Archive for October, 2011

2+2=4

31/10/2011

An article has noted that talk of a consistory to take place at the end of this year has faded. It does however mention an interesting problem.

The article notes that next year’s consistory will take place in “February or June”, though a date at the start of December is not to be ruled out either. It notes that of the 24 cardinals who have lost voting rights since the last consistory only two have been Italians, Sergio Cardinal Sebastiani and Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino. If Benedict were to include all of those in the Roman Curia  who are expected to eventually be created cardinals there are eight, plus one diocesan bishop (Florence). This of course excludes the vacant patriarchate of Venice that is expected to be filled in the next few months.

Thus, the total number of Italians waiting to be elevated to the College of Cardinals is up to nine. The fact is that not all of these will be chosen at once but it is still a signifcant number of a class that is expected to be 24 electors. The article mentions how “The last consistory rigidly and categorically applied the rule of not including on the list residing archbishops whose predecessor emeritus is under eighty” but continues “even if this cardinal had been recalled to the Roman Curia”. It notes that “If the rule were to be re-applied, it would exclude Florence and Turin again, as well as Toledo”. The archbishop of Turin should not be expected to be included in the next consistory but Benedict may elevate him anyway as Cardinal Poletto turns 80 in 2013.

It adds that “Among the paradoxes of such a strict application of the rule, is the case of Toledo: the current archbishop, Braulio Rodríguez Plaza, at 67 ½ is older than his predecessor, Cardinal Antonio Cañizares Llovera”. There should not however be too much read into this. Benedict will almost certainly elevate both Toledo and Florence, next year.

By December 2012, Italy will have 22 electors out of a possible total electorate of 120 in a conclave. The list of Italians waiting for the call to the College includes, Bertello, Versaldi, Filoni, as well as a number of others. The number of Italian electors  is obviously the direct result of the re-Italianisation of the Curia which is a result of Cardinal Bertone picking mainly Italians for most of the top jobs.

Of those who are in the 12 jobs that eventually lead the holders to becoming cardinals, such as the secretary of the Congregation for Bishops, the secretray of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the nuncio to the United States, seven are held by Italians.

If the Church wants fewer Italians in the next conclave, and there is no real evidence they don’t, they had better take a longer view and appoint more than the usual cursory Africans and Latin Americans. Otherwise people should not be so surprised at the number of Italian cardinals.

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“More fuel in an already combustible mix”

31/10/2011

Natural gas found in Israel. The common good will only be harder to achieve after the find.

A 21st century comté d’Artois?

28/10/2011

As was formally expected, King Abdullah, with the assistance of the Allegiance Council, named Prince Nayef as heir apparent and crown prince.

It was announced that Nayef will also take the role of prime minister, in addition to keeping his job as interior minister. The role of PM had been vested solely in the king until now. The move signals a willingness of King Abdullah, 87, to all but cease his duties to govern Saudi Arabia.

The appointment of Nayef follows the death and funeral of Crown Prince Sultan. Reports note that “Sultan’s death is the first time that the burial of a Saudi royal has been delayed to give the ruling family time to decide on the next in line – a sign of internal discord”. The same report also notes that “Sultan had already been dead – politically, that is – for the last three years; indeed, since June 2011, when he left for New York for medical treatment”, it goes on to note that “Naif, 82, is known to suffer from leukaemia” and that “despite Abdullah’s innovations in the succession process, it is an open secret that nothing guarantees a transition to a younger generation of leaders – or that an effective ruler will emerge”.

Crown Prince Nayef has been described as “a conservative pragmatist convinced that security and stability are imperative“. Yet it is unclear what kind of person Nayef is. A profile in the New York Times notes that “He is ostensibly open, Saudi experts say, yet so utterly convinced of his own world view and so bent on eradicating any real or perceived threat to the rule of his family — with particularly animosity toward Iran, Shiite Muslims or Islamist extremists — that he seems entirely unreasonable at times”. The profile adds that Nayef “has never shown much enthusiasm for reform or open government. He, too, has health problems like many of his elderly brothers and half-brothers — he is believed plagued by weak knees — and they share certain touches of vanity, such as dyeing their moustaches black. Unlike many of them, he displays a strong work ethic, putting in long hours at the ministry, and does not overtly involve himself in his private business deals, Saudi analysts said”.

Predictably the article goes on to cite an April press law that was “pushed by Prince Nayef that made it illegal to threaten national security or insult Islam as well as its senior representative, the grand mufti”. Interestingly it does however say that ”

Prince Nayef infamously supported the favorite Middle East conspiracy theory that the attacks were a Jewish plot and insisted that it was impossible that 15 of the 19 hijackers could have come from Saudi Arabia, or that if they had, they were misled by the Muslim Brotherhood. “The Saudis are being framed,” he said at a news conference at the time. Prince Nayef reversed course with energy after Al Qaeda ignited a series of bloody terrorist attacks inside the kingdom in 2003. He put his American-educated son Mohamed in charge of the effort, eventually appointing him assistant minister”.

Crucially it notes that “The fact that Prince Nayef has been identified with the conservative factions could change once he shifts away from the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of enforcing so much that they hold dear, and has to appeal to a broader segment of society”.

Nayef will not have to wait long to become king, then the whole world will see whether he will be an Artois or Provence.

Pointless

28/10/2011

Royal succession change agreed. A first born daughter will now, sadly, take precedence over younger brothers. The ban on the monarch being married to a Catholic was also lifted.

Success or failure?

27/10/2011

Ten years on from 11th September, and therefore the war in Afghanistan, a series of writers have examined the ten year war that, by some accounts is going to end the 2014, though this might not be the case in reality  thankfully.

The improvements in the Afghan national security forces are examined and the authors view is generally positive. He notes that the force has climbed from 191,000 to 305,000. There has however been consistant rumours of drug taking within the Afghan army. Not only tha tt but serious questions remain over how to fund such a force without international assistance in the future. He does note that “Over the past two years, officers and non-commissioned officers in the Afghan Police grew by nearly 20,000 and will grow another 22,000 by November 2012. The same is true in the Afghan Army; officers and non-commissioned officers grew by 26,000 and are on a path to grow another 20,000 in the next year”.

Others have examined the difficult geopolitical problems faced by the country. The writer notes that “recent assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, and head of the country’s High Peace Council, was the final straw, forcing President Karzai, under public pressure, to reassess the flawed political mechanism at work since 2008”. He goes on to note that Karzai, “after signing a wide-ranging agreement with India, he reassured Pakistan that “this strategic partnership is not directed at any country.” A few hours later, Afghan security officials made a surprising announcement that they had disrupted a plot allegedly led by the Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda to assassinate Karzai and attack sensitive installations in Kabul, arresting six men who officials allege were trained in Pakistan”. He goes on to argue that “the United States and NATO need to clearly lay out a policy that does not swing between ‘appeasement‘ and scolding of those who are using non-state terrorist actors as strategic assets against Afghan and international forces”.

He mentions, somewhat unsuprisingly, that “recent statistics are alarming, as unemployment hovers around 40 percent and more than a third of Afghans earn less than $1 per day. While a small, yet growing, urban middle class is emerging across the country, economic growth in the years to come will depend on security, good governance and rule of law”. The one flicker of hope is that “the country needs to accelerate the development of its promising mineral and agricultural potential, as well as call on learned economists and other specialists to pro-actively propose alternate solutions”.

Another article questions the very wisdom of the mission in Afghanistan at all. She argues “When the United States led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the mission was clear: retaliation against the Taliban government for offering safe haven to the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. Ten years later, the mission is no longer clear”. This is patently false. There is still a strong sense of why America and its allies are in Afghanistan, for the security of “the West”, and the good of the Afghan people. These two go hand in hand. To say otherwise is either ignorant or naive. She goes on to say that the United States was “was locked in a war of values with enemies who hated the freedoms offered to American citizens”. While it would certainly be a grave mistake to say that Muslims or Islam, “hate freedom”, it would be dangerous to think that those who are support terrorism are anything other than single minded in their resolve to destroy “the West”, however ill defined a concept that may be. Thus, her describing the Bush administration’s describtion of the war as “a war of values”, could not be more inaccurate.

Finally and perhaps most importantly, the question of “Killing al-Qaeda” is discussed. The authors argues uncontroversially that in addition to the death of bin Laden, and “Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemeni-American cleric linked to a number of terrorist plots in the West, was killed in Yemen on September 30, 2011 by a Hellfire missile fired from an American drone” has lead many to believe that the current strategy is working. She cites the fact that in “addition to Awlaki, Abu Hafs al-Shahri was killed in a CIA drone strike in Waziristan on September 11, 2011. Key al-Qaeda figure Younis al-Mauritani was arrested in the suburbs of Quetta, Pakistan a week earlier.  On August 22, 2011 Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, another key operational leader, was reportedly killed in a drone strike in Pakistan. He was believed to be the organization’s second highest leader, and served as a link between bin Laden and lower organizational ranks. Finally, Ilyas Kashmiri was said to have been  killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan on June 3, 2011″.

She mentions that she “compiled a dataset of 298 incidents of leadership targeting involving 96 organizations from around the world from 1945-2004”, and the result of this was “that decapitation does not increase the likelihood of organizational collapse over time. While 53 percent of decapitated terrorist groups fell apart, 70 percent of groups that have never experienced decapitation are no longer active.” She argues that “the susceptibility of terrorist groups to decline after decapitation is strongly predicted by the organization’s size, age, and type — the larger and older, the more durable”. She adds that once a group has been active for twenty years the effectiveness of the decapitation stategy is much less effective. She notes that “organizational resilience depends on two variables: bureaucratization and community support”.

She concludes that there need to “decrease support for the group”, which is exactly is what is being done in Afghanistan.

“China’s long decline”

27/10/2011

America’s greatest challenge will probably be managing China’s long decline” not its rise.

Wanting it both ways

26/10/2011

So it rumbles on, interminably. Recent reports have said the Germany has raised fresh objections to the proposed increased bailout fund, which will come primarly from German taxpayers. The result of which is “the International Monetary Fund signalled it was considering stepping in”.

Amid the UK coalition’s disagreements  and yet more disagreements, over the policy toward the EU, “[EU] officials admitted last night that many of the details of any deal will not be resolved tonight and will have to wait for another meeting of EU finance ministers at the weekend”. The result of this, predicably enough was that the “FTSE 100 index closed down at 5525, and shares in Germany, France and the US all fell”.

The report notes the largest disagreement “centres on the role of the European Central Bank in bailing out struggling eurozone economies”. The result of this was that the “draft agreement circulated among leaders yesterday suggested that the ECB should go on buying the bonds of troubled members, effectively lending money to them directly. The ECB’s bond-buying programme is unpopular in Germany, where critics fear it will compromise the central bank’s independence and its ability to control inflation. Angela Merkel, the German chancellor who is facing fierce domestic opposition to the rescue deal, yesterday publicly rejected the draft as ‘not acceptable to Germany'”.

So yet again the EU is unable to act due to the lack of separation between domestic and EU politics. The result when times are economically good is disruption, and when times are bad, chaos. The German parliament has passed a vote that would increase the size of the euro zone rescue fund.

In a separate article the future of the EU is examined. The opinion piece opens with a quote from Nicholas Sarkozy saying “‘You don’t like the euro, so why do you want to be in our meetings?’ asked the French President of David Cameron at the weekend, adding for good measure that he had ‘had enough’ of British interference”. This obviously displays a short-sightedness that unmasks the hollow talk of all Europeans working together. The columnist notes that “Sarkozy did rather put his finger on the nub of the problem Britain faces in responding to the eurozone debt crisis”.

He adds that “the Coalition government has gone along with Europe’s pained march towards fiscal union, even though this runs counter to the eurosceptic instincts of its Conservative hierarchy”. He notes that the reason for this approch are that, “the apparent alternative of disorderly default and break-up would almost certainly plunge Europe, and very possibly the rest of the world too, into prolonged depression” in addition to “by supporting the eurozone in its dash towards fiscal integration, Britain may be able to negotiate a more advantageous, economically detached role for itself, whereby it enjoys many of the privileges of Europe’s single market but removes itself from some of its obligations”. This latter hope, the so called Swiss model, has been commented on here before.

He goes on to say that “both these objectives are starting to look at best questionable, and the second one positively fanciful”. Interestingly he adds that “the debt crisis is spiralling out of control and may already have moved beyond the capacity of Europe’s political elite to fix it by ramming home fiscal and economic union”. However it is hard to see what he means by thi. Surely the only way to solve the euro crisis is either for radical, violent and immediate integration, or the break up of the euro and the end of the EU itself. These are the only two options. Seeing as the latter option would have violent social, political and economic consequences, the former is the only option, despite what some seem to think.

The columnist argues that the current plan of bondholders taking more losses on Greek debt, increasing the EFSF, and recapitalising European banks, “risks provoking the very same disorderly outcome that everyone so much fears”. He argues the plan “seems to condemn much of Europe to years of economic decline. Reduced to penury by centrally imposed austerity programmes, most peripheral economies have no chance of bridging the competitive gap with Germany or Holland, let alone of working off their external indebtedness in a meaningful manner”. Yet he has little to say on what to do to fix the euro crisis.

Depressingly he adds that “only bit of the grand scheme that seems to be broadly in the bag is a proposed 100 billion-euro banking recapitalisation, and even that is thought inadequate by many market analysts”. With a sense of realism he mentions that ” Britain can salvage anything at all from this mayhem, let alone the new contract with Europe it aspires to, seems most unlikely”.

Germany has long been seen as the leader of the EU. How however when times are tough and decisions have to be made, they shirk any responsibility and refuse to act quickly. All this because the EU refused to accept a simple idea hadn’t gone away.

Utter folly

24/10/2011

In yet another bow to the intolerance of modernity by David Cameron who plans to change the succession laws to the throne of the United Kingdom and therefore the 15 other kingdoms known as the Commonwealth.

Cameron “wants to scrap the ban on spouses of Roman Catholics ascending to the throne and give girls the same right of succession as boys.But he needs the 15 other Commonwealth nations to agree to the changes.They would apply to any children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – even if they were born before a law change”.

The report notes that “Cameron said: ‘We espouse gender equality in all other aspects of life and it is an anomaly that in the rules relating to the highest public office we continue to enshrine male superiority.'” The report goes on to say that “Cameron also said the ban on any monarch married to a Roman Catholic was an ‘historical anomaly’ and could not ‘continue to be justified’. But he did not propose changing the ban on monarchs themselves being Roman Catholic because the British monarch is also supreme governor of the Church of England”.

The same article reports that “he did not propose changing the ban on monarchs themselves being Roman Catholic because the British monarch is also supreme governor of the Church of England.”

What Cameron has effectively said is that he wants radical constitutional change, just not radical enough to tug at the threads of the established Church. In effect he is not brave enough to contemplate such a change, but he is willing to bring an institution that has its roots in the Bible, if not before, and is thus several thousand years old, into the “modern world”.

What folly.

Myth of the middle class?

24/10/2011

Are of the Dems and GOP pandering to an illusion?

A lucky hand

22/10/2011

With the death of Sultan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia there is a chance that the House of Saud has been dealt a lucky hand, it is unclear whether they will use it.

Sultan, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s, died in a New York hospital early this morning, and was thought to be 85 or 86. The death of Sultan removes the possibiltly of Sultan becoming king, albeit, in name only. It avoids the chaos and lack of order that this scenario would bring and has thankfully been avoided.

King Abdullah, 86, who is a moderate, in Saudi terms has done much to improve the lives of ordinary Saudis, but his time too will come, sooner rather than later. There is also only so much he can do however given his age and his own health problems.

Now the real test comes, the Allegience Council, that was set up in 2006 to decide the next heir to the throne has a task on its hands. It should choose Prince Nayef, 77, the Minister of the Interior, as the new Crown Prince. Nayef has been second deputy prime minister, effectively crown prince in waiting, since 2009. If it does not it will be an absolute insult to Nayef, but few envision Nayef not being named to the post of Crown Prince in the coming days.

The post of second deputy prime minister however is more complex. It needs to go to a prince who has enough expierence, but who is young enough to be in good health when Nayef dies. Thus, this is the most important appointment that Saudi royals will ever make and will shape the kingdom for decades to come.  A report quotes Middle East expert Simon Henderson saying that who becomes Crown Prince “will come only after political machinations within a newly made council, a seal of approval from the country’s religious leaders and a decision from King Abdullah”. Nayef is well known to be close to the religious establishment.

The report says that “Under the rules forming the [allegience] council, the king presents three candidates to be his successor. If he and the council disagree over the final choice, the council votes. The council was only meant to begin making decisions after Sultan had succeeded Abdullah. It will now be put into action sooner than expected”. The report goes on to say that “Nayef is 77 and reportedly dealing with health problems. During a November 2010 news conference in Mecca, Henderson noted, journalists observed that he ‘depended on aides to help him answer questions'”.

Nature has dealt the House of Saud a lucky hand. While it is almost impossible not to see Nayef as the new Crown Prince, the next generation is waiting. Who gets chosen will set the course of the kingdom, as well as the world economy for decades to come.

Start of a new Libya

22/10/2011

Gaddafi is dead but what is to become of the new Libya?

“We don’t succeed on our own”

20/10/2011

We rely on each other other.

“Nonsense”

19/10/2011

Cain talks nonsense, and should be ignored as a candidate.

Only democracy in town?

18/10/2011

Israel’s claim has vanished. The U.S. needs to reevlaute its relationship with this tiny nation, especially since “developments in the Israeli Knesset portend a more ominous future. Lawmakers recently passed legislation that would threaten civil lawsuits against any Israeli who endorses boycott and divestiture campaigns against Israel. Other laws are being considered that would set up McCarthy-style committees to investigate left-leaning groups or even cancel Arabic as an official Israeli language, despite the fact that around 20 percent of Israeli citizens are Arabs. There have been growing calls for Jews not to rent apartments to Arabs; and according to peace activists with whom I spoke, harassment of human rights groups and NGOs is on the rise. Arab citizens of Israel already face serious discrimination on issues such as land ownership, employment, and resource allocation — problems that are only increasing“.

Time for some cold hard realism.

Worse before it get’s better?

18/10/2011

With what remains of the Gaddafi forces causing trouble, albeit in Tripoli, attention has switched to the interim govenment of the National Transitional Council.

The ministries have been allocated but now the governing must begin. The people of Libya and the West with its purse strings for development aid, are watching and waiting to see what will happen. There are signs however that it will not be easy.

It has been reported that “officials close to the NTC describe the fissures that have opened up between top military commanders and political officials. Tensions between Western-backed liberals and homegrown Islamists are on the rise”. Worse still “there are the divisions between the leadership that spent most of the uprising in the relatively safe rebel-controlled city of Benghazi and the people who fought on the ground to liberate Libyan cities”, not only that but “everyone seems to have it out for Mahmoud Jibril, the de facto prime minister who is effectively Jalil’s deputy and foreign minister”.

If this is indeed true, the nascent Libyan government is in poor shape that will only get worse. This in turn could destabilise the government with ministers not getting the portfolio they desire, violence could break out and Gaddafi who held the country together, more or less, could be seen as in nostalgia. This is thankfully impossible, for now, as the memories are still too fresh and optomisim still reasonably high. Time is running out and deals need to be reached with a new constitution drawn up and parties formed and the beginnings of a civil society starting.

The writer quotes a source who said “‘Jibril is appointing family members and businessmen to high positions. That’s exactly what Qaddafi did and exactly what we don’t want.’ The insiders pointed to Aref Nayed, the ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and head of the stabilization team, as an example of a Jibril loyalist who has been given a free ride. Others complained that Jibril is working to gain control over Qaddafi’s frozen assets, which a few countries including the Netherlands and Spain have started to release back to the NTC”.

The writer mentions how “the military, too, have voiced their opposition to Jibril’s leadership. While the civilian government has attempted to control the different armed brigades that have parked around the capital, units have not responded to their requests to pack up and return home. Brigades from Misrata, including some of the country’s fiercest fighters, refuse to leave until they believe Tripoli is secure — no matter what the NTC or the Tripoli Military Committee says”.

It is up to the West to push the right decisions to be made within the NTC either using local actors or their own experts. It is in the interests of both the Libyans, Europe and the US for the next months and years to go as smootly as possible. If not all the good work that has been done will be for nothing.

A wasted campaign

17/10/2011

Why Hunstman is floundering.

“Won’t somebody please think of the children”

16/10/2011

So said Helen Lovejoy in The Simpsons as yet another attack on gender has been carried out, going unnoticed and uncritiqued, as usual. The attack is as a result of a survey of nine year olds carried out in Ireland.  

The newsarticle covering the survey, opens saying, “Traditional stereotypes of boys playing football and girls wearing princess dresses are as ingrained as ever”. It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone with a modicum of common sense that stereotypes, while broad and sometimes unfair, wouldn’t be stereotypes if they were not usually true.

The reporter goes on to write amazingly that “gender stereotyping is rife among Irish children. The finding came as a surprise to the co-director of the study, Sheila Greene, who is professor of childhood research at Trinity College Dublin”. Unless there has been a massive discovery that has gone unnoticed recently, there are two types of gender, male and female. Each have different biological features and strangely act different accordingly.

Greene’s report was entitled Growing Up In Ireland: The National Longitudinal Study of Children. The news report says that it “revealed a group of 120 nine-year-olds who defined themselves sharply by gender. In general, the boys who were interviewed explained how other boys ‘played football and rugby’ while girls ‘did ballet'”. The fact that this was even reported at all reveals the hatred that those on the hard left view gender itself. As has been said here before they wish nothing less than to re-write our genetic code.

The report goes on to say that “The study indicates that girls and boys have well-established ideas about what is suitable behaviour for their sex, and that this starts well before the age of nine, ‘probably in the cradle'”. Amazingly, and with the usual good grace, the report acknowledges that, “Biology is part of the picture, with boys being physically stronger than girls, but ‘biology does not explain a disposition to like pink and to be able to manage a Hoover. It doesn’t explain why boys see school as more for girls and why all boys seem to feel obliged to be fanatical about football”.

The news reporter adds that “there is a certain inevitability to children defining themselves and each other through their gender, there are people in other countries determined to avoid this, including the controversial couples in Canada and Sweden who refused to reveal the gender of their children”.

The writer notes that “A less extreme example is Egalia, a radical preschool set up in Sweden last year. At Egalia, teachers avoid using the words ‘his’ or ‘hers’, the students are known as friends rather than boys and girls, and every book, toy and educational tool has been carefully chosen to avoid gender stereotyping. Genderless ’emotion dolls’ are even used to navigate conflicts between the children. ‘Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty, and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,’ Jenny Johnsson, a teacher at the school, has said. ‘Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.'”

The words “radical preschool” are not often used together, if ever, and for good reason. To “teach” children through genderless dolls is to firstly ignore biology itself, and secondly assume that when they get older they are incapable of discerning what is basically common sense, i.e. that there are two genders and that these cannot be wished away.

The newswriter ends on a predictably radical antisocietal note by quoting the “academic’s” report, “‘When stereotypes are given full rein, children’s choices and their freedom to be the person they want to be can be curtailed.'”

There is no escaping gender, in the same way there is no escaping gravity. Society must accept the genders are different, each with their own unique role to play in society. To tamper with this is to alter what it means to be human itself. The consequences of teaching children with genderless dolls will haunt society for decades to come unless it is halted urgently.

“Atrocity”

16/10/2011

Rocco gets to the point. Benedict’s recent trip to Germany left many questioning why Bach, Beethoven, Palestrina and Victoria had been left out.

Exposed as what they really are

14/10/2011

The German EU Commissioner has “lent his voice to demands that the national flags of all bailed-out European Union member states be flown at half-mast at EU buildings”. Such a statement is not only an outrage but a farce as Germany does not even understand that their own radical integationist plans  have become unstuck. People must not forget this treatment.

Lèse majesté

14/10/2011

In a ill-informed and poorly argued article, The quirks that could prove royalty’s downfall, in the Irish Times, a number of European royal houses are examined under somewhat bizarre categories, leading to an equally bizarre quasi-insinuation. Such an article in any other nation would rightly lead the author to being accused of lèse majesté, and facing the consequences for this.

He notes that “A week of political manoeuvring in the Netherlands, it now seems inevitable that Queen Beatrix will be stripped of the Dutch monarch’s traditional entitlement to become involved in the negotiation of governments”. He goes on to note that “Labour is in favour of removing the queen’s ability to “interfere” in the formation of governments and also in favour of removing her as head of the Council of State, it believes her removal as head of the state would be a step too far”. It hardly needs to be said but the fact that the Dutch monarchy, like so many others that remain, enjoy consistent, widespread support from all but a tiny minority of insignificant cranks.

He adds that the change in the Dutch constitution are as a result of Queen Beatrix’s desire “to step down in the not-too-distant future in favour of her son, Crown Prince Willem Alexander”. Firstly, the heir apparent to the Dutch throne does not have the title, Crown Prince, but Prince of Orange. One would expect that a certain amount of knowledge would be necessary in order to make one’s point valid. Starting off on such a poor footing does little to aid one’s cause.

Secondly, there is a nasty habit in some monarchies of abdication. While the opposite view can be taken to extremes, for example in the United Kingdom, the other side of the coin is routine abdication. Regrettably this seems to be common in The Netherlands and Luxembourg. The easiest solution would be for the reigning monarch to appoint the heir apparent as regent above a certain age. This would avoid routine abdications and allow the next generation plenty of time to practice before becoming de jure monarch.

The writer of the article then notes that “there is growing public pressure in some quarters for a younger, ‘more modern’ monarchy – for which, in political terms, read one without any remaining political influence”. Such ridiculous statements are ill-informed and have little or no basis in reality. The monarchies in the Low Countries have made every effort to be more modern, indeed this has, at times, been taken too far, as was the case in Denmark. The writer then seems to contradict his own point saying that in the case of Queen Beatrix that she “restored their image as an unassuming so-called ‘bicycling monarchy’ when she succeeded her mother, Queen Juliana”.

The writer then goes through most of the crown heads of Europe by estimated wealth and some of their personal problems or notable issues during their reign but never seems to fully answer his own insunation.

The remaining monarchies are an important link with our past and while not perfect preform duties that a politican should never be allowed do. Monarchies represent a nation at its best and can be a great source of national unity and pride when other institutions fail.

Seven short years?

12/10/2011

First papal abdication in 600 years to occur in April? It just might happen, but not this April.

All the wrong reasons

12/10/2011

In an unusual article on The Hill, President Obama’s one term presidency are already being examined, even before the votes of the 2012 elections are counted. The writer lists seven “seven places where Obama or his Democratic allies made critical errors that forever altered the course of his presidency”.

The first that is listed is Obama’s supposed failure to veto ARRA. What the writer seems to have forgotten is that if President Obama did not pass the stimulus then the consequences of this would have been, to say the least, a disaster. It is not implausible to say that America would have gone into a nosedive, a run on the banks would have ensued and global depression would have become depression, all in a matter of months.

The second point is certainly valid. He notes that “Pelosi [attempted to] move cap-and-trade first”. Indeed, there is general criticism here that the Obama administration allowed the Democratic controlled Congress to draft too many bills and determine the agenda. The White House should have been more firm in the first months of its term.

The third and fourth are given far more importance than needed. The writer notes that Obama “Called the cop stupid” and “Failed to bring the Olympics home to Chicago”. These are minor points that will be long forgotten by the vast majority of people. They have little impact on Obama’s overall presidency and should be dismissed from such a list.

The fifth reason Feehery gives for Obama’s imminent defeat is signing extending the Bush tax cuts. He writes that “After campaigning against and complaining about George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the rich, Obama meekly signed a two-year extension of those same tax cuts”. While this is undoubtedly true, every politician must be pragmatic, to some extent. Something that has been lost of the GOP for some time. Feehery adds that “By reversing course, Obama did three things. He exposed himself as a man who will blink when put to the test. He made the deficit situation much worse. He has not in any way, shape or form put himself in a stronger rhetorical position for his reelection. He is making the same ineffective arguments that he made last year, and it will likely yield the same result”.
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The final move that has supposedly seal President Obama’s fate is “Brought David Plouffe in-house”. The increasingly bizarre political system is the reason for this, with the first shots of the campaign season already fired Obama, if he wants to get re-elected needs to move ahead of the GOP contenders.

As rich as Crassus?

10/10/2011

Maybe Saudi Arabia isn’t as rich as it thinks?

An honest u-turn

09/10/2011

In an interesting piece Fr Michael Ryan has supported the new translations of the Roman Missal. Fr Ryan had previously been a vigourus opponent of the new translations.

Now Fr Ryan has said that it is important that the laity see them in their unvarnished state in order to judge them properly. He says that parish priests are “are expected to introduce the Missal to our largely unsuspecting parishioners, and to convince them that the new translation will strengthen their prayer life, more properly position them in their relationship to God, deepen their understanding of liturgy, elevate its tone, correct decades of ‘inadequate language and deficient theology’,  and put them in closer touch with the Church’s hallowed Latin tradition”.

He justifiably adds that “Whether you support the new Missal or not, it is undeniable that behind the scenes were power plays, a translation process driven more by ideology than by accepted principles of translation, and loyal but acquiescent episcopal conferences”. Many would criticse his use of “accepted principles of translation” but what translator would come up with “consubstatial”? There is certainly an over-familiarity with much of the modern translations but to go to the other extreme of having highly significant words make little sense to modern worshippers, smacks of “a translation process driven more by ideology “.

The first Sunday of Advent, 27 November, has been set as the date for the full translations to be implemented across the English speaking world. Yet as he says “The more I talk with brother priests, the more I wonder. To be sure, it is a rare priest who declares he will not implement the new Missal. When it comes to the people’s parts, there is really very little choice unless he wants to risk suspension. But when it comes to the celebrant’s parts, the reaction I am hearing more and more is: ‘I’ll use the new Missal but I will feel free to modify texts whenever I consider them to contain questionable theology, awkward grammar, inaccessible vocabulary, or offensively gender-exclusive language.'”

Whatever about the theology, grammer or vocabulary, there should be no concern of the “gender-exclusive language”. It is true that the outgoing translations are gender neutral, but God has, in Christian countries, always been male. To overturn this in order to be more PC is a weak argument.

Fr Ryan concludes saying what his priest friends ask him what “I intend to do. I surprise them by saying that I intend to implement the new Missal and not change a word, no matter how questionable or offensive I may personally find it. Why? Not because I am a legalist or a purist. No, I will make no changes because I am convinced that, after all the years of wrangling and behind-the-scenes manoeuvring (including the shelving of the elegant and accessible 1998 Icel translation), the only way the new Missal will have its full impact is if the People of God can judge it for themselves without edits of any kind”. 

Let us hope that the errors of the new translations are rectified soon.

Flexing its muscles

06/10/2011

After the recent post on the threat the Chinese navy will pose in the future, there is an interesting piece about its claims to the South China Sea.

It notes that “Philippines is engaged in a muscle-flexing row with China over oil drilling in the South China Sea, writes Andy Higgins at the Washington Post. So are India and Vietnam, reports Ishaan Thardoor at Time, who wonders whether war is possible between China and India”.

He correctly notes that “No one knows whether there actually is a motherlode of hydrocarbons under the seabed of this island-strewn region. But there has been sufficient evidence to create a crisis of oil envy. China’s rise as a global power is embedded in the friction”. He points to the rather obvious fact that a “U.S. Department of Energy [report] reinforced other findings that China and India’s relative energy appetite is soaring — by 2035, they will account for 31 percent of world energy consumption, up from 21 percent in 2008″.

He seems to endorse the view that China “wishes to prevent the U.S. from coming to the aid of Taiwan in a direct confrontation, and is also telegraphing to everyone else in the region that it is serious about pressing its territorial claims. Regional powers such as the Philippines and Vietnam, which to one degree or another have the U.S. at their back, have objected. So has India, which has its own navy”.

He notes the Japanese desire for a regional conference to settle the matter. Of course, this does not mean that China will see itself bound by it. It has acted agressively in the past and may do so again, should it suit it.

Big surprise

06/10/2011

As was widely expected, Sarah Palin has chosen not to run for president. She’d rather be a celebrity than have to deal with real policy questions where she might have to think and make a decision.

Ruling the roost, again

04/10/2011

According to anylasis it seems that the Italians are running much of the Roman Curia again, as they did up until the 1980s. In a piece written in the left leaning Tablet, the anylasis should come as no shock.

Mickens, the author, writes that “is being led overwhelmingly by Western Europeans (and North Americans) who are “Roman” in their theological and ecclesiological outlook and training, rather than people from the developing world where the Church is growing”.

He adds that Benedict “has given more than 76 per cent of the Vatican’s highest-ranking positions to people from the ‘Old Continent’ and another 10.2 per cent to men from North America. Even though Latin America is home to roughly half of all the world’s Catholics, the Pope has offered only 5.1 per cent of the top Curia jobs (five posts) to people from that part of the world. That’s the same as the quota for Africans. Meanwhile, he has invited only three Asians to work in Rome.”

Again it should not come as a suprise that “nearly 90 per cent of Pope Benedict’s appointees undertook theological studies in Rome and only one of them has never studied in Europe or North America.” Of course, this is almost a prequiste of any bishop to be appointed anywhere in the world.

The analysis covers “the Secretariat of State, congregations (the most powerful departments with jurisdiction for issues such as doctrine, worship and bishops’ appointments), pontifical councils (mostly middle-sized agencies with pastoral concerns) and Synod office, as well as tribunals, economic and administrative offices of Vatican City State, the Vatican Library, several pontifical commissions, the four major papal basilicas, two equestrian orders “led” traditionally by cardinals and the three main pontifical academies (science, social science and life think tanks)”.

It notes that “Out of a possible 127 managerial posts, the current Pope has filled approximately 99 during his time in office, or 80 per cent of the total since becoming Bishop of Rome in April 2005”. Much of the blame for the re-Italisation of the curia is down to Cardinal Bertone, secretary of State to His Holiness.

The author note that “Some 47 Italians have been appointed to administrative positions under Benedict XVI. With only a few exceptions there are Italian ‘superiors’ in almost every office that was part of the study. They figure especially heavily in the several administrative departments of Vatican City State. Many of these offices in the study are probably unknown and not terribly significant to many Catholics”. Mickens adds that “More essential, especially to bishops and other diocesan officials, are the policies and decisions that come from the Secretariat of State, the nine congregations, the 12 pontifical councils and the three tribunals. In this smaller constellation of bureaux, half of the 22 men that Pope Benedict has appointed to the top position are from Italy, four are from other parts of Europe, three from North America, and two each from Africa and Asia. The Pope has also appointed some 22 people to the number-two slot in these dicasteries; 15 of them are Europeans (five from Italy), two each from North America, Africa and Asia, and one from Latin America”.

Of course that is not to say that Benedict has let Bertone rule the roost entirely. When Cardinal Martino was retiring from the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Benedict insisted on an African after the then recent retirement of Cardinal Arinze. Similarly, after Cardinal Rode retired, Benedict sought a Brazilian as his replacement. Thus, Mickens quibble is more to do with the scale than anything else.

While Mickens has a point, we should remember the Church is not a democracy, and that Benedict is a transitional pope, although one with much to his credit. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next papacy.

New relationship?

02/10/2011

After the much trumpted Special Relationship with the US, is the UK about to enter a New Relationship with the EU? The backbenchers of David Cameron’s Conservative Party are demanding that he take a tougher line on the problems the EU is facing and call a referendum to decide the fate of the UK’s involvement in it.

The report notes that “Mark Pritchard, the secretary of the 1922 committee of Conservative MPs, is the most senior Tory yet to demand a vote on Britain’s membership of the European Union following the eurozone crisis. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Pritchard says that the EU has become an ‘occupying force’ which is eroding British sovereignty and that the ‘unquestioning support’ of backbenchers is no longer guaranteed”. To use such hyperbole and call the EU an “occupying force” is utter nonsense. It only panders to those who see the British Empire still existing and the UK as a powerful military and economic force instead of what it really is, a middle of the road power in a continent that is declining inexorably.  

The news article notes that Pritchard “says the Government should hold a referendum next year on whether Britain should have a ‘trade only’ relationship with the EU, rather than the political union which has evolved ‘by stealth'”. This is certainly a valid proposal. The only way the EU has progressed over the last fifty years has been through stealth, and citizens have given it the benefit of the doubt. Now both of these assumptions have been proven wrong.

Cameron however has a problem as “Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Treasury minister, yesterday attacked Eurosceptics as being ‘enemies of growth’. In a clear warning to Mr Cameron, Mr Pritchard says Tory MPs have become tired of tolerating the “Europhile views” of Liberal Democrat ministers”. While such an attack from Alexander is unmerited, the UK does a vast amount of trade with the EU. Of course, this ignores the Tories legitimate concerns as to the political union that will have to come, should the EU wish the euro to survive.

The article notes that  “Cameron and George Osborne, the Chancellor, know that the unfolding crisis in the eurozone will give the Conservative party’s Eurosceptic MPs a chance to argue more powerfully for a realignment of Britain’s position in the EU”. However an article in the Economist doubts the very validity of such an argument.

It says that “Cameron’s government is wary of revisiting old rows over Europe, ministers know that the ‘golden opportunity’ thesis is mainstream Tory thinking”. Yet the same article notes that “George Eustice, the young MP who chaired the meeting, says national parliaments across Europe are questioning the hoarding of powers in Brussels, and claims: ‘Now is the moment for British leadership.'”

Yet it goes on to note how the ideas of the backbenchers “fit into two broad schools of thought. The first amounts to a hunch that—by holding the euro zone to ransom—Britain can be a free rider on Europe’s single market. This is variously dressed up with talk of the ‘Swiss model’ or of repatriating powers. But the basic idea is to access EU markets without paying EU regulatory costs”. The second school of thought “thinks even low-cost membership of the single market is a bad deal. Britain should leave the club, such ultrasceptics growl: world trade rules would guarantee tariff-free access to EU economies. And if trade rules fail, well, Britain buys more from the rest of the EU than vice versa, so it is in Europe’s interests not to raise barriers to trade. Anyway, Europe is in sclerotic decline, they scoff: the future lies in emerging markets”.

EU is in no mood to take a lead from the UK government. The article notes that “If Britain overbids on its demands, it would move from irrelevance to isolation (and face calls to start paying towards euro-zone bail-outs).”  Tackling the Swiss model it argues that “Switzerland gets to be a free rider because it is small. And because it is small, Switzerland’s absence does not affect the nature of the single market”.

It concludes saying that “government should plan defensively in case a moment for horse-trading arises. But it should seek a narrow, valuable and—if timed right—achievable concession”.

A pattern emerges

01/10/2011

An article in the LA Times asks an interesting question. Is the entire GOP field homophobic? As has been mentioned here before, Rick Perry certainly seems to be.

The article notes a TIME journalist saying “Republican front-runner and Texas Gov. Rick Perry once compared, in writing, homosexuality to alcoholism”. It continues reminding readers that “This comes after former front-runner Michele Bachmann’s widely advertised connection to homosexual reparative therapy” in addition to “Rick Santorum’s comments years ago on ‘man on dog‘ sex”.

The writer says that “I see such highly publicized gay-baiting as a positive development.Why? Not so long ago, the virulently homophobic views offered by some candidates were treated almost as viable alternatives to the positions taken by less anti-gay politicians”.

He notes that “the radical ideas espoused by Bachmann, Perry, Santorum and others are held up not for genuine consideration but for scorn”. What should be stated is that poll after poll has shown steadily rising acceptance of homosexuality among the American people. Correspondingly, poll after poll shows increasing support for civil unions or same sex marriage, depending on the state.

That is comforting at least.

Another battle won

01/10/2011

The death of Anwar al-Awlaki has been announced. AQAP will be seriously weakened but the war is not over but it is being won.