Archive for May, 2010

Pope Rowan I

31/05/2010

It seems the the leader of the Anglican Communion is feeling bullish, well sort of. After the ordination of an openly lesbian “bishop”, archbishop of  Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that Anglicans who disobey the rules of the Communion should be sidelined from official doctrinal committees.

In a letter to the whole Comunion he cited problems, including the ordination of the lesbian bishop in America. The news article says that “If his call is heeded it would be the first time such sanctions have been imposed on dissident Church members.” The article mentions that a two-tier Communion could soon emerge (not that it hasn’t already).

It is amazing that Williams has not taken measures like this before. Had he not the power to do so, or was he advised not to? Either way it is exceedingly difficult to control seventy million people across five continents without there being a central power somewhere who decides what goes and what doesn’t, a pope to you and me. Part of the problem is that much of the Communion is based on a fudge with each country being independent and equal to the next with little binding the Nigerian province to the US Episcopal Church other than some formal link to Canterbury.

In taking this action Williams has admitted the need for a central authority – but has done so about 400 years too late.

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Visitation x2

31/05/2010

On this the Feast of the Visitation, the Vatican today announced, well a visitation. As Rocco says “In a move that could be considered too coincidental to be a coincidence” the details of the Apostolic Visitation of Ireland were revealed.

Each of the Ireland’s four metropolitan dioceses (Armagh, Dublin, Cashel and Emly, and Tuam) has been given a Visitor.

The announcement then stated that the Visitation “will then be extended to some other dioceses.”  The purpose of the visit is as the Holy See statement says is to:

“offer assistance to the Bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful as they seek to respond adequately to the situation caused by the tragic cases of abuse perpetrated by priests and religious upon minors. It is also intended to contribute to the desired spiritual and moral renewal that is already being vigorously pursued by the Church in Ireland. The Apostolic Visitors will set out to explore more deeply questions concerning the handling of cases of abuse and the assistance owed to the victims; they will monitor the effectiveness of and seek possible improvements to the current procedures for preventing abuse”

I suppose, that no one else other than Cardinal O’Malley could have gone to Dublin. After all remember this guy?

Rocco says that “Murphy-O’Connor’s appointment to the team represents the second Roman nod to the Westminster prelate since his retirement last year”. The first being his appointment as a member of the Congregation for Bishops, which was more of a consolation prize for the peerage that he was offered but was reportedly forced to decline. Rocco also notes that the Murphy-O’Connor appointment is an odd one, seeing as his own past is less than spotless in this particular area.

Rocco also reveals that a coadjutor archbishop for Armagh has been requested.  Whether this was Rome saying that Cardinal Brady should get an heir apparent or perhaps its just Cardinal Brady’s attempt to appease his now numerous critics is uncertain.

A case of too little to late again. Not that the  coadjutor will be announced anytime soon. It could be the end of this year or the start of next – at the earliest. In which case it really is too little too late.

The success of the visit will depend on not only what the visitors find, how hard they are willing to look and how the Irish bishops co-operate (if at all) as well as how much influence the archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin has on the process and his other bishops, it hardly needs saying but the more the better.

SCOTUS vacancy II

30/05/2010

Looks as if Bader Ginsburg is on her way out. The article mentions that her retirement is “less than two months away” . According to rumours, the Administration plan is that  once Kagan is confirmed, “Ginsburg would then announce her retirement, so that confirmation for Ginsburg’s replacement could be finished before the end of the year”.

The article says the the proposed timetable for the second SCOTUS appointment of the year is based on “fears Democrats may lose enough Senate seats in the mid-term election to make it more difficult to confirm a liberal appointee after the next Congress convenes in January 2011.”

Diane Wood? Merrick Garland? Or Obama could pick Janet Napolitano, DHS Secretary which would then leave him free to pick again at the DHS. How practical this would be were he to chose this course however is questionable.

Human rationality and the economic system

29/05/2010

In a recent interview given by Dr Nouriel Roubini who despite the naysayers predicted the global collapse of capitalism that is continuing to happen around us.

In an interview given recently the the Daily Telegraph, Dr Roubini, says that there is more to come. He says quite accurately, that the next wave will be  that of governments. He told the paper that ” The crisis is not over; we are just at the next stage. This is where we move from a private to a public debt problem”.

He contiuned saying that “We socialised part of the private losses by bailing out financial institutions and providing fiscal stimulus to avoid the great recession from turning into a depression. But rising public debt is never a free lunch, eventually you have to pay for it”. So, all those critics that said that the banks were too big to fail and the whole financial system was based on them was well maybe just an understatment.  Now governments the world over are going to pay, both literally and figuratively for their (i.e. our) “generousity”.

Crucially, he believes Greece’s problems will see it, among others, leave the euro, as was mentioned on a post here recently. Roubini insists major reform is necessary, “We are still in the middle of this crisis and there is more trouble ahead of us, even if there is a recovery. During the great depression the economy contracted between 1929 and 1933, there was the beginning of a recovery, but then a second recession from 1937 to 1939. If you don’t address the issues, you risk having a double-dip recession and one which is at least as severe as the first one.”

Governments all over the world, but particularly in Europe and North America are going to have to make cuts that affect the way their very societies think about themselves. It will also be a huge challenge, perhaps the biggest challenge to democracy itself. Can governments get elected and stay in power when there are no tax cuts and spending increases every few years? What will happen when the extremes look increasingly effective, which over time they will? Worringly, what will happen when a country with a de facto one party state despite having many formal parties have to make tough choices? Where will the voters turn when they are faced with a real choice, will they be able to chose at all? 

Can democracy with its trust in the rationality and supremacy of the individual face the test that is fast approaching?

Monkey see, monkey do

26/05/2010

The Brits have followed Obama slavishly on the numbers of nuclear weapons held. The UK has “set a limit on its nuclear weapons stockpile, at 225 warheads”

Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and First Secretary of State, William Hauge MP said,    “For the first time, the government will make public the maximum number of nuclear warheads that the UK will hold in its stockpile. In the future our overall stockpile will not exceed 225 nuclear warheads”.

The article said that Hague “hoped his announcement would help build trust between nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states”. Do these people not know the basic law in all the international arena? Mistrust and danger is sadly all around us as it has been before and indeed will be in the future. To ignore this tenet of the international system is both dangerous and naive.

No nation with a basic understanding of the international system would take such a step.

Realism from Jerusalem

25/05/2010

Sense from, of all places the Jerusalem Post.

The EU’s existential crisis

25/05/2010

Are we witnessing the collapse of the European Union, or its potential strengthening? Both? Neither?

The crisis that is gripping the markets at the moment is the future of the Euro, which after reaching such high’s against the dollar, now is at an all time low.

Much of the problem comes from Dr Angela Merkel ‘s desire to save the fragments of the political union that she and the French so desperately crave. In bailing out  Greece, she stated that “if the euro fails, then Europe fails”.

Part of the problem is that “The euro has many flaws, but its weakest link is Greece, whose fundamental problem is that for years it spent too much, earned too little and plugged the gap by borrowing in order to enjoy a rich man’s lifestyle.” However, why were they not stricter criteria for Euro entry, and if there were why weren’t enforced? Because, firstly when it was concieved, times were good economically and no one in high enough places had the foresight to realise that times might not always be as good as they were. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the French and the Germans felt they could gain a political upper hand easily by admitting as many countries as they possibly could to the Euro and thus bring the EU one step closer to the nation-state that they hope it will be, with all the top jobs held by either a Frenchman or a German, with bones thrown to the others who are willing to kowtow to the diminution of their respective nation-states, ie, Benelux, Austria and a few others. Even the Americans have chimed in.

As the journalist states plainly, “By any legitimate measure, Greece was unworthy of eurozone membership.” He says that the “game is up for a monetary union that was meant to bolt together work-and-save citizens in northern Europe with the party animals of Club Med.” The concept is bringing Germans, Swedes and Italians and others into the one currency makes no sense. The cultures, irrespective of how much globalisation happens or how fast we can communicate to each other does not seperate fundamental cultural differences.

What’ll happen to the EU? The Germans and the French have invested too much time and money in the project to let it all fall asunder now. So the correspondent predicts what should have always happened, “Greece and Portugal are favourites to be forced out through weakness. At the top end, proposals are already being floated in the Frankfurt press for a new ‘hard currency’ zone, led by Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries.”

So we’ll get a two speed EU, which we have already in places due to all those opt-outs. This means that those “countries” that have most “dissolved in a lukewarm bath of multilateral, transnational, secular, and postmodern fudge” will stumble forward on a path to integration, leading possibly to political union, while the rest of the world and possibly the rest of Europe will see sense and take a more cautious attitude to integrating with each other. 

Stephen Walt assess’s the result of the crisis in foreign policy terms correctly when he says “whether Europe grows closer together or begins to spin apart, it’s going to carry a lot less weight in world affairs in the next few decades. Its population is shrinking and aging, its military power is increasingly hollow, and it’s going to be short on money for years to come. If U.S. officials think they are going to get a lot more help from NATO in the decades ahead, they are living in a dream world.” 

As David Cameron said when he met Dr Merkel last week, “It goes without saying that any treaty, even one that just applied to the euro area, needs unanimous agreement of all 27 EU states including the UK, which of course has a veto”. 

Two speed EU, here we come!

Cardinal Brady’s decision

24/05/2010

So we finally get an answer to a question that was asked what seemed like an age ago. Will Cardinal Brady resign over the abuse cover-up that took place in the 1970s, “no” seems to be the answer.

Cardinal Brady’s decision will antagonise a lot of people who have understandably less and less respect for the Church. He said that he will stay on in his role as archbishop of Armagh and primate of All-Ireland so that he can “maintain the momentum towards better child safeguarding and not alone that, also the momentum towards renewal of the faith, which is essential here and a big challenge.”

Part of the problem, I suspect lies in who would replace him. There was talk of the bishop of Down and Connor, Noel Treanor, quite sure why I’m afraid I couldn’t tell, succeeding Brady. However, the obvious choice would be Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, archbishop of Dublin and primate of Ireland. If Rome wanted to show that it meant business, it could send Martin to Armagh and give him the red hat at the expected consistory in November then it would show the rest of the Irish episcopate, and indeed the world who’s side the Rome’s is on.

However, Archbishop Martin’s liberal tendencies coupled with his outspokeness of the issue and his obvious desire for reform of the Church I suspect would scupper any hope of him gaining any support in the Curia for him getting Armagh, if indeed he wanted it.

Where this leaves the Church in Ireland is another matter.

The triumph of style over substance……again?

19/05/2010

In a development that should have been covered on this blog some time ago, President Obama’s decision to allow the number of nuclear weapons held by the United States to be made known was misguided.

The complete “U.S. nuclear arsenal consists of 5,113 active and inactive warheads” This is down from “22,217 in late 1989” The Administration has however, “kept classified the specific nuclear warhead total, which would include strategic weapons mounted on missiles and bombers for longer-range as well as shorter-range tactical arms and those that aren’t deployed.”

In some ways it is extremely admirable of President Obama to do this and yet there is a sense that he either has his head in the clounds, which is unlikely, or he wants some moral superiority and hopes to gain tactically from the disclosure in dealing with Iran.

None of these things will happen. He has only weakened US national security and given America’s enemies information that they should not have. Or was it just a PR stunt, like last time?

Robert Kagan has said that even if all the world divests itself of their nuclear weapons (not going to happen) then the United States will still have an overwhelming conventional weapons capability that no nation can match.

Which brings us back to the point, why? Many on the Left see this as the start of a golden age where we all join hands and forget our differences. They think this will set off a chain reaction of peace that will see every nation whittle away its own armed forces as the UN becomes the world government that they think it was always meant to be. This, I can assure you isn’t going to happen either. The world is still an dangerous and unstable place where mistrust is rife. There is as much need for conventional and nuclear power as there ever has been, and I can’t see that changing either.

New Curial culture?

18/05/2010

In an unusual move Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, O.P. , archbishop of Vienna, has come out against the dean of the College of Cardinals, the embattled, Angelo Cardinal Sodano.

Cardinal Schönborn said that “The days of cover up are over. For a long while the Church’s principle of forgiveness was falsely interpreted and was in favour of those responsible and not the victims.”

He said that in the 1990s when the disgraced Hans Hermann Cardinal Groër ,was archbishop of Vienna, that a “track of Vatican diplomacy” had brought about a cover up.

Cardinal Schönborn said that Cardinal Sodano blocked the investigation that was underway in Cardinal Ratzinger’s office. The “Cardinal Groer had simply faded into the background.”

Cardinal Groër retired his position as archbishop of Vienna on 14 September 1995, when Schönborn’s term as Coadjutor Archbishop ended.

The fact that such senior figures in the Church are openly discussing such recent, controversial history says much about the climate in the Church today. It also speaks volumes about how the Roman Curia operates, with only a few individuals being able to stifle such allegations. If this new culture will last or not is a different question.

New SCOTUS associate justice

16/05/2010

In his extremely interesting recent post, on Elena Kagan, who will more than likely be confirmed as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States sometime before September, Glenn Greenwald says that should she be confirmed, she will move the Court to the Right. He criticises Kagan’s lack of judicial opinions, especially on the matter of the Bush/Cheney tactics for national security and dealing with terrorists. He then makes quite a leap and says because of this she must move the Court toward the Roberts/Alito/Scalia philosophy and not to the progressive side of the Court as he would wish.

He cites how she “agreed wholeheartedly with Lindsey Graham about the rightness of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism template:  namely, that the entire world is a “battlefield,” that “war” is the proper legal framework for analyzing all matters relating to Terrorism, and the Government can therefore indefinitely detain anyone captured on that “battlefield””. This shows just how petty some of the Left have become, instead of thinking about the broader implications for national security they are more concerned with the “rights” of terrorists. These are just the sort of people who want to close  Guantánamo Bay because they see the terrorists as the put upon party.

Of course it would be better to close it as President Obama has said, but on a purely pratical level, want to you do with these people after? You can’t release many of them, but equally they are too dangerous of normal prisons – so by default you have come full circle and have to keep the camp open. This, I suspect, is exactly what happened to Obama when on the first day in office he said he would close Gitmo by 20 January 2010. He however soon realised that there was little other choice but to keep it open. I am not overstaing the threat of terrorism, it is a constant force in the world and will never to totally defeated, yet for these few years it should be seen as important, before we start fighting each other over far more important things like oil and water.  

Greenwald continues, saying that Kagan supports the theory of the unitary executive. While I’m no John Yoo, I do have some sympathy with the need for a more Hobbsian view of the executive branch and perhaps a slight dimunition of the checks and balances system that seems to be all the rage these days.

Finally, Greenwald says that Kagan’s tenure on the Court would long outlast Obama and that “any pro-executive-power decisions she issues will apply to future George Bushes and Dick Cheneys”. As if a 11 September would happen every couple of years! To put the final nail in the coffin of his “argument”, “Kagan’s record on social issues will likely be perfectly satisfactory, even pleasing, to most progressives.  She is, by all appearances, solidly pro-choice and in favor of gay equality” [I wonder why].

He closes saying that there are other “superior alternatives” for the Court, ie more in tune with his views, who see the world as they wish, and not as it is. Among them he names, Diane Wood, Leah Ward Sears, and the “genuinely liberal Harold Koh”. Is he living in the clouds? One word, midterms!  She can get confirmed resonably quickly and be sitting on the Court by the first Monday in October ready for the new judicial term.

Next up, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The state of Irish politics

15/05/2010

At last, Bertie Ahern apoligised for the havoc he and his “party” wrecked in Ireland. what Ahern actually said was that, “We probably should have closed those [ tax incentives] down a good bit earlier but there were always fierce pressures, there was endless pressures to keep them. There was endless pressures to extend them”

Really, pressure, while running Ireland, next he’ll be saying that he had to make decisions! If this is the natural governing party of Ireland, I would hate to see what the other lot are like.

It is time for the political party system of Ireland to collapse and start again. Any notion that organising a society on a disagreement over a Treaty that was signed eighty years ago is laughable. It is a testminony to FF that they have clung on to this system so long and been so successful. After all they are the ultimate catch all party, although what they actually believe, if they are capable of believing in anything is anyone’s guess. Maybe that’s what’s needed or required to rise up the cursus honorum of parties like it? So, it’ll be more of the same when the other lot get in I suppose.

What was that Machiavelli quote about people expecting their new rulers to be better than the ones they replace and being sorely disappointed………

End of Cardinal Sodano’s career

15/05/2010

You know its really bad when Rorate carries it. Cardinal Sodano, dean of the College of Cardinals and secretary emeritus of the Secretariat of State is under, one would hope, intense pressure to resign his final, largely cermonial post of Cardinal-Dean due to allegations of bribery on the part of the Legion of Christ as was mentioned in a previous post.

I hope he does for the sake of the Church and what remains of the faithful.

New UK government

14/05/2010

There is, in case you hadn’t noticed, a coalition government in the UK, and believe it or not, the sky hasn’t fallen in!

Brown decided he had had enough so he just resigned and suddenly, well sort of, there was an agreement between the Tories and the Lib Dems that steers clear of any disagreements, more or less, and focuses on the items where there is commom ground, which there seems to be. The Cabinet announced, on Wednesday 12th is as follows:

 
  Minister
*Prime Minister   The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
*Deputy Prime Minister & Lord President of the Council
(special responsibility for political & constitutional reform)
  The Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP
*Foreign Secretary & First Secretary of State   The Rt Hon William Hague MP
*Chancellor of the Exchequer   The Rt Hon George Osborne MP
*Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice   The Rt Hon Ken Clarke QC MP
*Home Secretary   The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
*Secretary of State for Defence   The Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP
*Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills   The Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP
*Secretary of State for Work and Pensions   The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
*Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change   The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP
*Secretary of State for Health   The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP
*Secretary of State for Education   The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
*Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government   The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
*Secretary of State for Transport   The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP
*Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs   The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP
*Secretary of State for International Development   The Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP
*Secretary of State for Northern Ireland   The Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP
*Secretary of State for Scotland   The Rt Hon Danny Alexander MP
*Secretary of State for Wales   The Rt Hon Cheryl Gillan MP
*Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport   The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP
*Chief Secretary to the Treasury   The Rt Hon David Laws MP
*Leader of the House of Lords & Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster   The Rt Hon The Lord Strathclyde PC
*Minister without Portfolio (Minister of State)   The Rt Hon The Baroness Warsi PC
 
     
     
     
     
     
 
     

What should be clear is that from the Cabinet at least, the Tories are very much in charge, being in control of all of the Great Offices of State. The Lib Dems getting five seats at the big boys table. Former shadow Secretary of State for Justice,  Dominic Grieve had to be moved to allow Ken Clarke to take up the Justice job, who in turn was moved to allow Dr Vince Cable take up the BIS job. Talk of Cable getting a newly formed ministry quickly faded as did talk of him getting the Treasury job.

Obviously the Tories had to be compensated in some way, with those particularly on the Right of the party feeling snubbed, so IDS made his return to the Cabinet as DWP Secretary. In addition to that the coalition has laid out a plan that would allow an election to take place no earlier than the first Thursday of May 2015. In order to allow both parties to hang together and take the blame, and (hopefully?) some of the gain after taking what are expected to be some savage decisions.

Will it work? I hope so, with the Tories not budging on things like Trident, but rightly ditching their inhertiance tax cuts, and the Lib Dems getting some badly needed voting reform as well as some economic jobs in the Cabinet this could be an excellent coalition with some brilliantly sensible policies on both sides. It also leaves Labour who are searching for, David Miliband, as their new leader, to spend some well deserved time in oppostion.

If they can keep to their areas then it could work exceptionally well, however, there is bound to be tensions, especially over the health sckeptism that the Lib Dems have of the market, as opposed to some of the Tories still bottomless faith in it. With, Osborne, Hammond and Cable all going to be in each others pockets, due to co-ordination efforts, it will be a tremendous test of both Cameron and Clegg to reign in their respective parties extremes and prevent the collapse of the coalition.    

Here’s hoping.

The haggling begins…and ends?

08/05/2010

The results are in after a month of campaigning in the UK election, with the Tories gaining the most seats, 306, with 36.1% of the vote, up 97 from the 2005 election but not the 326 which is needed to form a government. Labour took a hammering losing 91 seats taking 258, and 29% of the vote, while after all the hype of Nick Clegg becoming the next Prime Minster, he lost 5 seats getting 57 and 23% of the vote.

Now with Gordon Brown clinging on to power, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are talking, perhaps ultimatly fruitlessly as the differences, not just over reform of the voting system, whch at least half of Britons want, but also there are substantial differences over the economy as well as over defence, most notably Trident.

There will be talks supposedly finished by Monday, to please the all powerful markets,  but the Tories will probably end up forming a minority government for a few months, that will last until the end of the year, if even, and then another election will be called.

Will a Conservative minority government pass electoral reform on its own, and will Cameron be able to bring his party with him, all without the help/hinderance of the Lib Dems?

UK general election

06/05/2010

I suppose I should give some thoughts with less than an hour before the close of polls.

This has been an exciting and infurating election for some time. Exciting because there has been so much going on with the rise of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems and at the same time the justified “implosion” of New Labour coupled with the highs of the Tories reached only a few months ago, only to have Labour claw back ground despite the deeply unpopular government and the economic mess they helped create. Not only that but there was every agonists dream, two or more parties, with truely different visions, dare I say it, ideologies, debating (more or less) their ideas in the forum of the public sphere – which is exactly what every election should aspire to, this one came the closest to this in the UK for some time.

Unfuriating because of people’s unwillingness to see that it is the first past the post system that is causing such problems, and will only continue to cause such problems in the future unless there is reform of the voting system that allows for some form, exactly which needs to be debated, of PR. As has been commented on before here, the UK is working on an electoral system designed for two parties but with at least three.

Some have said that the best option for the Conservatives would be to have a Labour/Lib Dem coalition which would take all the “tough” decisions and then collapse, leaving the Tories to bask in the glow of the electorate – this does ignore the fact that these decisions will have to be made anyway, and that to take the tough decisions is what real politics is about, the exact opposite of New Labour. 

Savage cuts are coming from whoever has the luck/misfortune to get in.

The only other thing that is clear is that by this time tomorrow there will be a 649 newly elected MPs – to say any more at this stage would be premature.