Politics

Aristides the Just in Bavaria

Saturday, 13 October, 2018

Bavaria is booming. Unemployment is under three percent and the sun has shone almost every day since April. Easy peasy then, you would think, for the CSU, which has ruled the southern German state with an absolute majority for most of the post-war era. The party won nearly 48 percent of the vote at the last regional election, in 2013, but change is in the air. For the first time in living memory, the CSU appears almost certain to fall well below the 40 percent mark in tomorrow’s election, an outcome that would send shockwaves all the way from Munich to Berlin.

What’s up? Frustration with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s moralistic migration policy is one issue; infighting within the CSU and in the coalition government in Berlin is another. People are looking for alternatives. Despite the extraordinary prosperity and stability that the CSU has helped bestow upon Bavaria, the voters are restless. The situation reminds one of an incident recounted by Plutarch in The Life of Aristides the Just. Note: An ostracon (plural ostraka) was a shard of pottery upon which the ancient Greeks wrote short messages:

“Now at the time of which I was speaking, as the voters were inscribing their ostraka [to determine which politicians would be expelled from the city], it is said that an unlettered and utterly boorish ostrakon fellow handed his ostrakon to Aristides, whom he took to be one of the ordinary crowd, and asked him to write Aristides on it. He, astonished, asked the man what possible wrong Aristides had done him. ‘None whatever,’ was the answer, ‘I don’t even know the fellow, but I am tired of hearing him everywhere called ‘The Just’. On hearing this, Aristides made no answer, but wrote his name on the ostracon and handed it back.”

In the most recent polls, CSU support has fallen to 33 percent. In much of Europe today, that would be a dream result for a centrist party, but given the CSU’s almost permanent reign, such an outcome would be treated as a disaster. Stay tuned.


Snogging, partying, snoring — and champagne

Tuesday, 2 October, 2018

The illiberal left has given us a glimpse this past fortnight of the kind of Orwellian Dystopia it wants to create on earth. All youthful indiscretions and errors will be punished in their brave new world and woe betide those who indulge in alcohol, for theirs is the path to perdition.

Raucous parties and drunken antics have been part of the wild world of privileged youth for generations and the British variety is brilliantly depicted in the photographs of Dafydd Jones, who was engaged by Tatler in the early 1980s to snap the society weddings, debutante dances and the Hunt Balls of the season. The printed result is The Last Hurrah, which is being promoted with an exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery Print Room in the Soho district of London. The book is an exuberant cocktail mixed with a good dash of humour and the Dafydd Jones photograph here shows Benita Douglas-Robertson with Matt Gomez at the Blizzard Ball in the London Hilton on 3 January 2001.

Dafydd Jones


Day of reckoning in Sweden

Sunday, 9 September, 2018

The polls have opened in Sweden’s general election and pundits predict that neither the governing Social Democrats nor the Moderate Party is likely to win a majority. The big story, of course, is the rise of the Sweden Democrats (SD), who may end up taking second place, which would be a huge shock for the Swedish and European establishments. SD leader Jimmie Åkesson says that Sweden had become “an extreme country in many ways, not least when it comes to immigration” and that his plan to take in fewer migrants should be regarded as “normal politics in the rest of Europe”. From Brussels to Berlin, from Rome to Madrid, all eyes will be on Stockholm tonight.

“Everything I read about the Swedish Social Democratic government of the last century suggested an organization that was driven by one single, overarching goal: to sever the traditional, some would say natural, ties between its citizens, be they those that bound children to their parents, workers to their employers, wives to their husbands, or the elderly to their families.” — Michael Booth, The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia

UPDATE: The Swedish election has left the two main political blocs almost tied. With all ballots counted, the governing centre-left coalition is marginally ahead of its centre-right Alliance rivals, with around 40% each. The Sweden Democrats (SD) won about 18% of the vote, up from 12.9% in the previous election. A lengthy battle to form a working coalition now looks certain.


JG Ballard and the rage of the Angelas

Saturday, 18 August, 2018

In his latter days and in his final works, the great JG Ballard, who died in April 2009, focussed on how bored (and boring) materialism and media have made people. It’s not surprising, Ballard said, that the educated would do things like take to the streets in favour of dictators, support terror groups, denounce freedom and join crazed movements. And wasn’t he the prophet! Ballard lampooned all this brilliantly in Millennium People. Here, the narrator has infiltrated a middle-class “Antifa” group and attends a protest against a cat show in London with Angela, a revolutionary:

Angela stared across the road with narrowed eyes and all a suburbanite’s capacity for moral outrage. Walking around the exhibition two hours earlier, I was impressed by her unswerving commitment to the welfare of these luxurious pets. The protest rallies I had recently attended against globalisation, nuclear power and the World Bank were violent but well thought out. By contrast, this demonstration seemed endearingly Quixotic in its detachment from reality. I tried to point this out to Angela as we strolled along the line of cages.

“Angela, they look so happy. They’re wonderfully cared for. We’re trying to rescue them from heaven.”

Angela never varied her step. “How do you know?”

“Just watch them.” We stopped in front of a row of Abyssinians so deeply immersed in the luxury of being themselves that they barely noticed the admiring crowds. “They’re not exactly unhappy. They’d be prowling around, trying to get out of the cages.”

“They’re drugged.” Angela’s brows knotted. “No living creature should be caged. This isn’t a cat show, it’s a concentration camp.”

“Still, they are rather gorgeous.

“They’re bred for death, not life. The rest of the litter are drowned at birth. It’s a vicious eugenic experiment, the sort of thing Dr. Mengele got up to.”

Satire is our only defence against the Angelas of this world. What a tragedy JG Ballard is not with us now to write about the scourge of “identity politics.”


Bret Easton Ellis on annoying liberals

Sunday, 12 August, 2018

The American fiction writer Bret Easton Ellis is best known for books such Less Than Zero, The Rules Of Attraction and American Psycho. The latter assured notoriety and brought with it the prosperity that allows Ellis to enjoy a “fuck you” attitude of speaking his mind without being terrified of the PC mob. A week ago, he spoke to Rolling Stone about politics and other stuff. Snippet:

Q: You tweeted that you were done discussing politics with liberals at dinner. Is it because everyone plays the role of knee-jerk shock and outrage?

A: Completely. I live with a Trump-hating, millennial socialist. I am not, as my boyfriend will tell everyone, political. I’m interested in the theater of it, how each side plays the game, and how the media has morphed with it. I have never seen liberals be more annoying than they are now. These last few weeks really were a flipping point for me, with the depression over the Supreme Court and the way the detention centers were being spun by the liberal media. It’s obviously a game. Here’s Rachel Maddow crying on TV, and pictures of Trump detention centers. My stepfather, who is a Polish Jew, had his entire family wiped out when he was an infant. Throwing around words like Nazi, Gestapo and comparisons to Weimar Germany is like, “Really guys? You’re going there?” I’ve had enough. I think there’s a reason why the #WalkAway movement is getting it’s ten seconds of fame, because there’s a real reaction toward the stridency of how Democrats are expressing their disappointment. It’s turning a lot of people off.

Q: As a gay man, what if your right to marry is suddenly taken away? Doesn’t that anger you on a primal level?

A: That is suggesting that I believe in identity politics, and that I vote with my penis. It’s suggesting that immigration, the economy and other policies matter so much less than whether I can marry a man. It’s not something that I worry about, or is on my mind. That’s the problem with identity politics, and it’s what got Hillary into trouble. If you have a vagina, you had to vote for Hillary. This has seeped into a bedrock credo among a lot of people, and you’ve gotta step back. People are not one-issue voters. I am not going to vote as a gay man, and I don’t think the idea of us not being allowed to marry is going to happen. Pence has his issues, but Trump is not an anti-gay president in any way, shape or form. I also have gay friends who support and voted for Trump, based on certain policies. It’s not just about being gay and being able to marry.

So true. If you want more, check out The Bret Easton Ellis Podcast. It discuses film, television, music, pop culture and, now and again, politics.


Defining populism, philosophically

Tuesday, 31 July, 2018

The latest book by the English philosopher Sir Roger Scruton is titled Conservatism: An Invitation to the Great Tradition. He spoke about it with Madeleine Kearns of the National Review in a Q&A headlined “What It Means to Be a Conservative.” Snippet:

Kearns: You mention neither Donald Trump nor populism in your book. Why?

Scruton: Trump is an interesting phenomenon, but not an interesting thinker, supposing he is a thinker at all. ‘Populism’ is a word used by leftists to describe the emotions of ordinary people, when they do not tend to the left.


They were against McCain before they were for him

Sunday, 13 May, 2018 0 Comments

Suddenly, the gallant old naval pilot, John McCain, is a Hero of The Left. This might have to do with a surge in leftist support for McCain’s belief in the importance of the warrior to the defence of freedom and the West, or it may be connected to McCain’s opposition to many of President Trump’s policies. The reader must decide.

But there’s more to this new wave of admiration for the man who fought Hanoi Jane Fonda’s bestie, Ho Chi Minh, than meets the eye. If we scroll back to late 2008, when John McCain was running against Barack Obama for the presidency of the USA, we can learn a lot from how the media apparatus treated him then. Consider the role of that bastion of liberal ideals, The Atlantic. Its October 2008 cover story was titled “Why War is His Answer – Inside the Mind of John McCain” and the author was one Jeffrey Goldberg, who went to become an Obama administration sycophant for eight years. But a picture is worth more than ten thousand of Goldberg’s words so the snapper hired to do the (hit) job on McCain was a famous “#Resistance” operative named Jill Greenberg. Here’s how she deployed her skills to take the photo that helped sink the McCain campaign:

When The Atlantic called Jill Greenberg, a committed Democrat, to shoot a portrait of John McCain for its October cover, she rubbed her hands with glee…

After getting that shot, Greenberg asked McCain to “please come over here” for one more set-up before the 15-minute shoot was over. There, she had a beauty dish with a modeling light set up. “That’s what he thought he was being lit by,” Greenberg says. “But that wasn’t firing.”

What was firing was a strobe positioned below him, which cast the horror movie shadows across his face and on the wall right behind him. “He had no idea he was being lit from below,” Greenberg says. And his handlers didn’t seem to notice it either. “I guess they’re not very sophisticated,” she adds.

So, when you hear any of this lot eulogising John McCain, reach for the vomit bag.

John McCain


Peace: Stone meeting Water in Korea

Friday, 27 April, 2018 0 Comments

Kim Jong-un today became the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea by crossing the military line that has divided the peninsula since the end of the Korean War in 1953. In a moment rich with symbolism, the South Korean president Moon Jae-in and Kim shook hands at the border. Just months ago North Korean rhetoric was warlike, but now the talk is of peace and the ending of Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

Who deserves the credit for this? In the Sydney Morning Herald, Daniel McCarthy argues that “Donald Trump deserves the Nobel Peace.” Snippet:

“The Nobel Committee and the community of opinion that looks on the Peace Prize as an affirmation of liberal pieties may find Trump distasteful. Nevertheless, he is set to be the man most deserving of the honour. If that seems shocking, it is a shock that ought to prompt a rethink of how international relations really work. Decades of conventional diplomacy with North Korea only led to the Kim dynasty acquiring nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them between continents. To make peace demands a new approach, and President Trump has found one.”

One of the highlights of our trip to Korea was the time spent on Jeju Island in the Korea Strait, which connects the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan. Its fascinating Stone Park is devoted to “the history of stone culture” and the park’s combination of stone and water suggests that opposing elements can be united.

Jeju Stone Park

Jeju Stone Park


It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo

Sunday, 14 January, 2018 0 Comments

Well, so says Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine. What spurred his “resistance” is the open letter signed last week by a hundred French women who don’t regard themselves as helpless victims of men. Sullivan’s money quote: “A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘slut’, nor a cheap accomplice of the patriarchy.”

Sullivan then turns his attention to Moira Donegan, the infamous creator of the infamous “Shitty Media Men” list and he calls it for what it is: McCarthyism. Snippet:

“The act of anonymously disseminating serious allegations about people’s sex lives as a means to destroy their careers and livelihoods has long gone by a simple name. It’s called McCarthyism, and the people behind the list engaged in it. Sure, they believed they were doing good — but the McCarthyites, in a similar panic about communism, did as well. They believe they are fighting an insidious, ubiquitous evil — the patriarchy — just as the extreme anti-Communists in the 1950s believed that commies were everywhere and so foul they didn’t deserve a presumption of innocence, or simple human decency. They demand public confessions of the guilty and public support for their cause … or they will cast suspicion on you as well. Sophie Gilbert just berated the men at the Golden Globes for not saying what they were supposed to say. It’s no wonder that today’s McCarthyites also engage in demonizing other writers, like Katie Roiphe, and threatening their livelihoods. And just as McCarthyites believed they had no other option, given the complicity of the entire federal government with communism, so today’s McCarthyites claim that appeals to the police, or the HR department, or to the usual channels, are “fruitless” — because they’re part of the patriarchal system too! These mechanisms, Donegan writes, have ‘an obligation to presume innocence,’ and we can’t have that, can we?”

The time has come to resist the new McCarthyism of the Left and its cruel cadres.


This time, this night last year

Wednesday, 8 November, 2017 0 Comments

Clinton to win


The Democrats have issues, as they say

Wednesday, 25 October, 2017 0 Comments

Breaking: Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier. According to The Washington Post: “The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund the research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about Donald Trump’s connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said.”

Meanwhile: Andrew Sullivan is worrying about what he calls “The Issue That Could Lose the Next Election for Democrats:”

“I don’t believe it’s disputable at this point that the most potent issue behind the rise of the far right in America and Europe is mass immigration. It’s a core reason that Trump is now president; it’s why the AfD is now the third-biggest party in the German, yes, German, parliament; it’s why Austria’s new chancellor won by co-opting much of the far right’s agenda on immigration; it’s why Britain is attempting (and currently failing) to leave the EU; it’s why Marine Le Pen won a record number of votes for her party in France this spring. A critical moment, in retrospect, came with Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to import over a million Syrian refugees into the heart of Europe… This is, to be blunt, political suicide. The Democrats’ current position seems to be that the Dreamer parents who broke the law are near heroes, indistinguishable from the children they brought with them; and their rhetoric is very hard to distinguish, certainly for most swing voters, from a belief in open borders. In fact, the Democrats increasingly seem to suggest that any kind of distinction between citizens and noncitizens is somehow racist.”

The bottom line for Sullivan is this: “The most powerful thing Trump said in the campaign, I’d argue, was: ‘If you don’t have borders, you don’t have a country.’ And the Democrats had no answer, something that millions of Americans immediately saw.”