Celebrity deathmatch: The Donald v Hillary

binarychoice
Mating blue crabs: an easier binary choice (thanks to J Exp Biol)

Sometimes you get wisdom and truth from the unlikeliest places. Dodgy narcissist Julian Assange has been doing the world a service by revealing Hillary Clinton’s duplicity, with hard facts. He claims also to be ‘working on’ Trump’s tax returns, and not as an accountant. Here he is on the two of them:  you have really, two very bad presidential candidates, albeit he qualified this with the rider it was ‘from the perspective of Wikileaks trying to protect its sources’, whatever that means. Give Assange his due, though, this is the opposite of endangering national security, which is the kind of thing that he and Edward Snowden usually get accused of.

The Dems are very upset that from their point of view Assange seems to be favouring Trump. They might be right: “the natural instincts of Hillary Clinton and the people around her, that when confronted with a serious domestic political scandal, that she tries to blame the Russians, blame the Chinese, etc. If she does that when she’s in government, that’s a political, managerial style that can lead to conflict.”

Which leads me to wonder how to resolve the ‘two bad candidates’ issue, not that I have a vote, but the entire world retains a legitimate personal interest. Back in March (long before he got the nomination) I predicted Trump would do it, and I stick with that. The other predictions in that post seem about right just now.

Here’s a fairly typical comment to ponder: I’m stunned to think that anyone can consider a racist dishonest misogynistic hateful, despicable human as Trump as suitable over any other candidate. I agree Hillary leaves a lot to be desired but for sheer evil Trump outstrips her every step of the way

That was taken from an email from one of my family. I don’t see any evidence that Trump is a racist, he tells far fewer lies than Hillary, and on less important topics, his relationships with women are at times sexist rather than misogynist if you want to be critical (which is not say that’s acceptable, but I don’t think he hates women, far from it). In fact, on this I will respectfully defer to a zinging piece by my all-time favourite lesbian feminist, Camille Paglia.

‘Hateful and despicable’ really depend on the viewer rather than the subject. ‘Sheer evil’ is a tricky one, though if I had to make a judgement between them over public, rather than personal morality and behaviour, Trump is a clear winner. Benghazi, abortion, quite amazingly lucrative financial jiggery pokery, Huma’s dodgy links,  aiding and abetting sexual molestation – it’s a long and well documented list that Hillary has racked up, before you even get to the mysteries like Vince Foster.

However, Trump is hard to like, respect or warm to, most of the time. He has quite a few very smart admirers, like Conrad Black and Bob Tyrrell, despite his many detractors, and he doesn’t hide from criticism. The UK opinion formers tend to hate him, but a straw poll of the punters – such as in my operating theatre – will tell a slightly different story.

One of the very best, and wittiest, American journalists is Kevin D Williamson at National Review. He loathes both candidates, and despite his own claims to the contrary, has tied himself up in knots deciding which is worse and what an honourable position would be. If I understand him rightly, he’s abstaining. Here is a recent summary of his take on it:

If your argument is, “Regardless, I prefer him to Hillary Rodham Clinton,” okey-dokey. But let’s be honest about what exactly it is you prefer to Mrs. Clinton, what manner of man you would see entrusted with the most powerful political portfolio on Earth. If you are going to do that, then you should have the intellectual honesty and the moral courage to be straight and plain about what it is you are doing.  

Well, if I did have the vote, that would be my position: vote for the anti-Hillary, who happens to be Trump. I suppose that it’s conceivable that someone worse than Hillary might be out there, but they’re not the Republican or Libertarian or Green candidate (so feel free to vote for the last two).

What about abstaining? Is it effective or ‘honourable’? If you genuinely cannot pick then I guess it is the honest approach. I knew a few EU Referendum voters who did exactly that, and fair enough. However, while this blogger at Ace of Spades HQ is, on the face of it, agreeing with KDW:

I am not hoping for Trump to get into some serious international snafu by supporting him. Yet I know that is a very real possibility if he’s president. Should this happen, I can’t just say “But I didn’t want Trump to screw up so badly.” People would say — no, but you knew the risks in supporting him, and you supported him anyway; you are therefore morally responsible for this.

…he takes issue with the abstension-get-out-of-jail-free approach:

…the #NeverTrumpers claim that the obvious, inescapable outcome of their position — that Hillary Clinton will be the president — is not their responsibility, just because they didn’t intend that as a primary matter.

He has a point. It’s a great piece, which while it’s stating the obvious – that this is a binary choice in reality – skilfully unpicks the fantasy world of an allegedly principled abstension. The main and somewhat selfish benefit of the latter is to be able to sit around a few years hence saying “it’s not my fault, I abstained on principle”. Abstension also has consequences. Oddly enough, if you Google ‘binary choice’, you’re already seeing quite a few Clinton and Trump images. Final quotations (I apologise for  lifting someone else’s work so thoroughly):

All choices have consequences. By supporting Trump, I am responsible for the consequences of a Trump victory — and those consequences could indeed be dire.

But a childish morally-unserious fantasy has infected the #NeverTrump not-so-intelligentsia, that they can agitate for Hillary Clinton — by relentlessly disparaging Trump — and somehow, they are not responsible for the consequences of the Hillary presidency they are bucking for**.

They’ve dreamed up this self-pleasing, responsibility-evading dreamscape in which those who plump for Trump are responsible for the outcomes of a Trump presidency, but, for no explanation thus far discoverable, they are not responsible for the outcomes of the Hillary presidency they’re agitating for.….  If you think Hillary would be a better president — or if Trump is so repulsive to you, you cannot support him even if you think Hillary would be worse — fine. I respect your opinion.

We all have different brains. We all have different priorities.

But what I must insist you cannot do — what I will not permit you to do — is fantasize that while a Trump supporter is responsible for the gaffes and disasters of a President Trump, you are somehow innocent of the purges and witchhunts of a President Hillary.

Trump supporters will own the consequences of a Trump presidency — and Hillary supporters, both those who declare it proudly and those who wish it secretly — own the consequences of a Hillary presidency.

donald-hillary-800
The Donald has more fans than I realised

**For the record, I entirely agree with Kevin Williamson’s employers on Hillary, in their editorial a week ago:

If you need a reintroduction to Mrs. Clinton, we will oblige: She is an opportunist without anything resembling a conviction with the exception of her unwavering commitment to abortion, a “public servant” who along with her husband grew vastly wealthy exploiting her political connections and renting access to everybody from Goldman Sachs to Vladimir Putin, a petty, grasping, vindictive, meretricious time-server whose incompetence and dishonesty have been proved everywhere from Little Rock to Benghazi.

$$$ I now have to add a summary from the fiery and hilarious Ann Coulter:

Everything Hillary has ever touched has failed, been engulfed in scandal, resulted in massive investigations, litigation, financial ruin, prison or death. The final stage of any Hillary enterprise is a grand announcement that Hillary did not technically break the law. Or no one can prove she did. Or, even if she did, no one ever gets prosecuted for it.

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ISIS morons empower women…

real feminists
real feminists

…well, in reality they kidnap them, rape them and sell them, as the first order effect, but the secondary consequence is more unwelcome to these jihadi misogynists, whose behaviour is uncannily mirrored by Boko Haram in Africa.

Take, for example, the now famous peshmerga female soldiers. This is no token gesture. They have their own battalion, their own officer ranks, and they can really fight. They have a wonderful degree of contempt for ISIS, To quote the splendid Colonel Nahida Ahmad Rashid:

‘I find them indescribably disgusting. How would you feel if it was women living near you who were being married off by force by ISIS? How would you feel? They are doing the most disgusting things I have ever seen in my life.’…

‘I have told all my frontline soldiers to keep one bullet in their pocket in case they are captured. I never want any of them to be captured by ISIS.’

They’re not a last minute reaction to being under the threat of ISIS slaughter, the Kurds have been giving women equal status as fighters for years. To add to their value, although the claim is disputed, there seems to be something in the story that if you’re a jihadi killed by a woman, don’t expect the legendary (and in itself, more than a bit strange) reward of 72 virgins, or as the Al-Arabiya network called it, their “virgin-fuelled utopian rest”.

So good for the Kurds. The Iraqi Kurd who sells me kebabs had his peshmerga brother killed a month ago, fighting ISIS. The ramifications of this brutal pseudo-caliphate reach our streets quickly, one way or another.

 

Then along comes this remarkable old lady, who confronts a couple of the thugs in the street in Syria,  in this now famous video. She doesn’t let them off the hook, and they have no answer to her. Brilliant:

 

 

Lastly there are the journalists. The Sunday Times’ superb Hala Jaber (@HalaJaber) completely understands the mentality of ISIS, and indeed the rest of the Middle East, and her Twitter feed is quite brilliant, attracting the enmity of what she refers to as ‘ISIS fanboys’. The Kurdish journalist Shler Bapiri (@shlerbapiri) is another tireless advocate for the truth against Islamic female genital mutilation, and the fight to the death with ISIS. These fearless women – who are not remote from danger themselves – are very much in the noble tradition of people like the superb Veena Malik and the legendary Oriana Fallaci, both previously featured in this blog. Here is Veena eloquently putting the boot into an absurd imam on Pakistani TV:

 

Her confident outspokenness has just earned her a 26 year jail sentence in Pakistan. Luckily she lives in Dubai. The late Oriana Fallaci was the Italian powerhouse who famously gave the Ayatollah Khomeini a lesson in practical feminism. As it turns out, she was something of a prophet herself, and her best-selling post 9/11 polemic The Rage and the Pride remains a much needed counterblast to the situation we find ourselves in today.

When the British idea of feminism seems often to revolve around a privileged pink bus idiot like Harriet Harman wearing an inane sweat shop produced T shirt in parliament, you can only stand in awe of these women who are out there, in the real world, dealing with unimaginable problems that men don’t have to suffer. As the reliably funny and controversial Gavin McInnes writes, Harman’s kind of feminism is basically  “women doing what they’re told”.

...really, I don't know what to say about this image
…really, I don’t know what to say about this image

 

#indyref ~ an idiot’s guide to the Scottish referendum

Something YMCA here
Something YMCA here

Amidst a slew of overblown Salmond eulogies, it’s possible to construct a concise and definitive guide to what’s just convulsed – and nearly wrecked – Scotland.

How it came to beCharles Moore’s summary is perfect analysis and writing. Actually stunningly insightful, however pretentious that sounds. You could call it ‘how the hell did we end up  here?’.

The arguments for No are summarised by THE hero of the intellectual stramash, Adam Tomkins, in this piece from near the end of the campaign. It’s no surprise that Nats tried to avoid him in debate. He runs rings round them.

A good argument for the Yes campaign has escaped my attention, although I did try. Perhaps a typical effort can be found here. It’s rubbish.

The post-match analysis is from Euan McColm, one of the many Twitter stars (@euanmccolm) of the whole shebang, a great Scots journalist, and very very funny, when he’s not being serious. Salmond was no hero/titan/colossus/visionary. Sorry lads.

Finally, in the interests of humour, as many of the main players have certainly earned our undying contempt, I recommend Gavin McInnes and Kevin Marx – witty, penetrating analyses etc etc.

That’s nearly it. Except read this by Michael Deacon, which is the reality for most people. The alternative is too horrible to contemplate – and I’ve seen a lot of horrible things.

Thank God it’s over.

 

Election day!

The always witty Tim Stanley, the most grounded ‘posh boy’ out there, has got UKIP’s popularity in one:

As a Ukipper might put it, a vote for Ukip is to vote against “those high taxing, crazy spending, wind farm building, country-side demolishing, latte drinking, yoga practising, Taliban tolerating, bearded lady loving, over regulating, cigarette banning, French speaking, politically correctifying, Christian bashing, Dawkins reading, border opening, Daily Mail burning, unpatriotic, suit wearing London snobs who tell the rest of the country that they need to be more egalitarian while sending their own kids to independent schools and jetting off to India to rediscover themselves every six months.” Polly Toynbee, for short.

Well, when you put it like that Tim..

As he points out, the Euro election is basically a risk-free protest vote, of an enticing kind, and will not reflect the general election in less than a year from now

The good news for the establishment is that however Ukip do on Thursday, they’ll do much worse afterwards. The party has become defined now as nationalist and the British actually hold it as part of their national identity to reject nationalism. But we can probably still expect a significant protest vote this week, one that will perplex the tiny elite who run our country and try to dictate its tastes and beliefs.

Tim Stanley used to be a Marxist, Rod Liddle is still a member of the Labour Party (as far as I know), and if you read him here on the Romanian v German debate, you will see exactly how professional politicians fail/refuse to see things as the average voter does (it’s funny too).

I’m off to vote.

Top left, the island
Top left, the island

Alastair Campbell: the tumour on the body politic

So true...
So true…

More than three years ago, The Knife pointed out Alastair Campbell’s resemblance to a recurrent tumour. Believe me, it sort of makes sense.

Anyway, as anyone who saw his latest attempt at bullying journalists will know, he is, for someone regularly sanctimoniously opining about mental health issues, almost psychotic at times.  He won’t go away, he’s not a politician, he just gets wheeled out to do the eyes bulging thug performance on behalf of others. To quote Old Holborn: ” I would kindly remind the dry alcoholic nutcase that he is neither elected nor representative of anyone but his own twisted soul”

There is no shortage of intelligent and extremely well informed opinion on what Campbell is really like and the long lasting damage that he’s done.  Peter Oborne and Stephen Glover are must reads.  Unlike Damian McBride, and perhaps even his erstwhile boss Tony (who dumped him), Campbell shows no insight, no sense of atonement, and no signs of being happy.  Guido’s commenter Schrodinger’s Cat, sums it up very pithily:

People can, and do, choose to buy the Daily Mail.

They were not given the same choice with Alastair Campbell, but it cost them and us much, much more.

Twins, of a sort.
Twins, of a sort.

The Counter Reformation speeds up

At the start of the Easter Triduum,  here is a different take on being a Catholic, only perhaps it’s not unusual at all:

This morning, I received a copy of an e-mail from Elizabeth Scalia, inviting all the writers of the Catholic Portal to explain why we’re Catholic.

Here’s why I became Catholic in the first place: I’m a fuckup. After earning a degree and a half from a third-rate university, I figured I’d never lead a life that fulfilled me, either materially, sexually, or intellectually. And yet, some escapist part of me thinks I’d have fit in just dandy at Versailles.

In the Church, I network with smart people who have tried to introduce me to philosophy, theology, and the works of all sorts of writers you didn’t find on undergrad reading lists when I was at ASU. Living simply and asexually, though not necessarily ideal, is no mark of dishonor. You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some nut who walks around fully convinced he is living at Versailles, the Escorial, or in Middle Earth.

In other words, I’ve found my tribe.

Here’s why I stay Catholic: Whenever I find myself wanting to walk out the door, some inner voice tells me, “Nah, stick around. It’s just about to get interesting.” I like to think that’s the voice of God.

…taken from Max Lindenman on Patheos.com. Really quite superb.

What’s interesting is that never has there been a more vibrant interest – and resources to fuel and satisfy that interest – in the Old Religion than there is now. The above reference came from Tim Stanley’s Twitter feed, and Tim is – along with Thomas Pascoe, Damian Thompson, Ed West, Brendan O’Neill (lapsed/atheist), Ben Brogan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Christina Odone, Will Heaven and Stephen Hough – a fantastic Catholic journalist on the mighty Telegraph Blogs, easily the best political blogging in Britain. Throw in Fraser Nelson editing the Spectator and Guido (Catholics) then you really do have a critical mass of informed enthusiastic opinion, none of it remotely arcane or fuddy duddy.

You see it in the coverage of every aspect of the change in pope, the huge interest in the papal visit by a shy uncharismatic scholar, and the endless analyses of what Pope Francis might be like for the world in all sorts of media outlets.

There are lots of very fine blogs by the clergy, such as Ray Blake (unflinching), Tim Finigan, Alexander Lucie-Smith  and Fr Z, which have substantial readerships, as well as the more extreme fringe such as Mundabor (still pretty good). Even phone apps such as Lectio Divina and Laudate make the daily prayer that bit easier and deeper.

So this Easter, this occasional blogger,  frequent sinner (and fuckup) is celebrating not just the great feast, but also the stirring of something special in British life. I know how lucky I was to be born into the greatest of all earthly institutions. Or to quote Max, my tribe – and everybody’s tribe.

Dali: The Last Supper, 1955
Dali: The Last Supper, 1955

Leveson: Dave must have got it right

There’s lots to write about the gloomy Lord’s mammoth report, but here’s the proof that Dave’s polished Commons response was about right:

Awwwww……..bless!

The Knife can tell you that sensitive Steve wasn’t always bothered about hurting people’s feelings himself. If Dave has managed to upset him and  Alastair “destroy the BBC for telling the truth” Campbell,  in one day, then he should consider it a job well done.

It’s a cliche, but Oscar Wilde’s comment applies to this one.

Semantic abuse

Here we go again:

The Conservatives should investigate allegations that Lynton Crosby made inappropriate comments about Muslims, Labour’s vice chair has said.

“These are very serious allegations, which call into question the Prime Minister’s decision to appoint Lynton Crosby. These allegations must be investigated and if they are true, David Cameron must condemn them”, Labour MP Michael Dugher said. 

“Appointing the arch right-winger who ran the Tories’ 2005 election campaign shows once again that David Cameron can’t be the One Nation Prime Minister Britain needs.” 

And here’s the headline:

.

So, Lynton Crosby allegedly used the phrase “f****** muslims” at some unspecified point in his life.

Just for the record, it may be uncalled for, it may be offensive to many, it may indicate a character flaw and so on. But it’s not racist.

Muslims are not a separate race, nor are gypsies, nor, even,  are the Scots.

Conflating race with just about anything is not just pathetic playing to the gallery, it’s factually incorrect.

Frankly, who gives a ****?

Small group of unmemorable smug men who are neither a court of law nor a judicial enquiry, decide they don’t like someone. And still cock up the verdict….would be the correct headline for a report on yesterday’s much trumpeted conclusion by…wait for it…the “Culture Select Committee”

Rupert Murdoch is “is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”, proclaimed half of the committee, after not actually deliberating that question.

Ouch. I bet that hurt.

.

The Knife doesn’t, and never has, given a toss about the faux tears of Steve Coogan, Sienna Miller, and every other nonentity who craves publicity one week and moans about it the next. Even the more serious issue of Milly Dowler’s voicemails has turned out to be an inaccurate accusation.

In not giving a toss I feel that I represent the views of the majority of the Sky viewing Sun reading nation. Really, the pudgy hypocrite  Tom Watson’s self-satisfied money making plans for Labour party domination are not a fit and proper use of our Parliamentarians’ time, not if laws have been broken. That’s actually what the police and judiciary are for.

A superb piece in Spiked manages to be both elegant and ferocious in deconstructing the whole Murdoch-is-an-evil-global-mastermind myth. Part of it may have been concocted by Murdoch around the 1992 election. Most of it was created by the other Axis of Evil: Blair-Campbell-Mandelson, in the dark days of the late 1990’s, Gordon and Dave just cravenly followed suit.

Murdoch is making big money, his company supports him explicitly, the public likes his product. Seriously, who cares? This is a blind alley for all the demented Murdoch bashers out there, mostly in the Labour party. As the years roll on on, I trust  and hope that Murdoch won’t fail to highlight the “quirks” of these self obsessed individuals. Men like Keith Vaz, and the hubristic Watson have plenty to hide.   After all, no publicity is bad publicity.

***Declaration of interest. The Knife reads the Sun, and so does everyone else in the doctors’ mess. He watches Sky TV. He also reads the Guardian, just to see what the enemy are up to.

Hell

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Famously, Jean-Paul Sartre said that hell is other people. L’enfer, c’est les autres. His explanation however was a bit more prosaic than you might infer from the memorable phrase.

Christian theology, promulgated by Thomas Aquinas, technically sees hell as a state of existence rather than a place, as

“Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us.”

Fair enough, it sort of fits with the truism that mental anguish is so often worse than physical pain, an observation most doctors will have made at some point in their careers. Hence:

In a theological sense however, hell is something else: it is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitively reject the Father’s mercy, even at the last moment of their life….Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God’s judgement ratifies this state.

This preamble is the context before coming to the more common conception of hell as a bleak and violent place of endless physical suffering, run by hordes of textbook demons. The kind of imagery conjured up by Dante in the first book of The Divine Comedy: Inferno. Dante’s vision, which is 700 years old has pretty much informed the whole gamut of Western art’s depiction of hell and damnation. Quite an influential work, all things considered.

The Knife first read it in the Carey translation, illustrated by Dore’s brilliance, by a swimming pool at the Ocean Palace Hotel in Tenerife, which was actually nearer to Sartre’s definition.

Which brings me to a piece of typical 21st century stupidity, first highlighted to me by the estimable Taki  in The Spectator:

..a human rights organisation that advises the UN on issues of racism and discrimination wants to do away with a book by one Dante Alighieri called the Divine Comedy. Bad Dante, bigoted Dante! He represents Islam as a heresy and Jews as greedy and scheming moneylenders. Homosexuals are damned by the bully Dante as being against nature. The spokeswoman (dread word) and president of this outfit, one Valentina Sereni, wants the book removed from school and university curricula. She calls the epic poem racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic. She covered all the bases so at least we know where we stand if we read the Divine Comedy. It means we are homophobes, anti-Semites, hate Islam and want to kill all black people.

As the Independent’s John Walsh pointed out, on the back of all this:

But we know what these “human rights” people are up to, don’t we? They don’t give two hoots about the supposed racist or homophobic or anti-Semitic content. They’re terrified of Islam. They’re scared that, if a single prickly Muslim objects to the portrayal of the Prophet, Italian schools would soon have a jihadist inferno on their hands. Their declaration is a pre-emptive strike against potential nutters. They say they worry students may not have sufficient “filters” to appreciate the historical context; I suspect they worry that Muslims may not have enough.

In fact, Dante’s poem owes a good deal to Muslim religious writing, especially Isra and Miraj, about Mohamed’s night-time journey to heaven, and the Risalat al-Ghufran, about a poet’s wanderings in the afterlife. In Dante’s lifetime, there was lots of contact between West and East, much productive traffic between Christian and Sufi mystics. Might it be better for Gherush92 to suggest that students were taught the connections between Islamic and Western philosophy, than trying to emphasise their differences and hide Italy’s greatest literary masterpiece because they’re frightened of upsetting a gang of extremists?

Idiots like Ms Sereni will always be with us, and paradoxically are likely to encourage more people to read Dante, particularly in a country which produced the sublime Oriana Fallaci and her fantastic polemic The Rage and the Pride.

There are currently well over twenty different translations of Inferno on Amazon, many of them recent. There must be something beyond academic interest that makes a medieval poem so popular in these secular times, even with the  jaded decadence of the politically correct apparently so dominant.

Anyway, even if hell is a state of being, rather than a physical reality, the most striking visual expression of it that I’ve seen outside of a Bosch painting is here, the ending of Pasolini’s  mindbending Canterbury Tales. Not for the faint hearted.

the ninth circle