Archive for December, 2010

Bandar the king-maker

31/12/2010

Following on from a recent post on the Saudi succession noted Saudi expert Simon Henderson comments on the al-Saud competition of a new generation of princes who are within striking distance of real power. His example, is Prince Bandar bin Sultan, formerly ambassador to the US and now serving as the head of the Saudi National Security Council.

Henderson says that “around 2008, Bandar vanished from the public eye. Exactly what caused Bandar to fall out of political favor remains unclear, but he had acquired no shortage of enemies”. Henderson notes that Prince Bandar was weclomed by the son of Crown Prince Sultan, who is currently assistant minister of defence as well as the son of Prince Nayef who heads the Interior ministry as well as others. Whatever happened Bandar seems to be very much back in favour.

He makes the point that “people who actually know what is going on in the Saudi royal family don’t talk about it — and people who talk about it don’t know what is going on”. Bandar’s health is questionable and as Henderson says the “most prosaic explanation for his return is that, after convalescing in Morocco, where his father, Crown Prince Sultan, is vacationing, he has recovered and has now come home”.

He argues that “despite an outward facade of stability, the House of Saud is in turmoil over succession”. He describes the Crown Prince thus, “though Sultan can still stand, life is essentially one long senior moment”.  Next in line Prince Nayef however is not exactly spotless, he has accused Jews of masterminding the 11th September attacks in New York. Henderson goes on to predict a number of changes notably, “Crown Prince Sultan will give up his long-held post of defense minister, handing the portfolio to his son (and Bandar’s half brother), Prince Khalid bin Sultan”. Apparently the long serving foreign minster Prince Saud al-Faisal will resign also due to health problems, it is speculated that Prince Turki al-Faisal will take over. Prince Turki served as ambasssador to the UK and then head of Saudi intelligence.

 The article posits the theory that Khalid al-Faisal, half brother to Prince Turki and current foreign minister Prince Saud “will most likely emerge as a future king”. Henderson says that “Prince Nayef is expected to be made crown prince upon Sultan’s death or even before. However, he is said to be still recovering from a bout of cancer, which could mean he would not become king”. It would seem hard to remove Sultan as crown prince however there is a powerful argument for retiring him quickly.

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Election annihilation?

30/12/2010

Is this the end of Fianna Fail? It has been commented on here before, however a recent poll puts the major government party on 13%. This has been translated to the party getting twelve of the 166 seats in the parliament (the party are currently on 77 seats). The next Irish general election is due next year, possibly February or March, although it has been predicted that it could be as late as April or May.

According to the poll other parties are on Fine Gael 32%, Labour 24%, Green Party 3%, Sinn Fein 16%. These numbers translate into seats with Fine Gael getting 67 seats, Labour on 48, Green Party 0, Sinn Fein receiving 24.

What is notable is the destruction of the Green Party that these polls predict. Opinion poll data should be treated with great care, and it is entirely possible that the FF will get a few more seats than these numbers suggest but it is impossible to see the party going anywhere quickly. It has been noted that “Fianna Fail’s tendency to run more than one candidate in all constituencies would see the party declining support being split between two or more candidates, most of which will probably be incumbents, which could even see Fianna Fail seat losses being further exacerbated”.

Taking these poll numbers that would leave the most likely government of Fine Gael and Labour with 115 seats, which according to some is “an overweening majority would threaten our democracy”. The writer suggests two other possiblities, either a coalition of Labour, Sinn Fein and 10 independents who would have 82 seats, or a FF/FG coalition with 5 independents would have 84 seats. Neither of these however are realistic as FG would never go into government with FF, despite having the same policies, and it would spell the end of FG, though would make ideological sense, but FG would be allowing FF to return to government. While the first option posited by the writer is less likely to happen.

However in a mood reminiscent of the recent midterms, the public are “as mad as hell”, so in truth any prediction is just that, a prediction.

Hypocrisy of the Holy See

27/12/2010

 It is part of being human that we are all at times hypocritical. However, we tend to see the hypocrisy of others much faster than our our. An example of this was seen in the recent revelations in Wikileaks  which concern the Holy See who has long been a backer of international law and the implicit idea that all states should be policed to a universal enforceable code.   

Yet, when things go against their will they understandably invoke the status as a sovereign state. This was seen when “the Vatican felt ‘offended’ that Ireland failed to respect Holy See ‘sovereignty’ by asking high-ranking churchmen to answer questions from an Irish commission probing decades of sex abuse of minors by clergy”. It is important to bear in mind that the Catholic Church in Ireland has suffered greatly over the last years with State offiicial reports into how the institution covered up the sexual and physical abuse of children.  

The fact that the current Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland refused to appear before a parliamentary committee on the Rome’s actions before and after the publication of the reports in 2009. The wires say that “Ireland wanted to be seen as fully supportive of the independent probe into child-abuse cover-ups in the Dublin Archdiocese, but its Rome officials also didn’t want to intervene in the probe’s efforts to get information from the Vatican”.

Amazingly it is reported that “Irish diplomats in Rome decided not to press Vatican officials to respond to questions from the panel, which was led by an Irish judge and operated independently of Ireland’s government. It sent letters to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Vatican’s ambassador to Ireland seeking information on Vatican officials’ knowledge of cover-ups, but got no replies”. The fact that the government was complict in aiding and abetting the Holy See in its diplomatic sumersaults, is bizarre. The Irish government had nothing to lose, and much to gain from at least attemping to get the Church to match their words with actions.  

In a statement issued last Saturday, the Press Office of the Holy See said that the otherwise secret cable “reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself”.

“However, when the word still had some shape and consistency, a difficult choice meant to accept difficult consequences in the form of suffering, disapproval of others, ostracism, punishment and guilt. Without this choice was believed to have no signifance” 228 closing

Verbum caro factum est!

25/12/2010

“With the poor and mean and lowly, lived on earth our Saviour Holy”

Happy Christmas!

In search of the common good

21/12/2010

In these times of economic hardship the power of trades union understandably comes to the fore. As has been said here before it is right that these organisations look out for their members and stop any unjust exploitation. Yet in the face of the biggest economic and demographic shift for sixty years things, sadly, must change.

Some unions are only out to see that their members get paid as much as possible for as little work as possible and seem to disregard the social contract entirely. In a notable but not uncommon case whole transportt networks grind to a halt along with the cities that they are meant to serve. This is intolerable and needs to be stopped.

Another example taken from the UK Economist notes that “as bonfire night approaches, Britons are warned about the dangers of fireworks and accidental conflagrations. This year Londoners would do well to pay close attention. On November 1st around 5,500 firemen downed hoses for an eight-hour strike as part of a dispute over working hours”.  This is as the magazine says, “Choosing Bonfire Night is deliberately provocative: London’s firemen typically deal with three times as many calls on November 5th as on normal nights”.

As a result of this an English MP has said that “thinks firemen should be forbidden from striking, on the grounds that they provide an essential service. Soldiers, policemen and prison warders are already barred. Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, suggested in October that Tube workers (who walked out on November 2nd in an unrelated dispute) should be included in the proscription, too”. The article notes that the Confederation of British Industry, an employers’ body, wants the law changed to make it harder to strike, by requiring at least 40% of union members to vote in a strike ballot for it to be lawful”.  Such a demand is not unreasonable and should be implemented.

It notes that “British union laws are already among the toughest in the developed world, says Richard Hyman of the London School of Economics. In contrast to other European countries such as France and Italy, Britain’s common law recognises no formal right to strike. In theory, unions can be sued for inducing workers to breach their contracts”.

Should union extremism continue, as is entirely possible, the idea of a strike licence should be implemented which would give the State the power to allow unions the right to strike for a strict period of time after certain conditions have been met. This would allow fairness and the common good to be provided for in increasingly unstable world.

Wise words

18/12/2010

“Now, when we speak of the right to chioce, we mean that there are no necesary consequences, that disapproval is only prejudice and guilt only a neurosis” pg228.

Closing of the American Mind

Liberalism’s increasing irrationality

16/12/2010

In the continuing story of the illogical sumersaults of liberals where equality doesn’t quite mean equality comes another example. Equality means a different kind of preferential treatment. One of the recent examples of this is the Equality Act passed in the UK just before the 2010 general election. If it had passed in its original form it would have forced various religious organisations to, especially the Catholic Church, to have women “priests”. This proposal was eventually dropped as were others.  

One of the examples that was orginally to be enacted was that of affirmative action where men with the same qualifications as women can be rejected from jobs in preference to female rivals. Now however as part of the coalition government, the first in the UK for over sixty years, the measure has been brought back at the instagition of the Liberal Democrats. Apparently, “The move is primarily aimed at addressing female under-representation in the workforce. It came as new figures showed that the number of women on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies has barely increased in the past three years”.  Surely it is up to companies to decide who to hire and assuming they do not break basic laws about discrimination it should be irrelevant as to who companies hire.

The law would mean that “a primary school with no male teachers could hire to male candidate who is of equal merit to a female candidate.” It is basic logic that some professions are more atractive to women and so with men. Therefore it should come as no supise that there will be more women nurses than men, and so with the armed forces.

David Green of the think tank “Civitas, said it imposed ‘illiberal requirements on employers’. He said: ‘For centuries liberals have fought for individuals to be judged on their own merits not according to their class or race. The Government is now to require employers to discriminate on grounds of ‘group identity’ not personal qualities. If two candidates of equal merit apply for a job then it should go the candidate from the ‘under-represented’ group.'” The news article quotes Green who said “Why aren’t people with ginger hair and obesity included in the Act? They surely suffer as much discrimination as people who have swapped their gender.” Logically all people would be included.  

The underlying logic however is the attempt to destory the who concept of gender itself. It is the direct result of the French Revolution that we are suffering with this nonsense today.

What goes up must come down

13/12/2010

Amid much talk from nearly all levels of society the continuing rise of China is rightly, on people’s minds. The size, technology and increasing wealth of the country are all worthwhile reasons as to its success over the last decades.

However, as has been reported recently, a hedge fund manager “has told potential investors in a presentation that China is in the ‘late stages of an enormous credit bubble’.  When this bursts, the financier said he expects an ‘economic fall-out’ that will be as ‘extraordinary as China’s economic out-performance over the last decade'”.

The article says that “the financier argues that ‘inappropriately low interest rates and an artificially suppressed exchange rate’ have created dangerous bubbles”. The hedge fund manager says that “the market belief that the Chinese government has ‘ample resources’ to bail out its banks is flawed. Corriente’s analysis of the ratio of China government debt to GDP comes out at 107pc – five times higher than official published numbers. The hedge fund says this number uses ‘conservative assumptions’ and the real figure could be as high as 200pc. The result is that, rather than being the ‘key engine for global growth’, China is an ‘enormous tail-risk'”.

As a result of this there will, if he is correct, and eventually he will be proved right, as all bubble burts, be huge consequences, not just economic but also political. The Chinese government which has been one of the major buyers of US government debt would cease overnight causing the world’s largest economy in the United States to have massive inflation. This could lead to the collapse of the dollar and it may lead to a default seeing as the budget deficit in the US is so vast.

In addition to the economic outcome, the economic growth on which Chinese social order rests will be ripped apart, with massive social demonsrations and riots engulfing the much of the country not difficult to imagine. This could lead to the overthrow of the Communist government which could in turn impact on the stability of North Korea and the Korean penninsula generally.

We never learn.

Cardinal Rode’s retirement

10/12/2010

Talk of the retirement of Franc Cardinal Rode as prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has been around for some time. He submitted his resignation on turning 75 in August 2009.

Since that time a number of candidates names have been mentioned, including Archbishop Ricardo Ezzati Andrello SDB of Concepcion, his candidacy seems to be diminishing. Now however other names are coming to the fore including most notably Jorge Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, S.J. of Buenos Aires and Oscar Andrés Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga, S.D.B of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Another prelate who gets a mention is Archbishop Charles Joseph Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. of Denver.

There is another candidate however.  Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J. who is currently serving as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In appointing Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer to the position of prefect it would take care of a long standing custom that ensures the CDF secretary be appointed to a position that recieves a red hat. However seeing as he was only appointed to the CDF in July 2008 it is unlikely that he will change jobs just yet. He will probably take over at the Congregation for Catholic Education when Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski retires sometime in 2014, or more likely 2015.

That leaves Cardinal Bergoglio, Cardinal Rodríguez Maradiaga and Archbishop Chaput. It is strange that Cardinal Bergolglio even gets a mention as he is 74 on 17 December and would only have two or three years in charge.

And then there were two.

44th or 45th?

09/12/2010

In an informative piece from The Economist, looking ahead at the 2012 and the next president of the United States. He has argues that President Obama will probably be the Democratic nominee and he implicitly says that he’ll win in two years time.

He says that after the widely acknowledged victory of the GOP in the 2010 midterms, with the House changing hands again, for the second time in four years, which has been noted as the most rapid turnover in sixty years. He says that “after the wine of victory has been drunk and the party begins to sober up, the job will come to look trickier again. That is because although the voters spoke this week, nobody can be sure what they intended to say”. Part of the result comes from voter frustation with politicans in general in addition to the state of the economy. However to say anymore than that would be to generalise.

Jerry Brown won in California  because Meg Whitman was essentially buying the election, while the anti-establishment Rand Paul in Kentucky won becuase of the Tea Party. Rob Portman who couldn’t have been anymore establishment had nothing to do with the Tea Party in Ohio but was still elected to the Senate, while Lincoln Chafee won in Rhode Island as in independent. It is extremely difficult to unite such disperate people and states into a single narrative. As Lexington says “were they voting for the Republicans, or against the Democrats?”.

He looks to 2012 noting that the GOP are in a bind, “If the Republicans end up nominating an insurgent for the presidency, they risk alienating the voter in the centre. But if they choose a more conventional candidate they risk extinguishing the fire that lit up the mid-terms. A mistake could give Mr Obama a fair chance of being re-elected in 2012”. What the GOP could do that would defuse this potential crisis would be to take a Tea Partier and stick him with an establishment candidate such as Mitch Daniels or Rob Portman. However there would be concerns about the stability of the ticket.

The article goes on to mention that the person who is most divisive is of course Sarah Palin, yet as it says “she could win if Michael Bloomberg, New York’s mayor, ran as an independent, thus depriving Mr Obama of a majority in the electoral college and leaving the final vote to the Republican-controlled House”. The article comes up with former speaker of the House, Dr Newt Gingrich, as someone who could rally the base yet it also notes how “A man who cheated on one of his three wives while seeking to impeach Mr Clinton over the Lewinsky affair, and divorced another when she was in hospital with cancer, is bound to repel the more fastidious sort of vote”.

The column mentions the usual candidates Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, with Chris Christie of New Jersey getting mentioned along side Rick Perry of Texas. Yet it points to dark clouds on the horizon for the GOP. It says that ideological purity in such a large and diverse country comes at a price. If the GOP can’t find a chameleon “here lie the seeds of a possible Republican civil war that might, just might, let the Democrats hold on to the White House in 2012, despite their beating”. This seems to be a hope as much as a prediction.

We’ll soon find out.

Relativism reigns

06/12/2010

Society seems to have lost the notion of right and wrong;  relativism reigns. The signs for this are everywhere but most recently there was a report that stated that “Some 51 per cent of teenage criminals currently in custody said they had not done anything inside that would make them less likely to reoffend on release”.

It is the supposed equality that comes from the French Revolution that we seem to have to have lost all proportion of good order. People must be punished for crimes they commit, yet every attempt should be made to assist their re-integration into society. However it is also imcumbent on society that it must make them think twice about commiting a crime again.

It has been said before and rightly so, that many of these criminals have little else to do except crime. Many come from broken homes and bad neighbourhoods, another sign of relativism where no relationship is beyond the pale. This coupled with people’s increasing inability to condemn and correct wrong behviour and a lack of discipline as well as the environment they grow up in often drag them into lawlessness. The role of social stigma, in addition to proper punishment can discourage them both before, and after, they have committed their crimes is vital.

Importantly many criminals do not fear prison – this is essential and should be a key plank of reducing crime. Again however the criminals “human rights” would be trampled on so it is difficult for governments to put into practice.  

Some criminals, especially in Europe, who take a person’s life, get a “life sentance”, however this means ten to twenty years and then release after “good behaviour”. Relativism reigns and it shows. 

It is imperative that this cancer be tackled before the rot destroys what is left.

Western terrorism

06/12/2010

Assange is a threat to national security and must be arrested.

Time for the EU to grow up

05/12/2010

In an interesting but somewhat misguided article on the Irish relationship with the EU argues that the euro is in for some difficult times ahead.

The author notes how Ireland has recently recieved a bailout from the EU, basically France and Germany. However, since Ireland was given a loan of the money at a sizable interest rate, that could, and probably should, yet lead to default, Ireland should not be exaulting the ECB just yet.  

He argues “The accusation, which is popular among some Irish pundits, is that Germany flooded Ireland with cheap money to get the Irish hooked before jacking up the price”. The Irish crash was as much Ireland’s fault as that of the ECB. Ireland grew too reliant on low interest rates, coupled with a treasonous government, which were set up so Germans would spend their money and equally the ECB did nothing to stop this until when it went into panic mode. Now “for once, the markets, are correct” when they take a long term view of the PIGS and see that the debts they have accumulated, in part thanks to low interest rates, will bury these countries in debt while the EU fiddles.  

Importantly he does mention that there is a latent hostility which is “an indication that Ireland has fallen out of love with the EU? Prof Brigid Laffan of University College Dublin suggests that happened at least a decade ago, citing the failed Nice and Lisbon votes [democracy EU style]. The feeling doing the rounds that Ireland was ‘done over’ on the loans is symptomatic of another traumatic shift in our relationship with the European institutions, regardless of the economic debate on the terms”.

The jounrnalist says that “Pointing the finger at the euro zone or Germany for Ireland’s economic meltdown is understandable, she says, but disingenuous. ‘Blaming others for the situation in which we find ourselves is the worst possible thing we could do now,’ says Laffan. ‘It will damage us.'” However he ignores the fact the the chancellor of Germany, Dr Angela Merkel has refused to contemplate allowing bondholders to take losses on their investments, the so called haircuts that have been spoken of. This is to the detriment of all periphal nations and brings “us back to the bad old days of complete dependency”.

Yet part of the reason for these defeats, where the EU is generally extremely popular, is that there is no real debate on EU issues. This lack of debate occurs not only between the political parties, which are errily similar on this matter, in addition to agreeing on many other issues also, but in civil society more generally. It is almost a heresy to even question the EU and its motives in what is meant to be a rational, open country. This helps explain why when people do have a chance to engage with the EU many see is as a reason to punish the governing party or use it to their own political ends. Thus, because there is no real criticism in ordinary times, when there is a referendum in Ireland the debate gets skewed and dominated who otherwise wouldn’t have a platform. This is witnessed across many nations of the EU. For example “in Germany, where a new book entitled Save Our Money! breaks several postwar taboos by calling for a break-up of the euro zone to protect German national interests. The book taps into national anxiety that, after sacrificing the Deutschmark on the altar of European integration, Germans have tied themselves to an EU economic black hole. The view is gaining ground, even in Berlin, where the politicians express support for Ireland in public while seething with anger in private”. These particular “taboos” should never exist and are ultimately unhealthy – to have them in a nation that basically is the EU gives unquestioned authority to unelected people who do as they see fit. Peoples have little voice and thus the extremes strive.  

The writer says in a mournful tone that “At Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet table in Berlin, the only full-blooded European politician is also the one most likely to retire soon: finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble. Some political watchers fear that his departure will mark the end of the postwar German connection to Europe”. This is instead great news  and should be welcomed by any right minded person.

The problem is that “The single currency fixed a fundamental historical problem in Ireland by providing easy access to capital”. Yet  such was the desire for economic and then political union irrespective of the costs, it meant admitting counties with different cultures and resulting the mess we have today.

If this continues the future of the EU is, justifiably bleak.

Modernity’s intolerance

03/12/2010

Shortly after the annoucement of the wedding of HRH Prince William of Wales to Catherine Middleton there has been talk that the next child, irrespective of gender is to be next in line to the throne.

The article states that the “ancient rule of primogeniture, which puts male children ahead of females, irrespective of age, may be ‘discriminatory’, according to ministers who have begun talks to reform the system”. What is so dangerous is that modern people are using modern minds to judge those who lived several hundred years ago. Surely this too is “discriminatory”?

The situation in the United Kingdom is quite complex as it would be hard to untangle the succession law without “The 1701 Act of Settlement, which bans Catholics from the throne and bars monarchs from marrying Catholics” coming up for discussion, or even abolition. If this were the case, it would mean that word that worries conservatives most – revolution, albeit constitutional revolution but revolution nonetheless.

This is however not the only case where there has been this push. Most recently in 2009 there was a referendum in Denmark which changed the succession law, so that the children of Prince Christian would inherit the Danish throne regardless of gender.    

There is a strange desire, even drive, in society that everything must comply with rationality and those institutions that do not must be done away with or radically reformed almost beyond recognition. The case of having monarchy acquiesce with modernity is just such a case. Such an ancient institution is welcome in such times of change and upheaveal but this does not mean that it should not be forced to adhere to modernity so rigidly. There must be some flexibility in modernity or else no monarchy in Europe would exist at all. Such a world would be a very dull one.

Pragmatic or naive?

01/12/2010

A post by Stephen Walt, that seems to confirm his bizarre brand of realism, argues that America is too secure.  

Walt states a basic tenet of realism that “Because there is no agency or institution that can protect states from each other, realists generally view security as the highest aim of states”. However he goes on to say that “being too secure has a downside: It allows U.S. politicians to do and say a lot of stupid things without thinking that they might actually be putting the country at risk. Case in point: the Republican Party’s absurd objections to the New Start treaty with Russia”. However, while this is somewhat true, realists also believe that world to be anarchic (no world government to maintain order) and thus dangerous. Any limitations on state actions must be met with extreme caution, this seems to be what the GOP are doing.

Dr Walt says that the new START treaty is “a modest agreement that will save us some money in the long-term, reduce strategic uncertainty, make it easier to enlist Russian cooperation on other issues”. If this is truly the case while maintaining the overwhelming power of the United States, then there is no reason why it should not be passed. However Dr Walt shoots himself in the foot when he starts throwing mud saying “none of that matters to today’s Grand Obstructionist Party”.

He importantly reminds readers that there is, and never will be such a thing as perfect security, he does argue however that “because the United States doesn’t have to worry very much about protecting its own shores from a serious military challenge, it is free to run around the world getting involved in various problems, even when it has lost sight of any underlying strategic rationale and has no clear idea why it is doing these things”. While this is true only the rarest of cases, the case has been made that the United States is by a large margin a force for good in the world, and the world would be far more dangerous and unstable if it were to either just withdraw as the UN hopes, or were to be less active.  

As with many things a balance needs to be struck. Yet it would seem strange given his arguments that America is too secure.