Perfidious Little Belgium

The New York Times in its review of The Darkest Hour refers to the film makers’ sham populism which is at its most evident when showing Churchill riding the London Underground and meeting The People (a motley mass of stiff upper lips and misty eyes).
Charles Moore writing in the Spectator opined that the film indicates when Churchill left Downing Street for the House of Commons to make his ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech he did so without knowing what he would say. (In the film) dear, patriotic citizens weepily beg Churchill to declare that we will fight on, so he decides that is what he will say in Parliament.
Obviously, in drama, one must not succumb to ‘the tyranny of fact’, but if you know that Churchill did not travel by tube, that he had thoroughly decided what he would say, that he always prepared his parliamentary speeches pretty much word for word, and that only a madman would go from Downing Street via St James’s Park station to get to Westminster, you cannot suspend your disbelief in the cinema.
The speech contains memorable lines – not just the We shall fight them phrases. In his speech Churchill outlined the immediate history which lead up to the British Expeditionary Force debacle and the Dunkirk evacuation. He highlighted but did not overdramatize the role of the Belgians:
“The king of the Belgians had called upon us to come to his aid. Had not this ruler and his government severed themselves from the allies, who rescued their country from extinction in the late war, and had they not sought refuge in what was proved to be a fatal neutrality, the French and British armies might well at the outset have saved not only Belgium but perhaps even Poland. Yet at the last moment, when Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid, and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient army, nearly half a million strong, guarded our left flank and thus kept open our only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with the least possible notice, without the advice of his ministers and upon his own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command, surrendered his army, and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat.”
Thus, we were betrayed by the Belgian royals and if there ever was a case for a full blooded republican coup, this must be it.
And yet the Treaty of Brussels was signed on 17 March 1948 which established a Western Union Defense Organization which in turn lead to the 1951 European Coal & Steel Community, European Economic Community (predecessor to the European Economic Community and the European Union) all of which would be headquartered in Brussels
Supranationalism does not have to be Socialist and Statist but you can see the advantages to the Belgians (like their Prime Minister Paul-Henri Spaak), it let their country punch above its weight and (hopefully) expunge the memory of their 1940 perfidy.

 

https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2007/apr/20/greatspeeches1

Blessed with Politicians

Larry PittmanIn North Carolina we are blessed with some of the most creative thinkers in the political landscape.
Take for example N.C. State Representative Larry Pittman
In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting, Americans were asking why would someone do something so terrible?
Experts say it’s often a combination of mental illness, adversity in the shooter’s life – and access to guns. Larry Pittman took the speculation a step further.
He speculated on Facebook that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, had political motivations and suggested the Florida shooter was part of a conspiracy to push for gun control so they (the communist Democrats) could more easily take over the country.
Larry is well known for his ahead-of-the-curve thinking. Last year, he proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow North Carolina voters to repeal that part of the North Carolina Constitution, which declares that “This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation,” and prohibits the state from seceding from the United States of America; The amendment is currently languishing with that committee which runs the Legislature’s timetable.
Larry has been a registered Republican since 1972, when he was 17. He posts that he is proud of the fact that without his votes Jesse Helms would have never won elections to the US Senate, nor Ronald Reagan’s  elections as President.
We are truly “blessed”.

For more information please see http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article200807499.html

Limits to Brussels

Recently Leicestershire Council was caught recommending that residents not eat more than six sprouts with their Christmas dinner.
Quite rightly this has provoked mocking comment across the board. Some comments embracing the spirit of the bureaucrat e.g., what size should the sprouts be? Are sprouts fungible? Can they be transferred within the family? And so on.
Others are focused on the waste of money in having this idea and thinking it worthwhile of being broadcast, when there are so many other issues requiring attention such as education, potholes etc.
Margaret Thatcher was advised the government is about the three S’s – Streets, Schools and Security.
Tweeting about Brussel sprout consumption does not comply with this template. The tweet raises questions about the spending and governing habits of Leicestershire Council. How many of these soft-focus jobs are there, which do not address the hard questions of how we get better value for money for the residents and tax payers? Who had the bright idea in the first place and what was the approval chain which permitted its publication?
There was no scientific justification for the limit suggestion and subsequent explanations suggest that the tweet was aimed at food waste. Yet, most food waste takes place in food manufacturing and its retail. That is where the tweeter should take his/herself in his/her white coat, hairnet and wellingtons and properly focus on waste.
Meanwhile the Department of You Couldn’t Make It Up continues to expand and flourish.

Every Child’s Right

I am always coming across relatively small charities which make a big impact for what they do. I once contributed to a clothing bank for street youth who had been arrested for being idle and who were destined to receive harsher sentences compared to those who seemed respectably turned out.
I experienced a similar epiphany last week when the Diaper Bank of NC came to my attention.
There is a serious shortage of diapers and other personal sanitary items among the poor in North Carolina. Diapers can cost as much as $100 a month per child and are not covered by SNAP (also known as food stamps) or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – better known as the WIC Program).
A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics found that women in need of diapers reported more difficulty with stress management, depression, and coping with trauma—which negatively affects their child’s health.
Another study conducted by Feeding America, called In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials, found that 48% of families who cannot afford basic household necessities delay changing a child’s diaper to make their diaper supply last longer.
All across North Carolina, there are stories of families who are struggling to provide diapers for their children to keep them dry, clean, and healthy. It is not just infants who are affected. Tears come to the eyes when you hear of young girls who cannot afford personal sanitary items and so stay away from school rather than be shamed.
The Diaper Bank of NC is a 501c3 organization. No goods or services are exchanged for donations, which are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law.

What Happened


Hillary Clinton’s new book  promises to reveal some interesting lessons for future political campaigns.
I particularly like the analysis:
“I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment,” she wrote. “I was giving speeches laying out how to resolve the country’s problems. He was ranting on Twitter.”
We saw Hillary twice at rallies and we saw Bill Clinton once. At no time did we think that her policies were off the wall as opposed to Bernie’s which were off kilter from the moment the Democratic Party gave him air time to promote his platform right up to when he refused to concede defeat and let Hillary focus on the main target – Trump.
I look forward to reading the book which must, in the final analysis, be a memoir of one of the greatest political tragedies of this century

Retreat from Glory

Last week I blogged on the echoes from the 1930’s and the German position after the Versailles and Locarno treaties and the U.K. position and the E.U. at the present time.
The blog was based on the book Retreat from Glory by R.M. Bruce Lockhart.
The Retreat from Glory can be applied in the ironic sense to the EU as it negotiates Brexit. Here I am indebted to Guido Fawkes for the  chart.
Well, faced with €12 billion walking out of the door who would not be petulant.
What’s more interesting is that France with an economy and population comparable to ours makes a net contribution less than half of ours.
Why does Italy pay make a net contribution and Greece makes a net withdrawal?
There’s a Ph.D. project in the making as to the relationship of contributions to GNP, who comes out best and why.
But looking to the future there are two questions to be asked: What will we do with the money we no longer pay to Brussels and What will the EU do to fill the hole?

Flogging will continue …

Trogir – Oculus (Lust)

I have just finished reading “Retreat from Glory” by R.H. Bruce Lockhart.
It covers the period of his life from 1918 to 1932. Lockhart first achieved fame as British Vice Consul in Moscow in 1912 and is irretrievably connected with Sidney Reilly the “Ace of Spies”.
The book rambles a fair bit with details of trout fishing in far flung bournes and sight seeing.
Split he describes as a beautiful port and Diocletian as the first man to discover the peaceful solitude of this enchanting (Dalmatian) coast.
Trogir (he writes)  is another unspoilt relic of old Venice with the most glorious Venetian square hedged by a loggia, a magnificent cathedral, a palazzo and an old town hall. The dirt and the smell were over powering…
But the real gems in the book are the insights and conversations he has with politicians throughout Eastern Europe  in the aftermath of the Versailles Treaty and the determination of the French to ensure that Germany would never rise again to threaten them.
Lockhart recounts a converation with Gustav Stresemann the German politician and statesman who served as Chancellor in 1923 and Foreign Minister 1923–1929. He quotes Stresemann in 1929 as saying “… It is five years since we signed (the Treaty of) Locarno. If you had given me one concession, I could have carried my people. I could still do it today. But you have given nothing and the trifling concessions which you have made have always come too late.” Fast forward nearly ninety years and you could exchange the Locarno Treaty for the Lisbon Treaty, Stresemann’s position for that of David Cameron and the Allied Powers for that of the European Union. Nothing has been learned by the French, Germans and Luxembourgers  in fostering joint well being and instead they have entrenched the view that Britain  is better off out of a Europe whose motifs seem to include “Floggings will continue until morale improves”.