Archive for September, 2011

Last roll of the dice

29/09/2011

The discussions between the Society of Saint Pius X and Roman authorities are slowly creaking to a conclusion.

On the 14th September, the fourth anniversary of the implementation of Summorum Pontificum, the president of the Pontifical Commission Eccelsia Dei, William Cardinal Levada its secretary, Mgr Guido Pozzo and the secretary of the CDF, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, SJ and Fr Charles met Bernard Fellay and his officials to hand him, what has become to be know as the Doctrinal Preamble. It is thought that the SSPX has been presented with two proposals, one doctrinal and the other canonical.

The meeting was thought not to have lasted long.  It is now known that senior members of the SSPX will meet in early October in Albano, just outside Rome to discuss the offer.

It has been reported that “experts cautioned against expecting a dramatic turn in the relationship anytime soon”. The talks that took place in 2009 and 2010, with “the five-member Vatican delegation consisted of Italian Msgr. Guido Pozzo, secretary of the “Ecclesia Dei” Commission responsible for relations with the traditionalists; Spanish Jesuit Archbishop Luis Ladaria, secretary of the doctrinal congregation; German Jesuit Msgr. Karl Becker, a longtime adviser to the congregation; Spanish Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz, vicar general of Opus Dei; and Swiss Dominican Fr. Charles Morerod, rector of the Angelicum University”. The talks focused on, the Second Vatican Council, religious freedom, ecumenism, and to a lesser extent the liturgy.

Allen reports that “Fellay gave a controversial interview in which he said that for the traditionalists, the aim of the sessions wasn’t finding compromise but rather explaining to the Vatican the “contradictions” between eternal Catholic teaching and the innovations introduced at Vatican II”. Allen adds that the result of this was that “a participant told NCR that at one point Pozzo, who chaired the meetings, asked one of the Vatican delegates if he’d like to contribute something. The delegate reportedly replied: ‘Bishop Fellay has said that the purpose of these talks is for the society to explain what it means to be Catholic. Do I actually need to speak?'”

In addition to all of this, “Fellay also said that two new stumbling blocks to reunion had emerged: the May 1 beatification of Pope John Paul II, whom traditionalists considered excessively liberal, and Benedict’s plan to host an interreligious summit in Assisi, Italy, this October”.

Now that the discussions are over, it is the last time a pope and his officials will be engaged so vigourously with the the SSPX for many years to come, perhaps ever. The SSPX must decide what they prefer to be in communion with Rome or not. This is probably the best offer they will ever get.

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Huntsman shines

29/09/2011

Foreign policy creeps into a domestic policy election. Huntsman wipes the floor with Perry.

Dangerous consequences

28/09/2011

China has tried to twist the ongoing row between the Vatican and Ireland to its own advantage. A recent news article has noted that the Irish Prime Minister’s attack on the Holy See “has been taken on board by China in its ongoing row with the Vatican. Mr Kenny has said the Cloyne report on clerical child sex abuse highlighted dysfunction and elitism in Rome.While there has been no official comment from Beijing about his remarks, an editorial in the English-language Global Times said Mr Kenny’s comments proved China was right to question the Holy See’s authority in appointing priests”.

Of course what the news article means is bishops, which shows either a laziness over reporting or general ignorance, or possibly both. However, it reports that “The editorial, headlined ‘Catholicism should adapt to local conditions’, said the church’s power was vastly disproportionate to the diminutive size of the Vatican. ‘It [the Vatican] names cardinals in other countries, its senior priests abroad have diplomatic protection and, we have it from the Irish PM that they can interfere in the affairs of sovereign states,’ it said. ‘It’s the West’s historical baggage and frankly its problem. But China is very much within its rights to question the power of the Vatican state to have sole authority in naming priests in faraway lands.’

As has been commented on here before and again more recently the Chinese claim the sole power to name bishops. However this goes against freedom of religion which China obviously has no respect for and has no intention of honouring in the future. The report notes that “Much to Beijing’s irritation, the Vatican is one of a handful of states that extends diplomatic recognition to the self-ruled island of Taiwan. The Holy See has hinted that it could switch diplomatic recognition to Beijing if China stops appointing senior clergy against the Vatican’s wishes”.

To twist the words out of context is exactly what the Irish Prime Minister did. It says much when the tactics of Ireland are the same as that of China.

Just fix it

28/09/2011

Another day another shutdown averted.

Texas miracle?

27/09/2011

Only some of the credit goes to Rick Perry.

London twinned with Detroit

27/09/2011

After plans for the effective castration of the National Health Service were watered down, only slightly, the reforms as they stand are progressing apace.

It is now down to the House of Lords to gut the legislation and make Prime Minister Cameron realise that he will not only ruin a reasonably efficient health service that serves all, irrespective of abiliy to pay but to radically think again when it comes to the role of “the market” in these matters.

It has been said that the “Health and Social Care Bill has been passed by the House of Commons with a majority of 65”. Thea author notes that “I defend the NHS because the evidence shows that it is the best system to deliver health care” and not out of any ideological conviction. Although defending this model of health service/society is indeed ideological, but this is of course how society should work.

The author notes “Cameron promised no top-down reorganisation of the NHS, only to introduce a top-down reorganisation of the NHS. His Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, assured us that he would cut bureaucracy, and then proposed a bill that will see bureaucracy increase”. Of course, the only reason Cameron is backing Lansley is because Lansley introduced these reforms and not to back them would mean accusations of incompentent levelled at the government. Not only this, but Cameron does not have a proper hold on his government to know what his various ministers are doing, which says either that Cameron doesn’t care enough to control his ministers or alternatively isn’t able to control them and supervise what proposals they are doing.

The author notes that “We have had assurances that the NHS will not be privatised, only for freedom-of-information requests to show that the Department of Health has already had talks with a German company, Helios, about taking over NHS hospitals”. Not only is the privatisation of the NHS gathering pace but Cameron is openly lying.

The article says that “During Prime Minister’s Question Time last week, Cameron stood up and said that the Royal College of Nurses, the Royal College of GPs and the Royal College of Physicians all supported the reforms, forcing all of them to issue statements contradicting this and expressing their concerns”.

He adds that “We are told we need reform to tackle spiralling costs. But the NHS has shown itself to be one of the cheapest health-care systems in the world. Undeterred by evidence or fact, the Government pushed forward with its rhetoric. Despite what we are being assured, a privately run but publicly funded health service is the end of the NHS. The commercial interests of the providers become paramount.”

As a result of this the poorest and most venerable will suffer while the rich will pay their way around the problems. He cites an example of when the NHS was open to private companies, under the “Private Finance Initiative (PFI) [which] was introduced by the Labour government amid assurances that it would make services more efficient and cost effective, yet the opposite has been shown to be the case. The costs of PFI contracts have crippled trusts. Official figures show that, under PFI schemes, taxpayers are committed to paying £229 billion for new hospitals, schools and other projects with a capital value of just £56 billion. Some of the private companies are due to see returns of more than 70 per cent”.

Similarly, the commericalisation of the health service means that the government “takes a knife to the soft underbelly of the NHS and splays it open, disembowelling it for private companies to pick over the soft, juicy and profitable entrails. And it is we, the tax paying public, who will pay handsomely for this.”

He concludes that now only House of Lords can totally revise the Bill and make so many amendments that passing it at all will be useless for the government. Having a health service paid for by an equitable tax system not only means a good service but enhances social cohesion in an increasingly individualistic world.

Maybe another defeat for the government would be good for it.

2024?

25/09/2011

Troops in Afghanistan until 2024? It might be the only option for our long term security.

Propped up and attacked

25/09/2011

In a bold move that will is not only moral and just but will also enliven his support base President Obama has decided to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

The move to raise taxes was defended. It was reported that Obama “promised to veto any deficit-reduction plan from Congress that cuts entitlement programs but doesn’t raise taxes on the wealthy”.

The report goes on to say that “Obama’s $3 trillion deficit-cutting plan includes $1.5 trillion in tax hikes on the wealthy, including the elimination of Bush-era tax rates on households with annual income above $250,000”. President Obama defended his position against Republican desires not to raise taxes at all. Indeed why not go further, as has been suggested by them already, abolish the armed forces and have the revenue go to the rich in the form of tax cuts!

The report notes that Obama “rejected criticism that his proposals amount to class warfare, saying that after a decade of unchecked spending, every American has to pitch in and pay their fair share. Otherwise, Obama said, the U.S. will try to cut programs for the middle-class and the poor while protecting tax cuts for the wealthy. ‘This is not class warfare,” Obama said. “It’s math.'” The report adds that he “was dismayed to hear the Speaker say that increased revenues should be off the table”.

Worse still the GOP will attack Obama’s plans even though “a Census Bureau report last week that showed a record 46.2 million Americans living in poverty last year. That is the highest number in the 52 years the statistic has been measured. That means 2.6 million people fell into poverty in just the last year”, at the same time it was revealed that “The percentage of the population who are in poverty stands at an alarming 15 percent. For black Americans, the poverty rate zoomed to 27.4 percent. Hispanic Americans’ rate of poverty climbed to 26.6 percent. Asian-American poverty hit 12.1 percent while white American poverty was at 9.9 percent”.

Many Republicans say that the best way is to cut taxes and stimulate the economy but as Judd Gregg former senator from New Hampshire said that waiting for consumers to spend is to wait for Godot.

As Obama struggles to get his ratings up more criticism is not what he needs. A book that has been recently released has been heavily critical of his percieved lack of leadership. The famously arrogant Larry Summers was quoted in the book as saying that “We’re home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.”

The report notes that Obama “told the author: ‘The area in my presidency where I think my management and understanding of the presidency evolved most, and where I think we made the most mistakes, was less on the policy front and more on the communications front. ‘I think one of the criticisms that is absolutely legitimate about my first two years was that I was very comfortable with a technocratic approach to government … a series of problems to be solved. He also stated that “Carter, Clinton and I all have sort of the disease of being policy wonks'”.

It looks as if Obama in the space of a few days has both propped up, and been attacked by the very base that he could normally rely on.

Negative or positive?

23/09/2011

More negative, and postive accounts of the War on Terror.

You stratch my back….

23/09/2011

Two days ago, in a suprise move,  Velasio Cardinal De Paolis, C.S. having only been a cardinal since November 2010 had his resignation accepted as president of the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. In his stead was named Bishop Giuseppe Versaldi of Alessandria, since May 2007. Versaldi had served as vicar general to then Archbishop Bertone of Vercelli. The resignation of Cardinal De Paolis makes him the first of the 2010 consistory to retire after his creation.

In 2010 an Italian newspaper attacked the way Cardinal Bertone was running the Curia. Versaldi came to his former master’s defence. Bertone has obviously not forgotten the defence. Bishop Versaldi had been mentioned to take the archdiocese of Turin  but in the end it is thought that Benedict vetoed such a move.

The appointment of Versaldi to Rome shows either one of two things. Either Pope Benedict let Cardinal Bertone name his former vicar general in order that Bertone’s  power in the Curia be clear to all and further re-enforced, or Benedict has lost interest in all but the most important of curial and diocesan appointments.

The appointed of Versaldi follows quickly on the the heels of the new president of the APSA, Archbishop Domenico Calcagno, also close to Cardinal Bertone. As should be expected, there has been talk of Versaldi being almost certain to be included among the list of new cardinals that will be created sometime next year. The same article notes that Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, 74, regent of the Apostolic Penitentiary, should take over from Cardinal Baldelli, 76, who has served since June 2009 and had previously been nuncio to France for ten years.

This still leaves the prestigious post of nuncio to Italy vacant. Recent talk has suggested that Archbishop Beniamino Stella, 70, president of the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy is the most likely candidate. Though there is still talk of Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri or Archbishop Adriano Bernardini of being appointed.

Today it was also announced that Benedict, instead of waiting for the Feast of Ss Peter and Paul, imposed the new pallium on Cardinal Scola of Milan, which Rocco says “effectively anoints newly-named Milan abp as chosen successor”.

Perry’s foreign policy

21/09/2011

Rick Perry in a recent speech on foreign policy, said that “‘As the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11 approaches, we must renew our commitment to taking the fight to the enemy, wherever they are, before they strike at home,’ he said”.

Perry seems to imply that this is not happening now, but all the evidence seems to run counter to this as was seen with the death of bin Laden. The article reports that Perry “took what could be seen as a subtle jab at both President Obama and former President George W. Bush when he said that he doesn’t ‘believe America should fall subject to a foreign policy of military adventurism,’ adding that the United States should only get involved in foreign military matters when ‘our vital interests are threatened.'” However as has been said here before this is exactly what the US has been doing ever since its creation.

Perry “sounded a hawkish note on multilateralism, saying that the United States should seek out allies when possible but that ‘we must be willing to act when it is time to act. We cannot concede the moral authority of our nation to multilateral debating societies.'” Again this is within the mainstream of what past administrations have done. Look at the six party talks that the Bush administration partook in, and President Obama’s decision to kill bin Laden without Pakistani approval.

These are the two sides of the same coin. America will always act in its interests, yet it will by and large do what is best for the international community as a whole at the same time.

The best that could be expected?

20/09/2011

After the interim report on banking was released in April the full Independent Commission on Banking (ICB) report has been recently published. The report was seen as the “biggest shake up in years” and was widely praised.The report was welcomed by head of Barclay’s Bob Diamond.

The main points of the report state that: retail arms of banks should be ringfenced, but no total separation, included in the ring-fence should be “imperative” services such as deposit taking and provisions of overdrafts to individuals and SMEs; recommends a sixth to a third of UK bank balance sheets to be placed within a ringfence; ringfenced banks should have independent boards with a separate chairman and independent directors; UK banking groups should both have primary loss-absorbing capacity of at least 17pc -20pc – equity, bonds and cocos that can act as a safety buffer in the event of a failure. The amount and type of capital could be decided for individual banks, depending on their specific risks;UK banks must also introduce a switching system to make it easier for customers to swap provider in the next two years; higher capital requirements: Retail banks should have equity capital of 10pc of risk-weighted assets – higher than 7pc required by Basel III. No specific requirements for investment and foreign banks – just “international standards.”; implementation should be “as soon as possible” and completed at the latest by the Basel III date of the start of 201 9 and finally bank’s cost will rise by £4bn to £7bn a year.

On this last point, with much of the new charges expected to be passed on the banks customers, highly respected secretary of state for Business, Dr Vince Cable said that bankers would be well able to bear the cost of the reforms by reducing their “lavish” salaries and payments to shareholders. The increase is reported to be as a result of “ICB estimates that the reforms could cost the banks between £4bn and £7bn per year. The increase is largely the result of the higher funding costs Britain’s largest banks are likely to face following the loss of their implicit “too big to fail” state subsidy.

The report also advises banning banks from using retail customers money for investment purposes.

An interesting article has argued that the proposed reforms fall short of what is truly needed. The writer summarises the report thus, “bankers and financial practitioners have a perverse incentive to take excessive risks”. The result he points out quite rightly, is that “Unlike in the normal world, where profits fall to companies with the best product or hardest workers, in banking short-term profits tend to accrue to those who take the greatest risks. So when times are good, even the most unimpressive banker can seem a hero by taking riskier trades and earning greater profit”.

He notes that bankers are well aware of this reckless and often incompetent behaviour because “most of the eventual losses are borne by society, whose only alternative is to allow the financial foundations of the economy to collapse” as his sums up “The punishment for failure, in other words, is not commensurate with the rewards for risky behaviour”.

He implies that society seems to have swung from one extreme to another noting that “In the early 19th century, banks were unlimited liability partnerships. When they collapsed, the partners who owned them were liable not only for the value of their shares but for everything from their private yachts to the shirts on their backs. They were pursued until all the losses were recouped”. He acknolwedges that this idea stifles business and ideas but as a society we have gone too far in the other direction. He does ask “why shouldn’t banks – at the very least investment banks – be returned to unlimited liability partnerships?”.

Another commentator questions the notion of ringfencing. He argues that “Retail banking is not particularly low-risk. Indeed, the Vickers Interim Report points out that it is not even obviously lower-risk than investment banking”. Yet what he fails to understand is that banks need to be far more careful to who they lend to than they were in previous years. Then retail banking while dull and conservative is generally safe and poses no apocalyptic risk to the rest of the economy. The commentator seems to be alluding to the fact that the major banks that the British government bailed out, and to a large extent still own, had no reckless casino arm attached to them. The report notes that the UK taxpayer may never get back its money having bailed out these “institutions”. Yet as has been stated banks need to reevaluate their role in society. There is a strong case for a government to hold a large, though by no means majority, share in several major banks, or in an ideal world, own an entire retail bank itself. 

Though another commentator posits that there is little evidence as to why the report did not urge complete separation of retail and investment banking rather than just ringfencing them. 

Whatever happens it could not be much worse than whatever “regulation” went before. Let us only hope that there is enough mistrust of human nature to spur on greater regulation and we learn our lessons.

The very idea that bound them together is tearing them apart

19/09/2011

Their ultimate nightmare may not come true, but the European continent might just re-enter the real world.

End of the Party?

19/09/2011

As Michele Bachmann stands by her ludicrous pledge to bring gas to $2 a gallon the future of the Tea Party is, rightly being questioned.

Aside from their clear ideological stance there is little else to recommend the group. Bachmann’s pledge is just another example of how the movement is nothing more than populism, appealing to an angry group, tired of paying “too much tax”. 

There is a historical precedent for groups like this. In the nineenth century a group acting under strict secrecy, the Know Nothings, hence its name, was virulently anti-Catholic.  The group denounced the papacy and all Catholics as traitors and fifth columnists trying to bring down the young republic.

Such views, while still existing in some countries, have been rightly banished from mainstream discusssion. Similarly the Tea Party is a product of its time, with the world economy teetering on the brink and a double dip recession, on people’s minds. There is a mood that people want the good times back, only problem is, there gone, if they ever existed.

A New York Times piece argues that  “the Tea Party is increasingly swimming against the tide of public opinion: among most Americans, even before the furor over the debt limit, its brand was becoming toxic”. Correspondingly, public support is falling, with “In April 2010, a New York Times/CBS News survey found that 18 percent of Americans had an unfavorable opinion of it, 21 percent had a favorable opinion and 46 percent had not heard enough. Now, 14 months later, Tea Party supporters have slipped to 20 percent, while their opponents have more than doubled, to 40 percent.”

They add, that “one group that approaches it in unpopularity is the Christian Right.” The authors blast the notion that the Tea Party is non partisan, noting that “Early on, Tea Partiers were often described as nonpartisan political neophytes. Actually, the Tea Party’s supporters today were highly partisan Republicans long before the Tea Party was born”.

They add that “Next to being a Republican, the strongest predictor of being a Tea Party supporter today was a desire, back in 2006, to see religion play a prominent role in politics”, this chimes in with the Santorum’s, Perry’s and Bachmann’s hoping for the GOP nomination, with most of these candidates support coming from the Tea Party.

Interestingly the writers add that “it is precisely this infusion of religion into politics that most Americans increasingly oppose. While over the last five years Americans have become slightly more conservative economically, they have swung even further in opposition to mingling religion and politics”.

They conclude saying that “On everything but the size of government, Tea Party supporters are increasingly out of step with most Americans”. Yet in addition to this the lack of a formal structure, outside the normal GOP itself means that it will wither and die unless it wants to be taken overwhole sale by the GOP.

Either way, whenever the economy recovers, the Party will, almost certainly be over.

In trouble

17/09/2011

As attention swings from the anniversary of the 11 September attacks back to the 2012 elections people are wondering how Mitt Romney will survive in a field of Bachmann’s and Perry’s.

In a piece by Stephen Walt, he notes that President Obama could be the first one term president since 1989. He notes that Obama did not bring chance to the US and that his foreign policy list had no easy win achievements. Walt says that “My businessman friend told me bluntly: ‘Obama is toast. The Republicans could run a scarecrow against him and win.’ Interestingly, my Democratic party friend was even more outspoken in condemning the president and his advisors, and bluntly called them ‘a disaster.'” Although this is in no way representative and the traditional bases of both GOP and Dems have no where else to go except their respective parties nominees, there are certainly grave doubts about a second Obama term.

Walt rightly notes that “there’s a lot of solid political science research showing that incumbent presidents have a very tough time when the economy is in the doldrums, and it’s hard for me to see how Obama can get things moving again, especially when the GOP leadership has every incentive to thwart his efforts”.

In an blog post in the Economist Romney’s chances are evaluated. The blog post notes a Politico article and says that ” that Mitt Romney’s camp is “not panicking—yet”, but that Mr Romney has loosened his tie and stepped up his attacks. At the VFW convention in San Antonio yesterday, for example, he was sniping at ‘career politicians’, a clear jab at Mr Perry, who has held office for more than 25 years.” The blog post quotes at length another article that suggests that Romney’s only hope of getting the nomination is to paint Perry as an extremist.

The Economist blog notes that “Perry’s rhetoric is on full boil, but that can always be dialed down, and his record isn’t really as extreme as Mr Galston suggests. Of course, Mr Romney could always make the argument that it is, but a swathe of Republican primary voters might view this as praise for Mr Perry”. The blog post adds that “Romney should adopt a milder version of Mr Galston’s strategy. In particular, he could use the coming debates to set out a clear explanation of the federal government’s role, and to force Mr Perry to articulate why he thinks the states are qualified to meet problems that affect the nation as a whole”.

It adds that “Romney can credibly argue that while he wants to preserve the ability of states to act as laboratories of democracy and to set their own course on some subjects—and here he can cite Massachusetts’s health-care reform—he could go on to say that Mr Perry’s more ferocious approach to states’ rights is imprudent”.

He adds that “the polls still show a party divided amongst several candidates, and in a way, Mr Perry’s far-right rhetoric over the past two weeks suggests that he, or his pollsters, are focused on the primary rather than the general election. This may be because of Michele Bachmann”.

Meanwhile noted scholar Dr Tim Lynch says to prepare for a President Perry. Dr Lynch notes that “No president since Franklin Roosevelt – the greatest president the Democrats ever had – has been elected with unemployment higher at the close of his term than at the beginning”.

He adds in a rather undignified fashion that does nothing for the societal discourse that Obama’s “community organisation years in Chicago are nebulous, producing more myth than substantive achievement. His life-long struggle was not the civil rights movement. Rather, he survived, surprisingly intact, from the suffocating affection and molly-coddling of his white Kansan grandparents”.

Lynch does cite President Obama’s lack of expierence and “poor skills as a negotiator”. Lynch argues that Obama’s “executive record consists of a double-dip recession and the stagnation of the jobs market – both purchased at the price of an enormous stimulus.  And this is before we consider how a precipitate withdrawal from Afghanistan and Iraq and a stalled war in Libya will play with voters. Killing Osama bin Laden is becoming a distant memory”.

Obama is in trouble.

Disconnect

15/09/2011

There is something strange going on in the EU. It was recently noticed that the president of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy said that is ready to run a United States of Europe.

Van Rompuy said this as “Germany further strengthened demands for a new treaty giving the president extra powers. Mr Van Rompuy has announced he is willing to take on the ‘unfinished’ euro zone debt crisis with new powers setting an ‘economic government’ in Brussels. ‘Because the work is not finished, I do not rule out a second mandate,’ he yesterday. ‘I would not do it for personal glory.'”. Second mandate? From who? No one voted for him and barely anyone knows who he is, after almost two years into one of the highest EU offices.

The article notes that “Under German proposals, Mr Van Rompuy, an economist, would become eurozone as well as EU president in control of a powerful secretariat for economic and financial affairs. Germany is pushing for a plan to create a euro zone economic government, measures that would almost certainly require a new EU treaty, despite the risk of a backlash from European voters angry at euro bailouts and Brussels austerity programmes. Gerhard Schroeder, the former German Chancellor, told Der Spiegel magazine that the changes would ‘translate into a United States of Europe’.”

The only problem is no one voted for this, and given the chance the people of the European continent will reject it. The only reason that the EU has gotten this far is by nibbling away at the sovereignty of every nation in Europe in the most boring, technocratic and unthreating way possible.

Yet for the EU to survive the sovereign governments of the continent will have to be effectively washed away. The article notes that “Mario Draghi, the Italian due to take up the job of president of the European Central Bank in December, yesterday said that the EU’s Lisbon Treaty needed to be changed in the wake of the euro debt crisis. ‘Let’s not forget that this crisis started from the incomplete European construction,’ he said. ‘To cope with this, we must have a treaty change. The aim of this effort should be a quantum leap up in European economic and political integration.'”

The only problem with this is that they do not have the answer as to how they are going to get these proposals approved, first by the euro zone memebers and then by the non euro zone members. Not to mention the fact that the country that has the most to lose out of a euro zone collapse, Germany does not even know what it wants.

It has been noted that “What it does not want is clear enough: no ‘transfer union’, no pooling of national debts and no break-up of the single currency. But it is hard to know how it hopes to reconcile these aims, harder still to discern the ultimate goal of Germany’s European policy”.

The article argues that “The obstacles to fundamental change are so forbidding that leaders will always be tempted to try to muddle through”.

Either the EU “leaders” are delusional, or unwilling to see the disconnect between their ambitions and what needs to be done.

Response to the response

14/09/2011

Following the release of the Cloyne report the reaction has flowed from it. First the Church gave its response both to the report itself and to Irish Prime Minister’s ill-advised comments which he stubbornly stands by, despite a clarification from his office saying much of the specifics were plucked out of the air. 

It was reported that the official response from Rome was eager to avoid “being polemical”, which of course is more than can be said for the Irish Prime Minister. The news article notes that “On more than one occasion, the Holy See spokesman acknowledged the ‘outrage’ of Irish public opinion over clerical child sexual abuse while he pointed out that the importance of respect for and full compliance with civil law was repeated throughout the response”

The Irish government described the response from Rome as “‘legalistic and technical'”. It was reported that the Irish Foreign Minister “speaking at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Poland, said the public was more concerned about the welfare of children than the status of Church documents. He remained of the view that a 1997 letter from the then Papal Nuncio provided a pretext for some in the Church to avoid full co-operation with the civil authorities in Ireland. Issues about the precise status of documents should not be allowed to obscure the obligation of people in a position of responsibility to deal promptly with such abuse and report it, he said. ‘I felt that there were aspects of the statement that were highly technical, highly legalistic, very much dancing on the head of a pin about the status of documents when the issue that concerns the Government and I think the public in Ireland is the welfare of children,’ he said”.

Naturally the Vatican rejected what the Irish government said. The official statement said that  “that the Holy See in no way hampered or sought to interfere in any inquiry into cases of child sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne. Furthermore, the Vatican said that at no stage did the Holy See seek to interfere with Irish Civil law or impeded the civil authority in the exercise of its duties. The Vatican also disputed the claim that Irish bishops sought but failed to obtain recognition from Rome for the Framework Document. It said Irish bishops did not, under Canon Law, seek ‘recongnito’ for the Framework Document, therefore the Holy See cannot be criticised for failing to grant what was never requested in the first place”.

Those who were abused attacked the Church for its response saying that it did not go far enough and was too technical.

While nearly the entire response was indeed highly technical and legalistic many of the questions that were raised could only be answered though citing canon law. A much respected figure in Ireland, Archbisop Martin of Dublin, interestingly said the 1997 letter was made the focus of too much attention.

Too late?

13/09/2011

The Chinese are starting to take notice that they have a massive demographic problem. However, it might be too late to stop. Were the policy was relaxed it “did not lead to a surge in additional kids. Many parents cited financial and time concerns as their rationale for limiting themselves to one child“.

Winning or losing?

13/09/2011

A general analysis of the War on Terror in the context of the tenth anniversary of 11th September is worth recounting.

James Traub argues that almost everything the US and its allies did was wrong over the last ten years. Traub says that “I was ‘a 55-45er’ on the Iraq war: for it, by a hair. I wrote a book about democracy promotion that sharply criticized President George W. Bush’s Freedom Agenda, but was still, in retrospect, too optimistic”.

He continues saying that “The 9/11 attacks persuaded Bush and his top aides that the United States could no longer afford to ignore failed or autocratic states that germinated terrorism”, yet adds that “The insight was correct, but Bush quickly discovered the limits of the American capacity to shape countries for the better. In 2005, he tried to push Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to hold free and fair elections. But when Mubarak realized that such elections would bring the opposition to power, he cracked down hard”.

He complains that the problem with this is that “abandoning the Freedom Agenda out of fear that it might bring Islamists to power” yet almost within the same breath adds that ” the truth is that the United States lacked the instruments to produce the change it sought”. This is however incorrect, the Bush administration did hardly anything other than have a quiet word in President Mubarak’s ear. It could have halted the billions of dollars of economic aid, imposed trade sanctions and so much more.

He argues, discussing the Obama administration that Obama was “convinced that Bush had effectively poisoned the idea of democracy promotion, put a stop both to the grandiose language and to the impossible expectations it aroused. In the summer of 2009 he was criticized for holding his tongue when the Iranian regime rigged an election to block reformers from wining seats. But Obama understood that U.S. interference might do more harm than good”. Again what we see is what has made US foreign policy so successful, the ability to do both soaring ideas and lofty rhetoric but also cold hard pragmatic realism that got the United States to where it is today. Similarly, he adds that Obama reluctantly accepted a counter insurgency strategy. Traub adds however that this isn’t working. He says that ” Classic counterterrorism tactics have done a very effective job of wiping out Taliban leaders, but the Taliban keep regenerating thanks to the Afghan government’s scant legitimacy”. This is partly due to the lack of security and partly due to the massive, endemic corruption at all levels of Afghani society.

On the other side of the argument is Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CN). Senator Lieberman says that “response to the threat of Islamist terrorism since 9/11 as an overreaction”. Senator Lieberman notes that to continue along this path of thought would be not only wrong but very dangerous.

He argues, correctly that “the core of the U.S. response to the 9/11 attacks, and the broader challenge of Islamist extremism they revealed, has been necessary and justified”. Although it is a counterfactual and therefore impossible to confirm he adds that “Had we not done so, it is very likely we would not have the luxury today of debating whether we overreacted to the threat, because many more Americans would have been victims of this enemy”.

Senator Lieberman says that “Americans have proven adaptive and dogged in our prosecution of this fight, pioneering new capabilities and tactics — from stunningly precise unmanned drones to a brilliant new counterinsurgency doctrine — that have enabled our forces to outflank our enemies in this very unconventional war. Simply put, in the 10 years since 9/11, the U.S. has built the most capable and lethal counterterrorism forces in human history”. Not only is this praise well deserved but bodes well for the future. He adds that “As a result, al Qaeda’s senior leadership in the tribal areas of Pakistan has been badly damaged. Its affiliate in Iraq, which came dangerously close to seizing control of that country, has been gutted”.

Lieberman adds crucially that ” U.S. leaders instead saw the war as an ideological struggle within Islam, waged between an extremist minority that seeks to enslave the world and a moderate Muslim majority”. Indeed as has been stated here before, the terrorists that carry out these attacks are not real followers of Islam, a beautiful religion with a billion adherents, rather they have distorted it into something truely statanic.

A mea culpa is then issued with “the terrible abuses committed at Abu Ghraib and the broader mismanagement of the Iraq war prior to the surge, to name two. But as we look back over our actions over the past 10 years, a lot more went right than wrong”. He says that America is winning the war but the world is still a dangerous place, despite what most of Europe thinks, and  “although Osama bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda’s core has been severely weakened, its regional affiliates are on the rise“.

Senator Lieberman rightly cautions against complancey regarding the troublesome Pakistani armed forces who “maintains ties to violent Islamist extremist groups such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which in turn are in league with al Qaeda “. He goes on to mention Iran “whose nuclear program is speeding forward  and whose leaders, it was recently disclosed, have for years had their own secret relationship with al Qaeda, facilitating the flow of terrorists and funds across Iranian territory”.

He concludes that “current geopolitical realities do not justify a claim of victory or a sense of closure or complacency about the worldwide war that Islamist extremists continue waging against us. This is not a moment when the United States can unilaterally declare a holiday from history” as some would declare.

What is true is that the tide is turning in the favour of the United States and its allies.

Backing down

12/09/2011

After the Irish government’s outrageous attempt to stifle religious freedom, they finally saw sense, but only after humilating themselves.

Saunter for the CDF

12/09/2011

Since William Cardinal Levada, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith turned 75 in April 2011 the talk has begun to turn to his replacement. However, the race will take place at the usual leisurely Vatican pace.

It is thought that Cardinal Levada does not wish to continue much past the retirement age so a successor will probably be named in the first half of next year. There has been talk that Cardinal Levada has not met Pope Benedict’s expectations in his old job, though this cannot be confirmed.

As expected names abound with the report citing Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller of Regensburg, 63 or Archbishop Roland Minnerath of Dijon. Another more obvious choice could be Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer who is serving as the congregation’s secretary. Move from secretary to prefect are extremely rare in the Curia though it does occur, most recently with the appointment of then-Archbishop Mauro Piacenza after the retirement of Cardinal Hummes.

Of course, Benedict could return one of his most trusted aides to the CDF. Archbishop Joseph Augustine Di Noia, a move that has been mentioned here before, and should not be ruled out. The report also rightly notes that “Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna: a theologian who studies under Cardinal Ratzinger and the principal editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, who in the past has frequently been named as a likely prefect for the CDF. Pope Benedict has a long record of appointing prelates with whom he is personally familiar to top Vatican posts; Cardinal Schönborn would certainly fit that description”. Cardinal Schönborn’s comments over priestly celibacy however are important, and should Benedict decide to overlook Schönborn’s remarks it could be interpreted by some as endorsing Cardinal Schönborn’s views. An impression that Benedict would be keen not to give out.

Whoever is appointed, is assured of a place in the next consistory, which as has been mentioned here recently, will be sometime in 2012, with either June or December as the most likely dates.

Ten years on

11/09/2011

Today will not be forgotten. The greatest nation on Earth will be victorious and rise again.

Time to look again

09/09/2011

It’s time to look at what the Second Amendment really meant.

Right at last?

09/09/2011

It what is to be the first of many posts on the ten anniversary of the attacks of 11 Sepember, respected IR scholar Mick Cox argues that decline is linked of the attacks.

Cox notes that “America at the start of the new millennium looked to be riding high in an international system where it clearly faced challenges and problems but no serious threat worthy of the name”. Cox goes on to note that “few seemed prepared to dispute the idea that the United States bore more than a family resemblance to Empires of the past – with one fairly obvious difference: this new Rome on the Potomac was not about to decline any time soon”. Right on cue Cox notes that “A decade on and America looks to have changed almost beyond recognition”.

He then goes on to mention  how things have changed politically, yet almost within the same breath says “Whether or not Obama has delivered on all of his promises remains a moot question”.  He continues saying Obama’s “remarkable rise was made possible by a widespread sense that America was in crisis and that something new – and possibly radical – was needed to restore US standing in the world and possibly prevent it experiencing another great depression”. Yet there is little evidence to suggest that anything has really changed. This is despite the fact that Obama’s health care legislation was rightfully passed, America is now more divided, not only over economics but now race as well.

Cox argues rather predicatably that “unlike the Cold War, this particular ‘clash’ against Islamic militancy has effectively divided the country, making the ideological gap between liberals on the one hand and conservatives on the other almost unbridgeable”. Of course the extremes on both sides dislike the war but the vast majority of Americans agree, despite whatever partisan stones they through at each other, there is almost nothing that seperates the Obama administration from what the Bush administration did, thankfully.

Cox argues that “Troop losses in Afghanistan and Iraq, the huge economic costs involved in waging these wars, and the fear that the means involved in fighting a particular kind of enemy might be undermining US core values, has not only done much to dent American amour propre but made Americans increasingly uncertain about the country’s purpose in the world”.  There were certainly troops losses but there were relatively small in number and nothing like the scale that America witnessed in other wars. Undoubtedly the economic cost has been enormous and the deficit must be cut, as has been said here before by raising taxes and making people work longer. For this to get done however, the executive branch needs a lot more power.

Cox does make the point that “what has further contributed to Americans’ sense that the world is no longer moving in their direction is firstly the impact that the economic crisis has had on that intangible thing called the American way of life – only a quarter of Americans in 2011 believed that their children would have better chances than themselves”. Firstly depending on how you define “moving in their direction” the world is slowly going in the direction of free (but not too free hopefully) markets and democracy. On the second point the American Dream is dying and has been for some time and will continue to do so unless radical steps are taken.

Worringly history is repeating itself, as “while the US waged war in the Middle East and against the Taliban in Afghanistan, others – some of those so-called BRIC’s – seemed to be getting  on with the business of making money, building new partnerships, and pulling themselves out of the economic crisis a good deal more rapidly than the US and its transatlantic allies”. Indeed this is exactly what America did during the 1890s and 1900s while Europe was tearing itself apart.

He concludes “But a decade on from 9/11 the United States is an altogether different, altogether less confident, place than the one G.W. Bush inherited in late 2000. Perhaps the Kennedy moment has finally arrived – at last?”.

Certainly, unless nothing changes, then perhaps this is true, but remember others have discussed American decline and it has be strongly rebuffed here before.

Up against the buffers

07/09/2011

First it was the Dutch, now the Germans. After a poll  was released recently, a German newspaper misleadingly lead with the headline Germans want more Europe. Yet, digging beneath the figures it has been noted that “the question didn’t even mention the EU. Instead, respondents were asked whether they supported ‘more common policy making in Europe over the next few years'”.

The website rightly states that “still an interesting finding, but clearly not one that can be taken as the German public’s support for giving more power to the EU’s institutions”. The same poll notes that “only 35% of Germans would accept even “limited” versions of Eurobonds, while 55% oppose them”. The headline is explained by the fact that “53% of respondents say they oppose a ‘United States of Europe’, with only 42% in favour, which clearly qualifies the conclusion that Germans are in favour of ‘more Europe'”.

An article in the Economist notes that the way the EU has done business is dead. Jean Monnet, who was one of the founders, ” believed in gradually unifying post-war Europe through discrete projects run by a caste of technocrats, with the end-point left deliberately ambiguous”. Now however, problems are rife, such as the fact “that it alienates voters. Elected governments must increasingly answer for policies they do not fully control, while voters have no power “. The result the article says is decisions that take months even years when decisions should be taken in hours or days.

It notes that the solution, is more integration with “Markets are—at the moment—acting as handmaidens of euro-zone integration. Whatever form it takes, such integration is bound to clash with national democracies: it means other countries and Brussels will have more powers to dictate each government’s economic policies”. Either way of the techocrats and their step by step has had its day.

Stephen Walt has noted that both the European contient has passed its strategic peak,  but also the EU and its unity drive has probably reached as far as it can go. He argues that the integration of the Eastern European countries was a success but “the effort did not lead to a significant deepening in political integration and is now in serious trouble”. Dr Walt continues noting that the EU integration is threatened by a “lack of an external enemy”, slow cumbersome decision making and the pathetic little half currency it created.

However one of the main reasons why the EU is doomed is the fact that it cannot, and will not, overcome the fact that Germans feel different to Belgians, Irish feel different to Portugese, French feel different to Poles. In a word, nationalism.

Walt in a different piece but one that is especially relevant here, is the fact the nationalism is still an incredibly powerful force, despite the best efforts of the EU to undermine and ignore it. Indeed, the reason why the euro is in such trouble is not just economic but political. They knew they couldn’t create an EU finance ministry because everyone, except the French and the Germans would  oppose it. Walt writes that “it was the spread of nationalist ideology that helped destroy the British, French, Ottoman, Dutch, Portuguese, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian/Soviet empires”.

He goes on to say, pertinantly, that it is still creating new nations, just look at South Sudan. Walt argues, that “What we are seeing today, therefore, is a gradual renationalization of European foreign policy, fueled in part by incompatible economic preferences and in part by recurring fears that local (i.e., national) identities are being threatened. When Danes worry about Islam, Catalans demand autonomy, Flemish and Walloons contend in Belgium, Germans refuse to bail out Greeks, and nobody wants to let Turkey into the EU, you are watching nationalism at work”.

Walt gives the classic realist case for states, “Nations — because they operate in a competitive and sometimes dangerous world — seek to preserve their identities and cultural values. In many cases, the best way for them to do that is to have their own state”.

Finally, he saya “Despite its occasional shortcomings (and the obvious examples of “failed states” like Somalia, Yemen, or Afghanistan), the national state is likely to remain the most important political entity in world politics for the foreseeable future.

To ignore this would be either foolish or naive. Just look the the problems the EU is having.

Expierences of a seminarian

07/09/2011

A seminarian discusses his expierences of people’s perceptions of the Tridentine Mass.

Challenges ahead

06/09/2011

South Sudan is slowly entering the world as a new state. There are however serious problems that lie ahead. In an article for The World Today the birth of the new nation and the challenges it faces are discussed.

The author notes that the new nation’s “regional neighbours, not the global powers, who will suffer most if South Sudan runs into trouble”. With Al-Shabaab causing chaos in Kenya and Ethiopia, a crumbling semi-state would be perfect for them to move their operations into, if they are given the chance. He notes that “In the event of a war between the two Sudans, Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda will bear a significant cost in hosting displaced people and in dealing with the compromise to their own economic interests”. He worringly notes that “Many of the conflicts in Darfur or the East of Sudan have a similar genesis to the problems that faced South Sudan. All of these conflicts have involved the intervention of neighbours, including Chad in Darfur and Eritrea”.

He describes how Ethiopia is fundamental to the both Sudan and South Sudan, with both needing Ethiopia to survive. Similarly, Ethiopia needs both Sudan’s to remain stable for its own security. He adds that what is crucial to the survival of the new nation, oil. He says that “Most oil lies in South Sudan (although some reservoirs do cross the international boundary) but the pipeline and refineries that turn oil into currency are in North Sudan. Up to now revenue from Southern oil has been split 50/50, and neither country can afford a situation where failure to agree a deal shuts off the oil and cash flow”. This might be a blessing in disguise and force both Sudans to work together on this vital subject.

Striking a realistic note however he cites an example of a border dispute where “The potential for disputes to quickly escalate into a wider conflict was illustrated by the case of Abyei, a contested border region in the North Sudanese state of South Kordofan”.

The challenges of establishing a civil service are also daunting, but thankfully, though not without a dose of realism, “Members of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) – a regional organisation of states in the Horn of Africa – will be sending civil servants to Juba to mentor employees in ministries there”.

Joining the free trade area of the East African Community will also, he argues, be vital for the new nation’s economic success.

It is in no-one’s interest for Juba to fail but everyone will suffer if it does, a fate that cannot be allowed to occur.

A response, at last

05/09/2011

After the damning report into the diocese of Clyone, and the Irish government’s hamfisted policy response and the Irish PM’s dangerously populist speech, the Vatican has, at last given its official response.

The response, is however, exceptionally detailed. Its opening lines forcefully state that “the Holy See wishes to state its abhorrence for the crimes of sexual abuse which took place in that Diocese, and indeed in other Irish Dioceses. The Holy See is sorry and ashamed for the terrible sufferings which the victims of abuse and their families have had to endure”.

The response says that the Vatican is “deeply concerned at the findings of the Commission of Inquiry concerning grave failures in the ecclesiastical governance of the Diocese of Cloyne and the mishandling of allegations of abuse”. It adds that “refers to issues directly relating to the Holy See which were raised in the Cloyne Report, by the Tánaiste in the above-mentioned meeting with the Apostolic Nuncio, by the Taoiseach in his Dáil speech of 20 July 2011 and in the motion passed by Dáil Éireann on the same day and by Seanad Éireann a week later”.

It says that “The approach taken in recent times by the Church in Ireland to the problem of child sexual abuse has benefitted from ongoing experience”. This seems to imply that the much criticsed “learning curve” of bishops with regard to child protection is in fact true, which is patently false and should be treated as such.  

Much of the response of the Holy See concerns the letter of Archbishop Luciano Storero. Storero who was nuncio to Ireland, sent a letter  in 1997 to all Irish bishops, that noted the opposition of the Congregation for the Clergy, then under Dario Cardinal Casstrillion Hoyos, to mandatory reporting of suspected abusers to civil authorities. The response says that “taken out of context, the letter could be open to misinterpretation, giving rise to understandable criticism”. It notes the Cloyne report says certain officials believed this letter thus having an excuse not to implement child protection measures.

The response, speaking of the so called Framework document for child protection, to which the 1997 letter refers, notes that it is “not an official document of the Irish Bishops’ Conference but a document of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Advisory Committee on Child Sexual Abuse by Priests and Religious, which holds the copyright”. Such technicalities, while true, do little to improve the image of the Church with regard to this sensitive issue. The respone from Rome then quotes the Cloyne report which states that “The understanding was that each diocese or religious institute would enact its own particular protocol for dealing with complaints”.

The response notes that the Framework Document was described as a study document by the Irish bishops themselves and thus, “was not a dismissal of the serious efforts undertaken by the Irish Bishops to address the grave problem of child sexual abuse. The Congregation, taking cognizance of the Bishops’ intention not to make the document binding, while at the same time aware that each individual Bishop intended to adopt it for his Diocese to deal with cases as they arose, wished to ensure that nothing contained in it would give rise to difficulties should appeals be lodged to the Holy See”.

The response from Rome then says that the Framework document notes the “need to respect both civil and canon law”. It makes the point that is woth quoting in full that, “In its response to the Framework Document, the Congregation for the Clergy expressed reservations about mandatory reporting. At the outset, it should be pointed out that this response should not be construed as implying that the Congregation was forbidding reporting or in any way encouraging individuals, including clerics, not to cooperate with the Irish civil authorities, let alone disobey Irish civil law. It should be borne in mind that, without ever having to consult the Holy See, every Bishop, is free to apply the penal measures of canon law to offending priests, and has never been impeded under canon law from reporting cases of abuse to the civil authorities”.

The Holy See touched a nerve when the response said that “The Holy See notes that in a statement in Dáil Éireann on 25 March 1997, the then Minister for Health, Mr Michael Noonan, explained why the Government of the day had decided not to introduce mandatory reporting. He recognized that all who participated in the relevant consultative process, including those who expressed reservations or were opposed to mandatory reporting, had the “best interests of children” as their “paramount concern”. ”

On the controversial speech of Enda Kenny which has been discussed here before, the response states that “the accusation that the Holy See attempted “to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago”, which Mr Kenny made no attempt to substantiate, is unfounded”.

The response notes that the quote Kenny used was taken out of context and that, “The quotation in question is taken from the Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian, otherwise known as Donum Veritatis (The Gift of the Truth), published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 24 May 1990, and signed by the then Prefect and Secretary of the Congregation. It is not a private text of the then Cardinal Ratzinger but an official document of the Congregation. This document is concerned with the theologian’s service to the Church community, a service which can also be of help to society at large, and not with the manner in which the Church should behave within a democratic society nor with issues of child protection, as Mr Kenny’s use of the quotation would seem to imply”.

Both sides still have questions to answer.

A worthy president?

05/09/2011

Low down on Huntsman.

Time to turn the taps back on

03/09/2011

Libyan oil production back to its normal 1.6 million bpd by December 2012? It’s in everyone interest for this to happen.

 

Coming thick and fast

03/09/2011

As had been expected  Pope Benedict appointed Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, as the president of the Governatorate of Vatican City State and president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State, replacing Giovanni Cardinal Lajolo. Archbishop Bertello will take office on 1 October, his 69th birthday. At the same time Benedict named Giuseppe Sciacca as Archbishop Bertello’s deputy while naming him a bishop at the same time. Due to his new post, Archbishop Bertello is safely assured of a red hat at the next year’s consistory.

There was no word of Archbishop Carlo Vigano who Sciacca replaced but it is thought his appointment as Nuncio to the United States will come in the next few weeks. Similarly, there was no announcement of the replacement of Archbishop Bertello as Nuncio to Itay, though the prestigious post is thought to be given to Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri.

“And the people bowed and prayed

02/09/2011

to the neon god they made“.

Yet another reason…..

01/09/2011

to vote for Huntsman.

Decline, dip or resurgance?

01/09/2011

Amid the constant talk of a double dip, uneployment and economic implosion in Europe many Americans are feeling that the richest, most powerful nation on Earth has passed its prime.

A recent poll found that a third of people in the US feel that the nation has peaked. It would be a mistake to over analyse this but there is undeniably some truth to a feeling of malaise. Despite this however the same poll found that “Almost half of likely voters said they believe America’s best days are still ahead. Forty-five percent of voters are optimistic about America’s future”. The poll somewhat accurately revealed that “6 in 10 of all likely voters agreed that other countries are gaining on the United States”.

In the provocatively titled Three Cheers for Decline the aspects of this are examined. Kenny predicts that “Americans may soon come to enjoy no longer bearing the responsibility for running the world’s indispensable nation”.

The usual litany of reasons for decline are mentioned with everything from China  to the contentious idea that “two U.S.-led wars are dragging toward an end charitably described as: mission not completely failed”. He does rightly mention however the increasingly farcical political system in Washington, which has been discussed here before. The Atlantic has an article but on how conservatives see this decline but it misses the point entirely.

Returning to Kenny, he goes on to mention that fact that the US “still possesses greater military strength than any other country in the world” but then seems to question what good this has done for them. He seems to be forgetting that America is not like Europe, it is not content to sit on the sidelines, this is the country that believes itself to be exceptional, though there is little academic merit to this idea. What other nation describes spreading out across its natural landmass as Manifest Destiny? To see America as just another nation is to miss out a deeply complex culture that strives to do good in the world, for the world.

He continues to moan that “U.S. military spending increased 81 percent between 2001 and 2010 and now accounts for 43 percent of the global total — six times its nearest rival, China. The U.S. military burden is equivalent to 4.8 percent of GDP, the largest economic burden of any OECD country”. Yet he fails to note that military spending has been extremely consistent for decades and regularly spikes when it is being the “indispensable nation”, fighting communism, the Cold War and now people who call themselves Muslim. Each time with varying degrees of assistance but all for the benefit of the world.

After this, the usual analogies with Britain in the 1950s are trotted out, Kenny does say that after the Empire was broken in the the 60s and 70s that the UK “learned to collaborate without feeling equal status was a slight to its dignity — joining the European Union, for example, and signing the Kyoto Protocol”. Again he misses the point likening the US to a continent that has turned its back on the real world with its violence and instability for a consensual modus operandi where war under any circumstances is banished from society. This is not the world in which the United States lives.

He theorises that the US could get used to a lesser power status by simply cutting its defence budget. Indeed there are many unnecessary and wasteful projects that Robert Gates identified during his years at DoD but beyond that cuts would be unwise. 

He says the a “relaxed” United States could improve its rankings on health, education and criminal justice. This is certainly undeniable that for the US to remain a place of scientific and technological innovation it must improve in these areas.

Kenny concludes saying that “It’s even possible that the U.S. government could get more done in the world by playing nice than barging around on its own” again this denotes a fundamental ignorance and should be ignored. After all who helped set up the world’s newest nation?

The indispensable nation of course, and it can remain so for years to come but it must reform itself in order to do so.