Monday, January 30, 2006

Bishop Marx: Bombshells Among The Bromides

Bishop Marx of Trier, a man as leftie as his name, gives an interview to the Rheinische Post today, full of bromides about the need for Germany to retain its "sozialen Marktwirtschaft" (socially-driven economy) in the face of "radikaleren Kapitalismus" (more radical capitalism). This is German code for tedious leftist doctrine. It isn't even especially controversial to hear it spilling from the mouth of a Catholic bishop.

More dodgy is the bishop's advocacy of collectivism, as when he warns: "Die Gesellschaft darf sich nicht weiter individualisieren" (Society mustn't become more individualistic). He also makes the unprovable and tendentious claim that terrorism has increased as a result of the "illegal" (völkerrechtswidrig) war in Iraq.

Clearly a highly politicised bishop, Marx has nothing of interest to say about the Pope's agreeable first encyclical. Maybe Marx's own collectivist, state-based views conflict so openly with the Pope's that it would be indecent to do so. After all, this is what Benedict wrote the other day:

"The State which would provide everything, absorbing everything into itself, would ultimately become a mere bureaucracy, incapable of guaranteeing the very thing which the suffering person — every person — needs:- namely, loving personal concern."

Instead of heeding his pontiff's wise words, "Bishop" Marx prefers to address what he concedes is the suboptimal state of the Church in Germany by means of his socialistic impertinences. This politicised prelate's partisan pronouncements deserve to be deplored. The blog will be praying for Bishop Marx's immortal soul.

On Alexandra of Denmark - by Claude de Bigny

Princess Alexandra of Denmark, who married Edward Prince of Wales and became Queen of England upon the death of Queen Victoria, has had a mixed press, writes Claude de Bigny, the blog's historical correspondent.

Her beauty may have had something to do with that - as it appears to have obsessed not merely the men who surrounded her, but also herself.

I am writing about her today because a malicious rumour has been circulating that she was unfaithful to her husband - a rumour which is not only unfounded, but appears to have been made up quite recently. Certainly no credit has ever been given it before. Hero, who is a distant cousin of Alexandra's through Hero Oomkens von Esens (who married Irmgard von Oldenburg, niece to Christian I and first cousin to Frederik I of Denmark) as well as through the Prussian von Quooß and von Gaudecker families, has asked me to set the record straight.

For over 25 years Princess Alexandra enjoyed the chaste and exalted love of her husband's equerry, Oliver Montagu, younger son of Lord Sandwich. This was well known to all, including the Prince of Wales, and was widely seen as a purely platonic affair of the heart. As Louisa, Lady Antrim wrote:

"The Princess floated through the ballroom like a vision from fairyland.She went out a great deal, and chief among her cavaliers was Oliver Montagu. Her husband by this time was living in a very fast set, indulging in many flirtations. It is surprising that, young and lovely as she was, the Princess never gave any real occasion for scandal. I think it must have been due to Oliver Montagu's care for her. He shielded her in every way, not least from his own great love, and managed to defeat gossip."

Claude de Bigny

Friday, January 27, 2006

Satellite Road-Toll Plans: The "Spying State"

Disturbing details from EU Referendum about how plans for road-tolls are well underway and that several European countries - the UK and Holland among them - are participating. The plan hasn't had a lot of attention, but it will surely compromise citizens' freedom of movement and right to anonymity - as well as their wallets. It smacks of the "Spying State" - overarching, intrusive official powers in the name of the common good, the worse because these plans come across as so covert.
EU Referendum

Demographics May Destroy Euro, Bolkestein Reckons

Another demographic horror story: Frits Bolkestein, ex-EU Commissioner, warns that the ageing population will place "ruthless" pressure on the euro in 10 years' time. Pensioners will then outnumber the working population, thus forcing governments to increase borrowing and increase their deficits, undermining the euro.

In truth, this undermining of the euro is already in full swing. The laughably toothless Stability Pact, which sought to limit contries' deficits, has been ignored by the bigger countries. In a way, Bolkestein's warnings understate the pressure on the euro.

As to the impending pensions crisis, it appears the only way to avoid it is to increase immigration into Europe. But that, of course, will only exacerbate the other scenario of doom - the "EU under sharia law by the mid 21st century" - a scenario tirelessly propagated by Mark Steyn.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

RIP: Michael Wharton

Michael Wharton died earlier this week. He was by far the funniest writer ever to have written for the Daily Telegraph, whose pages he adorned for 49 years, writing for the Way of the World column as Peter Simple.
Telegraph News Comic fantasy of Michael Wharton comes to a close

Assisted Suicide

Boris Johnson, writing in today's Telegraph, comes out in favour of assisted suicide, partly to end the ridiculousness of British people having to go to Switzerland to kill themselves legally. Johnson rather oddly writes that his main fear about assisted suicide is that he "might change his mind" - that, at the moment of truth, he would back away from his own death, thus embarrassing himself in front of his weepy relatives. A strange preoccupation: to fear this mild level of familial embarrassment more than death itself.
Telegraph Opinion Assisted suicide is problematic, but better than months of agony

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

God Is Love

Here's Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est - God is love.

He writes about the many different kinds of love and, without dismissing Eros, points out that a false conception of sexual love diminshes people and turns them into mere "commodities." He makes many links to the Old Testament and to the role of Israel. He writes about the afflictions of Job and quotes St Augustine's Sermo 52:

"Si comprehendis, non est Deus"

(If you understand him, he is not God.)

He is careful to separate the role of the church from that of politics. He posits that a personal relationship with God excludes participation in terrorism.
Encyclical Letter "Deus Caritas Est"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

"Human Rights Watch" Flays EU and USA

Hunan Rights Watch's new annual report lays into US abuses in the matter of alleged torture, "disappearing terror suspects" and Guantanamo Bay - as one would expect - but also rips apart any pretensions the EU might ever have had to represent even a modicum of decency in this area.

The EU's stance on Russia, China and African abuses is highlighted. The EU "made the US defence of human rights seem vigorous", the report states. It recalls the unseemly competition between Britain's Blair, France's Chirac and Germany's ex-Chancellor Schroeder over who could fawn most over Russia's President Putin, in pursuit of their respective business interests. Schroeder, of course, has since become Putin's employee, so he seems to have "won" - a standing disgrace to the German Chancellorship.

The efforts of France and Germany to lift the arms embargo on China are duly deplored. This blog waged a long, ultimately successful campaign against these disgusting designs - one supported by Richard Gere and Prince Ferfried von Hohenzollern, and given the final seal of approval by Schroeder's emphatic rejection by German voters last November. His successor, Angela Merkel, is opposed to lifting the embargo.

One episode not highlighted is the EU's stance on Cuba. As this blog first noted in February, the EU, to its shame, stopped inviting Cuban dissidents to its cocktail parties, in response to pressure from Cuba's communist dictator. Once again France was in the vanguard of the appeasers.

All in all, a pretty repulsive picture, and one not likely to win the approval of any but the most slavishly Realpolitik-minded voters.

"Society's To Blame": Time To Get Rid Of Society?

"Society's to blame" used to be the left's lazy shorthand for the causes of all crime, poverty, and social unrest. These days, it has become the lazy mantra of the right. What with all this unanimity, it's clearly time to do away with society for good.

Here is the societal mantra of today's right: "State-sponsored single parenthood and idleness, easy contraception and divorce, the effective abolition of value judgments, the undermining of the traditional nuclear family - all these were propagated by progressives and lefties and, through them, enforced by the state. The state should roll all these things back and bring back the 1950's or a more tolerant version of them."

Increasingly, also, people who would, in the past, have been on the left, (social and youth workers, teachers, for example) have started to see their old progressive agenda as a dangerous and irresponsible creed. Shaun Bailey sounds like one of them and he writes about it in today's Daily Telegraph.

The piece is persuasive and underpinned by personal experience. No-one will argue with what he describes as "common sense" - only, perhaps, with the implied means of administering it. For if the state is the only agency able to correct these wrongs, its good intentions and actionism in doing so will lead to terrible unintended consequences just as awful as the good intentions of the 60's and 70's did. Society will still be to blame.

The question to ask, in light of all this unpleasantness, is whether, in letting state policies veer us from one well-meaning platform to the next, we are surrendering the ability to live our lives separate from state meddling at all.

Margaret Thatcher is deeply unfashionable at the moment, to the extent of having been partially disowned by the new Conservative leader, David Cameron. But she saw our dilemma clearly enough, twenty years back, when she said that "there's no such thing as society". Whilst one can argue the semantics, in its essence, she was right and remains right: politics should not seek to influence an amorphous abstract ungraspable entity known as "society", but deal on a more precisely individual level, with people - families, associations and interest groups - on their own merits, and with a view to minimising any meddling in their affairs by "society" or the state.

What we need is a plan to get society off everyone's backs. Only then will society no longer be to blame - and we can get back to blaming each other instead.
Telegraph Opinion The reason our streets are so violent

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Uses Of Paranoid Polemics: Al Jazeera's Ghannoushi vs Steyn

Soumaya Ghannoushi, writing in today's Al Jazeera, expresses the oppression she feels in today's Britain with its "racist agenda at home and an expansionist policy abroad."

There is paranoia in what she writes - and inaccuracy too, such as her assertion that there was no link between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda - and in this paranoia she is the mirror-image of Mark Steyn, whose piece we linked to the other day. Steyn is convinced Europe will succumb to wave after wave of fast-breeding Muslim immigrants which will swamp its indigenous culture and political institutions.

If public discussion of the future of east and west were left to such polemicists, paranoia would be well-founded. Trouble is, public discussion has taken on an increasingly polemical tone of late.

Is this because partisan polemics are what people really want to read, or because polemicists of this stripe are the best writers available? Both options are depressing, if not quite depressing enough to infect the blog with a corresponding paranoia.
Aljazeera.Net - Europe vs Muslims: No Turning the Clock Back

Monday, January 09, 2006


Michael Shermer, in a short piece in Scientific American, coins the word "murdercide" for the actions of suicide bombers. He points out that suicide bombers aren't suicidal by the accepted definition of the word.

He also underscores the fact that "murderciders" (and it isn't a very compelling or elegant coinage, is it?) are usually well-educated, seemingly well-integrated members of society, a point which has often been made here. He recommends democracy for the Middle East as the best antidote.
Science & Technology at Scientific Murdercide -- Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers

Friday, January 06, 2006

Mark Steyn Flays Cameron Diaz And Predicts Islamic European Union By 2050

Mark Steyn kicks off the new year in familiar guise, in the New Criterion, with his trusty demographic diagnosis concerning the future of Europe, which, to him, looks distinctly Islamic.

Persuasive, up to a point. Steyn says Europe will see a Muslim majority by the middle of the century. "Native" Europeans are no longer having enough babies, whilst Muslims represent the biggest growing segment of the population in many regions. Ergo, Steyn reckons, the Muslim majority will soon achieve either civil war or Sharia law.

As often, Steyn lays into liberal pieties and unwary, loose-tongued celebrities with gay abandon - Cameron Diaz gets it in the neck, and some throwaway otiosities she made are duly skewered.

Good knockabout fun. But one has to wonder whether the millions of Muslim citizens - who come to Europe to make money in an environment where it is possible for them to do so, are really clamouring to dismantle the system from which they benefit.

So how keen are Muslims to be ruled by mullahs, once they have lived in the west? It is true that westernised Muslims of the most well-integrated sort sometimes turn to Islamist jihad, as the suicide bombings in Britain last July showed. But they are a tiny minority amongst Muslims. Some would say that the riots in France this winter, which had little to do with a global jihad, show that marginalised Muslims will easily turn to violence against the laws of their host countries. But it is difficult to accept this as a model for what will happen across Europe, if only because so many Muslims are prospering here, and have been doing so for generations now.

Mark Steyn's demographic diagnosis is designed to make our flesh creep. He fails, not so much because his argument is overfamiliar, but because it is based on a false assumption: that the Muslim majority is gunning to establish shariah law across Europe. Further, Steyn discounts the effects of wealth creation on the attitudes of Muslim immigrant families. Long may they prosper.

The New Criterion ? It?s the demography, stupid