Saturday, October 31, 2009

For those who do not know ...

... where the quote comes from and for those who do but are happy to drool over the debonair Captain Louis Renault as played by Claude Rains, here it is. Captain Renault is shocked, shocked to discover that gambling goes on at Rick's, where everybody goes.

Has anyone ever wondered how Ilse (Ingrid Berman) managed to carry that fantastically elegant and varied wardrobe while running for her life through Nazi occupied Europe? The hat boxes alone would have alerted the Gestapo.

Friday, October 30, 2009

MEPs' passes

The 4th Report of the House of Lords House Committee deals with parliamentary passes issued to UK members of the Toy European Parliament. Hitherto those members were automatically issued with passes that
entitled [them] to access Peers' Lobby, the Galleries of the House, the Committee Corridor, the offices of the European Union Committee and the Guest Room. Similar access rights have been granted by the House of Commons.
All this is about to change. Members of the House of Commons, who saw nothing wrong in welcoming unrepentant terrorists who had tried to murder the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet and, in fact, succeeded in killing five people and injuring many more, into Parliament’s hallowed portals, have decided that they could not live with the thought of said portals being polluted by members of the BNP.
An effective ban on British National party members of the European Parliament entering Westminster was imposed by MPs. Leader of the House Harriet Harman, tabled a motion withdrawing automatic access hitherto available to all MEPs.
The only trouble is you can’t do that. You can’t decide that some MEPs can and others cannot have a pass to the Houses of Parliament. So they had to withdraw access rights from all UK MEPs.
3. On 20 October 2009, following a recommendation from the Administration Committee, the House of Commons agreed to remove the access rights of UK MEPs, and therefore their entitlement to a Parliamentary photographic security pass.

4. The decision of the House of Commons in practice cannot take effect without the assent of this House since photographic security passes grant access to the whole Parliamentary Estate.
Now we have a problem. What are the members of the Toy Parliament going to do if they wish to wander round the Real Parliament, whose powers they have usurped? They can come in as guests or they can acquire parliamentary passes within the existing structure, as officers of the House, spouses or partners of Members or staff of Members. If a new category is created for them, the same problem will emerge: if there are special passes for some MEPs there has to be special passes for all of them. And you can be quite sure Nick Griffin will not let them forget it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A few links that might be of interest

Firstly, the Czech Constitutional Court has finally assembled to examine the complaint that the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty may not be in accordance with the Czech Constitution. Luboš Motl gives a blow by blow account of the first day, which has decided nothing, as one would expect. It is unlikely that the decision will be anything but the obvious one: yes, indeed, the treaty is entirely in accordance with the Czech Constitution even if the latter has to be rewritten completely. Still, we shall be watching this.

Meanwhile, in Iceland public support for EU membership is falling, as reported by the invaluable blog EU News from Iceland.

The majority of Icelanders don't want to adopt the euro or join the European Union according to the results of a new opinion poll published yesterday. The poll was produced by the company Miðlun for the news website The question asked was: "What currency arrangement do you think would best suit Iceland?" Some 55 percent wanted a policy which does not involve EU membership.

Only 24 percent said they though Iceland should adopt the euro by first joining the EU. However, 26 percent said they thought it was best for Iceland to keep its own currency, the króna. Some 29 percent said Iceland should adopt foreign currency unilaterally, of those only 9 percent wanted the euro. Finally 21 percent were undecided.

If the undecided are excluded some 70 percent of Icelanders do not want to adopt the euro by joining the EU. Only about 30 percent are in favour of that. Even if the 9 percent who want the euro unilaterally are put together with those who want the single currency by first joining the EU it only slightly alters the picture.

But punishment for Icelandic fiscal improvidence is stern: McDonalds is leaving the country. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the nearest place for the inhabitants of Rejkjavik to get a Big Mac will be in Dublin. Then again, they think Iceland would have been better off in the eurozone, which is not the experience of countries that are in it. Mind you, they are not losing their McDonalds outlets. Not yet, anyway.

And finally, the other tranzi organization – the UN. From UN Watch Briefing we get the following fascinating and not unexpected news:
Ms. Gay McDougall, the U.N.'s chief monitor of discrimination against minority groups, and a leading defender of the 2001 Durban conference, just wrapped up a 10-day investigation of Canada by accusing it of failures and "significant and persistent problems." She has never investigated any of the countries listed by Freedom House as the world's worst abusers: not China, Cuba, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Burma,Chinese-ruled Tibet, South Ossetia in Georgia, Chechnya in Russia, or Zimbabwe.
I am shocked, I tell you, shocked.
In a related development, the U.N. human rights office is also investigating the United States as a country of singular concern. The “special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing” has decided to conduct her next investigation in the U.S., particularly in New York City. Writing in the Opinio Juris blog, Professor Julian Ku of Hofstra Law School notes that the U.N. monitor "is going to spend her time on a country which is unlikely to be in the top ten places with lack of adequate housing, and which in any event, is not a party to any of the treaties which form her mandate." But the anti-Western voting blocs that control the U.N. Human Rights Council -- and appoint its experts -- will no doubt be very pleased.
Indeed. Remind me, why are the United States, Canada and other Western countries paying for this?

The National Post has a rather sarcastic piece on the subject. So mean.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Strange developments

When, during the election campaign, Barack Obama said over and over again that his aim was to make the United States loved in the world again, exhibiting once again his extraordinary lack of historical and political knowledge, few people realized that he did not mean loved by friends and allies but by enemies and the worst dictators in the world. Not that they responded with love to his overtures but it is astonishing to see how consistently President Obama and his Administration have pushed aside friends and allied democracies in order to reach out to enemies, who also happen to be tyrannies.

Paul Greenberg writes in the Jewish World Review in an article mostly devoted to the customary Israel-bashing by the UN Human Rights Council, including “both China and Russia, those great exemplars of human rights” and “the Arab bloc, another bastion of human rights”:
These days even the United States, under our new administration, is adopting a softer, gentler tone toward the genocidal regime in Khartoum. For that matter, Washington is moving to "engage" Teheran and Moscow, too. And the military dictatorship in Burma to boot. Any regime that really violates human rights can hope to get a sympathetic hearing from this new crew at the State Department.
Sudan is singled out for mention because the chairman of the UN’s Arab bloc this month is the delegate from that country andis undoubtedly eminently well qualified to speak about human rights.

The article is mostly about the infamous Goldstone Report and repercussions thereof but, for the purposes of this posting, I picked out the reference to the new line in American foreign policy.

It is interesting that Mr Greenberg mentions the Burmese military junta because that is a very unfashionable tyranny. Political wonks and media sages who are happy to give China or Iran a pass, tend to be up in arms about Burma. Come to think of it, they used to be up in arms about Darfur. Whatever happened to that outrage?

So, if the new Administration is ready to defy fashionable opinion over Burma, it really is ready to extend the hand of friendship to all dictators.

Meanwhile, the word is that President Obama is going to give the twentieth anniversary celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall a miss. He presumably does not think a trip to Berlin now when he is no longer campaigning for the presidency to be of any importance. Besides, given his predilection for dealing with tyrants and dislike of spontaneous public movements, he may not like those pictures (if he has ever seen them) of people taking the Wall apart.

Michael Barone shows himself to be unimpressed:
PRESIDENT Obama, who found time to go on a 24-hour jaunt to Copenha gen on Oct. 2 to seek the 2016 Olympic Games for Chicago, apparently can't find the time for a 24-hour trip to Berlin on Nov. 9 for a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Well, we all have our priorities, and the president can't be everywhere at once, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will surely represent America ably in Berlin.
Mind you, says Mr Barone, when one remembers what the then Senator Obama said in his speech in the Tiergarten about fighting for freedom, defeating the Taleban and Al-Qaeda, standing together against the various threats and compares it with his dithering over Afghanistan and frequently shown preference for enemies of freedom, it might be a good idea for him not to go. Madame Secretary of State, who will be brought out of the closet and dusted off for the occasion, will manage.

Read Barone’s article. Well worth it.

Another murder

My attention has been drawn to the murder of a pro-Putin United Russia member of a regional council, committed by persons so far unknown a few days ago. As RIA Novosti reports,
A United Russia regional councillor was killed near Moscow on Wednesday evening, a police source told RIA Novosti on Thursday.

Grigory Nosikov, 48, was a member of the town council in Kubinka, some 60 miles west of the capital.

His body was found by his wife next to the automatic gates of their private house at 8:30 p.m. (16:30 GMT) on Wednesday. It was initially believed that he had been shot dead, but later established that he had been killed with a sharp object, the source said.

Nosikov was also the owner of the Zalesye transportation company, and police are working on the theory that his murder could have been connected to his business activities.
The story is confirmed by ITAR-TASS in almost exactly the same words. The story was picked up by the Romanian Ziua Online and by Sean’s Russian blog where I found it as did Robert Amsterdam, who is as skeptical of Sean’s conclusions as I am.

Sean is Sean Guillory, who is castigated by La Russophobe in a comment to Robert Amsterdam’s posting. Before we get too involved in all this mud-slinging among commentators on Russia, let us have a look what Sean G. is saying.

His view appears to be that somehow it is wrong to make a fuss about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya if one does not make an equal fuss about the murder of a pro-Putin politician. Look, he seems to be saying, it is not only anti-Putin activists get killed and, in any case, they are of no importance whatsoever. When will the Western media start paying attention to what matters and, in the process, take up the correct pro-Putin position?

There are several problems here. The first is that the Russian media does not seem to be all that interested in Nosikov’s murder, while it was in Politkovskaya’s, Markelov’s and, more recently, Estemirova’s. There is an article in Moskovsky Komsomolets that shows no doubt that Grigory Nosikov was killed by the local “Mafiosi” for reasons of business enmity. One or two other pieces took the same line.

Secondly, Politkovskaya was murdered for political reasons because of her courageous insistence on reporting what she perceived to be the truth in Russian and Chechnya. Nosikov is most likely to have been killed for business reasons, not the first nor the last to suffer that fate in Russia. To suggest that because he is one of the “fleecers” as Sean does sarcastically his murder is either more important or less comprehensible (it is unclear what he means) is silly. Has the man not heard of the expression “thieves falling out”?

For some reason, Sean also thinks that murder of politicians should carry a heavier sentence than does ordinary murder. I must say, it would never occur to me to say that the murder of a journalist and human rights activist should carry a heavier sentence than any other kind; but I did express some scepticism as to whether the perpetrators would ever be found, let alone tried. So far my scepticism seems to have been accurate.

Most importantly, however, the likes of Sean Guillory do not seem to realize that if the western media does pick up this story, it will not be to their hero’s credit. He links to an article in the well regarded weekly, Argumenty i Fakty, which lists twenty-four city and state parliamentary members that have been murdered since 1992, 12 of them under Putin (and, one assumes, Medvedev). This list does not include those murdered in Chechnya or Ingushetiya or those killed after they had stopped being “elected” politicians.

This is not a pretty picture. When Dimitry Medvedev, himself a lawyer and not a security service operator, became president, he announced that his mission was to turn Russia into a state of law and order. This does not seem to have happened. Under the dual rule of Putin and his teddy bear (mishka) Russia has remained lawless. Or as Russians would put it, бандитская страна, a bandit country. If the western media wrote about that, Sean Guillory would be one of the first to cry foul.

Monday, October 26, 2009

And the world goes on

Three days have gone by since the revolution that did not happen because of the appearance of the BNP leader on the BBC and, astonishingly enough, the world has gone on in its own way. In that time I stayed away from my computer, not because I was expecting a revolution but because I was having something called life. This included my first ever visit to the Cabinet War Rooms and Churchill Museum in Horseguards Parade, a viewing of the newly restored version of Anthony Asquith’s 1928 film “Underground”, a long walk in the Lea Valley and another first: American football at Wembley. Still, the world has gone on.

Some people are still posting edited versions of Nick Griffin’s appearance on YouTube; Conservatives, forgetful of their own role as ever, are blaming Labour for the rise of the BNP and, it seems, beginning to turn their attention to UKIP who might “save Brown”. I am expecting a huge surge in UKIP popularity as a result of that attention. But, by and large, the story is finished. Time to do a quick round-up and leave it alone, as the Boss has already done on EURef.

My immediate feeling is one of pity or compassion for the international socialists. Consider: they think they have won the propaganda war, waged since the early thirties. They have managed to convince most people that national socialists are not only uniquely evil but are also creatures of the right while the international socialists are seen as possibly misguided but well-meaning groups and individuals on the left, their viciousness and support for totalitarian regimes conveniently forgotten.

They should be in the studio, on Question Time, discussing elevated matters with other politicians who would not behave to them as they do towards the national socialists. Alas, despite the support of the political class that includes most of the media, the international socialists were rioting outside TV Centre, periodically trying to storm the building and being dragged out by security and police while Nick Griffin was inside, basking in the publicity. All this happened for one reason only: notwithstanding the basically obnoxious qualities of both kinds of socialists and socialism, the national variety manages to appeal to more people than the international kind, despite the latter’s supposed intellectual sophistication.

I did not watch the programme, not having a TV set (catch me contributing to the BBC’s coffers!) and having better things to do. However, I have read some of the reactions. The first ones I saw was a long list on Facebook where people seemed to be reacting as the programme proceeded and immediately afterwards.

It soon became obvious that everyone saw and heard what they wanted to see and hear. As I read other reactions on the following day, it became equally obvious that not all that was seen and heard was accurate or, at least, there were several interpretations.

Thus, the praise poured on Baroness Warsi, who had been promoted to the House of Lords and a ministerial position on the basis of very slender achievements, may have been a little misguided as she seems to have made a few incredibly silly statements, such as the one about there being no bogus asylum seekers. That must have gone down well with the audience outside the BBC. She also, apparently, ignored comments by Mr Griffin about the treatment of women in Islamic groups and societies, an unwise thing to do.

In the Metro on Friday, Baroness Warsi is quoted as saying:
Many people who vote for the BNP are not racist and therefore what we have to do is go out and say to these people as mainstream political parties we are prepared to listen to them.
So very kind. They are prepared to listen to the people of this country who put them in Parliament and in government (well, not Baroness Warsi, who was promoted beyond her abilities by the Boy-King of the Conservative Party). What more could one ask for?

The comment sounds extremely sensible but for one point, apart from the somewhat condescending tone, which makes one grind one's teeth: the Conservative Party has been allegedly listening for years. Is Baroness Warsi saying that all that listening is only about to start? What about talking? With the election about six months away, we should all like to hear what the main stream parties have to say about various subjects.

The other participant to elicit high praise was Bonnie Greer, a writer and broadcaster, though I must admit to ignorance about both aspects of her career. I have heard the name before, though.

Friday’s Evening Standard, which headlined one of the several articles on the subject: “BNP chief’s TV grilling seen by 8m”, decided that Ms Greer clearly needed a bit of publicity. One assumes that the headline was accurate and what should have been a discussion of many subjects turned into an all-out attack on one participant. In fact, the whole programme was about the BNP and its leader. Is this quite what those opponents, urged by international socialist advocates, wanted?

What of Ms Greer’s free publicity? It consisted of a two-page article-cum-interview by David Cohen, entitled “When Bonnie met Nick”, with Bonnie in considerably larger font than the rest of the heading.

Most of the article is about Ms Greer’s rather prissy shudderings an self-analysis about what she thought and felt about meeting the dreaded Mr Griffin and, perhaps, sitting next to him. Oh the horror. Smelling salts, please.

My guess is that the sub-editors were a little fed up with all that preciousness as well. The article is accompanied by a large picture of Mr Griffin, looking presentable for a change, smiling thoughtfully into the distance with Ms Greer slightly behind him, in profile, staring at him with contempt. The pull-out quote says:
He leaned towards me like I was his new best friend. ‘Bonnie do you find it scary?’ I looked at him straight in they eye. ‘No, but you might’.
Hmmm. If I were Bonnie Greer, I’d sack my publicity manager. That is not likely to go down terribly well with readers, even assuming they have not become bored with the subject of her nobility by the time they reach pages 20 and 21 of the Evening Standard.

I shall ignore any further analyses of what Griffin said and what Straw said and what anybody else said. Experience tells one that audiences rarely recall such details but go by overall impressions. Let’s see what those might be.

In the first place, it is reasonable to suppose that Nick Griffin may well have appeared out of his depth but what most people would have seen is one man being attacked by four co-panellists, the chairman and the entire baying, howling audience.

Secondly, people will remember the (smallish but unpleasant) riots outside TV Centre and those unpleasant looking louts who tried to get inside being dragged out by police and security.

Thirdly, they will probably recall one or two howlers, most of them not by Mr Griffin but his highly sophisticated opponents. They will also consider that certain issues, such as immigration, have been discussed on BBC prime time for the first time entirely because of the BNP’s progress in politics.

Fourthly, the entire programme will be known as the BNP Question Time, giving that small and unimportant party yet more standing.

I understand Nick Griffin smiled throughout most of the programme. I am not surprised. Things have turned out very well for him. The international socialists have lost again despite the help they received from the media and numerous misguided Conservatives.

A dialogue in dance

One of this blog's readers sent me a link to another Astaire and Rogers number, this time from Roberta. It is a delight, partly because of Ginger's outfit for which most women would, if not kill, then definitely fight and scratch but mostly because it is a wonderful example of that dialogue that the two dancers used to have with their feet in the films. Enjoy.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

From the frontline

White City, which is just down the road from me, seems to have become the frontline in the struggle between national and international socialism. When I went past TV Centre just after midday on my way to the post office (to collect a copy of “The Best Seat in the House – the Wit and Parliamentary Chronicles of Frank Johnson”) bleary-eyed members of the Socialist Workers’ Party, representatives of international socialism whose electoral support wavers between nil and ten per constituency, were setting up their stalls and rather half-heartedly trying to buttonhole people and get them to sign a petition. They were not very successful – in Shepherds Bush and White City we get very agile in avoiding bores who try to hand us something, get us to sign something or harangue us about something.

All the same, I wish they had stopped me. I was longing to ask them why they disliked the BNP’s collectivist agenda. Ah well, maybe when I go out again to head towards the BBC Russian Service where we shall be discussing … yes, you’ve guessed it …. the BNP.

So there were about two dozen all together, manning and womanning stalls and demonstrating with placards, easily outnumbered by media photographers and cameramen. The local police was gathering in numbers and the helicopters are flying as I write. Any excuse will do to play with nice toys. One can but hope that no gang killings are scheduled for this afternoon or evening.

At present, international socialism may think it is winning the propaganda battle but it is national socialism that has representatives in one or two elected assemblies and whose leader is on Question Time.

I am not convinced even about the propaganda battle. Peter Hain’s announcement that the BBC was acting illegally by inviting Nick Griffin was not only swatted aside by lawyers but was greeted with derision by the few people who were paying attention. Presumably, he was fulfilling his usual role of the pit canary. It is always our Peter who makes some outlandish pronouncement while the Labour leadership watches. If there is an outcry, he is disowned as it happened this time.

It is sad to see Conservatives getting involved in this fight and giving the BNP extra amounts of publicity in the process. Nothing British, a slightly odd organization, that is dedicated to proving that there is nothing British about the BNP even organized a breakfast this morning (a terrible idea, in my opinion) to proclaim this fact. When the invitation arrived yesterday I thought it was going to be a breakfast at which no British food was going to be served and was about to direct them towards some excellent British bacon. Sadly, these people do not care about food.

Nor am I terribly impressed by all this whining about the reputation of the British military being under attack. If generals kept out of party politics, as their constitutional duty requires, there would be no attacks and no besmirching. Blame Generals Dannatt, Jackson and Guthrie for the unhappy state of affairs.

Meanwhile, the Evening Standard is covering the story in an interesting fashion and great detail. Its front page news article is entitled “BBC attacked from all sides in BNP storm”. Paul Waugh, the Deputy Political Editor then quotes the former Mayor, Ken Livingstone, at length. Another article refers to the opinions of Diane Abbott, a few other London MPs (unnamed but presumably Labour), the obligatory pop singers and Kawsar Zaman of the Muslim Council of Britain, that well known standard bearer of freedom and tolerance. Ahem, all sides?

On page 14 the Editorial strikes a somewhat different tone. “BNP on Question Time” – the say, - “is not the real problem.” The problem, in their opinion, is the mess that all political parties, particularly the one in government, have made over the issue of immigration (though, curiously, they do not mention the EU and its role). Let us also add, that the refusal to discuss all the ramifications of the subject help the BNP quite considerably.

Towards the back of the newspaper (opposite the page where the various crosswords and suchlike delights are) there is the usual online poll. Yesterday’s question was “Should the BBC Trust block Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time?” 17 per cent said Yes and 83 per cent said No.

I am not convinced that international socialism is really winning that battle of propaganda.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sensitive hypocrisy

It is, in many ways, so much easier to be on the right of the political spectrum because it is so much less likely that one is accused of hypocrisy. Trying to reduce one’s tax bill? No problem. Everyone should be paying lower taxes because people are more likely to use their money sensibly (or, at least, the way they really want to) than governments.

Trying to get one’s offspring into a good school? No problem. Everyone should have choices in schooling and, if that requires some kind of a voucher system at first, so be it. And so on.

Even if one finds oneself using state controlled enterprises and organizations there can be no accusation of hypocrisy as the system is such that few people can avoid doing so at some point and, in any case, we do actually pay for all those huge juggernauts.

So different for those on the left, who tend to preach unselfishness to the rest of us while practising enlightened self-interest for themselves.

This extends to other matters, such as sensitivity, anti-racism, feminism (about which I have written on numerous occasions) and general lack of nastiness, all of which the left claims for itself, displaying all the bad things in abundance but squealing with horror the moment criticism is aimed at them.

It did not surprise me in the slightest that after the filthy and prolonged abuse that the left had hurled at President Bush, his wife, his family, at Condoleezza Rice, at Sarah Palin and her family, there was squealing at the slightest attack aimed at President Obama. To this day, as I found when I commented on other blogs about the preposterous Peace Prize, there is personal abuse directed at anybody critical of The One.

Presumably, somewhere at the back of these people’s minds there is an unwanted picture of Bush putting up with all that abuse without a single complaint and Obama with his coterie whining each time and, presumably, this unwanted picture makes people ever more hysterical.

When it comes to Britain the hypocrisy of sensitivity is not restricted to the left but has spread to what we laughingly call the right that is the Conservative Party. It seems that soon after the Conservative Party Conference Ben Bradshaw (Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, since you ask) Twittered some unpleasant personal attacks on David Cameron.

I am not on Twitter and if I were I would not waste my time following self-important politicians so I have to rely on other people’s accounts but there seems to be a general idea that the attack had something to do with the tragic death of little Ivan Cameron earlier this year and, possibly, his life as a severely disabled child. Not nice and completely unnecessary.

Then again, I was a little puzzled at the display of sensibility by various Tories on blogs and Facebook (where I do have a presence); smelling salts were called for; fainting people had to be revived ever so gently.

Ahem, I said, rather quietly, as is my wont, what of the times you people attacked Gordon Brown personally? What of all the comments about his health, physical and mental?

The responses were rather odd. One person wrote that this was completely different. At least, I think that is what he wrote but as he seemed unable to string a coherent sentence together and started his comment by informing me that it was no wonder that I supported Labour, we can discard his opinion as being worthless.

Others assured me with a straight face that no Tory has ever attacked Brown on personal grounds. Well, not on the Conference platform, anyway. Well, neither did any Labour politician attack Cameron on the Conference platform. This is a silly argument. My point was quite simple: personal attacks on politicians are not a good idea though it is hard for one lot of socialists to attack another lot on political grounds. However, if you do it yourself than do not squeal when the direction of the manure is reversed.

Since then, we have had the still continuing saga of Stephen Gately’s death, his elevation to sainthood without all the paraphernalia of miracles, Devil’s Advocates and Papal decisions, and the unfortunate hounding of Jan Moir, a mostly harmless hackette, started by Stephen Fry, also on Twitter. The word sensitivity was brandished quite extensively. Jan Moir and those of us who tried to protest in the name of freedom of speech were subjected to quite exceptionally vile abuse, all in the name of sensitivity.

Which leads me to an even wider question of sensitivity and hypocrisy and the harm that combination can do. One of the books I am reading at the moment is Nicola Humble’s Culinary Pleasures, a highly entertaining and somewhat idiosyncratic history of cookery books from Mrs Beeton’s magisterial tome to the present day.

She does mention one or two of Mrs Beeton’ immediate predecessors but seems unaware of early eighteenth century and seventeenth century books to which several of the ones she covers hark back.

Any history of cookery books or “cookbooks” as Ms Humble refers to them is likely to be idiosyncratic because with very few exceptions it is almost impossible to tell what was really popular and influential at a certain period. I am not sure Ms Humble even tries, preferring to follow her own interests. She is, however, on safe ground with Mrs Beeton, whose Book of Household Management she has edited to produce a shortened version for Penguin Publishing.

Isabella Beeton, whose complete book is now available in facsimile edition and on the internet (also here and several other sites), has had a bad press over the many decades after her untimely death, while her book was destroyed by publishers, a false persona was created by the same and every single thing that is wrong with English cooking was attributed to her.

In actual fact, the book is quite sensible; it is full of interesting information about middle class household management of the period (though as Ms Humble rightly points out it is important to separate description from aspiration); and its advice is often extremely practical.

Nicola Humble is eminently fair to Mrs Beeton but, as a life-long vegetarian, has a problem with the latter’s emphasis on meat. In particular, Ms Humble thinks, that there is something hypocritical about someone writing about the need for animals to be kept well and slaughtered humanely who also gives many different ways of dealing with the meat with few pages between the various passages. The first, in the author’s opinion, points to a modern, urban view of animals, while the second takes us back to a more savage era.

I fear that it is Ms Humble and her likes who can be accused of hypocrisy brought about by our old friend, sensitivity.

For instance on page 39 of my paperback edition we can read, as an introduction to one of Mrs Beeton’s recipes:
This is a typically brisk set of instructions in which some of the crucial details are dealt with rather quickly: ‘collaring’ as a culinary procedure means to roll up and tie with string, s it is the calf’s head itself that should be rolled tightly, not just the cloth in which it is wrapped, a distinction that Beeton’s prose leaves rather vague. It is also unclear whether the head should be divided completely or just split to facilitate removal of brains and bones. Beeton follows this recipe with a note on feeding the calf, in which she instructs that ‘if the weather is fine and genial, it should be turned into an orchard or paddock for a few hours each day, to give it opportunity to acquire a relish for the fresh pasture’. The gruesome contrast between this image and the calf’s eventual fate does not appear to strike her – despite her concern with decent animal husbandry she has none of our modern squeamishness about killing animals for food.
There follows a recipe for Collared Calf’s Head that is neither hard to understand not particularly gruesome but hard to follow nowadays, partly because few kitchens are big enough or well enough equipped for the preparation but largely because health and safety regulations have made it impossible for butchers (where there are any still left) to sell any animal’s heads for food.
The real problem is that last, incredibly sensitive sentence. With respect to Ms Humble, most people are not vegetarians and there is no way of eating meat without killing animals first. But she is right in pointing out that too many people are squeamish about that and would prefer not to think about it.

The outcome is precisely the opposite of what might be expected. Mrs Beeton, who had spent most of her life in the small town of Epsom, knew about animal husbandry and slaughtering. She knew the link between that and the production of food and was anxious to campaign for humane treatment of animals, because of that. People with modern squeamishness would rather not think about the way animals are kept for meat or dairy, let alone about the conditions in which they are slaughtered. They are so squeamish and so sensitive that they would rather ignore animal suffering than to think about it.

This was brought home to me forcefully when I was involved in an investigation into the fate of small and medium-sized slaughterhouses after various EU directives had been imposed on the industry and a campaign to alter rules in order to save the remaining ones.

Newspaper editors who might have been interested in another campaign against EU over-regulation and British gold-plating, refused to touch the story: their readers did not like to hear about animals being slaughtered. Oh yes, they ate meat but they were not anxious to be reminded about the realities of food production. The RSPCA produced one learned report that nobody read but mumbled apologetically when asked why they did not devote some of their enormous resources to the saving of small and medium-sized abattoirs on grounds of animal welfare. And so on, and so on, with the honourable exception of the Humane Slaughter Association.

And don’t even get me on the subject of international development aid and sensitivity. That requires another long posting.

Obama's war

Clinton's war was in the Balkans (and that failed attempt in Somalia); Bush's wars are in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Obama's war is much nearer home - it is being waged against Fox News, which is winning hands down. I am not going to write about it because there are numerous American blogs, such as Neo-neocon and Sister Toldjah, who are following the story in all its appallingness. But I could not resist this headline, quoted by Instapundit: "Obama's war on Fox News becomes a quagmire". Heh!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Everyone needs cheering up

So here is something cheerful for Monday: one of my favourite Astaire-Rogers dances from Swingtime.

Pure bliss.

A reminder

I posted about this before but a reminder is often useful. Tomorrow evening the New Culture Forum is hosting a discussion about the situation after the War of the Danish Cartoons in Committee Room 4 of the House of Lords. More information here.

California legislates against libel tourism

I mentioned in a previous posting that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a law to protect American citizens in California from the depredations of libel tourism, whose destination, I am sad to say, is this country.

A couple of days later, two British newspapers caught up with the story. A straightforward account in the Daily Mail, which mentions that the process of protecting Americans from this insiduous practice has moved a little further than I had realized. Not only New York but Illinois has passed such a law and there is one in the pipeline in Florida.

Roy Greenslade reports in the Guardian but, judging by his intervention in the exchange of comments, has only a slender grasp of what he is writing about. Still, I would not like to see him silenced.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Freedom of speech

Modern technology is wonderful. As I knew that I would not be anywhere near a computer for several hours (and even longer, as it turned out) after the anti-Wilders demonstration outside the House of Lords offices, I could simply e-mail the pictures I took to the boss of EURef and up they went while I was still on my way to the next event in my life on Friday. However, I thought I would put them up here, as well.

The two posters with messages are self-explanatory; I could not get good photos of some of the others that threatened this country with Sharia and Geert Wilders with Islamic punishment. The kind that was dealt out to Theo Van Gogh, one assumes.

The other pictures show the size of the crowd – it was never more than about 30 or 40, easily contained by the police, who behaved extremely well and professionally (credit where credit is due) and outnumbered by the media from all over the world. Some of our wonderful TV journalists were heard to express the view that there was no point in listening to Wilders’s lunacies after watching and listening to the demonstrators’ lunacies and what would be really fun is Wilders coming out and there being a punch-up (or, perhaps, a decapitation).

Then there were the rhythmically scanned slogans: “Freedom go to hell”, “UK watch your back”, “Muslims rise up”, “Sharia for Holland”, “Sharia for Britain”, “Sharia for Europe”, “Wilders go to hell” and so on and so, boringly, on.

I have to admit to an unworthy thought: could Geert Wilders have paid these guys to turn up with those idiotic posters to look just threatening enough to annoy and upset people but not so threatening as to scare anyone? So far as I know he did not but he might as well have done so.

There was a group of Dutch tourists who came along to watch and they explained to me that they were not supporters of Mr Wilders but this, one of them said with a comprehensive wave of the hand towards the bearded youths, was just too much. So extremist. They want to dominate us. They want to be in power. My guess is that whatever these people thought before Friday’s performance in Abbey Gardens, they would view Mr Wilders with a different eye from now on.

In some ways this was a victory for legality and free speech. But not entirely. After all, Mr Wilders, whose views are mostly quite sensible with one or two points with which I would certainly disagree, could not leave the office at Abbey Gardens and had to see journalists inside the building. The demonstrators had, in that sense, triumphed because the police became nervous and did not think those bozos would disperse if Mr Wilders appeared. They could not guarantee his safety and that is a sad state of affairs.

As we both pointed out on EURef (here and here), the Home Office is wondering whether to waste some more of the taxpayers’ money in trying to overturn the decision that allows Geert Wilders into the country. The story is not over: there are many aspects of it that will develop. Those of us who believe in freedom of speech need to pay attention all the time. I will not say remain vigilant because that phrase has unpleasant connotations.

Which brings me to a couple of other points, nothing to do with the bearded wonders who were threatening us all with decapitation if we did not acknowledge the goodness and peaceful intentions of Sharia law.

First and foremost, there is the mob that sells Socialist Worker in the streets of London, usually choosing non-working class areas. They were out in force yesterday afternoon by Shepherds Bush Green, corralling people who could not move fast enough to get away from them. Usually, this meant those unfortunate women in their hijab who could not speak English very well. (I always said it was stupid to cover yourself from head to toe – not the face in this case – in heavy material. I rest my case.)

The SWP, too, were putting up carefully printed posters and shouting slogans. What was their problem? Can you not guess? It was the forthcoming appearance of Nick Griffin, BNP leader and Member of the Toy Parliament on Question Time.

This must be stopped, they kept proclaiming. Griffin is a Nazi. He must not be given a chance to speak. Sadly, none of them attempted to persuade me, possibly because I was wearing slacks and trainers. Otherwise I might have pointed out to them that Mr Griffin, for better for worse, has been elected to the Toy European Parliament whereas they have never been elected even to a Parish Council.

Those of us who dislike the BNP for all sorts of reasons, not least its socialist, big-state, protectionist policies, have a particular duty to proclaim that they, too, have the right to free speech. In any case, denying them the opportunity, refusing to debate with them, plays into their hands. Why, Nick Griffin is bound to ask, will Alan Johnson not debate with him? Can he not answer the points raised? Is he hiding anything? And let us be honest: if the main stream parties (I do not look upon the SWP with their Socialist Worker as anything but demented wannabe totalitarians) cannot put up people who can tear Nick Griffin apart, they should all resign.

All this has been said so often, I am not sure why I am repeating it. Except to remind readers of what Goethe said in Part II of Faust:
He only earns his freedom and his life
Who takes them every day by storm.
There was another curious and unpleasant development on Friday when I finally did sit down in front of my computer. I found a sequence of messages from two bloggers (I shall not name and shame them) about their demands that an article by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail about the recently deceased Stephen Gately (singer from Boyzone, since you ask) in which she denied that he was a saint on earth and made unflattering comments about him, his lifestyle and even cast aspersions on the happy ever after aspect of same sex civil unions.

One may agree or not agree with any of that. So far as I can make out there are many aspects of Mr Gately’s death that have not come out but I do not intend to spend much time on them. As for “happy ever after”, all too often this does not seem to be true about either same-sex unions or more traditional marriages. These are not the point at issue and neither is Ms Moir’s journalistic talent, which is somewhat doubtful in my opinion.

What seems to have taken place was a concerted attack on Ms Moir in letters, e-mails, blog postings, some full of foul abuse, some demanding that she should be silenced and her article taken off because of its homophobia. When I finally read the piece and Ms Moir’s semi-apologetic explanation, neither of which would have come my way otherwise, I was puzzled. None of it seemed homophobic; there were no demands to abolish civil unions or to make homosexuality illegal; the article simply expressed unhappiness about the Gately story. Up with this people were not prepared to put and, after a while, I found triumphant messages about the Daily Mail taking off links to her article.

Great, I thought. Here we are, trying to fight attempts to destroy freedom of speech made by Islamist extremists while some people within our culture are demanding exactly the same: the silencing of anyone they happen to disagree with. I suppose, they did not demand the beheading of Jan Moir.

Friday, October 16, 2009

It gets worse

News comes from Russia that the historian Mikhail Suprun, whom I met years ago, when he was researching in Britain, was arrested because he has been researching into the fate of German prisoners who disappeared into Stalin's gulag during the war and whose fate has remained unknown.
Mikhail Suprun was detained last month by officers from Russia's security services. They searched his apartment and carried off his entire personal archive. He has now been charged with violating privacy laws and, if convicted, faces up to four years in jail.

Suprun had been researching Germans sent to Russia's Arctic gulags. A professor of history at Arkhangelsk's Pomorskiy university, his study included German prisoners of war captured by the Red Army as well as Russian-speaking ethnic Germans, many from southern Russia, deported by Stalin. Both groups ended up in Arkhangelsk camps.
A police official who supplied the information has also been arrested. Historians in Russia who specialize in the twentieth century have experience ever greater pressure in the last few years as the government has tried to re-cover the truth about Stalin.

The subject of the Second World War is the most sensitive of all. The truth of what happened to the Soviet troops during and after it, to Vlasov's army, to the displaced persons remains unknown to most Russians. The truth about Soviet atrocities is not just unknown but viewed officially as a smear on the courage of the Red Army and the people of the country.

Curiously enough, while there is some acknowledgement of "errors" during the Soviet period (which resulted in millions of deaths and tens of millions of people in the gulag) one always hears the undoubted fact that it was not just Russians who carried many of those bad things out. When it comes to fighting the Germans or suffering under Nazi rule, it is only Russians who are mentioned. Thus, a historian cannot be allowed to investigate the fate of German nationals or ethnic Soviet Germans because that would smear the glorious Russian army. The fact that many of those ethnic Germans fought in the Red Army can easily be ignored. On the other hand, every time there is a non-Russian name in the list of, say, NKVD officers, that is gleefully pointed out.

Professor Suprun and his informant have fallen foul of this attempt of uniting nostalgia for Soviet "greatness" with Russian nationalism.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

And talking of those cartoons

The New Culture Forum is hosting a discussion on the situation in Denmark and the West in general after the cartoons. It will be in the House of Lords, Committee Room 4 at 7 o'clock, Tuesday, October 20.

Confirmed speakers are Helle Merete Brix, journalist, author, lecturer and the editor of, the magazine of the Free Press Society and Farshad Kholghi, one of Denmark's most popular commentators and actors.

Do come if you can but allow time for getting through security checks at the gate.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do I really care?

Both this blog and EURef feel strongly about suppression of freedom, particularly in matters to do with speech and media. So why are we not that interested in the "shock, horror, Guardian has been gagged" story that is exciting the Conservative blogosphere.

There are several reasons. First of all, this is of little importance except for the Guardian that is steadily losing readers and needs some kind of publicity. We do not need newspaper reporting of Parliamentary proceedings. There is an excellent website that is very easy to follow; it publishes the Order Papers, Reports and Hansard. Unedited version of the latter goes up within three hours or, in other words, faster than any newspaper can or bothers to turn its reports round, and the edited version is there early the following morning. The Guardian is of little importance in the process.

Secondly, the Trafigura story, which the Guardian and various bloggers are boasting about, was not an exclusive. The Times and the BBC ran it about four weeks ago. Maybe the Grauniad got there first, maybe not. Either way, this is not a big issue any more. The story is out in the open.

Thirdly, I wonder about those free speech credentials. Did the Guardian publish the Danish cartoons? Would it publish anything of that kind that might precipitate threats from real nasties? I think not. Would the Guardian stick up for our right to publish those cartoons as I do above? I suspect I know the answer to that.

Naturally, like all people in any part of the media, I want to see the British libel laws changed and, in connection with that, I hear that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a Bill into law for California that would protect Americans from libel tourism (link as soon as there is one in the post-Columbus Day official statements).

UPDATE: Iain Dale writes that Carter-Ruck has "folded". The Guardian is now free to report the Parliamentary Question that was available on the web, anyway, and write about the underlying story that other media outlets have also covered. A non-solution to a non-story.

A familiar name

These weeks we are celebrating and remembering the sudden rapid disintegration of the Communist empire in Europe (still there in China though I would not describe either Cuba or North Korea an empire). It took another couple of years for the Soviet Union to collapse and as we know things have not gone terribly well in the ex-Soviet states. In particular one feel sad about Russia once again sinking into her authoritarian persona.

I was somewhat unhappily reminded of this by a note from a friend about a petition set up to protect Alexander Podrabinek, writer, journalist and a well known dissident of the Soviet era. A familiar name, in fact.

It seems that he and his family are being threatened by violent pro-government youth organizations who are unlikely to have gone after him without some instruction from on top. No, things are not as bad as they were in the Soviet Union, even in Brezhnev's, let alone Stalin's day. But that is not quite good enough, either.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just one more comment

It is time to have a break, albeit a short one, from the Obama Peace Prize story, but before I do so, I thought I'd quote something one of this blog's readers sent me: the reason for that prize being awarded to someone who has done absolutely nothing remotely relevant.

On Friday, as the world was still convulsed with laughter at the news (this is the funniest story since Cherie Blair's tearful TV appearance during which she assured us all that she is "not superwoman") CNN reported on the event during which journalists seemed to do a great deal of gasping with surprise.

The most interesting part of the justification produced by the Chairman of the Committee, Thorbjorn Jagland. After explaining that this was a Prize given to Obama for "capturing the world's attention" and giving it hope (well, not the people of Honduras, Iran, Israel, Afghanistan or Tibet but how many votes do they have?), Mr Jagland "rejected the notion that Obama had been recognized prematurely for his efforts and said the committee wanted to promote the president just it had Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 for his efforts to open up the Soviet Union".

Interesting. So, making lots of waffly speeches, trying to take over the healthcare and raising the deficit is the equivalent of opening up the Soviet Union. Did the United States needed opening up? What was hidden in the past? Were journalists and dissidents imprisoned or thrown into lunatic asylums, known as psikhushki? Had all opposition been banned? Were there no independent trade unions under a Republican Administration? Did President Bush control the media? Come to think of it, what happened to all those promises of transparency about the White House and legislation that Obama had made in his campaign?

Moving on from this strage comparison, we ought to recall what was the net result of Gorbachev's efforts. He proved beyond any reasonable doubt that the Communist system could not be reformed and the Soviet Union fell apart. Now, is this the ultimate aim of the Peace Prize Committee - the destruction of the United States, the greatest of all liberal democracies?

Given Mr Jagland's political views, that is not an altogether outlandish idea.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

More on that Peace Prize

It is not possible to enumerate all the people who seem to think that awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize (by the Norwegian Nobel Committee) somehow diminishes the actual prize because he has done nothing to deserve it. Well, true, but at least he did not start the Second Intifada or produced a film full of lies to scare the world’s population and earn lots of money. (And let us not forget that Al Gore beat some far worthier possible recipients.)

Nor is this the first time the Nobel Prize Committee chose “hope” over “change” as John Rosenberg writes, reminding us all of the preposterous story of Rigoberta Menchu who was given the Peace Prize in 1992 for an autobiography she did not write and which was full of lies from beginning to end. When the truth came out, her defenders displayed their contempt for Guatemalans by insisting that they cannot understand the meaning of truth and, in any case, Ms Menchu deserved the prize for what she represented rather than for what she achieved.

Mona Charen gives a list of recent winners and a motley crew they are, too, with one or two deserving names. I do wish, however, that she and others would stop wittering on about “Europeans” wanting this or rejoicing over that. There are no Europeans, only various countries and their people. They cannot possibly be all lumped together into one group. The Norwegian Nobel Committee does not represent Europeans; it does not even represent Norwegians. Whenever I read this sort of stuff about “Europeans” I start feeling a certain amount of schadenfreude about the mess Americans have got themselves into. Say what you like about the various Europeans, we did not elect Obama. Then I recall what his Administration will do to the West in general and subside.

As we know the announcement was greeted with some bemusement and as Patterico points out even Obama’s cheerleaders a.k.a. the MSM were not entirely happy with the situation. Perhaps, they, too, heard the roars of laughter that went up all round the world. Others of the usual suspects were more complimentary though even they sounded a little bemused.

Some people are completely in favour. Fidel Castro, Reuters reports, said “on Saturday it was "a positive measure" that was more a criticism of past U.S. policies than a recognition of Obama's accomplishments”. Hmmm. Nothing wrong with his brain cells then. Of course, we do not know whether he said it himself or whether it was the ventriloquist they employ in the Havana morgue.

Patterico, who thinks he should be nominated for the next Nobel Peace Prize (they don’t give it to anti-socialists, Patterico, so don’t even think of it) also has a story about the DNC Communications Director, Brad Woodhouse, expressing the somewhat fatuous opinion that those who mock President Obama’s Peace Prize are lining up with terrorists like Hamas and the Taliban. Rather odd that, since other people have justified the Prize by pointing out how nice the President has been to these two organizations. (And as some of the mostly hostile to Woodhouse comments point out, it is also odd that the Dems are now acknowledging that there actually are terrorists out there.)

Let me get this straight: hurling vitriolic abuse at General Petraeus when he was putting the surge in Iraq into place is a form of higher patriotism; feeling pleased that the poisoned chalice of the Olympics has passed Chicago by and laughing at the President who has done nothing receiving the Peace Prize that has been given to a real terrorist is a sign of treason and terrorism. Boy, I wish I had thought of that.

Mind you, not so long ago the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi called all those who were protesting against Obamacare Nazis and un-American.

Of course, it is all too late as the jokes are pouring in about Obama winning all sorts of sporting trophies. Patterico again has a few jokes and Instapundit links to a bunch of cartoons. And here is a wonderful blogpost about a first year postgraduate student, Quintus Pfuffnick, winning the Nobel Prize in Economics “for his willingness to tackle difficult problems, his commitment to improving the economic system, and his goal of bringing efficiency and equality into harmony”.

Instapundit rounds up the various stories and I have neither the desire nor the ability to compete with Glenn Reynolds.

Megan McArdle sums up the bemusement of those who are not simply amused:
I guess I must hate America, but I actually think it's kind of ludicrous that anyone is even trying to argue that Barack Obama truly deserves this Nobel Peace Prize. Could he have deserved it, after he'd had more than nine months in office? Easily. But he hasn't had time to, y'know, accomplish anything. Unless they're giving out the Prize these days for stimulus bills and banking sector interventions. The committee claims they awarded it for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"? Can even his most ardent supporters come up with any effort he's made that really qualifies as more extraordinary than those of everyone else in the world?
The point that needs to be made is that it is not those who hate America who dislike this prize (or the Norwegian Nobel Prize Committee). There is nothing glorious for America in this. To the contrary. President Bush was much hated by the tranzis and they hurled abuse at him and the country he led. But they did not despise him. How could they? The man stood up to the tranzis and carried on as he saw fit.

When it comes to his successor the story is very different. Whether it is the IOC shooing him and the First Lady contemptuously out of the way or the Nobel Peace Prize Committee throwing a bauble and a great deal of money at him, it is not dislike or fear that one sees; it is contempt. The United States at last has a President the transnational organizations do not have to be afraid of; he is no danger to them. Indeed, they have made sure of that by giving him this worthless bauble and over $1 million.

Claudia Rossett, thinking along very similar lines, analyzes the make-up of the Committee and speculates what they and their colleagues will want from the President in return for this award.

Well, maybe. Because there is a problem about that money, as Volokh posits, Article 1, section 9 of the United States Constitution says:
No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.
Does this describe the Norwegian Committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian Parliament, their Prize and the very handsome sum of money that goes with it?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Consolation prize?

I had to check my calendar when I saw the news that President Obama, whose achievements up to date have been nil apart from raising the deficit to $1.752 trillion for this year alone, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. No it is not April 1 and the news is real. Woo-hoo!

Astonishingly enough, there are people out there who are upset and talk about this demeaning the Peace Prize. How can that ridiculous thing be demeaned? First of all, it has no purpose. Science prizes are awarded for achievements though scientists may dispute whether the recipients are those who really deserved them; economics and literature prizes tend to go according to the rule of Buggins's turn but some achievement has to be shown; the Peace Prize has no purpose or justification. None of the people who have received it in the past achieved peace and some, like the late unlamented Chairman Arafat, actively promoted war and terrorism.

This could be a consolation prize for not getting the Olympics for Chicago; it could be a reward for grovelling to every tyrant under the sun and surrendering to them on the subject of free speech; or it could be simply for being the first non-white President of the United States. Given that nominations allegedly closed 11 days after Obama's inauguration, one cannot help feeling that the last of those is true.

Meanwhile, what of the US Marine Corps, who really have brought peace and freedom to millions of people int he world?

It's (serious) show time

Dan Mitchell of Cato Institute and of Freedom and Prosperity as well as the author of an excellent blog International Liberty cannot sing like Deanna Durbin or dance like Cyd Charisse (I suspect he cannot dance like Fred Astaire either but I am open to correction there). However, he seems to have become quite a show star.

Here he is giving an impassioned speech at the Steamboat Institute Conference, putting the case for liberty and limited government:

And here is the Q&A session that followed that presentation:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

They are all lining up

Not having the stamina of EURef's Boss I did not watch the Boy-King’s speech though I did hear that they had a video of Bono congratulating the Blue-Socialists on intending to spend even more of our hard-earned money to keep bloodthirsty kleptocrats in power. Way to go, Tories.

I gather he made all the right noises, even telling the credulous crowds that it is the Left that has fallen in love with that unaccountable body whose accounts have never been signed off. Clearly, there is a memory lapse here. Allow me to remind people of a few events: the European Communities Act 1972, the Single European Act 1987 and the Maastricht Treaty, which was probably more important, even than the Lisbon one, 1992. All passed by the Left? Hmmm. Maybe he knew whereof he spoke. Just look at the Conservative Party.

Then there were the curious references to the referendum that the aforementioned Boss has already written about. They are going to fight for a referendum. And the opponent is? Who is going to stop a Conservative government from passing the necessary legislation to have a referendum?

Ah well, there is this problem: what are we to have a referendum about? The Constitutional Lisbon Treaty may well be done and dusted by May and the Conservatives, having so recently told us that they will not leave matters there, are now, one and all, saying in a very condescending fashion (for they know better than we do) that there really is no point in opening up something that has been decided. Why have elections, I wonder, when the matter has already been decided once? It’s a good thing people in the former Soviet Empire did not reason thus.

This is, of course, typical of the Conservatives. They talk the talk but when they get to the start of the walk, they decide that the road has probably been closed off and they will just sit down for a while until somebody suggests another path.

Instead, voices are being raised for a referendum on many other matters, not just the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty. The Boss has already quoted the great eurosceptic Daniel Hannan on the subject. (Whatever you may think of Mr Hannan, he is not stupid and he knows a good deal about the EU though not always as much as he thinks. He must know that it is impossible to claim back certain powers without rewriting the treaties, which can be done only in an IGC.)

This morning I received my daily dose of Open Europe media references in which there is this paragraph:
Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally appeared on BBC Radio 5 this morning to argue that the Conservatives should hold a referendum on an EU reform package.
No longer on a treaty, a relatively straightforward proposition but on some mythical reform package. Does Ms Mullally not realize that EU reform is not in our hands, as this country is only one of 27 members? And if it is not in our hands, if our government can do nothing about it, why have a referendum on something quite so complex and so unattainable? Whether we ratify a treaty, on the other hand, is something we can make a decision about.

Over on ConHome one of their silliest and most ignorant contributors proudly proclaims that Brussels should not be so cocky as the Conservatives will sort them out: they will have a referendum on “our broader relationship with the EU”.

First of all, dear Sally MacNamara, we do not have a relationship with the EU, we are part of it and what we need to decide is whether we stay there. The Tories have already decided that for themselves.
Conservatives do not really want a relationship with the EU based what we have now. If Cameron’s tactic is to renegotiate our relationship with the EU by repatriating key powers – defense, justice, home affairs and employment legislation for a start – then he will need to head-off Brussels’ inevitable pushback with his own ‘game-changer’.
There speaks a woman who has not a clue of how the system works. What does heading off Brussels mean? What sort of pushback is this silly creature expecting? So we want to repatriate various powers, some of which are still intergovernmental, some will change from one pillar to another once Lisbon is fully in place, some have been part of the core legislation for some time? How are we going to do that? Oh right, by having a referendum. Then what? Has this dumb cluck heard of IGCs and treaties? Because nothing can be repatriated without the treaties being rewritten and that cannot be done without a unanimous agreement at an IGC.

In the comments section she is praised by no less a person than Roger Helmer MEP, who assures the lady that she has the right political instincts. That takes care of Mr Helmer, methinks.

In the coming weeks we shall see other front organizations lining up to support the nebulous idea of a referendum for which they need to fight but which will not be about the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty but about repatriation of powers or new relationship or whatever. None of this is attainable and there will be no need for a referendum. But the talk will be talked with the hope that the electorate will buy into it.

Muddled heads

On various occasions I have articulated my belief that left-wing feminists are seriously muddleheaded. Either that or completely dishonest. Of course, one does not preclude the other.

Let us look at a couple of stories that demonstrate the above contentions. Via Instapundit we hear that Code Pink, the most vociferous women's anti-war movement is reconsidering its attitude about withdrawal from Afghanistan.

An article in The Christian Science Monitor describes meetings between representatives of Code Pink and various women in Afghanistan with the latter falling over themselves to assure their American "sisters" that they do not wish to see American troops pull out as yet. The consequences of such an action in the country and especially as far as women are concerned would be catastrophic.

The surprised Code Pink representatives are reconsidering their position. The only problem is that, as far as women in Afghanistan are concerned, this is not exactly new. We have been hearing this for several years and Code Pink have been criticized for not paying sufficient attention to the plight of women in that country. What has made them change their minds? Could it be the fact that George W. Bush is no longer President? That Barack H. Obama is entitled to their support (assuming he does decide to stay in Afghanistan)? Could it be that the movement was not really about peace or American "imperialism" but about undermining a Republican President? Surely not.

Let us now look at something else. It is one of the cornerstones of left-wing feminism that opposition to Israel is the correct attitude; that feminists must support the Palestinian struggle, regardless of how that affects women.

Noah Pollak points to an interesting contrast on Commentary Magazine, linking back to relevant articles.

As the LA Times reports, this year's Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been shared between three people, two Americans and one Israeli. The latter is not only the first winner so far who is not American, either born or naturalized, but is also a woman, the first to win a science Nobel Prize since 1964. (One of the winners of the Medicine Prize was also a woman, this time an American.)

So that's Israel, where women can rise in their chosen profession as far as their abilities will take them and can win distinguished prizes for their work.

What of the Palestinians, the chosen cause of left-wing feminism? Fortunately, Noah Pollok provides another link. The Jerusalem Post tells us that in Gaza (where there are no Israeli troops so they cannot pull out any more) Hamas has banned women from riding on motorcycles as this is not in keeping with traditional Islamic ideas. (I don't suppose there were motorcycles in the days those ideas were developed.)
The decision to ban women from riding motorcycles was published by the Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the movement's security forces in the Gaza Strip.

The decision is seen in the context of Hamas's efforts to enforce strict Islamic teachings in the area.

Two months ago, a Hamas judge issued an order requiring all women who appear in court to wear the hijab.

Men and women who are seen together are regularly stopped by Hamas policemen or militiamen who question them about the nature of their relationship.
Let us remember this the next time we hear feminist organizations proclaiming their support for Palestinians against Israeli oppression. Who exactly is being oppressed and by whom?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

An explanation of sorts

One of the great mysteries of modern history is the difference between the ways Nazism and Communism are viewed in the West (not in Eastern Europe where they have suffered from both) not only in terms of their record in issues of human rights but also as enemies of western democracy. People who denounced Nazi spies and supporters are applauded as heroes; those who denounced Communist spies and agents are seen as rather difficult, distasteful and treacherous towards their friends.

Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in the ever present issue of “McCarthyism” and its progenitor the crucial Hiss case. In The Conservative Turn Michael Kimmage traces the growth of modern conservatism in the United States through the careers of Whittaker Chambers, who deliberately set out to create anti-Communist conservatism, and Lionel Trilling, who tried to lead liberalism away from supporting Communism. Of the two, I’d say, Chambers was more successful.

As he launches into his discussion of the Hiss case, Professor Kimmage writes (pp. 204 – 205):
Chambers won the Hiss case in court. His adversary, Alger Hiss, was convicted of perjury, sent to jail, and then to a kind of professional purgatory. The Ware circle that Chambers had helped to assemble in Washington, D.C. was devastated by the Hiss case. After World War II, American communism broke up for good, not just as a party but as a political movement.

A strenuous anti-communism advanced in tandem with the careers of senators Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, both of whom Chambers knew personally. The Hiss case lent domestic or internal immediacy to the Cold War, distinguishing it from World War II, which could easily be construed in nationalist terms, as us versus them, whether “they” were the Germans or the Japanese.

The Hiss case revolved around the figure of Alger Hiss, who was not simply an American citizen accused of treason but a prince of the American meritocracy. The list of those who believed in his innocence was awesome: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Dean Acheson, Adlai Stevenson, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, and many other luminaries. Even as resolute an anti-communist as Richard Nixon was, according to his own description, inclined to believe Hiss because he knew so many people who were friends with both Hiss and Hiss’s brother Donald.

Chambers was a wilfully marginal figure with his low voice, his potentially foreign accent, his suits – invariably described as rumpled – and his memorably bad teeth. To Triumph in the Hiss case, Chambers had to upend the established symbolism of success and failure, insider and outsider. To banish Hiss from political life, which the Hiss case effectively did, was potentially to banish anyone from public life.
Unfortunately, this is only partially true. Hiss may have been banished from political life and a few other people disappeared as well but “public opinion”, that is the media and academia as well as political hangers on has refused to accept the upending of the established symbolism. Hiss is still seen as a martyr, Chambers as a psychopath and McCarthyism the greatest evil in the world. All of that despite the overwhelming evidence we now have that even McCarthy’s accusations were largely correct, though his scattershot attacks did him or his cause no favours.

Chambers told the truth as did Elizabeth Bentley but that cannot be accepted by those who prefer to see the social structure the right way up. That is what we are still fighting against.

I am afraid this concerns us all

I seem to end up writing a good deal about American politics. Partly that is because of it being more interesting than our own rather parochial in-fighting but partly because developments on the other side of the Pond concern us all.

So I was rather disturbed to see on Instapundit these two linked stories.

The first leads us to an article in the Weekly Standard, which tells us of America’s new-found multilateralism that consists on sucking up (there is no other way of describing it and I apologize for the language) to some of the nastiest regimes in the world.

Not only has the United States now decided to be a full member of the despicable, anti-Western, anti-democratic and anti-Semitic Council of Human Rights “despite the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power and human rights abusers are among its lead actors, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia”, it has also scuppered Canada’s attempts to pilot through a resolution on free speech (not that it would have made any difference).

Instead, the newly “engaged” American diplomats have co-sponsored a resolution with Egypt, not a country known for its adherence to free speech.
Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs.

In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1--adopted by consensus the following day--the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d'Affaires Douglas Griffiths, crowed:

"The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration's commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased--for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that "freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused," insisting on limits consistent with the "true nature of this right" and demanding that the "the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner."

The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."
In other words, as various Islamic countries have made it clear, this is a resolution that aims to control free speech, a particularly dangerous idea when we look at activists, journalists, bloggers and just ordinary dissidents in oppressive states. They will now be imprisoned and punished in the name of the UN’s resolution on freedom of speech.
Even the normally feeble European Union tried to salvage the American capitulation by expressing the hope that the resolution might be read a different way. Speaking on behalf of the EU following the resolution's adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattéi declared that "human rights law does not, and should not, protect religions or belief systems, hence the language on stereotyping only applies to stereotyping of individuals . . . and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religions." The EU also distanced itself from the American compromise on the media, declaring that "the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media" goes "well beyond" existing international law and "the EU cannot subscribe to this concept in such general terms."
I suppose that is something to feel cheerful about.

The other story is even more disturbing. After all, who really cares about UN resolutions? Michael Rubin reports on the National Review site that
The Clinton State Department has decided to cut off all funding for the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC), which was compiling lists of protestors imprisoned in this summer's unrest, as well as those who were killed in the crackdown.

IHRDC is what human-rights advocates should be: methodical, precise, and apolitical in their work. And yet, the Obama administration has, without explanation, cut off all federal funding to the group which has consistently fulfilled its mandate.

Anyone, across the political spectrum who has any interest in human rights in Iran keeps the IHRDC reports on their desks.
God forbid that there should be any accurate information about what the Ahmadinejad regime is up inside the country. After all, we might want to help the opposition for political as well as moral reasons.

Glenn Reynolds agrees with Bret Stephens’s bitterly ironic article in the Wall Street Journal that this is yet another step towards a complete sell-out to the Iranian regime. As that regime’s nuclear capability intensifies while its grip on the country becomes more tenuous; as the rumours of a possible Israeli strike circulate, it seems a little unwise for the US Administration to move so close to the Iranian government. For, after all, which country is being sold out by the United States as part of its new buddy-buddy relationship with the UN?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What a shame

The Guardian weighs in on the "is Ahmadinejad of Jewish descent or not" controversy (well, all right, discussion). Meir Javedanfar in the Comment is Free section explains why that is not true; far from being embarrassed about the family, Ahmadinejad is a proud Shiite. Of course, that does not precisely explain why he avoids discussing the change of name. To be fair, Sabourjian sounds Armenian rather than Jewish, so maybe there is a Christian element in the family background. You pays your money and you takes you choice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Get the red blues

This is one of the greatest dance sequences in musical history: The Red Blues from Silk Stockings. You expect Cyd Charisse's dancing to be fabulous and it is. But this is also very funny and clever. Just watch how the choreographer (Eugene Loring, I think. Definitely not Hermes Pan) managed to work Russian themes in. The throw-away comment about life in the Soviet Union that the whole sequence is, remains priceless. No wonder critics were sniffy about Silk Stockings.

What makes him think this will work?

President Obama has decided that he has not kow-towed to China enough. In order to rectify this omission he is postponing the Dalai Lama's visit to the White House.
In an attempt to gain favor with China, the United States pressured Tibetan representatives to postpone a meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama until after Obama's summit with his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao, scheduled for next month, according to diplomats, government officials and other sources familiar with the talks.

For the first time since 1991, the Tibetan spiritual leader will visit Washington this week and not meet with the president. Since 1991, he has been here 10 times. Most times the meetings have been "drop-in" visits at the White House. The last time he was here, in 2007, however, George W. Bush became the first sitting president to meet with him publicly, at a ceremony at the Capitol in which he awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest civilian award.

The U.S. decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedaling criticism of China's human rights and financial policies as well as backing efforts to elevate China's position in international institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund. Obama administration officials have termed the new policy "strategic reassurance," which entails the U.S. government taking steps to convince China that it is not out to contain the emerging Asian power.
As it happens, China did absolutely nothing when successive American presidents met the Dalai Lama signifying their support for him and the people of Tibet as well as their interest in freedom and human rights.

Apart from making it clear that this Administration does not care about either of those concepts and will bow and scrape to any corrupt and tyrannical entity, what do President Obama and his advisers hope to achieve? Do they really believe that anybody respects those who display not principles at all? Why don't they ask the IOC?

What a shame, eh?

ConHome has a rather downbeat posting about the Czech President that quotes the Financial Times. "Vaclav Klaus may not save Britain from Lisbon after all". Well, no. In the first place, it might be a good idea to get the situation right.

The fate of the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty lies with the Czech Constitutional Court, whither it had been returne by a group of Czech Senators. The Court will decide within the next six months on whether the treaty is compatible with the Czech Constitution. If, as expected, they will say yes, President Klaus will find himself in a difficult position: by not signing he will be going against the will of both Houses of the Czech Parliament and the Constitutional Court. No president in a democracy can hold that position for very long. He will most probably sign.

The Boss on EURef has also written about this, referring to the Guardian and the BBC.

We do not know what was in the letter the Conservative Party appears to have sent him but his opinion of the British political process does not seem to be very high. Presumably, it is not terribly high when he thinks about the British Conservative Party.
Vaclav Klaus, the Eurosceptic Czech president who had indicated he would delay ratifying the treaty until after the British general election, indicated he might change his mind. "There will never be another referendum in Europe," he told the BBC after the Irish vote. "The people of Britain should have been doing something much earlier and not just now, too late, saying something and waiting for my decision."
Well, indeed. Above all, why should President Klaus go out of his way to save the Conservative Party's credibility?

Mark Wallace of the Taxpayers' Alliance is running around the Conservative Party Conference getting people to sign a postcard to President Klaus, pleading with him to save Britain, the Conservative Party and David Cameron. Some have signed, others like Boris Johnson, have refused. (Here is a picture of Douglas Carswell signing.)

Too little, too late. We suggested a campaign of this kind almost four months ago but the TPA was too busy telling the world that nobody had thought of the European issue and its problems until they came on the scene. My personal attempt to interest them in the idea of writing to President Klaus were met with charming and dismissive smiles.

Now that President Klaus has made it clear that he is not that interested in saving people who cannot save themselves, at least, not at the expense of a possible impeachment, that delightful looking postcard will do very little beyond getting media time for the TPA.