Archive for January, 2010

Israel and the Palestinians

26/01/2010

Stephen Walt in a recent blog post says that Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell should resign. Walt says that if he doesn’t resign now he will be:

“remembered as one of a long series of U.S. “mediators” who ended up complicit in Israel’s self-destructive land grab on the West Bank”

Walt continues, saying that it was as much Obama’s fault for raising expectations in the soaring rhetoric of his Cairo speech as Netanyahu having “he most hard-line government in Israeli history”.

Walt ‘s view that “the point is not that Obama’s initial peace effort in the Middle East has failed; the real lesson is that he didn’t really try. The objective was admirably clear from the start — “two states for two peoples” — what was missing was a clear strategy for getting there and the political will to push it through” is true, but the reality is slightly more complex than Dr Walt paints it. President Obama still has to steer through the health care bill without his Senate supermajority, thank you Scott Brown, or should the blame lay at James Madison’s feet for having such a ridiculous system of government where anything that happens, occurs at a glacial pace.

In any event, President Obama has other things on his mind than Israel at this particular moment in time (except perhaps his own re-election and the upcoming mid terms, thanks again James) so perhaps Walt should cut Obama some slack.

It was Walt who not so long ago suggested that the Americans disengage from the whole thing altogether, though whether he meant the peace process and the trade between the two countries I’m afraid I don’t remember!

Although Walt is right when he says that “push Israel as hard as it is pushing the Palestinians (and probably harder), peace will simply not happen. Pressure on Israel is also the best way to defang Hamas, because genuine progress towards a Palestinian state in the one thing that could strengthen Abbas and other Palestinian moderates and force Hamas to move beyond its talk about a long-term hudna (truce) and accept the idea of permanent peace.”

I only hope that for the sake of all of us that Walt is wrong when he says “the two-state solution looking less and less likely”

Advertisements

Closing ranks in the Church – Part II

24/01/2010

Today marks the first anniversary of the publication of the lifiting of the excommuncation of the four bishops consecrated by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre in 1988. These are Bernard Fellay, Richard Williamson, Alfonso de Galarreta and Bernard Tissier de Mallerais. The lifting of the excommunications on the four bishops caused outrage when it became know that Richard Williamson had given an interview to Swedish television in which he denied Nazi gas chambers were used to kill Jews. The move saw the Vatican scramble to react to the charges that anti-Semitism was rife inside the Vatican. However, this is not the issue – it is the fact that leaving aside the Williamson affair, that he was willing to open discussions (which started in October 2009) with the SSPX and urges them to return while others who hold different views to the other end of the spectrum are shunned and told to recant as they are not othodox enough. Another event came that same year when on 20 October 2009, the apostolic constitution, Anglicanorum Coetibus, was published. The document gives up to 400,000 conservative Anglicans who form the Traditional Anglican Communion, a means of entry into the Catholic Church while preserving their own customs and liturgy, but reject women bishops and a praticsing homosexual clergy, amongst other things. The move caused uproar in the liberal elements of the Anglican Communion as there seemed to have been little or no co-ordination between Rome and Canterbury on the issue or timing of the announcement.

This move again shows that Pope Benedict is only interested in dealing with those to conform to his view, even if it means alienating those who hold similar views but reject/disapprove of some of what he has said and done in the past.

Iesus ora pro nobis

Louis XVI and the French Revolution

21/01/2010

Today marks the 217th anniversary of the murder of Louis XVI, on this day in 1793. Louis’s death was just one of many that would become part of that horror called The Terror. The infamous guillotine would be used to murder anywhere between 16,000 to 40,000 people.

Some however did not have the luxury of dying by guillotine. It was sometimes much more effiecent to take a boat onto the Seine and sink it with the obvious expectation that no one would be getting back to the shore. The words, liberté, égalité, fraternité could not ring more hollow. It is the fact that there was such hypocrisy in these, that is so sickening. That is leaving aside the deeply complex and complicated nature of these concepts that are not as simple as is otherwise though, a testement to the power of the Revolution continues to have today. Louis’s death need not have occured at all and the Bourbons could still be reigning in France today. Instead of celebrating the historically insignificant event of the 14 July, there should instead be a celebration of the 4 August. It was on this date that Louis agreed reforms that would have begun to correct the dire financial situation of the kingdom as well as lessen his absolute power which coincided with the oath to end feudalism and the nobility to end some of their privileges.

The Revolution and the subsequent so called Enlightment has mutated into almost the opposite where anything that is religious or not within the grain of society that has been deemed permissible by the liberal media is shunned scorned and mocked. It a supposedly ‘tolerant’ society there seems little tolerance for those who question the obvious dangers of rabid secularisation and the never ceasing march of modernity that sweeps all before it. It also has led to the dangerous notion that everything in the present, or what is to come, is better than what went before. Such notions are overly simplistic and must be avoided at all costs.

It is the individualism that has sprung from the Revolution that has so corrupted society and lead to the belief that the individual is greater than the whole. It is this individualistic extremism that has partly led to the current banking crisis as well as the utter selfishness that has infected society that must be corrected before it is too late.

The end of neoliberalism?

15/01/2010

A link I saw from the American Conservative magazine oddly enough, about an article by Paul Krugman writing in the NY Times about the economic differences, both percieved and real between America and Europe.

Krugman’s key quote: “Europe is an economic success, and that success shows that social democracy works”.

He goes on to discuss how in reality a hard core of neoliberals, from both Republicans and Democrats seek to associate social democracy with communism and how, according to their narrative  the result is utter economic decay and then collapse. Krugman however notes that “Since 1980, per capita real G.D.P. — which is what matters for living standards — has risen at about the same rate in America and in the E.U. 15: 1.95 percent a year here; 1.83 percent there”

Crucially he doesn’t paint Europe as some economic heaven with both zero unemployment and plenty of tax cuts. He understands that no country is in perfect financial shape during these years but he appreciates that the social good that is gained from high taxes pay for hospitals and schools as well as other services that citizens have come to expect.

He ends saying that which comes from having a European style economy that actually, in the long run, ends up having a greater effect on the social good

“Europe is often held up as a cautionary tale, a demonstration that if you try to make the economy less brutal, to take better care of your fellow citizens when they’re down on their luck, you end up killing economic progress. But what European experience actually demonstrates is the opposite: social justice and progress can go hand in hand.”

It is exactly this model that we must use to our avantage now that the model of little or no regulation and unquestioned belief in “the market” to solve all problems all of the time has come to an end. The sooner we realise that we are all interlinked and every decision that is taken must be taken with the common good in mind the sooner we can end the rabid individualism that led us to where we are today.

Closing ranks in the Church – Part I

13/01/2010

Rumours abound today, principally from Andrea Tornielli, that André-Mutien Léonard of Namur is to be the new archbishop of Malines-Brussels, replacing the retiring Godfried Cardinal Danneels who reached the retirement age of 75 in June 2008.

Bishop Leonard is know to be friendly to the stunning and much missed Tridentine Mass, yet it is not just this, he represents Pope Benedict’s attempts to revitalise a dying Church in Belgium, where vocations are down and Mass attendance is at an all time low. There is the obvious assumption that Cardinal Danneels’s is partly at fault for leading or at least aiding this decline by being, dare I say it, Christian to gays and others who don’t fit into the Catholic Church’s ideal family.

Thus, Pope Benedict hopes to reverse all of this with a single appointment, ok that’s not quite true but no one seems to realise, or at least accept that, as people generally get wealthier and more educated they lose their attachment to religion and religious practices.

Finally, it is unlikely that in my opinion, that anything will change in the long run in Belgium. Similarly his other high profile picks to date, such as Archbishop Willem Jacobus Eijk of  Utrecht or Archbishop Reinhard Marx of München und Freising, (Pope Benedict’s old job) will unlikely effect radical change to Mass attendance or an increased loyalty to Catholic doctrine.   

Pope Benedict seems to be implicitly saying that only those who adhere to a certain checklist of Catholic doctrines are worthy of attending Mass and worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us all, which is so anti-Christian that it is worthy of tears and anger. The hypocrisy of Benedict when he says “Be Who You Are” as he did recently at a baptism is unbelievable if it didn’t happen so often.

Ultimately, the Church must find some way of steering a middle ground between absolutism and relativsm, but it seems the current tiller has little interest in this.

Iesus ora pro nobis

2010 in the Catholic Church

11/01/2010

It looks like it’s going to be a busy year for the Catholic Church. Robert Mickens and Elena Curti, in “History in the making”, the liberal religion magazine The Tablet talks of

Benedict’s trip the the UK (and possibly Ireland, after the Ryan, and more recently, Murphy Reports) to beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman, a Vatican Synod on the Middle East and a consistory for the creation of up to 18 new cardinals.

Should be an interesting year!

Attitudes to Terrorism

10/01/2010

Stephen Walt who is a well know and highly respected realist in a recent blog post, “More on the illusion of ‘perfect security”  discusses attitudes to terrorism within officialdom and the broader public perception. Commenting on Clark Kent Ervin’s piece in the New York Times, Walt says “Sorry, Mr. Ervin, but it is impossible to ‘identify all the vulnerabilities and address each one’ beforehand”.

This obviously an understandable mentality to have especially within America, yet we should not let the terrorist acts that have been committed both in the US and in Europe, blind us (and our politicians) to the fact that just as Dr Walt says people are asking the impossible which then leads to the State to take measures which some find impinges on their freedom.

There needs to be an open discussion on this issue urgently otherwise more and more people will find the State taking greater measures to protect us in the assumption that this is what is what the people demand.

Gay marriage in Portugal and the banking crisis

07/01/2010

Seems as if the Portugese are following the trend. Reports brought to my attention from the AP say that Portugal is expected to “approve the legalisation of gay marriage on Friday [7 January] with a minimum of fuss”. The article then goes on to discuss how the lack of fuss is in contrast with when Spain legalised gay “marriage”. The Patriarch of Lisbon, Jose Cardinal da Cruz Policarpo, is reported to have said that the law is “parliament’s responsibility”.

The report then goes on to quote a gay legislator who it quotes as saying “‘I think the Portuguese people have learnt one of the fundamental tenets of democracy: respect for the rights of the individual,’ Miguel Vale de Almeida, Portugal’s first openly-gay lawmaker”.

Was it not the, no wait that’s not right, it WAS the individualism and greed of the bankers  that (mostly) caused the finincial impolsion that we are witnessing. To proclaim the rights of the individual when the State  and society are collapsing around us smacks of incredible short-sightedness.

Which brings us back to the myth and dangers of equality. Some people ARE more important than others because without them there would be no society.

Having said all that it would be remiss of me not to wholeheartedly support some form of civil union where the couple (I HATE the word partners, far too PC) have rights to form wills hospital visits etc etc etc. Indeed perhaps a great tragedy is that there is no official blessing in the Catholic Church for these people, many of whom long to return to the Church but understandably feel shunning and unwanted, yet another great shame.

Gay marriage in California

06/01/2010

TIME in its article “A Gay-Marriage Lawsuit Dares to Make Its Case” notes that in a San Francisco trial it will be argued that “the U.S. Constitution forbids states from restricting marriage to one man and one woman”. The article says that many advances have been, rightly made, from Romer vs Evans to Lawrence vs Texas (when the federal judicary of America finally caught up with the rest of the world and legalised same sex sexual activity).

However, the Supreme Court as the article says “has never voiced a word of enthusiasm for gay marriage”. So the fear for the gay rights activists is that it will go to SCOTUS only to be defeated. The case will decide “the trial will be the first in federal court to answer the question of whether the U.S. Constitution forbids states like California from restricting marriage to opposite-sex couples”

There seems to be something missing in the article, why don’t the judges do what the politicans do and say that the issue is too divisve to handle and refuse to hear such cases. So leave it up to the people, which unlike what happened in Iowa last year, wouldn’t hurt judicial legitimacy and at the same time leave the politicans off the hook.

And yet, perhaps it is the concept of equality that is fundamentally flawed. People are not equal. Hetrosexual people have the ability to reproduce.  Marriage is a duty and it should not be equated with things like the right to life and security. This of course does not detract from the basic inherent diginity of us all.

05/01/2010

This thing in Yemen seems to confirm a little truth that seems to become more and more apparent as time goes on. If a country deems invasion of another country in its national interest then it had better be willing to stay there for a VERY long time, perhaps not quite 100 years, like Senator McCain (R-AZ) said during the 2008 election but a sufficient time to allow the country to become stable. Yet the crux of the issue is that no democracy will have the foresight to go in for such a long period of time to put in the investment of time, money and ultimatly lives to ensure long term success.

Thus it seems there there are only two options, to go into a failed/failing state, like Yemen for 50+ years or else don’t go in at all and live with the consequences of that.

Hello

01/01/2010

I suppose hello and Happy New Year are in order.

I guess I had better tell you that there probably won’t be a whole lot new in this blog covering politics and religion and whatever else I think of from someone who is very opinionated and just wants to vent.

Mainly paleoconservative views here but with definite European slant, a la Hobbes, and not the desire of freedom demanded by many traditional conservatives in America in particular. So expect lots of well, order and tradition. Lots of respect for the past but, outside the normal defination, a good dose of social democracy, communitarianism as well as the  strong influence of Catholic social teaching and social conservatism generally. Foreign policy wise expect lots of what’s been called an “uber-realism”.

Enjoy!