Archive for August, 2011

Pro-Grand Master

30/08/2011

After the resignation of Cardinal Foley as  Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem it had been speculated that the role would pass to either Archbishop Bertello or Cardinal Lajolo.

Yesterday however Pope Benedict appointed an unusual choice, Archbishop Edwin Frederick O’Brien. Rocco notes that Archbishop O’Brien, 72,  formerly of Baltimore, is the second American in a row to lead the thousand year old order. He mentions that “a plurality of the Holy Sepulchre’s global cadre of knights and dames live on these [U.S.] shores” and so having another American lead the order made sense.

Rocco continues saying that the appointment is an “unprecedented nod for a residential archbishop — until now, Holy Sepulchre chiefs have invariably come from the ranks of the Roman Curia or Holy See diplomatic corps”.  The main reason for the move, he notes that O’Brien’s “record of distinguished service to the wider church, most notably in overseeing the 2005-6 Apostolic Visitation of US seminaries at the Vatican’s behest. It’s likewise a pointed vindication of O’Brien’s 2008 move to take on the now-scandal scarred Legionaries of Christ, whose activity in Baltimore was placed under significant restrictions by the archbishop”.

O’Brien has been appointed as Pro-Grand Master, like Cardinal Foley, until the next consistory when after his creation, O’Brien would drop the Pro. The consistory will also include Archbishop Dolan of New York. The timing is as yet unknown but the most likely dates are either around the Feast of SS Peter and Paul, the end of June, or on 8 December, the Feast of Immaculate Conception, when Eusébio Oscar Cardinal Scheid, S.C.I. turns 80 and loses his voting rights.

More harassment

30/08/2011

More Chinese harassment of priests and laity of the real Catholic Church in China.

Their own worst enemy

28/08/2011

It seems as if the Germans are their own worst enemy. The crisis that has engulfed the euro, which is almost entirely their own fault is bringing about severe disruptions within their own political class.

Firstly, the president of Germany, Christian Wulff has, somewhat out of form, attacked  the European Central  Bank. Wulff effectively criticised, the ECB which has been buying the debt of imperiled nations. He said that the ECB should not buy any more of debt from these countries, arguing that “What is actually being called for in this context? … For whom would you personally stand guarantor … For your children? — I hope so! For more distant relations? — ah now it gets a bit more difficult,” he said. “Perhaps we would stand guarantor if that was the only way to give the other person a chance to get back on his feet. … Even a guarantor can behave immorally if he is just putting off inevitable insolvency.” Such words would not have been spoken years ago, but this is a different age.

Worse for German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, her political mentor has sharply chastised her policies, or lack thereof. Helmut Kohl in an interview  lashed out at his protege saying that “‘Where is Germany now and where does it want to go? It’s a question being asked by our partners and allies abroad,’ said Kohl. ‘We have to return – urgently – to our old dependability. We have to make clear for others what we stand for, where we’re headed, and that we know where we belong.'”

Merkel, ever cautious, has been famous for her lack of ideological baggage, now however, this lack of any firm convictions and political beliefs is causing her serious problems.

Kohl continues, in a lame attempt to salvage his own ruined political reputation, by blaming others for the current euro crisis. He said “denied allowing an error in the single-currency construction by letting monetary union proceed before fiscal and political union. ‘We reached what was doable in the circumstances,’ he said. Today’s euro-zone problems he attributed to two errors made by his successor, Gerhard Schröder: Greece’s admission to the euro zone without ambitious reforms and Berlin’s breach of the Stability Pact. Moving to the present, he blamed current euro-zone difficulties on an EU with ‘too few actors of political conviction'”.

This frankly feeble excuse ignores the fact that Kohl was one of the key players during the creation of the euro. By refusing to have both political and fiscal union the Eurocrats were implicitly accepting that they could not get their populations to reject their own nationalisms, however latent, and accept a federal European superstate. Kohl is correct that much of the blame lies with what happened after but the poor foundations doomed the project from its inception.

Merkel is being criticsed by her own party the Christian Democrat Union (CDU) which the article reporting that a “recent survey showed that 52 per cent of CDU voters think their party has no clear profile”.

This lack of “profile” can mainly be attributed to a lack of clear ideological beliefs, which have become ever more important. The crisis in the euro however is down to a refusal to accept the power of nationalism.

To be expected

28/08/2011

Presidential candidate Rick Perry’s controversial stance on some gay issues.

The need for ideology

26/08/2011

In a blog post Toby Young examines the problem of the Left. Yet, problems for the Left mean problems for society and therefore the common good itself.

While is thesis is not new it is especailly pertinent. He notes that “Labour’s success has traditionally been dependent on an alliance between the traditional working-class and middle-class liberals and that coalition has now collapsed”. It is the radically divergent views of these two groups that lie at the heart of the problem, with the middle class moving further left, especially on social issues, while what is left of the working class is being courted by various shades of Right. Taking the UK example with fascist, BNP, small state nationalists such as the United Kingdom Independence Party in addition to the Conservative Party.  

Indeed it was Tony Blair who revolutionised the Labour Party by bringing it much further to the Right than he should have but the electoral success was undeniable winning three general elections in a row. Young notes that Labour lost the 2010 election and while this is due to both economic and other factors he argues that “the Social Democrats were by the Swedes, polling their lowest share of the vote since universal suffrage was introduced in 1921. This was the first time in the Social Democrats’ history that it lost two elections in a row. Only 22 per cent of those Swedes in work voted Social Democrat in 2010, a number that fell to 13 per cent in the Stockholm region”.

He points out that “One of the reasons socialists believe history is on their side is because they think capitalism is inherently unstable, lurching from one crisis to another. Yet the financial crisis of 2007-08 has sent voters scurrying towards the Right, not the Left”. Young argues that crucial to understanding this problem is immigration. with “educated liberal elites who control most Left-wing parties are pro-immigration. Not only do they believe in its economic benefits, they believe in the virtue of diversity as an end itself. The traditional European working classes, by contrast, are suspicious of immigrants and worry about them taking their jobs or – worse – taking money out of a welfare pot they haven’t contributed to”.

Taking the Swedish example he mentions the fact that “Of the one million immigrants who’ve entered Sweden since 1990, three quarters of them aren’t in full-time employment. These are the welfare free-riders that the Right-wing Sweden Democrats drew attention to in their 2010 election campaign, polling 5.7 per cent of the vote”. Young goes on to mention the resentment felt by many who, in some states like Sweden, pay high taxes but have numerically small numbers of people abusing the system but causing problems for the Left and a pool of disaffected voters for the parties of the Right.

This however is the tipof the iceberg he mentions citing as an example the fact that “the Left fared equally badly in the recent Finnish elections, yet only 2.5 per cent of the population of Finland are foreign-born, most from Russia, Estonia and Sweden”. What is apparent is “the fracturing of both the state and the super-state as sources of tribal identity. The European Union has only ever commanded the loyalty of the liberal middle classes”. The working classes see supra national institutions like the EU as a threat which brings them to vote for UKIP or the True Finns.

He adds that “More surprising has been the decline of the state as a unit capable of commanding people’s loyalty. In Scotland, the beneficiary of Labour’s desertion by working-class voters has been the Scottish Nationalist Party and that, too, seems a pattern likely to be repeated elsewhere. Ethnicity in Europe is beginning to trump more abstract sources of collective identity”. He seems to be implicitly supportive of the “clash of civilisations” thesis that has been so widely discredited. 

His remedy is that ” the Left needs is an intellectual colossus, someone capable of articulating a vision that re-unites the liberal intelligentsia with the traditional working class and persuades them to put the interests of the collective – whether the nation state or something larger and more abstract – before those of their family and their tribe”.

A state without a period of sustained agonism is a very dangerous thing. Balance must be brought back and the need for ideology asserted forcefully.

Solution found?

26/08/2011

After the breakdown in discussions, the SSPX are heading back to Rome.

Libya 2.0

24/08/2011

As the Gaddafi regime slowly ends, the implications of his fall, and what to do next.

No need to worry, yet

24/08/2011

In an piece  written by Robert Kaplan he argues that the South China Sea is the area where violence will, most likely, spring up.

It should be said before all else, China continues to claim essentially all of the South China Sea as it’s own, ignoring the claims of all other parties, irrespective of how strong their claims are.

Kaplan argues that the “physical contours of East Asia augur a naval century — naval being defined here in the broad sense to include both sea and air battle formations”. He warns starkely that China is “engaged in an undeniable naval expansion”, he adds that “It is through sea power that China will psychologically erase two centuries of foreign transgressions on its territory — forcing every country around it to react”.

This desire of China to undo the slights of the past and return as a great power is one of the main reasons as to what is driving China to act the way it is, both economically and militarily. Kaplan discusses past conflicts, WWII, the Cold War, and War on Terror. He notes that the war in the South China Sea will be different as it “will likely produce relatively few moral dilemmas of the kind we have been used to in the 20th and early 21st centuries, with the remote possibility of land warfare on the Korean Peninsula as the striking exception”.  Kaplan adds that “War is far from inevitable even if competition is a given. And if China and the United States manage the coming handoff successfully, Asia, and the world, will be a more secure, prosperous place”. There are few figures currently in the United States that might have the ability to manage this new relationship, the most obvious being, Jon Hunstman.

Taking stock of China’s maratime neighbours Kaplan notes that, Vietman is “a capitalist juggernaut despite its political system, seeking closer military ties to the United States”, while Indonesia is “poised to emerge as a second India: a vibrant and stable democracy with the potential to project power by way of its growing economy”. He concludes the section saying that all of the above nations are “are ready to advance their perceived territorial rights beyond their own shores”. The only question is how they will do this.

Many seems curious as to why there is such fuss over an admittedly strategic body of water. Kaplan aruges that “the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of 7 billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a potentially huge bounty”. A note of quiet caution should be sounded however about the true size of these reserves. Yet, as a result of the sheer size of China’s claim to the Sea, the “result is that all nine states that touch the South China Sea are more or less arrayed against China and therefore dependent on the United States for diplomatic and military support”.

Worse still, Kaplan says that “energy consumption is expected to double by 2030, with China accounting for half that growth”, as a sign of the tension already in the region he notes that “China has so far confiscated 12 geographical features, Taiwan one, Vietnam 25, the Philippines eight, and Malaysia five”. He continues saying that “China, along with other states in East Asia, is increasingly defined by the persistence of old-fashioned nationalism”.

He concludes noting that “major warfare will not break out in the area and that instead countries will be content to jockey for position with their warships on the high seas” but adds that “Asia cannot continue to change economically without changing politically and strategically; a Chinese economic behemoth naturally will not be content with American military primacy in Asia”, yet at the same time Kaplan makes the interesting point that “China’s conception of itself is that of a benign, non-hegemonic power, one that does not interfere in the domestic philosophies of other states in the way the United States — with its busybody morality — does”. Thus he says America maybe the issue that may cause China to act out, not China itself.

In a related article, the power of the Chinese navy is discussed. Having acquired a “new” aircraft carrier, China’s desire of having something resembling a a blue water navy is underway. The author notes that ” The carrier Varyag was purchased from Ukraine in 1998 and brought to Dalian in 2002. In Dalian, the PLAN’s shipbuilders have filled in the “guts” that the original hull was missing, including engines, generators, and defense systems. At 65,000 tons, the ex-Varyag is smaller than the 100,000-ton American Nimitz-class carriers”. He adds that the size of the vessel means that it will “not be able to deploy heavier planes that require the assistance of a catapult to take off. As heavier planes are required to collect information, coordinate operations, fly for long periods of time, or drop heavy ordnance, it seems that Varyag will primarily be used to extend the umbrella of Chinese air cover from its shores”.

He explicitly rules out power projection however and says that China currently lacks the knowledge needed to get the best out of a vessel like this.  He argues that having talked to officers in the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) that “Entering the aircraft-carrier club sends a message to the Chinese people, and to the rest of the world, that China has stood up at sea and is beginning to build expeditionary military capabilities commensurate with its economic and political power”. Thus he implies that it is more a propaganda tool than anything else.

Yet, not for long, he argues that China “is already building a second generation of aircraft carriers, the first of which the U.S. Defense Department projects may be ready as early as 2015″. America should watch China’s next moves closely.

The case for Huntsman

22/08/2011

Interview with the GOP nominee. Whether it be 2012 or 2016 is anyone’s guess.

Curial moves on the way

20/08/2011

There are a number of positions within the Catholic Church that custom dictates the incumbent will go on to receive a red hat. One of these is the nuncio to Washington. After the death of Archbishop Pietro Sambi at 73 any talk of him moving to Rome to take up one of these positions became moot.

There had been an agreement that when the resignation of Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo was accepted, his deputy, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano would succeded him. It has been reported that Archbishop Vigano has been successful assisting Cardinal Lajolo to undo management errors, end the deficit and introduce centralised purchases and obtaining greater discounts from suppliers.

It has been reported over the previous months that as a result of these measures Vigano has come under pressure from those working beneath him for introducing the reforms. That was why, in May of this year it was thought that he would instead replace Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S. as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. At the same time it was speculated that Archbishop Bertello, nuncio to Italy would become president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State replacing Cardinal Lajolo, who reached the retirement age of 75 in January 2010.

By the following month however it was thought that Archbishop Vigano would not repalce Cardinal De Paolis but instead replace Archbishop Sambi as nuncio to the United States, with Sambi taking over from Cardinal De Paolis. Similarly, Bertello would replace Cardinal Lajolo but instead of being president emeritus, Lajolo would be appointed as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem replacing Cardinal Foley. It has now been reported that Vigano’s repalcement has been found, a judge of the Roman Rota, Msgr. Giuseppe Sciacca, 56, who is said to be known and esteemed by both the Pope and the Secretary of State.

Cardinal De Paolis’s other job as Pontifical Delegate to the Legionaries of Christ should stay with him, unless it is thought he is doing a bad job, although this is highly unlikely. Appointing Archbishop Vigano to Economic Affairs would make sense as he seems to been a success in his current post of Secretary-General of the Governatorate of Vatican City State, as has been stated above. Replacing Archbishop Bertello is thought to fall to the current nuncio to Brazil, Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, 70, who had been mentioned previously as either Secretary for Relations with States or Substitute for General Affairs. Even that there was such talk means that Baldisseri is highly thought of. As nuncio to Italy he could end his career on a high note, with the promise of a red hat at the end.

The retirement of Cardinal Foley as Grand Master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem due to ill health has left the Order without a Grand Master since February. A host of names could be in line for the post but Benedict could kill two birds with one stone. Benedict could leave Cardinal Lajolo enjoy his retirement and be a bit cunning. He has named all the prefects of the nine congregations except one, Catholic Education. Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski has served here since 1999 and if appointed as Grand Master it would allow Benedict a free hand at appointing a replacement. The obvious choice would be Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, S.J.  currently serving as secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This would keep the custom of CDF secretaries becoming cardinals but also Archbishop Ladaria Ferrer’s priestly ministry has been as a professor in both his native Spain and Italy in addition to a stint as a vice-rector. Therefore he would be a natural fit at Catholic Education.

There would need to be a replacement at CDF found within six months however as the prefect, Cardinal Levada is expected to retire sometime next year. There is nothing stopping a replacement being found, appointed and ordained within six months. Ladaria Ferrer’s replacement would need time to settle into the role before a new prefect was appointed sometime next year.

This however still leaves vacant the nunciature to the United States vacant, and the cardinal-archpriests of the  Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo fuori le Mura, coupled with the archivist of the Holy Roman Church and major penitentiary all serving past the retirement age.

“Now what”

18/08/2011

After the latest sticking plaster for the euro, even the Dutch have had enough of half measures.

Let the Sage speak

18/08/2011

The so called Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffet has spoken. In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Buffet makes his views on the US tax code very clear.

Buffet notes that the wealthiest Americans who he counts as his friends have been left virtually untouched. He adds that as “the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks”. It is apparent that these tax breaks are no longer sustainable and are only causing a societal rift that can begin to be healed by their removal.

He gives one example of this, with one investor who holds “stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors”. Buffet explains that his tax bill last year “was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office”.

Buffet rightly rebukes  those who claim that “higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation”.  He notes that the federal income tax fell, noting that “In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent”. This is the work of Bill Clinton with his New Democrats and allegiance to all things “free market”.  

Buffet says that “Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.” This is an honourable thing to say and is the very definition of the common good. It is a shame that the market and the individualism that it has bred has destroyed any altruism that once existed.

Let us hope the Buffet’s sage advice is heeded.

Mind the gap

17/08/2011

After the chaos that was witnessed on the streets of English cities over the last days, the causes are being discussed.

In Foreign Policy, an article argues that much of the language that was used by politicians. She notes “Opposition politicians were quick to make connections between the social unrest and government policy. In an interview with BBC, Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party, suggested recent cuts to government spending on higher education could have been a motivating factor in the violence”.

She adds that “They smashed windows and stole goods as the television cameras rolled, knowing that their actions would be captured on Britain’s extensive network of closed-circuit televisions. So what touched off such wanton destruction”. This of course assumes that they knew it was daylight and that the security cameras were rolling. She notes that “riots brought to the fore a small segment of society usually in the shadows: a troubled underclass wracked by bubbling discontent and growing lawlessness”.

She rightly tosses aside any notion of race begin a factor, as those who openly stole and looted were of all races and despite nervousness on the side of ethnic minorities. She notes that “a charity leader, wrote movingly about the growing number of young adults cut adrift from society, who are driven to form anti-social parallel communities of their own. The growing inequality in the distribution of wealth in the capital has long been a source for concern. A 2008 survey by the OECD found that Britain had a bigger gap between rich and poor than more than three-quarters of other OECD countries”. 

Indeed this gap is only going to widen, yet the ruling Conservative Party have no desire to deal with the fundamental inequalities that beset much of the West, and increasingly the East. She notes that while there is great poverty in London it co-exists with great wealth. However, she argues that this will not last and the result is that, “relations between rich and poor look set to sharpen as sky-high property prices and the inflated cost of goods in shops make life increasingly difficult and inaccessible for poor people”.

Peter Oborne argues that it is the very wealthy that have as much, if not more to answer for than the less well off. He says that “the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society”. He cleverly argues that those living on the wealthiest neighbourhoods in the UK, are “every bit as deracinated and cut off from the rest of Britain as the young, unemployed men and women who have caused such terrible damage”.

He notes of the wealthy elite “few of them bother to pay British tax if they can avoid it, and that fewer still feel the sense of obligation to society that only a few decades ago came naturally to the wealthy and better off”. Oborne gives a litany of examples, just one of which being that “the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be ‘reclaimed’ by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television”.

Oborne continues, that Cameron for all his correct talk of a “sick” Britain and harsh punishment for those who have committed crimes, “appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well”. He concludes his piece, powerfully saying “The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation”.

Until there is greater economic equality and less hypocrisy then society will have learned nothing and it will happen all over again.

A question of fairness

16/08/2011

Before the riots engulfed large cities all over England, people were calling for making life for those worse off a little bit easier.

Vince Cable, secretary of state for Business, suggested that before the top 50% tax rate were lowered, the minimun income tax threshold should rise. It seems that “50p tax issue has become a divisive one with the Treasury and Mr Cable’s Department for Business at loggerheads. Mr Osborne, the Chancellor, will hope that a Treasury review into how much the 50p rate actually brings in gives him scope to argue for a cut”.

Cable is still wary about bringing it [the tax rate] down soon. He stressed any cut would need to be compensated for by another tax on the rich”. The news report notes that “Treasury analysis shows that while Labour’s increase in the top rate of tax from 40p in the pound to 50p has raised £2.4billion, 70 per cent would still be recouped if the rate was 45p”.

Again we see the point is being missed. If society is become more cohesive, and the notion of the common good is to return, there needs to be some sacrifices from the wealthiest in society, even if the amount of money being brought in is not substantially greater. The purpose would be to allow for people to begin to feel like those at the top are paying their share for the wealth they have accumulated.

Who is Rick Perry?

16/08/2011

Interesting profile of Rick Perry.

Economic war?

14/08/2011

After the US debt deal was finally agreed, China has been sticking its oar in where it’s not wanted, again.

The report says that after the US sold weapons to the Republic of China, Taiwan, the People’s Republic, should punish the United States for the slight. It notes worringly that “China has never wanted to use its holdings of U.S. debt as a weapon. It is the United States that is forcing it to do so.”

It notes that after the debt deal was signed, by President Obama, “certain arrogant and disrespectful U.S. Congress members have totally ignored China’s core interests by pressuring the president to sell advanced jets and even an arms upgrade package to Taiwan”.  The article suggests punishment of the United States for this action, namley, stopping buying US debt.

The article notes that “some U.S. Congress members hold a contemptuous attitude toward the core interests of China, which shows that they will never respect China”. This hostility and suspicion of the United States has long been evident in China, but is only growing. However, this is partly as a reflection of the regime worrying about its future. The result of this has been a government uptick in  nationalism. It acknowledges the fact that stopping buying US government debt would bring losses to China but argues that “China can directly link the amount of U.S. treasury holdings with U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and require international credit rating agencies to demote U.S. treasuries to force the United States to raise interest rates”.

Yet, as has been pointed out, “One way or another, the Chinese are going to take a massive hit on their $3.2 trillion holding of dollar reserves”, not only that but he importantly points out that “idea China could somehow have had its export boom without the unsustainable explosion of debt that accompanied it, as implied by the harrumphing commentaries of its official news outlets over the weekend, demonstrates at best a naïve misunderstanding of the nature of free market economics, and at worst something rather more sinister”.

This action would never be allowed to happen by the Federal Government and rightly so, America’s interests must always trump China’s. Such bullying is unacceptable and should not be tolerated.

The same problem again

11/08/2011

Thomas Raines at Chatham House published an article both defending and attacking the ever incompetent Baroness Ashton.

Raines makes the point that Lady Ashton “has managed to be simultaneously admonished for being too reluctant to lead, but also for treading on the toes of Europe’s political heavyweights, in a space jealously guarded by presidents and prime ministers”. However, he goes on to support her saying that “It was European leaders themselves who selected Ashton for the role, undoubtedly in part because of her relative obscurity, and they should work with the new structures – and the incumbent – rather than against them”.

He mentions the EU diplomatic corps, the External Action Service, noting that “it is the institutional embodiment of an aspiration: a Europe that is a diplomatic heavyweight, whose collective efforts are more than the sum of its constituent parts”. However the very fact that foreign policy is the sole responsiblity of governments, not supra-state institutions means that inevitably governments will resent even the incompetent Ashton attempting to conduct any kind of unified foreign policy.

Raines notes that Ashton’s ridiculous job is made even harder, not even by her own making but by the events in Tunisia and Libya. Raines examines how Ashton’s “response” to the crisis in Tunisia was “criticised for not going further in her public statements. Others, however, were even more guarded. France, the former colonial power in Tunisia with extensive interests and a close historical relationship, was reluctance to interfere or condemn.”  Worse still for Ashton, French “Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie offered to send a gendarmerie force to help restore order in its former colony. Alliot-Marie’s closeness to Ben Ali’s regime eventually led to her resignation, after it emerged that as late as January 12, the French government had authorised the sale of tear-gas grenades to Tunis “.

Raines mentions Ashton’s pattern of “prioritising discussion and establishing consensus before considering hardening her stance”. He argues that a similar pattern emerged during Libya with Italian PM Berlusconi far less enthustastic about military action in Libya than either France or the UK. Berlusconi was worried about Libyan immigrants entering Italian terrority.

Raines puts it succinetly when he says “The High Representative cannot articulate a common position when one doesn’t exist, and the EEAS can do little to overcome substantive disagreements between member states.”

Yet again we see an EU that mismatches its ambition to the reality of the situation wanting to be a single voice but also each nation wanting to look after their own interests. Sound familiar?

Society in chaos

10/08/2011

As the riots in England spread, Cameron must crush, by any means necessary, the disorder. It is an indictment of society itself when mere children and their absent parents cause such mayhem.

Not so brave

10/08/2011

As more reaction to the Cloyne report and the Irish prime minister’s not so brave speech on the actions of the Church seeps out it is clear there needs to be change. The best way of going about it is another matter.

It has been reported that “Kenny accused the Vatican of undermining the work of an official inquiry into clerics’ sexual abuse of children in a Catholic diocese, Cloyne”. The article notes that “quite recently, any attack on the Vatican would have been political suicide. Yet his outspoken remarks won strong support both in parliament and from the public”.

Others in the public square have been more thoughtful in their commentary about what was said and what should have been said. John Waters writes that the speech Kenny gave “might have been brave 30 or 40 years ago, when the swishing soutanes and swinging thuribles did indeed rule the roost”. Indeed Waters is right, to attack the Church when it is at its lowest ebb is anything but heroic. He notes that this is not the case anymore “when the rulers are the secular-atheists and pseudo-rationalists who foist their nihilistic formulas on our children, while pretending that John Charles McQuaid is still breathing down their necks”. In fact the “secular” atheists have distorted secularism itself and become beacons of intolerance towards any who disavow their rigid dogmas.

Waters adds that they purport “to confront some immense power in the present while challenging only phantoms. Anyone with the slightest grasp of reality knows the Irish Catholic hierarchy is a sorry sight, terrified of standing up to the new ascendancy, and that the Vatican is all but irrelevant to the running of the Irish church”. Waters describes as “reprehensible” the “the attack on Pope Benedict, which indicated gross ignorance, perhaps even malice. It is a sad day when the Taoiseach seems to have been trawling the internet for quotes – any quotes, regardless of context – to undermine the spiritual leader of the vast majority of his own people”. He writes that when it comes to these “secularists”, he notes that “the truth is irrelevant”.

Waters notes that Kenny is now “is now ad idem with the atheist ayatollahs of the Labour Party, preparing not merely to remove the right of Irish Catholic children to a Catholic education, but, in proposing laws to override the confessional seal, to attack the confidentiality which is at the core of pastoral relationships”. He adds that “Sticking it to the Catholic Church is guaranteed to meet with the regime’s approval.” Waters cleverly knows that the same “secularists” who supoorted the speech will be aghast at the cuts Kenny will have to impose in an attempt to undo the Fianna Fail destruction and please the holders of Irish government bonds in German and French banks.

Finally Waters attacks the current malise in society and says that “there are many ways of abusing children. You can sit them in desks and subject them to the knowing nonsense of cynics who steal their hope and joy so as to demonstrate repugnance of some derelict or decomposed authority. You can sell them false versions of freedom to make yourself rich. You can fill their heads with nihilism and wonder why they attempt to obliterate themselves with chemicals”.

Regretabbly however Waters words will go unheeded and the “secularists” in Ireland will never be happy until the Catholic Church is banned and all its “evils” banished to history. So much for liberal tolerance.

A different perspective

07/08/2011

An Indian view of China which is rightly wary.

It begins

04/08/2011

After the recent train crash in China in which 39 people were killed the Communist government has much to answer for. Premier Wen Jiabao tried to assuage fears and as well as the evident anger of the people at response of the government. The article notes that he “vowed to ‘severely punish’ those responsible”. He added that “No matter if it was a mechanical fault, a management problem, or a manufacturing problem, we must get to the bottom of this. If corruption was found behind this, we must handle it according to law and will not be soft.”

Reports have emerged that there was a botched cover up with “attempts by the authorities to muzzle the media and censor public reaction have only fuelled this animosity.” The news article notes that “‘We have the right to know the truth. That’s our basic right!’ wrote one microblogger. Social networking sites have acted as an informal newswire service with, for example, footage of the authorities burying damaged carriages first posted on Sina Weibo, China’s leading Twitter-like service. ‘The ministry buried the locomotives because they wanted to bury the truth,’ read one post”

Worse still for the Chinese authorities there is enormous levels of mistrust  with a survey asking why one of the carriages was buried “the majority of respondants said it was trying to destroy evidence. In an editorial Friday, the China Daily said public opinion led the government to dig it back up. Hu Xingdou, a professor economics at the Beijing Institute of Technology, says it is difficult for the public to trust the government”.

One commentator describes China as “volcano waiting to explode”. He adds that “It is difficult for those not familiar with the country to comprehend the scale of corruption, the waste of capital, the sheer inefficiency, the ubiquity of the party and the obeisance to hierarchy that is today’s China”. He concludes noting “There will be a Chinese Spring. And sooner than anyone expects.”

This is perhaps an exaggeration but it is now more likely than ever that we are witnessing the Chinese moment. Blink and it will have passed.

Going around in circles

03/08/2011

The more leaders try to fix the euro’s flaws the more they risk exposing a flaw in the European Union itself: a project of European integration that lacks a strong democratic mandate”.

Over the finish line, for now

03/08/2011

With the deal to raise the US debt ceiling passed by the Senate, people have begun to pick over the remains of what has happened, namely the losers, and if there are any, winners.

House Democrats are angry that the deal was allowed to go through so “easily” to the GOP advantage. It notes that “irate lawmakers took exception to the lack of balance between cuts and revenues; they railed against the White House for excluding them from the process”. However this criticism while meaningful under other circumstances was rightly brushed aside under a narrow timeframe. The report notes that “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — who was directly engaged in the talks until the last few days — described the final product as a ‘Satan sandwich with Satan fries on the side.'”

Yet the Dems do have the legitimate concern that there were no tax raises in the deal. However, expediency proved the order of the day with any tax raises anathema to the GOP and therefore unvoteable by the irrational Tea Partiers. Many Dems sent down curses on the administration yet, come the elections their minds, and rhetoric will quickly change.

Crucial to President Obama was that the debt ceiling would be raised to “$400 billion, about enough borrowing room for the Treasury to fund current spending until September. Then, it would rise another $500 billion”. Yet, there is more with “The debt ceiling will rise by another $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion by December 23rd, enough to tide Treasury over until after next autumn’s presidential election”. The writer notes that, Obama is also a loser in this as, “This is the third time since last autumn’s midterm elections that Republicans have succeeded in pushing Mr Obama to the brink and extracting a deal more favourable to them than to him: first, the two-year extension of all the Bush tax cuts last December weeks before they were due to expire; then steep cuts to this year’s budget just as the government was on the verge of shutting down in April; now this deal”

Others have trumpeted the fact that the defence budget was cut, despite it being only 5% GDP and even then only efficiencies can, and should, be achieved.

Others responding to the argument that Congress has shown itself to be a mixture of selfishness and dysfunction have claimed it has done their job “when it is the first in recent times to actually address the United States’ looming debt and step in to assert its legitimate authority”. This while technically true ignores that fact that they way the debt ceiling was raised was “messy” to say the least with circus also apt to describe the situation. She goes on to say that “If Congress allows expenditures to grow unchecked, it has failed in its authority”. Yet, that’s all Congress seems to do with pork rolled into every project to the benefit of individual members. She continues adding that “This is crucial in the system as it allows a check to the president’s budget, limiting spending by the executive branch”. Yet who check’s the spending Congress demands? An executive that is too weak! She argues that durign the first two years of the Obama presidency it was hard for the Dems to critise their own party. She notes that “When the balance shifted and John Boehner became speaker, the House of Representatives was finally in a position to provide the necessary balance”. If this were true 50 years ago then she might have been right, but people more concerned with drowning government then dealing with the debt crisis means that it’s not quite that simple.

It is questionable whether this is decide President Obama’s fate next year but he had little choice and acted with realism as befitted the situation. Now all he can do is hope that the Dems take back Congress and let the Bush tax cuts expire and raise taxes. This is to say nothing of the interminable euro crisis.

Testing the limits of marketing

01/08/2011

So the party that is to blame for Ireland’s economic collapse, Fianna Fáil are deciding how to get their hooks back in government.

The article notes that the disgraced party, must make a decision and “decide exactly what it stands for in a changed world”. However a party that has run Ireland for the vast majority of the history of the Ireland has always been a catchall party appealing to wildy different groups. It would not be suprising that party apparatchik’s “decide” on a compromise and the party fails to satisfy any of its previous groups. Indeed, “the electorate has given its answer to the question of the party’s identity: it is more Enron than Apple”.

The example of new Labour is cited, “playing with logos is not enough. The New Labour brand made sense to the electorate only after Blair’s clause-four moment, when he insisted that the party change its constitution and weaken its long-established links with the trade unions.”

Crucially the article notes that “Until such heavy ideological lifting has been undertaken, any attempt to create a new identity for Fianna Fáil is doomed to failure”. Some have questioned what the party can stand on in any future elections, noting that “For a long time its two main aims were national unity – the restoration of the 32 counties – and the restoration of the Irish language. Then they stood for economic competence”. The first two of these are irrelevant to a nation with 15% unemployment and that fact destroys the last possibility with which the party can campaign on.

The article notes that “In 2002 and 2007 Fianna Fáil did its research and the public said they wanted the boom to go on. It didn’t work. What the party offered was based on short-termism”.

These mistakes may, hopefully, prove to be fatal and wipe the party off the Irish political landscape.