My wife is one of those thousands of unlucky souls who have to endure the scandalously chaotic service on the main rail line into Paddington. Today, mid-journey, one of her neighbours noticed a rucksack had been left on the train. A suspicious package? Just to be on the safe side, he reported it to the driver, who told him that he couldn't do much about it as there were no guards or ticket collectors on board. So while passengers moved to another carriage, the train carried on into London, where the police were waiting.
Tom Gross's latest round-up includes a report that David Irving has been making mischief over Auschwitz again. The news about the scrapping of Holocaust Memorial Day in Bolton is troubling too. As for the defacing of the memorial in Berlin, it's obvious to anyone who walks around the site that it's not policed properly. When I paid a visit, I found the sight of teenagers running around and making out amidst the concrete slabs almost as offensive.
After six years of your ineptitude and blustering, don't be surprised if your main allies in the Conservative Party decide the time has come to cultivate friends elsewhere:
William Hague has urged the government to do more to improve relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific region and not focus so heavily on the US. In a keynote speech on foreign policy, the Conservative shadow foreign secretary will call on the government to "recover the art of managing the [US-UK] relationship well".
Mr Hague will refer to Britain under Tony Blair's government as the "junior partner" in the relationship with Washington and questioned the influence London has on its neighbour. He will suggest that the fact that it "has taken so long to secure American commitment" over technology sharing for the development of the Joint-Strike Fighter plane, coupled with Britain's apparent lack of influence on the US strategy in Iraq, bears such a position out.
When I saw the headline "Three and a half inches of nothing", I thought it might be the cue for another of those bare-all erotic confessions. In fact, Ian Douglas is saying goodbye to that faithful but fatally undersized friend, the floppy disk.
On holiday in Prades last summer, I paid a visit to Pablo Casals' living room, housed in the local museum-cum-library. (There's also a cast of his hands, which were surprisingly big and fleshy - more like a boxer's, really.) Here's footage of the town's most famous resident playing the Catalan melody Song of the Birds, a piece he often performed as an encore.
If I object to the government allowing publicly-funded Catholic adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples (which I would) should I not also object to my local authority allowing Orthodox Jews to have the municipal swimming pool to themselves during Sunday afternoons (which I don't)?
Reihan Salam ponders a news story about a shooting prompted by an argument over the late James Brown's height:
For the record, I think it's pretty clear that a man as soulful as James Brown must have been of below average height. Whereas a tall or even average-sized man would allow soulfulness to diffuse over his considerable mass, a tiny man necessarily concentrates soulfulness that can then be projected outwards in the form of song. It's simple science, really.
So Trevor Phillips is a racialist because he "thinks that your race is the most important fact about you"? Oh, please... Jamie Whyte's op-ed about ethnicity in Britain is an example of how a clever person can be logical and wrong-headed (not to mention smug) at the same time. Besides, basing a column on the life experiences of your three-year old mixed-race daughter is, let's say, stretching things a little. Good for her that she's growing up in "a nice bourgeois suburb" (as are my sons). But most people aren't. End of conversation.
As a matter of fact, I feel quite optimistic about the way the next generation of mixed-race kids will cope. Things have improved no end since the days when Ronnie Barker's fellow con, McLaren was just about our only role model on TV. But it's still a leap to pretend that race doesn't matter at all. Which is partly why I was a little testy in the Celebrity Big Brother discussion on 18 Doughty Street last Tuesday. [Thanks to Iain Dale for supplying the video link.] I often get the feeling that some conservatives are so intent on scoring points against the bien pensant establishment that they airbrush genuine problems out of existence. For instance, as I tried to explain after we came off air, I would have major problems dealing with a friend who was a Stalinist, but I could probably find some way of coming to terms with that affliction. A friend who decided to join the BNP, on the other hand, would instantly become an ex-friend: it would be personal. I don't see a way around that. I was surprised to find that other panellists had a hard time grasping the point.
(As for Big Brother, I'm glad Shilpa took the high road in the post-release interview last night. Turning Jade into a public enemy would just have been counter-productive. In the end I watched a full hour of the climactic programme last night. Amazing to see how a frothy entertainment can turn into a vehicle for serious issues. And, no, I don't think the controversy was a result of the "success of militant multiculturalism", as Joseph Loconte puts it. The British public isn't that gullible.)
As I was rummaging through my Berlin '05 photos at the weekend, I came across this one,taken in a hurry as we were crossing a road somewhere, as I recall, between Potsdamer Platz and Friedrichstrasse. It's part of the line marking the position of the wall. Very prosaic, but potent all the same. The second picture, showing the plaque, was snapped near the Reichstag.
...It isn't at all clear what it means to be on the Left at the moment. I doubt if anyone can tell you what a society significantly more left-wing than ours would look like and how its government and economy would work. (Let alone whether a majority of their fellow-citizens would want to live there.) Socialism, which provided the definition of what it meant to be on the Left from the 1880s to the 1980s, is gone. Disgraced by the communists' atrocities and floored by the success of market-based economics, it no longer exists as a coherent programme for government. Even the modest and humane social democratic systems of Europe are under strain and look dreadfully vulnerable.
It is not novel to say that socialism is dead. The argument of this book is that its failure has brought a dark liberation to people who consider themselves to be on the liberal-left. It has freed them to go along with any movement however far to the right it may be, as long as it is against the status quo in general and, specifically, America. I hate to repeat the over-used quote that "when a man stops believing in God he doesn't then believe in nothing, he believes anything," but there is no escaping it.