Category : Politics in General

(Terry Mattingly) a Marvin Olasky flashback: Back to the evangelical clashes over character and two-party politics

Back in 2016, Olasky noted that opposing Trump was risky: “Our call for a different Republican candidate will lose us some readers and donors.” Then in 2021, Trump-era tensions played a major role in his exit at World, after serving as editor for nearly three decades.

“Many people continue to stress that we are electing a president, not a preacher,” said Olasky. “I am also aware that God can do many things outside the limitations of what I think about all of this.”

But Olasky stands by his views in “The American Leadership Tradition” about fidelity and character. “From my selfish point of view,” he added, “the whole Trump era has been a vindication of that book.”

Read it all.

I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT front page) In Blacked-Out Kyiv, Life Goes On, by Flashlight

Elevators across Ukraine’s capital are stocked with emergency supplies in case the power fails. Banks have sent messages to customers to assure them their money is safe in the event of prolonged blackouts. The National Philharmonic played on Tuesday night on a stage lit by battery-powered lanterns, and doctors last week performed surgeries by flashlight.

This is Kyiv, a modern, thriving European capital of 3.3 million people, and now a war-torn city struggling with shortages of electricity, running water, cellphone service, central heating and the internet.

One popular cafe has created two menus — one featuring heated food like homemade pasta for when it has power, a second offering cold dishes like Greek yogurt with granola and applesauce when it doesn’t. At another restaurant, a chef cooked on a sidewalk grill as two young men warmed their hands over the coals. The sun sets early, before the school day is done, so children hold flashlights while waiting for their parents to arrive in total darkness to pick them up.

Generators of all sizes rattle and roar across the city, where municipal officials estimate that 1.5 million people are still without power for more than 12 hours a day.

Read it all.

Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Economist) How will America deal with three-way nuclear deterrence?

The cold war, in which America and the Soviet Union menaced each other with tens of thousands of nukes, was scary enough. In the new age America confronts not just Russia but also China. New weapons—among them hypersonic missiles that are hard to detect and shoot down, and space and cyber weapons that threaten command-and-control systems—may unsettle the nuclear balance. Worse, decades of arms-control agreements may end by 2026. A new nuclear-arms race looms. Many think that it has already started.

Admiral Richard last year sounded the alarm that China was staging a “strategic breakout”. This month he warned that America was losing the military contest: “As I assess our level of deterrence against China, the ship is slowly sinking.” President Joe Biden says America faces a “decisive decade” in which to shape the global order. In a flurry of national-security policy documents this autumn his administration classifies Russia as the “acute” threat and China as “the “pacing challenge”.

“By the 2030s the United States will, for the first time in its history, face two major nuclear powers as strategic competitors and potential adversaries. This will create new stresses on stability and new challenges for deterrence, assurance, arms control, and risk reduction,” declares the Nuclear Posture Review (npr).

Stratcom says it needs a new generation of theorists.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia

(WSJ) Walter Russell-Mead–Global Tensions Spur a Sea Change in Japan

What happens in Tokyo matters. Japan is America’s single most important ally, and the strategic bond between the two powers is the foundation of America’s position in the Indo-Pacific. Japan’s decision to double down on its American alliance while building up its own capabilities is a major setback for China’s effort to reshape East Asia. In the Philippines and Southeast Asia, Japanese investment and trade help counter China’s economic power. Japanese diplomacy, less hectoring and more culturally sensitive than America’s sometimes abrasive preaching on issues like human rights, is often more effective in Asian capitals. The steady development of closer Japanese relations with India and Australia has been a major factor behind the rapid evolution of the Quad.

Much remains to be done. Japanese-Korean relations, despite some improvements under South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, remain difficult. Japan itself, with a stagnant economy and the highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, will be hard put to sustain the necessary military buildup.

But at this point it is the U.S. that must do more to secure the peace of East Asia. Given the long military supply lines across the Pacific and the likely difficulty of providing supplies if hostilities break out, the U.S. should position substantial quantities of weapons and supplies in the region. American as well as Taiwanese and Japanese officials told me that current stockpiles are woefully insufficient.

Beyond that, Washington still needs a regional economic strategy. Expanding economic integration between the U.S. and friendly Asian economies is an essential dimension of any long-term policy for the Indo-Pacific.

Read it all.

Posted in Asia, Foreign Relations, Japan, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General

([London] Times) Queen Elizabeth II biography reveals stoic monarch in final days

According to the Right Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, she was in “fantastic form” on the weekend before she died.

He told Brandreth that she was “so alive and engaging”, and how they spoke about her childhood, her horses, church affairs and her sadness over the war in Ukraine. “Her faith was everything to her. She told me she had no regrets,” he said.

Brandreth wrote: “Her Majesty always knew that her remaining time was limited. She accepted this with all the grace you’d expect.” The biographer claimed he “heard that the Queen had a form of myeloma — bone marrow cancer,” which he wrote would explain the tiredness, weight loss and mobility issues that were spoken about during the last year of her life.

Her death certificate stated that she had died of old age.

Buckingham Palace has declined to comment on any of the claims in the book.

Read it all (requires subscription).

Posted in Books, Church of England (CoE), Death / Burial / Funerals, England / UK, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President, Religion & Culture

The 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation

[New York, 3 October 1789]

By the President of the United States of America. a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor — and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be — That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks — for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation — for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war — for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed — for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted — for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions — to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually — to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed — to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness onto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord — To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us — and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New-York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Posted in America/U.S.A., History, Office of the President

(Washington Post) Ukrainian energy systems on brink of collapse after weeks of Russian bombing

After just six weeks of intense bombing of energy infrastructure, Russia has battered Ukraine to the brink of a humanitarian disaster this winter as millions of people potentially face life-threatening conditions without electricity, heat or running water.

As the scope of damage to Ukraine’s energy systems has come into focus in recent days, Ukrainian and Western officials have begun sounding the alarm but are also realizing they have limited recourse. Ukraine’s Soviet-era power system cannot be fixed quickly or easily. In some of the worst-hit cities, there is little officials can do other than to urge residents to flee — raising the risk of economic collapse in Ukraine and a spillover refugee crisis in neighboring European countries.

“Put simply, this winter will be about survival,” Hans Henri P. Kluge, regional director for the World Health Organization, told reporters on Monday in Kyiv, saying the next months could be “life-threatening for millions of Ukrainians.”

Already, snow has fallen across much of Ukraine and temperatures are dipping below freezing in many parts of the country. Kluge said that 2 million to 3 million Ukrainians were expected to leave their homes “in search of warmth and safety,” though it was unclear how many would remain inside the country.

Read it all.

Posted in Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(Church Times) Bishop Smith condemns human-rights abuses in China

The Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, has condemned the “wide range of human-rights abuses” committed in China against Christians and other religious groups.

He was speaking in a debate that he initiated in the Grand Committee of the House of Lords on Thursday.

Dr Smith said that he had been almost reluctant to call the debate because of his long-held admiration for China and its people. “Yet I feel I cannot remain silent in the face of such a wide range of human-rights abuses,” he said.

There was “a vast cultural gulf” between the UK and China, he continued, which was laid bare in President Xi’s speech last month to the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, in which the President had said: “We will . . . continue to take the correct and distinctively Chinese approach to handling ethnic affairs. . . We will remain committed to the principle that religions in China must be Chinese in orientation and provide active guidance to religions so that they can adapt to socialist society.”

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Politics in General

A very hard winter for many: Some C of E bishops respond to the Chancellor’s Autumn statement

“Ahead of today’s statement one of our key concerns was to see benefits keep pace with inflation. So we welcome the Chancellor’s commitment in this regard but continue to call for the end to the two-child limit on Universal Credit, which hits some of the poorest families hardest.

“This is going to be a very hard winter for many. Our churches, in communities across the country, are already reporting alarming rises in demand for foodbanks and other services which have become a lifeline.

“It is heartbreaking to hear of people who just a year ago were donating to foodbanks but are now using them themselves.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Dieting/Food/Nutrition, Economy, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture

(Wash. Post) Michael Gerson, Post columnist and Bush speechwriter on 9/11, dies at 58

Michael Gerson, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush who helped craft messages of grief and resolve after 9/11, then explored conservative politics and faith as a Washington Post columnist writing on issues as diverse as President Donald Trump’s disruptive grip on the GOP and his own struggles with depression, died Nov. 17 at a hospital in Washington. He was 58.

The cause of death was complications of cancer, said Peter Wehner, a longtime friend and former colleague.

After years of working as a writer for conservative and evangelical leaders, including Prison Fellowship Ministries founder and Watergate felon Charles Colson, Mr. Gerson joined the Bush campaign in 1999. Mr. Gerson, an evangelical Christian, wrote with an eye toward religious and moral imagery, and that approach melded well with Bush’s personality as a leader open about his own Christian faith.

Read it all.

Posted in Death / Burial / Funerals, Evangelicals, Media, Politics in General

(NYT) Despite the Fears, Election Day Mostly Goes as Planned

While there were reports of delays, glitches and disinformation in some key swing states — Arizona in particular — that could loom larger as vote counting plays out, few of the major disruptions that had been feared came to pass on Election Day.

But far-right media figures and Republican politicians seized upon even the limited issues and typical problems that occurred to sow doubt about the legitimacy of the vote.

In Arizona, for example, officials in Maricopa County — a hive of false election fraud conspiracies in 2020 — announced that tabulator machines at roughly 20 percent of voting centers had malfunctioned but said that they were confident that all votes would be counted, albeit with delays.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate, State Government

Politico’s summary–‘The red wave that wasn’t: 5 takeaways from a disappointing night for the GOP: the former President’s favored candidates prove a drag to Republicans, running well behind others in their party’

There was no red wave. Republicans, though still poised to take the House, under-performed, while Democrats breathed a huge sigh of relief.

It was a good night for Joe Biden, and a miserable one for Donald Trump.

Here are five takeaways from a midterm election the public polls, unlike two years ago, largely got right….

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., House of Representatives, Politics in General, Senate

(Anglican Church of Australia) Prayers–A Litany for Election day

From here:

Lord of every time and place,
God of integrity and truth,
we pray for wisdom as we prepare to vote in the [this] election.

Let us give thanks to God, saying, ‘we thank you, Lord’.

For this land and the diversity of its peoples,
we thank you, Lord.
For all who work for peace and justice in this land,
we thank you, Lord.
For leaders who serve the common good,
we thank you, Lord.
For robust democracy and freedom to participate in public life,
we thank you, Lord.
For media scrutiny and open debate,
we thank you, Lord.
Let us pray to the Lord, saying, ‘Hear us, good Lord’.
Bless those who administer the electoral process,
that they may uphold fairness, honesty and truth.
Hear us, good Lord.
Impart your wisdom to all who propose policy,
that their promises may serve those in greatest need.
Hear us, good Lord.
Give integrity to party leaders, candidates and campaign workers,
and keep them from deceit and corruption.
Hear us, good Lord.
Protect all engaged in public life, with their families, friends and colleagues,
that nothing may demean or do them harm.
Hear us, good Lord.
Direct those who influence opinion through the media,
that we may listen, speak and vote with sound minds.
Hear us, good Lord….

God, bless America,
guard our people
guide our leaders
and give us peace;
for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen

(Slightly edited for the American midterms-KSH).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Spirituality/Prayer

(Gallup) Economy Is Top Election Issue; Abortion and Crime Next

Among the policy issues being debated and discussed this election year, the economy leads in importance to Americans. Nearly half of U.S. registered voters, 49%, say the economy will be extremely important to their vote for Congress. But abortion and crime are nearly as prominent; 42% and 40% of voters, respectively, say each of these is extremely important.

Gun policy and immigration constitute third-tier election issues, rated extremely important by 38% and 37% of voters, respectively.

Fewer, 31%, say relations with Russia is extremely important to their vote, while the 26% focused on climate change makes it the least influential issue tested in the Oct. 3-20 Gallup poll.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(CT) The Forgotten Christian Cause: Preserving Democracy

Forty-four percent of the world’s population currently lives in an electoral autocracy, according to V-Dem. Countries that are in this category (or are rapidly moving toward it) include Brazil, India, Hungary, Poland, and Turkey, among many others.

Here’s the scary thing for Christians who take their faith seriously: In every country I just mentioned, religious conservatives are some of the main supporters of autocratization. In majority-Christian countries, those religious conservatives are Christians. In Brazil, many of them are even evangelicals.

Why would voters—including, in many cases, Christian voters—elect politicians who limit the freedom of the press and remove some of the legal checks and balances that have traditionally protected democracy?

According to V-Dem Institute’s exhaustive study of more than 200 countries, the main reason is partisan polarization. If voters’ fears of an opposing party become strong enough, they will often welcome whatever measures keep that party out of power, even if that means the loss of certain constitutional freedoms.

This dynamic seems to be playing out in the United States.

Read it all.

Posted in Globalization, Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(Church Times) Archbishop of Canterbury prays for unity and stability under new PM Rishi Sunak

Last week, the racial-justice officers for the diocese of Chichester, the Revd Martha Mutikani and the Revd Dr Godfrey Kesari, called on the Church of England to “embrace minority communities” and “give them much more space” in leadership roles….

Delivering “Thought for the Day” on Radio 4’s Today Programme on Tuesday morning, the Rector of St James’s, Piccadilly, the Revd Lucy Winkett, said that “to acknowledge the UK’s first Hindu Prime Minister is a source of great significance and positivity, whatever the party politics, and to mark with gladness that a person of Global Majority Heritage, practising a faith that is followed by 1.2 billion people around the world, has become the first among equals in the British constitution.

“Given this, the very best thing that citizens of the United Kingdom, whatever their ethnicity, background or religion, can do, to honour this significant moment, is to expect the highest standards of integrity and courage,” Ms Winkett continued.

Mr Sunak took his oath as an MP on the Bhagavad Gita. In an interview with The Times in July, he said of his faith: “It gives me strength, it gives me purpose. It’s part of who I am.”

Read it all.

Posted in --Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England (CoE), Hinduism, India, Other Faiths, Politics in General

‘Anger on their minds’: NBC News poll finds sky-high interest and polarization ahead of midterms

Less than three weeks before Election Day, voter interest has reached an all-time high for a midterm election, with a majority of registered voters saying this election is “more important” to them than past midterms.

What’s more, 80% of Democrats and Republicans believe the political opposition poses a threat that, if not stopped, will destroy America as we know it.

And two-thirds of reliable Democratic and Republican voters say they’d still support their party’s political candidate, even if that person had a moral failing that wasn’t consistent with their own values.

Read it all.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., Politics in General

(TLS) Andrew Preston reviews Max Hastings new “The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962 (William Collins)”

Perhaps the book’s most interesting contribution is its reassessment of the key figures, for this really was a historical moment driven by personality, which turned on individual decisions. Of the three key players, only John F. Kennedy comes out with his reputation intact, indeed burnished. Hastings doesn’t hesitate to point out his mistakes, but throughout the American president seems to be the only sane person in the room. By contrast, Nikita Khrushchev is one of the book’s main villains, albeit a very human one: ambitious and impulsive, but also vulnerable and bewilderingly inconsistent. The megalomaniacal Castro, almost suicidally committed to resisting Yankee aggression at any cost, even nuclear war, is subject to stern criticism. Of the supporting cast Hastings praises Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk for encouraging Kennedy’s diplomatic manoeuvres. He saves his harshest words for the Strangeloveian US military, which pushed relentlessly for authorization to bomb and invade Cuba despite – or, for some of the brass, precisely because of – the chance that it would lead to World War Three. The civilian members of the White House’s fabled ExComm who advocated for military intervention also come in for stinging criticism. Hastings is shrewd to zero in at times on the hawkish National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, one of Kennedy’s less famous but most important aides, who was “so smooth and smart that you could have played pool on him”, but whose surface polish concealed some poor judgement.

But while Abyss makes reputations from 1962 come into clearer focus, the lessons for diplomats and politicians today remain frustratingly murky. Hastings shows how, in the face of unimaginable pressure, Kennedy’s patient diplomacy found an incredibly narrow path to a peaceful solution. And from there he draws a line from the warmongering of Kennedy’s adversaries during the missile crisis – in the Pentagon, not the Kremlin – to the subsequent escalation of the war in Vietnam. Some US officials, including Bundy, did in fact push for war in Cuba, then in Vietnam. Yet that line wasn’t always so straight: in 1964-5 the Joint Chiefs were actually reluctant to wage war in Southeast Asia, while McNamara and Rusk, the civilian voices of reason during the missile crisis, applied the crisis-management techniques that were so successful in Cuba to the conflict in Vietnam, this time with disastrous results.

What, then, were the lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis? As Vladimir Putin rattles his nuclear sabre over Ukraine, what can Joe Biden learn from his hero Jack Kennedy? Not much, it seems. “In 1962, the world got lucky”, Hastings concludes. Let’s hope we get lucky again.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Books, Cuba, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, History, Military / Armed Forces, Office of the President, Politics in General, Russia

(CT) American Idol: How Politics Replaced Spiritual Practice

Despite the disappointments and mistakes of the past, I’m convinced that we have everything we need to tell a different story.

First, despite the rise of political sectarianism, Americans, including many Christians, are fighting against this anti-social imaginary. They do so mostly through local engagement, not through national politics. They do so through action, not symbolism. And they do so for concrete purposes, not with abstract culture change in mind. We need to put these practical Christian actions (and the resources behind them) into contact with the distorted narratives that dominate our political life.

Second, the Christian faith offers tremendous resources for combating political sectarianism and so much else that ails our politics, but we have to connect those resources to our public life and politics. Christians don’t need to be reminded of kindness, gentleness, and joy. But many do need to be convinced that the way of Jesus is up to the task of politics. They need to be convinced that the public arena, too, is a forum for faithfulness.

That doesn’t mean making every policy a matter of religious dogma. Quite the opposite! One of the greatest contributions Christians can make to our politics right now is caring about it without making an idol of it, and then reminding our country that political decisions are very rarely a simple issue of dogma—religious or secular—and more often about prudential matters.

We should pursue faithfulness even when it can’t be reduced to a proposition.

Third, this faithfulness can be offered as a loving service to our communities and our nation. Most Americans don’t like what our politics is doing to us, but they’re too exhausted to push back and build something new. The public is more open than we think to public leaders who make genuine contributions, rather than impose themselves on others and grab power. It’s times like these—when everything seems contested—that it’s most worthwhile to step into the fray if we have something to add. And we do.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., Politics in General, Religion & Culture

(NYT) As Inflation Stalks Europe, Leaders Shudder

The situation is arguably even more dire on continental Europe. The annual inflation rate in the European Union is now at its highest in decades — 10.9 percent in September, up from 3.6 a year earlier.

That is worse even than in the United States or Britain, and it is being driven largely by the bloc’s unique and anguishing withdrawal pains as it tries to punish Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, for his invasion of Ukraine by quitting its long dependence on cheap Russian gas.

As winter approaches, Europe’s united turn away from Russian energy is beginning to bite in households everywhere, eroding living standards and in some countries threatening to chip away at the united front for sanctions against Russia.

Mario Draghi, the departing prime minister of Italy and an architect of the continent’s united line against Russia, warned as much would happen if Europe failed to reach a deal to cap prices on the alternative gas imports.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Europe, Politics in General

(Church Times) Poor countries need to be rescued from choke hold of debt, say charities

Christan Aid is among a consortium of agencies who are calling on the Government to support programmes for debt relief and restructuring to reduce the “choke hold” that sovereign debt has on countries in the global south….

The statement by Christian Aid was timed to coincide with the International Monetary Fund’s annual gathering of economic leaders. At the meetings, held in Washington last week, the Zambian finance minister, Situmbeko Musokotwane, was one of several leaders who called for more action on debt relief and restructuring.

At the…[partial] Lambeth [gathering]…in August, six Anglican Primates added their voices to a call to the UK Government to cancel sovereign debt owed by Zambia and other low-income countries (News, 2 August).

The Primate of Central Africa, the Most Revd Albert Chama, said that servicing the debt put such strain on public finances that cuts had to be made to public services. The debt meant that “ordinary Zambians lose out on health care, education, and development projects which would give them a fair chance to thrive and build futures.”

Read it all.

Posted in Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(WSJ) Xi Jinping’s Quest for Control Over China Targets Even Old Friends

Xi Jinping became China’s most formidable leader in decades through a campaign of anticorruption purges that sidelined opponents and suppressed any potential challenge, real or perceived, to his power.

Some political watchers thought the purges would ease once he settled into his role. Ten years into his tenure, his methods have only grown more sophisticated and pervasive.

Targets in the disciplinary crackdown include a retired member of the Communist Party’s top leadership and a sitting Politburo member. Party enforcers punished some 627,000 people for graft and other offenses last year, roughly four times the number in 2012, when Mr. Xi took charge, according to party data.

Mr. Xi now often uses subtler methods as well, such as taking down officials’ associates with disciplinary probes and replacing them with his own protégés, party insiders say. He also reassigns opponents to less important roles, or switches their portfolios to separate them from their power bases.

Few are beyond Mr. Xi’s reach. That includes one of his oldest friends, Wang Qishan, who became China’s vice president in 2018, a ceremonial sinecure widely seen as a reward conferred by Mr. Xi.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Politics in General

(NYT front page) Inflation Is Unrelenting, Bad News for the Fed and White House

Prices continued to climb at a brutally rapid pace in September, with a key inflation index increasing at the fastest rate in 40 years, bad news for the Federal Reserve as it struggles to wrestle the cost of living back under control.

Overall inflation climbed 8.2 percent over the year through September, according to the latest Consumer Price Index report on Thursday, a slight moderation from August but more than what economists had expected.

Even more worrisome, underlying inflation trends are headed in the wrong direction. After stripping out fuel and food — which are volatile and removed to get a better sense of the trajectory — prices climbed 6.6 percent over the year through September. That was the quickest rate since 1982.

Inflation has been rapid for a year and a half now, and it is proving stubborn even as the Fed mounts its most aggressive campaign in generations to slow the economy and bring price increases under control. Fast inflation has also triggered the highest Social Security cost-of-living adjustment in decades — an 8.7 percent increase in benefits to retired and disabled Americans, a move that was announced Thursday.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Politics in General, President Joe Biden

(Economist Leader) An obsession with control is making China weaker but more dangerous

This is evident in Mr Xi’s response to covid-19. China’s initial lockdown saved many lives. However, long after the rest of the world has learned to live with the virus, China still treats every case as a threat to social stability. When infections crop up, districts and cities are locked down. Compulsory movement-tracking apps detect when citizens have been near an infected person, and then bar them from public spaces. It goes without saying that no one thus tagged may enter Beijing, lest they start an outbreak at a politically sensitive time.

Some hope that, once the congress is over, a plan for relaxing the zero-covid policy may be unveiled. But there is no sign yet of the essential first steps to avoid mass deaths, such as many more vaccinations, especially of the old. Party propaganda suggests that any loosening is a long way off, regardless of the misery and economic mayhem that lockdowns cause. The policy has failed to adapt because no one can say that Mr Xi is wrong, and Mr Xi does not want China to be dependent on foreign vaccines, even though they are better than domestic ones.

Such control-freakery has wider implications for China and the world. At home Mr Xi makes all the big calls, and a fierce machinery of repression enforces his will. Abroad, he seeks to fashion a global order more congenial for autocrats. To this end, China takes a twin-track approach. It works to co-opt international bodies and redefine the principles that underpin them. Bilaterally, it recruits countries as supporters. Its economic heft helps turn poorer ones into clients; its unsqueamishness about abuses lets it woo despots; and its own rise is an example to countries discontented with the American-led status quo. Mr Xi’s aim is not to make other countries more like China, but to protect China’s interests and establish a norm that no sovereign government need bow to anyone else’s definition of human rights. As our special report argues, Mr Xi wants the global order to do less, and he may succeed.

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Posted in China, Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Science & Technology

(ProPublica) How a Chinese American Gangster Transformed Money Laundering for Drug Cartels

Adm. Craig Faller, a senior U.S. military leader, told Congress last year that Chinese launderers had emerged as the “No. 1 underwriter” of drug trafficking in the Western Hemisphere. The Chinese government is “at least tacitly supporting” the laundering activity, testified Faller, who led the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees military activity in Latin America.

In an interview with ProPublica, the now-retired Faller elaborated on his little-noticed testimony. He said China has “the world’s largest and most sophisticated state security apparatus. So there’s no doubt that they have the ability to stop things if they want to. They don’t have any desire to stop this. There’s a lot of theories as to why they don’t. But it is certainly aided and abetted by the attitude and way that the People’s Republic of China views the globe.”

Some U.S. officials go further, arguing that Chinese authorities have decided as a matter of policy to foster the drug trade in the Americas in order to destabilize the region and spread corruption, addiction and death here.

“We suspected a Chinese ideological and strategic motivation behind the drug and money activity,” said former senior FBI official Frank Montoya Jr., who served as a top counterintelligence official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. “To fan the flames of hate and division. The Chinese have seen the advantages of the drug trade. If fentanyl helps them and hurts this country, why not?”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Economy, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Mexico, Politics in General

(Lawrence Freedman) Retribution and Regime Change–The consequences of Putin’s weakness

Everything that now happens in this war, including the murderous missile attacks on Ukrainian cities, has to be understood in terms of the logic of Putin’s exposed position as a failed war leader. He is desperately trying to demonstrate to his hard-line critics that he is up to the task. The opening salvos of this week, ending yet more innocent lives for no discernible military gain, will not make Ukraine less determined or able to win this war. They will have the opposite effect.

The trigger was the damage inflicted on the Kerch bridge last Saturday. The bridge was built at considerable expense to connect Crimea to the mainland and opened by Putin with great fanfare in 2018. The attack combined a symbolic blow with painful practical consequences. Although some road and rail traffic will still pass through, the loss of so much capacity adds to the headaches for Russian logisticians. This link is vital to keeping Crimea, and, through Crimea, forces in southern Ukraine, supplied. News of the attack left the normal suspects on Russian state media unsure about whether to be angrier with the shoddy security that allowed the attack to happen or the audacity of the Ukrainians in mounting the attack. TV Host Vladimir Solovyov, who has been increasingly despondent of late, demanded to know ‘when will we start fighting?’, adding, channeling his inner Machiavelli, that ‘it’s better to be feared than laughed at’. When on the night of 9 October Putin declared this to be a terrorist act against vital civilian infrastructure (despite its evident military value) it was clear that he shared this sentiment.

Putin’s statement claimed that ‘high-precision weapons’ were used against ‘Ukrainian infrastructure, energy infrastructure, military command and communications’, as both an answer to the ‘crimes of the Kyiv regime’ and a warning against further ‘terrorist attacks on the territory of the Russian Federation.’ Some infrastructure targets were hit but so have, just in Kyiv, a playground, a symbolic glass bridge in a park (which survived), and the German consulate. As Kyiv is Ukraine’s main decision-making centre it is telling that none of these supposedly precise weapons hit anything of political or military significance.

State Media’s Margarita Simonyan, who had called the bridge attack a ‘red line’ for Russia expressed delight at the landing of our ‘little response’. Yet while they might satisfy urges for vengeance their impact will be limited unless they become part of a persistent campaign. Alexander Kots, a war reporter, has expressed his hope that this was not a ‘one-off act of retribution, but a new system for carrying out the conflict’ to be continued until Ukraine ‘loses its ability to function.’ Former President Dmitri Medvedev, who once appeared as a serious figure, has expressed his conviction that the goal of ‘future actions’ (but not current?) must be the ‘complete dismantling of the political regime in Ukraine.’

Such hopes are contradicted by the harsh reality of Russia’s position. Putin’s statement highlighted retribution. Russia lacks the missiles to mount attacks of this sort often, as it is running out of stocks and the Ukrainians are claiming a high success rate in intercepting many of those already used. This is not therefore a new war-winning strategy but a sociopath’s tantrum.

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Posted in Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine

(FT) Fed-led dash for higher rates risks ‘world recession’, warns top EU diplomat

[Josep] Borrell, speaking at an annual conference of EU ambassadors, admitted that Brussels was “quite reluctant” to believe US warnings that Russia was going to invade Ukraine in February and had failed to analyse Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions.

“We didn’t believe it will happen . . . And we haven’t foreseen neither the capacity of Putin to escalate,” he said.

Borrell added Brussels failed to understand what other countries wanted, and instead pushed its own ideas on them.

“We think that we know better what is in other people’s interests,” he said. “We have to listen more . . . to the rest of the world. We need to have more empathy.

“We try to export our model, but we don’t think how others will perceive this,” he added.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Economy, Federal Reserve, Foreign Relations, Globalization, Politics in General

(Unherd) How Turbo-Wokism broke America

So who does control the new American system? The answer isn’t broke woke-ists. It’s the monopolists who own the platforms where the woke-ists live. Elon Musk and Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos and Warren Buffett and Sergei Brin and Larry Page and Lorraine Jobs don’t care about mean tweets. They care about the hundreds of billions of dollars in their bank accounts, their lavish mansions and private jets, and pursuing rich person hobbies like colonising Mars. Their primary political goal, as a class, is to prevent the state from ever getting strong enough to tax their fortunes, break up their monopolies, or interfere with the supplies of cheap immigrant and offshore labour from which they profit. The more fractured, dejected, and heavily surveilled the America public is, the less likely a strong state is to emerge.

In the contest between the oligarchs and the fading Rooseveltian state, the woke is a useful tool— not an independent power. Its members are the foot soldiers of the Democratic Party, whose job it is to organise the dispossessed into groups that are narrow, factional, and divided enough that they can’t come together into a force that threatens oligarchical control. Its discontent with the Turbo-Capitalist order can be usefully turned against anyone who refuses to follow the ever-changing party line — beginning with the “deplorables” who are now regularly portrayed as murderous, undemocratic racists and fascists, and extending to JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood. The result is a closed circuit in which Turbo-Capitalist oligarchs and Woke activists make common cause against formerly independent institutions like universities, professional associations, and the press. All of these institutions rely on guarantees of individual and collective rights by the state, which the Turbo-Capitalists and the Woke seek to capture and use as an instrument to enforce their own privatised social bargain: everything within the Party, nothing outside the Party, nothing against the Party.

The unprecedented reach of the technologies that the new oligarchy commands has already destroyed the press and replaced it with a government-corporate censorship regime that has no parallel in peacetime America. Combined with what appears to be a healthy appetite for humiliating others, this power does not bode well for the future of social peace in America, or for the health of the next American Republic.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, --Social Networking, America/U.S.A., Blogging & the Internet, Corporations/Corporate Life, Politics in General, Psychology

(WSJ) Walter Russell Mead–The Question on Putin’s Mind: Would We Risk New York to Keep Odessa Free?

From Mr. Putin’s point of view, in a war in which almost everything is going wrong, nuclear blackmail is working. Why wouldn’t he double down on the one tactic that works?

The only way to deter any possible use of nuclear weapons is to make Mr. Putin believe that the consequences of such use will be ruinous for Russia as a state and for him as its ruler, and that the West won’t flinch when the time for action comes.

To make his threats credible, Mr. Biden needs, first, to make up his mind that he is prepared to stay the course. “The double-minded man is unstable in all his ways,” the Bible tells us. Facing down Mr. Putin in a nuclear standoff is not a course for a man who lacks conviction.

If Mr. Biden is sure of himself, he must build an ironclad coalition at home and abroad behind those threats. Rather than playing down the danger, he needs to dramatize it. Making a prime-time speech to the country, addressing a joint session of Congress, holding an emergency NATO summit—these can all demonstrate Mr. Biden’s commitment to respond with overwhelming force to Russian nuclear attacks.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Foreign Relations, Military / Armed Forces, Politics in General, Russia, Ukraine