Archive for the ‘Freedom’ Category

Where next for Ukraine?

24/02/2014

An article from the most recent Economist disucsses the situation in Ukraine.

It notes that “Despite talk of a truce between some of the participants, the horror could yet get much worse. The bloodshed will deepen the rifts in what has always been a fragile, complex country (see article). Outright civil war remains a realistic prospect. Immediate responsibility for this mayhem lies with Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s thuggish president. But its ultimate architect sits in the Kremlin: Vladimir Putin”.

This anyalsis makes sense however, it has been reported that when the Polish foreign minister, along with two others visisted Yanukovych the meeting was interupted by a phone called, reputedly from Putin advising Yanukovych to stand down.

The peice mentions that it came into being as an independent nation only in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. Combining lands in the west that had once been part of Austria-Hungary, and a Russian-speaking south and east, the new country always had its doubters. Since then Ukraine’s politics have been characterised by infighting”.

 The piece adds, “It was Mr Yanukovych’s rejection, in November, of a trade agreement with the EU, in favour of an opaque deal with Russia, which started the unrest. Soon the protesters were demanding his resignation, while Mr Yanukovych and Russian propaganda denounced them as terrorists. How, after three months of tetchy stand-off, the killing started this week is murky. But most of it was perpetrated by the president’s men. The response from the West should be firm. The president’s henchmen deserve the visa bans and asset freezes that America has imposed and the EU is considering. Mr Yanukovych must rein in his troops and, if he can, the plainclothes goons who are committing much of the violence”.

The article calls for both sides for form a transitional government. The article casts a grim look at the tenure of Yanukovych, “A presidential election is due in 2015: it should happen this year instead, preferably without Mr Yanukovych. His regime has featured rampant cronyism, the persecution of his rivals, suborning of the media and nobbling of the courts, now topped off by slaughter. But he will be hard to move. Built like a bouncer, he twists like a weasel; he is likely to try to wriggle out of any commitments he makes when he thinks the crisis has passed. If so, the tycoons who have sustained his power, and who have much to lose in this madness, must force him out”.

 

Interestingly the article argues that “The protesters have no clear champion—one reason the violence may prove difficult to stop. It is hard to envisage a candidate emerging who will bridge the underlying fault-lines in Ukrainian society (see map). Mr Yanukovych still commands support in the east and south; in Kiev and the west, where protesters have seized government facilities, he is reviled. A split remains terrifyingly plausible”.

On the role Putin has played thus far, “To most rational observers, fomenting chaos across the border in Ukraine might seem an odd ambition for Russia. Not to Mr Putin, who regards Ukraine as an integral part of Russia’s sphere of influence, and saw the orange revolution as a Western plot to steal it. His economic sanctions and threats helped to persuade Mr Yanukovych to turn his back on the EU. It is clear that the loans and cheap Russian gas that prop up Ukraine’s teetering economy are conditional on Mr Yanukovych taking a tough line with the protesters. Mr Putin’s bullying and machinations have brought Ukraine to this pass”.

The article ends, “It is past time for the West to stand up to this gangsterism. Confronting a country that has the spoiling power of a seat on the UN Security Council, huge hydrocarbon reserves and lots of nuclear weapons, is difficult, but it has to be done. At a minimum, the diplomatic pretence that Russia is a law-abiding democracy should end. It should be ejected from the G8. Above all, the West must stand united in telling Mr Putin that Ukraine, and the other former Soviet countries that he regards as wayward parts of his patrimony, are sovereign nations”.

While these measures may sound plausible and valid they seem to be bring more heat than light to the debate. Putin’s role in the debacle however is clear.

Advertisements

Temporary reprieve?

25/01/2014

The Supreme Court ruled Friday that an order of nuns in Colorado is not required  to fully comply with ObamaCare’s contraception mandate, in a partial and  temporary victory for critics of the contentious provision. In an order  handed down late Friday, the justices concluded that the nuns — and roughly 200  religious nonprofits — do not need to file government forms to exempt themselves  from the law’s mandate that workers receive free contraception as part of  employee health insurance plans. Still, the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged and other nonprofits “that hold themselves out as religious” and object to the provision must inform  the Department of Health and Human Services of that status to avoid paying  penalties under the law. The order is meant to stand until a lower court  rules on a pending appeal in the legal fight between the Little Sisters and the  Health Department, the court said, making clear that it was not weighing in on  the overall merits of the dispute. The Little Sisters case is among dozens of  challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s mandate on birth control, which proponents say is vital to protect  women’s reproductive health”.

“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.

Time to look again

09/09/2011

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

Perry the conservative?

26/07/2011

There has been much talk of a lacklustre GOP field for the upcoming presidential election. However, many conservatives of a certain bent are looking to the governor of Texas, Rick Perry to answer their prayers.

Perry will pobably enter the field though though if he does decide to it will have to be soon. He is widly popular in his home state having been elected in his own right three times and is thus the longest serving governor in Texas history, the Economist notes that “There is, after all, a decent chance that he might win”. Not only that but “His most recent primary, against the popular Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 2010, was not expected to be a walkover but he made it one”.

Texas is booming unlike much of the rest of the United States, and the article notes that it “It is already the second most-populous state after California and is growing fast. Newcomers are attracted by the absence of state income and capital-gains taxes, cheap housing and, compared with most other parts of America, a steady stream of jobs. How much of this is Mr Perry’s doing is debatable”.

The article argues that much of Perry’s record chimes in with the Tea Party mood but it concludes that “closer national scrutiny will expose the seamier side of Texas’s low-tax model, including an underfunded school system and an inadequate safety net”. Not only that but people for all their talk of “freedom” from the state they actually like having a net their when things get bad.

A seperate article notes that Perry’s conservative credintaials are not as strong as some might think. It notes that “he bypassed the Texas Legislature and signed an executive order mandating that all girls entering the sixth grade receive a vaccine that helps protect from some strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer”. The article notes that social conservatives were enraged by Governor Perry’s actions and forced the State Legislature to overturn the order, which it did by a massive majority. The article argues that “Perry’s reasoning for the order was simple: Cervical cancer was a public health hazard, and requiring vaccinations was no different from provisions mandating polio vaccines”.

It goes on to note how an Arizona anti-immigration law was passed, after which Perry said “‘I fully recognize and support a state’s right and obligation to protect its citizens, but I have concerns with portions of the law passed in Arizona and believe it would not be the right direction for Texas'”. The article also notes that he endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008.

Like it or not, should Perry run and get the nomination, Americans will be faced with a proper choice as to want kind of government they want, one way or the other. All the debate would need after that is some politeness.

Half baked intolerance

17/07/2011

In an speech made by the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, Lord Sacks, warned of the dangers of a society becoming increasingly intolerant on any religious belief.

It was reported that Lord Sacks said “Orthodox Jewish leader claimed that anti-discrimination policies had fuelled an ‘erosion of religious liberty’ in Britain that was leading to a new ‘Mayflower'”. 

He added that “there was ‘no doubt” numbers of religious believers in Britain were ‘extraordinarily” low. He continued: ‘I share a real concern that the attempt to impose the current prevailing template of equality and discrimination on religious organisations is an erosion of religious liberty. We are beginning to move back to where we came in in the 17th century – a whole lot of people on the Mayflower leaving to find religious freedom elsewhere.'”

This is the danger that Pope Benedict has warned about during his excellent speech in Westminster Hall. The danger is that society is, to put it bluntly, shoot itself in the foot. With religious liberty being eroded, as Pope Benedict has warned, other liberties could also be under threat.

In a related note and amid the continued fallout from the Cloyne Report, the Fine Gael administration there, has come up with the ridiculous half baked plan to “force priests to disclose information on child sexual abuse obtained in the confessional”. Apparently, “priests could be jailed for up to five years for failing to disclose information on serious offences against a child even if this was obtained in Confession.”

While such a plan may seem sensible initially, even on the slightest examination reveals this to be intolerant garbage. Firstly, how would such a law be enforced, and what would the penalties be for those who broke it? How would such penalities be enforced? The government would need to bug every confessional box in Ireland. That is just one of the practicalities to consider.

There is of course the legal issue. Article 40 3. 1° of the Constitution of Ireland states that “The State guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate the personal rights of the citizen”, not to mention Article 40 2° which states that “Laws regulating the manner in which the right of forming associations and unions and the right of free assembly may be exercised shall contain no political, religious or class discrimination”.

Tensions between the Holy See and Ireland currently at their nadir with talk that Pope Benedict may not even go to Ireland for the close of the International Euchristic Congress to be held in Dublin next year.  It is likely however that Benedict will attend.

However regarding such ludicrous proposals, they should be, by force of argument, crushed.

Bridge too far?

05/07/2011

An illicit ordination has again taken place in China by the Communist Party backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. The ceremony was attended by bishops who had been ordained canonically, though it is unclear whether they attended of their free will. 

This “is the first ordination since the Holy See issued a declaration on excommunication, which spells out the risks all those, candidates and officiating clergy, run when they participate in an unlawful ordination “.  A seperate “ordination authorised by the pope was scheduled to take place in Handan (Hebei) but was blocked by the CPCA and the candidate was seized by police “.

It seems that a “few weeks ago, an unlawful ordination was announced for Hankou (Wuhan) on 10 June, but was eventually cancelled because of pressure from the faithful”. It was reported that “‘Joseph Sun Jigeng was taken away by police on June 26 and he has not been released,'” a member of the Handan Catholic church in northern China’s Hebei province told AFP”.  The Chinese who are faithful to Rome are battling with the CPCA to stop this attempt to Chinese authorities to strong arm people into following the “party line”. Not unsurpsingly “the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) — which controls the state-backed church — denied Sun, 43, had been detained when contacted”.  

Meanwhile while on a visit to London, Premier Wen Jiabao wrote that, “China will be a country that fully achieves democracy, the rule of law, fairness and justice”. Of course Jiabao means when the Party is ready, and not before, if ever. He adds that “We will steadfastly advance structural political reform, and build socialist democracy under the rule of law. We are committed to respecting and protecting human rights. Pursuant to the law, we protect the right of all members of society to equal participation in that society and its development”. It is unlikely however that this will happen from above, with the Party keen to remain the sole force in Chinese politics for many years to come. If it does reform it will, in all probabilty be too late and will lead to their own destruction.

The Press Office of the Holy See issued a release on 4th July stating that “the Holy See does not recognise him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan. The effects of the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of can. 1382 of the Code of Canon Law remain in place”. In addition to this the statement noted that “consecrating Bishops have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions laid down by the law of the Church”. This is in effect excommunication for both the new “bishop” and all those bishops who took part in the ceremony.

Increasingly paranoid

07/05/2011

It has been discussed here before, but China is a deeply unstable country,not just economically but also politically.

In an article in the UK Economist, it was noted that China is behaving not like a responsible, emerging power but as a paranoid lunatic. The article notes how after a recent defence review was conducted it stated that “‘Suspicion about China, interference and countering moves against China from the outside are on the increase.’ The white paper claims ‘the armed forces resolutely subdue all subversive and sabotage activities by hostile forces.'”

It article reports that “According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, an NGO, by April 4th some 30 people had been detained and faced criminal charges relating to the so-called “jasmine revolution”—an inchoate internet campaign to emulate in China recent upheavals in the Middle East and north Africa”.

It is reported that “is the increasing resort to informal detentions, punishments and disappearances. These are outside the law, offering the victim no protection at all. The government now dismisses the idea that one function of the law is to defend people against the arbitrary exercise of state power”. 

It concludes arguing that the chance for “revolution in China is small, events elsewhere have demonstrated the long-term corrosive effect on repressive regimes of the internet, mobile telephones and social networks. Better, the party seems to have concluded, to crack down long and hard now than to wait and see”.

Fundamentally, China as it is currently constitued is unstable and will either be changed by internal force or otherwise. The nightmare senario is that internal repression goes too far and there is a backlash leading the ROC to declare indpenedence leading to a possible US military intervention.

Évreux contd?

05/05/2011

Is history repeating itself again with Bishop Morris the new Bishop Galloit?

More of the same, thankfully

13/04/2011

When it comes to national security people generally do what works. As has been stated before  here and here  when it comes to national security there is general agreement from both parties.

This has again been witnessed when President Obama “ordered that military commission trials be resumed at Guantánamo Bay”.  The report states that the “move represents a defeat for Obama, who pledged to close the terrorist detention facility in Cuba within one year of taking office”.  This however should be expected as the optimism and naivity of the administration quickly gave way to cold hard reality. President Obama has carried on with the decision taken by the Bush administration because it works.

Apparently “Obama ‘remains committed’ to closing the Guantánamo camp, but the president’s decision to direct Gates to rescind his suspension of new charges by military commissions signals it is unlikely prisoners will be successfully transferred anytime soon”.

Interestingly, “Obama by executive order created a periodic review process for detainees who cannot be tried or released because they represent a continued threat to national security. Under the newly reformed military commission process, detainees would be able to retain a voluntary lawyer or hire private counsel.”

The Administration says it still wants to close the facility, we should all be thankful that it sense has prevailed.

A tale of two decisions

31/03/2011

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has handed down two interesting decisions. 

The first was a brashly worded judgement which criticsed the UK government for refusing to allow convicted felons to vote. It makes little sense of course to bar all criminals from voting, those with only minor offenses should be allowed to vote having completed their punishment.

Jean-Paul Costa, “president of the European Court of Human Rights, said it would be a ‘disaster’ if Britain defied his court’s ruling over enfranchising inmates. In a thinly veiled comparison, he said only Greek military dictators had previously denounced the European Convention on Human Rights”.

It says much for a court, which wildly oversteppes its mandate, then acts in a wholly unprofessional and puerile manner by comparing a functioning democracy to a dictatorship.  The report continues noting, “asked why, said it would be a ‘disaster’ for Britain if it was to defy the judgment, Mr Costa told the BBC: ‘The only country which denounced the Convention [on Human Rights] was Greece in 1967 at the time of the dictatorship of the colonels. 

Costa “said he understood the anger the court’s decision had caused in Britain as some countries felt such matters were for parliaments not the courts. Mr Costa was one of only three European judges, out of 17, who was against the court’s decision and felt Britain was not breaching human rights by having a blanket ban on votes for prisoners”.

The court has gone too far in its powers by interfering in the sovereignity of another nation. Prime Minster David Cameron will have a difficult time from the already angry hard right of his party if he backs down.

In a more recent judgement however the court ruled on a case that began in Italy. The court ruled that crucfix’s are allowed in the classroom.   The judgement which was the result of “Soile Lautsi, a Finnish-born mother who said public schools in her Italian town refused to remove the Roman Catholic symbols from classrooms. She said the crucifix violates the secular principles the public schools are supposed to uphold”.  The newsreport states that the “decision by the court’s Grand Chamber said it found no evidence ‘that the display of such a symbol on classroom walls might have an influence on pupils.'” There are similarities between this case and one where the Orthodox Church fought a similar case some time ago which the ECHR also ruled on.

Interestingly, the court made numerous references to the cultural sigificance of the crucifix. This esentially agrees with Pope Benedict’s idea of a Christin Europe, and therefore a rejection of Turkish entry into the EU. It also gives a helping hand to Benedict’s more general mission to get the West, but espeically Europe to acknowledege its Christian heritage and the New Evanglisation that he hopes to kick start.

Cardina Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, was reported to have said that “the crucifix was ‘one of the greatest symbols in the West,’ like the crescent moon is in the Muslim world, and that denying it or canceling it out risked canceling out Western identity.  The crucifix, he said ‘is a sign of civilization, even if you don’t recognize it theologically,’ said Ravasi”.

Sign of the times

14/03/2011

Pope Benedict has warned us of this in society. We are going down a dangerous path that can only end in disaster if it continues. It is however of course more complicated than that. There are two principle issues, the nature of homosexuality and the Bible generally and secondly, the nature of children and adoption.

The Johns’ objection to homosexuality makes no sense. Basing their objections of homosexuality on the Bible doesn’t stack up. These arguments have been made elsewhere persuasively, not only that, but this is also the case when Luke 10:1-12 has been read.

There is however the other issue of children where it is more complex. The couple who wish to adopt have every right to practice their faith and let others know of it. However, this particular problem could be solved by having only those children where their sexuality is not know i.e. before they become teenagers.

It does not bode well however when the judgment says that the conscience of believers should be effectively sidelined.

Don’t count your chickens……

14/03/2011

Who said China was the future when this happens?

Sensible legislation

28/02/2011

Perfectly reasonable sentiments.

Multiculturalism RIP?

27/02/2011

There is rightly increasing discussion about multiculturalism in Europe. For too long this topic has been avoided by politicians and the media alike for fear of being branded an “extremist”.

However in October 2010 German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave a talk in which “She said the so-called ‘multikulti’ concept – where people would ‘live side-by-side’ happily – did not work, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate”.

The news report states that “A recent survey suggested more than 30% of people believed the country was ‘overrun by foreigners'”. Merkel however it was reported made clear that immigrants were welcome in Germany but added that “We should not be a country either which gives the impression to the outside world that those who don’t speak German immediately or who were not raised speaking German are not welcome here.” This is however often a criticism of immigrants when entering any foreign country be it in Europe or North America. Part of this comes down to a rabid relativism, which has bred a distinct form of political correctness, that says to expect others to speak the same language as the majority of the country is somehow oppressing the immigrants culture. Yet this “logic” has gone unchecked for too long and needs to be sternly corrected.

Following on the path trod by Chancellor Merkel, David Cameron, UK Prime Minister said only weeks ago that “state multiculturalism” has failed. What is clear however is that the leaders here have not rejected multiculturalism per se, merely its excessively pc current format. As it was reported thatCameron said that there “would be greater scrutiny of some Muslim groups which get public money but do little to tackle extremism”. Cameron said that “we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism”. Surely muscular liberalism is an oxymoron, except when its referring to neoliberalism that can tear the world’s economy apart.

Interestingly Cameron said in the speech that “Let’s properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?”. In other words he’s trying to bring objective (i.e. not relative) criteria to decide which organisations are dangerous or not to society at large.

Finally, it has been said that “Abandon the entire project of multiculturalism and you abandon with it the promise which is implicit in multiculturalism of a renewed or a fresh relationship between Islam and the west”, to draw such a conclusion is pure hyperbole as it implies that the Wests relations with the entire Islamic community all over the world depends multiculturalism in Europe.

It will be interesting to see how this new “muscular liberalism” works in practice, if at all.

The trouble with capitalism, again

12/10/2010

Profit before morality.

Western “morality”

21/09/2010

In a group of surveys carried out over the last number of days in Ireland, it would seem that the excesses of the French Revolution are alive and well and at the same time Pope Benedict still has much work to do in challenging the rabid individualism that pervades all Western capitalist nations. As with most things in capitalist societies, if there is a large enough market for it, then it will be provided, irrespective of the consequences to the common good of society.

In one of the questions asked there is a large number of people that support gay marriage. As has been stated here the before, the state must provide gay couples with civil partnerships, and if some religious communities such as the Religious Society of Friends, wish to have a religious cermonony around this, all the better. The poll found that “67 per cent of people believe gay couples should be allowed to marry, while 60 per cent do not believe that civil partnerships will undermine the institution of marriage”. Marriage is between a man and a women with the hope that they will have children. Gay marriage is an oxymoron but gay couples must have the ability to create wills and have visitation rights as well as tax status within civil law. What is suprising is that so many people think having civil partnerships will affect marriage. It is not on the same basis as has been stated above and therefore poses no threat to marriage. The article quotes some who said that people are “aware that the current exclusion of lesbian and gay couples from civil marriage is deeply unfair and doesn’t make any sense in today’s Ireland”. This is incorrect as gay couples are not the same as hetrosexual couples and should not be treated the same in law. However, what is less suprising is the attempt to paint modernity/rationality as the best, indeed, the only way forward. Such thoughts on thier own can be very dangerous and lead to further down the path that the West is going.  

On a more general point, the survey reveals that in Ireland “The legal age of consent for sex is of course 17, and the great majority of Irish people clearly feel this is, if anything, too young an age at which to make such a decision”. The danger is that permissiveness begets permissiveness due to our inability to correct others behaviour for fear of being seen as “judgemental”. Others see such attempts to even begin a dialogue on people’s behaviour as an attack on the primacy of the rational individual. Two concepts that do not always go hand in hand.

Thankfully however, “90 per cent of people reject outright the notion that they might think less of a person if he/she revealed to them that they were gay or lesbian”.  

Closing out the series is the usual inaccurate and dangerous dichotomy about past attitudes being consigned to history with people now stepping into the light of modernity and progress that is is meant to inevitably bring. The author notes how, “what was once the most powerful institution in the land, the Catholic Church, the poll results must be deeply disturbing. If the Catholic Church were a political party running for election, and if these survey results were the actual vote, then this could be described as a rout”. Maybe it needs to be stated that the Catholic Church is oddly enough, not a political party and has no interest in pandering to the masses (no pun intended) to save a few seats at the next election.

The inevitable liberal sneering thus follows, “In fact, we don’t find the church’s position on anything to do with sexuality or women credible. The sexual revolution, the development of effective contraception, the growth of the women’s and gay rights movements – all these historical shifts have left the church stranded with an archaic psychology of sexuality”. While some of the these developments are indeed beneficial, to say that the Church is “stranded” for supporting committing life long, loving relationships is patently false.

The author goes on to say, “how have we fared morally without the church’s moral guidance? Remarkably well it seems”, for now perhaps, for now.

Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks in Westminster Hall

18/09/2010

It was is the most important political speech of his ongoing visit to the UK, Pope Benedict yesterday gave a talk that defined the very essence of what he thinks. Thanks again to Rocco, as speech text via Whispers:

Mr Speaker,
Thank you for your words of welcome on behalf of this distinguished gathering. As I address you, I am conscious of the privilege afforded me to speak to the British people and their representatives in Westminster Hall, a building of unique significance in the civil and political history of the people of these islands. Allow me also to express my esteem for the Parliament which has existed on this site for centuries and which has had such a profound influence on the development of participative government among the nations, especially in the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world at large. Your common law tradition serves as the basis of legal systems in many parts of the world, and your particular vision of the respective rights and duties of the state and the individual, and of the separation of powers, remains an inspiration to many across the globe.

As I speak to you in this historic setting, I think of the countless men and women down the centuries who have played their part in the momentous events that have taken place within these walls and have shaped the lives of many generations of Britons, and others besides. In particular, I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose “good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process.

This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.

The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

Your readiness to do so is already implied in the unprecedented invitation extended to me today. And it finds expression in the fields of concern in which your Government has been engaged with the Holy See. In the area of peace, there have been exchanges regarding the elaboration of an international arms trade treaty; regarding human rights, the Holy See and the United Kingdom have welcomed the spread of democracy, especially in the last sixty-five years; in the field of development, there has been collaboration on debt relief, fair trade and financing for development, particularly through the International Finance Facility, the International Immunization Bond, and the Advanced Market Commitment. The Holy See also looks forward to exploring with the United Kingdom new ways to promote environmental responsibility, to the benefit of all.

I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013. In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare. Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”. Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

This overview of recent cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Holy See illustrates well how much progress has been made, in the years that have passed since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, in promoting throughout the world the many core values that we share. I hope and pray that this relationship will continue to bear fruit, and that it will be mirrored in a growing acceptance of the need for dialogue and respect at every level of society between the world of reason and the world of faith. I am convinced that, within this country too, there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with Britain’s long-standing tradition. For such cooperation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed. The angels looking down on us from the magnificent ceiling of this ancient Hall remind us of the long tradition from which British Parliamentary democracy has evolved. They remind us that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us. And they summon us to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.

Mr Speaker, I thank you once again for this opportunity briefly to address this distinguished audience. Let me assure you and the Lord Speaker of my continued good wishes and prayers for you and for the fruitful work of both Houses of this ancient Parliament. Thank you and God bless you all!

Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks in Scotland

16/09/2010

Worth quoting in full, via Rocco, are the opening remarks of Pope Benedict in Scotland:

Your Majesty,

Thank you for your gracious invitation to make an official visit to the United Kingdom and for your warm words of greeting on behalf of the British people. In thanking Your Majesty, allow me to extend my own greetings to all the people of the United Kingdom and to hold out a hand of friendship to each one.

It is a great pleasure for me to start my journey by saluting the members of the Royal Family, thanking in particular His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh for his kind welcome to me at Edinburgh Airport. I express my gratitude to Your Majesty’s present and previous Governments and to all those who worked with them to make this occasion possible, including Lord Patten and former Secretary of State Murphy. I would also like to acknowledge with deep appreciation the work of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Holy See, which has contributed greatly to strengthening the friendly relations existing between the Holy See and the United Kingdom.

As I begin my visit to the United Kingdom in Scotland’s historic capital city, I greet in a special way First Minister Salmond and the representatives of the Scottish Parliament. Just like the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, may the Scottish Parliament grow to be an expression of the fine traditions and distinct culture of the Scots and strive to serve their best interests in a spirit of solidarity and concern for the common good.

The name of Holyroodhouse, Your Majesty’s official residence in Scotland, recalls the “Holy Cross” and points to the deep Christian roots that are still present in every layer of British life. The monarchs of England and Scotland have been Christians from very early times and include outstanding saints like Edward the Confessor and Margaret of Scotland. As you know, many of them consciously exercised their sovereign duty in the light of the Gospel, and in this way shaped the nation for good at the deepest level. As a result, the Christian message has been an integral part of the language, thought and culture of the peoples of these islands for more than a thousand years. Your forefathers’ respect for truth and justice, for mercy and charity come to you from a faith that remains a mighty force for good in your kingdom, to the great benefit of Christians and non-Christians alike.

We find many examples of this force for good throughout Britain’s long history. Even in comparatively recent times, due to figures like William Wilberforce and David Livingstone, Britain intervened directly to stop the international slave trade. Inspired by faith, women like Florence Nightingale served the poor and the sick and set new standards in healthcare that were subsequently copied everywhere. John Henry Newman, whose beatification I will celebrate shortly, was one of many British Christians of his age whose goodness, eloquence and action were a credit to their countrymen and women. These, and many people like them, were inspired by a deep faith born and nurtured in these islands.

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live. I also recall the regime’s attitude to Christian pastors and religious who spoke the truth in love, opposed the Nazis and paid for that opposition with their lives. As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century, let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus to a “reductive vision of the person and his destiny” (Caritas in Veritate, 29).

Sixty-five years ago, Britain played an essential role in forging the post-war international consensus which favoured the establishment of the United Nations and ushered in a hitherto unknown period of peace and prosperity in Europe. In more recent years, the international community has followed closely events in Northern Ireland which have led to the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the devolution of powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Your Majesty’s Government and the Government of Ireland, together with the political, religious and civil leaders of Northern Ireland, have helped give birth to a peaceful resolution of the conflict there. I encourage everyone involved to continue to walk courageously together on the path marked out for them towards a just and lasting peace.

Looking abroad, the United Kingdom remains a key figure politically and economically on the international stage. Your Government and people are the shapers of ideas that still have an impact far beyond the British Isles. This places upon them a particular duty to act wisely for the common good. Similarly, because their opinions reach such a wide audience, the British media have a graver responsibility than most and a greater opportunity to promote the peace of nations, the integral development of peoples and the spread of authentic human rights. May all Britons continue to live by the values of honesty, respect and fair-mindedness that have won them the esteem and admiration of many.

Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate. Let it not obscure the Christian foundation that underpins its freedoms; and may that patrimony, which has always served the nation well, constantly inform the example your Government and people set before the two billion members of the Commonwealth and the great family of English-speaking nations throughout the world.

Pope Benedict’s mission in the UK

15/09/2010

On this, the eve of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the UK, as usual, controversy is never far behind. In a thoughtful piece, Dr Eamon Duffy, lays out the importance of Benedict in the UK.

Duffy says that “John Paul II was manifestly a giant on the world stage, his life story one of titanic struggle against 20th century Europe’s two great tyrannies, he himself a key player in the collapse of the Soviet empire. His social and moral views elicited no more enthusiasm from the secular world than those of Joseph Ratzinger, but his craggy integrity, mesmeric personal presence and mastery of crowds made him formidable even to those who rejected his religion. By contrast, Pope Benedict is an altogether smaller figure, a man of the sacristy and the lecture room.”

Thus it is fairly obvious that Benedict is “an academic to the toes of his red papal slippers, he has poor antennae for the likely public perception of his actions and utterances. That was made clear by the hostile reaction to his Regensburg remarks on Islam, and, more recently, by his disastrous though doubtless well-intentioned conciliatory gestures to the holocaust-denying Lefebvrist rebel Bishop Richard Williamson.”

This is perhaps one of the biggest problems facing Benedict personally as well as sadly, this. Benedict’s whole papacy, indeed much of his life, has been to fight against both relativism and the aggressive secularism that like the soon to be Blessed “[John Henry Cardinal] Newman believed that British society was in danger of cutting itself adrift from the Christian values that had given Europe and the West their distinctive religious, moral and aesthetic character. But he [Newman] also believed the slide into relativism would not be halted by mere denunciation. If Christian values were to survive and prevail, they must commend themselves by their intrinsic power and attractiveness. Modern materialism, he wrote, must be met ‘not by refutation so much as by a powerful counter-argument . . . overcoming error not by refutation so much as by an antagonist truth’.”

Benedict like Newman will try to bring Europe back to Christianity, for its own good, as much for the Church’s. As has been mentioned before, Benedict sees Europe as the heart that will beat again should religion be at least respected and ackkowledged by society. However, it is doubtful that groups like this will be going out of business any time soon.   

If Benedict is successful in the long term than all the PR disasters, media sniping, and abuse crisies that have never been far behind will, be if not forgotten, there impact will be lessened and the significance of Benedict’s message will be understood. Tolerence itself is at stake and it is hoped that these short term gaffes and ignorant and dangerous comments will not dull or impede Benedict’s historic mission.

The UK needs a Gitmo

29/08/2010

It has been reported in the last few days that “over the next five to 10 years, about 800 prisoners – in jail for non-terrorism offences – are due to be released on to the streets having been radicalised in jail”.

The article says that “While previous al-Qaeda tactics involved so-called ‘spectacular’ attacks, the report warns that the terrorist group’s leaders, such as Yemeni preacher and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, are encouraging individuals to launch less sophisticated but equally deadly attacks on crowded places”. Apparently “just 23 people, around 19 per cent of those convicted of terrorism offences, have been given life or indeterminate sentences. Twenty per cent have been sentenced to more than 10 years, and the largest single proportion, 32 per cent, received between eight months and four years”.

What this should point to is the need for the common good and the security of the state to take precedence over the needs of these people. If indeed these figures are accurate then the UK government has little choice but to lock these people up for “indeterminate” amounts of time. What is important to note however is the fact that they were radicalised while in prison. If this is true, then there needs to be a radical overhaul of why this was allowed to happen, coupled with the best path to follow in the future.

One thing is certain, however distasteful it may be to some, for the security of society at large, these people need to be locked up. After all, remember this? There is a very good reason why is hasn’t happened.

Some people never learn

08/08/2010

Why do people still believe this nonsense. There are so many arguments against this that it is almost impossible as to know where to start.

Quotas are a ludicrous way of creating illusionary equality so wolly liberals can have a little less guilt so they can sleep better. The premise is that women should be better represented in politics because they make up half the population.

Firstly, there are women in politics, just not the correct number according to the equality maniacs. What does it matter if there are two women in the parliament or twenty? Surely, by their “logic” all women represent other women, never mind ideology or anything else. All women care about in politics is other women in politics, supposedly.

Secondly even if they weren’t directly involved, society would regrettably be hearing endlessly about women’s views on how all men are evil and these groups would, like the rest of civil society make its voice heard. He complains that parties don’t field enough women candidates, not that it matters but political parties want to get into office irrespective of which gender takes the most seats. He implies that political parties are getting every man that comes through the door to stand for office but refusing any women who wishes to stand. Maybe there aren’t the same number of women that come through the door as men?

The faster these people are ignored the better for all of us.

The case for monarchy

06/07/2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obama = Bush

20/06/2010

Following on from the recent post on this year’s National Security Strategy, what became apparent was that, even reading the cover letter, you got a sense that it could have easily have been written in the Bush 43 White House, expect for Obama’s signature at the bottom.

There was much talk among the media that “President Barack Obama has rejected George W. Bush’s doctrine that placed the ‘war on terror’ at the centre of American foreign policy” and that  the new president has distanced “himself from Mr Bush’s concept of pre-emptive wars to prevent emerging threats, instead citing the national security implications of global economic crises and climate change.”

While some of this may be true, especially with climate change reading the NSS there is little that differentiates the two president’s, just what they chose to highlight. Some have argued that Obama is really no different than George W. Bush, while others think Obama is a classical realist, in the mold of Bush 41. However, Bush the Elder may have been a realist when it came to leaving Saddam Hussein in power after the Gulf War, but remember, this is the man who said, “no one should have to starve at Christmas” after he sent in troops to Somalia, who also invaded Panama to oust Noriega, who the US basically installed, albeit for understandable reasons.

In his excellent piece, Peter Feaver, says that “Obama’s NSS similarly emphasizes America’s ‘global leadership’ and ‘steering those currents [of international cooperation] in the direction of liberty and justice’ and ‘shap[ing] and international order’ because ‘global security depends upon strong and responsible American leadership.'” Feaver continues noting that “Leadership goes beyond seeing the world as it is and includes transforming the world according to America’s interests and values or, as Obama puts it: ‘In the past, the United States has thrived when both our nation and our national security policy have adapted to shape change instead of being shaped by it.'”

Indeed, Feaver says “the biggest difference between Obama’s NSS and his predecessor’s is the long section devoted to domestic policy, both economic and social”. He says that “Bush labeled the ideology (“militant Islamic radicalism”), Obama leaves it a bit vague (“a far-reaching network of hatred and violence)”. The end result though is, I suspect the same, for example, “Bush’s NSS led with the observation that the country was at war; Obama’s NSS moves that point to the second paragraph.” Again,  he says “By embracing the outlines of the post-Cold War and post-9/11 grand strategy that has guided U.S. policy thus far, it is basically as strategic and coherent in outline as its predecessors”.

Rightly, Feaver says that “Grading the media’s coverage thus far, however, is comparatively simple: they have earned a failing grade that borders on malpractice. It appears that even reporters who were given advanced copies have been content merely to parrot superficial talking points built around caricatures rather than do serious analysis”.

Lastly, Stephen Walt on the NSS said that:”‘Meanwhile, ‘adversarial states’ (i.e., those who don’t follow our rules) will face a choice: ‘abide by international norms and achieve the political and economic benefits that come with greater integration with the international community; or refuse to accept this pathway, and bear the consequences of that decision, including greater isolation.’ This is no different than Bush’s belief that ‘you’re either with us, or against us,’ but it is a lot more long-winded.'”

Even Obama’s legal approach to dealing the terrorists has been only altered slightly, but the point remains, Obama buys into the War on Terror that Bush set up. One book that argues this extremely convincingly is Lynch and Sigh’s.

Finally, Drezner hits the nail on the head when says, “which box you put him in, I suspect, depends on which policy dimension you think matters most”.

Attitudes to Terrorism

10/01/2010

Stephen Walt who is a well know and highly respected realist in a recent blog post, “More on the illusion of ‘perfect security”  discusses attitudes to terrorism within officialdom and the broader public perception. Commenting on Clark Kent Ervin’s piece in the New York Times, Walt says “Sorry, Mr. Ervin, but it is impossible to ‘identify all the vulnerabilities and address each one’ beforehand”.

This obviously an understandable mentality to have especially within America, yet we should not let the terrorist acts that have been committed both in the US and in Europe, blind us (and our politicians) to the fact that just as Dr Walt says people are asking the impossible which then leads to the State to take measures which some find impinges on their freedom.

There needs to be an open discussion on this issue urgently otherwise more and more people will find the State taking greater measures to protect us in the assumption that this is what is what the people demand.