America loses its Virgin Islands

The United States Virgin Islands are to be sold, after 104 years, to pay for the Biden COVID relief package. Joe Biden conceded that it was a wrench but they were offered hard cash, and that is hard to come by these days.

A spokesman for the State Department acknowledged the sale, saying that no one had wanted to keep the islands – they were a drain on the US Treasury for no return and there are plenty of better beach resorts along the Gulf Coast anyhow.

The Virgin Islands were bought from Denmark in 1917 to prevent the Germans getting hold of them during the Great War, amid fears that the Kaiser would erect giant sausage factories within reach of the American mainland and assault American nostrils with the smell of industrial cabbage pickling vats. The Americans only intended to hold the islands until the war was over and they could be flogged back to the British Empire, but they got forgotten during a drinking bout at Versailles.

In the meantime, the neighbouring British Virgin Islands have become one of the most successful territories in the world, while the American islands have withered. Various attempts to dump them have failed: at the last vote, most of the electorate stayed on the beach collecting welfare cheques.

The State Department were unable to say who had bought the islands: they thought it was the British government, which is what they wanted, but thinking back on that ‘phone call they were not sure any more. The man on the ‘phone was talking gibberish so they assumed it was Boris Johnson, but it might have been some other man called Boris. It could have been one of the corporations over in the BVI, but that’s fine.

Joe Biden said of the deal “This is an opportunity for America to go forward in its main goals, to get rid of past mistakes, and, well anyway, I, erm..”

The US Treasury expressed concern that the price has been paid in US dollars, as those will be practically worthless in a couple of years when the COVID relief package has fed through and hyper-inflation cuts the price of a dollar to a cent.

Putin: we’re coming for you

You will not escape our scrutiny. we have our eyes on Russia no less than does the Skibbereen Eagle itself. Your cold brutality opposes every British value, which are the only values any decent man or woman should have. the dignity of every individual, the rule of law making freedom an everyday instinct and reality. We will not leave you a free pass nor let your practices become the way we oppose the destruction of society.

Western society is being destroyed: we see how it is going and from whom, just as you do, and we oppose it just as you do, but you are not us and we will not swap a woke tyranny for a Putin one.

Its a powerful world stage for you: I do not know if you influenced last year’s election in America, but your patsy got into the White House anyway; there has not been a weaker more submissive, pointless president since Medvedev. You may want to use this situation to impose yourself more strongly upon the world, but you have to get through us first.

Look us in the eye, Vladimir Vladimirovich. What do you have? You may have a large (or largely drunken) army, you may have agents and useful idiots everywhere, absolute control over a country 5,000 miles long, some of it even inhabited, guns, bombs and novichok – but we have keyboards, and we’re not afraid to use them.

We are British, something you can never be, so be jealous, and afraid.

Here on this site we are united: we have you, Putin, in our sights and will pursue you relentlessly. (Unless you’ve got a job going that pays well – preferably working from home – will learn basic Russian if required – all reasonable offers considered.)

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Eire applies to be America’s 51st State

“In retrospect, it was an easy decision” said the Taoiseach yesterday: “It makes sense for Ireland to join the United States of America”.

Joining the United States, he explained, is the best hope for Ireland’s prosperity. Ireland has more trade with the United States than with any other country except Britain; Americans are keen to be seen as Irish; and the two countries have provided each other with a great deal over the ages – America received labourers, and Ireland received the potato blight fungus. “With the EU, we’d tied our donkey to the wrong post.”

Irish commentators overwhelmingly agreed, observing that the Ireland only joined the European Community in the 1970s because Britain did, and while it was great for a while, the fascination has gone, like any other 1970s makeover.

Richard O’Shea, a senior government adviser, said the move would go forward as soon as possible. The Europeans had used Erin and cast here aside; “It was all very lovey-dovey when they wanted us to stiff the Brits in the negotiation, but now they are not returning our calls, they are ignoring us and humiliating us in front of our friends and neighbours. We thought we were getting cash in had from Brussels, but we find they have gone off with our fish, which is several times more than we every received. We though EU loved us, but they were only after cheques.

“The Europeans don’t understands us and their culture is alien. Ireland cannot stand alone: we need to join with another English-speaking country that can be a major trading partner and protector, and we couldn’t think of one except America.”

Joe Biden has often expressed his Irish ancestry. While has has not commented on the Irish government’s approach, he did express deep concern about the number of Republicans in Ireland: the Irish government was quick to reassure him that there is no connection between Irish Republican’s and the GOP, and the only similarity is a tendency to carry guns.

Timing for the move is still uncertain but it looks like it’s Irexit for now & howdy partner.

Fragile China

Chaos is the fear lurking in every Chinese ruler’s heart, shaping every policy. Every half a century or so, the world’s greatest, oldest united civilisation falls into revolution and dissolution. In Peking they eye the calendar nervously.

China astounds us: an empire and civilisation which have stood since the days of Alexander’s successors. Even before the First Emperor drew the warring states together, China had unity of concept and a desire to bring together all-under-heaven, and to end the constant bloodshed. which remains a theme of Chinese stories.

Rome rose and fell just in the space of the Chinese Empire’s adolescence. The West cannot conceive of the space of time: Alexander’s civilisation fell, Rome fell, and Byzantium; and the empires of the Arabs and Turks; feudal Europe grew to magnificence then passed away; kingdoms and caliphates came and went in Europe and Asia, and in the modern era two British Empires  took western civilisation to an unequalled peak spreading across the world, but it passed away. In all this time China stood and still stands.

Even when all China was overwhelmed by the Mongols, the civilisation remained undimmed and Kubilai Khan ruled as a Chinese Emperor, crowned as Son of Heaven, of the Yuan Dynasty.

The millennia have not passed quietly.  The First Emperor created order by ruthlessness. The moment his hand was lifted, there was civil war, and this lesson has been lost on none of his successors. Emperors lost their thrones, whole dynasties collapsed is succession, and with a history so long, it is a long succession. It should be no surprise: China is practically a continent of itself, impossible to rule well and a prize for any ambitious adventurer.

In between, there is chaos whenever warlords from the provinces grow strong and bridle against their subjection to a distant throne.

The shadow over the Chinese Communist Party is the Warlord Era which consumed the first half of the twentieth century after the enfeebled Empire had been overthrown. The land was swallowed in chaos and blood for decades, and allowed the Japanese to occupy much of the country.  It only truly ended with the victory of the last, most brutal warlord: Mao. Mao then drenched the country in blood again, but he is not condemned, for his was orderly massacre, and disorder is the enemy.

In this context the behaviour of Peking is comprehensible – brutal, but comprehensible. Dissent in the provinces must never arise, because the result is civil war. The unity of Chinese civilisation has been an unwavering principle since the First Emperor, so that the idea of independence for Taiwan or Hong Kong is not just unwelcome but impossible.

If there is any memory of communism left in the Chinese Communist Party, they may think of Marx’s idea of ‘historical inevitability’, and Chinese history leads in cycles of chaos. The next one is overdue by past standards, and rebellion against the current tyranny may burst forth at any moment, if it is not suppressed. In this context it is possible to see why the Chinese government does not hesitate to unleash genocide against a race of its own people, the Turks of Sinkiang – the Uighurs as outsiders have labelled them- and genocide it certainly is. Do not expect Xi to be apologetic about it. He might even think it a minor matter compared with the Cultural Revolution. The need to hold back the dark will justify in his eyes all acts.

The calendar pages turn. The wisest in the West know there is no such thing as historical inevitability, but the superstition remains, and the Chinese are very superstitious.

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As Rome gave way to Byzantium…

As Greece gave way to Rome, so Britain would give way to the United States, so Harold Macmillan is misquoted as saying. Britain’s imperial decline after the War is not in doubt, and the Suez debacle was a psychological turning point. Suez was 65 years ago though. Time is turning and the world has been transformed.

Macmillan’s words were actually said not of Suez but during the War, when he already realised, as he could hardly fail to see, that the United States had become a military and naval power of overwhelming strength, through that country’s suddenly acquired wealth, and that we had entered the age of the American empire. He told Richard Crossman at Allied Forces HQ:

‘We, my dear Crossman, are Greeks in this American empire. You will find the Americans much as the Greeks found the Romans – great big vulgar, bustling people, more vigorous than we are and also more idle, with more unspoiled virtues, but also more corrupt. We must run A.F.H.Q. as the Greeks ran the operations of the Emperor Claudius.’

If Macmillan thought the Romans needed help running an empire, he was unfair to them – as Virgil says:

Tu regere imperio populos, Romane, memento
(Hae tibi erunt artes), pacique imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos.

The Americans are not Romans – they really cannot run an empire, too fixed as they are on their own norms, which are not those of the wider world however much Hollywood the nations imbibe. They can however govern themselves well, and that is the main requirement for any nation. They are still eye-wateringly wealthy and accordingly strong.

Maybe that impression of unlimited opulence is just in the eyes of an outsider though. Here in Britain every penny of government spending is resented and for all the cutting of fat, and wails over every local budget not renewed, the government still runs deeper into debt day by day, while in America they seem to have billions of dollars to spend on military, engineering and spacefaring projects of which we cannot dream in the constraints of the government purse. The NASA budget alone this year came to £16.5 billion.

Actually though, £16.5 billion is well within the sort of budgets the British government does spend freely. It is a fraction of the total estimated HS2 budget, and that is just a single railway line (that the owners should be paying for anyway), albeit over several years. That is not to say that £16.5 billion space spending should be reproduced here, but it is perfectly able to be done. Ours is not a small, poor country. We just choose to run our government as if it were one, because elsewhere in government they are overbudgeting on touchy-feely things and spaffing it all up the wall.

Those huge marble halls and wide, sunlit spaces of the American capital contrast with the cramped streets and corridors of Westminster, but it is only show: the soaring Capitol was built when America was still a middling power, erected by toiling slaves, built big because there was unlimited space to play with. The White House is impressive, making 10 Downing Street look like a cramped flat, but it is no better than a hundred country houses in the Home Counties, or Leinster House in Dublin from which it was modelled. The Maryland sunshine hides what is actually quite ordinary.

The American Empire of the mind is still real, and that land is still the wealthiest in the world. The sickening feeling of decline is unavoidable though. The pioneers opened up the wilderness between the oceans, but their children are abandoning it. A society built on freedom, individuality and enterprise grew rich as a result, but the worm is at the root of those very qualities. The entrepreneurs still have fire in them, and the land on which to build, but the children of those who grew rich from their efforts are turning on them.

As the Greeks gave way to Rome, so the British Empire gave way to America’s dominance. If they cannot maintain it though, as in time they cannot, then there is a conclusion:

As Rome gave way to Byzantium, so America must give way to a re-emergent, international Britain. That is, if Britain can shoulder the burden and not fall prey to the fatal flaws of the Empire of Constantinople.

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