually exists, a borderless world is one in which foreign leaders and rabble-rousers can cause great harm to citizens of other nations, with the governments of those nations either unable or unwilling to protect them.
G K Chesterton is credited with the saying “Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason why it was put up.” (ascribed to Chesterton by John F Kennedy–the actual Chesterton quote can be found here) But I doubt if Kerry has ever read Chesterton, and also doubt that he is capable of understanding him if he did read his works.
Global interchange facilitates many good things, in trade, culture, and human connections: it can also be a vector for bad things such as epidemics and cross-border murder and intimidation. Cheerleading for a ‘borderless world’, without serious consideration of how to encourage the good and prevent the bad, is highly irresponsible.
At a bare minimum, each civilized government should ensure that any planned legal proceedings against its one of its citizens which appears likely to have been instigated by a foreign power should be carefully vetted before proceeding. Each civilized government should also react very strongly to any call by a foreign government for the murder of one of its citizens or residents–ranging from trade sanctions up to the funding of the overthrow of the regime in question and continuing to, in extreme cases, military action.
Claire could use some additional contributions to assist with her work on the Bukovsky case; the link is here.
Posted in Britain, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Germany, Islam, Russia | 21 Comments »
Posted by Helen on 10th May 2016 (All posts by Helen)
Does anyone on the other side of the Pond care about the Greater London Authority (GLA) elections that we have just had? Actually, not that many people care on this side of the Pond either and even in London the turn-out, much trumpeted by the media as being spectacularly high, was merely 45.30%, exactly the same as it was in 2008 when Boris Johnson was first elected to be Mayor. As I explained some years ago, the Mayor of London is not the same as the Lord Mayor, a position of many centuries’ standing in the City. So, more than half of London’s electorate did not bother to vote, possibly because the Mayor does not have a great deal of power and the Assembly has none or possibly because all the candidates were paralyzingly dull.
Nevertheless, Sadiq Khan’s election is a significant event in British political history: we have had Muslims in Parliament and even one or two in the Cabinet (the Conservative one, naturally); there are many Muslims in local councils and that tale has not been particularly happy. But this is the first time a supposedly practising Muslim has been elected to a reasonably high position.
The excitement about him getting the highest number of direct votes of any British politician in British history is humbug. There are no other places as large as London where direct votes are cast in our system. Altogether Sadiq Khan got 1,310,143 votes; in 2008, with the same turn-out, Boris Johnson got 1,168,738 votes, undoubtedly the highest number at the time of what any British politician had got in a direct vote. I do not recall anybody mentioning this.
I wrote a blog on the subject and some of CBz readers might be interested in reading it.
Posted in Britain, Elections, Islam | 15 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 10th May 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
‘When the crocus blossoms,’ hiss the women in Berlin,
‘He will press the button, and the battle will begin.
When the crocus blossoms, up the German knights will go,
And flame and fume and filthiness will terminate the foe…
When the crocus blossoms, not a neutral will remain.’
(A P Herbert, Spring Song, quoted in To Lose a Battle, by Alistair Horne)
On May 10, 1940, German forces launched an attack against Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. Few people among the Allies imagined that France would collapse in only six weeks: Churchill, for example, had a high opinion of the fighting qualities of the French army. But collapse is what happened, of course, and we are still all living with the consequences. General Andre Beaufre, who in 1940 was a young Captain on the French staff, wrote in 1967:
The collapse of the French Army is the most important event of the twentieth century.
If it’s an exaggeration, it’s not much of one. If France had held up to the German assault as effectively as it was expected to do, World War II would probably have never reached the nightmare levels that it in fact did reach. The Hitler regime might well have fallen. The Holocaust would never have happened. Most likely, there would have been no Communist takeover of Eastern Europe.
This campaign has never received much attention in America; it tends to be regarded as something that happened before the “real” war started. Indeed, many denizens of the Anglosphere seem to believe that the French basically gave up without a fight–which is a considerable exaggeration given the French casualties of around 90,000 killed and 200,000 wounded. But I think the fall of France deserves serious study, and that some of the root causes of the defeat are scarily relevant to today’s world.
First, I will very briefly summarize the campaign from a military standpoint, and will then shift focus to the social and political factors involved in the defeat.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Britain, France, Germany, History, War and Peace | 31 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 5th May 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
…my feelings right now as expressed in song, prose, and poetry.
Bob Dylan: I threw it all away
For I’, substitute ‘we’:
Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
And rivers that ran through every day
I must have been mad
I never knew what I had
Until I threw it all away
Procol Harum: Broken Barricades
Now gather up sea shells
And write down brave words
Your prayers are unanswered
Your idols absurd
The seaweed and the cobweb
Have rotted your sword
Your barricades broken
Your enemies Lord
British general Edward Spears, describing his feelings in the aftermath of Munich:
Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt when England accepted Munich. All we believed in seemed to have lost substance.
The life of each of us has roots without which it must wither; these derive sustenance from the soil of our native land, its thoughts, its way of life, its magnificent history; the lineage of the British race is our inspiration. The past tells us what the future should be. When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves, it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead.
Yet it was only two years after Munich that Britain demonstrated its magnificent resistance to Nazi conquest.
From an English or Scottish ballad
I am a little wounded but am not slain
I will lie me down for to bleed a while
Then I’ll rise and fight with you again
Lie down to bleed a while, if you need to–but not for too long–but do not give up. The stakes are way too high.
Posted in Britain, Deep Thoughts, History, Music, USA | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 25th April 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
From an astute commentary by Robert Salisbury, former Leader of the House of Lords. Almost all of the essay applies as well to the USA and other western countries.
Our own country is caught by all this, as it was in the first half of the 19th Century and in the middle decades of the 20th. We were able to adapt to survive: in the 19th by extending the franchise and in the 20th by expanding public services and mass prosperity. As a result British governments regained the authority to govern. They did so by reforming the institutions of representative government the country already had, thereby responding to the demands of an electorate emboldened and liberated by technological change.
Today, governments are once again losing the authority to govern, and for similar reasons. Another major financial crisis might lose them it completely; but a new crisis might not even be needed. Whitehall’s failure to control immigration, its puny efforts to tackle the housing question, the feebleness of our defences, the incompetence of our transport and energy policies might, whether jointly or severally, tip us over.
In the past, the country has been sustained in times of crisis by a solid body of electors who felt they had an interest in the existing structures which kept them, on the whole, safe and relatively prosperous. That body’s support is no longer so solid. The IT revolution is largely responsible. The speed of communications make governments and Parliamentary procedures look flat-footed. Increasingly the public is at least as well-informed as the Whitehall departments who are telling them what to do. It is virtually impossible to keep anything secret and anyone who betrays a confidence is regarded as heroic. The more rules we have, the more the public feels they are used as a means of flouting their spirit.
Worst of all, social media stimulate one issue politics and make the simple solution credible. You and I know that competent administration is boring and usually demands compromises. We also know that effective legislation needs careful preparation, much internal and external debate, a mind-numbing command of detail and a lively warning mechanism against the law of unintended consequences. The same applies to parliamentary scrutiny.
Any sensible electorate would be only too pleased to delegate this necessary day-to-day grunt to a Whitehall and Westminster it trusted and, although interested and argumentative, get on with the rest of its life.
Sadly, that is not where we are.
The candidacies of Trump and Sanders are in large part responses to public concerns about the problems Salisbury describes. They are inadequate responses, likely to fail politically and on their own terms and eventually to be superseded by other responses. The pot will continue to boil at greater or lesser intensity depending on who gets elected and what follows. It seems unlikely that the underlying problems will begin to be solved unless the voters develop a realistic understanding of what needs to be done, and start electing politicians who are both willing and competent to do it. It may be a while.
Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Britain, Elections, Europe, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Systems Analysis, Tea Party, Trump | 24 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 12th April 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
From Memoirs Of William Henry Knapp at the Spitalfields Life blog, a trove of London history:
My first working years were very interesting as well as being hard-working and, as a man today beyond the sixty mark, I can think of the romance attached to my first job necessitating my calling at some of the most important buildings, firms and institutions in the City. Some are demolished or out of date but just a few remain and I can recount from memory a few of the places and firms.
My old firm was on Ludgate Hill, next St Martin’s Court, which is bordered on one side by the well known City Stationers, W. Straker. While I have him in mind, I must tell you that his first start in life was sitting in a small window in the left hand corner of St Paul’s Church and printing visiting cards at so much per hundred while you wait. In his case, one can quote the old adage, ‘nothing succeeds like success.’ What a character he was, good features, curly grey hair, immaculately dressed. If he ever wore a hat, it was of the sombrero type worn at a rakish angle, with a silk coat, plush waistcoat and very pronounced black and white check trousers. In his spare time, on bright days, he would parade the pavement near or about his premises and people naturally asked, ‘Who’s that?’ He was a city character once seen could never be forgotten.
At the extreme end of St Martin’s Court stood what we boys called the old London Wall – a mass about forty feet by ten and possibly the position of the ancient Lud Gate, one of the many gates protecting the City. I well remember with the tools of those days it took considerable time to demolish it.
Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, History | 6 Comments »
Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 7th April 2016 (All posts by Michael Hiteshew)
Conservatism Is Winning In The States
What Alexis de Tocqueville observed over 150 years ago remains true today—states are laboratories of ideas. It’s here on the state level where ideas are created, fought over, tested, implemented, and either succeed or fail. When it comes to conservative ideas in the states, we are winning.
While presidential candidates were insulting each other’s appendages, West Virginia
became the 26th Right to Work state. While the FBI was investigating candidates, North Carolina
passed major tax cuts. While pundits cried that both major parties had lost their way, Missouri passed paycheck protection. Conservatism is winning in the states. Don’t let it go unnoticed.
There is no state that highlights conservative victories better than Wisconsin. Just five years ago Wisconsin turned a billion-dollar deficit into a multi million-dollar surplus. Act 10 may have grabbed headlines across the country as protestors occupied the capitol for months, but the story did not end there.
Over the past year conservatives have passed reforms less controversial than Act 10 but just as important to taxpayers across the state. Last year they passed Right to Work to guarantee workers the freedom to join a union or not. Wisconsin reformed the prevailing wage law, which will save our local communities millions of dollars on the cost of building new schools and roads. Wisconsin reformed the marriage penalty to reduce taxes on working families, froze tuition at the UW for the forth straight year, and passed occupational licensure reform that gives a hand up to some of the hardest working Wisconsinites.
A newly-released Gallup survey indicates that a solid majority of students at America’s colleges and universities supports free speech on campus. However, a strong contingent of students wants to limit “hate speech” and speech that intentionally offend people based on some aspect of their identities.
A full and extensive report about the poll, which Gallup conducted for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, shows that 78 percent of U.S. college students believe their campuses should be serious, grownup places where students experience all manner of speech and myriad different viewpoints.
Other findings within the study showed that students with Republican and independent political leanings were far more tolerates than their Democratic counterparts. It also found that a majority of students (54 percent) believed their professors and administrators were also stifling free speech on campus.
Those are hopeful signs. The most important changes begin at the grassroots level. To my mind, the single most tasks facing the American people are reigning in the vast behemoth that is the federal government and reforming public education. That the majority of college students are not yet ready to toss out the Bill of Rights is a positive indicator. But schools are increasingly petri dishes for incubating leftist and far leftist ideologues, and the indoctrination seems to become more radical as time goes by. That needs to stop. Yesterday.
Meanwhile, in nuclear power development, a long discussed idea of deploying factory built and tested small reactors seems to be capturing imaginations around the world again. The Chinese had plans several years ago to build SMRs from Westinghouse, but I have no idea how that is progressing, if at all. The UK now seems interested as well. I’m interested in seeing how well this technology works out but it seems completely straightforward and doable to me. The US Navy has been using small nuclear reactors safely and effectively for more that 50 years now. And as reactors become less custom one-off designs and more of a standard product, safety and reliability should increase and cost should come down. For reactors to ever be fully accepted by the public, however, the designs must fail-safe. Which is to say that the nature of the process is one where if there is a facility failure, the physics of the reaction process simply stop.
There will be a competition to identify the best value design of mini reactors – called small modular reactors (SMRs) – and paving the way “towards building one of the world’s first SMRs in the UK in the 2020s”. There is no shortage of contenders, with companies from the US to China and Poland all wooing the UK with their proposals.
With a crucial UN climate change summit in Paris imminent, the question of how to keep the lights on affordably, while cutting emissions, is pressing.
SMRs aim to capture the advantages of nuclear power – always-on, low-carbon energy – while avoiding the problems, principally the vast cost and time taken to build huge plants. Current plants, such as the planned French-Chinese Hinkley Point project in Somerset, have to be built on-site, a task likened to “building a cathedral within a cathedral”.
Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Education, Energy & Power Generation, Politics | 11 Comments »
Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th March 2016 (All posts by Sgt. Mom)
So, as I am devoting all my energy and time to finishing the first draft of another book, I have been following – with lashings of sorrow, pity, dread and the merest splash of schadenfreude – developments in Europe. Germany, which seems to be cracking under the weight of a full load of so-called refugees, Sweden, ditto, Brussels, where the concerned citizens appear to be too frightened to continue with a protest march against fear, and the governing authorities appear to be more concerned about the legendary anti-Muslim backlash than the certainty of Islamic terror unleashed in some European or English city. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Britain, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, France, Germany, Holidays, International Affairs, Islam, Predictions, Religion | 23 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 17th March 2016 (All posts by David Foster)
The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan
(This being St Patrick’s day, I’m taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)
Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”
In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland. The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.
Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition. He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising. With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar. They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.
Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia. Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,” jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,” Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.” “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”
Ferdy O’Donnell is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land. Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”
Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘
Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen. This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic. His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.
John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land. He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster. “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”
Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.
Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses. His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”
Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces. A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution. He is a talented commander, but the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland. Seen through the eyes of a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it. “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”
This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships. Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | Comments Off on Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)
Posted by Jonathan on 20th January 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
This is a good list and it’s worth reading Seth’s post for more information.
(I’ve added his links to our blogroll.)
Posted in Anglosphere, Blogging, Britain, Ireland | 5 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 5th January 2016 (All posts by Jonathan)
New from Seth Barrett Tillman:
We are rapidly approaching the 50th anniversary of Enoch Powell’s Birmingham speech on immigration, more popularly known as the Rivers of Blood speech (April 20, 1968). Powell spoke out against unlimited immigration to England from Commonwealth nations. Because at that time such immigrants were predominantly West Indians and Asians, many saw Powell’s speech as covertly racialist…
Seth has a follow-up question.
Posted in Britain, History, Immigration | 7 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st December 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
An analysis of the Trump campaign from a Boydian perspective. (“Boydian” refers to the views of the fighter pilot and military theorist John Boyd, who emphasized the importance of the “OODA loop”–observe, orient, decide, act)
Desperately trying to be one of the Kool Kidz:
…the increasing number of voters who do not make their decisions on who will create the most jobs, build the most infrastructure, save the environment, strengthen the economy or even keep citizens most safe. These people don’t care about that. And while they do vote based on what they think is in their own self-interest, their regard is not for what they view as the path most likely to improve society’s lot. It is, curiously, motivated entirely by their sense of what is most socially fashionable – in other words, the fundamental high school desire to be one of the cool kids.
Posted in Britain, Current Events, Human Behavior, India, Leftism, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »
Posted by Jonathan on 21st December 2015 (All posts by Jonathan)
A new, brief and most interesting post from Seth Barrett Tillman:
[Wilkes] was expelled from the Commons in 1764, and also expelled 3 times in 1769. After the last expulsion in 1769, he ran for election yet again, and although he had more votes than his opponent, the Commons seated his opponent. He was elected again in 1774 and took his seat. Arguably, Wilkes’ taking his seat in 1774 established the principle that each member of the House of Commons is chosen by the voters, and that the voters’ choice cannot be second-guessed, rejected, or overturned merely because a majority of the House finds a particular member’s political principles and morals objectionable.
Read the whole thing, as the bloggers say.
Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, History, USA | 2 Comments »
Posted by Helen on 16th November 2015 (All posts by Helen)
There really is very little I can say about the Paris events (the word les événements might acquire a new meaning now and, perhaps, we shall all get over that nonsense of 1968) and their aftermath, particularly as it is still not clear what will happen in the medium and long term. But I thought readers of Chicagoboyz might be interested by news of our own battlefront or, at least, some of it.
I have put up two postings on my blog about debates in the House of Lords where all the interesting political stuff happens: one was the Second Reading of Baroness Cox’s Private Member’s Bill, whose aim is the abolition of Sharia courts, which the Home Secretary, Theresa May, has finally acknowledged as a danger and the other is about a somewhat more idiosyncratic campaign conducted by the Lord Pearson of Rannoch (the word idiosyncratic was invented to describe him) to open up a wider dialogue about Islam. I realize that some of the terminology I use is not always clear to people outside Britain but I shall be happy to answer questions.
Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Islam | 12 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 11th November 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
One of Kipling’s lesser-known poems: The last of the Light Brigade
There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,
That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.
They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;
And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !
They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;
Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;
And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, “Let us go to the man who writes
The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites.”
They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,
To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;
And, waiting his servant’s order, by the garden gate they stayed,
A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.
Read the whole thing here
Posted in Britain, History, Holidays, War and Peace | 3 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 6th November 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
(I cross-posted my 2014 review of C S Lewis’s novel That Hideous Strength over at Richochet, where a good comment thread has developed. Some of the comments reminded me of the extremely negative review of the book written by JBS Haldane in 1946, and Lewis’s response thereto.)
Haldane was an eminent British scientist (population genetics) and a Marxist. C S Lewis was…well, you probably already know who C S Lewis was.
Haldane’s critique was directed at the series of novels by Lewis known as the Ransom Trilogy, and particularly the last book of the series, That Hideous Strength . Lewis responded in a letter which remained unpublished for many of years. All this may sound ancient and esoteric, but I believe the Lewis/Haldane controversy is very relevant to our current political and philosophical landscape.
To briefly summarize That Hideous Strength: Mark, a young sociologist, is hired by a government agency called NICE–the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation–having as its stated mission the application of science to social problems. (Unbelievably, today the real-life British agency which establishes rationing policies for healthcare is also called NICE.) In the novel, NICE turns out to be a conspiracy devoted to very diabolical purposes, as Mark gradually discovers. It also turns out that the main reason NICE wanted to hire Mark is to get control of his wife, Jane (maiden name: Tudor) who has clairvoyant powers. The NICE officials want to use Jane’s abilities to get in touch with the magician Merlin and to effect a junction between modern scientific power and the ancient powers of magic, thereby bringing about the enslavement of mankind and worse. Jane, though, becomes involved with a group which represents the polar opposite of NICE, led by a philology professor named Ransom, who is clearly intended as a Christ-figure. The conflict between NICE and the Ransom group will determine the future of humanity.
A brilliantly written and thought-provoking book, which I highly recommend, even if, like me, you’re not generally a fan of fantasy novels.
With context established, here are some of the highlights of the Lewis/Haldane controversy:
1) Money and Power.
In his article, Haldane attacks Lewis for the latter’s refusal to absolutely condemn usury, and celebrates the fact that “Mammon has been cleared off a sixth of our planet’s surface”…clearly referring to the Soviet Union. Here’s part of Lewis’s response:
The difference between us is that the Professor sees the ‘World’ purely in terms of those threats and those allurements which depend on money. I do not. The most ‘worldly’ society I have ever lived in is that of schoolboys: most worldly in the cruelty and arrogance of the strong, the toadyism and mutual treachery of the weak, and the unqualified snobbery of both. Nothing was so base that most members of the school proletariat would not do it, or suffer it, to win the favour of the school aristocracy: hardly any injustice too bad for the aristocracy to practise. But the class system did not in the least depend on the amount of pocket money. Who needs to care about money if most of the things he wants will be offered by cringing servility and the remainder can be taken by force? This lesson has remained with me all my life. That is one of the reasons why I cannot share Professor Haldanes exaltation at the banishment of Mammon from ‘a sixth of our planet’s surface’. I have already lived in a world from which Mammon was banished: it was the most wicked and miserable I have yet known. If Mammon were the only devil, it would be another matter. But where Mammon vacates the throne, how if Moloch takes his
place? As Aristotle said, ‘Men do not become tyrants in order to keep warm’. All men, of course, desire pleasure and safety. But all men also desire power and all men desire the mere sense of being ‘in the know’ or the ‘inner ring’, of not being ‘outsiders’: a passion insufficiently studied and the chief theme of my story. When the state of society is such that money is the passport to all these prizes, then of course money will be the prime temptation. But when the passport changes, the desires will remain.
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Posted in Arts & Letters, Big Government, Britain, Christianity, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, History, Human Behavior, Law, Leftism, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Religion, Society | 18 Comments »
Posted by Helen on 31st October 2015 (All posts by Helen)
I say quite unashamedly that I am a detective story fan and something of a geek as well. I like British and American detective stories of every age (well, obviously not all) and get extremely angry when I see ridiculous comments made by people who have clearly not read much in the genre. No, not all British novels are cosy and not all American ones are tough; and no, Christie did not write silly mystery stories about country houses, which figure very rarely in her works; and yes, there were a good many excellent male detective story writers in the Golden Age on both sides of the Atlantic as well as a number of women thriller writers.
Luckily for me, there are other fans and geeks on Facebook and we have great discussions. Good thing like blogs, collections of essays and conferences grow out of those discussions or around them. Recently it was suggested by Curtis J. Evans that we should have a Tuesday Night Club to imitate the first Miss Marple stories. Several of us posted five Tuesday Night (or, in my case, sometimes Wednesday morning or afternoon) blogs about Christie. The link to Curt’s blog will lead you to all the other bloggers who took part in this enterprise but I thought that just for fun I shall post the links to my blogs here.And you must admit that is a very different them from my usual ones as well as a much happier one.
My first posting, on September 29, was about Miss Marple’s somewhat mysterious nephew, Raymond West and I think I really succeeded in unravelling certain puzzling aspects of his life and relationship with his aunt.
Then, on October 6, I wrote about Christie’s excellent understanding of social changes in Britain during and after the Second World War as well as her attitude to servants, very different from the way it is characterized by people who have heard of her novels but not read all that many of them.
Then I took one Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, who appear in four novels and a collection of short stories. In my opinion, two of the novels are quite good, one passable and the last one is a complete mess. The collection of short stories, Partners in Crime, remains one of my favourites for reasons of entertainment rather than superior detection. On October 14 I wrote about the Beresfords in general and on October 21 I dealt with the Beresfords’ reading matter, which reflected Christie’s own to some extent and revealed some interesting facts.
My last posting as part of the Tuesday Night Club on October 27 was about archaeologists in Christie’s work. She knew a great deal about them, having married one and having accompanied him to a number of digs in Iraq and Syria where she took part in the work of uncovering the past. I have to admit to an egregious error: I omitted Signor Richetti (Death on the Nile) from my list of fake archaeologists.
It has been suggested that the Tuesday Night Club carries on with blogs about Ellery Queen, a seminal figure in crime writing, particularly in the US. I have read a number of the novels and short stories but have never been able to work out much enthusiasm for them, considering the atmosphere too hysterical, the character of Ellery too annoying and that of his father Richard, a New York police inspector, too stupid. I may sit the whole month out. Certainly, I have no time to do a posting this coming Tuesday but when I have read what my colleagues have written I may well think of something to say. In the meantime, have fun with Agatha Christie whose 125th birthday we are celebrating this year.
Posted in Arts & Letters, Britain, Culture | 13 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 24th October 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Maggie’s Farm reminds us that October 21 was the 210th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar. (JMW Turner painting of the battle at the link) I am reminded of a thoughtful document written in 1797 by a Spanish naval official, Don Domingo Perez de Grandallana, on the general subject “why do we keep losing to the British, and what can we do about it?” His thoughts were inspired by his observations while with the Spanish fleet off Cape St Vincent, in a battle which was a significant defeat for Spain, and are relevant to a question which is very relevant to us today:
What attributes of an organization make it possible for that organization to accomplish its mission in an environment of uncertainty, rapid change, and high stress?
Here are de Grandallana’s key points:
An Englishman enters a naval action with the firm conviction that his duty is to hurt his enemies and help his friends and allies without looking out for directions in the midst of the fight; and while he thus clears his mind of all subsidiary distractions, he rests in confidence on the certainty that his comrades, actuated by the same principles as himself, will be bound by the sacred and priceless principle of mutual support.
Accordingly, both he and his fellows fix their minds on acting with zeal and judgement upon the spur of the moment, and with the certainty that they will not be deserted. Experience shows, on the contrary, that a Frenchman or a Spaniard, working under a system which leans to formality and strict order being maintained in battle, has no feeling for mutual support, and goes into battle with hesitation, preoccupied with the anxiety of seeing or hearing the commander-in-chief’s signals for such and such manoeures…
Thus they can never make up their minds to seize any favourable opportunity that may present itself. They are fettered by the strict rule to keep station which is enforced upon then in both navies, and the usual result is that in one place ten of their ships may be firing on four, while in another four of their comrades may be receiving the fire of ten of the enemy. Worst of all they are denied the confidence inspired by mutual support, which is as surely maintained by the English as it is neglected by us, who will not learn from them.
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Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Human Behavior, Management, Military Affairs, Society, War and Peace | 4 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 21st October 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
Again and again, I see people referring to those Americans who have nothing but bad things to say about their own country as “self-hating Americans.” I see Jews who display unhinged rage against Israel referred to as “self-hating Jews.” And I have also seen many references to “self-hating Europeans.”
I believe that the “self-hating” diagnosis of the behavior of this sort of people is in most cases quite wrong, and this wrongness matters.
In 1940, C S Lewis wrote a little essay titled “Dangers of National Repentance.” Apparently, there was a movement among Christian youth to “repent” England’s sins (which were thought to include the treaty of Versailles) and to “forgive” England’s enemies. Lewis’s analysis of this movement is highly relevant to our current situation.
“Young Christians especially..are turning to (the National Repentance Movement) in large numbers,” Lewis wrote. “They are ready to believe that England bears part of the guilt for the present war, and ready to admit their own share in the guilt of England…Most of these young men were children…when England made many of those decisions to which the present disorders could plausibly be traced. Are they, perhaps, repenting what they have in no sense done?”
“If they are, it might be supposed that their error is very harmless: men fail so often to repent their real sins that the occasional repentance of an imaginary sin might appear almost desirable. But what actually happens (I have watched it happen) to the youthful national penitent is a little more complicated than that. England is not a natural agent, but a civil society…The young man who is called upon to repent of England’s foreign policy is really being called upon to repent the acts of his neighbor; for a foreign secretary or a cabinet minister is certainly a neighbor…A group of such young penitents will say, “Let us repent our national sins”; what they mean is, “Let us attribute to our neighbor (even our Christian neighbor) in the cabinet, whenever we disagree with him,every abominable motive that Satan can suggest to our fancy.” (Emphasis added.)
Lewis points out that when a man who was raised to be patriotic tries to repent the sins of England, he is attempting something that will be difficult for him. “But an educated man who is now in his twenties usually has no such sentiment to mortify. In art, in literature, in politics, he has been, ever since he can remember, one of an angry minority; he has drunk in almost with his mother’s milk a distrust of English statesmen and a contempt for the manners, pleasures, and enthusiasms of his less-educated fellow countrymen.”
It’s hard to believe that this was written more than 60 years ago–it’s such a bulls-eye description of a broad swath of our current “progressives.” (The only difference being that many of them today are a lot older than “in their twenties.”)
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Britain, Europe, History, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 11 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 5th October 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
There is an interesting piece today in the Daily Mail about young NHS GPs quitting and going to Australia.
In the past five years, the number of GP appointments made by Britons has risen from 300 million to 370 million a year, an increase of more than 20 per cent.
The number of GPs employed to meet that demand has risen by around 1,600, or just over five per cent.
All of which has led to the second major factor behind their exodus — in the UK, they often feel terribly overworked; after moving they find themselves having to spend far less time at the coalface.
‘More and more British GPs talk about the pressure they’re under,’ says Guy Hazel. ‘I’m not sure the general public understand how mentally draining it is to see 35 to 40 patients a day. All the British GPs I know are exhausted.’
An Australian GP, by contrast, will see 20-25 patients per day.
This concerns the young, newly trained doctors. I posted some concerns about the issue of primary care in the US.
Primary care here is referred to as “General Practice” in Britain and they seem to be having a loss at both ends of the doctor career.
Britain is already suffering from a serious, and unprecedented, shortage of GPs, on a scale that doctors’ leaders say is fast becoming a crisis.
According to figures released last week, a staggering 10.2 per cent of full-time GP positions across the UK are currently vacant, a figure that has quadrupled in the past three years.
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Posted in Big Government, Britain, Health Care, Medicine | 9 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
When we originally planned to go to Brussels, we were going to take the the Eurostar to Brussels, which is rather cheap and takes only two hours. However, a Eurostar train was stranded in June by rioting “migrants” in Calais.
Anarchy erupted in the French port yesterday as striking workers started fires blocking both ferry and train routes.
As ferry workers shut the port gates, trapping some lorry drivers inside, monstrous queues built up around the train entrace, as passengers and truckers became desperate to get to Britain. The queues still haven’t dissipated.
Madness continued after strikers, protesting feared job cuts, also made it onto the tracks setting more tyres alight.
Both Eurotunnel and Eurostar suspended their services due to the disruption.
After reading that, and at the invitation of our friends, we decided to take the older surface ferry to Dunkirk. The riots were a combination of rioting migrants and rioting French workers who were complaining about the migrants.
This was much more peaceful and gave us the opportunity to see the site of the 1940 evacuation of the British Army.
Our return from Brussels was via Calais but also by surface ferry. The reason was interesting.
This is an enormous wine market, the size of a Costco or WalMart in the states. It turns out that Britain taxes the sale of wine so heavily that most middle class wine lovers travel to France to buy wine and bring it home on the ferry in their cars. Our hosts assured us that this is legal and one wonders what the British government thinks about the incentives they have created. That wine store was one of three or four we saw in the area.
Here is a sign in the wine store offering to pay the fare for the ferry round trip if wine is ordered online and picked up at the store by the buyer. Since the ferry fare is about 100 pounds, this is a huge promotion, although one our friends were unaware of until I called it to their attention. They bought a year’s supply of wine and loaded it into the VW camper van we were using. The cost was around a thousand pounds and, unfortunately, the offer required advance online purchase so they did not get the deal.
We then drove on to Calais, passing migrant camps by the road.
Here is a migrant shanty town seen through the car window in passing. The camps are walled off from the highway by new high fences along the motorway to the Calais ferry terminal. The fences are tall and topped with razor wire.
Here is the fence along the motorway which seems intended to keep the migrants from trying to break into trucks (lorries) on the highway.
In the Calais terminal, we did see some people who looked like migrants although they could have been legal residents waiting for the ferry.
These small groups were walking through the parked trucks and cars waiting for the ferry. I did not see them enter a car of truck. When we reached Dover again, our friends took us to the train station and we took the train to London. It was an enjoyable and informative trip. We spent another four days in London and flew home on the 21st.
Posted in Britain, Europe, Islam, Personal Narrative, Terrorism | 11 Comments »
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 22nd September 2015 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
We spent the day yesterday ( the 16th) at Waterloo. The battle field is largely preserved and reminds me a bit of Gettysburg. There is an excellent museum and we spent an hour or so at Hougoumont Farm where the battle really began.
Napoleon planned to draw Wellington’s reserve to Wellington’s right flank in defence of Hougoumont and then attack through the centre left of the British and allies’ front near La Haye Sainte.
Before the battle started, Hougoumont and its gardens, located on the allies’ right flank, were garrisoned and fortified by the 1st Battalion, 2nd Nassau Regiment, with additional detachments of jägers and landwehr from von Kielmansegge’s 1st (Hanoverian) Brigade. The light company of the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards under the command of Lt-Colonel Henry Wyndham, was also stationed in the farm and chateaux, and the light company of the 2nd Battalion, Third Guards, under Lt-Colonel Charles Dashwood in the garden and grounds
The fighting here lasted all day and ended finally when the defenders were forced out as the buildings burned. It was too late for the French which had been reenforcing failure all day.
The French eventually committed 14,000 troops to Hougoumont Farm, of whom 8,000 were killed. The most famous encounter was The Battle of the Closing of the gate. The French had surrounded the farm which was an enclosed bastion of brick and stone walls with a gate access to the rear. They managed to force open the gate with axes into the yard but a few British soldiers managed to close it again and all the French who had gained the yard were killed. The few who closed the gate, were to be famous after the battle.
Sous-Lieutenant Legro, of the French 1st Light Infantry, broke through the wooden doors with an axe, allowing French soldiers to flood the courtyard. Graham’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel James Macdonnell, led his men through the melee in the courtyard to the gates, in an attempt to shut them against the pressing French. This was done with the help of three officers (Captain Wyndham, Ensign Hervey, and Ensign Gooch), Corporal Graham, and a few other soldiers including Graham’s brother Joseph. James Graham was the one to slot the bar in place. Flagstones, carts, and debris were then piled against the gates to hold them secure. The Frenchmen trapped within the courtyard were all killed, apart from a young drummer-boy.
The crucial mistake made here was by Napoleon’s brother, Prince Jerome, who commanded the first French troops to attack Hougoumont Farm. When they were repulsed, Jerome kept reenforcing the attack and drew the French focus to the strong point which resisted all day.
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Posted in Britain, Europe, History, Military Affairs | 5 Comments »
Posted by David Foster on 20th September 2015 (All posts by David Foster)
(Originally posted in August 2014. I think the current situation in Europe makes it appropriate for a rerun)
Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too by Claire Berlinski
I read this book shortly after it came out in 2006, and just re-read it in the light of the anti-Semitic ranting and violence which is now ranging across Europe. It is an important book, deserving of a wide readership.
The author’s preferred title was “Blackmailed by History,” but the publisher insisted on “Menace.” Whatever the title, the book is informative, thought-provoking, and disturbing. Berlinski is good at melding philosophical thinking with direct observation. She holds a doctorate in international relations from Oxford, and has lived and worked in Britain, France, and Turkey, among other countries. (Dr Berlinski, may I call you Claire?)
The book’s dark tour of Europe begins in the Netherlands, where the murder of film director Theo van Gogh by a radical Muslim upset at the content of a film was quickly followed by the cancellation of that movie’s planned appearance at a film festival–and where an artist’s street mural with the legend “Thou Shalt Not Kill” was destroyed by order of the mayor of Rotterdam, eager to avoid giving offense to Muslims. (“Self-Extinguishing Tolerance” is the title of the chapter on Holland.) Claire moves on to Britain and analyzes the reasons why Muslim immigrants there have much higher unemployment and lower levels of assimilation than do Muslim immigrants to the US, and also discusses the unhinged levels of anti-Americanism that she finds among British elites. (Novelist Margaret Drabble: “My anti-Americanism has become almost uncontrollable. It has possessed me, like a disease. It rises up in my throat like acid reflux…”) While there has always been a certain amount of anti-Americanism in Britain, the author notes that “traditionally, Britain’s anti-American elites have been vocal, but they have generally been marginalized as chattering donkeys” but that now, with 1.6 million Muslim immigrants in Britain (more worshippers at mosques than at the Church of England), the impact of these anti-Americans can be greatly amplified. (Today, there are apparently more British Muslims fighting for ISIS than serving in the British armed forces.)
One of the book’s most interesting chapters is centered around the French farmer and anti-globalization leader Jose Bove, whose philosophy Berlinski summarizes as “crop worship”….”European men and women still confront the same existential questions, the same suffering as everyone who has ever been born. They are suspicious now of the Church and of grand political ideologies, but they nonetheless yearn for the transcendent. And so they worship other things–crops, for example, which certain Europeans, like certain tribal animists, have come to regard with superstitious awe.”
The title of this chapter is “Black-Market Religion: The Nine Lives of Jose Bove,” and Berlinski sees the current Jose Bove as merely one in a long line of historical figures who hawked similar ideologies. They range from a man of unknown name born in Bourges circa AD 560, to Talchem of Antwerp in 1112, through Hans the Piper of Niklashausen in the late 1400s, and on to the “dreamy, gentle, and lunatic Cathars” of Languedoc and finally to Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Berlinski sees all these people as being basically Christian heretics, with multiple factors in common. They tend appeal to those whose status or economic position is threatened, and to link the economic anxieties of their followers with spiritual ones. Quite a few of them have been hermits at some stage in their lives. Most of them have been strongly anti-Semitic. And many of the “Boves” have been concerned deeply with purity…Bove coined the neologism malbouffe, which according to Google Translate means “junk food,” but Berlinski says that translation “does not capture the full horror of bad bouffe, with its intimation of contamination, pollution, poison.” She observes that “the passionate terror of malbouffe–well founded or not–is also no accident; it recalls the fanatic religious and ritualistic search for purity of the Middle Ages, ethnic purity included. The fear of poisoning was widespread among the millenarians…” (See also this interesting piece on environmentalist ritualism as a means of coping with anxiety and perceived disorder.)
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Posted in Anti-Americanism, Big Government, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Europe, Film, France, Germany, History, Immigration, Islam, Judaism, Leftism, Religion | 5 Comments »
Posted by Helen on 12th September 2015 (All posts by Helen)
Woop-de-doo! We have a Labour Leader and a Deputy, Jeremy Corbyn and Tom Watson, so the Tom and Jerry jokes have begun. At the moment nobody has the slightest idea what the new Leader’s policies are as he has never had any before and has not, in fact, had much of a political career. We wait with bated breath but as I have written in my latest posting on Your Freedom And Ours, at least his waffle about the European Union does not indicate any support for Brexit. That would be disastrous as we would lose many votes in the referendum.
Posted in Britain, Leftism | 3 Comments »