tisdag 23 augusti 2016

The sacred cow of third-world aid

Aditya Chakrabortty, who often writes perceptively, has gone off the rails with his piece today (closed to comments) on the threat to Britain's foreign aid budget posed by the new Conservative minister responsible, Priti Patel, who, he says is about to trash "our proud record on aid".

The fallacy behind this aid is the concept of "world poverty". The world is not poor. There is enough for everyone. Poverty itself is a world-wide phenomenon. There are poor people in rich countries too. Not only are they are the ones to bear the brunt of the taxation which pays for the third world aid; the tax system in the "rich countries" is the prime cause of their poverty.

There are also rich people in the "poor" countries. These are the owning classes. A handful of families own almost the whole of Pakistan. Concentration of land ownership remains an issue in much of Central and South America. In the nature of things, the benefits of the aid flow into their pockets. So we have the poor in the rich countries helping to swell the bank accounts of the rich in the poor countries, whilst little ends up with the intended beneficiaries, who at best are a privileged few.

I am not saying that there should not be aid, but it is probably better if it does  not come from government but is funded voluntarily and the projects run by charities. Cafod and some of the Quaker organisations have quite a good record of achieving worthwhile small-scale interventions on the ground, such as bringing clean water to people who previously had no access to it.

Behind that, however, is another question - why is anyone at all living in places where they have to make a long trek to fetch water?

söndag 21 augusti 2016

Will Hutton and the burkini ban

I am not particularly interested in Will Hutton's views on anything. He has contributed nothing useful to his specialist field, economics. His latest piece, on the burkini ban - some local authorities in France have, controversially, banned its use on beaches - is also of no interest to me in itself. However, what is of interest is the fact that the Guardian, having initially said that the article would be available for comments on its website "later in the morning", later decided not to accept comments at all.

It does not take much imagination to predict what kind of comments would have been made, nor that many, if not most of them, would have been deleted by the moderators. But that being the case, why did the editors ever even contemplate accepting comments? One wonders too, whether Hutton would have agreed to write an article which was closed to comments? Or why he has even stepped into this febrile subject area at all?

torsdag 18 augusti 2016

Should I go to the Papal event?

A Vatican announcement says that "The joint Lutheran-Catholic ecumenical commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 31 October in Lund, Sweden will consist of two parts. It will begin with a liturgy in Lund Cathedral and continue with a public event at Malmö Arena that will be open to wider participation.

"The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and Roman Catholic Church joint event will highlight the 50 years of continuous ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans and the joint gifts of this collaboration.

"The Catholic-Lutheran commemoration of 500 years of the Reformation is structured around the themes of thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness. The aim is to express the gifts of the Reformation and ask forgiveness for division perpetuated by Christians from the two traditions."

I am not sure I want to be there. For a start, I suspect the music will be horrid; second, especially in Malmö, there is likely to be more fudge about "the religion of peace", while jihad-inspired murder continues unabated, and the followers of that religion are proud to wear the badge of what has become a toxic brand. It is one thing to avoid stirring up hostility aim but it does not do to make statements which everyone knows are not true. It would be better to stay silent.

Underneath that, and being a convert from Judaism as well, I cannot see what there is to celebrate. Luther was a notorious antisemite. That is not, to say the least, entirely unconnected with the Holocaust. The Reformation unleashed a century of war in Europe. Its resonances are still taking their toll to this day; it lies at the heart of the Northern Ireland troubles. 1500 years of architectural, artistic and musical heritage were wiped out in an orgy of destruction comparable with what Muslim fundamentalists are doing today.

Nor is this about being uncharitably unecumenical. I usually take the opportunity to attend Matins or Evensong at the Anglican Cathedral when visting places like Salisbury or Oxford; last month I went to Evensong at Durham. Evensong is, after all, just a merging of the monastic offices of Vespers and Compline, and therefore includes the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis; likewise the Anglican Matins, is put together from the monastic offices Lauds and Prime, with Venite, Te Deum, and Benedictus. Although I would probably not attend an Anglican eucharist, there is not the slightest reason why a Catholic should not go to an Anglican Matins or Evensong - on the contrary - it seems to me a good thing to do.

Lutheranism is a different animal. Its sound alone declares it to be not Catholic. It is also dying, particularly in Sweden, where church is losing membership at an accelerating rate. This is not the case with the Anglican church, at least in some parts of the world; it retains its vitality.

I also have a polite excuse for not going - prostate trouble means that I cannot rely on being able to keep going for more than an hour at a stretch, and then only by carefully controlling my intake of fluids.

lördag 6 augusti 2016

Stabbing attack was Norwegian teenager

The London stabbing earlier this week was carried out by a Norwegian teenager was described by neighbours as a polite and pleasant boy. This is what the Guardian had to say, and note that he is referred to only as a "suspect" who "might" have been responsible, even though he was caught in the act.

"The teenager who allegedly killed an American woman and wounded five others in a stabbing spree in central London was a polite and pleasant boy who rarely got into trouble, according to neighbours.

Zakaria Bulhan, 19, a Norwegian of Somali descent who has been identified as the suspect in the attack in Russell Square on Wednesday night, lived with his mother, 42, his younger brother, 16, and his sister, 24, in a flat in south London.

"Neighbours described him as a polite teenager as reports also emerged that he had wanted to harm himself. He allegedly launched the knife attack shortly after 10.30pm on Wednesday, killing 64-year-old Darlene Horton and injuring five others. Horton was pronounced dead at the scene, just hours before she was due to fly back to the US after the end of her summer break

"His neighbours expressed shock that he might have been responsible for the attack."

It gets worse, too.

"Police have said the suspect has a history of mental illness and that there is nothing to suggest that, as a Muslim, he had been radicalised."

There is, however, more to it though one must read carefully.

"A local postman, who asked not to be named, complained of music and other noises coming from the Bulhan house. “It’s frightening what’s happened. It’s shocking. It’s sad.” 

"He said he went to Graveney secondary school and took A-levels. The Times newspaper quoted a “close family friend” who said Bulhan had called an ambulance six months ago “because he wanted to harm himself”.

“He is a good boy. He has never been trouble. He has been very unwell. He wanted to kill himself. I saw his mother with an ambulance outside their flat and she said Zac had called it because he wanted to hurt himself,” the friend reportedly said. “He called the ambulance about two more times because he was feeling unwell. His mother was very afraid.”

The attack has all the hallmarks of Islamic inspiration. Could it be that Islam can be a cause of mental illness or something that pushes mentally unstable people past a tipping point?

torsdag 4 augusti 2016

Terrorism or mental health problem?

Police are describing a yesterday's knife murder in London as having a mental health factor. The same thing has been said of recent incidents in France and Germany.

The trouble with writing off those who perpetrate these attacks as having mental health issues is that people will keep their distance from anyone who looks as if they might be a Muslim. This stirs up racism and makes matters worse than if the authorities were honest and open about these Jihadi incidents.One also has to wonder what is the reason for the striking correlation between Islam and mental illness?

Worse still, it encourages politicians to regard these terrorist attacks as isolated happenings and so they do not take the action that is needed. At this point the situation may just still be containable. If left for much longer it will not be. Communal violence verging on civil war will then erupt. There is a limit to what people will tolerate.

måndag 1 augusti 2016

Raw material for virtue signallers

Another report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation saying that poverty is a bad thing.

It is ironic that the JR Foundation gets its funds from the system that causes the poverty in the first place. The perpetuation of the problem gives its officers a secure livelihood with a vested interest in the problem remaining unsolved. They would not want poverty eradicated. It would put them out of a job, and what needs to be done would dry up the source of most of the JRF funds.

This would explain why JRF has never supported any organisation whose aim has been to deal with the problem at source. All it does is to supply an endless source of information for the "concerned" to wring their hands over: the raw material for the virtue signallers.

torsdag 28 juli 2016

St Jaques Hamel - ora pro nobis

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
“Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.
Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Saul entirely approved of the killing.