Monday, 31 August 2009

Don't Bank On A Holiday

In other countries, they have proper holidays instead of pointless, meaningless “celebrations” of the mere fact that the banks are shut. It is therefore unthinkable for the shops, or anything else not necessary to the maintenance of life itself, to be open on those days. But over here, heaven forefend that the little people might have a day off, too. John Major, who liked to portray himself as the voice and guardian of Old England, was defeated by one vote when he tried to make 25th December a normal shopping day. Good Friday and Easter Monday increasingly are, so expect Christmas to be next. Why, it is asked, should they be different from other “Bank Holidays”?

This sort of thing is inconceivable anywhere else. Whatever you may think of the American Declaration of Independence, or the storming of the Bastille, or any of the liturgical festivals that are public holidays in various parts of the Continent, they do at least have meanings beyond merely being this or that Monday in this or that month and, er, that’s it. So when they are holidays, everyone realistically expects to keep them as such. Yes, even shop assistants and delivery drivers. Imagine!

It is urgently necessary that Saint George’s Day, Saint Andrew’s Day, Saint David’s Day and Saint Patrick’s Day be made public holidays throughout the United Kingdom. In place, like them, of our ridiculous celebrations of the mere fact that the banks are on holiday, the real Whit Monday should be restored, and Ascension Day made a public holiday along with it.

Christmas Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Boxing Day should be retained, and Commonwealth Day (not Trafalgar Day, for who wants to sit in the wind and rain marking an inconclusive battle at which our admiral died?) added to them. Giving eleven, concentrated in our islands’ glorious spring and early summer.

But eleven is an odd number in more than one sense. How to arrive at a nice, round dozen? Well, if the Epiphany were restored as a public holiday, then so could be the ancient, yet really quite recently practised, observances of Twelfth Night, secure in the knowledge that there would be no work the next day.

No, the world would not simply shut down from lunchtime on Christmas Eve until the morning of 7th January, as it very largely does from lunchtime on Christmas Eve until the morning of 2nd January at the moment; the length of time would be too long for that. This way, there would be a real gap between the holidays. As, of course, there was historically, unless anyone really imagines that even subsistence farmers ever stopped work for twelve days on the trot. And the holidays themselves would mean something.

I really would take an awful lot of persuading that the observance of 1st January as a public holiday was of any especial antiquity in Scotland, or that there is any case for it now that Christmas Day is also observed as one. There as everywhere else, the preceding night’s activities revolve around nothing more, apart from booze, than the singing of a song to which most people do not know the words and which is not in fact about New Year anyway.

As much as anything else, the erection of Ascension Day and the Epiphany as public holidays would force the “Catholic” Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales to reverse its petulant lashing out against the election of an orthodox Catholic as Pope, namely its transfer of those holy days to the following Sundays, so that (unless we can attend thin-on-the-ground Latin Masses) we no longer get to celebrate them on the same day as the Holy Father, even though members of the Church of England and the Church in Wales do.

McChrystal Clear

We need a "unified effort".

To get out.

Now.

Cheney Is Going Down

And he knows it.

Blair next.

Don't Break China

The emerging alliance between the suddenly separatist Koumintang holed up on Taiwan and the racist, restorationist forces of Tibetan serf-ownership is as pernicious as anything that it is possible to imagine. The racist, Islamist secessionists from Xinjiang are among those who will be along in a minute.

Germany Turns Left

Big gains for Die Linke, a party with its roots in East Germany (from which it has carried over an unsavoury internal minority, although that minority is not in charge), where the political culture is still very left-wing, and where the grammar schools were restored by popular demand as soon as the Wall came down.

Die Linke almost quadrupled its vote, so that it now has councillors in every major city, in the local elections in the old Social Democratic heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the grammar schools were saved by, again, popular demand.

Nowhere near all of these Die Linke voters are Hard Left. People like that already voted for it anyway. They are voting against the abandonment of historic, popular principles by the CDU and the SPD, which are instead chasing after neoliberal economics, neoconservative foreign policy, and European federalism.

All also rejected by the solidly Catholic, heavily dominant CSU in Bavaria.

Get Harder

What a curate's egg is this, by Tim Samuels:

I used to think porn was tremendously good fun. The adolescent thrill of sneaking a copy of Fiesta home inside the Manchester Evening News. Crowding around a PC at university as a smutty picture revealed itself pixel by pixel. Even the equine VHS shown during my first job at GQ gave everyone a good, if not queasy, lads-mag laugh.

Any anti-porn voices felt like killjoy whines echoing from the outskirts of Greenham Common. By the time I'd left the lads-mag cocoon, porn was almost part of the mainstream furniture. But the proliferation of free and utterly hardcore websites visited by kids in their global droves did spark an interest in investigating the industry.

The moment porn truly stopped being fun came in a remote Ghanaian village – mud huts, barefoot kids, no electricity. The BBC series I was making about the impact of porn had led me via LA to Ghana. One of the unforeseen consequences of globalisation is the shocking effect that western porn is having in parts of the developing world.

The village has no electricity, but that doesn't stop a generator from being wheeled in, turning a mud hut into an impromptu porn cinema – and turning some young men into rapists, with villagers relating chilling stories of assaults taking place straight after the film's end. In the nearest city, other young men are buying bootlegs copies of the almost always condom-free LA-made porn – copying directly what they see and contracting HIV. The head of the country's Aids commission says porn risks destroying all the achievements they've made. It's a timebomb, he says.

The concerns aren't theoretical – I met young fathers with HIV whose only sex education came from LA, women living in the villages subject to post-screening abuse, and even a shy teenage virgin who has written to a porn outfit in California asking to star in their films (his return address was care of the local church in Accra).

The porn producers aren't deliberately pushing their products into Africa. But the tide of black market DVDs on sale at street markets and hardcore clips viewable at internet cafes is almost unstoppable. Surely this multibillion-dollar industry needs to take some responsibility for the human costs?

Since the only sex education some people in places such as Ghana are getting is via porn films, there is a decent argument for the porn industry to produce more films where performers use condoms. In LA, where the majority of the world's porn is still shot, only one company routinely makes such films. The condom-only policy adopted following an industry HIV outbreak five years ago lasted just months.

If the ambition is to put more condom-using porn into circulation, which will then more likely end up in those street markets or cafes, some serious multinationals could throw their corporate weight behind this. Hotel chains – among the biggest broadcasters of adult material – have not used their immense clout to insist on greater condom use – much to the dismay of the porn-star STD-testing clinic in LA.

Mobile phone firms are also surreptitiously making jaw-dropping amounts of money from showing adult content on their handsets. Could their ideas of corporate responsibility take on a latex dimension? Might it actually be that ridiculous for the porn industry itself to adopt a spot of corporate responsibility? These are, after all, major businesses replete with HR departments and plush offices nestling next to mainstream film companies. Bankroll sex safe campaigns, harness the allure of their top stars, maybe even make bespoke films for the developing world which educate as well as titillate. Doing nothing, and leaving western porn to march untrammelled into Africa and other places, is a deeply unattractive prospect.

Certain people might consider applying some journalistic or scientific objectivity to the question of where in Africa the condom use relentlessly promoted by Western NGOs and compliant governments has ever arrested, never mind reversed, the rate of HIV infection. There is nowhere.

However, such a reversal is under way in Uganda, where the government's message is the same as the Catholic Church's: "Change Your Behaviour". Huge numbers of condoms have been distributed in Botswana, and the result has been for President Festus Mogae to declare, "Abstain or die".

Who, exactly, is incapable of fidelity within a monogamous marriage and abstinence outside such a marriage? Women? Black people? Poor people? Developing-world people? Or just poor black women in the developing world?

Samuels, who very obviously does have the interests of Africans at heart, nevertheless seems to think a grown African man looking at pornography is comparable to an adolescent Mancunian boy doing so. He would never address that man as "Boy", yet he is doing something no different.

How about, shall we say, an adult argument against pornography? It degrades men precisely as men. The amount that you pay to view it (or accept was paid for it at some point, since money is always involved somewhere, even in putting it onto the Internet), or to go with a prostitute, or to visit a lap-dancing club, or to do anything else of that nature, is the monetary value that you thereby place of your maleness; on all the anatomical, physiological, psychological, social and cultural consequences of the Y chromosome in every cell of your body, and thus on that chromosome itself, which is your unbreakable link to your father, and to his father, and on back to Adam or whatever you want to call him.

Whereas that link, the irreducible core of your identity, is in fact priceless.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

My Country

The United Kingdom is my country, and no one has the right to take it away from me.

There is no precedent for a referendum on secession, to which devolution does not compare.

The continued existence of the state is a matter for the whole state. And there is no state in the United Kingdom except the United Kingdom. That is a fact.

Who is to vote in this proposed referendum in Scotland? Everyone on the electoral register? Which one? For local, European and Holyrood elections, any resident EU citizen can be registered. Are they to have a vote on the continued existence of my country? While I have no vote?

The Return of Right Democrat

Right Democrat and Mainstream Populist Democrats are both up and running again, even if mostly as routes to rightdemocrat on Twitter, which in turn links to articles of interest. How is that easier than maintaining a blog? Still, davidaslindsay is now on Twitter, too.

Rebuilding Society

Instead of the proposed mass branch closures, the public ownership of HBOS should lead to the re-constitution of the Halifax Building Society, as the template for rebuilding the highly localised mutual movement throughout the country.

That would be the right thing to do. And Gordon Brown should consider that it might also save a previously super-safe seat, plus at a hell of a push at least one neighbouring marginal as well.

However, the controlling public stake in the Bank of Scotland is now, like that in RBS, a non-negotiable safeguard of the Union.

The Good War?

Not only, though certainly, because it reflects his shifting thinking on the Welfare State generally, on public helthcare specifically, and on public ownership, this, by Peter Hitchens, is very well worth reproducing in full:

Stop the film. We’ve seen it so many times before: the toothy, simpering features of Neville Chamberlain and his bit of paper, an unbalanced Hitler waving his arms about and shouting, the German troops pouring across the Polish border, columns of smoke over Warsaw, more columns of smoke over Dunkirk, German troops marching through Paris, the Battle of Britain, flames across London, a dogged Churchill poking through the ruins, El Alamein, the turning point, our ‘Finest Hour’, Spitfires soaring over Kent. And so on, until triumphant victory six years and tens of thousands of lives later.

The story is all wrong. If it were as good and as right as that, and if we won it, how come we look back on the Second World War from conditions we might normally associate with defeat and occupation?

We are a second-rate power, rapidly slipping into third-rate status. We have a weak currency and shrunken armed forces, deployed as auxiliaries in wars that are not in our interest, and we are largely governed from abroad.

Our Parliament is a bought and paid-for puppet chamber. Our culture and customs have been debauched and our younger generations corrupted, as subject populations are, with drink, drugs and promiscuity.

We are compelled, like an occupied people, to use foreign measures to buy butter or meat, and our history is largely forgotten or deliberately distorted in the schools to suit anti-British dogma. Those schools are unable to educate most of our children up to the levels of our main rivals, so ensuring that we provide no challenge to them. Our country has been Balkanised into provinces and regions.

Our language is invaded by foreign words and expressions. Our food and most of our consumer goods are imported, along with our TV programmes and films.

The remaining veterans of the supposedly glorious struggle, far from being gratefully honoured, often live in pinched poverty, scared of feral youths, or die neglected in squalid hospitals in a country many of them no longer recognise as their own.

Yet 70 years ago, as the Germans moved to their start-lines on the Polish border, we were the world’s greatest empire. Half the globe used our currency, we controlled vast resources and owned enormous foreign investments. We fed ourselves, dug our own coal, made our own steel, controlled our own fisheries and built our own ships, trains, cars and aircraft.

We possessed an enormous Navy, a modern Air Force and, at the same time, the most advanced welfare state in the world. We were competently administered by a small but efficient civil service. Parliament was a genuine national chamber and the Monarch a truly revered head of state. We were modestly but fiercely proud of our traditions, history and literature.

Our only rival for global power was a jealous America, to whose lofty attacks on our Empire we justly responded by pointing at their cruel segregation across the South.

We had then, as we have now, no substantial interests in Poland, the Czech lands, the Balkans or – come to that – France, Belgium or the Netherlands. Much of the Continent, not just Germany and Italy, lay under the rule of various kinds of despot or dictator, none worse than the unhinged and heavily armed regime of Josef Stalin in Moscow, with his empire of torture chambers and concentration camps. In Spain, a savage military had just defeated an equally intolerant and merciless Communist-backed coalition.

Many of us might have regretted these sad conditions, but we did not really think it was any of our concern how they ran their affairs.

What is more, we had been badly burned the last time we had involved ourselves in a Continental quarrel.

We had gained little and lost much to defend France, our historic enemy, against Germany. In a strange paradox, we had gone to war mainly to save our naval supremacy from a German threat – and ended it by conceding that supremacy to the United States, our ally.

Most of us were far from enthusiastic about the Versailles Treaty, which was the main reason for the new threat of war, and felt Germany had been treated with needless and counterproductive harshness.

We had stayed out of the two great and decisive conflicts of the late 19th Century: the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, and come to no harm as a result.

Rewind the film a little. Imagine we had been hard realists instead of sentimental romantics. If we had found a way, as we so very nearly did, to divide Hitler and Mussolini, so avoiding a threat to our Mediterranean sea-routes and bases. Imagine that we had chosen splendid isolation instead of active intervention over the quarrels of Eastern and Central Europe. It is not as if we saved the Czechs or the Poles from their various enemies by getting involved. And if we were really trying to save the borders of the Versailles Treaty, we made a pretty poor job of it.

Now the great floods of war and cold war have receded, what do we see?

Under the 1985 Schengen Treaty, the borders of continental Europe have ceased to exist, from Calais all the way to Bucharest. Schengen has cancelled Versailles after all, and a giant reunited Germany dominates Europe all the way from Londonderry to the Balkans. Beyond the German sphere of influence, an authoritarian Russia takes over. What was it we went to war for again, exactly?

If we had stayed out, think what might – and might not – have happened. Would France have risked war with Hitler if we had sat on our hands? In that case would there ever have been a war in Western Europe at all?

Might Poland have handed over Danzig and its corridor? Would Germany then have been interested in a pact with Stalin? Or would Stalin – whose aggression against Finland is now forgotten – have started a war with Germany years earlier, perhaps beginning by invading Finland and then by seizing the Baltic republics?

However such a war ended, we would have been untainted by support for either side, and strong enough to maintain our independence in whatever sort of Europe resulted.

What about the Holocaust? There seems to be a common belief that we went to war to save the Jews of Europe. This is not true. We went to war to save Poland, and then didn’t do so. After Dunkirk, we lost control of the war, ceding it first to the USSR and then to America, and had little say in its eventual aims.

When, in 1942, the Germans began their ‘Final Solution’, reliable reports of the outrage were disbelieved or sat on. Later, when the information was beyond doubt, we turned down the opportunity to bomb the railway lines that led to Auschwitz. It is certainly hard to argue that the fate of Europe’s Jews would or could have been any worse than it was if we had stayed out of the war.

So the ripples spread. No Blitzkrieg, no occupation of France or the Low Countries, no war in North Africa. But quite possibly a long war between the two worst tyrants in the world, far away from us, and giving us the chance to strengthen and modernise our armed forces in case it spread.

No desperate expenditure of our last remaining resources to pay for war, no handover of British gold reserves to the United States, no Lend Lease, and no irresistible US pressure to pay for it by handing over bases to the US Navy, or abandoning our empire.

And then no war with Japan either, since the three European powers in Asia – Britain, France and the Netherlands – would all have been in a position to defend themselves – as they were not in 1941, being either conquered or busy elsewhere. Japan might have concentrated on fighting Russia – taking advantage of Stalin’s war with Hitler – and maintained its forces in China, possibly preventing the rise to power of Mao and the communists.

Britain’s greatest military defeat in modern history – at Singapore in 1942 – would never have taken place.

Probably there would have been no Pearl Harbour either, and America, like us, would have remained above the battle. In which case it would never have built the huge armies and air forces it created after 1941, the foundation of the modern US economy. The atom bomb might well have not yet been invented.

In that case, too, the independence movements of India and Burma, both hugely strengthened by our defeat at Singapore, would have been far less ambitious and would have settled for much less. Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian pro-independence leader who won the support of Japan, would have been eclipsed by Gandhi and Nehru, who sought dominion status rather than full independence.

In that case, no partition of India, no Pakistan. And that would mean no scuttle from Palestine, no state of Israel, a Middle East quite different from what we see now. The Suez episode would never have happened.

South Africa might have stayed under the dominance of General Smuts and his United Party, so no Apartheid, which was the creation of the anti-British Nationalists. The rest of Africa, unswept by ‘winds of change’ would probably have remained under largely European rule. No Robert Mugabe. No Idi Amin. No Bokassa.

At home, our cities would have been unbombed and undamaged, depriving greedy developers of the excuse to destroy them completely. Our welfare state and public health services, already extensive but not centralised, would have continued to grow. Nationalisation, already applied to electricity supply and the national airline, would still almost certainly have extended to the coal industry and the railways, but not much further.

Imagine: no European Union, probably no Nato, no United Nations, no courts of Human Rights, no Starbucks, no McDonald’s, no kilograms, no mass migration, no terrorism. Who knows? Certainly no ‘Special Relationship’. One great change of direction can have so many effects, a fair number of them completely unpredictable.

The great undercurrent of conflict throughout the 20th Century was between Britain and the United States, with America determined to break into Britain’s protected markets, push Britain out of the Pacific and supplant British naval power with its own.

Perhaps by now the great Anglo-American war, so many times predicted and so many times averted since the uneasy peace signed between the two countries in Ghent on Christmas Eve 1814, might actually have broken out. More likely, the two nations, too closely related to want war, would have reached a settlement, but one far more advantageous to Britain than the current arrangements.

Perhaps it is because of Iraq and Afghanistan, but many of us are learning to separate our respect for the valour and stoicism of our armed forces from admiration for the politicians who so grievously mislead them.

The great cult of Churchill-worship, with which I and millions of others grew up, has been most gravely damaged by the tawdry attempts of George W. Bush and Anthony Blair to dress their wars in Churchillian clothing. Of course, they look ridiculous, like children who have raided a dressing-up box.

But they have also made me – and I suspect millions more – wonder if the ‘Good War’ was really as good as we have long believed.

Be here on Thursday for my own thoughts seventy years on.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

No More Troops To Afghanistan

Bring home the ones already there.

Or they should do it themselves.

Identity Crisis

Jason Walsh writes:

Unlike Irish republicanism, which has more obviously abandoned its traditional claims, Ulster unionism is apparently in the ascendant. After all, the Belfast and St Andrews agreements have guaranteed Northern Ireland's place in the union for the foreseeable future and, apart from a few fringe groupsicles, most republicans are happy to purse a united Ireland through political means alone. Surely, then, the triumph of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) must be seen as the triumph of the unionist cause?

Perhaps so, but it has come at the cost of reducing unionism to a mere cultural project – an undignified and ignominious final chapter for a group of people who once revelled in the "glories" of empire. Stripped of its political meaning, unwanted and certainly unloved by the British, unionists have nowhere left to turn to except inward.

By sitting in Stormont, republicans have parked their historic mission to unite Ireland but, ironically, it looks as if the future belongs to them, and Sinn Féin remains upbeat about its prospects. They have cause to: should the current settlement in Northern Ireland falter again joint sovereignty with the Republic of Ireland is more likely than another agreement. Unionists, meanwhile, have become increasingly divorced from mainstream British culture, never mind British polity.

In his book, Ringside Seats: An Insider's View of the Crisis in Northern Ireland, former civil servant Robert Ramsay supports manufacturing an "Ulster Scots" ethnicity that would be "fashionably in harmony with the zeitgeist of today's European Union". Ramsay is correct that the identity politics-obsessed EU would welcome just such a development, but such a move wouldn't be without problems for unionism.

For a start, it would be a tacit admission that the union was, as a political force, completely moribund. Creating a backward-looking, cod-aboriginal Ulsterish identity is a long way from Margaret Thatcher's 1981 declaration that "Northern Ireland was as British as Finchley," or, indeed, the Ulster Unionist party's former campaign slogan, "Simply British."

In this sense it is an odd project for a liberal, British establishment figure such as Ramsay. Hitherto the Ulster Scots movement was associated largely with the fringes of loyalism, something Ramsay and his ilk have little time for.

Liberal nationalists have long claimed that the EU would make the Irish border an irrelevance. There was more than a little bit of wishful thinking in this – neither the ballot box nor the bullet had delivered Irish unity, so perhaps the EU could act as some kind of deus ex machina. However, even if the Irish public is dragooned into voting "yes" to the Lisbon treaty this October, sovereignty will remain with the member states, not pass to the EU.

Even if it did, unionists now face a similar wait for Godot – replacing a distant colonial master in London with a dull and even more distant one in Brussels neither makes the Ulster Scots an actual nation, nor does it point to a self-confident and forward-looking culture. So horrified is Ramsay at reintegration with the rest of Ireland he would prefer his countrymen became subjects of an EU superstate – but surely distaste for Ireland isn't all there is to unionism, is it?

Whether in Northern Ireland and in relation to the English (or the Anglo-Irish) themselves, or in the United States and in relation to the anglophile WASP elite, there is an old Scots-Irish ambivalence.

It saw them with the English (and thus with the Anglo-Irish) during the Plantation, against them during the Civil War, with them during the Glorious Revolution (as I do not hesitate to call it, given the Papal Blessing sent to William of Orange when he set out for Ireland), against them during the American Revolution, and half in and half out of the 1798 Rebellion (the Jacobin, and thus anti-Catholic, foundation of Irish Republicanism).

The Scots-Irish in Northern Ireland are for ever "betrayed from London". And the Scots-Irish the American South and West are for ever the victims of "Northern aggression" or "East Coast elitism". But no one fights harder for either Union, British or American.

As one "Paddy From Ireland" writes in response to Walsh's article:


The reality is that most people from the Republic do not, deep down, want unity with Northern Ireland. They are happy with partition for many reasons, most notably because prices are far lower in the North, so armies of shoppers drive up weekly to Newry, Belfast and Enniskillen.

Moreover, people avail of cheaper cars, cheaper dental treatment, and the like. The people of the Republic know that their taxes would rise sky high if they had to integrate Northern Ireland, whose people enjoy immense benefits not available in the Republic e.g. the National Health Service and free school books.

As one who has returned to the Republic from England and now bitterly regrets doing so, I certainly am glad of partition, glad to travel northwards and avail of lower prices.

It does seem to me, moreover, that most nationalists deep down don't want unity as such, but are glad to have their Irish identity recognised in the post-Good Friday agreement climate.

When I visited Belfast earlier this year, I saw some areas festooned with tricolours and signs in Irish, far more "Irish" than the south, and I saw other areas full of Union Jacks to a degree one rarely sees in England, except in a few part of Dagenham and some of the old north of England mill towns.

The real challenge for Northern Ireland is to integrate the two communities, to move away from the idea of Catholic and Protestant areas, and to have people living side by side. As Sir Hugh Orde said on his departure from the PSNI, the challenges of sectarianism and racism are the issues to be tackled now.

Most Northern Irish, deep down, have far more in common with each other than with the peoples of the Republic or Great Britain.

Unionists need to realise that to sell the case for the union, they need to stress its benefits for ALL the people of Northern Ireland, rather than appearing to be a sectarian cause.

Quite so. Marching through the streets behind a Union Flag while wearing a bowler hat is enough to get one committed in almost any part of England, Scotland or Wales. Much interest at all in the lore of Irish Nationalism, or in the Gaelic Irish culture, or in public expressions of Catholicism, is increasingly a bar to employment in the Republic, and certainly to being taken seriously politically.

People from it may call the place Ulster, or the Six Counties, or anything else. We all know where they mean. And so do they. From Ian Paisley to Gerry Adams, it is to there that they feel, and fulsomely pay, allegiance. But not, really, to anywhere else.

Copiosa Apud Eum Redemptio

I was pleasantly surprised by Ted Kennedy's funeral. I'd expected the Mission Church to be something like the Paulist Center attended by John Kerry. But it wasn't at all.

A Present Event In A Sign Of Communion?

David Blackburn writes:

Tony Blair interrupted his Mediterranean holiday, on which he spent time on billionaire Larry Ellison’s gin palace, to condemn materialism and the pursuit of personal wealth. The former PM addressed the Catholic Church’s ‘Communion and Liberation Conference’ in Rimini – a great honour for a layman.

Urging the universal adoption of the ascetic, the Quartet’s special envoy to the Middle East, who is also an advisor to JP Morgan and an internationally renowned lecturer and author - and therefore needs houses across the globe - said that the “aggressive secularism and materialism found in parts of the West” should not be allowed to “gain traction” in the rest of the world. According to the Guardian, Blair's words had such power the audience was rendered speechless, as am I.

Speaking with trademark earnestness, a self-aware Mr Blair confided that his conversion to Catholicism had been “humbling”. And, echoing St Francis of Assisi, Mr Blair asserted that it was the “role of faith” to arrest the moral decline engendered by the love of money, and said he “would represent God’s truth” always. God help us.

But CL is still a very, very, very good thing. Just ask the Pope.

The F-Word, The S-Word and The C-Word

As long ago as 1946, Orwell point out that "fascist" no longer meant anything beyond "something not desirable". Did it ever? What have all "fascist" regimes or movements ever had in common with each other but with no one else?

But at least "fascist" always means "something not desirable". "Socialist" can mean "something not desirable" or "something desirable" depending on who is speaking, and it is by no means always clear which meaning is intended. It never means anything more than one or the other, though. Again, did it ever? Anyone who has been active in the Labour Movement is very familiar with its use to mean "whatever the person speaking happens to think", not least when the person speaking is oneself.

Is "conservative" going the same way?

Proponents of the "free" market can apparently now be "conservative", even though their system destroys each and all of national self-government (the only basis for international co-operation, and including the United Kingdom as greater than the sum of its parts), local variation, historical consciousness, family life (founded on the marital union of one man and one woman), the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West, agriculture, manufacturing, small business, close-knit communities, law and order, civil liberties, academic standards, all forms of art, mass political participation within a constitutional framework, respect for the absolute sanctity of each individual human life from the point of fertilisation to the point of natural death, the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State, the status of the English language and the rights of its speakers both throughout the United Kingdom and elsewhere, and the rights of British-descended communities throughout the world.

And proponents of the neoconservative (i.e., paleo-Trotskyist) war agenda can apparently now be "conservative", even though those agenda are colossally expensive to taxpayers, massively disruptive of the moral and social order, and utterly calamitous to national defence both against the entrenchment of existing enemies and against the creation of new ones.

"State-Sponsored Journalism"?

The BBC does not have a newspaper, so why does it need a website competing with those of the newspapers?

However, an attack on the very concept of the BBC is simply un-British, like an attack on the very concept of the NHS, or an attack on the very concept of the monarchy. It just sounds wrong, like mispronouncing a word. As, to British ears, Americans such as James Murdoch are wont to do from time to time.

The license fee should be made optional, with as many adults as wished to pay it at any given address free to do so, including those who did not own a television set but who greatly valued, for example, Radio Four.

The Trustees would then be elected by and from among the license-payers. Candidates would have to be sufficiently independent to qualify in principle for the remuneration panels of their local authorities. Each license-payer would vote for one, with the top two elected.

The electoral areas would be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and each of the nine English regions. The Chairman would be appointed by the relevant Secretary of State, with the approval of the relevant Select Committee. And the term of office would be four years.

You would not need to be a member of the Trust (i.e., a license-payer) to listen to or watch the BBC, just as you do not need to be a member of the National Trust to visit its properties, or a member of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution to be rescued by its boats.

At the same time, we need to ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national daily newspaper. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one national weekly newspaper. To ban any person or other interest from owning or controlling more than one television station. To re-regionalise ITV under a combination of municipal and mutual ownership. And to apply that same model (but with central government replacing local government, subject to very strict parliamentary scrutiny) to Channel Four.

No Entrance

So what if there are "not enough university places for people with good A-levels"? A-level is supposed to be, and used to be, a qualification in its own right. Not a university entrance exam, as which it is not really any good. There is no correlation whatever between A-level grades and classes of degree. Absolutely none. Not even in the same subject. Why should there be?

The Catholic Church and Immigration

Damian Thompson makes very important points.

The official organs of the Catholic Church in this country have long been out of step with opinion in the pews, and doubtless in the presbyteries once their doors are closed, about immigration. Of course, it can sometimes be necessary for them to be out of step. But it certainly isn’t in this case.

So one hopes that the Polish Mission’s recent bewailing of the lapsation rate among Polish immigrants to Britain (only one in ten of whom is a regular Mass-goer, compared to eight out of ten people in Poland) might get the message through: many of the Poles are not coming here in order to “enrich” or “renew” the Church, but precisely in order to get away from Her.

Similarly, in America, consider the words of the Catechism, “Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens” (paragraph 2241). You can’t do that by entering illegally, or by working illegally, or by evading taxes.

In Britain, in America, and elsewhere, the sooner the Bishops stop urging their flock to accept the loss of their jobs, the running down of their wages and working conditions, and the confinement of their children and grandchildren to the bottom of the heap by means of de facto State bilingualism, the better. No, these things are not somehow to the good of the Church.

In fact, far from Hispanics’ being the great hope of American Catholicism (any more than Poles are the great hope of British Catholicism), Latin America has never been a very Catholic place, with slight if any Mass-going majorities, huge numbers of the unbaptised, rampant syncretism and surviving paganism, and a very heavy dependence on (historically European, these days usually North American) missionary priests. No wonder that the strongest opponents of the present levels of immigration, of any amnesty, and of the erosion of English in American life, are themselves traditional Catholics. We could do with something similar over here.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Doctor Gratiae

Saint Augustine of Hippo, whose day this is, is an important forebear of the Dominican tradition in which some of us stand. His Rule remains part of the Constitutions to this day, and his influence suffuses the great theologians and spiritual writers of Dominicanism.

Saint Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican. Far from being the rupture with Augustinianism that is often asserted, his thought is wholly within it, and indeed utterly incomprehensible apart from it. Other attempts to affirm the Augustinian vision of all knowledge as divine illumination are not necessarily in opposition to Thomism; rather, under the Magisterium (its own point of reference and correction), it provides their point of reference and correction.

This applies to the entire rational and empirical systems, since, at least in the context of those who devised these systems in Early Modern Europe, the very belief in the possibility of true knowledge by rational or empirical means (indeed, of true knowledge at all) is Augustinian, and indeed Thomist.

Luther belonged to an Augustinian monastic institution. Yet, tragically, he was never exposed to that intellectual tradition, but only to the real rupture with it, Nominalism. Thus he knew little of Saint Augustine and his successors on grace and salvation, and was unable to identify the Nominalist character of the concept of sola scriptura, at which he arrived – it is vitally important to understand that his thought developed in this order – because of his pre-existing views on saving grace.

Those views are in any case contrary to Scripture. As he would have known, if the proper integration of prayer, study and labour had been observed in his religious house, as it was in that of Saint Thomas, and originally in that of and under Saint Augustine. Was the Protestant Schism the answer? No. But was the Late Mediaeval Church in serious trouble? Oh, yes. A heavy dose of Augustinianism was very much required. Just as it is today, when we have been given a Pope on whose work the Augustinian influence is impossible to overstate.

Fifteen Quid

Fifteen bleedin’ quid. I ask you!

£780 per year, multiplied by three hundred thousand, is two hundred and thirty million pounds. A lot to you or me. But peanuts in the great scheme of these things.

£15 per week may be peanuts to you or me. But it is a lot in some people’s great scheme of things.

What Is It Good For?

At this rate, the Americans will be out of Afghanistan before we are.

What on earth is any of this for?

It’s That Man Again

Dan Hannan? Or Enoch Powell? Hannan has managed to put Powell in the news again. And thus to put himself in the news again.

Enoch was wrong. Wrong about immigration, at the time. Wrong about economics, although his followers were and are much worse than he was. Wrong in his inability to see that the implementation of his economic views was impossible without the huge-scale importation of people as much as of anything else, as part of that system’s overall corrosion of everything that conservatives exist in order to conserve.

Wrong to scorn the Commonwealth. Wrong in the bitterness of his anti-Americanism. Wrong to support easier divorce. Wrong to give aid and succour to the Monday Club, although he never joined it, when it was supporting the Boer Republic set up as an explicit act of anti-British revenge in a former Dominion of the Crown (a move fiercely opposed by Nelson Mandela and the ANC, for all their other faults), and that Republic’s satellite, which first committed treason against Her Majesty and then very rapidly purported to depose her, removing the Union Flag from its own, something that even the Boer Republic never did.

But Enoch was also right. Right to line up with Tony Benn and against Margaret Thatcher on Europe. Right to oppose both capital punishment and nuclear weapons, the two ultimate expressions of statism as idolatry, on which latter he again correctly sided with Benn against Thatcher, and on both of which he in fact shared the views of many High Tories. Right about the normalisation of Northern Ireland, conventionally known as total integration, which will almost certainly never now happen, since the place has been carved up between a bizarre fundamentalist sect and a fully armed Marxist terrorist organisation. Right to use the full panoply of central government planning to make significant additions to the National Health Service, and always to remain a stalwart defender of it.

Right to oppose the subordination of our foreign policy to a foreign power. Right to denounce the atrocities at Hola. Right to support Britain’s non-intervention in Vietnam. Right to oppose the first Gulf War, which we fought as if buying oil from Saddam Hussein would somehow have been worse than buying it from the al-Sabahs (or the al-Sauds). Right to reprimand Thatcher that “A Tory believes that there is no such thing as an individual who exists without society”, pointedly referring to Tories, an age-old culture or series of subcultures, rather than to the Conservative Party, a late and strictly conditional vehicle for Toryism. Right to oppose abortion and experimentation on embryonic human beings, unlike Thatcher. Right to support the decriminalisation of male homosexual acts between consenting adults in private. Right to predict that the Soviet Union would collapse anyway, and to see Russia as our natural ally. Right to fight against grotesque erosions of our liberties, such as reversals of the burden of proof in certain cases.

His present-day admirers and detractors alike should learn the lessons.

Beyond The Fringe

Northern Ireland is mostly ignored now that people are rarely blown up there. Wales is mostly ignored anyway. But last night’s Newsnight, entirely about education, demonstrated the wrong-headedness of that approach.

In Wales, they are trying abolish school Sixth Forms. Though not for those whose parents can afford the fees, of course. Real Labour has seen what is happening. And Real Labour has been on the march in Wales for quite a while. Ex-Labour Independents and small parties have lately captured many council seats, captured and retained the erstwhile Commons seat of Aneurin Bevan and Michael Foot, and captured and retained the corresponding seat at Cardiff, all on programmes as far from the economic sectarian Leftism that New Labour used to profess as from the social and cultural sectarian Leftism that New Labour now professes.

But in Northern Ireland, sending fifty per cent of people to university is nothing new. They already do it. They have grammar schools. Which that fifty per cent cannot all have attended. Grammar schools increase standards across the board. It is a fact.

The Public Wants Public Transport

Charlie Marks has this, from Calvin Payne of Sheffield:

Despite deregulation in the 1980s, bus companies now receive annual subsidies totalling £1.2 billion. Companies profit from successful routes while claiming public money to ’subsidise’ the less profitable ones, such as those used by school children and the elderly. Public money is spent adding to the profits of some of the biggest companies in the country under the threat of service withdrawal or reduction.

These companies receive the equivalent adult fare whenever a free pass holder uses the service and have been accused of increasing fares on certain routes to take advantage of this arrangement.

The problem according to OFT is that there are not enough companies competing to run services. But whether in a monopoly situation, or with competition, private companies are still going to try to drive down wages and increase fares. In Sheffield some routes have seen fare cuts as a result of competing firms; however a couple of weeks after one firm increased fares by 20%, so did the other!

The OFT report also accuses large firms of undercutting smaller firms to drive them away, so any fare cuts are short-lived once that aim is achieved.

The Competition Commission is set to investigate the ‘unfair business practices’ of large bus companies. But a return to public ownership is not being considered by politicians or business friendly investigative bodies.

Amongst passengers though, that solution is still very much in mind and demanded. The cheap and good service run publicly in South Yorkshire until 1987 is still the benchmark as far as local passengers are concerned and is fondly remembered.

As well as passengers, the drivers and staff are angry at the current situation. Companies such as First and Stagecoach are attempting to freeze wages at a time of record profits and shareholder dividends. This has led to a series of strike ballots which are planned to culminate in nationwide action later this year.

If drivers and passengers can be united in one fight to restore public ownership, then fares could be cut, services maintained, and wages increased from current low levels back to their equivalent from regulated days. This task is down to campaigners and fighting union activists in the coming weeks and months.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

So Many Deaths For So Few Votes

We wouldn't be in this mess if we had either, never mind both, of a party which insisted on, among other things, international co-operation based on peace (which itself needs to be defended), and a party which insisted on, among other things, the fallacy of grand schemes to make the world anew.

Girls’ Certificate of Secondary Education

The GCSE is the means by which Margaret Thatcher ruined so many of our lives. She allowed those whose parents could afford it to continue to enjoy the benefit of O-levels in all but name. Most strikingly, they do so in the form of the export strength International GCSE, not permitted to be used in its own country's state schools because it is too rigorous, but widely and increasingly used in the private schools down the road. GCSE answers are marked down if they are "too sophisticated". Seriously.

The "examination instead of education" rot first set in when those preparing for GCSEs started to be sent home except for when they were sitting exams, and then simply given a long summer holiday once they had sat their last ones. It was, and is, presupposed as if obvious that the only reason to be taught anything is in order to pass an exam on it. So if there are no more exams, then there is no point to any more teaching. Is there?

And of course girls massively out-perform boys at GCSE. The GCSE was devised and implemented (implemented, I say again, by Margaret Thatcher) purely and precisely to ensure that this would always be the case, ostensibly as part of making schools "girl-friendly". But schools were never "girl-unfriendly": girls always slightly out-performed boys at examinations taken in the mid-teens, and they always will.

Meanwhile, A-levels have been made increasingly like GCSEs, to the same end and with the same result, while the curriculum further down the age range has of course been altered in order to prepare pupils for GCSE. But none of this proves anything except that a system contrived to favour very heavily one sex (the one that always did slightly better anyway) is doing precisely that.

This is the key to understanding why thousands of boys did not used to leave primary school, nor did anything like the current number used to leave secondary school, unable to read. And it is also the key to the alleged superiority of single-sex girls' schools, most of which are in any case academically selective, socio-economically selective, or both.

Is it possible that the reason boys now do so much worse than girls at, for example, English Literature, even though most English Literature properly so called was written by men, is because the same people who created the above situation have also given effect in schools to their strange theory that works have been denied canonicity because they were written by women (Jane Austen? The Brontës?), rather than simply because they were not as good as those included in the canon? The latter are still taught to those people's own sons and daughters alike, at enormous cost in terms of school fees or wildly inflated house prices.

And just how hard could it be to examine everyone both by coursework and by final examination, simply awarding the lower mark as the final grade?

If either Labour or the Tories were a serious party, then it would pledge to bring back O-levels, and in Labour's case would already have done so. But they're not. So they won't.

A British Senate

Looks like they might actually do it this time. For good or ill.

Each of the 99 units that are the English ceremonial counties, the Scottish lieutenancy areas, the Welsh preserved counties and the Northern Irish counties should elect the same number of Senators (four? five? six? how big do we want the Senate to be?) by each of us voting for one candidate and the requisite number being declared elected at the end, with that same number, who would have to be Crossbenchers, thus elected by the country as a whole.

Party candidates should be selected by submitting the shortlist of two to a ballot of all registered voters in the county. As ever with primaries, there would be nothing to stop unsuccessful candidates, or anyone else, from putting up as Independents.

There should be a residency requirement. Candidates for the Senate should have to have been registered voters in the county (or, perhaps, one immediately adjacent) throughout the previous 10 years.

And while Ministers should have to appear regularly before the Senate in order to answer its questions, Senators should be banned from being Ministers. It would thus be possible to build a career specifically as a legislator.

The People's Champion?

Alexander Cockburn doesn't think so:

While Teddy Kennedy's disasters were vivid, his legislative triumphs, draped in this week's obituaries with respectful homage, were far less colourful. And they were actually devastating for the very constituencies – working people, organised labour – whose champion he claimed to be.

He had the most famous car accident in political history when he drove off a wooden bridge on Chappaquiddick Island in July 1969, saying later that he had failed in several attempts to dive down 10ft to rescue Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide of his dead brother Robert. She was in the back seat and drowned.

Ted quit the scene and called a Kennedy speechwriter instead of the police, a misdemeanor which cost him a two-month suspended sentence and any chance of ever following his brother Jack into the White House.

He made only one overt bid for the presidency and that was a colourful disaster too. He challenged the Democratic incumbent, Jimmy Carter, then seeking re-election in 1980. After three years, the left in the Democratic Party was bitterly disappointed in Carter's cautious centrism and Kennedy placed himself in the left's vanguard, declaring in a famous speech that "sometimes a party must sail against the wind".

In those days I was reporting on national politics for the Village Voice and Rolling Stone and covered Kennedy's bid. It got off to a shaky start when Roger Mudd of NBC, a well-known political reporter and TV newscaster, asked Ted on prime time why he wanted to be president. The 30 seconds of silence that followed this easy lob didn't help Kennedy's chances.

The campaign plane shot backwards and forwards across America, seeking photo opportunities. On one typical morning we left Washington DC at 6am and headed for the rustbelt where Kennedy stood outside a shuttered Pittsburgh steel mill and pledged to get the steel industry back on its feet. We shot west to Nebraska so Kennedy could stand outside a corn silo and swear allegiance to the cause – utterly doomed - of the small family farmer. Then we doubled back to New York so he could stand on a street corner in a slum neighbourhood in the Bronx and promise a better deal for urban blacks and Hispanics.

I asked one of Kennedy's campaign people why they didn't simply equip a studio in Washington with the necessary backdrops – steel mill, silo, urban wasteland – but he said it wouldn't be honest. As things were, the locations we flew to may have been genuine, but the campaign pledges were as dishonest as a studio backdrop, which is why Kennedy – bellowing out his speeches like a mammoth stuck in a swamp - sounded utterly fake.

By 1980 the die was cast. Disdaining the left option offered by George McGovern in 1972, the Democratic Party had thrown in its lot decisively with Wall Street and the big players across the American corporate landscape. The labour unions and the other foot-soldier constituencies of the party would be flung empty rhetorical bouquets, as they have been every four years since 1980.

Though the obituarists have glowingly related Kennedy's 46-year stint in the US Senate and, as 'the last liberal', his mastery of the legislative process, they miss the fact that it was out of Kennedy's Senate office that came two momentous bits of legislation that signalled the onset of the neo-liberal era: deregulation of trucking and aviation. They were a disaster for organised labour and the working conditions and pay of people in those industries.

The theorist of deregulation was Stephen Breyer who was Kennedy's chief counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Breyer now sits on the US Supreme Court, an unswerving shill for the corporate sector.

We also have Kennedy to thank for 'No Child Left Behind' – a nightmarish Education Bill pushed through in concert with Bush Jr's White House, that condemns children to a treadmill of endless tests contrived as "national standards".

And it was Kennedy who was the prime force behind the Hate Crimes Bill, aka the Matthew Shepard Act, by dint of which America is well on its way to making it illegal to say anything nasty about gays, Jews, blacks and women. "Hate speech," far short of any direct incitement to violence, is on the edge of being criminalised, with the First Amendment gone the way of the dodo.

Of course Kennedy did some decent things, which is scarcely surprising in a political career of half a century. But as much as his brothers Jack and Bobby he was adept at persuading the underdogs that he was on their side.

To this day there are deluded souls who argue that Jack was going to pull US troops out of Vietnam and that is why he was killed; that Bobby, who supervised the US "Murder Inc" in the Caribbean, was really and truly on the side of the angels; that Ted was the mighty champion of the working people, even though he gave them deregulation and helped push through NAFTA, the "free trade" pact that was another body blow to American labour.

By his crucial endorsement last year he helped give them Obama too, now holidaying six miles from Chappaquiddick, on Martha's Vineyard. But because his mishaps were so dramatic, no one remembers quite how noxious his political triumphs were for those who now mourn him as their lost leader.

Evicted

For the last series of Big Brother, we'll start the bidding at Tony Blair.

Better In The Nineties, Bitter In The Noughties?

I don't deny it.

The revival of Shooting Stars had its moments, but much of it was a bit thin. And messing about with the opening song, with Bob's song to Ulrika, and - sacrilege of sacrileges! - with "Eranu" and "Uvavu" is a betrayal of the rising generation, which is entitled to these incomparable treasures of its heritage.

Still, bring back the Nineties. They were so much better.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Poison Pill

The Daily Mail, with its huge female readership, is the latest mainstream media outlet to start stating the facts.

Everyone, and I mean absolutely everyone, should read my friend Ann Farmer's Prophets and Priests: The Hidden Face of the Birth Control Movement (London: The Saint Austin Press, 2002; ISBN 1 901157 62 8). In addition to its unyielding racism, the war against fertility is, and has always been, the war against the working class, the war against the poor at home and abroad, the war against the electoral base of the Left, the war against the social provisions for which the Left exists, and, above all, the war against women.

Furthermore (this bit is Lindsay, not Farmer - but I'm sure that she would agree with it), the idea of fertility as a medicable condition, requiring powerful drugs or even surgical interventions to prevent a woman's body from doing exactly what it does naturally, is basically and ultimately the idea that femaleness itself is such a condition, a sort of XX Syndrome.

I can think of nothing that is actually more misogynistic than that, although some things are equally so, notably the view that the preborn child is simultaneously insentient and a part of the woman's body. Is it the whole of a woman's body that is insentient, or only the parts most directly connected with reproduction?

Imputable

With my emphasis added, Daniel Korski writes:

One of the oddest parts of Libyagate is what it says about Gordon Brown’s notions of devolution. The Prime Minister does not want to comment on the affair because, we are told, he sees it as a matter for the Scottish government, not the British government.

So, if the actions of a devolved but subordinate level of government go against the state’s interests, the leaders of that state should stay mum? That's certainly not the view taken by successive US administrations; they have often condemned state-level actions, even when the federal government has been legally powerless to do anything in practice.

The UK has no written constitution as in the US, but a clear constitutional settlement nonetheless. Now I am not a lawyer, but as far as I understand it, the UK Parliament retains sole authority to legislate over so-called reserved matters. This can only be altered by further primary legislation of the UK Parliament. Within the Scotland Act 1998 reservations to all devolved matters are those concerned with the UK as ‘a state’ and include e.g. the Constitution, foreign affairs and defence.

Let's play a little thought experiment. What if a devolved level of government takes an action that is within its legal competence but which leads to war with the state and a third country? Would the state have the right to curtail the otherwise legal actions of the subordinate level of government to defend the whole country's interests and security? Most people would say so.

That was an extreme example, but the point is serious and recognized in international law. Under the so-called laws of state responsibility, a state is responsible for the actions of its officials and organs, even if the organ or official is formally independent. It is even responsible if the organ – in this case a devolved level of government - is acting ultra vires, that is, “beyond the powers” of the state. Indeed, entities not even classified as organs of the state may still be imputable, when they are otherwise empowered to exercise elements of governmental authority, and act in that capacity in a particular instance. So the UK is legally responsible for Scotland’s actions.

In other words, if the power to conduct foreign relations is truly an exclusive competency of the UK government, with no role for the devolved bodies, a logical consequence is that some devolved actions and indeed laws impinging on foreign relations are invalid, even in the absence of already-established UK government policy. Libyagate is not only about Gordon Brown's politically-calculated absence, or Kenny MacAskill’s misguided notions of compassion, but about a constitutional grey area that should be explored further, at the very least by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, which is responsible for legal matters arising from Scottish devolution.

Ah, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The reason why there will still have to be new Law Lords, because they will be the members of that Committee, and it remains the final Court of Appeal by the free choice of several Commonwealth countries (at least one, I happen to know, without even the Queen as Head of State), though not of its members' own.

As well as having, it seems, the role in Scotland that Scottish Nationalists of all parties have always insisted that it didn't have, though only because of the devolution in favour of which they voted. But no such role, at least directly, in the affairs of that part of the United Kingdom in whose law its members are trained and qualified.

Fathers and Sons, War and Peace

Over on The American Conservative's Post-Right blog, Jack Ross writes:

Yes, he was a liberal’s liberal, both good and bad, but any senator who said the vote they were most proud of was their vote against the Iraq War deserves a hearty “Well done, thou good and faithful servant!”

What must not go unmentioned therefore is the history behind this. Ted always seemed to have more of his father in him than any of his brothers - and undoubtedly he was haunted to no end by seeing in Dubya’s zeal to avenge his father’s wimpiness an echo of how nearly Jack brought about nuclear armageddon with his eagerness to destroy the legacy of their father, the architect of Munich.

So in the midst of the coming avalanche of Chris Matthews’ barely disguised homoerotic asphyxiation on the Kennedys, let us pause and pay homage to the Kennedys who dared say no to war.

Sicut Patribus, Sit Deus Nobis

Or something like that, anyway.

Ted Kennedy has gone, as we will all go eventually. Requiescat in pace. Jesu mercy, Mary pray.

Meanwhile, in filling his seat, the Democratic Party has the opportunity to send to the Senate, not only an uncompromising supporter of the Kennedy Bill (as the healthcare bill could reasonably now be renamed), but also a figure capable of reaching out to those who, on the same day as they elected both President Obama and a Democratic Congress, made it clear at those same polls that, in Florida and California, they wanted back the country where marriage only ever meant one man and one woman. That, in Colorado, they wanted back the country that did not permit legal discrimination against working-class white men. That, in Missouri and Ohio, they wanted to preserve the country where gambling was not deregulated. And that, from coast to coast, they wanted that country as stalwarts of, especially, the black and Catholic churches.

That opportunity was missed in black and Catholic Illinois and New York, and in Delaware. Let it not also be missed in Catholic Massachusetts. Not that the new Senator actually has to be either black or a Catholic. But he or she does need to be, in addition to a fully-signed up supporter of Kennedy's economic populism in general and of the Kennedy Bill in particular, a fully-signed up believer (as is President Obama) that marriage is only ever the union of one man and one woman, opponent of discrimination against working-class white men, opponent of deregulated gambling, believer in the public role of the churches, and supporter of Bob Casey's Pregnant Women Support Act (effectively endorsed by the President at Notre Dame).

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Keeping Company

Netanyahu is received as an honoured guest. Why?

I carry no candle for the German-nationalist Third Lager in Austria, with its rabid capitalism and anticlericalism. But Jörg Haider was never in government nationally, whereas Avigdor Lieberman is now Israel's Foreign Minister.

So, when can we expect Israel to receive anything even remotely approaching the vilification and the pariah status heaped on Austria after the FPÖ entered government in 2000?

Cameron Must Ditch The Blairite Neocons

A real conservative, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, writes:

Years ago there was a columnist – was it Hannen Swaffer in the Daily Herald? – who had a catchphrase: "I told them but they wouldn't listen." Anyone who writes about politics sometimes knows the feeling, but it's unusually oppressive for those of us who have tried to offer constructive advice to David Cameron and his team.

We told them to avoid the mistakes of the present government, to repudiate its economic strategy, to promise a foreign policy based on the British rather than the American national interest, to give a wide berth to customers such as Andy Coulson, and above all to bill themselves as the "Not the Tony Blair party". We told them, but did they listen? Did they hell.

In today's Guardian ICM poll, the Tories maintain a commanding lead at 41%, with Labour a pitiful 25%. In one very significant figure, Liberal Democrat voters would prefer Tories to Labour in government by 56% to 36%. Even Labour supporters know in their hearts that Gordon Brown just does not deserve to be re-elected.

And as we brace ourselves for a Tory government, along comes Michael Gove. I had no wish to return to the shadow education minister, but Michael's at it again. The man who once wrote: "I can't fight my feelings any more: I love Tony … all I can say looking at Mr Blair now is, what's not to like?" has just been interviewed in the Independent on Sunday, where John Rentoul begins with the arresting words "Michael Gove and I are Blairite ultras".

Asked whether he really wants to be called a Blairite in view of Blair's unpopularity, Gove replies: "He's not as popular as he deserves to be, and he's emphatically not as popular within Labour as he deserves to be – amazing ingratitude on their part." This view is shared, as it happens, by Gerald Kaufman, who has written here that Labour should "go down on their knees in thanksgiving for his achievements".

When politicians of both parties rebuke the rest of us for ingratitude, it pays to be on guard. Perhaps one can understand why Kaufman is so grateful to a leader whose election victories allowed him to remain in parliament and eligible to claim his antique rugs and flat-screen television on expenses, even if that meant voting for a war that Kaufman said both beforehand and afterwards that he didn't believe in.

But why should any honest Tory feel any gratitude or admiration whatsoever for Blair? Next year the Tories will be picking up the pieces left behind by a prime minister who presided for 10 years (with the support of his chancellor) over an illusory boom which, since it was in fact artificially fuelled by rocketing house prices and an explosion of household debt, was bound to end in bust. As Larry Elliott, the Guardian's economics editor, says, George Osborne knows better than anyone that the next chancellor will have to raise taxes as well as slash spending, and it's hard to see why he should feel particularly thankful for the odium he is bound to incur.

Many ordinary Tories, as opposed to bumptious MPs, feel a visceral loathing for Blair. The Tories should be the party of constitutional government and individual freedom under a rule of law. As the damning evidence of four former cabinet secretaries reported in the Guardian on Monday reminds us, the last prime minister's assumption of presidential powers ruined cabinet government and gravely damaged our whole constitutional settlement. At the same time, Blair launched the most relentless assault on civil liberties since Lord Liverpool, and rubbed it in by sneering at "libertarian nonsense".

But, of course, we know why Gove really remains a Blairite ultra: "If you take the Tony Blair view on foreign policy, in terms of support for democracy abroad, then I certainly agree with that." This is at odds with Cameron, at least his better moments. He has said that we shouldn't be wedded to unconditional support for Washington, that "you can't drop democracy from 10,000 feet", and that he himself is "a liberal conservative, not a neoconservative".

And yet Gove – who is "happy to be called a neocon" – insists that Cameron has "given the strongest possible support for our mission in Afghanistan", which is "part of a broader struggle against Islamist fundamentalism". Those words must make anyone despair, and certainly think twice about voting Tory.

Before the 2004 American election, Matthew Parris – a sometime Tory MP and cavaliere servente to Margaret Thatcher – wrote that "George W Bush needs a second term at the White House", but his endorsement was backhanded. Aided and abetted by Blair, he said, Bush was conducting an "experiment whose importance is almost literally earth-shattering".

"I want to see that experiment properly concluded. The theory that liberal values and a capitalist economic system can be spread across the world by force of arms, and that [the US] is competent to undertake this task, is the first big idea of the 21st century. It should be tested to destruction ... There must be no room left for argument. The president and his neoconservative court should be offered all the rope they need to hang themselves."

Well, five years later Parris can't complain. He got what he wanted. Few ideologies have ever been so utterly discredited as neoconservatism – or projects become so unpopular. I'm quite used to being in a minority, and often enough happy to be, but in this case mine is the voice of the majority. It's the neocons infesting the Tory party who espouse a deeply unpopular view.

Our lamentable adventure in Iraq is regarded as a terrible mistake by almost all voters, more than half of whom now want our troops withdrawn from the thankless and unwinnable war in Afghanistan as well. Brown's claim that we are fighting in Helmand to make British streets safer is so obviously absurd as to be embarrassing, and the prospects for "a struggle against Islamist fundamentalism" waged by military means throughout the Muslim world are not encouraging or appetising. Anyone for a new hundred years war?

An old political saw holds that oppositions don't win elections, governments lose them. That was at least partly true in 1979 and 1997, and it will be truer than ever next year. David Cameron may be confidently pondering which pieces of his furniture would fit in Downing Street. But might he not also think about offering us a real political choice, and make it clear that, whatever else he may be, he is not "Blair's heir"?

Oh, but he is.

Torture

What sort of society even needs to discuss this?

The sort of society rejected by Americans at the polls last year.

Not the sort of society thus chosen by them.

To The Shores of Tripoli?

Those IRA victims now seeking compensation from Gadaffi as, so to speak, a quid pro quo for the Lockerbie freeing would be better advised to look, not to the defunct Soviet Union, but to the far from defunct United States of America.

The two superpowers of the day were the really big funders of the IRA, the one that still exists because of the IRA's campaign against the Workers' Party. NORAID publications in the Reagan years made this perfectly clear, and seemed to think it unremarkable.

This is the context of the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, and the denied maintenance of continuous communication with the IRA, by Reagan's dear friend, Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps they should go after her millions, too?

All-Rounders

I have recived the following email from Australia:

"There has been comment that MBEs, and even knighthood, are to be awarded to the victorious English cricket team and the Queen has been criticised that such honours not been given to Australian sportsmen who have been victorious in past years. The fact is that the awarding of honours within the Order of the British Empire to British sportsmen (or to anybody else in the UK), is not a decision of the Queen but of the British Government. Furthermore, the Australian Government discontinued imperial honours over twenty years ago and instead recommends the awarding of honours within the Order of Australia, of which the Queen is also Sovereign. The Australian Government also discontinued the awarding of knighthoods under the Order of Australia. However, the Australian Government always has the option of restoring imperial honours, in which case they could then recommend that knighthoods and MBEs be awarded to anyone they may choose to nominate."

No Sir Shane Warne? Not even Shane Warne MBE? Over to you, Kevin Rudd.

I Still Like Mike

"That's not the agenda of the Reagan coalition, that's the agenda of the Democratic Party."

So roared Fred Thompson at Mike Huckabee during a televised debate last year.

Huckabee is criminally wrong about the Palestinians, and the expression of such views by a mainstream figure is but one more nail in the coffin of the GOP. But he is still, as the paleocons rightly so disgusted at his outburst over Palestine should be, a Democrat.

He is a Democrat who believes in the six-day creation, but there used to be a lot of them, and there probably still are under the surface. He is also Democrat who opposes abortion, who defends marriage as only ever between one man and one woman, and who upholds Second Amendment rights. But when many or even most Democrats were like that, there were generations of Democratic dominance, making possible exactly the sorts of things that really do mark out Huckabee, incontrovertibly, as a Democrat: creating jobs, relieving poverty, extending and defending workers' rights, that sort of thing.

Since turning into shibboleths abortion, the homosexualist agenda, and the restriction of gun ownership to government functionaries and to criminals, the Democrats have driven away great swathes of exactly the people who made them the party of Main Street rather than Wall Street. That Huckabee ran as a Republican demonstrated this more starkly than anything else yet.

Huckabee also believes that it is not for America to try and export her political institutions around the world. Imagine!

Huckabee is not, by the way, a "former Baptist minister". He is still a Baptist minister, and I for one rather liked the idea that he might nevertheless have occupied the reserved presidential pew in Saint John's Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square. It would have been rude of them not to invite him to preach occasionally, which would have been nothing if not memorable for all concerned.

He is, however, a former Governor of Arkansas. But that is never mentioned. Funny how Bill Clinton wasn't treated like that.

Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tui

"Fear God and honour the Queen."

Still the motto of Fiji, despite the abolition of the monarchy in 1987, in the first of an ongoing series of military coups, the cause of expulsion from the Commonwealth, although no one really sees that as permanent.

Kwame Kwei-Armah seemed baffled that the Queen was still on the bank notes. She is also still on the stamps. The Union Flag is still in the corner of the flag, just as in Australia, or New Zealand, or Saint Helena. Fiji provides plenty of troops for the British Army. And so on.

Well, why ever not? The Queen remains Paramount Chief of the Great Council of Chiefs of Fiji, and the President must be from one of those chiefly families, acknowledging as they do the Queen as Paramount. Who is really the Head of State there? No wonder that the latest unelected military ruler has suspended that Council.

And when was Fiji better off? Before 1987, when she was peaceable and had an elected government? Or since, when she is for ever having military coups?

Rerevaka na Kalou ka Doka na Tui.

Fear God and honour the Queen.

From Legal To Illegal Highs?

We don't even enforce the existing drug laws.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The Tory Test

Peter Hitchens writes:

We have a lot of fuss about sportswomen who are accused of not actually being female, which is embarrassing and unpleasant for them. What about Tories who are not actually conservative? What is the matter with Michael Gove? Is there a test that could discover if he is a conservative?

This week in the Independent on Sunday Mr Gove gave an interview to John Rentoul, author of a not-very-critical biography of Anthony Blair.

Here are some extracts from this interview. Remember as you read them that Mr Gove is Shadow Education Secretary, and so close to David Cameron that he shares the school run with him. Both have children at a heavily oversubscribed Church of England primary school nestling in the deep heart of Kensington, surrounded by properties costing millions (though both men, who I'm happy to say are pillars of the Church of England, also live quite a way from this wondrous place). The wives of both toil for the parish magazine of the Church to which the school is attached. I read their contributions to it with joyful delight. I might add that I have known Mr Gove for years, enjoy his company, and think he is completely wrong about almost everything. He had a lucky escape in the great expenses scandal, largely because of his position as a member of the Cameroon Praetorian Guard. There's an extended version of the interview (called a ‘director's cut’ ) on the Independent on Sunday website.

I might mention that he refers to his ‘great friend, Stephen Byers’ (a former Blair Cabinet Minister). But here are two key sections:

‘And when I ask if it is wise to paint himself as a Blairite, given the former prime minister's latter unpopularity, he says: “He's not as popular as he deserves to be, and he's emphatically not as popular within Labour as he deserves to be – amazing ingratitude on their part. But if someone were to look at some of the views that I've argued and say, ‘Tony Blair said that’, it would be fatuous of me to deny it, and dishonest, so therefore I may as well acknowledge it because it is true.

“If you take the Blair view on public services reform, and particularly on education, I think it's right, and it is a pity that that trajectory was stopped. If you take the Tony Blair view on foreign policy, in terms of support for democracy abroad, then I certainly agree with that as well, but if you take certain other Blair policies, and Europe is the most conspicuous, then you can say I fall very, very far short of the high standards he set.” ‘

To anyone who's surprised, I should say that this admiration of Mr Blair is not new. In February 2003, Mr Gove wrote in The Times: ’You could call it the Elizabeth Bennett moment. It’s what Isolde felt when she fell into Tristan’s arms. It’s the point you reach when you give up fighting your feelings, abandon the antipathy bred into your bones, and admit that you were wrong about the man. By God, it’s still hard to write this, but I’m afraid I’ve got to be honest. Tony Blair is proving an outstanding Prime Minister at the moment.‘

He continued, breathlessly: ’And many, but far from all, of my fellow rightwingers will wonder what on earth I’m doing licking Mr Blair’s boots when Labour are, at last, dipping in the polls. Shouldn’t any Conservative-inclined commentator be turning up the heat on the Prime Minister now, at last, when he’s vulnerable? Don’t the Tories have enough internal problems without those writers who’re supposed to be sympathetic to their cause bigging up Blair?

‘They’re all good points if you’re a tribalist. But I’m a journalist [he wasn't an MP then]. In so far as I’m sympathetic to Tory politicians, and their arguments, it’s because as a right-wing polemicist I find them persuasive. And as a right-wing polemicist, all I can say looking at Mr Blair now is, what’s not to like?

‘Central to any current assessment of Mr Blair has to be the manner in which he is handling the Iraq crisis. But before considering just how impressive his stance is, and how petty his detractors, it’s worth noting that Mr Blair’s entitlement to conservative respect doesn’t rest on his foreign policy alone.

‘The Prime Minister has been right, and brave, to introduce market pressures into higher education by pushing through university top-up fees in the teeth of opposition from his egalitarian Chancellor. He’s been correct in conceding, to the annoyance of his wife I’m sure, that the European Convention on Human Rights gets in the way of a sane asylum policy. In dealing with the firefighters, and their absurdly selfish strike, he’s been satisfactorily resolute.

‘There are certainly idiocies aplenty across the range of this Government’s domestic policy, indeed that’s hardly surprising given ministers like Tessa Jowell and John Prescott in the Cabinet. The problem with putting muppets into office is that there’s no one left to pull the strings when your hands are full.’

This is the true voice of the new Blue Labour Tories. I couldn't have made it up, wouldn't have dared to make it up. On the one hand, a total unswerving commitment to comprehensive schools and the unhinged expansion of the universities, presumably to the point (closer than you may think) where you'll be able to get a degree if you can't read. On the other, an undying enthusiasm for liberal intervention abroad (hence the Tories' total, shameful unforgivable failure to offer any opposition at all to the Afghan folly, or the Iraq madness before it).

Curious, isn't it, how little attention this sort of thing gets. I can remember when cross-party flirting of this sort at front bench level would have been universal front-page news, ending in resignation. Just imagine the fuss, if any Labour politician were this polite about Mr Cameron, or if any Shadow Cabinet member came out in favour of grammar schools or pulling out of Afghanistan or an end to immigration, or the death penalty or leaving the EU?

Behold the wonders of the manufactured consensus. Mr Gove's words are much more interesting - and much more indicative of the true face of the Cameron circle and of the true intentions of a Cameron government, if there ever is one - than Daniel Hannan's wholly unrepresentative remarks about the NHS. But our media still think in the ancient categories of another age, and either can't or won't grasp what is important and what is not.

Members Only

It does not bother me that I am ineligible for BNP membership. Whom to let in, or not, is a matter for the party in question, and no business of the State. I take the same view of all-women shortlists: if a party has poor enough judgement, and so very condescending an attitude to women, to want such a device, then that is just another very good reason not to vote for that party. Again, no business of the State. As with State funding, where would this nationalisation end?

Why the fuss a while ago about the BNP requiring a membership number on application forms for its employment? I can tell you for a fact that so does the Labour Party. Is a Labour Party membership number also required on the form to be on the Cameron A-list? Or did that list’s preponderance of persons thus numbered just happen anyway?

Out of Politics?

If whether or not to grant prisoners compassionate release, then what else, and why?

Who, exactly, should instead decide these things? How, exactly? And why, exactly?

Xinjiang

Two hundred prosecutions. No, nor would I wish to stand trial in China. But a point still needs to be made.

Why are Han Chinese “Han Chinese”, but Uighur Chinese simply “Uighurs”? They have been Chinese for about as long as each other, i.e., more or less for ever. For that matter, they have lived in Xinjiang (even if not always at the current ratio) for about as long as each other, i.e., more or less for ever. But, of course, we all know why the Han are described as Chinese yet the Uighur are not. The Trots are in charge now. For that is what hatred of China in our media is: student Trotskyism from back in the day.

For all the same depiction of the perpetrators as the victims that we saw when Tibetans also turned on their age-old Han and Hui neighbours, the events in Xinjiang show up the vitally important point that just because the Chinese regime is nasty, that does not make its opponents nice. Those who want an ethnically pure Islamist state in Xinjiang are of a piece with those who want an ethnically pure feudal theocracy in Tibet, with those who feel that Maoism has been betrayed, with those who always saw Maoism as a betrayal of Stalinism, and with the Koumintang ludicrously agitating to have their accidental bolt-hole on Taiwan declared independent.

Is every one of China’s 56 ethnic groups to be given a state? The population clearances necessary to create such states in Tibet and Xinjiang alone would make the partition of India look like a parish council boundary dispute. Even leaving aside the horrifying visions of those who want control of those territories in order to give those visions life. The whole thing is completely unconscionable.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Dum Spiro Spero

From, I need hardly say, The American Conservative's Post-Right blog:

And, for that matter, Animis Opibusque Parati.

Fascinating emails (davidaslindsay@hotmail.com – keep them coming) from people saying, either that they have been thinking these things for while, or that it had never occurred to them to become Democrats but it certainly has now, or in a few cases that they had already done so for the reasons that I set out. Well, what can I say? Sometimes the spectator sees more of the game. And a party is strictly a machine, a device, a means to ends. It can never be an end in itself. What ends does the Republican Party now serve? Certainly not yours.

Bob Conley had had quite enough of the Republican Party’s completely closed attitude to conservative views on trade, immigration, war, and actually doing anything about abortion or in defense of marriage. So that Ron Paul activist and traditional Catholic (which latter presumably inoculates him against the more virulent strains of Paul’s libertarianism) changed his registration. He became a Democrat. Classy.

But then he went, not one, but two better. He entered the Democratic Senatorial primary. And, against a liberal Democrat from central casting, he won it. Narrowly. But he still won it. Okay, so he did not win the general election, at his first attempt and against a very well-known incumbent. But he managed a creditable showing under the circumstances. Not least the circumstance of the wider movement’s failure to get behind a Ron Paul-supporting, traditional Catholic Democrat as it would have gotten behind a Ron Paul-supporting, traditional Catholic Republican. Remind me, which Ron Paul-supporting, traditional Catholic Republican was running for the United States Senate last year, or indeed any year? Including next year.

On the matter of winning the Democratic primary, just how black is the Democratic Party in South Carolina? You may know better, but I am betting that it is very, very black indeed. And you may know better, but I am betting that those politicized preachers did plenty of work at the grassroots to secure the nomination of a man who shared their own and their congregants’ views on protecting blue-collar jobs, on immigration, on English as America’s national language, on war, on abortion, and on the nature of marriage. Is there any state in which no such alliance could be forged? Are there not many in which it could be decisive?

Not that that is the only such possible, and therefore morally and politically obligatory, alliance. For example, there are also the labor unions overtly on job protection, with plenty of their members broadly or entirely sound on the other issues, too. And there are others besides.

Do you, or do you not, ever want to get anything done on trade, immigration, the status of English, corporate power, corporate welfare, big lobbyists, the constitutional rights violated by the Bush Administration, helping those on low and middle incomes, reducing abortion, defending traditional marriage, a realistic foreign policy, and a strong defense capability used strictly for its properly defensive purpose? Who could disagree with you on those issues? The Republicans, that’s who. Only on abortion and on marriage do they even so much as make the right noises. And noises are all that they are.

Yes, you would have to put up with some things that you did not want but your allies (the preachers, the unions, whoever) did. And yes, you would have to do without some things that you wanted but they did not. To be in that position would indicate your acceptance as part of the coalition, as part of the family. As things stand, you are forced to accept everything that you do not want and to forego everything that you do. You are part of no coalition. You are part of no family. You are cast out.

It is very high time to come in from the cold. Come into the party in which anyone agrees with you, if not about everything, then at least about anything. Come into, come home to, the party of Bob Conley. The Democratic Party.

Why not?

Blair's Booby Traps

The prisoner transfer agreement with Libya is the biggest of Blair's booby traps for Brown to go off so far. But it is not the first. Nor will it be the last.

What Scots think of Kenny McAskill's decision will be made clear at the Glasgow North-East by-election. Even the prospect of electing an Opus Dei MP is not quite a good enough reason to vote SNP even in general, never mind now.

And as for Blair, considering how fabulously rich he has become as his reward for the Iraq War, the Statute Law should be amended to bill him by name for the cost of it.

The Libya deal was also vintage neoconservatism in action - pretending to get rid of non-existent WMD so that the oil money could flow.

Imposed By A Higher Power

Death approaches.

And with it, extradition from Syria?

From Walford To Oxford?

A secular comp in a working-class area still having a Sixth Form is stretching it, to say the least. But sending two pupils to Oxford in one year? Yes, I know it's not real. But nor is it supposed to be set on a different planet.

State schools used to take seventy per cent of Oxbridge places, making Oxford and Cambridge academically serious institutions. Those schools were called grammar schools. Without them from which to admit, why care in the least about Oxbridge?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

“The Language of Priorities Is The Religion of Conservatism”

Another one from The American Conservative's Post-Right blog, where I have certainly set them talking:

So almost said Aneurin Bevan, founder of the British National Health Service. I have changed one word. Can you guess which one?

Do paleocons prioritize the protection of American jobs? If so, then you could have no stauncher allies than the labor unions and their Congressional beneficiaries, whose ranks you might even be able to join. Never mind a President hysterically denounced as a “protectionist” as if that meant anything other than a patriot. If only you were Democrats.

Do paleocons prioritize halting and reversing the national emergency of unrestricted and illegal immigration, and making English, both in law and in fact, the only official language of the United States severally and collectively? If so, then you could have no stauncher allies than the Congressional Black Caucus, or anyone with a largely black electorate. If only you were Democrats.

Do paleocons prioritize fair trade agreements, the repeal of much of the USA PATRIOT Act, the complete end of the neocon war agenda, strict campaign finance reform, a crackdown on corporate influence generally and on corporate welfare in particular, and tax cuts for the pitchfork-wielding poor and middle-earning? These are stated aims of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, with its 11 out of 20 House Committee Chairmanships. When did the Republicans last make a paleocon a Committee Chairman? They would have to let one into Congress first. No one expects paleocons to join the CPC. Or the CPC to let them in, for that matter. But you could certainly line up with its members in order to secure the measures listed here. And you might even get one or two Committee Chairmanships out of it. If only you were Democrats.

Do paleocons prioritize moral and social conservatism? Those who feel most strongly about immigration and about the status of English also feel strongly that marriage is only ever the union of one man and one woman. They made that perfectly clear on the same day as they delivered Florida’s and California’s Electoral College votes to Obama, himself a supporter of traditional marriage. The Republicans have been talking about this for years, just as they have been talking about abortion for years. But they have done absolutely nothing about either. Moral and social conservatives are only there to deliver the votes for big business and its government spending programs, including wars. Giuliani conspicuously failed to mention abortion in his 2008 Convention speech, and no one heckled him about it or anything like that. By contrast, Bob Casey set out his position clearly and was heard respectfully. Paleocons could be fighting for the views of the President and of other black Americans on traditional marriage, and for Casey’s Pregnant Women Support Act, effectively endorsed by Obama at Notre Dame. If only you were Democrats.

Do paleocons prioritize foreign policy realism? That is now the mainline Democratic position, the default option beyond the pacifist Left. Any remaining War Partisans (or, indeed, any anti-defense fanatics) are only a primary challenge away from oblivion. Paleocons could be backing, or even mounting, those challenges on the basis that peace must be defended by deterring aggression, and that “liberal interventionism” is the road to Saigon, Belgrade, Mogadishu, Kabul and Baghdad, the graveyards of huge numbers of young blacks, young Irish Catholics, young Scotch-Irish Southerners and Westerners, and young working-class Democrats in general. If only you were Democrats.

To what extent is the Republican Party now influenced by those who would protect American jobs? Absolutely none. To what extent is the Republican Party now influenced by those who would halt and reverse mass and illegal immigration, and make English the only official language? Absolutely none. To what extent is the Republican Party now influenced by those who would enact fair trade agreements, the repeal of much of the USA PATRIOT Act, the complete end of the neocon war agenda, strict campaign finance reform, a crackdown on corporate influence generally and on corporate welfare in particular, and tax cuts for the pitchfork-wielding poor and middle-earning? Absolutely none. To what extent is the Republican Party now influenced by moral and social conservatives? Judged by deeds rather than by words, absolutely none. To what extent is the Republican Party now influenced by foreign policy realists? Absolutely none, to put it no more strongly than that.

Yes, as Democrats, you would have to put up with some things that you did not want, and to go without out some things that you did want. That would be the price of other Democrats’ support for other things that you wanted, and for foregoing other things that you did not want. That is political reality. Conservatives are supposed to be good at dealing with reality. And this reality would be infinitely preferable to the present one. Whether it is the Republican Party that despises you, or the Democratic Party that you have hitherto barely made aware of your existence, you currently get nothing that you want and everything that you do not want.

What would these things be, that other Democrats would want them, but that they would not be detrimental to the causes of economic patriotism, moral and social conservatism, and foreign policy realism? There is a word for people who define politics in terms of economics, rather than making economic means serve socially, culturally and patriotically political ends. Such people are not called conservatives. They are called Marxists. Neocons are Marxists. But are paleocons Marxists, too?

No Republican since 1974 has won state-wide office in New York without the ballot line endorsement of the Buckley-founded, if lately a bit neocon, Conservative Party of New York State. And this has achieved what, exactly, in such causes as family values, strictly limited and strictly legal immigration, constitutional checks and balances, national security, energy independence, Second Amendment rights and responsibilities, America as an English-speaking country, and foreign policy realism? New York Republicans take the Conservative Party for granted, just as the Republican Party at large takes paleocons at large for granted. Imagine the shockwaves from the election of a Democrat as a New York Senator or Governor with the endorsement of the Conservative Party because of his or her stand on those issues (even if not necessarily on others, since politics is like that). But do not just imagine it. Make it happen.

2012 would be a bit soon for something like this to have done its work. But by 2016, the Republican Party shows every sign that it will still be in disarray, even without the mass secessions of economic patriots, moral and social conservatives, and foreign policy realists. So a more-or-less paleocon Democrat as Vice-President, with further such in several Cabinet and other positions, would be perfectly possible, and indeed probable if the game were played properly. And then a more-or-less paleocon Democrat for President in 2024? Why not?

That may seem a long time to wait. But it would still be better than the “never” on offer from the Republican Party.

If only you were Democrats.