You know how they say politics is show business for ugly people? Well …

Donald Trump is the show business crossover. He is not one of the ugly people, he is the ultimate showman. He’s the circus barker as well as the ringmaster, the lion tamer, and the trapeze artist. He loves the stunts where the crowd all goes “ooh!” and “aah!”

Donald Trump never wanted to be president. It’s his worst nightmare come true. But he’s going to make the most of it and fortunately for him his game plan is still in play. It’s the same game plan he had from the day he put himself forward as a candidate.

Donald Trump knows show business. His new show was to be the Republican Party. It was to be a reality tv show where he runs for president and makes himself the hero of the disillusioned masses by saying the most outrageous things about his opponents.

Donald Trump expected that he would not win the nomination. He did everything he could to lose it while at the same time playing to the crowd. Then, the establishment would take over and a traditional candidate would finally win just as he and everyone expected.

Donald Trump would be a martyr. He would do the circuit of late night tv shows giving his account of how the establishment robbed him of the nomination. There would be a lucrative book deal (he wouldn’t have to write it himself) and a new prime-time tv show.

Donald Trump was too good. One by one, his opponents fell by the wayside. The slightest verbal slip, the slightest blemish was enough to finish them off. Paradoxically he could make the most outrageous statements and his standing would only increase.

Donald Trump romped home to win the Republican nomination in a result that stunned the nation. It stunned the world. Which suited him fine. The game plan was still good, but his winnings would now be significantly higher. He was going to break the bank.

Donald Trump threw himself into the election. His “drain the swamp” and “lock her up” rhetoric energised the masses. The circus crowd was going wild with excitement, the ultimate showman knew when to crack the whip, and when to feign falling off the trapeze.

Donald Trump now dreamed not just of a prime-time tv show, but of having his very own network. He wouldn’t just break the bank, he would *own* the bank. And the better his numbers looked, the better his claim of being robbed of the presidency would look.

Donald Trump thought those hopes and dreams had vanished when he won the presidency. He might even have shared Melania’s tears. But he was quick to bounce back. His game plan was modified for the first time: he was going to play the long game.

Donald Trump was going to spend the next four years reshaping America. He knew he had the right instincts, he knew how to get results. America had taken the option on his pilot reality tv show and the first season was now in production. He was in his element.

Donald Trump surrounded himself with people he believed in. They had to be loyal to him, first and last, but he wanted to believe they would actually Make America Great Again. He appointed people who shared his love of the new business ideology: disruption.

Donald Trump has seen how the new wave of business ventures use disruption to build new markets and vast fortunes. He has been a disruptor in his own way throughout his own career and from now on he is going to disrupt every facet of American life.

Donald Trump loved to give two people the same job. He would watch them fight it out, competing with each other to succeed. This disruption was good in his view, and the White House was set up that way. New business was the game now, not old politics.

Donald Trump applied the same methodology to the great offices of America. He appointed people who had been the fiercest critics of a department to run it, to fight against their own department from the inside, to challenge head-on the people and their policies.

Donald Trump believes passionately in America. He also believes passionately in being wealthy. Very, very wealthy. And while he may, for the time being, listen to advice that he cannot personally engage in business he sees no reason why his family shouldn’t.

Donald Trump believes he is doing a fantastic job for America. So fantastic he believes he could win re-election if enough voters also believe it. And he knows full well, while the rest of us are still in denial about it, that facts don’t matter. It’s all about perception.

Donald Trump will continue with his game plan which has worked well so far. He will carry on with his stunts, he will keep making the crowd go “ooh!” and “aah!”. He will carry on disrupting the way politics and business is conducted, in America and worldwide.

Donald Trump has just one potential problem: impeachment by those pesky people who still believe facts matter. That would be bad for him, but it would be far worse for America because if you think things are bad now, just wait and see how bad they become.

Donald Trump is all that stands between America and the lunatics who stand behind him, waiting for him to fall, willing him to fall. Plotting his fall. All the good men (and women) in American politics on the Republican side have gone or are on their way out.

Donald Trump may soon be the last sane Republican in Washington. That thought should frighten every American. So how much do you want that impeachment now? How much do you want to replace the ultimate showman with unconstrained ideologues?

Donald Trump. God bless the President. God save America.

Wounded & Dangerous

What do armchair warriors know about combat? In Afghanistan in particular where the Taliban use suicide attacks as a weapon of choice? The murder of a wounded Taliban fighter was of course wrong, it goes against everything we believe in including, as the Royal Marine sergeant who did the killing acknowledged at the time, the Geneva Convention. Still, we have to remember the circumstances they were in. The attack they had repelled was not necessarily over, and the wounded fighter may have become an even greater danger. Shooting him was an expedient of the battlefield.

War is ugly. However I would still have preferred that the Marines did the decent thing and gave the wounded Talib first aid, as they discussed, instead of a bullet. But that’s easy for me to say, I wasn’t there. Nor were any of the other armchair warriors who pour down scorn on them. The Taliban had attacked their position and did everything they could do to kill as many of our troops as they could. Who could be sure this particular Talib, who was still armed, was not a threat? Would you bet your life he wouldn’t still kill you? The Taliban don’t respect the Geneva Convention, they don’t even respect their own lives.

So it’s pointless speculating whether the Talib fighter had surrendered or was even a captive; the Taliban have a record of concealing grenades to blow up themselves together with their captors. Fighting against irregular forces is fraught with danger but even in combat with another western army you can never be sure where you stand. The last time we fought a western army was in 1982 against Argentina, a signatory of the Geneva Convention. In one notorious incident, three paratroopers were killed when advancing under a white flag to accept the surrender of the Argentines at Goose Green.

Were the Marines mindful of that danger? We think of Afghanistan today and delude ourselves that we are on top of the situation, but back in 2011 when this incident took place there could be no delusion; Helmand was a very dangerous place to be. The Marines were coming to the end of a long and dangerous deployment and they had lost comrades to Taliban attacks and IEDs. It was kill or be killed. Let’s not forget either that we had sent them there with inadequate personal body armour, weaponry, vehicles and helicopter support. The stress must have been unimaginable, lapses in judgement inevitable.

I’m glad the Marines have been held accountable. But we must remember that it was us who put them in harms way. We sent them there to fight on our behalf and we are just as responsible for what they do. We should support them and try to be understanding when it goes wrong as in this case. Certainly have pity for the Talib fighter who was murdered, but have some pity too for the Marine. The fact that he was a sergeant in the Royal Marines is evidence enough without knowing his name or background that he was an outstanding soldier. He does not deserve to spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Postscript: There is no conceivable risk that showing clemency to this Marine will endanger serving troops as is being claimed. Does anyone serious believe that any British troops who are captured by the Taliban would be leniently treated? Therefore it seems to me that the harsh words of the currently serving generals scorning the idea of clemency is in fact covering up their own complicity in historically under-resourcing the men in the field and is reprehensible.

The Good Samaritan

I was late. I’d had “one of those days” when nothing seemed to go right and now I was on my way to Abingdon for an important appointment. The fuel guage was hovering on the empty mark. I’d seen it lower, so I decided not to detour to the petrol station for a quick pit stop, I’d press on and make up some time.

Big mistake. No sooner was I heading out of Didcot than an unfamiliar stuttering of the engine told me how terribly wrong I was. I quickly had to find somewhere to stop and turn the car round, and wasted more precious fuel waiting for gaps in the traffic, then got stuck behind some slow-coach doing 25mph in a 30mph zone. It was just the wrong speed, it meant I had to stay in third and rev the engine to keep the fuel flowing – but I was using petrol up too quickly. After several hundred yards the car was kangaroo-ing more violently as the tank drained.

Then I ran out. The Tesco filling station was in sight, but could I push it the rest of the way? Should I walk? Or phone a friend for help? I sat there for a couple of minutes and pondered my options. I tried to restart the engine a few times, maybe just one more dribble of petrol could get me there? Traffic was streaming past but fortunately I wasn’t a serious obstacle. I got out of the car just as someone walked up and asked if I needed any help, I said I was out of petrol. I was wondering to myself if he would be willing to help push the car, I didn’t know how much help some chap who presumably was walking by could be.

“I’m parked up over there,” he said, pointing a little way up the road. He’d been driving past going in the opposite direction, had noticed me stuck by the side of the road, pulled over and walked back. I was impressed. He offered to drive me there to fetch some petrol back. I gratefully accepted the offer.

Then it got worse. On the way I suddenly realised I had no cash or credit cards on me because I’d changed into a suit, leaving them in my other trousers. I told you, it was that kind of day. “Don’t worry, I’ll sub you,” he said cheerfully and without any hesitation. We’d already shaken hands and exchanged first names, but I fished around in my pockets and found a card with my name and address on it. At least he’d be able to contact me and I’d be able to pay him back. “Don’t worry about it,” he said.

We got to Tesco, they had a cheap petrol can, we filled it, he paid, we drove back to my car and filled up. The car started first time and off I went. But I’m grateful to the Good Samaritan. He was driving on the other side of the road from me, in heavy traffic, he’d had the presence of mind to notice a car stopped on the other side with the four-way flashers going, had sufficient consideration to pull over and walk back and offer to help. He drove to the petrol station, wasn’t phased by me not having any means to pay, bought a can and paid for the petrol, took me back and waited to make sure the car did indeed start.

Thank you, Steve.

A New Golden Age Of Technology

It used to be said that one of the “benefits” of war was the great leap forward in technology that accompanied each. So for example, the technology to build long range bombers to carry death and destruction to enemy cities in distant lands was used after the second world war to carry holidaymakers to those same destinations. We can’t imagine a world without mass air transportation now. Similarly, the cold war race fostered America’s defense advance research projects agency out of which emerged the Internet. We can’t imagine a world without that either. Each war throughout history has examples such as these and as periods of development each stands out for furious inventiveness compared with peace time lethargy. It remains to be seen what “benefits” we may derive from technological leaps due to the war on terror, such as drones and the data mining of vast amounts of individual personal communications.

But are we living today in an era of extraordinary technological progress that used to only occur during times of war? Science fiction writer Madsen Pirie thinks we are. If you read his blog here, you will see regular posts highlighting such advances. Today’s is a case in point: “A fusion breakthrough releases more energy than it takes to achieve it.” As he explains and as I certainly remember, nuclear fusion as a source of limitless energy has been promised for decades, with “promise” being the operative. It has seemed at times to be akin to the ancient goal of turning base metal into gold or the pursuit of perpetual motion. But it draws ever closer to realisation. The latest news is that for the first time genuine fusion has been achieved that produces more energy than was used to initiate it. It’s only been achieved on an experimental scale and I can see it would take a decade or more to scale it up to production, but this is a significant step nonetheless.

I think we really are living in a golden age of technology. Medical technology has advanced beyond recognition; people today are living longer with diseases that not long ago would have quickly killed them. Aircraft and road vehicles travel further on less fuel than we could have imagined only a few years ago, and in much greater safety. SatNav has transformed the way we travel too. And when once it took months to have a very basic telephone installed in your home, we now carry around mobile phones that have more power than a desktop computer of just a few years ago, but in addition they are connected to the Internet and they take better photos than a top of the range camera used to do. Even something as mundane as shopping has been transformed with supermarkets that have fresh produce brought from all around the world where you can wander round ‘ringing up’ your own purchases as you go and paying for them at an unmanned till with a piece of plastic or, even, your mobile phone. The greatest advance in technology, however, has to be social. Google, Facebook and Twitter have changed the world. People everywhere can interact as never before, in ways we are still struggling to comprehend and in ways that are literally revolutionary. Twitter in particular has been the precursor or the igniter of popular uprisings that have toppled governments making a texted word more powerful than tear gas or bullets. Now that is technology at its best and it is happening without the impetus of a war.

There are many technology posts on Madsen’s blog that are well worth reading. He is also president of the Adam Smith Institute so a lot of his posts also concern economics and the free market, and you might also enjoy his eclectic range of moral and social topics.

In a word: Omnishambles

“a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations”.

Oxford University Press have updated their online dictionary with the latest set of new words to hit the digital generation, including the gem above that neatly and accurately describes every recent government in my view.

Omnishambles among new words added to Oxford Dictionaries online

I do miss Ambrose Bierce, however. If he were alive today, what fun he would have. I would offer these three terms for his Devil’s Dictionary, confident he could improve on my definitions:

Peace Dividend
The excuse used by politicians to slash defence spending after the Berlin Wall finally came down and a new era of peace was ushered in.

Arab Spring
The excuse used by politicians to slash defence spending after Libya and Egypt deposed their dictators and a new era of peace was ushered in.

Armed Forces Covenant
The empty promises made by politicians to honour the sacrifices of the armed forces in on-going conflicts even though the politicians keep promising us a new era of peace will be ushered in.

A devil of a dilemma: Assad or al Qaeda?

We’ve been here before. We’ve had Stalin on one side and Hitler on the other. Which one do we side with? In the event we went with Stalin but that didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped, we’d chosen one butcher over another.

We have the same dilemma again. We have Assad on one side and al Qaeda on the other. Which one do we side with?

True, it’s not just al Qaeda, there are other rebel forces too, some backed by the Saudis and some backed by the Iranians. But we must understand that if Assad loses, al Qaeda will ultimately win. They will simply crush any other rebel organisations as they are doing right now in Libya for example. It’s what they’re good at. They will participate in the civil war and then turn their weapons on the other rebels and hijack the resulting victory.

In the meantime a cultured and civilised people of innocent men women and children, are being mercilessly slaughtered.

Along with the inevitability of al Qaeda coming out on top, we need to accept that if we put one foot into this quagmire we will be there for a generation to come. Thousands of our men and women will lose their lives in military operations, and billions of pounds will be expended. Blood and Treasure the Americans call it. Are we willing to pay that price? Are we even able to afford it? We have made and we continue to make deep cuts in our armed forces. If we depose Assad we will need to stay there to enforce the peace. We had to do that in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and pretty soon we’ll have to decide whether to let Libya go or step in, and whether to support the Egyptian military or let Egypt go.

It won’t work to arm the rebels. It’s what we did in Afghanistan and it’s what got al Qaeda started.

There is another problem for us. Having expended all that blood and treasure in Iraq and Afghanistan, and then shamelessly abandoned the returning soldiers, including the wounded, we have all but destroyed the fighting spirit of our armed forces. We are going to find it very difficult to recruit again enough young men and women of the calibre we need and send them into combat. They won’t be that stupid. They won’t be that well equipped, either. As operations over Libya showed us, we seriously lack ability to project our forces and indispensable aircraft carriers have been dispensed with in the interests of sort-term expediency. No lessons have been learned and moronic command-level decisions have been made that cannot quickly be undone.

So we stand impotently at the sidelines watching the slaughter.

The solution may be to support intervention from moderate Arab states. We can supply equipment and technical support where needed, that would be useful. But the problem is that most of the moderate Arab states are pariahs with the left-leaning intelligentsia. We would be giving them legitimacy and obligating ourselves to them for saving us from having to intervene ourselves. Bang goes any hope of democratic reforms, they can suppress any dissent in their own countries and we won’t dare to complain.

My solution would be nevertheless to support Arab intervention. Wholeheartedly. No half measures. We should show leadership in this crisis and put together a coalition of mostly Arab troops. As we did to liberate Kuwait but with very few front-line troops of our own on this occasion. It should be a mostly Arab force. We and the Americans can provide a unified command structure, perhaps with a Saudi general in overall command. We can provide technical and communication facilities and offer Cyprus as a base. The Americans can additionally provide carrier-borne air cover.

And then we must learn the lessons of our own mistakes. We must start to rebuild our armed forces on a basis of trust. Those who enlist will be given the support they deserve, especially if they are wounded. They must never again be allowed to sleep on the streets or to be denied disability allowances by a rigid and unsympathetic system. They must be given the weapons they need, the vehicles, the helicopters and the ships.

Because the day will come, sooner than we think, when the violence will spill over into our own lands and we will have nobody to call on.

Why people steal from their employers

Under capitalism, your personal prosperity is directly dependent on the prosperity of the business you work for. Under socialism, the prosperity of the business you work for is theft of your labour.

However, in a mixed economy and a society that hasn’t fully grasped the benefits of capitalism we must also factor-in moral equivocation and laziness. Therefore some employees like to redress the balance of poor pay and conditions by finding non-monetary compensation, for example stealing office supplies if they’re lazy. Others might be more greedy and actively swindle the company to “earn” more cash, for example if you see the till drawer left open and the barman appears to be flustered while trying to serve a lot of people quickly you know he’s thieving.

This problem affects all companies and at every level. Top directors being paid bonuses they haven’t earned or don’t deserve, still less bonuses which they are not contractually entitled to, are thieving from the company. Just like the dishonest barman only the scale is different. Under capitalism all this behaviour is corrupt but under socialism it’s honest because you’re just taking back what wasn’t the company’s in the first place. In so many ways socialism is a thieves’ charter.

Here is a fascinating insight into the process. Researchers at some top universities in America conducted a study of 392 restaurants in 39 states, before and after surveillance cameras were installed. You can read an article about it from the New York Times here: How Surveillance Changes Behavior: A Restaurant Workers Case Study

This is what I found the most interesting observation:

The impact, the researchers say, came not from firing workers engaged in theft, but mostly from their changed behavior. Knowing they were being monitored, the servers not only pulled back on any unethical practices, but also channeled their efforts into, say, prompting customers to have that dessert or a second beer, raising revenue for the restaurant and tips for themselves.

Remove the ability to steal, or increase the fear of being caught, and you don’t just reduce or eliminate theft, you actually give employees an incentive to play along with the system and boost their own earnings within it. They are focused on doing what’s good for the business. This would work equally well with top peoples’ salaries. Remove the ability to set their own pay and bonuses, or increase the fear of being caught cheating, and those running a business would focus on doing what’s good for the investors.

The moral of the story is, capitalism works when you give it a chance.

Careless Talk Saves Lives

Like all good patriotic citizens, I hate my government. Every day they remind me why by a constant diet of incompetence and ineptitude. Bungled policy after failed initiative in badly managed agencies and departments throughout government. And on top of that they wrap me up in red tape and tax me into penury. But as much as I hate my government, and believe me it is a lot, I know that they are not actively trying to kill me. That’s what Islamist terrorists are trying to do. At their training camps, in their radical mosques and right here amongst us, they plot to kill us. Day in and day out, it’s all they talk about.

All that’s stopping the terrorists is my government. Yes, the one I hate. I know that is beyond comprehension and knowing how dysfunctional they are makes it more worrying. It brings the prospect of not being killed down to a matter of sheer luck, and as the IRA used to say, they only have to get lucky once, we have to be lucky every time. So I am totally in favour of my government spying on me and everyone else, intercepting emails, telephone calls and whatever else they want in order to track down and capture the terrorists before they get lucky. I don’t care that the government will find out what I say in private to my friends and colleagues. I don’t care what they find out about me. It’s what they find out about the terrorists that I care about. Any careless talk on their part might give our people the breakthrough they need to foil anther outrage and save innocent lives. Mine, perhaps. Or yours, perhaps.

It is a wonderment to me to see the left-wing chattering classes complaining bitterly about that surveillance. They seem blind to the threat from terrorists who are interested only in killing as many of us as they can. Incredibly, they regard the government as a bigger threat. Given the choice between having their emails read and innocent people being blown up on a plane, they’d sacrifice the innocent people. So I’m not happy about all this agitation over Snowden blowing the lid on government surveillance. What he did was wrong and is a setback in the war on terror. It will assuredly lead to innocent people losing their lives because tracking down and stopping terrorists will be that much harder now they have learned they have to be even more careful.

In short, I resent that Snowden and people like him have appointed themselves the guardians of my civil liberties, especially as the trade-off they have accepted on my behalf is greater risk to my life and safety.

This is not dissimilar to airport security: having our passports and tickets checked, being frisked and searched, having our baggage and shoes x-rayed. What is the left-wing chattering class take on that? Is that an invasion of civil liberties? Yes, of course it is, and I resent it too. But if we campaign against airport security, and like another self-appointed Snowden we disrupt their efforts, the result will be a free pass for terrorists to plant bombs aboard our flights. So a government agent wants to look inside your hand luggage? So what? So a government agent wants to read your emails? So what?

I have great confidence in the technical skills of those working in the intelligence community. I trust them to be able to sift through billions of messages and find actionable information about the terrorists. I am glad the government gave them the funding and the cover to go ahead and I am hopeful the government will act decisively when presented with opportunities. That may seem a forlorn hope given my opinion of government competence, but fortunately any action that needs to be taken will be taken by the security services and I have the highest respect for their professionalism too.

So, Snowden, shut up, you’re making things worse.

WW1: Reasons to Celebrate

Germany is asking us not to “celebrate” the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. That’s understandable; they started it and they lost. But to see our celebrations in a Jingoistic context is to is misunderstand who we are. Britain was not under threat from Germany, we did not have to go to war but we chose to over a matter of principle and that is what is worth celebrating. Doubly so because it was a popular cause. Millions of young men of every social standing, encouraged by wives and mothers, signed-up and went to war. We could have just turned our back, but we didn’t. And we went to war again in 1939. Another war we didn’t have to fight but which we chose to, again over a principle.

What we should celebrate is being willing as a nation to stand up for what we believe is right, even when our own narrow national interests are not at stake. That’s something many countries whose freedom we fought for might appreciate. Above all, this was to be the war to end all wars and the fact it didn’t makes it something of a tragic anniversary, especially given the human cost. Our celebrations should therefore also remember that cost which is something we do on Armistice Day every year but which will have a special poignancy this year. The millions of Germans who died should also be remembered, they unlike us didn’t have any choice, they were thrust into that war by their leaders.

Our other European friends however wish to celebrate the anniversary as a paean to the European Union. How facile. “The European Union meant that no European nation would go to war with another,” they say. No it didn’t, NATO did that and it was as a by-product of ensuring the Russians wouldn’t invade us. Now the Russian threat has gone Europe’s true colours are emerging. The possibility of armed confrontation between EU member states is no longer unthinkable because they put their own interests first. The fact that the EU enables them to do that makes it part of the problem, not part of the solution as the Europhiles would have us believe. The EU promotes selfishness and self-interest, the very opposite of the attitude of a century ago.

In the First World War and in every war since, Britain fought unstintingly for liberty. The 100th anniversary therefore could be a celebration of the spirit of liberty; a beacon for the rest of the world. Those who fought the Great War hoped it would not only be the war to end all wars, but when it ended they really believed they had brought about a lasting peace. That prospect could be brought closer if there was a call for all countries to do what is right and not just what is in their own narrow national interests. Then there would be much to celebrate.

Read: Germany intervenes in WW1 commemoration debate in the Telegraph.

A Tale Of Two Autos


Reading Werner Lang’s obituary in the Telegraph provides an interesting insight into socialism. He was the designer of the Trabant 601 (the one on the right, above, if you’re not sure), in production from 1963 until the fall of the Berlin Wall and an enduring emblem of communist East Germany. The story of its production reveals much about the effects of a totalitarian state (and is a credit to the ingenuity of Werner Lang and his fellow engineers). It was powered by a two-stroke engine because that was all that was available in the workers’ paradise that was East Germany, with a body made from a plastic material comprising compressed cotton and a resin derived from brown coal. In the course of nearly thirty years in production it was never improved because East Germany’s rulers saw no need for the people to have anything better. As the Telegraph describes it: “The engines were two-cylinder models because all that was available were motorcycle motors. There were no disc brakes, no radiator, no oil filter or oil pump and no fuel gauge; the flow of petrol was powered by gravity (the tank was above the engine), so there was no fuel pump.” It was a noisy, rattling, smoke-belching indictment of state control and how governments can suck the life out of the people.

Meanwhile, what other car first hit the roads of the Western world in 1963? The Aston Martin DB5. James Bond’s car, no less. Top left of the two shown above. What a contrast between two opposing systems. It’s easy to mock the Trabbie, as it is affectionately known to its fans, but it’s not the car that should be mocked but socialism. I wonder what Lang could have done with the same opportunities? Which is the point of it all, really, isn’t it? Give opportunities for talented people to excel. It doesn’t matter what at because it’s not the role of government to decide what the priorities are. That’s for the people to decide.

Werner Lang’s obituary on the Telegraph