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A tale of two decisions


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”.

More Catholic than the Pope


As the much heralded talks between the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX) and Rome unsurprisingly flounder and fail, there is talk of a new motu proprio on the clarification of Summorum Pontificum of 7 July 2007.

Firstly, the discussions that have been ongoing since late 2009 were meant to bring the schismatic SSPX back into the Church, especially after Pope Benedict lifted the excommunication of the four illicitly consecrated bishops in January 2009, amid outrage that the Holocaust denying Richard Williamson was included. This does not however change their canonical situation as the men “consecrated” by Archbishop Lefebvre has not changed and they are not bishops.

The Reuters report states that Superior General of the SSPX, Bernard Fellay was “Asked if Vatican officials had changed their minds during the talks, which began in late 2009, he said: ‘I don’t think that you can say that.’ He said the pope ‘has a certain sympathy for us, but within limits.'”

The Church and the SSPX have been discussing the role of modernity in the Church which encompasses inter-religious dialogue as well as other issues. A key demand of the SSPX was the liberalisation of the stunning pre-Conciliar Tridentine Mass, which Summorum Pontificum granted, which also fits in the Benedict’s reform of the reform agenda. Now however it is unclear where, if indeed anywhere, the discussions will go.

Secondly, when Summorum Pontificum was first released it promised that in three years, i.e. 2010, there would be a clarification. Word is now spreading that this document is almost ready and is apparently restrictive. According to easily excitable sources the ordination of priests, other than those using the old mass exclusively eg FSSP, IBP and others will have the rite restricted.

It is doubtful that this restriction of the Extraordinary Form is what Benedict wants but either way there will soon be clarity.

Multiculturalism RIP?


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.

Cardinal Husar retires


Amid the recent disorder in the Middle East there is change afoot in the ecclesiastical sphere also, though predictably not quite as dramatic.

As has been mentioned before, Nasrallah Pierre Cardinal Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites has submitted his resignation with a synod called to replace him set for early March.

Meanwhile yesterday, Pope Benedict accepted the resignation of, Lubomyr Cardinal Husar, Major Archbishop/Archeparch of Kiev of the Ukranians who is in ill health with failing eysight. Such events are extremely rare in the Eastern Catholic Churches but there is canonical provision for it.

Rocco reports that “Above all, though, the selection of the next major-archbishop will be watched with considerable attention far outside Ukrainian and Catholic circles alike for the decision’s potential impact on the delicate relationship between the Vatican and the Kremlin”.

Rocco says that the upcoming synod, made up of all eparchs and archeparchs of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, to chose the next leader of the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches must take place within a month and that the choice will either reflect a more diplomatic figure or someone to stand up for the church’s rights against a dominant and increasingly powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

On a side note Eastern Catholic Churches chose their bishops (or eparchs) by synod, albeit under the eye of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches in Rome.

Also yesterday Benedict received John Patrick Cardinal Foley, grand master of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in audience. This is either for one of two things. It is either a general update or less likely the start of discussions on Cardinal Foley’s retirement. The latter is unlikely however as his predecessor in the job, Carlo Cardinal Furno, only retired in 2007 aged 85.

Not at the expense of national security


Amid the recent court appearance in London of Julian Assange during his extradition hearings, some are calling for the United States to back off.

The opening line states that “Pressing forward with efforts to prosecute an Internet publisher at home while standing up for an open Internet in Egypt and the world at large is an increasingly tenuous position”. It should hardly need to be stated but Assange is no “publisher”. He knowingly handled highly classified diplomatic cables, some of which are extremely important. To equate Assange as some kind of online publisher of well respected academic material is ludicrous.

He goes on to say that “The WikiLeaks case endangers the reputation of the United States as a defender of free speech and an open Internet globally, while forcing the Obama administration to take uncomfortable constitutional positions better suited to the Nixon administration”. In know way is this the case. Wikileaks and Assange openly loath the United States. The position of the Federal Government or Constitution is unchanged that free speech is fundamental. However, this does not extend to diplomatic cables which by their very nature are sensitive, though on some occasions predictable. It is necessary that some of these

Similarly to smear President Obama as the new President Nixon is utter distortion, it also paints President Nixon as a one dimensional character who from the day he was born plotted to bug the DNC HQ. Regarding Egypt he mentions that “the Obama administration and the United States must make sure that they stand on the right side”. While this is true it is also simplistic. If the people want an Islamist regime similar to Iran, the chance of which is small, it could destabilises the Middle East even more as well as given Israel an excuse it needed to strike militarily.

Apparently, “While the Justice Department’s original plan to rely on the Espionage Act apparently has been dropped, it is still considering the prosecution of either Julian Assange personally or media organizations that published documents obtained by Wikileaks based on a theory of conspiracy or solicitation”. He states that “Senator Joe Lieberman, were he president, would long ago have begun the extradition. ‘I think it’s the most serious violation of the Espionage Act in our history,’ he recently told FOX News”.

Some however are of a different mind and Assange’s recent nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize on the grounds that Wikileaks “disclosures of classified documents promote world peace” rejects the good America does and ignores the sinful nature of man and thus the need for secrecy in senstive areas.

The conflating of free speech and the activities of Wikileaks, which puts US troops and therefore America itself in danger, should not be accepted and does not stand up to to argument.

A new beginning?


At last the Irish general election is under way with polling scheduled for 25th February. The governing coalition collapsed after the Green party left and the main party, Fianna Fáil continued in a minority government with the Prime Minister not being the leader of his party a bizarre situation that will continue until a new government is formed.

A recent opinion poll put the parties on: Fianna Fail 17%, Fine Gael 35%, Labour 22%, Green Party 2%, Sinn Fein 13%, Others 11%.

This translates into seats with Fianna Fail 25, Fine Gael 71, Labour 39, Green Party 0, Sinn Fein 14, Others 17 (including 6 United Left Alliance candidates – overall 10 “Left” leaning Others/7 “Right” leaning Others)

This means that coalition options would stand would be: Fine Gael/Labour 110 seats (majority of 54 seats), Fine Gael/”Right-leaning” Independents-Others 78 seats, Fine Gael/Fianna Fail 96 (majority of 26 seats), Fianna Fail/Labour 64 seats, Fianna Fail/Labour/Sinn Fein 82 seats, “Left Coalition” 68 seats, Fine Gael/Green Party 64 seats, Fine Gael/”Right-leaning” Independents-Others/Green Party 78 seats.

Interestingly Fianna Fáil have said that they may back Fine Gael, “Brian Cowen has said he would support a policy of backing a Fine Gael minority government in the next Dáil if economic positions set out by his Government are adhered to and if new Fianna Fáil leader Michael Martin backs such a move”. This is indeed momentous and such a move would finally herald, or at least begin to herald, a much needed dose of ideology into the Irish party system and it would rightly, equate FF with FG in voters minds. This would allow Labour to pursue policies that it should pursue with the Socialist party there to keep Labour on the correct ideological track. This is tempered by the fact that Cowen said it and not the party leader, Micheal Martin, who is trying to get FF to survive past this election and thus has every reason to try to differentiate itself from Fine Gael.

As has been eloquently written the “difficulty for Fianna Fáil and Cowen recently was that the narrative went national. The party has presided over a loss of sovereignty and economic ruin”.

As noted academic Michael Marsh has written after another poll, “Fianna Fáil is expected to average only 0.7 quotas per constituency. Labour is expected to win 1.3 and FG 1.6. A vote amounting to 0.7 quotas will translate into a seat more often than not, so we might guess that Fianna Fáil could win in excess of 30 seats with its 17 per cent of the vote”. This seems a fair estimate with the Irish electorate being far too able to distinguish between person and party. Thus disliking the party but voting for the candidate due to personal qualities. Marsh however says that “A single candidate, helped by transfers, will often make it, but where a party spreads its vote over two candidates, 0.7 of a quota is an unlikely basis for a seat. This is because a party’s voters cannot be relied on to transfer support to a running mate. Moreover, in 11 constituencies Fianna Fáil manages no more than half a quota or less”.

Finally, Marsh says of the Labour party’s desire to form a government on its own that the “expected Labour vote of 1.3 quotas per constituency hardly justifies two candidates in many, or indeed in most seats, but Labour is running multiple candidates more often than not with two candidates in 21 constituencies and three in two more.”

Not only that but will all of the parties wanting proper local government and many talking openly of electoral reform and unicameralism, there is a chance that the Irish party system may get the ideology it badly needs.

Stirrings in Egypt


The right course of action in Egypt.

President Santorum?


In an interesting article about the crowded GOP field for 2012 The Hill looks at Rick Santorum.

When he was running for election to the House his pollster said that “‘Rick, I can put anybody’s name on a survey and get 7 or 8 percent,’ ” Santorum recalled. “ ‘That makes you two or three points below nobody.’” Yet he was duly elected to the House and then later the Senate.

However it report states that “In a GOP field that, along with Romney, could include former Govs. Sarah Palin (Alaska) and Mike Huckabee (Arkansas) and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), the former senator would undoubtedly struggle for elbow room.” It is of course possible that Santorum could get the GOP nomination on his own, as only “Four years after being elected to the House, he launched a successful bid for the Senate, being sworn in to the upper chamber at the age of 36. However what is much more likely is if he were to stay on in the primaries long enough he could have his name in contention for the Vice-Presidency.

If Romney were to get the nomination, or indeed Rob Portman or Mitch Daniels, Santorum could balance the ticket by bringing both his Roman Catholicism and social conservativism, especially his anti gay marriage stance, to bring in the base. Having been elected in Pennsylvania he could also lure in that vital swing state. Yet this would be balanced by Santorum being seen as a very divisive figure that could repel indpendents.

Setting an example


Baroness Ashton’s latest innovation – base foreign policy on political correctness.

On your marks


Is this the countdown to Tarcisio Cardinal’s Bertone’s retirement with Raymond Cardinal Burke and Marc Cardinal Ouellet the frontrunners to take over from Cardinal Bertone as Secretary of State to His Holiness?

Cardinal Burke and Cardinal Ouellet being appointed to the Second Section at the Secretariat of State, i.e. the part that deals with the relations between the Holy See and secular governemnts, could be the beginning of their training to the most senior job in the Roman Curia, apart from that of the papacy itself.   

Cardinal Bertone, who turned 75 and thus handed in his resignation in December 2009, was asked to stay in office for the time being. However, there is a chance that Pope Benedct is getting tired of the gaffe prone Cardinal Bertone and is considering his options ahead of Cardinal Bertone completing his initial quinquennium in September 2011.

Alternatively, Benedict could be preparing to step down and wants to tie the hands of his sucessor by putting what is considered young men, in the top job to carry on the Benedict agenda after he himself as left.



The first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review by the State Department, Leading Through Civilian Power, was published recently and it in there is a great understanding for the need of a more joined up foreign policy. As the title suggests, “civilian power” plays a large role in some cases preempting the need for military action.

In a talk given in London, director of Policy Planning at the Department of State, Dr Anne-Marie Slaughter, said that the document would mean the level of communciation between the Departments of Agriculture, Justice and Energy, and indeed others, and Foggy Bottom would be greatly enhanced to the mutal benefit of all. Dr Slaughter said that there would be an acknowledgement of the role USAID (US Agency for International Developement) plays with State and a concerted effort to assist USAID in its mission. 

Naturally from its title, Leading Through Civilian Power, and coming from State, not Defence, says a lot about how it was shapd. Dr Slaughter envisages a greater diplomatic and civil service based approach, as the report says “We have seen astonishing growth in the number of civilian agencies that engage in international activity: energy diplomacy, disease prevention, police training, trade promotion, and many other areas. When the work of these agencies is aligned, it protects America’s interests and projects our leadership. We help prevent fragile states from descending into chaos, spur economic growth abroad, secure investments for American business, open new markets for American goods, promote trade overseas, and create jobs here at home”.

Not only that but Dr Slaughter mentioned that USAID would make those who wish to be promoted in USAID spend time in State and vice versa, in addition to “Continue implementing the USAID Forward agenda, which includes establishing a Bureau of Policy, Planning, and Learning; strengthening USAID’s budget management capacity; incorporating science and technology in our development efforts; and reforming procurement systems” while at the same time buidling “USAID’s human capital by increasing the number of USAID Foreign Service Officers, expanding mid-level hiring, and creating a new Senior Technical Group Career Track to provide a career path for USAID’s technical experts”.

The QDDR also stated that it would use USAID to guide and assist failing states to “prevent conflict, save lives, and build sustainable peace by resolving underlying grievances fairly and helping to build government institutions that can provide basic but effective security and justice systems”. It would do this because it will “Integrate State’s capabilities through a new Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights. We will also create a new Bureau for Conflict and Stabilization Operations”.  

However Dr Slaughter did mention that America would act unilaterally if it saw fit, thus proving the basic point stated here previously that the broad strokes of US foreign policy does not change.

We should all be grateful for the role the US plays in the world today, and that generally what is good for America is good for the world.

Waiting for the pop


Many are noticing that China is becoming increasingly aggressive in its stance not just regionally but to the United States also. This is seen when “China’s generals have unveiled three major new weapons that could challenge the military supremacy of the United States and provide the firepower to underline China’s superpower status”.

The first part of this should be taken as it is, however the Chinese armed forces, collectively called the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), will not be able to challenge the United States for decades to come. Even for this to happen, the US Federal Government would have to stop spending all of its $600 billion that it spends of defence now for and continue doing this for China to even catch up. This is not to diminish the increasing power of the PLA and China’s increasing willingness to show off this power.

What is undoubtedly impressive is that fact that “smoke has begun to billow from the chimneys of the Shi Lang, a hulking Soviet-era ship that China bought from Russia and has refitted to become its first aircraft carrier”. This project is four years ahead of time, but for a little prespective, the US Navy currently has eleven aircraft carriers, in addition to one under construction, with two more being planned.  

It must be said however that China is catching up to the United States quickly. In addition to thier aircraft carrier that is years ahead of time, the “first stealth fighter jet has been spotted taxiing along a runway. It has yet to take off, but American plane-spotters have already begun speculating that it might be able to beat an F-22 in a dogfight”. Not only this, but a “new missile that could sink a US aircraft carrier, the first such weapon in the world. The Dong Feng (or East Wind) 21D missile is now ‘operational’, according to Admiral Robert Willard of the US Pacific Command”.

Funding meanwhile has come from “China’s economic miracle [which] has paid for the munitions, with the PLA’s official budget increasing more than fivefold from $14.6 billion in 2000 to $78.6 billion this year. Unofficially, the spending is thought to be far higher, at $150 billion, with China’s leaders keeping many of the PLA’s deals off the books in order to avoid alarming the rest of the world”.

What is all this for? The PLA’s “generals have been careful to tone down their nationalistic rhetoric in recent years, dropping the suggestion of an imminent invasion of Taiwan, the army is behaving with more swagger, at least in its own backyard”, yet at the same time “but it has dramatically increased its penetrations of Japanese airspace, resulting in Japanese fighter jets being scrambled 44 times in the past year, double the total for 2006”.  

Any notion that China would be a belevolent superpower would be naive and dangerous, it is in Asia’s and ideed the world’s interests to keep the US strong. When the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, went to Washington, “After an unusually rocky year in their relations, both China and the United States hope for respite. But mutual wariness is growing, thanks not least to China’s hawkish army”.    

Worringly “Despite China’s increasingly assertive military posture in the western Pacific, a region where America’s armed forces have long held sway, communication between the two sides is minimal at the best of times” this was seen when “In 2009 it proved useless when tempers flared over a standoff between Chinese boats and an American surveillance vessel in the South China Sea”. This was in stark contrast to the first diplomatic crisis of the Bush administration when a spyplane was shot down in 2001 over Chinese airspace. The incident was handled well and President Bush left office in 2009 with the US-Sino relations at an all time high. There seems to be little communication between the PLA and their political counterparts. The article notes that “During a meeting with Mr Hu, Mr Gates mentioned the test flight earlier in the day of a Chinese stealth fighter, the J-20, China’s first aircraft supposed to evade radar. Speculation about progress on the highly secretive project has intensified with the appearance online of photographs of a J-20 at an airfield. The flight on January 11th, video of which appeared on unofficial websites, was the first ever reported. But Mr Hu and other officials in the room appeared to be unaware of it, a Pentagon official claims”.

However despite the obvious military and political problems the US is having with China, there are other internal problems, the geopolitical elements have been mentioned here before. Not only that but, “More than 50 per cent of the mainland’s wealthiest, who each have assets of more than 10 million yuan (€1.15 million), spend between one million yuan (€115,000) and three million yuan (€230,000) every year, and own more than three cars”. In addition to this, and perhaps most dangerously for the internal stability of the regime, “The average age of the respondents with at least 100 million yuan was 39; that of those with at least one billion yuan was 43. Both averages were a year younger than last year”. This means that those that have benefited will remain happy as long as the economy keeps growing, yet it also means that when things go wrong, they will have far less patience with the authorities when they do.

The article reports that “China’s real-estate boom stems from a powerful cocktail of factors. With inflation running at about 5 per cent, there is no point keeping your money in the bank because the deposit rate is only about 2.5 per cent. So people look for other investment vehicles. With the stock market looking pricey, the classic investment is property”.  This will ring true with what happened in the US, UK, Ireland and a host of other nations over the world.

Standby for the pop.

Irish government collapses


A day after Brian Cowen, leader of the majority party of the coalition government resigned the leadership of his party, the junior party of the coalition, the Green Party has decided to withdraw from government.

The Green Party have come under heavy criticism, especially after witnessing the IMF/ECB teams entering the country, during their time in government after propping up an increasingly dysfunctional Fianna Fáil. The Green Party were increasingly angry, especially when Prime Minister Cowen attempted to appoint a number of new Cabinet ministers, after a spate of co-ordinated resignations even after a general election had been announced.

The Green Party have said that they will vote for the Finance Bill from the opposition benches which they would like to see passed by Friday 28 January. Both major opposition parties, Labour and Fine Gael have said they will vote for the Finance Bill, yet Labour have tabled a motion of no confidence in Brian Cowen which is due for Tuesday 24. It is unclear if the Green Party will vote for this motion at this time.

However the main Fianna Fáil party have said this is not possible. The Green Party ministers have submitted their resignations and they have been accepted. This leaves seven ministers,  Brian Cowen, Mary Coughlan, Mary Hanafin, Brian Lehihnan, Brendan Smith, Eamon O Cuiv and Pat Carey in the government. This is the minimum needed under the Constitution. 

Fianna Fáil are currently without a leader after the resignation of Brian Cowen, though in a bizarre situation he remains on as Prime Minister. A leadership election is due next week and a result will be known by Wednesday 26th. The general election which was set for Friday 11 March is now expected to take place earlier than that, towards the end of February.  

Ireland is at this time witnessing the dramatic implosion of Fianna Fáil and what will hopefully be their destruction and the beginning of a new politics based on ideology and agonism as opposed to personalities and dangerous populism.

Common sense


Common sense dicates that no one can hold an important office forever as the quality of leadership inevitably declines. Thus it makes sense that Nasrallah Pierre Cardinal Sfeir,  patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites and the Whole Levant, 90, has submitted his resignation to Pope Benedict, though a successor may not be elected for some time.

Personnel movements


On this the second anniversary of the inauguration of President Obama there are significant moves on the way. There have been some successes on the foreign policy front for the administration including “progress on resetting relations with Russia, aiding Iraq’s transition to self-rule, strengthening sanctions on Iran, and increasing attention on Southeast Asia”.

Among the most high profile of personnel moves is Dr Robert Gates who said in August 2010 that he would  leave DoD in 2011. It has been claimed that to fill what is widely seen as the best Defence Secretary for years, “will require the international prestige to meet with foreign leaders on equal terms, the military bona fides to manage the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the political savvy to guide the Pentagon though what will surely by its most complex interactions with Capitol Hill in many years”. Names that are mentioned are “John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Michele Flournoy, Gates’ undersecretary for policy (who would be the first female defense secretary), and CIA chief Leon Panetta. The dark horse is former Obama campaign advisor Richard Danzig, who is also chairman of the Center for a New American Security”.

Other posts that will require new names including the both Deputy Secretaries of State with Jack Lew now at OMB and Jim Steinberg reported to leave also. In addition to this is the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan is vacant since the death of Richard Holbrooke with long term Clinton Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbottand current president of the Brookings Institution.

Other possibilities are the resignation of Hilary Clinton, though this is not expected until 2012 there is also talk of a move of Dr Susan Rice, current Ambassador to the UN.

The slow decay continues


Yesterday the Prime Minster of Ireland recieved and today accepted the resignations of the Minister for Health, the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Enterprise, the Minister for Justice as well as the Minister for Defence. In addition to this the Minister for Foreign Affairs who challanged the Prime Minister for the leadership of the main governing party on 18 January this year and failed resigned yesterday.

In addition to this the Minister for Tourism who said that she voted against the prime minister as leader of her party but at the same time saying that he should remain as PM remains in the Cabinet. Apparently the Transport Minister handed in his resignation “weeks ago“.   

The junior partner in the coalition, the Green Party, will support the government until the Fiance Bill is passed. There is yet again no strategy and utter chaos in the dying days of the Fianna Fáil party. This exodus of so many ministers and the fact that they were filled by those left in Cabinet speaks volumes, with an election now set for Friday 11 March. The dissolution is expected to take place around the middle of February.

May this once and for all convince the Irish public to destroy the party, and thus there wiould be a greater chance to bring in some kind of ideology into an otherwise grey political landscape.

Being put to good use


Wikileaks/Assange doing good for a change.

History made


History of a different kind was made Saturday when Pope Benedict under the Anglicanorum coetibus erected the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for those Anglicans in England and Wales who wish to convert either as a whole diocese, or as is more likely, parish, to Catholicism while retaining elements of the Anglican tradition. 

Benedict at the same time appointed Fr Keith Newton, who was formerly Suffragan Bishop of Richborough, as the ordinariate’s first ordinary. At the same moment as Newton’s appointment as ordinary was being announced in Rome, Newton, along with former bishops John Broadhurst and Andrew Burnham where being ordained priests by Archbishop Vincent Nichols in Westminster cathederal.  The three former bishops and their wives had been recieved into the Catholic Church on 1 January by Bishop Alan Hopes.

In a statement issued in conjunction with the appointment of Newton as ordinary,  it makes clear that “with Reverend Burnham and Reverend Broadhurst, Reverend Newton will oversee the catechetical preparation of the first groups of Anglicans in England and Wales who will be received into the Catholic Church together with their pastors at Easter, and to accompany the clergy preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood around Pentecost”.

Similar organisations are expected to be created in the US and Austrialia in the coming months with the English ordinariate seen as the model.  

Yet again however the liberal press either fail to, or refuse to, understand the powerful, albeit, sadly diminished role of religion in people’s lives, when they compare the process to secular institutions. This was made plain when some commented that the Ordinariate and its present and future members support an “institutional misogyny”.

Such wild ignorance of the historic moves should be ignored.

A white terrorist


Julian Assange must have finally realised the crimes he has committed. His legal team have claimed that “he could end up facing the death penalty in the US if the UK extradites him to Sweden, where he is accused of sex crimes”. What kind of defence is that, he could be struck down by a bus tomorrow but he still goes outside. What kind of defence is that, it should not be accepted by the UK court that will decide on his extradition on 7 February.

The Federal Government “has not yet filed any charges against Assange, but officials are investigating whether he can be prosecuted under American espionage laws” yet, part of his defence which has been put online says that there is a “real risk” of ill treatment of torture. Under the “legal agreement on extraditions between Sweden and the US, Assange would have to be charged in the US with a crime carrying a minimum of two-year prison term under both countries’ laws”.

Either naively or out of sheer stupidity Assange has said that “the stream of leaks on his website would continue ‘unabated’ and vowed to ‘step up’ its schedule of publications.”  

His ridiculous crusade against America which supposedly brings out the important truth of what is generally a benevolent hyperpower is nothing more than anti-Americanism. Assange either doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to understand how the world works. He has rightly been called a terrorist by chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and is a continual threat not just to US national security but every nation for as long as he operates.

French bullying


Ireland must be prepared to take down the euro to protect itself and its future.

She claims she’s worth it


Yet again Baroness Ashton astounds. It seems that she “has failed to fully attend two thirds of European Commission meetings over the past year, leaving Britain without a voice in the most important forum for EU law making”.

The fact that she is also is also First Vice-President of the Commission and the UK’s only full representative on the Commission. Apparently she has a reluctance to be away “from her London-based family at weekends”.

During “26 per cent of meetings, Lady Ashton left proceedings early, although, her aides insist that, in most cases she was there for the “meat” of the agenda. Her attendance record is the worst of the EU’s 27 commissioners.”

Part of this is the EU’s fault, she holds too many positions and would be unable to do them all even if she did work on weekends. However her unwillingness to work at weekends coupled with her obvious lack of experience or some would say even interest in her “foreign minster” job means she should resign.

Besides the EU has bigger things on its plate, namely the implosion of the euro and with it their federalist/super state dreams going up in smoke.

For the benefit of all


It seems that the “land between the Mediterranean and river Jordan will be majority Palestinian from 2015”. Prominent Isrealis like Ehud Olmert argue rightly that “unless such a peace settlement is reached Israel would have to embrace the one-state solution, where Jews and Palestinians would have equal rights, or become an apartheid state, where a Jewish minority will dominate a restive Palestinian majority”.

A peaceful two state solution must be reached for the benefit of all.

Myth of the market


It has long been the credo for those who believe in the absolute power of the “market” that it brings endless choice and this is only a good thing from which we all benefit.

Howewer in an interesting piece The Economist explores that it might not be as simple as many claim. It notes how “The average American supermarket now carries 48,750 items, according to the Food Marketing Institute, more than five times the number in 1975. Britain’s Tesco stocks 91 different shampoos, 93 varieties of toothpaste and 115 of household cleaner”.

Similarly “Teenagers can choose to surf, chat, tweet, zap or poke in ways that their parents can barely fathom” while “The University of California, Berkeley, has over 350 degree programmes, including Buddhist Studies and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies, each made up of scores of courses”. Choice is seemingly endless.

It hardly needs to be said but “Free choice is the basis on which markets work, driving competition and generating economic growth”, however we have reached a tipping point. It notes how “In one landmark experiment, conducted in an upmarket grocery store in California, researchers set up a sampling table with a display of jams. In the first test they offered a tempting array of 24 different jams to taste; on a different day they displayed just six. Shoppers who took part in the sampling were rewarded with a discount voucher to buy any jam of the same brand in the store. It turned out that more shoppers stopped at the display when there were 24 jams. But when it came to buying afterwards, fully 30% of those who stopped at the six-jam table went on to purchase a pot, against merely 3% of those who were faced with the selection of 24” it argue that “Too much choice, concluded Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University and Mark Lepper of Stanford, is demotivating”.

Simply put, “As options multiply, there may be a point at which the effort required to obtain enough information to be able to distinguish sensibly between alternatives outweighs the benefit to the consumer of the extra choice”.

Even more damaging this endless choice can harm society itself. Thge article notes how the “potential for regret about the options not taken—the faster car, the hotel with the better view—seems to be greater in the face of multiple choices”. Humourously “In one episode of ‘The Simpsons’, Marge takes Apu shopping in a new supermarket, Monstromart, whose cheery advertising slogan is “‘where shopping is a baffling ordeal'”.

Worringly, “Expectations have been inflated to such an extent that people think the perfect choice exists, argues Renata Salecl in her book ‘Choice'”. This can lead people to think that perfect jam, car, really exists. In some cases people are dissapointed and move on, however with our relaxed morals how many divorces does society have to accept for before the consequences mount and the State has to pick up the tab. The market seems to infect everything. Not only that but “today’s children, growing up in a world of abundant choice, will find decisions even harder to take when they grow up. Their lives may be packed with instant choices”.

How will they be able to cope which college to choose, whether to marry or not, indeed any multitude of serious decisions that each of serious consequences. One quoted man says that the adults of the future currently “‘grab this or that and hope for the best'”. This is no way to run a life.

Not only is society affected, the market and thus competition itself is worse off as bewildered consumers attempt to navigate their way through as “the more that options multiply, the more important brands become. Today, when paralysed by bewildering choice, a consumer will often turn to a brand that is cleverly marketed to appear to be one that others trust”.

Unlimited choice is not a good thing, businesses are reacting to this as “some firms employ ‘choice architects’ to help guide consumers’ decision-making and curb confusion”, other companies have simply reduced the range of porducts on offer.

We will learn little from this basic psychology and choice will continue to dominate our lives, often to our own detriment.

Cardinal Rode retires


In a suprise move Franc Cardinal Rode CM, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has been formally retired. Other candidates have been mentioned but he has been unexpectedly replaced by Archbishop João Bráz de Aviz formerly of Brasília.

History repeating itself


Fianna Fail have destroyed Ireland.  May they be wiped out and never return.

Trying to disprove the obvious


Some people seem intent on disproving basic natural law. Like trying to disprove gravity exists they are doomed to fail, hopfully.

In an article written about the future of marriage it notes that the marrige of Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton reflects “the changes in the shape and nature of marriage that have been rippling throughout the Western world for the past few decades”. It notes that people in their late 20s or early 30s are getting married less often than ever before. It says that in”1960, the year before Princess Diana, William’s mother, was born, nearly 70% of American adults were married; now only about half are. Eight times as many children are born out of wedlock. Back then, two-thirds of 20-somethings were married; in 2008 just 26% were. And college graduates are now far more likely to marry (64%) than those with no higher education (48%)”.

The article notes how the things that usually come from marriage can now be acquired without it, as it says “Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children”.

All this points to the fact that that marriage, and those getting married, is changing. However there is an uglier side to all this rapid change, most worryingly that “Nearly half of children born today will be living in broken homes by the age of 16 as growing numbers of families split up”. A “report called for a major shift in policy to reassert the ‘vital’ importance of marriage as a more stable form of commitment than cohabitation”.

The piece notes how “married couples accounted for over half of all births, divorces represented just one fifth of all breakdowns in parental relationships, with the remaining 80 per cent of separations coming from unmarried families”.  It has long been proven that children need stability at home and those with stability have a much better chance of being better adjusted and more able to cope with difficult times. However, where there is instability in the home, there is a much higher chance of crime, failed relationships, drug and alcohol abuse.

When things go wrong this must and should be cleaned up by the State. In the UK alone “the total cost of family breakdown was £20-£24 billion per year in tax credits, housing and other benefits payments. Mr Duncan Smith, who founded the Centre for Social Justice before becoming a Cabinet minister, has suggested that the true cost of family breakdown to the UK economy, including benefits, lost taxes and crime, was far higher – up to £100 billion a year”.

The State has a duty to protect children through stable and secure relationships, and the most obvious way of doing this is through marriage. There are other ways that this could and is being encourged  but it all points in the same direction.

Even worse many now paint a false dichotomy in which everything that is new is automatically good and worthwhile, yet everything that is old is bad or dangerous – change is always seen as a good thing.

This societal breakdown with relativism and individualism at its core leads to there being only a duty to self. This means that a promise has no real meaning. Modern life makes things worse with whatever excuse there is for role models today doing as they please – without moral and societal sanction.  

Those that try to maintain whatever societal order and stability exist are told to that the current ways are “out of touch with the modern reality” and we must change because there is change.

Such thinking has only got us to where we are today – that should be warning enough.

Bandar the king-maker


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

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

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

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

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

Election annihilation?


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

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

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

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

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

Hypocrisy of the Holy See


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

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

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

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

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

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

Verbum caro factum est!


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

Happy Christmas!

In search of the common good


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

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

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

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

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

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

Wise words


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

Closing of the American Mind

Liberalism’s increasing irrationality


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

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

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

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

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

Cardinal Rode’s retirement


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

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

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

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

And then there were two.

44th or 45th?


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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll soon find out.

Relativism reigns


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

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

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

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

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

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

Western terrorism


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

Time for the EU to grow up


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Modernity’s intolerance


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

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

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

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

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

Pragmatic or naive?


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

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

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

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

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

November looms


November looms large and with it the mid terms. Dems are starting to realise that “Nancy Pelosi’s hold on the speakership is in true jeopardy; that losing control of the Senate is not out of the question”. Although, I think that this latter point might be a little over the top. Dems will certainly lose seats in both chambers but with people like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle as the candidates the GOP shouldn’t be so assured of victory.

It says that “that Obama’s alienation of independents and white voters, along with the enthusiasm gap between the right and the left” have all come together to hurt the Dems. Yet, the troop surge in Afghanistan and the signing into law of banking reforms should surely come some way to hold steady his support among this group, whatever one has to say about health care.  Dem plans to ease the wave of anti-incumbency by passing health care and talking up the economy haven’t worked. The second part of their plan was to do “mischief by playing up the divisions between the Tea Party and the more traditional elements of the Republican Party”.

However “the White House plans to continue to try to impact the national environment by touting its accomplishments, blaming Republicans for stopping other measures, and railing against the Bush legacy”, yet talking about 43 won’t win any seats long term, let alone in 2012. Having played to the base for the first two years Obama needs to tack to the centre and isolate the Tea Party and much of the GOP as Clinton did during  1995. And look where that got him, a second term. 

Now all the GOP needs to do to assure that is run a Palin/Paul ticket in 2012.

2010 in the Catholic Church


It looks like it’s going to be a busy year for the Catholic Church. Robert Mickens and Elena Curti, in “History in the making”, the liberal religion magazine The Tablet talks of

Benedict’s trip the the UK (and possibly Ireland, after the Ryan, and more recently, Murphy Reports) to beatify John Henry Cardinal Newman, a Vatican Synod on the Middle East and a consistory for the creation of up to 18 new cardinals.

Should be an interesting year!



I suppose hello and Happy New Year are in order.

I guess I had better tell you that there probably won’t be a whole lot new in this blog covering politics and religion and whatever else I think of from someone who is very opinionated and just wants to vent.

Mainly paleoconservative views here but with definite European slant, a la Hobbes, and not the desire of freedom demanded by many traditional conservatives in America in particular. So expect lots of well, order and tradition. Lots of respect for the past but, outside the normal defination, a good dose of social democracy, communitarianism as well as the  strong influence of Catholic social teaching and social conservatism generally. Foreign policy wise expect lots of what’s been called an “uber-realism”.