If you are concerned/interested in Vatican politics, & the unresolved sexual violence, that is transgenerational in the Church, these excerpts may interest you.

Queer Atheist .

Headline: Pope Francis forced me out, says Benedict’s papal aide

The private secretary of Benedict XVI has revealed that he was in effect sacked as head of the papal household amid tensions between the former pope and his successor.

Supporters of Francis fear the revelation, in a book due to be published on Thursday, could be the opening salvo from his conservative opponents following the Pope Emeritus’s death.

Archbishop Georg Gänswein, who was appointed in 2012 before Benedict resigned, said he clashed with Francis over a book to which the former pope contributed and which appeared to pre-judge the teaching on priestly celibacy of his successor. “You remain prefect, but from tomorrow don’t come to work,” Gänswein quotes Francis as telling him.

According to Gänswein, Benedict made an ironic comment on the development, telling his private secretary: “It seems Pope Francis doesn’t trust me any more and wants you to act as my custodian.

“That’s right . . . but am I a custodian or a prison guard?” the archbishop writes that he replied to Benedict.

The book, Nothing but the truth: My life beside Benedict XVI, is part of a media blitz by the man who worked as secretary and carer for Benedict for almost 20 years.

It also includes an interview with the German Catholic weekly Tagespost, published on the day of Benedict’s death. In it Gänswein, 66, said Francis’s restrictions on the Latin mass had “broken the heart” of his predecessor. He also gave a TV interview on the circumstances surrounding Benedict’s 2013 resignation, which was broadcast on Thursday to coincide with his funeral.



Headline: ‘Benedict XVI did not understand the place of excessive power in the sexual abuse crisis’

Sub-headline: Benedict XVI was one of the first architects of the Vatican response to the problem of sexual violence in the Church, but he never realized the systemic character of those dysfunctions, according to an analysis by theologian Marie-Jo Thiel

The death of Benedict XVI marks the beginning of the discussion on his legacy for the Church and the world. A respected intellectual, he left many writings, strong decisions – including the eminently modern decision to renounce the papacy – as well as several position statements, some of which may have been ambiguous. Those adopted in the area of the sexual violence crisis marked a point of no return.

In his interviews with Peter Seewald (Benedict XVI, une vie, Benedict XVI, a Life), Benedict XVI himself recalled the Vatican guidelines that he helped establish, first as prefect of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith (between 1981 and 2005), and then as Pope. It must be said that the position of prefect placed him at the forefront in terms of awareness of the systemic sexual violence crisis. However, he never used the adjective “systemic,” and he probably never understood – like most of the prelates of the Curia – the implications of such a recognition.

International affairs were piling up on his desk at the time, and John Paul II began to mention pedophilia in his “Letter to the Bishops of the United States” and then in his “Message to the Irish Bishops.” But the Pope considered, no doubt like the prefect, that there existed a “crisis of deeply rooted sexual morality, but also of human relationships.” The Pope emeritus would clearly make this point in a letter published in April 2019 in which he blamed pedophilia on the sexual revolution of May ’68 and the ensuing evolution of post-conciliar theology, without addressing structural issues.

Did the report published by a Bavarian law firm in January 2022 pointing out the failings of Joseph Ratzinger as Archbishop of Munich-Freising (1977-1982) make him doubt his way of managing this crisis? The future pope was said to have made – like all the other archbishops of that diocese – “bad decisions” in four cases of clerical sexual abusers. Three weeks later, on February 8, he published a letter in a very personal style in which he asked for forgiveness for the errors committed during his pontificate.



Headline: ‘Sexual violence’ or ‘abuse?’ The Church’s debate over words

Sub-headline: The growing number of scandals has led to a semantic controversy over how best to refer to them.

Many French Catholics imagined that the issue of sexual violence would be resolved after the report of the independent commission on sexual abuse in the Church (CIASE) in 2021, but nothing seems to have been resolved.

On the contrary, it is as if the dams have burst in France, but also elsewhere, as new scandals emerge every week. In Tarbes, an abbot was banned from practicing on Monday, December 19, by Pope Francis and dismissed from the clerical state, and the courts have opened an investigation for rape. In French Guiana, the bishop emeritus of Cayenne, Emmanuel Lafont, is, according to La Croix, banned from all pastoral activity by the Vatican for alleged acts of “moral harassment” and “aggravated breach of trust.” In Slovenia, a Jesuit painter revered by the Catholic community, Marko Rupnik, was accused of “sexual violence” against several women in the context of confession. In November, the French community learned that Cardinal Michel Sentier behaved “reprehensibly” towards a young woman, who was a minor at the time.

“Words matter,” said Louis, a sexagenarian and victim of a pedophile priest who wished to remain anonymous. “We must name. The Church must name and speak out, so that people know exactly what happened to us, and not be content to cast a veil of secrecy,” he said. On Twitter, Marie-Hélène Lafarge, a prominent figure of the Catholic community, expressed her anger publicly in November at what she considered to be a misuse of words. “When we use these kinds of terms or expressions, we deny the victim, we only talk about the aggressor whose point of view is privileged,” she said.



FEB. 8, 2022

Headline: Retired pope asks forgiveness over handling of abuse cases but denies wrongdoing

Retired Pope Benedict XVI asked forgiveness Tuesday for any “grievous faults” in his handling of clergy sex-abuse cases but denied any personal or specific wrongdoing after an independent report criticized his actions in four cases while he was archbishop of Munich, Germany.

Benedict’s lack of a personal apology or admission of guilt immediately riled sex abuse survivors, who said his response reflected the Catholic hierarchy’s “permanent” refusal to accept responsibility for the rape and sodomy of children by priests.

Benedict, 94, was responding to a Jan. 20 report by a German law firm that had been commissioned by Germany’s Catholic Church to look into how cases of sexual abuse were handled in the Munich archdiocese between 1945 and 2019. Benedict, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was in charge of the archdiocese from 1977 to 1982.

The report faulted Benedict’s handling of four cases during his time as archbishop, accusing him of misconduct for having failed to restrict the ministry of the priests in the cases even after they had been convicted criminally. The report also faulted his predecessors and successors, estimating that there had been at least 497 abuse victims over the decades and at least 235 suspected perpetrators.

The Vatican on Tuesday released a letter that Benedict wrote in response to the allegations, alongside a more technical reply from his lawyers, who had provided an initial 82-page response to the law firm about his nearly five-year tenure in Munich.

The conclusion of Benedict’s lawyers was resolute: “As an archbishop, Cardinal Ratzinger was not involved in any cover-up of acts of abuse,” they wrote. They criticized the report’s authors for misinterpreting their submission, and asserted that they provided no evidence that Benedict was aware of the criminal history of any of the four priests in question.

Benedict’s response was far more nuanced and spiritual, though he went on at length to thank his legal team before addressing the allegations or the victims of abuse.

“I have had great responsibilities in the Catholic Church,” Benedict said. “All the greater is my pain for the abuses and the errors that occurred in those different places during the time of my mandate.”

In the letter, Benedict issued what he called a “confession,” though he didn’t confess to any specific fault. He recalled that daily Mass begins with believers confessing their sins and asking forgiveness for their faults and even their “grievous faults.” Benedict noted that, in his meetings with abuse victims while he was pope, “I have seen at first hand the effects of a most grievous fault.

“And I have come to understand that we ourselves are drawn into this grievous fault whenever we neglect it or fail to confront it with the necessary decisiveness and responsibility, as too often happened and continues to happen,” he wrote. “As in those meetings, once again I can only express to all the victims of sexual abuse my profound shame, my deep sorrow and my heartfelt request for forgiveness.”

His response drew swift criticism from Eckiger Tisch, a group representing German clergy abuse survivors, which said it fit into the church’s “permanent relativizing on matters of abuse — wrongdoing and mistakes took place, but no one takes concrete responsibility.”

Benedict “can’t bring himself simply to state that he is sorry not to have done more to protect the children entrusted to his church,” the group said.

The retired pope’s response will probably complicate efforts by German bishops to try to reestablish credibility with the faithful, whose demands for accountability have only increased after decades of abuse and cover-up.

The leader of the German bishops conference, Limburg Bishop Georg Baetzing, previously said that Benedict needed to respond to the report by distancing himself from his lawyers and advisors. “He must talk, and he must override his advisors and essentially say the simple sentence: ’I incurred guilt, I made mistakes and I apologize to those affected,’” Baetzing said.

But in a tweet Tuesday, Baetzing noted only that Benedict had responded.

”I am grateful to him for that and he deserves respect for it,” Baetzing wrote. The tweet didn’t address the substance of Benedict’s response.

The law firm’s report identified four cases in which Ratzinger was accused of misconduct in failing to act against abusers.

Two cases involved priests whose offenses occurred while Ratzinger was archbishop and who were punished by the German legal system but were kept in pastoral roles without any limits on their ministry. A third case involved a cleric who was convicted by a court outside Germany but was put into service in Munich. The fourth case involved a convicted pedophile priest who was allowed to transfer to Munich in 1980 and was later put into ministry. In 1986, that priest received a suspended sentence for molesting a boy.


Queer Atheist

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@TheEconomist rewrites itself, to affirm its ‘Yellow Peril Hysteria’

Political Observer & Almost Marx

What might The Reader make of this China ‘essay’? This January 5, 2023 pronouncement seems ominous! Does the headline and the sub-headline give the game away? These paragraphs demonstrate what to The Reader?

For the better part of three years—1,016 days to be exact—China will have been closed to the world. Most foreign students left the country at the start of the pandemic. Tourists have stopped visiting. Chinese scientists have stopped attending foreign conferences. Expat executives were barred from returning to their businesses in China. So when the country opens its borders on January 8th, abandoning the last remnants of its “zero-covid” policy, the renewal of commercial, intellectual and cultural contact will have huge consequences, mostly benign.

First, however, there will be horror. Inside China, the virus is raging. Tens of millions of people are catching it every day . Hospitals are overwhelmed. Although the zero-covid policy saved many lives when it was introduced (at great cost to individual liberties), the government failed to prepare properly for its relaxation by stockpiling drugs, vaccinating more of the elderly and adopting robust protocols to decide which patients to treat where. Our modelling suggests that, if the virus spreads unchecked, some 1.5m Chinese will die in the coming months.

There is not much outsiders can do to help. For fear of looking weak, the Chinese government spurns even offers of free, effective vaccines from Europe. But the rest of the world can prepare for the economic effects of the Communist Party’s great u-turn. These will not be smooth. China’s economy could contract in the first quarter, especially if local officials reverse course and seal off towns to keep cases down. But eventually economic activity will rebound sharply, along with Chinese demand for goods, services and commodities. The impact will be felt on the beaches of Thailand, across firms such as Apple and Tesla, and at the world’s central banks. China’s reopening will be the biggest economic event of 2023.

The reader might just sample this selection of sentences, paragraphs of the remainder of this essay:

As the year progresses and the worst of the covid wave passes, many of the sick will return to work. Shoppers and travellers will spend more freely.

The party is banking on it. It hopes to be judged not on the tragedy its incompetence is compounding, but on the economic recovery to follow.

The ending of China’s self-imposed isolation will be good news for places that depended on Chinese spending.

Elsewhere, though, China’s recovery will have painful side-effects. In much of the world it could show up not in higher growth, but in higher inflation or interest rates.

Take the oil market. Rising Chinese demand should more than compensate for faltering consumption in Europe and America, as their economies slow.

According to Goldman Sachs, a bank, a rapid recovery in China could help push the price of Brent crude oil to $100 a barrel, an increase of a quarter compared with today’s prices (though still below the heights reached after Russia invaded Ukraine).

For Europe, China’s reopening is another reason not to be complacent about gas supplies later in the year.

For China itself, the post-pandemic normal will not be a return to the status quo ante. After watching the government enforce zero-covid in a draconian fashion and then scrap it without due preparation, many investment houses now see China as a riskier bet.

The final paragraph of this polemic, masquerading as reportage, is a recapitulation of English/British arrogance, a natural inheritance of The Economist writers, who have the temerity , the gall to lecture the Chinese…

Opium Wars, two armed conflicts in China in the mid-19th century between the forces of Western countries and of the Qing dynasty, which ruled China from 1644 to 1911/12. The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain, and the second Opium War (1856–60), also known as the Arrow War or the Anglo-French War in China, was fought by Britain and France against China. In each case the foreign powers were victorious and gained commercial privileges and legal and territorial concessions in China. The conflicts marked the start of the era of unequal treaties and other inroads on Qing sovereignty that helped weaken and ultimately topple the dynasty in favour of republican China in the early 20th century.



‘The full story of the British Yangtze gunboats is exceedingly well told in Gregory Haines’s ‘Gunboats on the Great River’, Macdonald and Jane’s, London, 1976, which is the source of much of the above material’

Under the rubric ‘Normal not normal’

As Chinese officials struggle to repair the damage, they should remember some history. China’s previous great reopening, after the stultifying isolation of the Mao years, led to an explosion of prosperity as goods, people, investment and ideas surged across its borders in both directions. Both China and the world have benefited from such flows, something politicians in Beijing and Washington seldom acknowledge. With luck, China’s current reopening will ultimately succeed. But some of the paranoid, xenophobic mood that the party stoked during the pandemic years will surely linger. Exactly how open the new China will be remains to be seen

This above ‘essay’, reads like an hysterical re-write of this Economist essay of January 2, 2023:

Political Observer & Almost Marx

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Philosophical Apprentice: On reading the first chapter of ‘The Elizabethan Mind’ by Helen Hackett. With assists from Julian Jaynes & Alva Noë.

While reading the first chapter of Helen Hackett’s book ‘The Elizabethan Mind : Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty’ I was struck by the ideas about the mind , and the part played by Humours and Melancholy in the lives of the Elizabethans.

I thought first of ‘Out of Our Heads: Why You Are Not Your Brain, and Other Lessons from the Biology of Consciousness’

And this quotation from Noë’s book on Consciousness:

And Julian Jaynes book:

I must confess that I purchased this book in 1976, and had not yet read it. Yet when I thought of Noë’s book, I knew where I had Jaynes book stored. My intellectual ambition is subject to a disturbing lack of discipline, allied to a fear of my possible lack of ability to understand. Yet Jaynes’ style is always lucid and at times poetic , I was more that a little intimidated by the subject matter. And my lack of experience with Consciousness. I have not read these books, in their entirety: yet I was struck that The Elizabethans made me think about their view of the world, themselves and the vitality of their milieu. Both Noë and Jaynes offer thoughts on ‘Consciousness’ … perhaps further reading of both their books will offer further insights on the possible interaction between the two?

Philosophical Apprentice

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Thatcherite Political Romantic @rcolvile pretends that he ‘cares’ about the welfare of ‘Striking Workers’? not to forget those ‘union barons’! The son of a peer knows Barons, of another stripe!

Old Socialist confronts a modern day Scrooge! Or is he a Bagehot?

Headline: Yes, public sector pay is low — but the blunt truth is they’d be worse off at a private firm


Inflation surging. Tickets for Abba selling like hotcakes. And now, yes, a wave of public sector strikes. As 2023 dawns, modern Britain appears to be just a few pairs of flared trousers away from a full-blown 1970s tribute act. In fact, the truth is rather more reassuring.

Despite the best efforts of some union barons, we are not (yet) seeing a repetition of the Winter of Discontent. The disruption to ambulance and nursing services has been less than feared, partly because of a shared desire to minimise harm to patients. The borders stayed open. No one is using the trains anyway. And Britain is hardly the only country where people are striking over what inflation is doing to their pay.

Note the ‘union barons’ is not capitalized, as a further degradation of those bad actors. This, an old @TheEconomist trick of minimization, that reinforces that degradation! Just read the sullen ghost of Bagehot, Adrian Wooldridge! The pressing question might arise what ‘tickets for Abba’ has to do with the pressing question of the strikes, and those mendacious ‘union barons’?

The Patient Reader realizes, that it doesn’t take too long, before this child of privilege to shame the greed of these Public Sector Workers, for demanding a fair wage. Mr. Colvile plays the part of Ebenezer Scrooge, before the visitations of Ghosts of The Present, The Past, and The Future. Mr. Colvile labors, aided by the toxic Ghost of Thatcher/Hayek, as a corrective to those ‘union barons’ and greedy, overpaid Public Sector Workers: who hold aloft a Nation State by their endeavors. Or does Colvile provide a political reminiscence of Bagehot?

But the blunt truth is that the average public sector employee still gets more than their private sector counterpart for doing the same work — even if the gap has been shrinking. And when you add pensions, the divide becomes cavernous. As the Institute for Fiscal Studies says, more than four fifths of public sector employees are still in gold-plated defined benefit schemes, compared with just 7 per cent of private sector employees. Every year, the state pays another 18 per cent of salary into the average employee’s pension pot, compared with 6 per cent in the private sector. This sends the raw hourly pay gap between public and private shooting up to 21 per cent.

It is not just unfair, but unaffordable. Experts calculate that the liability from public sector pensions exceeds £2 trillion — effectively doubling the national debt. In the past year alone a change in life expectancy formulae and other factors raised the expected pensions bill for the NHS by £140 billion. That’s almost as much as we spend each year on the health service itself.

If the government tried to take away these rights by force, it would face the mother of all fights. But what about giving public sector staff the right to take more of their pay upfront, rather than let it pile up in their pensions (and ideally making that the default for recruits)? That would deliver the huge pay bump nurses want, while easing the long-term pressure on public finances. It would stop the next year degenerating into a pantomime re-enactment of Scargill v Thatcher. And it would help address the increasingly unfair divide between a public sector that gets the lion’s share of the perks and protections, and those of us who foot the bill.

Old Socialist

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Thomas Friedman is befuddled about what is happening in The Zionist Faschist State!

Political Observer confronts just a portion of its 4,037 words.

Dec 19, 2022

Headline: What in the World Is Happening in Israel?

Dec. 15, 2022

The first paragraphs, of this highly garnished, and nearly hand-wringing travelogue, betrays Friedman’s state of mind, featuring at first befuddlement, then something like resignation, and at the end faint hope?

A week of reporting from Israel and the West Bank has left me feeling that the prospect for a two-state solution has all but vanished. But no one wants to formally declare it dead and buried — because categorically ruling it out would have enormous ramifications. So, diplomats, politicians and liberal Jewish organizations pretend that it still has a faint heartbeat. I do as well. But we all know that the two-state option is not in a hospital. It’s in hospice. Only a miracle cure could save it now.

Alas, though, just because the two-state concept is vanishing doesn’t mean the one-state solution — with Israel alone controlling the West Bank, Jerusalem and pre-1967 Israel forever — automatically becomes the easy default. Not at all. The more you examine closely how Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have been living together between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea the more you realize three important things:

First, you realize that, despite episodic blowups, these highly diverse, often antagonistic, but deeply intertwined communities have been kept in rough equilibrium since the 1993 Oslo Accords, thanks to a combination of Israel’s security clampdowns, the workings of the Palestinian Authority, economic growth and a whole lot of pragmatic compromises and self-restraint exercised by all sides every day.

But you also realize that a variety of long-developing demographic, technological, political and social changes are reaching tipping points that are stressing all the balances between Jews and Jews, Jews and Israeli Arabs, Jews and Palestinians and Palestinians and Palestinians that have kept this place reasonably stable.

By that I am referring to the fading of the peace process and prospects of a two-state solution, the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the corruption and breakdown of the Palestinian Authority and the prevalence of TikTok and other social media. In the past year alone, according to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, roughly 20 Israelis and more than 150 Palestinians have died in violent incidents.

The fact that in America ‘Liberal Zionism’ is dead, in the face of the political evolution/rise of The Zionist Faschist State and its toxic actors led by Netanyahu:

Twitter avatar for @Mondoweiss

Mondoweiss @Mondoweiss

New Knesset member Zvika Fogel told an interviewer that “the concept of proportionality must cease to exist” and that he is prepared to make “a thousand Palestinian mothers cry.”

bit.lyJewish Power’s Zvika Fogel promises to make a thousand Palestinian mothers cryNew Knesset member Zvika Fogel told an interviewer that “the concept of proportionality must cease to exist” and that he is prepared to make “a thousand Palestinian mothers cry.”

10:13 PM ∙ Dec 15, 2022

‘I don’t think a day passed on this trip when I did not read about or see TikTok or other videos of a Palestinian shot by Israeli soldiers or Israelis rammed into or attacked with knives by individual Palestinians. This conflict porn is new, it’s pervasive and it is incredibly effective at instilling hate in 15-second bites that keep everyone in a permanent state of fear and rage.’

This ‘rage and fear’ is about the power of the Zionist State to oppress, dispossess, and murder, at will, Palestinians, with the help of ‘Settlers’: the record of this available on twitter on a daily basis.

Just when The Reader might despair, Friedman presents the Zionist Fascist State’s toxic actors , under the trivializing notion of ‘One Big Mess’ :

If you ask me, that is now the most likely outcome — a total mess that will leave Israel no longer being a bedrock of stability for the region and for its American ally, but instead, a cauldron of instability and a source of anxiety for the U.S. government.

Why such a worry? Because Netanyahu’s new partners stand for the exact opposite of self-restraint. Four of the top five party leaders of the incoming coalition government — Netanyahu, Aryeh Deri, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir — have either been arrested, indicted, convicted or served prison time on charges of corruption or incitement to racism. These are not people known for stopping at red lights.

Moreover, Netanyahu is expected to name the ultranationalist, anti-Arab Ben-Gvir, leader of the Jewish Power party, as his minister of national security. He is giving Ben-Gvir oversight not only over the Israeli Police but also over other law enforcement agencies, including the Border Police, which are very active in the occupied West Bank. Ben-Gvir would easily be able to weaponize these agencies against the Israeli Arab and Palestinian populations.

Netanyahu is also expected to make Smotrich minister of finance and also intends to give him and his party, Religious Zionism, responsibility over the Civil Administration, which has always been held by Israel’s Defense Ministry. The Civil Administration has power to expand Jewish settlements, to restrict Palestinian daily life and to enforce the law, including house demolitions.

Both Smotrich and Ben-Gvir are religious zealots who promote Jewish presence on Temple Mount, which is also holy to Muslims. The policing of Temple Mount is carried out by the Israeli Police, which Ben-Gvir is about to get control of. You get the picture?

Netanyahu has been basically telling American officials, American Jews and Israel’s Arab allies that although he’s putting foxes in charge of hen houses and distributing matches and gasoline to pyromaniacs, his personal power and savvy will be able to replace institutional checks and keep his extremist partners from taking Israel over a cliff.

We’ll just have to see. Color me dubious. In the meantime, allow me to take you on a quick tour of the political landscape and show you just how many equilibriums are being stressed and why Israel today desperately needs the most pragmatic, restrained government it could possibly produce — but is getting just the opposite.

Given this framing, Friedman begins his travelogue, I am just on page two of my copy of this essay, of nine pages.

What follows is a report on the Jewish victims of IDF brutality:

One of my first stops on this trip was the Jewish community in the heart of the Palestinian area of Hebron, near the tomb of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims. A few days before my visit, several controversial encounters unfolded there between Israeli soldiers, who clearly identified with the new right-wing government, and left-wing Israeli Jews who traveled to Hebron to show solidarity with Palestinians under occupation, The Times of Israel reported,

In one encounter, caught on video, a soldier tackled a Jewish demonstrator and punched him in the face. In a separate video, a soldier confronting other protesters is heard to say: “Ben-Gvir is going to sort things out in this place. That’s it. You guys have lost. … The fun is over.”

That boasting soldier, the newspaper added, “was wearing a patch velcroed to the back of his military vest that read: ‘One shot. One kill. No remorse. I decide.’ Patches other than those showing the logo of a military unit or an Israeli flag are against military regulations.”

What happened next, though, is where the story between Jews and Jews gets complicated. The Israeli Army sentenced the soldier who taunted the protesters to 10 days in military prison. The military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, said the soldiers caught in the video had acted “contrary to the values of the Israeli military.

Recall Jewish Victimhood comes first!

Political Observer

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Technocrats review the work of other Technocrats: Adam Tooze on Jed Esty’s ‘The Future of Decline: Anglo-American Culture at its Limits’: Beware the thinker/writer with a theory, or a grudge!

Philosophical Apprentice ask the question : Wasn’t ‘Theory’ once the province of the Post-Modernists? who were purged for political/argumentative incoherence: Derrida?

December 20, 2022

Beware of the Technocrat with a Theory: ‘The Closing of The American Mind’ by Allan Bloom, ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ by Samuel P. Huntington, ‘The End of History and the Last Man’ by Francis Fukuyama… moving into the near present ‘The Thucydides Trap: Are the U.S. and China Headed for War?’ by Graham Allison and ‘The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris’ by Peter Beinart. In a crowded field, what to name it? Mr. Tooze ‘reviews’ ‘English literature professor Jed Esty book, The Future of Decline: Anglo-American Culture at its Limits.’

Beware Reader! this essay is 2,196 words long, so plenty of breathing room for Mr. Tooze to expatiate… In this paragraph Mr. Tooze presents Mr. Etsy as the shade of a latter day Parker Tyler? Or is James Agee the more respectable choice?

As Esty puts it, it isn’t just data that matters, but the story you tell with it. It is in deciphering this complex weave of reality and narrative that Esty’s expertise as a literature professor takes effect. Ranging widely across genres, he reads cinema, TV shows and literature, from The West Wing to the Yale historian Paul Kennedy and Marvel’s Black Panther, as examples of a culture of decline. 

This sentence fails to address the toxic effect that a transgenerational Neo-Liberalism, and its twin Globalism, have destroyed America’s indigenous Manufacturing superiority.

As far as America’s relative standing is concerned, there are some uncontroversial facts. In 1945 the US share of global GDP was almost 50 per cent. By 2020 its share had fallen to 16 per cent.

Mr. Tooze evaluates Esty in two paragraphs:

For Esty, the swirling dialectic of national exceptionalism, fear of decline and the promise of national revival delivers a cockeyed view of the world, which will be painfully familiar to British readers. The preoccupation with great power status results in too much military spending and not enough money for education and infrastructure. Global posturing distracts from sensibly-scaled civic initiatives to make the US a more liveable place for the vast majority of its population.

Like many American reformers before him, Esty proposes that to break out of this cycle of power-obsessed thinking, US political culture needs a new sense of proportion. And as Esty sees it, that would be best instilled by a suitably redesigned programme of humanities education. A proper appreciation of the West’s entangled and violent history will deflate the exceptionalist balloon and invite more sobriety and realism. Reversing the priorities that once motivated British critics of decline, Esty argues that America’s contemporary focus on tech solutionism and Stem education (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is both a symptom and a cause of the malaise.

Mr. Tooze’s book review becomes aggressive, even hostile to Esty:

Esty, however, proposes to break with America’s national traditions. His suggestion is that in crafting a new curriculum for an age beyond great power hubris, US educators and intellectuals should take inspiration, of all places, from Britain. What he has in mind is not the Kiplingesque punditry of the likes of the historian Niall Ferguson, but its opposite. Esty’s inspiration is the British New Left, which he sees as exemplary in its efforts to come to terms with the end of imperial greatness.

It is a charming, if implausible suggestion. No one could disagree with the need to revisit classics such as Policing the Crisis (1978), a landmark work headed by Stuart Hall that used the moral panic over mugging in 1970s Britain to decipher a power structure under threat. But the suggestion that a curriculum drawn from 1970s cultural studies and back issues of the New Left Review can offer an antidote to Maga ideology is far-fetched. Apart from anything else Esty’s basic conceit, that the US’s imperial decline is analogous to that of the UK’s, does not stand up to close scrutiny. The British empire never wielded the firepower commanded by Washington today. The UK never confronted a nuclear armed Soviet Union or the rise of modern China. On the other hand, America’s domestic problems are far more severe, violent and entrenched than anything confronting postwar Britain in the 1950s, 1960s or 1970s, or today. Though they may share a common history in Atlantic slavery, Britain is a post-colonial not a post-emancipation society. There is no British equivalent to mass incarceration, Jim Crow or the Ku Klux Klan. In the 1960s and 1970s, the heyday of declinism, the UK was building a welfare state. Half a century later, as the richest and most powerful nation on Earth, the US still lacks a decent public healthcare system. Life expectancy in America lags significantly behind that in Britain.

But The Reader now confronts the root of Tooze’s miss-directed anger at Esty:

Still today, Perry Anderson, the power behind the New Left Review and repeatedly invoked by Esty, writes as if from the Olympian heights. Recently he has concentrated most of his attention on the logics of American power. If the aim is to propose a more democratic and modest approach to history would it not make more sense to draw inspiration from grassroots efforts such as the History Workshop Journal or Raphael Samuel’s remarkably capacious understanding of popular history?

The Reader need only explore Anderson’s essay on Tooze, in the ‘The New Left Review’ of September/October 2019



Mr. Tooze seems to have regained, at least a part of his composure, in this last paragraph:

In historical terms it is quite hard to think of any analogy to this moment. The Soviet Union was never as entangled with the Western economies as China is today. For all its commitment to the economic weapon and blockade, the British empire never pursued a policy as deliberately destructive of any particular commercial competitor as the one that the US has pursued against China’s Huawei. Read against the current mood in Washington, Esty’s critique of declinism and his well-meaning appeal for common sense and realism feel almost escapist. It would be comforting to imagine that America today is in a situation analogous to that of Britain in the 1950s or the 1960s, where the worst that could be unleashed is a bloody but localised postcolonial expedition. In its unipolar moment, the United States created havoc enough, in Iraq and Libya. But today the stakes are higher even than that. Rather than the Suez debacle of 1956 the relevant historical example today is the Cuban missile crisis. As tension with Russia mounts over Ukraine and with China over Taiwan, the question that overshadows our time is not American national decline, but the risk that a second Cold War might unleash a Third World War.

Philosophical Apprentice

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Neo-Conservative Bret Stephens frames his year end encyclical with War Time Winston Churchill’s quotation.

December 22, 2022

The Leadership of Churchill during WWII is not anything like the year end chatter of a Neo-Con scribbler.

Two books in Churchill offers clues as to who this man was, not as a self serving political prop:

Churchill’s Empire reviews:

“Superb, unsettling new history …. Can these clashing Churchills be reconciled? Do we live, at the same time, in the world he helped to save and the world he helped to trash? Toye, one of Britain’s smartest young historians, has tried to pick through these questions dispassionately …. Of course, it’s easy to dismiss any criticism of these actions as anachronistic. Didn’t everybody in Britain think that way then? One of the most striking findings of Toye’s research is that they really didn’t: even at the time, Churchill was seen as standing at the most brutal and brutish end of the British imperialist spectrum …. Toye is no Nicholson Baker, the appalling pseudo-historian whose recent work Human Smoke presented Churchill as no different from Hitler. Toye sees all this, clearly and emphatically …. In the end, the words of the great and glorious Churchill who resisted dictatorship overwhelmed the works of the cruel and cramped Churchill who tried to impose it on the world’s people of color. Toye teases out these ambiguities beautifully. The fact that we now live at a time where a free and independent India is an emerging superpower in the process of eclipsing Britain, and a grandson of the Kikuyu ‘savages’ is the most powerful man in the world, is a repudiation of Churchill at his ugliest–and a sweet, unsought victory for Churchill at his best.” —Johan Hari, The New York Times Book Review

“Indeed, it is not too much to say that the story of Churchill’s life is the story of his view, vision, and valiant defense of the British Empire–the duties of empire and the maintenance of empire, the idea of empire and the ideals of empire. So it is surprising that, until Richard Toye took on the task, little has been written in book form about Churchill and the British Empire …. What is not generally or popularly recognized–but rectified by Toye–is that there were many Churchillian views on empire …. Toye argues convincingly that Churchill’s views on empire were not a fixed thing–and were not designed simply to enhance Britain’s role in the world …. The Empire faded as Churchill’s life did. But there was triumph after all, perhaps even a bit of poetry. The glory of them both–Empire and Churchill–survives them both.” —David M. Shribman, The Boston Globe

“Not a conventional biography, this is a probing and thoroughly enjoyable life focusing on the contradictions and dilemmas of Churchill’s imperialism…. Even veterans of Churchilliana will find plenty of fresh material, recounted with wit and insight into a man whose values were shaped by an age that no longer existed.” —PW, Starred Review

“Toye’s central thesis is that Churchill’s beliefs and actions were less predictable and more nuanced than his rhetoric and conventional wisdom suggest…. This is a carefully researched and exceptionally well-documented book that is a welcome addition to the literature. It is not a traditional biography but more of a study of Churchill’s behavior in a central area of his career. It makes extensive use of government archives, diaries, and secondary sources. The citation of newspaper articles to underscore the broader reaction to Churchill’s actions is especially welcome. It is fascinating reading.” —Terry Hartle, The Christian Science Monitor

“A dense, forgiving study of the great British leader who was both of his time and flexible enough to transcend it…. Toye considers this enormously complicated subject with admirable equanimity.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lord Beaverbrook once said that Churchill had held every opinion on every subject and what Richard Toye demonstrates above all is that his opinions on the British Empire were anything but simple or consistent…. Toye traces Churchill’s shifts and velleities with impressive skill and erudition, using a vast range of contemporary newspapers to particularly good effect…. An important and original book.” —Piers Brendon, Literary Review

“Toye offers a nuanced portrait of Churchill as an imperialist that contradicts some of the simplistic views of him as a reactionary, Colonel Blimp-type character…. This work is a valuable contribution to greater understanding of an historical icon.” —Jay Freeman, Booklist

“Lucid and engaging…. Toye should be congratulated for steering clear of either simple apologia or political correctness. Following reviews, diaries and letters, he recreates the broad spectrum of imperialism at the time and presents Churchill’s drift into die-hard mode as a conscious move of political repositioning…. Churchill lovers will gain a clear sense of the culture and politics that has shaped his imperial outlook. At the same time, they will find a judicious account of the limitations of Churchill’s power…. Rather than yet another biography of Churchill, Toye has given us a thought-provoking, sensitive account of the nerve and muscle of empire.” —Frank Trentmann, The Daily Express

“There have been numerous studies of various aspects of Churchill’s relationship with the empire, but this is the first attempt at a comprehensive treatment in a single volume. It’s a complex and fascinating story…. What emerges from this densely argued book is that [Churchill’s] support for the empire was not for its own sake but as a means of keeping Britain itself as a factor on the world stage. As it declined, his concept of the commonwealth of English-speaking peoples as a major world force took its place. In the end, perhaps his greatest achievement was to accept the empire’s fall and dress it up as victory.” —David Stafford, BBC History Magazine

“Winston Churchill’s reputation as a hardline imperialist is questioned here…. This detailed, engaging biography dwells on the dichotomy between Churchill pre- and post-second world war: between a time he was considered almost a danger to the empire, and a time he was considered its saviour.” —Emmanuelle Smith, Financial Times

“An impressive new study…. This fascinating book shows how, during the second half of his career, that [die-hard] image came to replace the earlier picture where he appeared as a conciliatory figure–and even as a danger to the Empire he cherished and used against threats to Britain.” —John Hinton, The Catholic Herald

“The Churchill we salute as a lover of freedom and hater of tyranny muttered about kaffirs and blackamoors, and bore a lifelong commitment to subjecting swathes of the world to unwelcome British rule. How so? For answers, we may turn to Richard Toye’s excellent new book…. Toye presents Churchill as a complex, flexible, and ultimately a moral imperial thinker.” —Dan Jones, The Spectator

“Anyone with an interest in 20th-century history or in Churchill will find much that is surprising in this meticulously researched book, which is nevertheless written with great style and clarity.” —Susan Hill, The Lady

This insightful review is available if you register with https://www.jstor.org/

Reviewed Work: In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War by David Reynolds

Review by: Victor Feske

Journal of British Studies

Vol. 45, No. 3 (July 2006), pp. 708-710 (3 pages)

Published by: Cambridge University Press on behalf of The North American Conference on British Studies


After Mr. Stephens self-congratulatory framing, begins his polemic:

Two of those phrases — “broad, sunlit uplands” and “the abyss of a new Dark Age” — should ring in our ears as we approach the end of this hinge year in history.

Broad, sunlit uplands are the women of Iran tearing off their hijabs the way the people of Berlin once tore down their wall. And Ukrainian soldiers raising their flag over Irpin, Lyman, Kherson and other cities liberated from Russian barbarism. And Chinese protesters demanding — and gaining — an end to their regime’s cruel and crazy Covid lockdowns by holding up blank sheets of paper, where nothing needed to be written because everyone already knew what they meant.

And then riffs on his themes of “broad, sunlit uplands” and “the abyss of a new Dark Age” some selective quotation:

First ‘“broad, sunlit uplands” …

Broad, sunlit uplands were Emmanuel Macron’s victories over the fascistic Marine Le Pen in France.

Broad, sunlit uplands are a Covid fatality rate that, in America, no longer spikes a few weeks after case counts do.

They are the lofting of a telescope that lets us peer far into the reaches of space and back to the beginning of time.

This isn’t just a laundry list of the year’s good news. It is a demonstration of the capacity of people across cultures and circumstances to demand, defend and define freedom; to defy those who would deny it; and to use freedom to broaden the boundaries of what we can know and do and imagine.

Second :We continue to stare into the abyss of a new Dark Age

The complacent include those who imagined we could leave Afghanistan to the Taliban and suffer no wider consequences.

Vladimir Putin’s second invasion of Ukraine, on Feb. 24…

The complacent include those who thought that we could trade our way to a form of perpetual peace…

Lenin may not have said that “capitalists will sell us the rope with which to hang them,” but it’s remarkable how the point never seems to be learned by successive generations of capitalists.

In summation:

The complacent are those who think that no vital American interest is at stake in a Ukrainian victory or in the outcome of the Iranian demonstrations. Or that China’s recent travails, along with Russia’s setbacks in Ukraine, might dissuade Xi Jinping from trying to seize Taiwan. Or that a corner has been turned on inflation. Or that the surging wave of migration across the southern border, sparked by a collapse in governance throughout much of Latin America, is some peculiar right-wing obsession rather than a genuine crisis that will incite a furious populist backlash if it isn’t competently managed.

The Complacent are the Fellow Travelers, that Joe McCarthy inveighed against, with his ‘List Of Names’, so long ago. The Battle Cry of Neo-Conservatives in the Political Present, allied to the threat of the rise of ‘The Left in Latin America’ , and a possible American ‘competent management’ – in sum Mr. Stephens offers the backward glance of political nostalgia, as a balm against ineluctable facts, in a grandiloquent frame.

Political Observer

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@nytdavidbrooks celebrates the Martial Spirit, via Neo-Nazi front man Zelensky. Or the repurposing of Fourth of July picnic rhetoric!

Political Cynic comments.

Some selections from Mr. Brooks long apologetic for the Nazi Front Man Zelensky, in an almost breathless, or better yet a wan pastiche of historical style:

The cameras mostly focused on Volodymyr Zelensky during his address to Congress on Wednesday night, but I focused my attention as much as I could on the audience in the room. There was fervor, admiration, yelling and whooping. In a divided nation, we don’t often get to see the Congress rise up, virtually as one, with ovations, applause, many in blue dresses and yellow ties.

Sure, there were dissenters in the room, but they were not what mattered. Words surged into my consciousness that I haven’t considered for a while — compatriots, comrades, co-believers in a common creed.

Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians have reminded Americans of the values and causes we used to admire in ourselves — the ardent hunger for freedom, the deep-rooted respect for equality and human dignity, the willingness to fight against brutal authoritarians who would crush the human face under the heel of their muddy boots.

Zelensky was not subtle about making this point. He said that what Ukraine is fighting for today has echoes in what so many Americans fought for over centuries. I thought of John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, George Marshall, Fannie Lou Hamer, the many unsung heroes of the Cold War.

This liberal ideal has been tarnished over the last six decades. Sometimes America has opposed authoritarianism with rash imprudence — the Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Iraq.

American policy has oscillated between a hubristic interventionism and a callous non-interventionism. “We overdo our foreign crusades, and then we overdo our retrenchments, never pausing in between, where an ordinary country would try to reach a fine balance,”

Finding the balance between passionate ideals and mundane practicalities has been a persistent American problem. The movie “Lincoln” with Daniel Day-Lewis was about that. Lincoln is zigging and zagging through the swamps of reality, trying to keep his eye on true north, while some tell him he’s going too fast and others scream he’s going too slow.

For his part, Biden doesn’t fit the romantic “West Wing” fantasy that many progressives have in their heads.

The military struggle in Ukraine might turn grim in the coming months, but both men are partly responsible for a historic shift in the global struggle against brutality and authoritarianism.

I’ll skip to the last two paragraphs of Mr. Brooks’ long moralizing apologetic for Zelensky:

On his first foreign trip since the war began, Zelensky came to America. It’s a reminder that for all the talk of American decline, the world still needs American leadership. It’s a reminder that the liberal alliance is still strong. It’s a reminder that while liberal democracies blunder, they have the capacity to learn and adapt.

Finally, Zelensky reminded us that while the authoritarians of the world have shown they can amass power, there is something vital they lack: a vision of a society that preserves human dignity, which inspires people to fight and binds people to one another.

Like so many of his fellow Neo-Conservatives, Mr. Brooks has no military experience, except as an apologist for American National Security State. What Reader can forget Mr. Brook’s ‘The Collapse of the Dream Palaces’ Iraq War Propaganda with it’s hero ‘20-year-old, Joey Tabula-Rasa’ ? This was War Propaganda at it’s most dull-witted, and Mr. Brooks’ ticket to the ‘Big Time’!

Or his most recent war mongering essay of July 15, 2021 under the title: The American Identity Crisis’ The final paragraph of this essay Brooks almost bares his fangs, against what used to be named fellow travelers, like Trump, and the unnamed ‘Left’!

If we’re going to fight Trumpian authoritarianism at home, we have to fight the more venomous brands of authoritarianism that thrive around the world. That means staying on the field.

Political Observer

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@TheEconomist,’The West’, Economic Growth, Jane Austen, Barbara Cartland & ‘A serious, slow-burning malaise’.

Political Cynic wonders…

Finance & economics | First-world problems

Headline :How the West fell out of love with economic growth

Sub-headline : A serious, slow-burning malaise


This Reader has to wonder, first, at the headline, that reads as if not defined by the refined Jane Austen, one of the measures of sophisticated Oxbridridger taste, but with an exhumation of Barbara Cartland, tinctured in Neo-Liberal apologetics. And a diagnosis of the ‘West’s slow burning malaise. This marriage of literary kitsch and sobering economic doom, only encourages doubt and or provokes derision? Not forgetting that the idea/notion of ‘The West’ as a political entity dates, most recently, from the Old Cold War.

The first paragraph offers:

This year has been a good one for the West. The alliance has surprised observers with its united front against Russian aggression. As authoritarian China suffers one of its weakest periods of growth since Chairman Mao, the American economy roars along. A wave of populism across rich countries, which began in 2016 with Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, looks as if it may have crested.

A selection of highlights of the ‘Corporatist Minds’ of The Economist scribblers:

Celebration America’s Proxy War in Ukraine, weak growth in China, America’s economy roars on, A wave of populism across rich countries… looks as if it may have crested…

What follows, is screeching Neo-Liberal hysterics, featuring the threat of ‘fast-ageing populations’ which focuses on the ‘benefits’ of a Social Security, in the once enlightened Western Nation States.

Yet away from the world’s attention, rich democracies face a profound, slow-burning problem: weak economic growth. In the year before covid-19, advanced economies’ gdp grew by less than 2%. High-frequency measures suggest that rich-world productivity, the ultimate source of improved living standards, is at best stagnant and may be declining. Official forecasts suggest that by 2027 per-person gdp growth in the median rich country will be less than 1.5% a year. Some places, such as Canada and Switzerland, will see numbers closer to zero.

Perhaps rich countries are destined for weak growth. Many have fast-ageing populations. Once labour markets are opened to women, and university education democratised, important sources of growth are exhausted. Much low-hanging technological fruit, such as proper sanitation, cars and the internet, has been plucked. This growth problem is surmountable, however. Policymakers could make it easier to trade across borders, giving globalisation a boost. They could reform planning to make it possible to build, reducing outrageous housing costs. They could welcome migrants to replace retiring workers. All these reforms would raise the growth rate.

The utterly failed Neo-Liberal Project and its highfalutin ‘Globalism’, and its enlightened ‘Supply Chains’ are subject to the self-forgetting of the writers, for this publication. In thrall to the 19th Century’s Bagehot , impersonated in the political present by Adrian Wooldridge, and his hymnal to political conformity ‘The Aristocracy of Talent: How Meritocracy Made the Modern World’ offers …

The Reader has still to confront the remaining 1,297 words! What rhetorical strategy might she adopt, in the face of this self-serving rhetorical avalanche? like the intelligent gardener, a careful weeding, and/or pruning’ offers a way forward? A selection sentences from each paragraph aid The Reader in her exploration.

Unfortunately, economic growth has fallen out of fashion.

Modern politicians are less likely to extol the benefits of free markets than their predecessors, for instance.

Politicians such as Lyndon Johnson, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan offered policies based on a coherent theory of the relationship between the individual and the state.

Apathy towards growth is not merely rhetorical. Britain hints at a wider loss of zeal. In the 1970s the average budget contained tax reforms worth 2% of gdp.

Our analysis of data from the World Bank suggests that progress has slowed still further in recent years, and may even have reversed (see chart 2)

Governments have also become less friendly to new construction, whether of housing or infrastructure. Governments are spending a lot more on welfare, such as pensions and, in particular, health care.

This is likely to reflect tougher land-use policies and more powerful nimbys.

Politicians prefer splurging the proceeds of what growth exists.

Politics is increasingly an arms race, with promises of more money for health care and social protection. “Thirty or 40 years ago it was taken for granted that the elderly were not good candidates for organ transplantation, dialysis or advanced surgical procedures,” writes Daniel Callahan, an ethicist.

The above is about the drain of resources of Modern Medicine are wasted on ‘the elderly’!

People may see spending on health care and pensions as self-evidently good. But it comes with downsides.

Perfectly fit older people drop out of work to receive a pension. Funding this requires higher taxes or cuts elsewhere. Since the early 1980s government spending across the oecd on research and development, as a share of gdp, has fallen by about a third.

We have previously estimated that Uncle Sam is on the hook for liabilities worth more than six times America’s gdp.

No one cheers when a company goes bankrupt or someone falls into poverty. But the bail-out state makes economies less adaptable, ultimately constraining growth by preventing resources shifting from unproductive to productive uses.

Why has the West turned away from growth?

Yet Western populations have been ageing for decades, including during the reformist 1980s and 1990s

The above ‘ the reformist 1980s and 1990s’ i.e. the decades of the rise of The Neo-Liberal Swindle.

In 1936 Franklin Roosevelt, speaking about opponents to his New Deal, felt comfortable enough to “welcome” his opponents’ hatred. Now the aggrieved have more ways to complain. As a result, policymakers have greater incentive to limit the number of people who lose out, resulting in what Ben Ansell of Oxford University calls “countrywide decision by committee”.

FDR’s New Deal, and ‘Ben Ansell of Oxford University calls “countrywide decision by committee”… Isn’t that the very definition of the Democratic process?

The Reader has to quell her doubt, or should it be named cynicism, at the final paragraph, of this rambling exercise in bloated polemic. A ‘new direction’ is as unclear to The Economist’s committee of scribblers, as it is to The Reader.

Quite what would push the West in a new direction is unclear. There is no sign of a shift just yet, beyond the misguided attempts of Mr Trump and Ms Truss. Would another financial crisis do the job? Will a change have to wait until the baby-boomers are no longer around? Whatever the answer, until growth speeds up Western policymakers must hope their enemies continue to blunder.

Political Cynic

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