Friday 30 April 2010

The Guardian "Goes" Lib Dem?

Not at all. It backed the Lib Dems last time. And the time before that, which was before the invasion of Iraq. But no one noticed.

Comedy Central?

"Selling out British interests to the EU or pal-ing about with IRA terrorists?" Jon Stewart wondered if these were the terrible offences of which David Cameron was going to accuse Gordon Brown of having accused him. But no. It was just something about bus passes. Ha, Ha, Ha.

All British politicians who are allowed on television sell out British interests to the EU and pal about with IRA terrorists, Jon. That is because of the bullying influence of a foreign power. Can you name it?

Progress Of A Sort? Perhaps...

It will be a great shame if these people are able to present themselves as the Lib Dem commentators whom the media will now be seeking to employ, having left that party's subculture free of any scrutiny up to now.

Likewise, it was a great shame that these people were able to present themselves as the Labour commentators whom the media were then seeking to employ, having left that party's subculture free of any scrutiny up to then.

But they have at least cleared the way for Real Labourites, if the media have the faintest idea where to look for them. Shame about Real Liberals, but that's the big time for you. You have only hit it when these people get to pass themselves off as you.

Getting The PIIGS In

I have always said that the euro, and thus the Eurofederalist project, would be finished as soon as the Germans refused to pay for, say, the Portuguese, or the Italians, or the Irish, or the Greeks, or the Spaniards. But even I thought that it would be one of them. Not all of them. All at the same time.

Not that I like the term PIIGS. But let them adopt the arrangement that one of them had into the 1980s, of issuing their own currencies, but with the values of those currencies fixed permanently at whatever that of sterling happened to be at the given time. An option for plenty of other countries, too. Indeed, for as many as wanted to adopt it. Costing us nothing, as the former Irish arrangement cost us nothing. The euro has failed, vindicating those, such as Gordon Brown and not Ken Clarke, who insisted on staying out. Deal with it. Adopting the dollar means subservience. Deal with that, too.

Portugal is England's oldest ally. The Irish situation was as above; the resumption of this arrangement has nothing to do with any territorial claim on the Irish Republic's part, because there no longer is one. But Spain still has one, about which she could bang on to her heart's content in the run-up to elections, since this state of affairs would empty any such words of the slightest practical meaning. Likewise, the Greeks and the Elgin Marbles? Why not?

And after the return of the Sterling Area, beginning with countries none of which was ever in the British Empire (what is now the Irish Republic was in the United Kingdom, something quite different and the key to understanding the true history of the Irish in the British imperial period), how about the return of the Commonwealth Preference Area, again including, as the Commonwealth itself now does, countries whose accession constitutes, entirely voluntarily, their first ever tie to Britain?

A Sense of Proportion

My mind is not closed to Proportional Representation. But the constituency link is sacrosanct. What we have now are coalitions honestly presented to the electorate, rather than cobbled together after our votes have been cast. Party lists are an abomination. The Single Transferrable Vote only works in urban areas, and eliminates candidates for whom many people have voted, as does the Alternative Vote. The electoral reform that we really need is the vigorous contesting of every seat by every party on behalf of a candidate in every case capable of being that constituency’s MP. And we need party candidates to be selected by submitting that party’s internally, but locally, determined shortlist of two to a binding ballot of all registered voters in the constituency.

We can avoid the problems of other electoral systems while once again giving ourselves a party of the Welfare State, workers’ rights, trade unions and co-operatives. Consumer protection. Strong communities. Conservation rather than environmentalism. Fair taxation, full employment, public ownership, proper local government, and a powerful Parliament. A base of real property from which every household can resist both over-mighty commercial interests and an over-mighty State. And at the same time a party of the monarchy, the organic Constitution, national sovereignty, civil liberties, the Union, the Commonwealth, the countryside, grammar schools, traditional moral and social values, controlled importation and immigration, and a realistic foreign policy.

We can avoid the problems of other electoral systems while once again giving ourselves a party of agriculture, manufacturing, and small business. National sovereignty, the Union, economic patriotism, local variation, and historical consciousness. Traditional moral and social values, the whole Biblical and Classical patrimony of the West, close-knit communities, law and order, civil liberties, academic standards, and all forms of art. Mass political participation within a constitutional framework: “King and People” against the Whig magnates. Conservation rather than environmentalism. Sound money, which global capitalism manifestly is not. A realistic foreign policy, including a strong defence capability used only for the most sparing and strictly defensive purposes. The Commonwealth, the constitutional and other ties among the Realms and Territories having the British monarch as Head of State or other such constitutional links, 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. The longstanding and significant British ties to the Arab world, support for the Slavs in general and for Russia in particular as the gatekeepers of Biblical-Classical civilisation, and a natural affinity with Confucian culture. Exactly as much central and local government action as is required by these priorities. And a profound suspicion of an American influence and action characteristically defined against them, including an active desire for a different American approach.

And we can avoid the problems of other electoral systems while once again giving ourselves a party of civil liberties, local communitarian populism, and the indefatigable pursuit of single issues. The Nonconformist social conscience, the legacy of Keynes and Beveridge, and traditional moral and social values. Consumer protection. Conservation rather than environmentalism. National sovereignty, a realistic foreign policy, the Commonwealth, and peace activism. The redress of grievances in the countryside. And the needs and concerns of areas remote from the centres of power.

Each of these parties would act as a check and balance on the other two. They would co-operate on matters of common interest. Proportional Representation might produce them, and together they would then be in government for ever. But that would be unhealthy. Instead, we need them in healthy competition. The reforms suggested above would bring that about.

Sunny, But No Delight

I read The Spectator's Coffee House blog every day, and post comments there most days. Very occasionally, its contributors have been known to post comments here. But it has gone off the boil for the duration of the Election campaign, and it is not alone in that. Today, a post is entitled "Sunshine wins the day for Cameron". If he gets in, then will we have five years of this from Coffee House and the rest of the right-wing media? Oh, I do hope not.

The entire media were determined to report a Cameron victory last night, regardless of anything that might actually have happened. They have invested too many lunches in the Tory front bench to be denied Cabinet contacts in the next Parliament. And they all look very silly for having ignored the Lib Dems, thus subjecting them to no scrutiny whatever, all these years. Though none more so than the BBC. Perhaps if it had allowed the Lib Dems to speak when it felt obliged to have them on, then people might know about their bizarre and wicked policies? Then again, the BBC agrees with those policies.

Find Out More

Stuart Reid writes:

It is sometimes said that Catholics have a duty to vote, which leaves me with little choice by to back a lost cause. Perhaps I should count myself fortunate therefore, that in Battersea, my constituency, there is an independent standing who is unlikely to get more than a handful of votes.

He is Tom Fox, a former Tory and an admirer of William Wilberforce, G K Chesterton and John Henry Cardinal Newman. His manifesto includes the following pledge: “To prevent the state from interfering with the doctrine of the Church.”

Hmmm. I’ll have to find out more.

But It Might Spur The Federal Government

Froma Harrop writes:

President Obama is right that Arizona's tough immigration law is "misguided." And Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer is right that her state has been "more than patient waiting for Washington to act." The two are not unrelated.

Enforcing our immigration laws is a federal responsibility, which Washington has failed to meet. It's too bad that the Arizona law comes just as the Obama administration had started doing what must be done — and a plan for effective immigration reform has some Senate support.

After eight years of passivity under the Bush administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement is actively going after companies found to be employing illegal workers. That and a weak economy are credited with having slowed the surge of illegal immigrants into this country. (Note that ICE is managed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor.)

But as Brewer said, patience is gone. Border states like Arizona have long served as highways and convenient havens for illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, locals fear with good reason that the drug war in Mexico is unleashing a new wave of entrants and violence. The recent murder of rancher Robert Krentz, presumably by an illegal immigrant, pushed many Arizonans over the edge.

The result is a policy that is disturbingly unfair to Latino populations. The law makes it a crime to move around without immigration documents and lets police demand such papers from anyone suspected of being in the United States illegally.

You know who that means: people from Mexico or who look like they could be from Mexico. And although the governor has promised to train officers against racial profiling, how could there not be? What would make an Arizona law enforcer suspect that someone is here illegally other than that person's ethnic appearance?

Stopping brown people in the street is not the way to address the problem. The great majority of illegal immigrants come for work. Though they shouldn't be here, these are mostly good people supporting their families. These poor folk deserve to be treated humanely.

Arizona doesn't need a new law to capture and deport the criminal element. As in many other states, police already check the immigration status of anyone charged with a crime. Those here illegally are referred to ICE.

Harassing countless innocents alongside illegal immigrants is a callous and futile way to stop massive flows of undocumented workers. The more successful approach is to remove the job magnet by fining and possibly jailing their employers.

It is already against the law to hire illegal aliens, but the giant loophole is the lack of a counterfeit-proof form of identification. If the job-seeker presents a reasonably good-looking document, a company can't be held liable if that person is found to be working illegally.

An immigration-reform proposal put together by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would end that dodge by creating a Social Security card that contains fingerprints, eye scans or other biometric markers unique to every individual. Employers would check the information against a national database for all new hires, be they immigrant or native-born.

No, Arizona is not going about this the right way. But its radical law may spur overdue action. Now is the best time for it, when a slow economy has deflated the cheap-labor argument that only illegal immigrants will wash dishes or mop floors.

Effective immigration controls are not impossible. Canada has a large immigration program and virtually no illegal workers. Until the federal government creates a rational system, states are going to pass laws out of anger and panic. It's time for Washington to do its duty.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Nothing "Old Labour" About The BNP

That the BNP vote comes from traditional Labour supporters is lazy drivel, and based on the assumption that Labour could ordinarily expect every vote cast in, say, the North West, or the East End of London. Well, long may the Tories continue to tell themselves that.

Without exception, ward by ward and box by box, BNP support is in the relatively more upmarket end of the given town or locality, however little that might be saying in any objective terms. In Glasgow North East, the Labour vote held up sufficiently that Labour kept the seat, while the Tory vote went down so far and the BNP vote went up so far that they were almost even at the end.

If the BNP has a consciously working-class following, then it is the only Fascist party in the world ever to have had one. It does not. It is like all the others, including the BUF and the NF in their respective days: a vehicle for those who see themselves as a cut above their chavvy neighbours; for, in British terms, Tories in Labour areas.

Far from being the voice of the self-identifying white working class, the BNP could not manage an MEP in the North East last year, and I am not sure that it has any councillor above Parish or Town level here. It certainly has no one on the newly unitary Durham County Council, nor had it on any of the preceding District Councils. Are the North East in general and County Durham in particular not white enough for them, or not working-class enough from them, or both?

1992 And All That

"Let's take benefits away from those who refuse work," says David Cameron. Ah, that one again. It's a attractive idea, of course, although those to whom it is most obviously applicable would probably be "new" claimants within a week. But in 1992, large numbers of the unemployed who would either have voted Labour for hereditary reasons, or else not voted at all, instead turned out and voted Tory in order to keep themselves on the dole from which Neil Kinnock sought to rescue them. Think on.

The Pro-Abortion Republican Party, Yet Again

Laurence Vance writes:

I have seen it reported in several places that Planned Parenthood, one of the world’s leading abortion providers, received government grants and contracts of $350 million for fiscal year 2007-2008 and $337 million for fiscal year 2006-2007. I verified this information for myself on the Planned Parenthood website. I also discovered that Planned Parenthood’s fiscal year ends on June 30. This means that Bush the Republican was the president during this time. But after doing a little digging, I also found out that Planned Parenthood received government grants and contracts of $305 million (34%) during fiscal year 2005-2006. During this time we not only had Bush the Republican president but also a Republican majority in Congress. Yet, Planned Parenthood was still funded. And we are supposed to take Republicans seriously when they complain that Obama isn’t likely to appoint an anti-abortion judge to the Supreme Court? Why wasn’t the Republican Party that concerned about abortion when clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood performed 264,943 abortions in 2005?

Deeper Unity

Via The Western Confucian, Francesco Sisci writes:

Let's be fair. The issue is so real that it is puzzling to us even now: how can one be both Christian and Confucian? In the 16th and 17th centuries, at the time when the West was torn by cruel wars between Catholics and Protestants, Jesuits - the Catholic soldiers of Christ - fought blasphemy, and Protestants were arguing from the farthest East that a man could be both Catholic and Confucian.

They were suggesting a path of communion with the Protestants, but were also brooding on something that was exotically different from the European and scholastic tradition, elaborating on the finest differences. The deeper unity of man, suggested in their approach, was a leap of reason for the West that ended only temporarily in the 18th century, when they were ordered to leave China.

However, Confucianism and its talent for bringing things together still lurked in China when Westerners came back en masse in the 19th century. Then China started to officially renounce its Confucian tradition, and embraced the Western tradition of distinctions: one would be either Christian or Buddhist, either Confucian or communist, either Western or Chinese. Most Chinese "converted" to the Western mindset, and yet a handful of Chinese didn't accept it.

Liang Shuming, who died in 1988, insisted that Western distinctions didn't make sense, and Guy Alitto, an American, used his Western sensibility to bring up this issue for ears in both the East and West that had grown deaf to this old knowledge. Thirty years after being written in Chinese, the conversations between Liang, the old man from the Yellow River basin, and Alitto, the young man from Southern Italy via the US, have just been published in English (Guy Alitto, Has Man a Future? Dialogues with the Last Confucian, Foreign Language Teaching Research Press, 2010).

Confucius is confusion in Western terms, Liang explained to Alitto. Liang claims to be Confucian and communist, Buddhist and Christian. Faith or belief is a way of life, an experience first:

What, in my view, to my knowledge, is the difference between Chinese culture and Western culture, and Indian culture? It is that Chinese culture knows of human "rationality". Chinese cultures believe in the human; not in God, as with Western culture or in Allah as in Islamic culture. Chinese culture is built upon and trusts the human. The distinguishing characteristic of Confucianism is that it relies on, and is built upon, humans, not some other being. (p 17)

The human experience brings everything together: ''Confucianism is with an 'all encompassing, empty and impartial mind' '' (p 139).

This unity breaks the distinctions we are used to dealing with in the West. It is not enough in Chinese tradition to know things or to be ethically ''good'', but one man has to be both. This deeper unity has also crept into the communist tradition, where decades ago cadres were called on to be ''red and expert''. The sentiment is evident now since the party organization wants officials to be virtuous (de) and capable (cai). Alitto investigates and translates - for readers in the East and West intoxicated by the Western analytical mind - the eclecticism and the capability to eat, digest, and transform everything in a ''Confucian confusion'' called China. This tradition is alive and strong in China now, at a time when China is moving into the world, having eaten large chunks of Western tradition.

The distinguishing feature of Chinese culture lies in this. Chinese culture puts importance on human relationships. It expands on familial relationships into broader society beyond the family. For example, a teacher is called "teacher-father", a schoolmate is called a "school brother". In ways like this, a person always has the close, family-like, intimate feelings. Applying such relationships to society, it seems to bring distant people close together, to bring outsiders inside. This is the distinguishing feature of China and Chinese culture. To put this feature into a few words, it is the opposite of the individual-centered, egocentric way. What is that, then? The essence of the matter is mutually to value and respect the other party. (p 23)

Thirty years ago, Alitto saw this undying trend - long before the beginning of the Confucian revival in China and Asia. Is Confucius ready for a big cultural invasion of the West? Liang and Alitto, three decades ago, at the time when they were conversing for the book, thought the West needed Confucius as much as China did, and Beijing thinks so now. And it is not simply about the spread of soft power - it is a spiritual need of all men trying not to be separated from one another through tiny and ultimately insignificant cultural distinctions.

Distinctions also exist in China, as Liang illustrates by delving into differences between Buddhism and Confucianism, but in a nutshell, they are distinctions of experience, not of abstract knowledge or of religious faith, which remain separate. This was a path already envisioned by the Jesuits centuries ago when they tried to bring Catholicism and Confucianism together and failed because some Western cardinals thought their own tradition was being endangered. In a way, Confucius was a vessel and Christianity the content, they argued, as early Christianity absorbed Greek thought in its early stages, and this helped the understanding and spread of the new religion.

Now an American, Alitto raises the issue again, giving voice to the deep and very subtle reasoning of a Chinese master coming from an ancient time. He does it with extreme modesty, which is the true hallmark of a giant, yet he leads the conversation and makes clear what is shrouded in mystery - the unclear connections of the different branches of Chinese cultural tradition. Then who is the teacher in these conversations? The Chinese would argue it is Liang, who responds to the questions of the younger Alitto, as if Confucius was explaining the questions of his followers. Yet looking from another perspective - the Western one - the teacher could be Alitto, as in Plato's dialogues in which Socrates leads the reasoning by asking questions to his interlocutors.

Looking from another point of view again, it is not important who is teacher as long as a greater truth comes up.

The greater truth is probably this: Confucian is the name to the "confusion" of the Chinese tradition. And this is valuable: you cannot limit yourself by excluding other ways of knowledge. This brings tolerance and respect, yet it does not ignore the fact that differences exist and that improvements on other traditions can be achieved - as long as they're based on respect. Knowledge and rationality is not simply cold calculus, but it also has an ''emotional basis'' that can't be ignored. Otherwise emotions will pop up unexpectedly from some other parts. Experience is very important and thus the experience of teaching and learning together is fundamental. The West may need this, as also China does.

Politically - and Confucius was very politically minded - can this be translated into Chinese soft power? It will not be easy, and it goes well beyond teaching Chinese language in a few Confucius Institutes. Meanwhile, China will have to go further down the road of reforms and opening up by fully digesting into its systems and “Confucianizing” some harder parts of the Western tradition - like, for instance, democracy.

"Never Been Asked"?

Well within Gillian Duffy's adult lifetime, the British people certainly were asked directly about unrestricted immigration from, eventually, everywhere falling wholly or partly on the European Continent. Sixty-seven per cent of them ignored Tony Benn, Michael Foot and Peter Shore, and voted instead with Margaret Thatcher, who went on to give effect to that decision in the form of the Single European Act, opposed by the entire Parliamentary Labour Party.

Never-Ending Non-Story

Has the BBC been taken over by Rupert Murdoch? Have the entire media? Or is it just that all those political journalists are glorified gossip columnists, and completely uninterested in politics properly so called? That would account for the infatuations with Tony Blair, David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

House and Home

A double-digit rise in house prices last year.

No joy here.

The explosion in house prices has meant that most younger middle or upper-working-class people stand no chance of living out the middle-aged peak of their powers in properties remotely resembling the ones in which they grew up.

"Bricks and mortar" do not, at least ordinarily, constitute an "investment". They constitute a place to live.

Shattered Society

From within Facebook's David Lindsay Appreciation Society (new members welcome), Phillip Blond writes:

We live in a society of decreasing circles. More and more of us know fewer and fewer of us. We live alone and eat by ourselves, often with a TV or computer rather than a human being for company. If we do marry, the time an average relationship lasts decreases with each passing year.

In the Anglo-Saxon world, we abandon our old and increasingly care badly for our young. Our grandparents can recall a vivid life in which aunts and uncles, nephews and nieces wove together the social fabric of a stable, mutual society. Nearly half of all children are born out of wedlock. Many grow up without a father, some without any loving parent at all. The young people emerging from this background, denied any real education in public and private virtues, are easily seduced by glamorous dreams that promise consumption they cannot afford. Untouched by ideals of love and fidelity, they operate free of commitment, discipline, and responsibility. These unreformed teenage idioms become adult habits and ruin lives by creating people unable to bond or relate.

For men, especially those at the bottom of the social scale who are increasingly losing out in education and career advancement, an emasculated life at the margins of society awaits. For successful young women, having a degree is fast becoming an indicator of a childless future. No one would choose this outcome nor wish it upon anyone else, not least because it drains the energy from domestic life and compounds the terrifying fate of getting old alone. Everywhere we look, the ties that bind are loosening, and the foundations of a secure and joyful existence are being undermined.

What is the origin of this degradation? Looking back over the past 30 years, we could blame longer working hours that families must put in, a situation itself compounded by the financial necessity that in most households both adults must work, higher levels of personal debt, job insecurity, distrust of institutions, and fear of each other. Our society has become like a ladder whose rungs are growing further and further apart so it is increasingly difficult to ascend. Those at the top have accelerated away from the rest of us by practicing a self-serving and state-sanctioned capitalism that knows no morals and exists only to finance its own excess. Those in the middle are being crushed by bureaucracy and the effort of squaring stagnating wages with higher demands. Those at the bottom are more isolated and despised than ever before.

But decisive as these factors are, they do not add up to the social disaster that we are living through and that many, perversely, increasingly regard as normal. A healthier society could have resisted these trends. A society that still had strong families could have ensured a lifestyle that secured rather than undermined the economic base of the household. A society that still had neighbors who knew one another could have created trusting communities, and they could have produced institutions that served the needs of people rather than the bureaucratic demands of a distant and hostile state.

But through the privileging of alternative lifestyles, the prioritizing of minority politics, and the capture of markets by monopolies, we have destroyed the sustained and sustaining society. Little wonder that in a world in which binding norms, civil behavior, and notions of the common good have ceased to exist, frightened, isolated individuals call upon an increasingly authoritarian state to impose the order that we can no longer create for ourselves.

The loss of our culture is best understood as the disappearance of civil society. Only two powers remain: the state and the market. We no longer have, in any effective independent way, local government, churches, trade unions, cooperative societies, or civic organizations that operate on the basis of more than single issues. In the past, these institutions were a means for ordinary people to exercise power. Now mutual communities have been replaced with passive, fragmented individuals. Civil spaces have either vanished or become subject-domains of the dictatorial state or the monopolized market.

Neither Left nor Right can offer an answer because both ideologies have collapsed as both have become the same. Those who construe the libertarian individual as the center of current rightist thought actually draw upon an extreme Left conception that finds its original expression in Rousseau, who held that society was primordial imprisonment. It was Rousseau whose social theory forced the diversity of the world to conform to the general will—which was but this same individualism writ large—thereby sponsoring the rationalist and secular red terror of the French Revolution. In fact, any anarchic construal of the self requires for its social realization an authoritarian statism to control the forces that are unleashed. Collectivism and individualism are but two sides of the same devalued and degraded currency. And this has been the history of recent modernity—an oscillation between the state and the individual that gradually erodes civil association, which is in reality the only check on the extremes of either.

The 1960s New Left, to counter the authoritarian state it created, built a personal zone free of control in which to repudiate all standards and sell the poisonous idea of liberation through chemical and sexual experimentation. But when these New Left individualists preached personal pleasure as a means of public salvation, they were not resisting state control. They were, through their demands for freedom without limit and life without responsibility, undermining all autonomous self-governing structures, leaving a dreadful legacy of anarchic individualism that required state authoritarianism as the only way to re-impose order and society. Contemporary libertarian individualism and statist collectivism created each other and are locked in a fatal embrace that destroys the civic middle and the life and economy of the associative citizen.

This whole scenario dawned on me when I realized that my left-wing friends didn’t really believe in community. They only believed in choice. They supported abortion because they found it validating, a demonstration of real personal autonomy. But they think that fox hunting is terribly cruel and so should be ardently opposed. No doubt the same dispensation finds similar expression in the United States.

The Left harbors a deep and abiding hatred of fixity and tradition, a loathing of anything settled. In Anthony Giddens’s Third Way—the book that was behind the Blair revolution in Britain—he talks about how a new cosmopolitanism will free people from nature, and one gets the sense that Cool Britannia so envisaged is the permanent destruction of taboo and tie. According to the Blairite radicals we have to constantly rewrite ourselves by a willful assertion that wipes the slate clean and lets us begin again through the permanent act of choice—as long as such volition shows no teleology or direction. Nobody is told what to choose because the moral act in our contemporary paradigm isn’t what is chosen, it’s the act of choosing itself. Indeed, to choose is to repristinate and repeat the idea of oneself as an isolated, atomistic agent.

The contemporary Right all too often believes exactly the same thing, but expresses it through economics. The dominant actor for right-wing theory is the self-interested individual. The invisible hand is meant to mediate goods and allocate resources according to the price system and the efficient market cycle. But that “free” market produced a massive centralization in capital, and it fed an asset bubble whose expansion and disastrous contraction has been underwritten by the state.

What has been exposed is the shared agenda of cultural libertarianism on the Left and economic libertarianism on the Right. There really was no difference between them because both were upholding the same perverted liberal ideology.

The breaking of that ideology began in the United Kingdom when David Cameron was elected as Conservative leader and began using the phrase “broken Britain” to refer to the dislocation that was happening in our society. Suddenly conservatives were talking about social justice, and it wasn’t the failed form of “compassionate conservatism.” It was a revival of an original One Nation Toryism that was acutely concerned with the interests of the bottom half of the population.

This was violently attacked by the Left. Liberal journalists were caught in a bind: “This is nonsense. The lives of the poor are fine. Oh no, we can’t say that: we’re left-wing. Well, it’s not broken, it’s just different. If people want to have seven partners in one week and to take drugs in front of their children, that’s their choice. But wait, that can’t be right. We just won’t talk about it then.” The Left was completely wrong-footed, and conservatism, which had been out of power for three elections and could easily have been out for another, rose to the top of the polls by adopting the mantle of social justice.

This was not wholly unique. During the 19th century, the Tories were far more radical and more inclined toward the cause of the poor than were the liberal Whigs. It was the conservatives who largely led the campaign against slavery, who argued that the conditions of the white working class in the mills were analogous to those of black slaves, and who pushed for reduced working hours. It was the Tories who through the factory acts opposed the Whigs forcing women and children to work 16 hours a day.

Conservatives need to look back to William Cobbett, Thomas Carlyle, and John Ruskin, who were critics of authoritarian statism as well as denouncers of self-serving capitalism. As conservatives, they hated the cultural consequences of industrialization—the creation of a landless, dispossessed mass forced to work at subsistence levels, cut off from any cultural enrichment. Then came Hilaire Belloc’s 1912 tour de force, The Servile State, in which he denounced both capitalism and socialism for instituting master-slave relations. The capitalist monopolizes land, ownership, and capital, forcing the formerly self-sufficient to work for subsistence wages. The socialist dispossesses in the name of general ownership and communal monopoly. For the worker, both have the same result.

Because this new conservatism echoes a nobler and more radical past, it has great resonance. But it is still allied with the idea of the old neoliberal model of markets. Conservatives can care for social justice, but they still have to support the political economy that had done great damage to the bottom half of society. In 1976, the bottom 50 percent of the British population had 12 percent of the wealth (excluding property). By 2003, that percentage had fallen to 1 percent. So much for the idea that assets and equity will through market mechanisms evenly distribute themselves. A recent UK government survey showed that asset inequality between the 90th percentile and the bottom tenth was 100 to 1—a massive capture of assets by those at the top of the tree.

Now I view myself a pro-market thinker who advocates a popular capitalism and is persuaded by what the utopic thought on the Right wanted: a market economy of widely disbursed property, of multiple centers of innovation, of the decentralization of capital, wealth, and power. But neoliberalism has delivered none of these things. It has instead produced centralization; reduction in plurality; the driving upward, not the driving downward, of opportunity, leverage, and innovation. It has re-inscribed the very things it purported to end.

A vast body of citizens has been stripped of its culture by the Left and its capital by the Right, and in such nakedness they enter the trading floor of life with only their labor to sell. These individuals created by the market-state settlement cannot form a genuine society, for they lack the social capital to create such an association or the economic basis to sustain it. All neoliberalism has done is change class to caste and cut people off from the means whereby self-improvement can result in a genuine change in circumstance.

But most people don’t know what has unhinged their lives, what has driven them and us apart from each other. We don’t know why the ideology we spout and the language that we claim as our own has delivered a situation radically different from what they purport. Liberalism has linked Left and Right into the most illiberal political formation we have yet crafted. I attack it in my book from the point of view of liberty itself:

I am in part appalled by the legacy of modern liberalism precisely because I take myself to be a true liberal. I believe in a free society, where human beings, under the protection of law and guidance of virtue, pursue their own account of the good in debate with those who differ from them and in concord with those who agree. Since in this life we cannot know all that can be known and all human knowledge is conditioned by our own lives and the culture in which we are immersed, we can never transcend this condition and know directly and completely the ultimate principle of everything that exists…

But it does not follow that there is nothing to be known. Unfortunately, all too many British students, who have suffered the misfortune of ten weeks of bad French philosophy, or empiricistic analytic philosophy of a more homegrown kind, emerge from university with the deep and abiding conviction that there is no such thing as objective truth and that everything cultural is arbitrary. They carry into their twenties and beyond the view that any claim about truth is hierarchical and therefore synonymous with fascism and all manner of evil and conservative consequences. Happily convinced by the radical import of this message, too many of our talented young people give up on the possibility of transformative politics and assiduously work their way into the managerial and governing class of our country. Once there, with self-interest duly satisfied, they repeat and institutionalize the same compliant liberal nostrums, which ironically translate into increasingly centralized and bureaucratic procedures that exclude the poor and those who have not been so well-positioned or so well-advantaged to work the system. While the idea of a universal relativism doesn’t survive the first brush with serious rational reflection, such juvenile dictums have permeated our governing elite and undermined the foundations of all our great institutions…

If we are just empty, atomized individuals whose only mode of progress is whim and personal inclination, then no common bond can exist between us, because bonds limit will and subject us to something other than ourselves. For the liberal, there is no more profound violation than that. Moreover, a self-interested individual needs the state to police relationships with other individuals. Ergo, extreme individualism leads to extreme collectivization—and back again.

This defines our political life. The Left loves collectivization: the state is a moral proxy for anything I do; the state protects my rights so my little individualisms can subsist and my cultural liberalism can then be defended by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the Right enforces an economic system that supports exactly that vision.

Those dominant oscillations in the West—between the extreme liberalism of the Right and the extreme collectivization of the Left—are one in the same and subtend from the same origin: from a violent, secular liberalism that broke with the antique model of liberty and has essentially destroyed both the Left and the Right.
I want to suggest three ways to move forward: economic, political, and social.

First, we must acknowledge that the whole of our free-market economy has been captured by the Chicago School. Because we’re only focused within competition law on price utility as the interpreter of what would be a good outcome, the bigger your company, the cheaper you can deliver goods. So we pursue monopoly in the name of freedom and asset capture in the name of wealth extension. What we have produced as a result, from the Right, is a whole ideology of competition but no competitors. We’ve created a condition in which large businesses dominate—via a rigged market of rent-seeking capital—in an economy that cuts off for the majority the path to mobility and prosperity.

What do you do for people who aren’t that clever, or that well positioned, or that rich, but who are hard-working? Well, it’s permanently low wages for you—and for your children, and your children’s children. You say you would like to open a store or a business, to have some financial autonomy? Well, we can’t have that. The truth is, we can’t create a situation in which you could prosper because you can’t compete—you can’t bully suppliers, you can’t cross subsidize, you can’t access the supply chains that are already controlled by the new monopolies, so you can’t capture the price utility that those big concerns can. (No matter that the corporate model is subsidized by various tax breaks.) Consequently, there is no route out for many of those in the bottom half of the population.

Until we can change that economic structure, we cannot break the law. So staying within the private sector, we need to adopt an older liberal model and broaden it with a Catholic, distributist, or even Austrian account of the notion of various plural senses to give human beings a chance at a stake in the world. An economy not wedded to a single market model susceptible to the winds of global finance could spread wealth throughout the sectors, creating a resilient and plural economy capable of self-sustaining in the face of the collapse of one segment.

I believe in the free market, but we haven’t had a free market. In a brilliant paper, the head of monetary stability at the Bank of England, Andrew Haldane, recently asked why the speculative economy has done so well. Because the state has taken all the risks. Capital will always seek the highest return, and if you look at the rise of the state and the way it has legislated the banking sector, it has essentially (through deposit, capital, and liquidity insurance) taken on the risk of investment banking activity. Investment bankers can take any risk and not pay any price. Because of this, all capital is centralized. Why would you go to Wisconsin to open a smelting plant when you can get a much safer and higher return in Wall Street or the City of London because you are engaging in the highest return activity at a risk premium covered by the taxpayer? The most you can lose in high finance is your original stake, and sometimes not even that, as there seems no limit to what the state will do for finance capital. If you add up all the debt in the UK—personal, state, and corporate—it comes to 468 percent of GDP. This could mean 10 to 20 years of de-leveraging—a generational economic contraction. There’s nothing free about that.

Along with the private sector being captured by big capital, the public sector has been captured by the big state. The public sector should be broken up—not privatized out, so that big-money interests could essentially gain the difference between the wages of those in the public sector and the wages they were prepared to pay, but turned into employee-owned co-ops. Let’s have worker buy-outs instead of multi-leveraged management buyouts that game both stakeholders and workers. Let them de-layer and de-managerialize their own professions, and let them have a stake and deliver the service they’ve always wanted.

In terms of public assistance, I argue for a power of budgetary capture. Millions of welfare dollars are spent, yet all that ever does is make recipients passive. Ordinary people, recipients of public largesse, can’t in any way create the associations and culture that can be part of their own renewal. So why not allow citizens’ groups to take over government budgets and run them for themselves? Imagine women bonding together because they don’t want to see their children fall into crime and degradation. In giving these people power over their own communities with the public money that has been subsidizing rather than transforming their lives, we will be giving the poor capital. And if they can gain access to the market, they might really create the free economy that everyone has been claiming but no one has been delivering. Then we’ll have a situation in which the state won’t regulate the small and the intermediate out of existence, a situation in which people can genuinely compete.

In the political realm, we have to admit that democracy doesn’t work particularly well, mainly because it’s hugely centralized and substantially captured by vested interests. We need to turn it upside-down—a doctrine of radical democratic subsidiarity that would allow local associations both to select and vote for their own candidates. We can’t do that in the current political settlement. It’s too locked; there are too many vested interests. But if, like budgetary capture, we had a democratic capture, we could send democracy back to the streets. If we could ally that political economy with actual democracy, we could really have bottom-up associations and render the central state increasingly superfluous.

This sort of subsidiarity isn’t a fetishization of the small. It’s a belief in the most appropriate, and that can even be large transnational corporations. I don’t, for example, believe in a localized nuclear industry. In addition, there will always be a role for the state as a kind of ultimate guild or virtue culture that can step in when things go wrong. In that view, it’s not Robert Nozick’s night-watchman state nor is it the centralized state of the Fabian socialists. The state becomes a facilitator of the sort of outcome it wants, but it has to be agnostic as to how people realize that outcome. And only if the outcome isn’t being realized—for instance, if poor people aren’t being educated—should it step in.

Finally, the real recovery has to come in civil society itself. Society should be what rules, what regulates, what is sovereign. Both the state and the market must be subservient to renewed civil association. This requires a restoration of social conservatism that recognizes the claim of the common good over the free agency of the individual. Rather than being a reactionary force that makes war on minorities or vilifies one-parent families, it should, for example, promote the understanding of the family as a feminist institution that because of its reciprocity and mutuality liberates both men and women to pursue the ends that most of them want, which is human flourishing, probably involving children. It should also reach beyond the family to restore the social square. Placing people in relational matrices recreates for those who don’t have a nuclear family the possibility of a civic and extended one.

In Britain, there’s a part of Birmingham called Castle Vale that has had no government money. But they drove from their streets the drug dealers, the prostitutes, the criminals. They took complete control of their area purely through social capital and self-organization, and all the indices of crime and violence dropped to rates unseen by any sort of state action. By having that social capital, they were able to capture political and economic power.

This is the essence of the Western liberal tradition: the rise of association—a state that isn’t dictated by the oligopolies of the market and the central government. The task of a radical conservative politics is to recover this: the middle life of civil society. Villages should run villages, cities, and neighborhoods their own streets and parks. Additionally and most importantly, a transformative conservatism must take on the rampant individualism of the self-serving libertarian, not least because an individualism that undermines all social goods by denying a virtue-binding code and moral belief is not a conservative philosophy. On the contrary, extreme individualism is a leftist construct and should be recognized and abandoned as such.

The future is there to be gained. It is the politics of the middle, the life of the civic, and the empowerment of the ordinary. It is to be hoped that a radical conservatism embraces this opportunity and creates and facilitates this future for us all: free association and a self-organizing citizenry producing the norms and the universals that alone license a civic state, a plural society, and a participative economy.

Wednesday 28 April 2010


I ask you!

If she really does have a history in the Labour Party, then she has been called a lot worse than that by other members of it, let me assure you.

Anything to avoid discussing policy, I see.

The Threat of No Threat

At no point since 16th September 1992, when only political anoraks (and not even all of them) had ever heard of Tony Blair, has the Conservative Party stood any chance of winning an overall majority at a General Election. If it fails to win one this time, then it will never win one again. And no one expects it to win one this time. Even before the rise of Nick Clegg, such a victory was psephologically impossible.

So we are barely a week away from seeing once and for all the complete non-existence of The Tory Threat, the bogeyman behind New Labour. Throughout the existence of New Labour, the Tories have had no intention of changing anything that it had done or would do, and have in any case been incapable of beating it at the ballot box for Westminster. What would happen if the Labour electorate ever cottoned on? We are about to find out.

Why Are There No Lib Dem Columnists?

There is Vince Cable in the Mail on Sunday, but that is hardly the same as having someone who happened to be a Lib Dem, as Fraser Nelson happens to be a Tory or Polly Toynbee happens to be a Labour supporter (more or less), and who is able to fly kites, give an insight into the subculture, act as a critical friend, and so on. Heaven knows what, specifically, Mark Steel is. Simon Heffer and Christopher Booker, at least, are UKIP supporters. But there is no Lib Dem opinion-former in Fleet Street.

I do not write this as any great fan of the Lib Dems. Rather, this lack of coverage is a lack of scrutiny. Scrutiny of schemes to join the euro. Or to grant an amnesty to illegal immigrants. Or to abolish church schools. Or to raise the income tax threshold, but without the wholesale restructuring that would guarantee everyone a tax-free income of at least half national median earnings at the given time. Or to reverse the erosion of civil liberties, but without therefore restoring proper sentencing and proper prison regimes because we could once again have confidence in convictions. Or to give the vote to prisoners. Or to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to appear legally in porn films that would then haunt them on the Internet for the rest of their lives.

Those, remember, are only the things that have managed to become party policy. A Lib Dem columnist would give an insight into the milieux that produced such policies, into the ideas that circulate around them and provide their context, and thus into the minds and character of the people involved in that process. As existing columnists provide such insights in the worlds of metropolitan elite Toryism, New Labour, Steel's sectarian Left, the UKIP base in Heffer's case, and UKIP itself in Booker's.

It looks as if the national newspapers are about to feel the need to secure such services. I am told that several are already asking around. Not before time.

Why Are There No BNP Intellectuals?

A ridiculous question? Why? There are FN intellectuals. There are intellectuals in the Austrian Third Lager. There are intellectuals on the Far Right in Italy and in the Iberian world. The lazy claim that the English-speaking world either does not have intellectuals at all or does not have right-wing ones has either never been true, in the first case, or, in the second case, has always had significant exceptions and is now totally false. But you will search the British scene in vain for The Thinking Man's Fascist, his effusions worthy or even capable of serious engagement.

Neo-Paganism never really took off even in Nazi Germany; attempts to redefine culture in its terms, with the Winter Solstice replacing Christmas and what have you, were spectacularly unsuccessful. So the whole thing would stand even less of a chance here, where we have a more highly developed sense of the absurd, which is good, and a tendency to see all manifestations of folk-culture in those terms, which is very bad, since we were rich in it to the point of extravagance at least until the Reformation, which does not seem to have destroyed it on the Continent, whether in Lutheran or in Calvinist areas, to anything like the extent that it did here.

We do have a Liberal Protestant movement such as, in its rootlessness and lack of specific doctrinal content, proved such easy prey to the Nazis. But ours, by something not less than a miracle, instead maintained close ties to the opposition that was figures such as Barth, perhaps because it saw in neo-orthodoxy its own fondness for retaining at least the vocabulary of historic formulations, however dangerously that vocabulary might be redefined in terms of the assumed priority of secular and atheistic modes of thought.

But the heresy of intégrisme, so fundamental to the Fascism of the Latin world, is almost unknown to any of our Catholic subcultures, although the thankfully odd eccentric of that mind does exist here. I doubt that we had any more before Vatican II than we have now, although intégrisme is so pernicious precisely because it looks like, and very forcefully believes itself to be, traditional Catholicism. Whereas the intégriste Fascist in that tendency's French heartland can present himself, accurately or otherwise, as the true heir of the legitimate state overthrown in 1789 and of the very long-lasting tradition of mass resistance to that overthrow, no one here can really say that, accurately or otherwise, about 1688, and extremely few would wish to.

This country still retained any monarchy at all, and that monarchy commands the very intense loyalty of the lower middle class that is any Fascist movement's base, as it is certainly the BNP's; that party therefore has to keep quiet about its policy of abolition. That class is mostly Protestant or secular, while in my very direct personal experience the BNP is extremely anti-Catholic, and has unthinkingly signed up to the definitively old-school Marxist theory that anything not directly connected to economics is not really political.

Fascists do not like monarchies, and in fact the BNP wishes to abolish Britain's. But they draw equally on the absolutism of the bourgeois republic created paradigmatically in France, and on the princely absolutism developed out of pre-Revolutionary sources, especially Jean Buridan, in reaction against the Revolution and its many imitations. It combines and focuses them both in a Leader figure who is neither a prince, nor drawn from and answerable to republican institutions (in the broader sense of a res publica) such as a strong Parliament. He characteristically bypasses such institutions by means of the referendum. And he performs the ceremonial functions that would have been performed by the abolished monarchy or local nobility, squirarchy or whatever. Had there still been all those kings, princes, grand dukes and the rest doing their stuff in their apparently funny uniforms across German-speaking Europe or the Italian Peninsula, then there would have been no gap for Hitler or Mussolini to fill. There is no such gap in Britain.

As with the monarchy, so with the War. Nick Griffin had a photograph of Churchill next to him on his Party Election Broadcast. He is welcome to Churchill, but that is another story. Ridiculously, a party drawn from this country's tiny little world of Hitler-loving weirdoes and misfits has to electioneer by posing as the heir of the struggle of those whom Hitler blockaded and Blitzed. Griffin cannot say, even were he capable of doing so, that they should never have been put in that position, nor bemoan the collapse of morality during the War, since I find that his supporters warmly endorse that collapse and its consequences throughout (yes, throughout) the post-War period.

Nor can Griffin bemoan, even if he were capable of doing so, the loss of British power in the world, or the loosening of ties with former Empire countries, since the West Indians, in particular, came here on British passports from countries most of which retain the Queen as Head of State to this day and several of which remain British by choice, whereas the Republic of South Africa was proclaimed as a specific act of anti-British revenge, while its Rhodesian satrapy was born in treason against the Queen. Just as there is no equivalent of the pro-Vichy tradition on which a BNP intellectual might draw, so there is no equivalent of the pro-OAS tradition, either. The pieds-noirs wanted to stay French. Ian Smith wanted to stop being British.

All in all, it is no wonder that there is no British publication comparable to Éléments. Never mind to Rivarol. Mercifully, there cannot be.

The End of The Parties

Over in The First Post, Neil Clark writes:

Imagine a British political landscape without a Labour or Conservative Party. Where there are several political parties, all with a realistic chance of making it into government. Where single-party administrations are a thing of the past and multi-party coalitions are the norm.

Sounds far-fetched? It could happen much sooner than you think.

If the Liberal Democrats do hold the balance of power in next week's general election, as the opinion polls predict, then Britain's antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system will be kicked into touch.

But the adoption of proportional representation - the price the Lib Dems will demand for propping up a Tory or Labour government, whichever it turns out to be - won't only mean fairer elections in the future, it is also likely to lead to the radical transformation of our party system. And I mean radical.

While supporters of first-past-the-post denounce the idea of peacetime coalition government as being horribly 'un-British', in one sense we've had coalitions for years. Both the Labour and Conservative parties are coalitions, made up of people holding a wide range of opinions, who only stay together due to electoral convenience.

The Conservative Party includes socially liberal Europhiles such as Ken Clarke, and socially conservative EU-haters like Lord Tebbit. In today's Parliamentary Labour Party you can find the unequivocally anti-war socialist John McDonnell, and the darling of the right-wing media, Frank Field, a man who sits on the advisory board of the free market think-tank, Reform.

What keeps our two 'broad church' main parties together is the knowledge that under first-past-the-post any breakaway party has little chance of getting into government, even if, like the SDP in the early 1980s, it is led by well-known political figures and attracts plenty of positive media coverage.

But under PR all that will change. Political marriages of convenience will no longer be quite so convenient and, for some, divorce will look a far more attractive option.

Within a few years of a change in our electoral system, we can confidently expect the Labour Party to split into two or perhaps even three different parties. Labour’s traditional left, perhaps led by someone like John McDonnell, would campaign on an 'Old Labour' programme of public ownership, egalitarianism and opposition to militarism.

The party's centre-left, perhaps calling themselves the Progressive Party, and led by someone like Jon Cruddas, would advocate social democracy. Blairites would have their own 'New Labour' party.

Left-wing parties that have moved sharply to the neo-liberal right, as Labour has done since the 1990s, are far more likely to split under PR. A good example was the breakaway of disaffected socialists from Germany's SPD in 2005, to form a new 'Labour and Social Justice' grouping.

The Conservatives, too, are likely to fragment. If the party collaborates in government with the Lib Dems, we could see a right-wing, Eurosceptic, 'Tea Party' breakaway party led by someone like Daniel Hannan.

There could be a new centre-right party modelled on the lines of the European Christian Democrat parties and supporting a more positive approach to the EU and joining the Euro, led by someone like Tim Yeo.

There could also be a new conservative grouping influenced by the ideas of 'Red Tory' thinker Phillip Blond, which would reject free market ideology and revert back to traditional 'One Nation' Conservatism, led possibly by Nick Hurd (son of Douglas), who is in on the advisory board of Blond's think-tank ResPublica.

And what of the Lib Dems? One scenario has the Lib Dems transformed under PR to a party almost always in government, holding power alternately as part of a centre-left, or centre-right administration. No doubt Nick Clegg is hoping his party can emulate Germany's Free Democrats, which held office continuously from 1969 to 1998 as junior coalition partners of first the SPD and then the Christian Democrats.

But there is another, alternative scenario. While the Tory-supporting press have tried to portray him as a dangerous crypto-socialist, and the left-liberal media have promoted him as the country's progressive saviour, the fact is that Nick Clegg, the public school educated banker’s son, has moved his party sharply to the right.

Clegg is committed to privatisation, globalisation and free market economics. Under his leadership, the Lib Dems have dropped such policies as re-nationalisation of the railways, which was in their 2005 manifesto, and now advocate selling off the Tote - in public ownership since its inception in 1928 - and even support part-privatisation of the Royal Mail.

With Clegg dropping hints that he'd be prepared to work with a Conservative government if Labour comes third in next week's poll, there are already murmurs of discontent from senior party figures who would prefer to see the party work with Labour to form a progressive bloc which would keep the Conservatives permanently out of power.

In short, Clegg risks splitting his own party. If he continues his move to the right and goes into coalition with a Conservative government, the party could quickly fragment with a left-wing faction, led perhaps by Alistair Carmichael, a founder member of the Lib Dem's Beveridge Group, or Lembit Opik, who has criticised his party's decision to drop railway re-nationalisation, breaking away from Clegg and his free market neo-liberals.

In which case, electoral reform, far from leading to a new golden age for the Lib Dems, could see Clegg's party fragment as quickly as Labour and/or the Tories.

Of course, all of the above depends on the Lib Dems holding the balance of power after next week's election. If Cameron can win an outright majority, then we're back to square one.

Unity and Justice and Freedom

The end of the euro is the end of the Eurofederalist project, and was always eventually going to come about as a result of a popular German uprising. That point has now arrived. Note the prominence of the most Christendom-conscious party, the CSU, which knows a grotesque, sacrilegious parody when it sees one.

Steppes In The Right Direction

Russian gas for decades and decades to come, in return for the continuing presence of a Russian naval base which doubtless provides local employment, and all approved by Parliament. How dare they? Who do these Ukrainians think they are? They are supposed to hate and fear Russia. That is what they are for. It says so in the writings of Irving Kristol, or Norman Poderhetz, or some such person. So it is the law.

The NATO Nuisance

William Pfaff writes:

Large and firmly implanted bureaucratic organizations are almost impossible to kill, even when they have no reason to continue to exist, as NATO has not since the Soviet Union, communism, and the Warsaw Pact all collapsed. There is no equivalent to driving a stake into the heart of a bureaucracy, whose impulse to live is inextinguishable. Hence the persisting efforts to force the beast onto a new course where some good can come from its uncheckable energy.

Its existence also is a temptation to Washington to do foolish things. First the decision was to expand NATO, despite the assurances that had been given to Moscow by the George H.W. Bush administration. This perpetuated the organization’s spirit, if not its function, as an institution hostile to Russia, which was not the effect that intelligent people in the West should have wanted.

However, it actually did not displease many in the Baltic states and Central and Eastern Europe who had spent the years since the beginning of World War II under brutal Russian repression and were not in a forgiving mood. Yet forgiveness – as an act of will and intelligence, not a sentiment – is essential to a future that will be different. Thus Poland’s traumatic but essential consignment of the Katyn murders to the past, now officially accomplished.

The Poles and the Baltic states had the most to forgive. NATO membership for them was a sign of their security. That proved reassuring. Nonetheless there survived in some circles in the United States of a will not only to see communism ended but Russia crushed. The George W. Bush administration had no liking for the new Russia, and the bullying of Russia to which Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were given was gratuitous and dangerous to all concerned. (Ask Mikhail Saakashvili, the president of Georgia, who took assurances of eventual NATO membership and American support too seriously.)

It was one thing to bring the Warsaw Pact states into NATO. It was something else to try to dismember what had been Czarist Russia by bringing Ukraine and Georgia into NATO – both efforts that failed.

The missile system that was to be installed in Poland and Czechoslovakia was deliberate provocation – a system to protect the United States and Western Europe from superpower Iran! The Russians interpreted it as plausibly part of a nuclear first-strike system.

Thus NATO first was kept as an implicitly anti-Russian alliance.

But its long accumulation of weapons and systems and staffs were as a practical matter being wasted. So it was decided that NATO had to accompany the United States in its new "long war." The slogan was: "Out of area or out of business!"

NATO was commandeered for Afghanistan, and its more vulnerable ex-Warsaw Pact members were urged to take out extra security insurance with the United States by sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, pointless as this proved to be. Britain led the way, since it invented this form of insurance policy in 1945, after exhausting itself by winning the Battle of Britain and the Battle of El Alemain, thereby preventing World War II from being lost in 1942.

In Brussels, however, there is sign of new thought. The secretary general of NATO, Anders Rasmussen, at a NATO dinner last week informally brought up the possibility of recasting the missile defense program in collaboration with Russia – a controversial notion that has the advantage of testing the strength of Washington’s claim that America and Western Europe are endangered by Iran and by nuclear terrorists by offering Russia a chance to buy into defense against it, at the same time removing from the missile system the perceived threat to Russia.

Think of the money that could be saved by abandoning the anti-missile system! There also are a substantial number of expensive American tactical nuclear weapons stored at West European airbases that the governments of five NATO states would like removed. Now that no one expects a Russian nuclear blitzkrieg attack on Europe, they serve no purpose. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would never unilaterally remove its nuclear weapons from Europe so long as Russia has nuclear weapons in Europe.

Like it or not, all of Russia west of the Ural Mountains, where Europe traditionally has been held to stop and Asia begin, is permanently in Europe. One must suppose that the secretary of state was addressing a message to European allies that American weapons will be on their soil until total nuclear disarmament prevails in Russia, which seems an unlikely prospect so long as total nuclear disarmament does not prevail in the United States.

This is a childish and rather unpleasant position, since Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium (so long as it survives its recurrent suicidal impulses), and Luxembourg are serious and sovereign, rather than subordinate, nations, and the United States, if it wishes itself to be taken seriously, would do well to treat them as such.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Don't Vote Lib Dem

Cristina Odone writes:

Do you know where your 16 year-old is? If the Lib Dems get into power, your son or daughter could be starring in a porn film. Yes, that’s right: the party of nice Mr Clegg is actually the party of choice for dirty old men. It seems anyone over 16 should be allowed to watch “Naughty Nurses’ Lesbo Love”, and even act in it. The story – which has been unearthed from 2004 – is so gross, you want to laugh. Except that it won’t be so funny if it means our children will get sucked into the shady, sordid world of pornographers.

On Mumsnet some angry mothers are calling for the Lib Dems to review this sick policy. Better still: let everyone who is considering casting a vote for the Lib Dems review their position, given what this party stands for.

Contrast the treatment of the Lib Dems with the treatment of the Catholic Church, which is in no sense in favour of this sort of thing in principle, and which treats everyone under 18 as a minor for this purpose even where the age of consent is much lower, as Her shrieking critics, who want to Pope to be assassinated on British soil, also want it to be here.

God's Own Country?

Even if not entirely convincingly, Nathan Tucker writes:

Recently, U.S. District Judge Barb Crabb ruled that the National Day of Prayer was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of church and state which, she believed, was mandated by the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Both the Obama Administration and the American Center for Law and Justice, a “friend of the court” litigant, have vowed to appeal it.

The National Day of Prayer was first established in 1952, and the statute presently reads: “The President shall issue each year a proclamation designating the first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer on which the people of the United States may turn to God in prayer and meditation at churches, in groups, and as individuals.”

It is this simple statement that Judge Crabb found to be constitutionally indefensible. In her ruling, she wrote that, “in my view of the case law, government involvement in prayer may be consistent with the establishment clause when the government’s conduct serves a significant secular purpose and is not a ‘call for religious action on the part of citizens.’”

She determined that the National Day of Prayer failed that test, finding that it went “beyond mere ‘acknowledgment’ of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context.”

She concluded that, “the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience….[R]ecognizing the importance of prayer to many people does not mean that the government may enact a statute in support of it, any more than the government may encourage citizens to fast during the month of Ramadan, attend a synagogue, purify themselves in a sweat lodge or practice rune magic.”

Judge Crabb’s ruling is only the latest example of the state of confusion that exists in the 1st Amendment’s religion case law, particularly in the area of ceremonial deism. For instance, the Supreme Court has upheld the use of the motto “In God We Trust” on our nation’s currency but, conversely, has held that the display of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom is unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has held that manger scenes may be constitutional, but only if surrounded by a Christmas Tree, menorah, and Rudolph. It has held that prayer before the opening of a legislative body is constitutional, but lower courts have found some prayers to violate the 1st Amendment. The Supreme Court hasn’t addressed the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance yet, but in 2002 the 9th Circuit found that it ran afoul the great wall of separation of church and state.

This condition of uncertain confusion in our nation’s church-state case law rests on a profound misunderstanding of the Religion Clauses of the 1st Amendment, with the Supreme Court itself noting that, “[w]hile the two Clauses express complimentary values, they often exert conflicting pressures.”

The problem lies in the fact that the courts have read into the Constitution two religion clauses when there is in fact only one—“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The Religion Clause was intended to protect a freedom—religious liberty—from the coercive power of government. The goal was not to simply prohibit a state church or the prosecution of a church by the state, but to prohibit all religious discrimination that can occur between these two sides of the same coin.

The only way to consistently protect all aspects of religious liberty is to read it as one unified clause prohibiting religious discrimination by the government. Such discrimination occurs in three primary forms—governmental denial of equal protection based on religion, government interference with a religious organization’s beliefs and practices, or government coerced adherence to a particular religious faith.

Symbolic references to religion—National Day of Prayer, Ten Commandments, manger scenes, etc—do not fall into any of these categories of government discrimination. Though generic endorsements may, as Justice O’Connor has noted, send “a message to non-adherents that they are outsiders,” these “non-adherents” are not denied the equal protection of the laws because they fail to conform.

Nor does ceremonial deism present the threat of government interference with a church or organization’s religious tenants and customs. Neither can symbolic references constitute coercion because they cannot reasonably and tangibly lead to government indoctrination and proselyzation.

It is time for the courts to replace their unworkable and conflicting religion jurisprudence with one that makes sense—that the Religion Clause is only violated by government religious discrimination.

But there is more to it than this. The strange popular superstition that the Founding Fathers were devout Christians - prophets and apostles whose works, especially the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, are for all practical purposes part of the Canon of Scripture - urgently needs to be exploded.

1776 predates 1789. The American Republic is not a product of the Revolution. Nevertheless, it sits under a radically orthodox theological critique, most obviously by reference to pre-Revolutionary traditions of Catholic and Protestant republican thought, on the Catholic side perhaps Venetian, on the Protestant side perhaps Dutch, and on both sides perhaps at cantonal level in Switzerland, where it is possible that such thought might hold sway even now.

Though also by reference to Catholic, High Church, Congregationalist, Baptist, Quaker and other doubts about the legitimacy of the State created in 1688, and therefore also about that State's Empire, about that State's and Empire's capitalist ideology, and about the slavery that was fundamental both to that imperialism and to that capitalism.

Judgement Call

I am not one to defend the Leaders' Debates. At best, they should have featured every party with at least 326 candidates. But they were and are really unconstitutional in principle, since we do not elect a President, but a Parliament. With any luck, that they have taken over this campaign will guarantee that they are never repeated.

But the SNP has finally declared itself a branch of student union politics by its stunt before the Court of Session. Alex Salmond is on Question Time that night, anyway, so he physically could not be on the Leaders' Debate. All he wants is a meaningless court judgement, and he won't even get the one of them that he really wants. A court cannot rule that the BBC is biased against the SNP, be that true or false in itself.

What this whole business has shown is that the prominence of the SNP has made Scotland irrelevant. We are heading towards the most dramatic General Election in living memory, yet few or no seats in Scotland will change hands. The share of the vote in Scotland will alter hardly or not at all. And the most exposed Scottish politician as such (Gordon Brown barely counts), both in Scotland and in the country at large, will remain a man, no longer an MP or a candidate to become one, who purports to advocate separatism while in fact constantly demanding that central government spending match that in somewhere with ten times as many people. But with no suggestion of reciprocity: there would be no matching spending in England if the Olympics went to Scotland. Nor with any accountability over how that money is spent. It is impossible to take seriously either him or any political culture that can produce and sustain him.

Meanwhile, UKIP is also planning to take the BBC to court. Again, be they right or be they wrong in principle, is that really how a serious party behaves? And note that, just as the SNP pretends to favour independence, but in fact demands nothing but ever-higher central government spending in Scotland, so UKIP pretends to be in favour of parliamentary sovereignty, but in fact advocates binding referendums at both national and local level. As much as anything else, that foreign and deeply flawed device is characteristic of the Continent rather than of these Islands. And calling for its adoption constitutes a resigned, fatalistic concession that there can never be better parliamentarians. Why vote for a party which says that?

Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation

Sonja Corbitt writes:

Georgia Right to Life recently sponsored a provocative billboard campaign that says black children are an "endangered species." The campaign, unique to Georgia, combines the contentious race and abortion issues and has people all over the country discussing both.

Steve Osunsami of ABC News reported that the pro-life supporters behind the campaign, the designer and sponsors, were themselves members of the black community. "My people are dying, and nobody cares that my people are dying," said Catherine Davis of Georgia Right to Life.

These pro-life advocates say they are simply drawing attention to the fact that abortion and Planned Parenthood have always been racially motivated against minorities, as its intention, specified by Planned Parenthood´s founder Margaret Sanger, was to exterminate and sterilize blacks and other minorities who were "genetically inferior races" (The Pivot of Civilization, Sanger, 1922).

Included in the recent ABC News report were figures revealing that of the 35,088 abortions in Georgia in 2008, 20,909 were by black women, compared to 9,954 by whites (Ga. Dept. of Health). The CDC also reveals disturbing statistics. Nationally, although black women are 1.5 times more likely to get pregnant, they are 3 times more likely to get an abortion. These statistics fuel speculation among pro-life supporters, like the National Black Pro-life Union, that blacks and minorities are being specifically targeted.

But Beverly Guy-Sheftall, a women's history and feminist thought professor at a historically black women's college, disagrees that the numbers mean anything except that blacks need better access to birth control in the first place, and called the strategy a gimmick. "To use racist arguments to try to bait black people to get them to be anti-abortion is just disgusting," said Guy-Sheftall.

"These one-issue approaches that are not about saving the black family or black children, it's just a big distraction," she said. "Many black people don't know who Margaret Sanger is and could care less." Unfortunately, that might be true. "Not knowing" and "caring less" about Margaret Sanger, however, has proven deadly to the black community, and to unborn babies numbering in the millions.

Through the foundation of her American Birth Control League in 1921, Sanger launched "race hygiene" initiatives, opening facilities in predominantly black, immigrant and poor areas of New York City, a strategy that would become standard for the League that later became Planned Parenthood. She then publicized the League´s initiatives through an appearance at the 1926 Ku Klux Klan rally, New Jersey.

Her next project, the 1939 Negro Project, was a population control drive through the League to abort and sterilize blacks, recruiting black preachers to lead the indoctrination and promulgation of her population control message, a method still used in the black community because, "[t]he most successful educational approach to the Negro" Sanger said, "is through a religious appeal" (Sanger to Dr. Clarence Gamble).

The aim of the Negro Project was to ensure non-reproduction and use of birth control devices among blacks because, "…we are paying for and even submitting to the dictates of an ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all" (Pivot of Civilization, Sanger).

Catholics and others who sought to serve that community through charitable means were derided by Sanger: "Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease…Instead of decreasing and aiming to eliminate the stocks [of people] that are most detrimental to the future of the race and the world, it tends to render them to a menacing degree dominant" (Pivot of Civilization, Sanger).

Pro-abortion advocates and Planned Parenthood, worldwide, continue to deny their ties to Sanger´s racially motivated eugenics ideology while simultaneously promulgating her philosophy as the resolution to poverty, the global overpopulation myth, economic convenience and total sexual liberation.

Sanger´s hatred for "forced motherhood," Catholicism, and charity itself has pervaded our social and political systems, so that Planned Parenthood´s contraception and legalized abortion policies are a billion dollar industry that keep Sanger´s clearly stated eugenics ideology alive, intact, and devastatingly effective.

The Western Confucian adds:

Strange allies have joined the fight against a bill that "prevents coerced racially eugenic abortions" and "protects against the heinous practice of selectively aborting children based upon race or gender" — Does the Georgia State NAACP Support Racially Eugenic Abortion? "Abortions in the black community occur at 3x the rate of those among the white population and 2x that of all other races combined," the author notes, reminding us that "abortion kills more African-Americans, per year, than heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, accidents, homicides, suicide, and cancer-combined."

These advertisements are a wonderful sign of hope. In the womb, on the streets and on the battlefield, America's black male, in particular, is now the victim of a three-pronged genocide.

Thank God for a President who has endorsed the Pregnant Women Support Act. Pray for a further Healthcare Bill which includes both the public option and the principle embodied in the Stupak Amendment, since taken together would make abortion practically impossible to obtain, just as the PWSA will make it almost, if almost, completely undesirable.

And thank God for a President who is ending the war in Iraq. Now, to end the war in Afghanistan. And to preclude other such misadventures by removing the Lurleen Wallace
de nos jours from the State Department.

Watts Is To Be Done

As Lenin nearly wrote.

Watts Stelling's leaflet has arrived. Good local communitarian populist stuff from a man who obviously has his ear to the ground. A strong commitment to national sovereignty and to family values. And a welcome emphasis on the fact that he is more experienced than the Lib Dem, and vastly more so than the Labour or UKIP candidate, while the Tory does not live here, and of the BNP effort "Who knows?" We are very fortunate in this country, that that last tendency is comprised only of people who are by definition stupid and uneducated, with no equivalents of, for example, the FN-allied French periodicals that publish articles about the Lost Dauphin or l'affaire Dreyfus.

So I never had any doubt for whom I was going to vote, and I have certainly not developed any by reading his leaflet. I do realise, however, that this blog is read by people such as now constitute the remnant membership of all three parties, to whom endorsement of a candidate is exactly the same thing as a firm prediction that that candidate will win, on the unquestioned assumption that all candidates are politically identical. I have no idea whether or not Watts will win. But I very much hope that he does. And I will be voting for him.

Although still barely able to get out (I managed as far as the post box at the end of my street today), I am aware that the Labour posters that used to cover the old pit villages and steel town of this constituency in the run-up to a General Election are now extremely conspicuous by their absence. So Labour, with its invisible candidate and its inactive campaign, could certainly lose. In which case, Watts could win. All that we have to do is vote for him.

What Works

Private ownership bankrupted what had been Lloyds, the Bank of Scotland, the Halifax Building Society and the once publicly owned Trustee Savings Bank.

Public ownership has restored them to profitability and, in the public ownership of the Bank of Scotland, created a new safeguard of the Union.

Why change a winning formula? To do so could not possibly be less conservative.


The old "Gordon Brown looks like Richard Nixon" line is being trotted out in certain quarters.

Would that be the Richard Nixon who eschewed needless foreign entanglements, pursued détente with China, and laid the groundwork for the ending of the Vietnam War by an old stalwart of the America First Committee? The Richard Nixon who resigned over something that would not now be a story, never mind a scandal, and which it is, frankly, difficult to believe that very many people found genuinely shocking, rather than felt that they should affect to do so, even at the time? No one resigns over anything anymore. But Nixon did over that.

America now has a President who offers the pre-Clinton best of the Democratic domestic policy tradition with the pre-Dubya best of the Republican foreign policy tradition. So far, he has proved better at delivering the former than at delivering the latter. He needs to purge his internal party enemies from influence once and for all. If he does, then he can deliver his full promise, and thus make himself one of the greatest ever President of the United States.

The Real Gaffe

The best thing about Obama has always been his supporters: Bob Casey, Ben Nelson, Jim Webb, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Bart Stupak, Jim Jones, Dick Lugar, Chuck Hagel, Christopher Buckley, Douglas Kmiec, Donnie McClurkin, Squire Lance. But Nelson is not exactly acquitting himself well at the moment, Lugar and Hagel being in a more difficult position. And then there are these truly offensive words of General Jones:

Since there has been a lot of distortion and misrepresentation of our policy recently, let me take this opportunity to address our relationship with our ally Israel. Like any two nations, we will have disagreements, but we will always resolve them as allies. And we will never forget that since the first minutes of Israeli independence, the United States has had a special relationship with Israel. And that will not change.

Why? Because this is not a commitment of Democrats or Republicans; it is a national commitment based on shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests.

"Always resolve them as allies"? No matter what? Britain, for example, would be wrong to expect that of America, as America, for example, would be wrong to expect it of Britain. "The first minutes of Israeli independence" seem to have lasted for 19 years, since it was not until 1967 that anyone much in America, Jew or Gentile, cared terribly about Israel, with many people distinctly suspicious of that Marxist-founded state.

"And that will not change"? What, ever? That is some commitment, indeed a thoroughly irresponsible one, to give to anywhere, never mind to a country which (unlike the Saudis, it must be said) barely invests in America, which exports little or nothing to America, which imports little or nothing from America, which sends few emigrants to America, which receives far fewer immigrants from America than one might assume (most American Jews, like most Americans in general, see America as their Promised Land), which does not even receive all that many American tourists, and which has never participated in any American war.

Like the radical feminists, like the political homosexualists, and like those who obstinately refuse to speak English, the foreign policy hawks in general and the Israel Lobby in particular lined up with the Gulf tyrants and with Hugh Hefner in support of Hillary Clinton. They should all be treated accordingly.

Mercifully Not Miss November 2008

It is only fitting that the Hollywood sign has been saved by an overt pornographer. The same one who funds the campaign to keep abortion legal and who funded the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, a campaign also funded by those noted feminists, the ruling houses of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Oh, well, at least she did not promise to nuke the offices of either feminist or Christian anti-porn campaigners if so instructed by Hugh Hefner. She did promise to nuke Iran, where there are more women than men at university, if so instructed by the Saudis, the Kuwaitis or the Emiratis.

Just Cause?

It is interesting to be reminded that Manuel Noriega is still alive. At the end of the Cold War, America could have come home. Instead, she chose to present this piffling figure as a world menace, and to go after him in her new role as not just the global policeman but a sort of global social worker. The rest, as they say, is history.

Monday 26 April 2010

Variety Bucket

"There was no such thing as UKIP under Margaret Thatcher, her Euroscepticism was taken for granted," Newsnight viewers were informed by that Olympic standard social climber and name-dropper, Kentucky Fried Chicken heir, and stalwart both of the Henry Jackson Society and of the pro-apartheid Springbok Club, Andrew Roberts.

Roberts holds no higher degree, and he has never held an academic position. But his books are much admired by the noted polymath, George W Bush. They contain repeated misspellings of the same place names, they assume that historical figures with the same name were the same person, they repeatedly refer to the Red Army marching eastwards across Europe, and they suggest that Amritsar is in the south of India.

Thatcher's Euroscepticism is the opposite of the truth. She signed the Single European Act, campaigned in 1983 specifically against an Opposition with a manifesto commitment to withdraw, and took until a rally in the run-up to the 2001 Election, ten and a half years after the end of her ten and a half years as Prime Minister, to come out against a single currency. By then, it was far from obvious that she really knew what she was saying.

What is to be Roberts's next gem? That Thatcher believed in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? That Thatcher upheld traditional family values, and traditional teaching methods in schools? That Thatcher was an unbending defender of British sovereignty in the Falkland Islands, and of the capacity of the Royal Navy?

The Rise of The Dragon?

Plaid Cymru is receiving a lot of coverage. Unlike the SNP, it is an economically left-wing party. Unlike the SNP, it has working-class support; these days, people do forget that both the working class and the Left exist in rural areas. Unlike the SNP, it is barely, if at all, in any direct fight against Labour, there being very little Labour support in the Welsh-speaking countryside and even less Plaid support in the ex-industrial areas of South Wales, where opposition even to the present level of devolution is still strong and where distaste for the Welsh language is visceral. Unlike the SNP, it voted to save the Labour Government in 1979. And unlike the SNP, its price would be financial, easy both to understand and to deliver, rather than constitutional. One to watch.

Guarding The Marches

Dr Peter Foster, the Anglican Bishop of Chester, was on the Today programme, and dear old John Humphrys clearly thought that he was onto a winner.

But no, his guest did not accept that free speech included the right to insult the Pope at public expense. And yes, he did think (he comes from the Evangelical wing, which at its more scholarly level has been quietly shifting back to Biblical principles on this for while) that the Catholic Church had a point about the disconnection between sex and procreation. Indeed, he put the two together by decrying the present epidemic of pornography, which he identified as at once unacceptably over-free speech, and sex without its proper purpose.

Like two Labour Peers who were in or around the Callaghan Government, Dr Foster is also on the Advisory Board of Nigel Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation.

"A bulwark against errors more fundamental than its own," Cardinal Newman called the Church of England. He may yet have been onto something.


Just so that I have this correct. There is an absolute right to wear the burkha in Britain, where it constitutes an complete barrier to normal economic, social, cultural and political life, and where you can be sacked for wearing a cross. But the wearing of the burkha in Afghanistan, where it is normal, is so abhorrent that we are justified in fighting a war against it.

Past and Present

In its last days before George Galloway bankrupts it in the libel courts, Harry's Place dredges up Ricky Tomlinson's ancient connection to the National Front. No one can be in any doubt that he has changed his mind. Unlike them and their fellow Euston Manifesto types where Stalinism (including the utterly unyielding Straight Left variety behind Harry's Place), fellow-travelling or Trostkyism is concerned. And unlike their Henry Jackson Society allies when it comes to Pinochet, Marcos, Papa and Baby Doc, apartheid South Africa, and that last's Rhodesian satellite, among a host of others. Indeed, at least one of those allies still campaigns for the restoration of apartheid South Africa.


Was it because this bailout would not have cost half a trillion pounds? Or was it something else?

The State of The Railways

From today's Daily Telegraph:

SIR – With the acquisition of Arriva by Deutsche Bahn, which already owns or runs EWS (operator of the royal train), London Overground, Tyneside Metro, Wrexham & Shropshire and Chiltern Rail, it seems those that wish to see our trains returned to state ownership can start to celebrate.

I would personally have preferred it had the state in question been Britain, but perhaps we can at least look forward to improved efficiency on Arriva services.

John Vance
Kingsdown, Kent