Archive for July, 2010

Just the beginning

29/07/2010

As was discussed recently, the world will face many challenges over the coming decades, just one of which will be a shortage of water. This is already happening, in Ireland of all places.

As a result of the lack of water “The capital has no strategic reserves of water when it should have 10-20 per cent reserves at a minimum, while existing sources are operating near sustainable limits”.  So more grand projects are being envisioned, “Dublin city councillors this week approved the consultants’ main proposal to bring excess water from the basin of the Shannon river to meet needs in the east and midlands”.

Things are apparently very near tipping point, the “four main water treatment plants in the greater Dublin region, which includes Kildare, north Wicklow and parts of Co Meath in addition to the capital. Their maximum output is between 540 and 550 million litres per day, while under normal circumstances demand is between 530 and 540 million litres per day”.

In an attempt to reduce waste, “Leakage from the system has been reduced from 42 per cent in 1996 to 28 per cent in 2002, but the report says that the maximum supply levels will be reached in the 2020s despite further efforts to reduce leakage”. However, more needs to be done before such a controversial project is even contemplated, water charging needs to be brought in and functioning, which might not be until 2012 or 2013 before anything else is considered.

If however as the report says that the best way of suppling water to the east  “involves taking the water from a point north of Lough Derg and piping it to a reservoir at a cutaway bog at Garryhinch, close to Portarlington, Co Laois, where it would be treated and distributed” then so be it. Many in the west of Ireland seem accepting that Dublin with its population “predicted to reach 2.2 million by 2031” needs more water as a local resident said “We’ve an abundance of water . . . My land has been flooded and half the farm submerged in three to four feet of water for three years. This plan won’t solve the flooding but I believe it makes good sense to share an abundance with those who need it”.

What is promised for those areas that are affected is a “reservoir in a cutaway Bord na Móna bog that would double as ‘an innovative water-based eco park, with fishing, boating, cycling, water and leisure sports’, with the promise of 1,000 construction jobs, plus long-term tourism and recreation employment for the region.”

However, as the article points out it is not quite that simple. There are fundamental issues of mistrust, “farmers and anglers agree on only a few important points. Both insist the plan will do nothing to alleviate flooding and that it’s cynical to suggest otherwise. They hold Bord na Móna responsible for the silting of the waterways, and finger this as a prime cause of the summer – and some of the winter – flooding”.

The article continues saying that there is a need for real government agency with real powers to control the waterways, but the bigger point is that there is not one already, coupled with the fact that the one already in existance is not trusted. However, the bigger problem, as has been stated here before is that Ireland has perhaps one of the strangest political divisions in the world, with no relation to the modern world and worse which people are unable to relate to. This only leads to politicians feeling remote which in turn leads to mistrust, that fact that job creation figures and costs are seemingly plucked from the air together with wild and inaccurate comparisons made hardly helps matters.

However “parties” like  Fianna Fáil need to die in order for some of this mistrust to fade. As for the water issue, this is just the beginning.

Going too far

27/07/2010

Unions have a duty to protect their members from the excesses of capitalism and ensure their members have a proper working environment. At their best they protect those who are often unable to protect themselves. However, the  worse excesses of unions are being shown more and more. Greed and selfishness are now among many of the chief characteristics that make up modern unions.

For the sake of the economies of the world, the workers, who in the long run get branded as extremists, and the rest of seociety, in effect the common good, it is imperative that unions see sense and work with the realities of the world around us and not some, at best naive and at worst devious, vision of how their members should get paid for doing as little work as possible. No one will benefit from this.

Know your enemies

26/07/2010

Giving evidence to the UK Iraq war inquiry, Baroness Manningham-Buller said that UK “‘involvement in Iraq, for want of a better word, radicalised a whole generation of young people, some of them British citizens who saw our involvement in Iraq, on top of our involvement in Afghanistan, as being an attack on Islam,’ she said, before immediately correcting herself by adding ‘not a whole generation, a few among a generation'”. The article says that only “a year after the invasion, she said MI5 was ‘swamped’ by leads about terrorist threats to the UK”.

While the reasons for going to war in Iraq were, on realist grounds, shall we say slim, that does not mean that we should misunderstand those that are being faced now in Afghanistan as well as in the UK and US as well as many other countries around the world.  They misrepresent Islam and distort it for their own purposes. They are determined to destroy what they see as a Western monolith. They do not see what they are doing as wrong, they are not relativists. Liberal relativist guilt and an attempt at reperations over Iraq will not appease them, they seek only to overthrow what they hate.

To say that the Iraq war heightened their hatred of the West, is only half the story. They always hated the West and it was only a matter of time before they struck at a city such as London. In some respects Iraq is irrelevant to this debate as these people who claim to follow Islam will always to their utmost to bring down what they see as evil. While the Iraq war may have spurred them on, it is not a direct cause of what they are trying to do and should not be taken for one, to do so would be extremely dangerous for us all.

Decline in parental authority

24/07/2010

In an article written some time ago the admittedly complex issue of child punishment was discussed. The writer, notes how “Most parents who smack consider that the occasional tap does no harm”. Indeed she recounts how her own children “all felt it had done them no harm, but none of them felt it was right or good”. Maybe parents should be more willing to consider the judious use of hitting when things are getting out of control.

What many don’t seem to get however is that the decline in parental authority can lead to many children getting out of control simply because we are more and more being called to respect their “boundaries”. Society is going down this road and look where it is taking us.

Slow collapse of Anglicanism

23/07/2010

In a coincedence that could only be divinly inspired, or at least timed, the Anglican Communion has pushed ahead with reforms that would pave the way for women bishops perhaps as soon as 2014.  While not long after, the Catholic Church revised its rules stating that women could never be priests.

The move in Anglicanism will only exacerbate the tensions already felt between the increasingly liberal Anglican establishment and the more conservative members who are increasingly being drawn to Rome. During the General Synod only “minimal concessions [were given] to traditionalist Anglicans who opposed the move.  They had sought to be in the care of a male alternative bishop on terms acceptable to them. But the synod decided women bishops should be able to decide the identity and functions of any such bishop”.

Even worse the “Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, and Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, had put their personal prestige behind the compromise plan, which would have allowed parishes unwilling to serve under a woman bishop to call upon the oversight of a male alternative”. The fact that this plan was rejected says much about the state of the leadership within Anglicanism. It is however only to be expected, allowing women as bishops is logical after they were allowed to become priests in the early 1990s.

Not only that but Archbishop Williams “found himself at the centre of a storm over the blocked appointment of Jeffrey John, the homosexual Dean of St Albans, to be Bishop of Southwark.” After John’s appointment failed to go through, Williams was then harried by traditionalists at the Synod for not doing enough to assist conservatives. “Sitting in the Synod chamber with his hands clasped as he listened to a series of speeches attacking his proposal, Dr Williams looked more like a man grimly awaiting his fate than a leader ready to rally his Church behind him”.

The paper says that “Dr Williams has come to resemble an episcopal version of King Canute, unable to hold back a tide which threatens to destroy a Church that for centuries was broad enough to hold different traditions under one roof.”

Now it is clearer than ever that the Anglican Communion has all but ceased to exist with the archbishop of Canterbury unable to restore order on any front with liberals and conservatives holding what little power he has to ransom. The Communion is falling apart with many conservatives feeling  marginalised with an women priests and npw bishops as well as other issues, notably homosexuality. They are increasingly attracted to Rome in the shape of the Anglican Ordinariate. It is just as much the weakness of Williams as the power of liberals and conservatives who pulling the Communion apart with less and less sign of compromise either being possible, or as has been shown with the result of the Synod, desired.

At almost the same time the Catholic Church has declared the ordination of women a “crime against the faith”. The  “rules issued by the Vatican puts attempts at ordaining women among the “most serious crimes” alongside paedophilia and will be handled by investigators from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith” formerly headed by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Those who attempt to ordain women priests and those taking part already face excommunciation latae sententiae, however the “new decree goes further and enshrines the action as “a crime against sacraments”. 

At the same time the CDF has allowed for the “fast tracking of the investigation process of priests accused of child abuse following widespread criticism of the Church’s handling of recent scandals. The CDF will accelerate investigations of paedophile priests and extend the statute of limitations by 10 years to 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday. It could defrock priests but would not be forced to hand over abusers to the civil courts.”

Dangers of the caricature

21/07/2010

Ronald Reagan, the boogy man of the Left and darling of the Right is caricatured as a war mongering loon or a national hero that stood up to violent and vicious communism. Of course it is just a caricature but the problem is that people from both sides rarely want to see beyond it.

In an well researched piece that gives a pretty accurate picture of Reagan the author says only half in jest “every time someone on the American right bashes President Barack Obama for kowtowing to dictators or failing to shout that we’re at war, they light a votive candle to Ronald Reagan”, while predictably “Sarah Palin invokes the Gipper so frequently that some now speculate that she might launch her 2012 presidential bid in his hometown”.

He says that those on the Right  have created “a mythic Reagan who never compromised with America’s enemies and never shrank from a fight. But the real Reagan did both those things, often”. Let’s not forget Lebanon when he pulled US troops out but while lecturing the evil empire he also sat down with them in Iceland to discuss where things were going. Reagan is usually credited with ending the Cold War singlehandedly, anyone who knows their history knows this is impossible. Reagan might have pushed the process further along the road but to say that when Reagan came to power the USSR started crumbling is bizarre and bares no relation to history. International pressure, internal reforms (glasnost) as well as other factors helped cause it, not just Reagan. As the author says “Reagan began abandoning his hard-line anti-Soviet stance in late 1983, 18 months before Gorbachev took power”.

The author compares Bush 41 and Clinton to Reagan saying “on the ultimate test of hawkdom — the willingness to send U.S. troops into harm’s way — Reagan was no bird of prey”. After all Clinton sent troops on their next adventure, on average, only eighteen months after the last one.

In another example he points out that “courts in Florida indicted Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega for drug smuggling.” Supposedly “Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams — backed by his boss, George Shultz — began pushing for a U.S. invasion. Reagan refused and instead tried to convince Noriega to relinquish power in return for having the charges dropped.” Fairly he notes that “It was left to his supposedly “wimpy” successor, George H.W. Bush, to depose Noriega with 27,000 U.S. troops.”

We should all be wary of ill informed lazy caricatures, irrespective of of beliefs. Only when these are done away with will their be proper informed debate.

Someone needs to get their priorities right

18/07/2010

And they wonder why their not taken seriously in the real world with things like this! Not only is it irrelvant to how a company runs its also quite hard to do if your company only has a small number of women in it, what are they saying promote your secretary to the boardroom so they is better gender balance. If successful people enter any field their talents should be recgonised. Remeber this is from an organisation that only a few months ago was on the brink of breaking apart economically.

The future……..

18/07/2010

Stephen Walt notes five of the big(ger)  questions that will arise over the coming years and shape the future.

  1. Where is the EU project headed?
  2. Will states balance aganist China?
  3. What’s the relationship between U.S. defense spending, the deficit, and America’s economic health and well-being?
  4. If the U.S. disengaged from key areas in the Muslim world — most notably Iraq and Afghanistan — would the threat of anti-American terrorism rise or fall?
  5. Is the era of U.S. primacy over?

Walt mentions two possibilities, the EU could either come closer together, or drift apart. On a purely foreign relations lens, it is doubtful that the EU will grow any stronger. Do so it will have to engage with the nitty gritty world of hard power and sovereign states. It will have to engage with NATO, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if it is to have any hope of influencing the US, and make no mistake, the EU will be doing the influencing of the US and not the other way around. For that to happen the EU will basically need to come up with and agree on a foreign policy, have its own army and unified command structure as well as powerful highly respected officials who everyone EU “citizen” can not only name but also cares about. Not like what’s her face. Also to be taken seriously it helps if you can stay in the job for more than four hours.  

None of this is going to happen anytime soon, give it another ten or twenty years and maybe you might find the beginnings but the rest of the world will have moved on by then and the EU will do, like the UN, what it does best, flounder.

However, Walt then says something that always seems a bit strange, he says that whatever happens in Europe will matter “because the re-emergence of genuine power politics within Europe could force the United States to devote more attention to a continent that some argue is ‘primed for peace’ and no longer of much strategic concern”. The notion that real power politics will come back to Europe anytime soon in the form that was so prevelant on the continent in centuries past is unlikely. The continent is too emerged in its uber Enlightment world of post modernity, where the word idelogy is a bad word, not to mention the fact that the French and Germans have too much fun in telling everyone else in Europe how to live, why would they give that up. Besides, their own citizens, as well as most, if not all, of the rest of Europe are perfectly happy in their world of international law and geoeconomics to even think of returning to the real world. Even if America did withdraw all its troops tomorrow, nothing would happen. The French might be very pleased but no-one would care, because it wouldn’t return the continent to the nineneeth century, as people like Dr Walt think it would. 

His second point is more interesting when he discusses China. He says that “China’s rise is already provoking alarm in many of its neighbors, who look first to the United States and possibly to each other for assistance “. He says that ” If China gets really powerful, and the United States disengages entirely, some of China’s neighbors might be tempted to bandwagon with Beijing, thereby facilitating the emergence of a Chinese “sphere of influence” in Asia. But if China’s neighbors get support from each other and from the United States, then they’ll probably prefer to balance”, I can never see America just leave South-East Asia, the region is too important stragetically for the US to just pack up shop and leave it too the Chinese.

What will probably continue to happen is that while no state will directly challenge China, many will remain firm allies with the US, especially states like South Korea and Taiwan. He says that “the United States can pass a lot of the burden to Japan, India, Vietnam”, this is basicaly true yet it is important that the US act as a moderating influence in the region.

Walt in the third issue, rightly stresses the importance of the US deficit, and how it will impact how America acts in the future, now I’m no economist but even at the hieght of the War on Terror, the US was only spending about seven or eight percent on GDP on defence. He says that the “actual relationship between defense spending and economic well-being isn’t that clear-cut”. Things are going to have to change, if not now than the near future, a nation-wide tax on purchases is needed, if that means changing the Constitution so be it, and if that means annoying the Tea Partiers and Rush Limbaugh to close the deficit for the greater good fine. It not all going to go the Democrats way, regretably Social Security needs to be examined.

In the fourth major issue that Walt covers is the issue of current Islamic-US relations. He notes that “Some scholars, such as Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, argue that anti-American terrorism (and especially suicide terrorism) would decline if the Untied States ended these military campaigns and reduced its military ‘footprint’ in these regions”, while that may indeed be true, people would do well to remember that many of the US interventions, whether you agree with them or not, and for one I don’t, in the 1990s were on behalf of Muslims. Not only that but many of the local rulers in the region use America as a scapegoat for their own countries’ failed/failing economies and other services that states should provide but many of these leaders either can’t or refuse to. Now it is dangerous to draw broad conclusions on the relationship that the United States has with each country in the Middle East, or indeed their populations real feelings toward the US but at all times caution should be used.

Walt’s final issue is how powerful will the US be, and in many regards it is related to the third question, but in the near future (ten years) it can be safely assumed that the position of the US will remain predominant, if not unchallenged. As Walt himself says, “economy will be the world’s largest until 2030 at least, and its per capita income will be much higher than that of other potential rivals”. He then goes to say that “the position of primacy that the United States enjoyed in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet collapse has already eroded significantly and is unlikely to return”, yet apart from the prominance of other states and the liklihood of a new age of multipolarity the US is still dominant, indeed for now we remain in a basically unipolar world, or at least a multipolar world with one big power. He does make the sensible point that China “will not challenge the United States around the globe, but it is likely to challenge America’s current pre-eminence in East Asia”.

We’re in for interesting times ahead!

Mars, Venus and Jupiter?

13/07/2010

In an article published some time ago, the differences between the English and those on the European continent revealed some interesting notions.

The article states that “Charles de Gaulle declared in 1963. Britain is ‘insular, maritime, and linked by her exchanges, her markets and her supply routes to the most diverse and often the farthest-flung nations.’ Britain trades, it does not farm, the French president grumbled. Let them in, and the club will become a vast ‘Atlantic community’, ripe for American domination.” While only part of this is true – the UK is by defination a trading country, after all the British Raj started out as the East Indian Trading Co., however the notion that those in the UK are the same as Americans, or even worse, under their thumb is nonsense. For a start, the UK public are starting to get worried about the troops in Afghanistan and the government is coming under increasing pressure to end the mission there, unlike the Americans who have just sent in more troops. In some ways the British are equally mired in the “multilateral, transnational, secular, and postmodern fudge” that is the rest of Europe.

 The article rightly states that initally, the EU was “a club designed to meet purely continental goals such as containing Germany’s peaceful rise and modernising European farms”, indeed much of the early years of what is now the EU was spent containing West Germany in that postmodern fudge that seems to have worked well.

Importantly it says that ” Historians describe the English (more than the British) as unusually individualist and market-minded since medieval times, working for wages and trading property” and while all this is broadly true it still means that the UK is part of the EU. Crucially, “In much of Europe people look to the EU as a higher authority able to rescue them from dysfunctional local rulers, notes one ambassador. Britain, he says, is one of the few countries whose voters assume domestic administration is superior to the EU’s”, and it is this superiority that makes the UK so like the Americans, and beyond the infantile caricature of de Gaulle’s. However, that does not mean that this belief will last forever.

It goes on to say that after the recent crisis of the euro, which I somehow doubt is over yet, EU officials “found it humiliating when President Barack Obama publicly urged EU leaders to shore up the currency. Outside the euro, Britons are more detached” not only physically from the EU, but from its “project”, many have little sympathy, if any, for its overall goals.

However, the article gets the the nub of the issue, while “Nordics are free-traders who joined late and believe their national standards to be higher than Europe’s. Lots of east Europeans look to America for their security. Germany and Austria have their own Brussels-bashing tabloids. Sweden and Denmark both declined to join the euro” the British have other options, or at least believe they do, “If a common EU foreign policy fails, Britain is still on the UN Security Council. If the euro collapses, Britain has the pound. Should EU regulation get too burdensome, there is always the chance of opt-outs”.

Fundamentally “Europe will survive only if it acts more like a maritime power, its eyes fixed on growth and the far horizon. And Britain is needed to defend the free movement of people, goods, services and capital in the internal market. Walking away from the EU would not make either the club or its rules go away. In short, Britain and Europe are stuck with each other.”

Perhaps its time to update the, “Americans are from Mars … Europeans are from Venus” addadge, maybe Europeans are from Venus, British from Mars are the Americans are from Jupiter?

Failure of the UN, again

12/07/2010

In something I just love talking about, the UN, it yet again makes a strong case against itself. In a recent report issued by the august body on the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel, despite the international investigators report clearly laying blame on the North Koreans, the UN report said that, “In view of the findings of the Joint Civilian-Military Investigation Group led by the Republic of Korea with the participation of five nations, which concluded that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was responsible for sinking the Cheonan, the Security Council expresses its deep concern”.

Predictably the North Korean’s responded to the fudge saying that “North Korea’s permanent representative to the UN told reporters in New York afterwards that the text was a ‘”great diplomatic victory’. ‘From the beginning of the incident we have made our position very clear that this incident has nothing to do with us,’ Sin Son-ho said.” Apparently, “Correspondents say the omission of blame helped ensure China’s support.”

In their cogently argued book After Bush, Lynch and Singh argue that the UN “operates an international egalitarianism – Zimbabwe chairs the Commission on Sustainable Development, Saudi Arabia adjudicates on human rights”, and it is this ruthless equality, they say, where every state is treated equally, that makes the UN such a failure, it is relativism par excellence. However,  personally, it is irrelevant that Saudi Arabia talks about human rights, it is the fact that there is nothing to back its decrees up with. It is a dangerous world and security must always be the first concern. The fact that it has nothing to enforce its will as has been witnessed by the recent toothless sanctions on Iran or the anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica, will both attest to its powerlessness. America, both the GOP and Democrats, understands this and works around the UN, its called NATO, when it needs to, remember the Kosovo bombings that didn’t get UN sanction, but when the UN works with the US, which is rare, then it will happily work within the system.

What comes out of this is how do liberals still believe in it? Are they just blinded by the desire for everyone to get along, or do they genuinely believe that the UN is the place where poblems get solved? Either way I shudder to imagine what a foreign policy would look like with the UN at its heart – just look at the EU “foreign policy”.

Three years of Summorum Pontificum

07/07/2010

Today marks the third anniversary of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum. While the debates have started over the motu proprio and its effectiveness, what is clear is that the lifting of the restrictions on the Tridentine Mass was the right thing to do. No Catholic should have to difficultly in finding a Latin Mass, let alone having restrictions placed on it either by diocesan ordinaries or those in the Roman Curia, in direct contravention to the wishes of Pope Benedict.

The report on the availability of the TLM shows progress throughout the world, but sometimes and many on the Catholic right will have to get this into their heads that there is sometimes just no demand. Whatever one makes of the liturgical spirit of Pope Benedict and the sometimes cogent arguments against them no Catholic should have difficultly in accessing the “most beautiful thing this side of Heaven”.

For that we should be grateful.

Consistory 2010?

07/07/2010

Today marks the 80th birthday of Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington D.C. who thus loses his voting rights in any future conclave. So the current total voting complement as of today stands at 107 with Paul Cardinal Poupard, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Culture next on the list to reach 80.

There has been much talk for at least six months that there would be a consistory to fill the 19 vacant slots in the electoral college of 120 that will come vacant by the end of the year. However, there has been talk recently that Benedict will instead wait until mid 2011 and thus be able to fill six more in the College of Cardinals. As Rocco points out, “between the present and the end of 2012, another whole quarter of the voting College — some 30 cardinals — will superannuate; add in the dozen who’ve turned 80 since the 2007 consistory, and the figure exceeds a third of the eventual papal electorate.”

Benedict may indeed wait but there is a chance that there could be a consistory this year as planned. Like most things in depends on timing i.e. the pope’s, but talk has been circulating that Archbishop Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints since July 2008 could succeed Franc Cardinal Rode as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

If this were to take place, it would mean that Benedict would have to find someone else to take over at Saints, and that means that the new Saints prefect would then give the all important  “indirizzo d’omaggio” the customary address of gratitude to the Pope in the name of the class of new cardinals, at the consistory as it is ranked higher than the CICLSAL dicastry. With Amato still close to Benedict it would be unlikely that such an event would be allowed to happen, seeing as protocol is so important.  

What could just as easily happen is that Benedict could decide to go over the limit of 120 electors but would only do so until April 2011 when it would return to the “limit” of 120. Not that he could just decide to hold it in June 2011, or leave Amato where he is in Saints, but for now it looks like the temptation not to hold a consistory this year will be too great.

The case for monarchy

06/07/2010

The weakness of democracy shows itself again. The case of an Irish MP using his power to subvert what is clearly a case of the common good. The Minster for the Environment, John Gormley, is using his power to delay “the planned Poolbeg incinerator in Dublin’s docklands, or the energy-from-waste project as its promoters prefer to call it. At stake is the city’s future waste disposal system, its natural environment, hundreds of jobs, Ireland’s image as a place to do business and a potentially massive bill to the taxpayer”. 

The article says that “Gormley is an inveterate opponent of the project, as are TDs from all parties in Dublin South East where it is located”. Even worse “Gormley has made no secret of the fact that he is not going to allow the project to get off the ground under any circumstances while he is Minister for the Environment and one of his latest moves has been to employ a senior counsel to try to pick holes in the contracts”.

As Collins in the piece says, “Apart from refusing to sign the foreshore licence, the Minister has also moved to undermine the Poolbeg plan through the introduction of waste facility levies designed to penalise large incinerator projects. Forfás, the IDA and Enterprise Ireland have made a submission to Gormley opposing the measure and pointing out the damage it will do to job creation as well as the waste-energy market.”

Collins makes the point that “It is extraordinary that one Minister can simply block the project indefinitely, regardless of national policy, EU policy and legal considerations. Given his clear conflict of interest on the issue Gormley should never have been put in a position where through the exercise of his official functions he could simply hold up the project for as long as he remained in office.”

Yet, the minster will not recuse himself from office, nor will he be removed from office due to the nature of the governemnt the currently operates in Ireland and its precarious position. There is a case for another authority, independent of political or electoral considerations to see the common good in this case comes to fruition, either by overruling Gormley or if he refuses to dismiss him from office. Many would argue that a president or even another government body would be just as good or even better than a monarchy, yet a monarchy is meant to be the very embodiment of the state and while the days of absolute monarchy are thankfully over, a monarch is seen more as independent of whatever current government holds the power in the legislature, and thus would make a better executive, freer to make the unpopular decisions that would be for the betterment of the citizens.

Then however, we are back to the old question of quis custodiet ipsos custodes? 

Ideological purity gone too far?

04/07/2010

Firstly, happy Independence Day.

In a piece written some time ago examining the tea party movement, David Frum argues that the tea party is costing the GOP many of the independents that it needs to win in the upcoming midterms and on to 2012.

This raises an interesting point, just how far should parties bend their policies to the electorate and what, if any, principles should or could be ditched for the prize that is political office? Frum compares the Senate elections in Ohio and Illinois where he says “In Illinois they have Mark Kirk – a socially moderate, fiscally conservative member of Congress, who represents the suburbs north of Chicago. In Ohio, the Republican candidate is Rob Portman, a former US Trade Representative and White House budget chief”.

Frum contrasts these with “Kentucky and Nevada, [where] Tea Party activists won nominations for two of their own: Rand Paul and Sharron Angle. Both have aligned themselves with an array of wild positions. Mrs Angle wants to abolish social security and Medicare and has spoken favourably of armed insurrection against the federal government”. He understandably dismisses the candidate in Nevada, who Harry Reid must be thanking his lucky stars for. Frum says that “Mrs Angle’s problem seems less that she is kooky and more that she cannot speak without saying something foolish. Republican leaders have barred her from speaking to the press until she is ‘ready’ – which they acknowledge may take some weeks”. While of the contest of Kentucky, he makes the point that “On the day Rand Paul won the GOP nomination, he led the Democratic nominee Jack Conway by almost 30 points. Mr Paul now leads by only six – and Mr Conway has not yet launched his negative ads.”

He sums it up succiently saying “while moderates have held two and gained one, the Tea Party radicals may have lost one and thrown away another.”

However, there must be some fundmental tenets from which a political party must not deviate if they are to have any credibility with themselves as a party, or with the electorate. In one sense what the principles comprise of is irrelevant. What is interesting about the tea party movement is that it refuses to alter its message for the voters, irrespective of the electoral results, which is highly admirable. Instead of a party, or section within a party, trying to get into office by telling the electors what they in essence want to hear, the tea party movement resolutely sticks to its principles and waits for the electorate to follow it.

Now doing away with social security and Medicare might be a step too far but, irrespective of how successful this movement is, and I think Mr Frum is broadly correct in his analysis, you have to admire the passion of the convictions they hold.

Koch to Unity

01/07/2010

As expected, Kurt Koch of Basel was named to take over from Walter Cardinal Kasper. Now all that’s left is Clergy, Religious, Cor Unum and maybe, Peoples.