Friday 31 May 2013

Ireland's Real Powers That Be

What a load of rubbish.

It is not Ireland's abortion laws that are unusual in Europe. It is Britain's, bequeathed by Margaret Thatcher and in at least broad conformity with those enacted in California by Ronald Reagan.

The 12-week time limits on abortion elsewhere in both historically Catholic and historically Protestant Western Europe (where there is not an outright ban, as there was in Great Britain for the first generation of our own National Health Service, and as there almost still is alongside the NHS in Northern Ireland) are due to the consensus between, upon and around Christian Democracy and Social Democracy, once the twin pillars of One Nation Toryism, and now once again, as historically, the twin pillars of One Nation Labour.

This is really an institutional land grab by the State. Its true targets are the schools. In the case at the heart of it, an abortion would already have been legal in the Irish Republic, under a law in accordance with Catholic Teaching.

That law is one of extremely few things left in the Irish Republic that could be said so to accord, but that accordance leads that country to have the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world, half that of Britain and one quarter that of London. A testament to caring that much more both for the mother and for the child.

The only part of Ireland where both the Catholic schools, and the sanctity of life in the womb, are now safe, is the part within the United Kingdom. There will be no change there without consensus among the parties. And there will never be any such consensus.

The DUP and much or most of the UUP would never consent to abortion. Nor would the UUP, at least, ever consent to the exclusion of the Anglican, the mainstream Presbyterian and the Methodist bodies from their historic role in relation to certain schools. Thereby, even if only by default, saving the historic role of the Catholic Church in relation to certain other schools. On both of these issues, one wishes that one could still have the confidence in the SDLP that it was possible to presuppose even only very recently indeed.

But the Irish Republic never really was a Catholic country. Well into the 1960s, more than 40 years after Irish independence, Guinness refused to employ Catholics in any managerial capacity and was owned by the dynasty that provided four successive Conservative Members of Parliament for Southend, a town a mere 40 miles from the centre of London. The last one, a former Cabinet Minister under Margaret Thatcher, did not retire until 1997 and did not die until 2007. Everything that you probably think that you know about Ireland is wrong.

There is much emphasis on land reform as having allegedly broken the power of the Ascendancy. But in fact the Anglo-Irish Protestants continued to own everything from the breweries, to the banks, to such things as Merville Dairy, all of which practised frank anti-Catholic discrimination in employment for many decades after independence, as in a different way the great concerns of the present day still do.

No even nominal Catholic was made Editor of The Irish Times until as recently as 1986, 64 years after independence. It is also notable that even in 2013 one of the Governors of The Irish Times Trust has the OBE while another has nothing less than the CBE; such, quite amusingly and very tellingly, is the Irish Republic's newspaper of record.

There is not and never has been any Catholic or even Christian symbol on the flag of the Irish Republic, although it does have an Orange stripe on it, for which there is a reason. The Church vigorously, but unsuccessfully, opposed the adoption of the Constitution there under de Valera in 1937. Everything in that last sentence tells you something important.

The country that once discriminated against Catholics in favour of Protestants now discriminates against such practising Catholics as there still are, a far lower proportion of the Catholic population than in England and quite possibly a lower absolute number; whereas Ireland now ordains almost no new Catholic priests, England now ordains more than in the 1950s.

(There were more ordinations for service in English dioceses in the 1950s, but those ordinations were largely, perhaps mostly, in Ireland, or of Irishmen who had in many cases never seen England, or both. There are now vastly more ordinations in England, for service in England, of men produced by the English dioceses, than there were in that supposedly Golden Age, which ended remarkably quickly and easily if it was so wonderful.)

Today's discrimination in the Irish Republic, and it would seem also increasingly within political and cultural Republicanism in Northern Ireland, is in favour of wallowers in each others' published and unpublished, spoken and written misery memoirs of embittered ex-Catholicism.

They know their own to be packs of lies, and sometimes utterly preposterous, such as the supposed persistence of corporal punishment in schools decades after it had been abolished. But they assume everyone else's to be genuine. They therefore see themselves as somehow expressing a broader truth. And in any case, it is the only way to get on.

Far from there having been some taboo against criticising the Church until Mary Robinson became President in 1990, this sort of thing goes back at least to George Moore, and it has made the fame and fortune of many a mediocre to downright abysmal writer, with Frank McCourt only the latest in a very long line.

Moreover, being able to produce this drivel to interviewers is now the only way to become any sort of public or responsible figure in the Irish Republic. In the way that being a posh Protestant with a too-perfect upper-class English accent remained long, long, long after independence.

Thursday 30 May 2013

The Quacks Are Showing

Not only is Jeremy Hunt an enthusiast for homoeopathy, but support for it is also the formal policy of UKIP. So much so, that its principal Commons advocate, David Tredinnick, long ago one of the original cash-for-questions MPs, is worried that the Conservative Party is being “outflanked” on this issue.

At least, in itself, homoeopathy usually does no harm, although of course harm can be and is done by a refusal to use real medicine in preference for plain water. But UKIP is also in favour of herbalism, which is a whole other story. And of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but that, as we shall see, is different.

There can be no such thing as “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine”. If it works, then it is just medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine is medicine, correctly so called. It has nothing to do with philosophical systems that, as set out below, are inimical to science and depend on the concepts the condemnation of which, by the Church as such, uniquely made possible the emergence of science.

Rather, it expresses a philosophical culture particularly open to completion by, in, through and as classical, historic, mainstream Christianity. The Western Confucian has a number of posts on TCM here, and its ethos of treating the whole person used to be called “General Practice” not very long ago. Unlike quackery, it not only requires for public safety, but demands of its own merit, to be regulated by statute.

The current popularity of such things as homoeopathy and herbalism is, like so much else, the result of our culture’s having moved away from the uniquely Christian rejection of humanity’s otherwise universal concepts of eternalism (that the universe has always existed and always will), animism (that the universe is a living thing, an animal), pantheism (that the universe is itself the ultimate reality, God), cyclicism (that everything which happens has already happened in exactly the same form, and will happen again in exactly the same form, an infinite number of times) and astrology (that events on earth are controlled by the movements of celestial bodies).

Science cannot prove that these closely interrelated things are not the case; it simply has to presuppose their falseness, first established in thirteenth-century Paris when their Aristotelian expression was condemned at the Sorbonne specifically by ecclesial authority, and specifically by reference to the Biblical Revelation.

This is why science as we now understand the term never originated anywhere other than in Medieval Europe. And it is why science did not last, or flower as it might have done, in the Islamic world: whereas Christianity sees the rationally investigable order in the universe as reflecting and expressing the rationality of the Creator, the Qur’an repeatedly depicts the will of Allah as capricious.

Although Arab science led the world between the eighth and the thirteenth centuries (above all in astronomy, mathematics and medicine), it then went into sharp decline as Christian Europe surged ahead at the start of the process that is still going on, and which has now spread throughout the world, including to the Arabs.

How and why did this happen?

In part, it was because the Catholic Church insisted on Her independence from the Sate, initially with regard to the appointment of bishops, but rapidly, once the principle had been established, in other areas as well. Under Her aegis, universities, cities and what we would now call professional bodies became legal entities in their own right, providing forums for free discussion. Islam simply did not, and does not, work like that.

But mostly, there was the impact of theological beliefs on the ability to do science. Many of the Arab scientists were in fact Christians, even if heterodox ones such as the translator ibn Masawagh of Baghdad, and his pupil Hunayan, who translated all the known Greek works into Arabic and Syriac, as well writing many medical treatises. The Christian physician ibn al-Quff of Damascus wrote one of the first treatises on surgery.

In Christianity, it is because God is both rational and free that His universe is both orderly and contingent. Since God is free, the universe is not necessary, and could have been otherwise: He need not have created it, and He might have created it any other way that He chose.

If God were rational but not free, then His universe would be necessary and could not be other than it is, so that there would be no need to conduct experiments in order to understand it. Or, if God were free but not rational, then His universe would be so chaotic that there would be no observable order within it, and so science would again be impossible.

In Islam, however, everything is directly dependent on the will of Allah, a view which weakens any expectation to observe rationality and order in the universe, even before considering how capricious that will is presented as being in several verses of the Qur’an.

Thus was science arrested in the Islamic world even as it soared away in Christendom. The contemporary resonance could not be clearer to and for those of us who care profoundly about science.

For the same reasons, there never really was all that much scientific progress in the Soviet Union. No less ruinous than the capriciousness of the Qur’anic Creator was dialectical materialism. It begat Lysenkoism, Japheticism, and Kuznetsov’s 1952 attempt to enforce “the total renunciation of Einstein’s conception, without compromise or half-measure.”

It was practically impossible for Soviet scientists to communicate or interact with those from several major countries. There was a heavy dependence on Western equipment. Even the atomic bomb and the space programme relied greatly on previous American and German work.

We all know about Soviet computers, and about Soviet attempts to copy Concorde. When British scientists were at work on penicillin, their Soviet counterparts were actually boasting that they were close to perfecting a synthetic drug “likely to have curative properties not inferior to those of Peruvian balsam.” Balsam of Peru was introduced to Europe by Nicholas Monardes of Seville. In 1560.

Forget the earth being flat. No one ever believed that, at least until the rise of modern Flat Earth Societies. The suggestion that this was the Medieval view can be dated precisely to January 1828, which saw the publication of The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus.

That was as highly fictionalised an account as one would expect from its author, Washington Irving, who also gave the world those noted works of historical realism, Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as well as popularising the use of “Gotham” to refer to the City of New York.

Forget Galileo, who was never imprisoned, who was never excommunicated, who died professing the Faith, the daughter who cared for whom in his last days became a nun, and so on. His error was not to say that the earth moved around the sun (although he could not prove that scientifically at the time - we happen to know, centuries later, that he was right, but that is not the same thing), but that the Church should teach heliocentrism as proved out of Scripture, which is in fact silent on the subject. His was not an erroneously low, but an erroneously high, doctrine of Biblical and ecclesial authority.

In the absence of scientific proof in his own age, he wanted his theory, which turns out to have been scientifically correct but which neither he nor anyone else could have known to have been so in those days, to be taught and believed on that authority, the authority of the Bible as interpreted by the Catholic Church.

That, the Church refused to do. Who was on the side of science in that dispute? I think that we can all see the answer to that one. As, in the end, did he, dying as he did a Catholic in good standing. Whereas the abuses of the Soviet system really did happen. Well within living memory.

By turning away from ecclesial authority’s articulation and protection of the Biblical Revelation, and by turning away from the Biblical Revelation itself, the civilisation that these things called into being has turned away from science and towards eternalism, animism, pantheism, cyclicism and astrology, to the extent that a few years ago a Doctorate of Science was awarded to François Mitterand’s astrologer by, of all institutions, the Sorbonne.

Furthermore, eternalism, animism, pantheism, cyclicism and astrology, inseparable from each other, underlie, among so very much else, each and every form of “alternative medicine” or “complementary medicine”, contradictions in terms that these are. But homeopathy, at least, is still being funded by the NHS. Allegedly, we cannot afford various actual medicines. Yet somehow we can afford this.

And IVF, women on which very occasionally become pregnant for no other reason than that they would have done anyway, just as people taking homoeopathic very occasionally get better for no other reason than that they would have done anyway.

And embryonic stem cell “research”, which has never yielded the slightest thing, whereas ethically unproblematic adult and cord blood stem cell research is working wonders, and would work who knows how many more if it did not struggle so hard to secure funding.

And Ritalin, the definition of simple maleness as a medicable condition to match the definition of simple femaleness as a medicable condition to be treated by means of the Pill, which on any objective analysis is a poison rather a medicine, since it stops health body parts from doing exactly what they are supposed to do.

It does so, moreover, purely so that women might be permanently available for the sexual gratification of men, a level of misogyny matched only by the definition of the preborn child as simultaneously insentient and “part of a woman’s body”. Is it the whole of a woman’s body that is insentient? Or it is only the parts most directly connected with reproduction?

Jeremy Hunt is manifestly happy with all of these, too. No doubt, so is UKIP. His and its position is that of Islamic fundamentalism avant et après la lettre; the position of the Soviet Union: the exaltation of ideology, in this case that “the market” must have what ever “the market” wants, over science.

That exaltation is always and everywhere the ruin of the latter. Since it rejects the only intellectual and cultural framework within which science has ever been possible. Or ever can be.


The Anglican Bishop of Salisbury has written a letter in the Daily Telegraph about gay marriage, which can be read here if you feel you really want to. Embedded in the letter the Bishop has this to say:

“For example, before Wilberforce, Christians saw slavery as Biblical and part of the God-given ordering of Creation.”

Interesting, eh? Wilberforce, one assumes he means William Wilberforce, was born in 1759 and died in 1833. So, for seventeen centuries all was darkness until Wilberforce came along and put us all right on the matter.

This will come as major news to Pope Pius II who condemned slavery as a great crime and who died in 1464. The same is true of Popes Paul III, Urban VIII, and Benedict XIV, all of whom long predated the English reformer, not to mention the founders and members of the Mercedarian and Trinitarian Orders, which were dedicated to the redemption of slaves. In fact the history of Christian anti-slavery is a long one, as this useful article makes clear.

Perhaps we should not expect the Bishop of Salisbury to know much about any of the people above; after all, they were all Roman Catholics and foreigners, and thus, one assumes, beneath his notice. But when someone makes such an ignorant remark, whoever he may be, it is worth protesting, simply because if such ignorant remarks go unchallenged, then they may well pass into the mainstream and poison the minds of future generations.

Slavery is a great evil, but it is simplistic, misleading and dangerous to see it as something that flourished because of the Bible or because Christians approved it.

It Never Went Away

Alan Sked makes some interesting and important points. But anyone in the European Commission would tell him that, while they had no fear of British withdrawal under a Conservative government, they had no such confidence in Labour. In fact, they say that entirely openly. The terms of the "debate" in this country, however, are completely skewed against reality.

For example, the party that Professor Sked founded but now reviles is treated as if it were a major force because it recently garnered 7.5 per cent of the eligible vote in the least populous areas. It only has to lose a by-election and its defeated candidate is invited onto the Question Time panel.

There is a party which is actually going to have seats in the next Parliament, unlike Professor Sked's former vehicle, and which is already committed explicitly to the repatriation of industrial and regional policy, as well as at least implicitly to that of agriculture and fisheries.

It also has a range of economic policies, with more to come, that are simply incompatible with the EU's permanent, because fundamental, pursuit of everything that UKIP supporters could possibly want and more. It is exactly the EU's position, as it is exactly UKIP's position, that the only problem with British austerity is that it does not go far enough.

Labour kept Britain out of the euro. It provided three times as many votes against Maastricht as the Conservatives did, with the latter not including UKIP's rising star, Neil Hamilton, who voted in favour of Maastricht. It voted against the Single European Act, unlike Neil Hamilton.

It voted year on year against the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policies between 1979 and 1997; again, Neil Hamilton never did so, not even once. It is the only party ever to have had a manifesto commitment to withdrawal, in 1983, when Neil Hamilton was elected against it. It held the only ever referendum on membership. It opposed ever going in.

And it is still there. Its choice of Deputy Speaker is a dynastic opponent of the EU, his father having voted against Maastricht. Every single one of its MPs recently voted for a real terms reduction in the British contribution to the EU Budget, joined by fewer Conservatives than there are Lib Dem MPs.

One third of its MPs voted to be chaired by John Cryer. Their three representatives on the National Executive Committee are all no friends of the EU, one of them having voted against every treaty since the first one.

Ed Balls is Shadow Chancellor. Jon Cruddas heads the Policy Review. The place to see and be seen for the very talented 2010 intake in the Morning Star Readers' and Supporters' Group. Any party with John Mills as its single largest donor, giving twice as much as Unite does, knows exactly on which side its bread is buttered.

But you will not be hearing or reading about any of these facts in any of the official media, a category which includes the grander blogs but not certain newspapers (one in particular, which I part-own). As I said, completely skewed against reality.

Edmund Burke Would Be Labour In 2013

This article of mine appears in the London Progressive Journal:

A new biography of Edmund Burke has been written by Jesse Norman, and it has attracted favourable comment from Charles Moore, official biographer of Margaret Thatcher.

Yet, like almost anything by Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Disraeli, Chesterton, Belloc, or any Pope since 1891, almost anything by Burke would be screamed down in the Conservative Party that Thatcher has bequeathed, never mind in UKIP. The Independent Labour Party was said to include “even a variety of Burkean conservatism”. Anyone of such mind now has no political home but Labour.

Today, Labour alone stands in succession to those among whom there persisted an ancestrally Jacobite disaffection with the legitimacy of the Hanoverian State, of that State’s Empire, and of that Empire’s capitalist ideology. That inherited, theologically grounded disaffection produced Tory action against the slave trade, Tory and Radical action against domestic social evils, Tory and Radical extensions of the franchise, the creation of the Labour Movement, and the opposition to the Boer and First World Wars.

Labour is totally opposed to the cruel cuts in our conventional defence. To the ruinous reduction in provincial disposable incomes by the abolition of National Pay Agreements. To the further deregulation of Sunday trading. To the replacement of Her Majesty’s Constabulary with the British KGB that will be the National Crime Agency. To the devastation of rural communities by the allowing of foreign companies and even foreign states to buy up our postal service and our roads.

To Royal Mail privatisation, which would sever the monarchy’s direct link to every address in this Kingdom. To the return of the East Coast Main Line, the only publicly owned railway in Great Britain and the one requiring the least subsidy from the taxpayer, to the private sector from which it has already had to be rescued twice. And to the disenfranchisement of organic communities by means of parliamentary boundaries designed by and for “sophists, economists and calculators”.

Every single Labour MP voted to demand a real-terms reduction in the British contribution to the EU Budget. The number of Conservatives who voted with Labour was lower than the number of Liberal Democrats in the Commons. David Cameron has wholly failed to deliver that reduction. Ed Miliband has appointed Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor and Jon Cruddas to head Labour’s Policy Review.

As Prime Minister, Ed Miliband will fight for Britain’s national interest at European level in the tradition of the only party ever to have held a referendum on the issue, the only party ever to have fought a General Election on a manifesto commitment to withdrawal, the party that voted as one against Thatcher’s Single European Act, the party that provided three times more votes against Maastricht than the Conservatives did, and the party that kept Britain out of the euro.

Labour is the force for the Union against separatism on at least three fronts. Moreover, the vast area of England where Labour now massively predominates would secede from any Thatcherite rump state. The three regions of the Deep North alone have a combined population considerably greater than that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But the relative success of Labour at the local elections in the South in 2012 and 2013, capturing first Chipping Norton and then Witney Central, indicates that the Coalition’s vindictiveness is bringing the South East back into the United Kingdom.

However, the whole of England has been removed from the United Kingdom without our consent by the dismantlement of our National Health Service. That defining aspect of British identity still exists everywhere else. The BBC is blacking out this scandal. Only Labour supports England’s NHS.

The Central Goal

Bryan Gould writes:

When Harold Wilson's incoming Labour government prepared itself in 1964 to make good the damage done by "13 wasted years" of Tory government, its fate was sealed even as it took office.

Fearful of fulfilling a Tory stereotype, the decision was immediately taken to resist a long overdue devaluation of the pound. There followed three years of struggle before yielding to the inevitable; the 1967 devaluation was represented as a defeat, and led inexorably to the loss of the 1970 election.

Labour and the left have always been reluctant to challenge the economic orthodoxy promoted by their opponents and, as a result, have implicitly conceded that the Tories know best – a judgment not surprisingly endorsed, in the absence of arguments to the contrary, by public opinion. 

We are at it again. Labour is again advised by its friends that, if we are to win the next election, we must demonstrate that we are ready to perpetuate Tory mistakes by taking the "tough" decisions – for which read imposing yet more cuts and austerity. Anything less, we are assured, will show that we are not ready for government.

So, the search is on to identify the cuts that will show that we too are ready to inflict more pain. But to undertake that search is to disable ourselves from making an effective critique of a Tory economic failure that we seem implicitly to endorse, and to condemn an incoming Labour government to implementing a policy forced upon us by our defeated opponents.

Surely, though, as the country's problems deepen, the decisive action that the voters crave may not be "tough" action that piles on yet more misery, but a clear break from the nostrums that have dominated policy for more than 30 years. Labour's best chance lies in changing the rules of the game and looking at our problems through a lens that rejects the priorities imposed by a discredited neoliberal orthodoxy.

We don't need to look far for the broad outlines and central themes of a clear alternative. The first requirement is to ask the right questions so that our real problems are accurately identified. For example, why do we not seek the growth that, by definition, is essential if we are to escape recession, reduce the government deficit and restore full employment? Because we dare not.

And why is that? Because we know that a dash for growth, in light of the parlous state and long-term lack of competitiveness of our productive sector, would immediately be stymied by rising inflation and a worsening trade deficit. Retrenchment can only compound these problems.

If we are to escape the dilemma, it is essential that we address the real obstacles to a growth strategy the need to rebuild our productive base, in the face of a massive loss of competitiveness and an apparent shortage of liquidity and capital for investment.

In the last three decades, while the rest of the world – China, India, Korea, Brazil, and many others – have become more efficient and competitive as manufacturing economies, we have paid no attention to our own declining competitiveness.

We have thereby turned our backs on manufacturing and its unmatched ability to create jobs, stimulate innovation, produce an immediate return on investment and encourage new skills; we decided instead to stake our future on the fool's gold produced by a financial services industry that – even at best – produced benefits for only a tiny minority.

But, it may be asked, even if we were now to pay attention to improving competitiveness and to understand the vital role of the exchange rate in that undertaking, won't rebuilding our manufacturing industry cost us money we don't have? No. As Keynes said, "there are no intrinsic reasons for a scarcity of capital". There is no shortage of money, it is simply going to the wrong places.

The creation of credit by the banks – by far the most important (and virtually unrestrained) element in the growth of the money supply – goes mainly to house purchase; the "quantitative easing" by the Bank of England has gone straight into the banks' balance sheets. These major sources of new money are cost-free but are not devoted to productive purposes.

We have allowed self-interested bankers to persuade us, in the name of monetarism, that growth in the money supply is a dangerous phenomenon that must always be restricted for fear of inflation; but more successful economies have understood that credit creation directed to productive investment in accordance with an agreed industrial strategy – as the Chinese and Japanese are currently doing – will not be inflationary when it stimulates increased output.

A focus on competitiveness and on ensuring an ample supply of investment capital for productive purposes means that our successful competitors can make full use of their productive capacity. We, on the other hand, are happy to tolerate a high rate of unemployment, with all that means for lost productive capacity and social dislocation.

A Labour commitment to make full employment the central goal of policy – a goal for which responsibility could not be shuffled off on to unaccountable bankers but would be the issue by which a Labour government wished to be judged – would be welcomed as a decisive break with the neoliberal era. Full employment, after all, is the hallmark of a properly functioning economy; there is nothing economically efficient about keeping people out of work.

The fainthearted should be reassured. This approach to economic policy is tried and tested; it has been successfully deployed by other more successful economies over a long period. It is just that we have been too arrogant to notice.

The Worst Reason For Going To War

Simon Jenkins writes:

There could no more dreadful idea than to pour more armaments into the sectarian war now consuming Syria. Yet that is precisely what Britain's coalition government wants to do.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, seemed on Monday to parody his hero Pitt the Younger by demanding "how long must we go on allowing … ?" and "what we want to see is …". Who is this we? But even Pitt would never be so stupid as to declare war on Syria, which is the only morally sound outcome of Hague's rhetorical mission creep.

For two years pundits have proclaimed the imminent fall of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad. High on Arab spring, they declared he would fall from the logic of history. Or he would fall because western sanctions would bring him down. Or he would fall because the media, as in the novel Scoop, were with the rebels and had decided they would win.

Assad has not fallen. He is still there, locked in the lethal Muslim schism that resurfaced with the demise of the region's secularist dictators. These have now almost all gone: the shah in Iran, Najibullah in Afghanistan, Saddam in Iraq, Mubarak in Egypt, Gaddafi in Libya.

They had faults in abundance, but they succeeded in suppressing religious discord, instilling rudimentary tolerance and keeping the region mostly in order. This was in the west's interest, and the rulers, like those in the Gulf, were supported accordingly.

Turning turtle and abetting their downfall may yet prove the most disastrous miscalculation of western diplomacy since the rise of fascism. Prior to the Iraq war, Saddam persecuted the Shias, but their shrines were safe and intermarriage was common.

After the war, Sunni and Shia are torn asunder, with a death toll of ghastly proportions. Similar agony may soon be visited on the Afghans. Libya's Tripoli is more unstable now the west has toppled Gaddafi, its fundamentalist guerrillas spreading mayhem south across the Sahara to Algeria, Mali and Nigeria.

These upheavals might have occurred without western intervention. The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were largely self-starting. Islamist parties often came to power, because they offered an alternative discipline to the existing regimes. But the west's sudden zest for "wars of choice", its meddling in the politics of Pakistan and its sabre-rattling in Iran have created a cause on to which neoconservative Islamism could fasten.

Al-Qaida was in 2000 a tiny group of fanatics. America and Britain have portrayed it as an all-powerful enemy, apparently lurking in support of every anti-secularist rebellion. Cameron calls it "an existential terrorist threat… to inflict the biggest possible amount of damage to our interests and way of life".

Yet stabbings and bombings do not constitute an "existential threat". The UK is a stronger culture than Cameron appears to believe. There is no threat to its existence, while the chief damage being done to its way of life comes from the incompetence of its government.

Syria is at present certainly a claim on the world's humanitarian resources, to be honoured by supporting the refugee camps and aid agencies active in the area. Assad's suppression of revolt has been appallingly brutal, but he was Britain's friend, as was Saddam, long after his regime began its brutality.

That is how things are in this part of the world. The west cannot stop them. To conclude that "we cannot allow this to happen" assumes a potency over other people's affairs that "we" do not possess.

Pouring arms into Syria will no more topple Assad or "drive him to the negotiating table" than did two years of blood-curdling sanctions. Hague knows this perfectly well, as he knows there is no way arms can be sent to "good" rebels and not to bad ones.

He knows that if you want one side to win a civil war, the only honest way is to fight on its side. We did that in Kosovo and Libya. In Syria, Hague has fallen back on Kipling's "killing Kruger with your mouth".

The differences between Sunni and Shia, now tearing at nations in the Middle East, are deeply embedded in Islam. As the scholar Malise Ruthven has pointed out, outsiders preaching tolerance are no use. These disputes are intractable "since the acceptance of pluralism relativises truth". For Sunni to accept Shia and vice versa is for each to deny the faith.

Christianity, after centuries of similar bloodshed, has learned religious tolerance (though in Northern Ireland, Britain can hardly talk). Much of Islam has not. The one antidote lay in the rise of secular politics. This is the politics that Britain destroyed in Iraq and Libya, in the belief that it was bringing democracy and peace. It has brought chaos.

Britain's military judgment is no more coherent than its political. It thinks it can conquer Syria – which is what toppling Assad would require – by proxy.

But sending weapons cannot make a difference, and will merely entice Britain into promising troops, unless it wishes to desert the rebels. Like American backing for the Taliban in the 1990s, the idea that "my enemy's enemy must be my friend" could yet see British special forces fighting alongside al-Qaida in Syria.

War holds a terrible appeal for democratic leaders. Most of Europe's rulers have other matters on their hands, but Britain and France, two nations whose ancient empires carved up the Levant between them, cannot keep out of it.

They see national interest and danger where none exists. They cannot relieve Syria's agony, yet hope some vague belligerence might bring relief.

The reality is they hope that belligerence might draw attention from political troubles back home. That is the worst reason for going to war.

Monday 27 May 2013

There Is No "Moderate Opposition"

On the principles being advanced, we should have bought the Woolwich murderers their meat cleavers.

No, it is not in poor taste to say that. It is a fact.

Those whom we are proposing to arm in Syria, if we are not already doing so, are exactly like the followers of Anjem Choudary, and may very well be - indeed, probably are - the followers of the Syrian, Omar Bakri Muhammad.

Different Strokes

It remains to be established whether stem cell treatment has led to the improvements that have been experienced by stroke victims in Glasgow. But there is no doubt that such cells are obtainable without any recourse to abortion.

The term "stem cell research" has persistently been used to mean scientifically worthless but morally abhorrent playing about with embryonic stem cells, together with the viciously cruel justification of this by reference to an ever-longer list of medical conditions.

The real stem cell research involves adult and cord blood stem cells, is ethically unproblematic, and has already yielded real, demonstrable, demonstrated results. But it struggles to secure funding, because it is of no interest to those who cannot forgive the Catholic Church either for having educated them or for having educated the wrong sort.

Similarly, what else that cost as much as IVF but which had such a failure rate – frankly, it doesn’t work – would be available on the NHS?  Add to that the fact that each year, 80 women who have become pregnant through IVF have abortions. Read that one over again.

Back in March 2009, even the liberal "Left" media finally realised what the rest of us had been saying for years. But in February of this year, the age limit was put up. Again. It had been put last February as well, when same-sex couples had also been given an entitlement. Only under the Conservatives. Of course.

As the campaign against Page Three and "lads’ mags" really heats up, consider, if you can stomach doing so, how the male contribution to IVF is invariably produced. At our expense, of course. We buy the visual aids, to which the supplying of the IVF industry within your NHS and mine must now be a very considerable source of income, perhaps even a commercially salvific one.

Yet they are a lot worse than either Page Three or Nuts, which are objectionable enough in themselves. The latter and its ilk are consciously designed for, and marketed to, teenage boys. That is a form of those ephebes’ sexual abuse for commercial gain, doing its victims enormous emotional and psychological harm. If Cardinal Pell can be castigated for pederasty that he did not commit and of which he was not aware, then why is this child prostitution acceptable?

Even in this Internet age, someone must still buy "lads’ mags", or else they would no longer exist. The Internet is simply not a reason to refuse to act against evil elsewhere. A fact well worth bearing in mind across a wide range of policy areas. On one of which, please read to the end of this post.

Meanwhile, NaProTech, Natural Procreative Technology, is an ethical, healthy and far more successful alternative to IVF. Unlike IVF, in NaProTech no embryonic children are killed or exposed to harm in the laboratory, and couples’ relationships are strengthened.

As they are also strengthened by Natural Family Planning, which is more effective than anything else if it is taught properly, as is admitted even by the World Health Organisation, which hardly a Vatican puppet. NFP involves no poisoning of women in order to make them permanently available for the sexual gratification of men. It can only be practised by faithful couples, and its practitioners almost, if almost, never divorce.

Any chance that these realities might be taught in secondary schools, Mr Gove? Or made the subject of responsible television documentaries? Or featured in the press, much of which noisily parades its conservatism, its Catholicism, or both, while all of it at present is noisily parading its purported ability and willingness to challenge the supposedly distinct powers that be?

Rotherham Rules

With UKIP already starting to fall apart, just as we all knew that it would well before the next General Election, what to make of the strange fantasy that a supposedly anti-EU party which does not in fact object to anything in particular that the EU actually does is picking up votes from Labour by objecting to the Coalition only on the grounds that its policies do not go far enough in a hardline New Right direction?

To no one's surprise, there is absolutely no evidence that this is happening. Consider, for example, UKIP's much-trumpeted, but exceptionally narrow, capture of a council seat from Labour in Rotherham a few days ago. UKIP, 1143. Labour, 1039. Conservative, 107. In other words, UKIP and Labour pretty much tied, Conservative vote collapsed in UKIP's favour. Very low turnout. Labour candidate married to the former councillor, who is now the Police and Crime Commissioner, leading to a certain amount of ill will on the ground.

No story there at all. No such story anywhere at all.

As for the delusion that UKIP is uniting social conservatives across traditional partisan dividing lines, a party which believes that whatever "the market" wants, "the market" must have, is ever going to do that how, exactly? It is no surprise that there is no previously Labour ballot box where that can be shown to have happened, and that UKIP barely exists in the North, or increasingly even in the Midlands, where it lost its one seat to Labour even in the supposed fortress of Nottinghamshire.

UKIP is in favour of the legalisation of drugs, in favour of the legalisation of prostitution, and no more opposed to same-sex "marriage", which Nigel Farage himself supports, than are two thirds of the Conservative MPs who voted against it under pressure from within their local parties, but who are really Thatcher's Children, anarcho-capitalist libertarians.

Likewise, around a third of Labour MPs who voted in favour of it, especially at Third Reading, are at least less than fully enthusiastic, but are under pressure from within their local parties. This is being used as a wedge issue by neo-Blairite activists with a view to removing MPs of whom they had wanted rid in any case. Just look at the names of the opponents, of the abstainers, and of those known to have grave doubts but who nevertheless went into the Aye lobby.

The second and third camps are full of people who have gambled on this Bill's never making it through the Lords, and who have therefore forced themselves to make a gesture in order to try and head off those who would stop them from doing everything else that they are doing as legislators, scrutineers and campaigners, by removing them from the House of Commons for other reasons entirely.

The Predicament of the Conservative Liberal

Michael Gove seems to have made the easy and common transition from the conservative-liberal wing of the Church of Scotland to the conservative-liberal wing of the Church of England. The reverse is rarer, but only because there are far fewer English people in Scotland than there are Scots people in England. It is by no means unheard of, and it is no more difficult.

However, most of the conservative liberals in either body, among others, have not yet arrived at Gove's desire to redefine marriage in order to include same-sex couples. He has been nothing if not a pioneer of that position, arguing for it in The Times and on The Moral Maze all the way back in the days when the Labour Government of the day was restating the traditional objections from the Despatch Box. Mind you, that need not necessarily be all that long ago; Gordon Brown was expounding that view to interviewers in the run-up to the 2010 General Election. But Gove was expounding the contrary view 10 years and more before that.

(The Labour abstention rate at Third Reading was well up on that at Second Reading, even if nine former abstainers, including Brown, did vote in favour, as did three previous opponents. Two abstainers switched to voting against, and seven opponents, all known to be strongly of that view, were among the very fair few who stayed away. Those who still share Gove's girlish infatuation with Tony Blair have, by all accounts, been busy with menace and malice in several Constituency Labour Parties. The 14 Labour votes against and the seven opponents turned abstainers make for heavily left-wing and very heavily Old Labour lists, while the nine abstainers who switched to voting in favour are also far from a Blairite lot. Pressure has been applied.)

Where, though, are those who cannot accept the Church of Scotland's changed stance to go? The Free Church of Scotland does not ordain women, and it maintains forms of worship not seen in the most of the Church of Scotland for many decades. It is committed to Textus Receptus. It has little in the way of a Lowland culture, and no country, not even any of the others in these Islands, is more unbridgeable a gap between two cultures than exists in Scotland.

The same or similar problems would, and perhaps will, present themselves to those who had up to then been happy in, say, the Methodist Church of Great Britain, or the United Reformed Church, or the Presbyterian Church of Wales. Or, indeed, the Church of England, or the Church in Wales. Other bodies of similar heritage, but uncompromised and uncompromising on this issue, do exist. The problem is that they are no more compromised or compromising on anything else about which anyone might have been, in living memory or well before that.

Where are conservative liberals to go? Not to existing conservative formations, religious, political, or anything else. Those have been around for years, for decades, for centuries. They are not what conservative liberals are used to, or think that they are used to. Therefore, they are not what conservative liberals are looking for.

The writer who sells herself to American customers as their foremost British voice, and who may in fact be so, has most emphatically not arrived at the Goveite view of the definition of marriage, yet is an active member, having apparently been born into it, of one of the three religious denominations that are campaigning most vigorously for that view to be given legislative effect. She continues to deny that she is a supporter of the Conservative Party, and by no means only because of what that party has become under David Cameron.

It seems odd, in view of the circles in which he moved and moves, that Douglas Murray was never confronted with and by the definitive Christian answers to the claim that if there could be a New Testament, then there could be an Even Newer Testament in the form of the Qur'an. Those arguments have been around since the seventh century, against an assertion made in order to convert people to Islam, and only very recently to Murray's still quite new-found atheism. But he seems still to believe in religion, just not in God.

Which would seem to make him ripe for conversion to a Judaism willing to accommodate his socio-politicised homosexuality. Such as that to which Melanie Phillips adheres institutionally. Except that she is not so accommodating, she has a most un-Judaic interest in pure theology (well, when you have few or no ritual laws to consider instead...), and she sounds more and more like a paleoconservative in her strident defence of a "Western civilisation" about which neoconservatives have been extremely sceptical precisely because they shared the ethno-cultural background of which she is so proud. On The Moral Maze, though, she once referred to Steven Rose's Orthodox upbringing as "just embarrassing".

They are a very complicated lot, the conservative liberals.

Left And Right Must Unite And Fight I

The Morning Star editorialises:

As dogs return to their vomit, so the enthusiasts for a police state in Britain return to the Communications Data Bill.

On television at the weekend Home Secretary Theresa May came as close as she could to calling for this discredited measure to be resurrected. It received a drubbing from a committee of MPs and lords late last year and was then dropped from the Queen's Speech at the insistence of junior coalition leader Nick Clegg.

The Bill would grant sweeping additional powers to the police and intelligence services to monitor everyone's internet communications, whether or not they are suspected of possible terrorist involvement. May had previously argued that these measures were essential in order to combat terrorism and crime planned or instigated through internet-based pages, messages and phone calls.

There appears to be have been no need for such modern technology in the plot to murder a soldier outside Woolwich barracks last Wednesday. But in the backwash of the brutal slaying of Lee Rigby, reintroduction of the Bill has received qualified or outright backing from former Labour home secretaries Jack Straw, John Reid and Alan Johnson, as well as Gordon Brown's national security adviser Lord West.

These four grim horsemen of the apocalypse have previously championed such policies as universal ID cards and 90-day internment without trial. In truth, state agencies such as GCHQ, MI5, MI6 and Special Branch have no need of additional powers. They have all the means required to monitor actual or wannabe terrorists in Britain, buttressed by the issue of 500,000 intercept warrants each year.

We also know that in practice the security and intelligence services have no compunction about acting outside the law should it be deemed necessary. Moreover, it has emerged that MI5 and MI6 knew plenty about at least one of the two men shot by police after the vile slaughter of Drummer Rigby.

The security services had no need of a Communications Data Act to take any action they wished to monitor, recruit or arrest Michael Adebolajo or, indeed, to have him kidnapped and sent abroad for torture as part of Britain's covert involvement in the "extraordinary rendition" programme.

Of course the public here has to be protected from terrorist attacks, from whatever quarter. The same applies to civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. It is the failure to observe the second of these pronouncements that has now added Woolwich to the list of terrorist killings on the streets of our country. Further restricting civil liberties in Britain will not eliminate that jeopardy.

The harsh reality is that shadowing US-led foreign policy in the bombing, invasion and occupation of other countries breeds resistance as well as deranged reactions like those we saw on Wednesday. Western state terrorism and Islamist counter-terrorism feed the same false narrative of a "clash of civilisations" between western Christianity and eastern Islam.

Yet the reality is that US and British foreign policy is driven by the rather more profane requirements of monopoly capitalism. The "war on terror" is the politically and grammatically illiterate concept coined by former US president George W Bush to mask that underlying fact.

If, as William Blum once remarked, a terrorist is someone with a bomb but no air force, an imperialist is someone with both - but, increasingly, no pilot.

Left And Right Must Unite And Fight II

Fraser Nelson writes: 

I would have loved to have been in the room when David Cameron’s advisers were thinking of an acronym for the new anti-terror committee. Something that sounded scary enough, but not too Monty Python. They eventually went for TERFOR, according to the Mail on Sunday, although it’s still unclear what the T will stand for. But there’s still time.

It reminds me of an old New Statesman competition where readers were invited to invent a committee whose acronym mocked its existence. The great Robert Conquest won, teasing the mag for its sympathetic approach to the Soviets: his proposal was Institute for New Statesman Editors and Contributors for Underwriting the Russian Experiment – INSECURE.

But insecure is something that the Prime Minister ought not to be after last week. The Woolwich murder, for all its savagery, has not exposed scandalous failings in our national security apparatus. After 9/11 and 7/7 there was, quite rightly, focus on our unpreparedness or lack of understanding.  But this time, things have developed precisely along the lines that Douglas Murray and others have been describing for years.

The knifemen were black British-born Muslim converts and one had been off to Nigeria to sign up to another country’s jihad. It’s textbook behaviour: the book in question being Olivier Roy’s 2004 Globalized Islam which identified the ‘jihadi jet-set’. The journey from Christian schoolboy to jihadi nutjob conforms perfectly to what Matthew d’Ancona described seven years ago. His words are worth repeating: 

You have young Muslim youth growing up in the club scene, the drug scene, in British inner-city life but also exposed to the most militant form of Islam… The clash of civilisations is not between civilisations but within people themselves. 

The fact that the knifemen were known to MI5 is more cause for reassurance than alarm. You’d hope that all Islamist psychos were on their radar, and it’s unclear that they had a chance to swoop earlier. There are some 2,000 suspects who creep in and out of MI5 terror investigations, and only round-the-clock surveillance could stop two of them conspiring to murder with kitchen knives.

Reports that MI5 tried to turn one of the knifemen are encouraging (if true) – it’s precisely what you’d want to happen. The RUSI terrorism database records every Jihadi plot/incident carried out in the UK since the year 2000.

It has identified 41 failed, aborted or foiled attacks in the UK since 9/11 – a pretty good record, which hardly suggests MI5 hamstrung by lack of powers. Instead, it seems we have a whole bunch of people doing a very good job for us, being in possession of the tools they need to do that job. As The Spectator said in our leader after the Boston bombing: 

Some of the interceptions, such as the thwarting of the Heathrow airport plot, have been nothing short of spectacular, but they never seem that way, because the end result is that nothing happens. 

I wonder if this explains why the knifemen did not make a video. They knew the spooks were on to them, and knew that a 2007 Birmingham plot to behead a solider was busted by MI5 with five imprisoned. Perhaps they thought that, if they so much nipped to Dixons to buy a camcorder, they’d probably be lifted on the way home.

So the improvised, and the world saw their mess of Islamist clichés, rap patois and non-sequiteurs. What kind of Islamist quotes Exodus 21:24 (‘an eye for an eye’) rather than the Koran? It reminded me of Hannah Arendt’s book, The Banality of Evil, which (spookily enough) was published 50 years ago this month. The Woolwich murder makes her point anew.

Crucially, we have seen nothing in the last few days to suggest we need a Snooping Act. And although power-hungry ministers never admit it, MI5 and MI6 already have full legal powers to intercept anything that can be described as a ‘communication’- from smoke signals to SMS.  The Snooping Bill was more about granting espionage powers to the taxman and other nosy government agencies.

Nor is there a glaring need for yet another committee reporting to the Prime Minister (there must be about 20 of them by now – is anyone in Whitehall keeping count?). On Friday, I was thinking how lucky we are not to have Tony Blair anymore.

Had he been still in power, there would be about 12 new laws being rammed through parliament by now. So we can forgive Cameron the creation of Terrahawks, or whatever he’s calling his new committee. He’s a politician, they feel the need to do something in a crisis, a new committee is something, therefore it must be done.

Last week reminded us that there are still jihadis, intent on murder, roaming our streets. What we have learned in the days after the murder reminds us that we have brave men and women keeping us safe, using powers to good effect, foiling one major plot a year since 9/11.

Nothing we have learned since the murder suggests that the government, the police or the spies need more powers. And I rather hope that David Cameron does not feel the need to claim otherwise.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Strengthened and Enforced

Nobody has seen any significance in the fact that Michael Adebolajo’s life changed utterly when, as a teenager, he began taking drugs, especially cannabis.

Use of this drug, particularly when young, is closely correlated with irreversible mental illness. That’s also when he embraced the barmy version of Islam that seems to have him in its grip.

There are plenty of other young drug-users roaming our streets. Most of them couldn’t even spell ‘Al Qaeda’ and won’t embrace Islam. But many of them will become mental patients.

Some of them, alas, will be ‘released into the community’ to commit awful acts of unhinged violence that barely make the local TV news.

No Prime Ministers will fly back from Paris. No Whitehall committees will meet. No noble statements of defiance will be made.

And yet, if we strengthened and enforced our drug laws, instead of watering them down to nothingness as we have done, much of this would be preventable.

This Is Why We Are Called Left-Footers

When Cardinal Bergoglio was first chosen as Pope, my immediate reaction was that, although he would probably not tamper with the Church’s views on sexual issues, he would likely move it to the left in terms of economic rhetoric. I based that to some small degree on his choice of name: Saint Francis is something of a favorite of progressives in the Church due to his vow of poverty and his love of animals. But even more important to me was the intellectual milieu out of which he came: Argentine populism, and his own public statements as a cardinal in support of those themes. You can read my thoughts at the time here.

I was, of course, attacked by the Catholic left who were quick to denounce me for ignorance, (don’t I know that Francis Xavier was one of founders of the Pope’s Jesuit order), and arrogance (how dare you question the Pope’s Biblical exposition), inaccuracy (how could I, not a Spanish speaker, comment on the Cardinal’s economic homilies given in Spanish) and simple a lack of good will.

But I think subsequent events have borne out my initial impressions. The Pope has clearly identified Saint Francis as his inspiration, for example. Furthermore, I asked my friend Alejandro Chafuen, who is a native Argentinian, a theologian and an economist, to confirm my reading of the Pope’s homily about Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus is indeed referred to as a usurer and associated with foreign banking interests in the Cardinal’s homily, and used as a device to attack foreign bankers who insisted on having their loans repaid by Argentina, despite widespread public support for debt repudiation. But the actual gospel text declares Zacchaeus to be a tax collector, not a loan shark.

So the Gospel reading itself undermines any attempt to scapegoat market processes. Zacchaeus was a man of the state, not of the market. Argentina has very high tax rates on top earners and very heavy regulation of capital markets. My point is that it is a misuse of the gospel text to condemn a neo-liberalism which is non-existent in Argentina anyway, and which the text simply does not address. The passage in question does, however, address the issue of oppression through taxation, which Argentina clearly is guilty of.

But rather than continuing to rehash the debate around my previous article, I’d like to draw attention to the Pope’s recent homily in which he renounced the “tyranny of money” and a system in which markets and financial speculation allegedly are allowed to operate with complete autonomy, which ends up treating the poor as sub-human, and leads to rising income inequality with the rich exploding upwards in wealth while the incomes of the poor collapse. He identifies this era of market autonomy with a story from the book of Exodus:

“The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly human goal,”

Now, whoever criticized me for being arrogant for correcting the Cardinal’s mistake in turning the tax collector into a loan shark, will be doubly angry with me for critiquing what seems to be a clear misreading of the story of the golden calf. But so what? The text is the text and even great men can, and do, misunderstand it.

The story is told in Exodus 32. After the escape from Egypt, and the passage through the Red Sea, Israel made its way to Mount Sinai. Moses went up onto the mountain to receive the law of God, while the nation waited below. After a long absence in which Moses was away from provisions, the Israelites became impatient and demanded that Aaron, Moses’ brother and second in command, fashion gods which could lead the people in Moses’ absence. Aaron collected jewellery from the people and out of it fashioned a graven image of a calf, a traditional object of worship in Egypt.

So, where exactly in that story is the tyranny of the neo-liberal market order to be found? This account is clearly a conflict over political power. Pharaoh held political mastery over the Israelites. Moses fights against the Egyptian state and prevails. The Israelites become a newly independent nation, with Moses as civil ruler under God. Moses loses the confidence of the people, and they demand a new leader. Egypt had used graven images of gods, including calves, to buttress the authority of the Pharaoh who was both king and god. Aaron did the same. Gold was taken out of circulation (that is out of the realm where it might be used in market exchanges) and collectivized by the new civil head for propaganda and political cohesion, who would then use the Egyptian-style political system to form a leader who would lead them back to Egypt, back under the dominion of an all-powerful state.

How do we know this? First it is fairly clear from the details of the story in Exodus. But in case that is not the case, the prophet Nehemiah later in Israel’s history interprets the story that way (see Nehemiah chapter 9), as a search for a leader (in Hebrew a rosh, a head) to return them to Egypt. This is why during the period of divided political rule in Israel (after a national split arising from excessively high taxes) the civil ruler of the north tribes, Jeroboam, creates golden calves for the purpose of consolidating political power.

26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” 1 Kings 12.

I believe the Pope, with all due respect, has this story reversed. What are golden calves for? To be ridden by kings. The story in Exodus is a story of people enslaved to the state, led by God to freedom, but who keep lapsing back to the security of Egypt with its divine king and its steady meals and without the burden of choice. Moses was on the mountain receiving The Book of the Covenant, the civil implementation of the ten commandments, a short national constitution with a small state and strong protections of property rights. While he did that, the people reverted, and tried to reconstitute Egypt and its political cult.

Over the past two hundred years, the world, led by England and the U.S., has moved toward enormously higher levels of economic freedom and the resulting prosperity. Since the fall of the Soviet experiment, that was extended to more of mankind. But since the financial crisis, the general trend in the world has been to go back, to extend to the state power over markets. Any call to elevate the state even more, to collect our assets and melt them into some collective image which we can all ride backwards in history to the time before the free-market seems like a call to go back to Egypt, to security and slavery.

The pope attacks the market order because he finds it ‘faceless’ and ‘lacking any truly human goal.’ He’s right: the market does not have a face. But that’s only because it has 7 billion faces. It doesn’t have a human purpose, but that’s because it has 7 billion human purposes. If you want an economy with a face and a human purpose, then the Egypt of the Exodus era is your place and the Pharaoh of the exodus is your man.

Saturday 25 May 2013

The Sinking Flagships

And that is before the IMF has to step in.

This Government is incompetent. Completely and utterly incompetent. This Chancellor above all.

It simply has to go. He simply has to go.

Hero, Not Zero

According to Kevin Maguire in the New Statesman, Andy Burnham, scourge of the dismantlement of the NHS in England, is also sticking to his guns that Labour must outlaw zero hours contracts.

The spirit of John Smith lives on.

Liam Carr was on to something about Burnham. Don't take your eye off him.


It comes as no surprise that UKIP has lined up with Labour and the Lib Dems, backed less officially but no less effectively by Greens and Independents, in order to deprive the Conservatives of the Leadership of Norfolk County Council and give that position to the Leader of the Labour Group.

UKIP people may not like the Labour Party, although they probably know very little about it. They would be fiercer on the subject of the Lib Dems. But their only real hatred is of the Conservative Party.

The hatred that can only be felt, not even by a scorned lover or by an abandoned child, but by an utterly deluded yet utterly sincere person who believes someone totally impossible to have so scorned him or to have so abandoned him.

Taking The Mickey

Why does no one listen to what Michael Gove is telling them? He obviously missed the passage in Leo Strauss about the importance of lying to the common herd, so he is completely honest.

None of Gove's curriculum changes applies to the schools that he favours in every possible way, namely the academies and the "free" schools. They will not, for example, be required to teach his new History syllabus. Nor is there the slightest possibility that they will do so.

As to the schools that will be so obliged, we may only hope that History will not therefore be deprived of most of its curriculum time on account of having been so utterly dumbed down. If it is not, then teachers will be able to carry on teaching it regardless, and will simply not tell the pupils how little of what they were being taught they would need for an examination which awarded a mark for the name of each of the wives of Henry VIII plus a seventh mark for having listed them in the right order.

But remember, like everything else that Gove is doing, it will only apply to the schools that in any case he thinks are for losers. Nowhere that, to his mind, matters will have to teach any part of it. Or will do so.

More broadly, there is Gove's attempt to present himself as the Great White Hope of social conservatism. He voted in favour of same-sex "marriage", as of course he had always made it perfectly clear that he intended to do. He has been advocating that measure since back in the days when Jack Straw, as Justice Secretary, was specifically ruling it out on behalf of the then Labour Government.

But such details never make any difference to his devotees. They have a similar view of Nigel Farage, who is still on record in favour of that change, just as he is in favour of the legalisation of drugs and prostitution. Gove, too, like Boris Johnson, last expressed any view on drugs by expressing himself in favour of legalisation.

Such is "the West" that Gove wishes not merely to defend, but to expand across the whole wide earth by means of the force of arms. That does at least make him a consistent neoconservative. Melanie Phillips, for example, wants such an expansion of things that she despises in her own country, and strongly supports Israel for holding (as, in any case, it barely does these days, and less so all the time) to features and values against which she rails in Britain.

But Gove wants an extremely liberal Britain at the forefront of the forcible military creation of an extremely liberal world. He has been saying this for nearly 20 years, and giving it practical policy effect for as long as he has been in any position to do so. Why does no one ever believe him?

True Submission

How depressing to hear Abdul Haqq Baker, the Chairman of the Brixton Mosque, explain on the Today programme that he had found in Islam things that he failed to find in his Catholic upbringing, such as fasting and daily prayer.

The answer to Islam is our own tradition of structured daily prayer, the setting aside of one day in seven, fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, the global community of faith as the primary focus of personal allegiance and locus of personal identity, the lesser outward and the greater inward struggle, the need for a comprehensive and coherent critique both of capitalism and of Marxism, the coherence between faith and reason, and a consequent integrated view of art and science.

The answer to the challenge of the Sunna is Sacred Tradition. The answer to the challenge of the Imamate is the Petrine Office. The answer to the challenge of Sufism is our own tradition of mysticism and monasticism. 

Liberal Catholics will be the last to see the point.

Restricting The Preachers of Hate

Not before time.

And including no shortage of Islamists. Such as the black-shirted pimp and heroin-trafficker Hashim Thaçi, who is somehow also both a Wahhabi and a Maoist – he really is what the more hysterical Tea Party attendees imagine President Obama to be.

Such as the terrorist Akhmed Zakayev, whom this country currently harbours. Such as the war criminal Ejup Ganić. Such as those who hold fast to the late terrorist Abdulmalik Rigi. And such as those who adhere to Thaçi, Zakeyev and Ganić. Among other Islamist preachers of hate.
Themselves among numerous others besides. Ecclesiastics who have expressed racist views about Africans and others who do not share their liberal sexual morality. Those whose disparagement of Blessed John Paul the Great’s Polishness echo the authentic voice of the age-old Teutonic racism against the Slavs, who only gets away with it because he is Swiss.

Supporters of Avigdor Lieberman. Cheerleaders for the EDL-supporting leaders of the Tea Party. Partisans of Geert Wilders, the heir of Pim Fortuyn and of his definition of Western civilisation as sex between men and boys. Advocates of sex between men and boys. Admirers of the American neoconservatives. Campaigners for Hindutva or for Khalistan. Rupert Murdoch.

Nor does the list end there. It has hardly even begun.


Although Holocaust denial is neither a doctrinal error nor a schismatic act, and is therefore not in or of itself grounds either for excommunication or for a refusal to lift any such censure, the wonder of the impending neo-Nazi takeover of the Society of Saint Pius X is that it has taken so long to present itself. We must be clear exactly what Lefebvrism is, and is not.

It is certainly not "just traditional Catholicism", or even just Catholicism as widely practised during the Pianische Monolothismus. Rather, it makes sense only in certain very specific terms peculiar to France. Terms that, for very French reasons, it assumes to be universal when they are not.

Lefevbrist devotional and disciplinary practice is an obvious expression of, if not direct Jansenist influence, though probably so, then at least the strain in the French character that made it receptive to Jansenism. Likewise, Lefebvrist theory and organisational practice are no less obviously expressions of Gallicanism, and sometimes of very advanced Gallicanism indeed.

For example, rule of the SSPX is by a General Chapter in which not only do bishops and simple presbyters have equal status, but it is considered an aberration that the Superior-General is at present a bishop, rather than being a simple presbyter to whom the Society's bishops would be, and in the past have been, subject. Shades of the extreme Gallican attempts to prove a Dominical institution of the office of parish priest.

And shades of the structural arrangements of Anglo-Catholic traditionalism over the last two decades and before, echoing the extent to which that movement has always tapped into the same English and Welsh organisational traits that made Congregationalism so popular (and many of the same English and Welsh devotional traits that made Methodism so popular) just as Lefebvrism has tapped into the same French traits that had previously manifested themselves as Gallicanism (and Jansenism).

Although I should have to investigate any specifically Spanish reason why this has come to be so, such trends become even more pronounced in the structure of Opus Dei.

Sanctification through work, the living of a contemplative life in the middle of the world, Christian freedom correctly defined, and the recognition of divine filiation: these are the principles calling all Catholics to rediscover and renew, ever-more-deeply, our beginning the day by offering it to God, our frequent Communion, our daily examination of conscience, our Eucharistic Adoration, our ejaculatory prayer, our use of holy water, and our devotion to the Mother of God, to the Angels and to the Saints. And, yes, our practice of corporal mortification.

But Opus Dei's domination by the laity, yet in an organisation of which clergy are members, effectively turning priests into little more than transubstantiation and absolution machines a great deal of the time, seems more appropriate to the more advanced forms of Congregationalism, to the Baptist movement, and to expressions of Methodism such as the Primitive Methodists, the still-existing Independent Methodist Connexion (with its partly Quaker roots) in the North of England, and the Bible Christians of the West Country.

Even those, in fact, were or are not quite like that. There is something positively Quaker, at least historically, about the maintenance of autonomous male and female branches. But most of all, the whole thing looks like lay rule through Royal Gallicanism and its local implications all the way down to parochial level, while also recalling the power wielded in the Jansenist subculture by the Abbesses of Port-Royal and their subjects. Again, there is more than a whiff of Anglo-Catholicism in all of this, or of all of this in Anglo-Catholicism.

Lefebvrism gives perhaps the first ever formal institutional shape to the situation created by the seventeenth century, which began with three competing parties in the French Church, but which ended with two, the Gallicans and the Jansenists having effectively merged against the Ultramontanes due to the deployment of Gallican ecclesiological arguments against the Papal condemnations of Jansenist soteriological ones.

By the wayside had fallen such features as Jansenist belief, with the sole if notable exception of Pascal, in the infallibility of Papal definitions ex cathedra, and Gallican use of belief in Our Lady's Immaculate Conception as a mark of party identity due to its having been defined by the Council of Basel.

The popular attraction of the Lefebvrist clergy in terms of the old Latin Mass and traditional or "traditional" devotions echoes that of the Gallican clergy in terms of the old diocesan Missals and Breviaries and a sympathy for the entrenched local devotional practices reviled, like those entrenched local liturgical forms, by the Ultramontanes.

The French Church, or an idea of the French Church, is assumed to be fundamentally autonomous, so that the incompatibility of Dignitatis Humanae with a very specifically French Counter-Revolutionary theory of the relationship between Church and State means that it is the Conciliar Declaration that must yield. This is simply taken to be self-evident.

In reality, such a position is as schismatic and as heretical as John Courtney Murray's attempt to conform Dignitatis Humanae to the American republican tradition's reading of the First Amendment as taught to high school students, an approach comprehensible only within Manifest Destiny and all that.

That has therefore ended up, for now, in George Weigel's signature to the Project for the New American Century, and in the public support for the Iraq War on the part of the late Richard John Neuhaus, known to George W Bush as "Father Richard".

American "conservative" Catholicism sees the American Church as autonomous as surely as does American "liberal" Catholicism, and freely disregards Catholic Teaching on social justice and on peace as surely as the other side freely disregards Catholic Teaching on bioethical and sexual issues.

As a result, both alike are blind to the Magisterium's brilliant and unique global witness to the inseparability of all of these concerns. In both the French and the American cases, there is a strange inability to recognise that what one was taught at 13 or 14 might not always be the last word on any given subject.

Still, even Richard Williamson (I cannot call him a bishop, since, until such time as the Holy Father tells me otherwise, I cannot see how he could possibly have been ordained as such in a direct act of disobedience to Petrine authority) has a potential use.

It needs to be brought home to our people, among others, to whose legislative will we are now subject via the EU. Let there be a European Senate to which each of the Europarties, currently 11 in number including a Far Right one, would nominate one Senator from each member-state at the same time as the elections to the European Parliament. That would give a total of 297, or 308 once Croatia has had the bad taste to join up.

Just imagine if at least the more politically aware people in this country were confronted with the figure of David Irving, or of someone who held equally noxious views about the gulags, the Holodomor and the Cultural Revolution. Imagine those potted newspaper profiles of our 11 new European Senators.

The European Senate would have the power to propose amendments which the European Parliament would then be obliged to consider, and before the final text went on to the Council of Ministers the Senate would have the power to require unanimity there rather than Qualified Majority Voting. On that second point, it might even do some good.

Why not give the EU some Lords Spiritual? Let each member-state nominate two permanent offices the occupants of which would always be European Senators, one representing the country's religious and spiritual sources of moral sense and cultural identity, and the other representing the country's secular and humanist sources of moral sense and cultural identity. All very Blessed John Paul the Great.

Furthermore, let each of the Europarties nominate a further two such Senators, at the same time as its other appointees on whom see above, one representing the secular and humanist basis of its philosophy, policies and support, and the other representing the religious and spiritual basis of its philosophy, policies and support. Quite an eye-opener.

Not least in view of quite how many of those figures might very well be British, and especially based in the city where the global coup within the SSPX is to be staged, at Earlsfield Library Hall, 276 Magdalen Road, Earlsfield London SW18, between from 9am and 5pm over the 1st and 2nd of June. And not least in view of quite who those Britons would be.

There would be a neoconservative thinker and the dissident vicar or (although he or she would be lucky to find one) the rabbi of his or her choice. Such are the present times, that alongside a Stalinist or Trotskyist historian or philosopher as the secular voice, might be nominated an Islamist leader who would be overwhelmingly likely to be British and London-based.

While the ostensibly opposite extreme would manage two people who might even live in the same house. One would be David Irving. The other would be Richard Williamson.