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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Daniel Hannan is the New, Great Communicator

Daniel Hannan, MEP
There is no living politician, of any nation, who we admire more than the brilliant and eloquent Daniel Hannan.  A writer and a blogger, Hannan has been a member of the European Parliament representing South East England for the Conservative Party since 1999.  If you haven't read his best-selling Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples made the Modern World, do yourself a huge favor and buy it today.  

Our appreciation for this very thoughtful Tory has only grown since reading his recent response to José Manuel Barroso, an EU bureaucrat who suggested that Britain would be a second-rate country outside the EU. 

Mr. Hannan's smashing response in The Daily Mail follows:

So we've got zero influence, eh? Outside the EU we’d be a second-rate country, would we?

The easy reaction is outrage. How dare José Manuel Barroso, the outgoing head of the Brussels civil service, hector Britain, the nation that, by helping liberate Europe from fascism, made the wretched EU possible in the first place?

But I’d rather take Mr Barroso seriously. Let’s assess the claim that, if it weren’t for the EU, we’d count for little in the world.

Consider, first, the assets that the United Kingdom has.

We are either the seventh or the sixth largest economy on the planet. (Depending on which measure you use, we have either just overtaken, or are just about to overtake, France.)

At a time when the eurozone is stagnant, we are the fastest-growing major economy on Earth. We have — this is a truly amazing statistic — created more jobs over the past four years than the other 27 members of the EU put together. Indeed, on current trends, at some point in the next 30 years, our economy will overtake Germany’s.

While our trade with the EU is in the red and declining, our trade with the rest of the world is in the black and growing.

Nor are our assets purely economic. We have, in London, the world’s greatest city: not just its financial hub but, on most definitions, its cultural hub, too.

Ours is humanity’s most widely spoken language. English has legal status in 37 states, and is used by almost every major international body, from Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (a forum to promote free trade among Pacific Rim countries) to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. It’s even used by organisations whose member states don’t speak English, such as the European Free Trade Association.

Our common law system is universally respected — to the extent that two foreign companies from the same country will often pay a premium to sign their contracts in UK jurisdiction, knowing that, whatever their other faults, our judges don’t take bribes.

We are the world’s fourth military power, one of only five nations capable of deploying force globally. We are one of seven nuclear states, with renowned special forces and a global intelligence-gathering capacity which we share with the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Our institutions and leading figures are recognised around the world, from Manchester United to Wimbledon, from Downton Abbey to the Duchess of Cambridge. Small wonder we are ranked top in the soft power index (based on countries’ influence in terms of politics, diplomacy, business, culture, sport and education rather than financial or military might), edging even above the United States.

We are a leading member of the G20 and the G8, of Nato and the Commonwealth, and one of five permanent seat-holders on the UN Security Council. How much bigger do we have to be, for Heaven’s sake, before we’re capable of governing ourselves?

How does Mr Barroso think seven million Swiss manage, or 320,000 Icelanders? Or, come to that, the 32,000 people of San Marino, who recently rejected EU membership in a referendum, preferring to remain in a free trade area?

Like most countries, we joined what is now the EU out of pessimism. At the time, in the early Seventies, it was Britain’s lowest moment as a nation. It was the era of double-digit inflation, prices and incomes policies, trade union militancy, power cuts and the three-day week. The consensus among commentators was that Britain was finished.

It was against this miserable background that Parliament voted to join in 1972, and the electorate ratified the decision by referendum in 1975.

Would people have voted the same way either ten years earlier or ten years later? I doubt it. We would have lacked the necessary sense of national despair.
Contrary to what the doom-mongers of the Seventies feared, the decline over the past 40 years has come, not in Britain or the Anglosphere, but in Europe.

In the year that we joined, Western Europe accounted for 36 per cent of the world economy. Today, that figure is 24 per cent, and in ten years’ time it will be 14 per cent. Last year, the Commonwealth’s economy overtook the eurozone’s.

Britain is a global trader, linked by history to every continent and archipelago. Yet we have managed to confine ourselves in the only trade bloc on the planet that is shrinking economically.

Mr Barroso says that, outside the EU, we’d lack clout. Really?
Strong words: David Cameron hit back yesterday at Jose Manuel Barroso (left), saying voters were his 'boss'
Consider, as an example of a non-EU state, Norway, with a population of four million. Norway has an active and engaged foreign policy. Its diplomats played a key role in negotiating peace settlements in South East Asia, Sudan and Sri Lanka — as well as, albeit less successfully, brokering the Oslo Accords between Israel and Palestine.

Norway has the capacity to do these things because, not being part of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, it has diplomatic autonomy.

Are we truly to believe that Britain, a nation of nearly 64 million, a mercantile and maritime people linked to every corner of the world, would have no influence if we had an independent foreign policy?

There is one place, though, where we truly do lack influence: Brussels.

There have been 55 occasions when the UK voted against an EU measure in the Council of Ministers (the figure is deceptively low because, by tradition, countries rarely push matters to the vote when they can see that they will lose). Guess how many times, out of those 55, we succeeded in blocking the measure? That’s right: zero.

That literally is, to use Mr Barroso’s phrase, ‘zero influence’.

Cast your mind back just a few weeks to the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker, the defeated prime minister of Luxembourg, as Mr Barroso’s successor as president of the European Commission.

David Cameron could hardly have made clearer the strength of Britain’s opposition. The PM had precedent on his side: there was a general understanding that such appointments would not be made against the wishes of one of the big member states.

He also had constitutional right on his side: Mr Juncker’s claim to the job rested on a power-grab by the European Parliament that stretched the interpretation of a clause in the European Treaty beyond any normal bounds, and had not been sanctioned by the member states. 
Yet, in the event, how many countries backed Britain? How many of the other 27 states felt that it would be inappropriate to appoint a man who made no secret of his belief in a United States of Europe, who had called for a European army and police force, for pan-European taxes and an EU-wide minimum wage? How many? One: Hungary.

In a revealing aside, Mr Barroso has linked the calls from some Britons to leave the EU with the Scottish independence campaigns.

It’s a telling parallel. Most Scots voted last month to keep the Union because they felt at least some sense of British identity. Three hundred years of common statehood, resting on a common language and culture, have created a shared British patriotism.

Mr Barroso’s analogy confirms that he sees the EU, too, as a nation. People like him wouldn’t talk like this if the EU were simply an international association like the Arctic Council or the World Health Organisation.

Incidentally, Mr Barroso’s intervention reminds us that there is rarely much gratitude in Brussels. He secured his post partly with the help of British Conservative MEPs, though you wouldn’t think it today.

I mention this because there are alarming reports that David Cameron doesn’t want Conservative MEPs to oppose Mr Juncker’s appointment as President in a vote on it in the European Parliament tomorrow.

Having fought the recent Euro-election campaign on the platform we Tories did, opposing these federalists is a straightforward question of keeping faith with our voters.

The biggest complaint people have about politicians and the EU is that we say one thing in our home countries and do another in Brussels.

I’ll be voting against Mr Juncker and his Euro-zealots. I hope other Conservatives will join me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Price of Papal Popularity

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Normally a synod of Catholic bishops does not provide fireworks rivaling the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley’s boys in blue ran up the score on the radicals in Grant Park.

But, on Oct. 13, there emanated from the Synod on the Family in Rome a 12-page report from a committee picked by Pope Francis himself — and the secondary explosions have not ceased.

The report recognized the “positive aspects of civil unions and cohabitation” and said “homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community.” As for Catholics who divorce and remarry without an annulment, we must avoid “any language or behavior that might make them feel discriminated against.”

Hailed by gay rights groups, the document stunned traditionalists.

“Undignified. Shameful. Completely Wrong,” said Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and guardian of Catholic orthodoxy.

He was echoed by Cardinal Raymond Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. “The document lacks a solid foundation in the Sacred Scriptures and the Magisterium,” said Cardinal Burke. “It gives the impression of inventing … what one Synod Father called ‘revolutionary’ teaching on marriage and the family.”

Cardinal Burke called on the pope for a restatement of Catholic teaching on marriage and morality, saying, “It is long overdue.” The pope has relieved Cardinal Burke of his post.

Voice of the Family, a coalition of international pro-life groups, calls the document a “betrayal.”

Irish representative Patrick Buckley said it “represents an attack on marriage and the family” by “in effect giving tacit approval of adulterous relationships.” The report, he adds, “fails to recognize that homosexual inclination is objectively disordered.”

Cardinal Walter Kasper has been the prime mover of the liberalization of Catholic teaching on sexual morality. When an African bishop objected to the report, Kasper retorted, “You can’t speak about this with Africans. … It’s not possible. … It’s a taboo.”

Hearing this insult, Burke went upside the head of his brother cardinal:

“It is profoundly sad and scandalous that such remarks were made by a cardinal of the church. They are a further indication of the determination … to advance Cardinal Kasper’s false positions, even by means of racist remarks about a significant and highly respected part of the Synod membership.”

In the report voted on by the full synod and released this weekend, the language most offensive to orthodox Catholics was gone.

But the synod meets again next year, and the stakes could scarcely be higher for the church and pope.

In his remarks at the synod’s close, Pope Francis mocked “so-called traditionalists” for their “hostile rigidity.”

That is one way of putting it. Another is that traditionalists believe moral truth does not change, nor can Catholic doctrines be altered.

Even a pope cannot do that.

Should such be attempted, the pope would be speaking heresy. And as it is Catholic doctrine that the pope is infallible, that he cannot err when speaking ex cathedra on faith and morals, this would imply that Francis was not a valid pope and the chair of Peter is empty.

We would then be reading about schismatics and sedevacantists.

The Catholic Church is not the Democratic Party of Obama, Hillary and Joe, where principled positions on abortion, homosexuality and same-sex marriage “evolve.” And when did flexibility in matters of moral principle become a virtue for Catholics?

Indeed, it was in defense of the indissolubility of marriage that Pope Clement VII excommunicated Henry VIII who held the title “Defender of the Faith” for refuting the heresies of Luther.

When Henry wished to divorce Catherine of Aragon and marry Anne Boleyn, Pope Clement said this was not possible. His stand for marriage caused the Catholic Church to lose England.

One wonders what this pope thinks of Pope Clement’s “rigidity.”

While Francis I has neither denied nor sought to change any doctrine, Cardinal Burke is correct. The pope has “done a lot of harm.” He has created confusion among the faithful and is soon going to have to speak with clarity on the unchanging truths of Catholicism.

In his beatification of Paul VI on Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated change. “God is not afraid of new things,” he said, “we are making every effort to adapt ways and methods … to the changing conditions of society.”

But among the social changes since Vatican II and Paul VI have been the West’s embrace of no-fault divorce, limitless promiscuity, abortion on demand and same-sex marriage.

Should the church “adapt” to these changes in society?

Should the church accommodate itself to a culture as decadent as ours? Or should the church stand against it and speak moral truth to cultural and political power, as the early martyrs did to Rome?

Pope Francis is hugely popular. But his worldly popularity has not come without cost to the church he leads and the truths he is sworn to uphold.

“Who am I to judge?” says the pope. But wasn’t that always part of the job description? And if not thee, Your Holiness, who?

Monday, October 20, 2014

When the Communists Murdered a Priest

Editor’s note: This article first appeared at The American Spectator.

It was October 19, 1984—30 years ago this week. A gentle, courageous, and genuinely holy priest, Jerzy Popieluszko, age 37, found himself in a ghastly spot that, though it must have horrified him, surely did not surprise him. An unholy trinity of three thugs from communist Poland’s secret police had seized and pummeled him. He was bound and gagged and stuffed into the trunk of their cream-colored Fiat 125 automobile as they roamed the countryside trying to decide where to dispatch him. This kindly priest was no less than the chaplain to the Solidarity movement, the freedom fighters who would ultimately prove fatal to Soviet communism—and not without Popieluszko’s stoic inspiration.

What Would St John Paul II Have Made of the Family Synod?

During the synod we heard too much about failed marriages and too little about faithful marriages

Pope Francis waves after the general audience on April 30 (CNS)
From The Catholic Herald (UK)
By Francis Phillips

There was an article on Sandro Magister’s blog which I did not see commented on anywhere. Titled “The Married Couple Knocking at the Doors of the Synod”, it gave the testimony of a Polish couple, Ludmila and Stanisław Grygiel, who teach at the Pontifical Institute for Studies on the Family, which was set up by the late Pope John Paul II. According to Magister, none of the professors at this Pontifical Institute were called on to speak at the synod – even though the synod was meant to be about marriage and family, and you would think the institute would have had some expertise to offer on the subject.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pat Buchanan: Ebola, Ideology and Common Sense

By Patrick J. Buchanan

Growing up in Washington in the 1930s and ’40s, our home was, several times, put under quarantine. A poster would be tacked on the door indicating the presence within of a contagious disease — measles, mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever.

None of us believed we were victims of some sort of invidious discrimination against large Catholic families. It was a given that public health authorities were trying to contain the spread of a disease threatening the health of children.

Out came the Monopoly board.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Obama Deniers

Senate Democrats want voters to believe they barely know the man.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Lexington, Ky., on Monday. Reuters

From The Wall Street Journal

Senate candidates across the country are now training their fire on President Obama , railing about his failed policies and touting their fierce opposition to his agenda. And those are the Democrats.

The Obama-denial campaign reached new comic heights last week with Kentucky Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes ’s refusal to say if she had voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 or 2012. The Democrat dodged the question again at a Monday debate, insisting she had a “constitutional right” to keep secret whether she voted for the man for whom she served as a delegate at the 2012 Democratic nominating convention. Voters might fairly conclude Ms. Grimes is less worried about the sanctity of the ballot than she is Mr. Obama’s 31% job approval in Kentucky.

Not that this is a new theme for Ms. Grimes, who last month debuted an ad showing her toting a shotgun, declaring she is “no Barack Obama” and explaining she disagrees with the President on “guns, coal and the EPA.” The ad followed one by West Virginia Democratic candidate Natalie Tennant, who in July ran an ad showing her cutting off the electricity to the White House and vowing to “make sure President Obama gets the message” that she supports coal.

More amazing have been Senate Democratic incumbents, who want voters to forget their lock-step support of the President for the last six years. Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor ’s first ad—which ran last year—highlighted his opposition to Mr. Obama’s gun control agenda. “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do,” Mr. Pryor declared. He’s voted with Mr. Obama 93% of the time.

Alaska’s Mark Begich is bragging that he “took on Obama” to fight for oil drilling in his state and has mused that he’d love to drag the President to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and “bang him over the head” with the oil subject. He’s gone with the White House 97% of the time.

Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu boasts in an ad that she helped end the Administration’s 2010 moratorium on drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and in another TV spot claims personal victory in forcing Mr. Obama to let people “keep their health care plans.” People still can’t keep their health plans, and as chair of the energy committee Mrs. Landrieu has passed nothing of note.

But the prize for best non-denial denial might go to Colorado’s Mark Udall, who declared at a recent debate: “Let me tell you, the White House when they look down the front lawn the last person they want to see coming is me.” No doubt Coloradans would love to have seen Mr. Udall stride down that lawn when it mattered. Despite claiming to support fossil-fuel jobs, Mr. Udall has remained a loyal Obama vote against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Had any one of these Democrats opposed ObamaCare, if only to force improvements, the law would not have passed the Senate without changes that might have made it far less destructive. Mrs. Landrieu famously traded her vote for $300 million extra in Medicaid funds, known at the time as the Louisiana Purchase.

Every Democratic incumbent also voted for Mr. Obama’s stimulus, and they all supported the Dodd-Frank law that has enshrined too-big-to-fail for large banks. They also lined up behind Majority Leader Harry Reid ’s gutting of the 60-vote rule for presidential nominations. That vote helped Mr. Obama pack the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with three liberals who will make it harder to challenge Mr. Obama’s rule-by regulation on oil and gas that these Democrats claim to oppose.

They’ve also been loyal servants of Mr. Reid’s strategy to close off nearly all Senate debate and amendments. This has undermined the ability of these Senators to challenge the White House by forming bipartisan coalitions. By making the Senate less open to debate than the House, they abandoned any leverage to act as the independent actors they now claim to be.

Mrs. Landrieu and Mr. Begich, both from oil and gas producing states, were unable this year to get a floor vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, or even more rapid approval of natural-gas exports that might counter Vladimir Putin ’s energy squeeze on our European allies. They effectively neutered themselves.

Yet they now want voters to believe that if they get another six-year term they will somehow emerge as giants of principled independence. That promise will turn into a pumpkin the minute they again cast a vote to make Mr. Reid Majority Leader. The deny-Obama strategy may be a political necessity in the sixth year of this listing Presidency, but voters who fall for the ruse will get a continuation of the same failed policies.