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Belmont Club

Monthly Archives: October 2009

The lighting of the beacons

October 22nd, 2009 - 4:09 am

Andrew Brown of the Guardian called the Roman Catholic Church’s offer to admit disaffected Anglicans “the end of the Anglican Communion”, describing the 1/7th of the clergy which its believes will jump ship as a death blow. If so, it is the coup de grace. The Anglican Communion has long been hemorrhaging members, fleeing from a church which many of its members believe has abandoned its traditional beliefs. Most of those who were expected to take up the Catholic Church’s offer to convert are described as social conservatives who think their community has gone too far toward embracing openly gay bishops and women priests. The Daily Mail put the indictment against the Archbishop of Canterbury plainly: he’s no longer a divine, but a politician and those are dime a dozen. “If our Archbishop spent less time fretting about climate change, he might notice the pope is about to mug him”.

it is quite possible for moderately intelligent people to listen to the Archbishop preach a sermon or deliver a lecture on theological matters and not be at all sure what he is on about. … Some will remember how not very long ago he incautiously suggested during a radio interview that officially sanctioned Sharia courts might be allowable for Muslims in this country. … Far too often he sounds like a Guardian leader writer in full flood rather than a divine.

One of his pet subjects is global warming. There may be nothing wrong with that – except that there are already many people, some of them rather more expert than he is, lecturing us about its supposed perils. Shouldn’t an Archbishop of Canterbury offer us guidance on moral issues?

But Andrew Brown’s article in the Guardian fails to see this; and he seems to think that Rome is interested in cannibalizing the Anglican church in order to become more like them; he thinks Benedict is coveting their married clergy, gorgeous liturgy and brilliant seminaries. Brown sees the move as Rome’s way of making itself more hip via the back door. It is only pretending to absorb Anglicanism, secretly it wants to follow in its footsteps.

this is a huge coup for Rome. They may not get the churches – and they certainly don’t want to have to pay for them – but they get so much more. For a start, this establishes a tradition of married Roman Catholic clergy in the west. The language, the services, and the gorgeous choral music of Anglicanism are more obviously attractive, but the real long term significance of this announcement is the talk about seminaries. …

If the former Anglicans can train up successors who will also be able to have wives, the Roman Catholic church may have found a way to escape the prospect of a largely gay priesthood to which the doctrine of compulsory celibacy appeared to condemn them. It is ironic that Anglican efforts to deal honestly with the problem of sexuality should have provided the Catholics with the excuse they needed to strike this decisive blow. God always did move in mysterious ways.

Andrew Brown doesn’t grasp the fact that the Roman Catholic Church is already late to the party. Anglicanism had already been laid low by many years of continuous attack by another, much more powerful religion. This religion had largely eaten it out from within; turned it from a regular religion into a social work organization, changed it from a proclaimer of the Gospel to what in many cases was regarded as a mouthpiece for political correctness.  This was precisely what the Daily Mail meant when it accused Rowan Williams of preoccupation with Global Warming and sounding “like a Guardian leader writer in full flood”.  The Roman Church comes as a scavenger on a field on which this powerful force stands plucking at the throat of most Christian denominations. That powerful force is a religion itself; the one world faith born in Europe and the real successor to Anglicanism as the source of official piety in Britain.  That religion is of course socialism/communism. John Gray in the New Statesman follows the ups and downs of one of the largest churches in the Western world.

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Two dramas and a third

October 21st, 2009 - 3:59 am

Buried beneath news of the “balloon boy” hoax is the story of Muslim versus Muslim attacks in Southwest Asia. The latest installment in that saga is the bombing of Islamic schools all over Pakistan. The Daily Times banners “Students Terrorised”.

* Three women among six killed in first-ever attack on students as twin suicide bombers hit Islamic University Islamabad
* 25 female students among 29 injured
* Punjab closes educational institutions indefinitely while NWFP, Balochistan and Sindh closed till Sunday

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The provincial governments on Tuesday ordered the closure of government and private educational institutions across the country following an attack on the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) in which six people, including three female students, were killed and 29 others injured.

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Somewhere in time

October 19th, 2009 - 6:12 am

Hillary Clinton’s memory failed her again. The Secretary of State claimed she mis-spoke after her claim to have stayed at the ruined hotel in Belfast was debunked by British newspapers. “Mrs Clinton told assembled politicians at Stormont: ‘When Bill and I first came to Belfast we stayed at the Europa Hotel … even though then there were sections boarded up because of damage from bombs.’” The trouble with that is it could not have happened. The Times Online reports:

The Europa, where most journalists covering the decades-long conflict stayed, was famed as Europe’s most bombed hotel, earning the moniker “the Hardboard Hotel”.

However, the last Provisional IRA bomb to damage the Europa was detonated in 1993, two years before President Clinton and his wife checked in for the night.

The last time the Europa underwent renovations because of bomb blast damage was in January 1994, 22 months before the presidential entourage booked 110 rooms at the hotel.

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Dragging through history

October 19th, 2009 - 4:34 am

Are there any military history afficionados out there who think they pretty much know it all?  Here’s a question:  which vehicle would win in a straight drag race?  An M3 Stuart or a Japanese Type 95 tank? On paper, the two armored vehicles are evenly matched for speed. In this corner, the US Stuart M3 at 14.7 tons, 250 HP Continental W-670-9A, 7 Cylinder air-cooled radial. Facing it is the Imperial Japanese Type 95 Ha-Go at 7.4 tons powered by a 120 HP Mitsubishi NVD 6120 air-cooled diesel.

Amazingly, we know the answer. Allied troops raced both of them on film right after the war. The race starts at the 7:20 mark on this video.  You might want to guess the winner before watching. No cheating now.


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By way of marriage

October 18th, 2009 - 9:14 pm

Dr Martin Stephen, the High Master of St Paul’s described how it was not enough to sit back and let British National Health Service doctors cure him of a stroke after it turned him at 56, from a “healthy professional” into a “lump of flesh on a hospital trolley”. The key to recovery, he discovered, was acting quickly and not waiting for the doctors to help. Fortunately for Stephen the experience of his father in law had blazed the trail.

The first harsh realisation was that something very bad had happened. The second was that nobody in the hospital was going to tell me how to get better (the only advice I received comprised vague noises about the need for “rehabilitation” and “exercises”). The third realisation was a consequence of the first two: I had to get out of hospital and cure myself.

Bizarrely, I owe my recovery to my mother-in-law. Her husband had received almost no help when, in 2003, he had suffered a stroke in his seventies. So she had gone on the internet – as one does at 74 – and found that major strides had been made in America in treating stroke victims. Research there showed that damaged neural pathways could be re-routed, and that a diminished signal could be sent through the outer lining of an otherwise dead nerve. The key was speed. After three or four weeks, the brain seemed to start a permanent shut-down on these pathways.

Stephen had three weeks to save what was left of his life. What he did next will horrify every modern married man. He adopted a daily program contrived by his formidable mother-in-law. She ensured that he did the following:

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Art for art’s sake

October 18th, 2009 - 7:02 pm

Shepard Fairey’s work in his own words. After the Read More.

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Honest as the day is long

October 18th, 2009 - 4:06 am

Mark Vallen looked at Shephard Fairey’s art in 2007 and argued from specific comparisons between Fairey’s work and those of others that he had simply made a career out of ripping off other and largely left-wing artists to enrich himself. What disturbed Wallen the most was that Fairey had not simply referred to other people’s works and commented on them; simply passed them off as his own. Vallen suspects that Fairey lacked the talent to even comment or add to the works he stole. He simply disguised them like a bad spray paint job on a stolen automobile.

What initially disturbed me about the art of Shepard Fairey is that it displays none of the line, modeling and other idiosyncrasies that reveal an artist’s unique personal style. His imagery appears as though it’s xeroxed or run through some computer graphics program; that is to say, it is machine art that any second-rate art student could produce.

In fact, I’ve never seen any evidence indicating Fairey can draw at all. Even the art of Andy Warhol, reliant as it was upon photography and mass commercial imagery, displayed passages of gestural drawing and flamboyant brushstrokes.

Fairey has developed a successful career through expropriating and recontextualizing the artworks of others, which in and of itself does not make for bad art. Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein based his paintings on the world of American comic strips and advertising imagery, but one was always aware that Lichtenstein was taking his images from comic books; that was after all the point, to examine the blasé and artificial in modern American commercial culture. When Lichtenstein painted Look Mickey, a 1961 oil on canvas portrait of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, everyone was cognizant of the artist’s source material – they were in on the joke. By contrast, Fairey simply filches artworks and hopes that no one notices – the joke is on you.

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An evening in Sydney

October 17th, 2009 - 8:30 am

This week I attended the posthumous launching of a book by an Australian newspaperman, who I didn’t know, except by reputation. It began with an invitation which led, as these things do, to wholly unexpected events. A friend came by and we waited at a rendezvous for gentleman who might have been eighty to join us, pooling transportation to ease the parking problem, but creating, by the by, a conveyance with such an assortment of unlikely characters that we must have resembled a clown car.

John Howard had come to launch Frank Devine’s collection of essays about the joys of growing old among those one loved, an unlikely last subject for a journalist who had spent his career covering politics. The former Prime Minister gave a speech which kept the audience laughing, talking largely about his old friend Frank Devine; about the times they had spent together at a newspaper; and of the patter Frank had kept up when Howard visited him just a few days before he died in a hospice, alive until the last. “He was the same old Frank”. I looked around the room — at the rheumy old men, the distinguished faces — and wondered what memories had gathered them together? Offices, honors and badges were perhaps the least durable of things. For most of us, the only ones who will come to the funeral will be our friends. At this last both Frank’s book and John Howard’s speech dealt with the small things. Perhaps the only lasting substance of our lives.

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Modern times

October 16th, 2009 - 10:27 pm

The Atlantic describes a man’s recurring nightmare: the possibility that oil may be found in a Western country. Aqqaluk Lynge may be an symbol of the modern world’s ambivalence over everything. To be fair, not many Greenlanders feel the way Lynge does.

Aqqaluk Lynge has a recurring nightmare: “When I’m lying awake at night, I pray we don’t find oil.” That anxiety puts Lynge, the president of Greenland’s chapter of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, a group representing indigenous people from Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Russia, in the distinct minority of his 58,000 fellow islanders, most of whom hope that a huge oil find will ensure the success of Greenland’s independence from Denmark. Roughly 76 percent of the voters in a referendum last year wanted greater self-rule; on June 21 of this year, they got it. … Then there’s the fear that Greenland could become the Nigeria of the Arctic, another victim of the so-called resource curse, in which oil wealth triggers a downward spiral toward dysfunctional dictatorship.

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Buy one take ten

October 15th, 2009 - 5:04 pm

When a society has been told for years it can have something for nothing the damage is not just physical, but psychological; an entire mentality is crippled.  A former British official who is now a director at the London School of Economics says that Britain is in deep trouble. Years of entitlement have convinced people that government is an endless source of wealth. With the economic crisis in full swing, the government has to cut back for national survival. The problem is that no one wants the music to stop. Even the intellectual class, according to Sir Howard Davies, has come to believe that any crisis can be met by simply borrowing and printing more money.

Sir Howard Davies, now Director of the London School of Economics, said Britain faces a dangerous rise in the levels of public debt – even taking into account tax increases planned for coming years.

“The next six months are going to be extremely delicate in the UK”, he told a gathering of HSBC clients in London. “It is very clear that something dramatic has to happen to control spending: but is the economy robust enough to survive fiscal tightening?” …

What is disturbing is that the British people seem unwilling to face minimal belt-tightening. Even professors in higher education are balloting to strike, demanding a continuation of boom-time pay raises. “You have the best minds in the country planning to go on strike for 8pc. People are miles away from understanding what is needed.”

Polling data shows that 48pc of the public are against any spending cuts and only 20pc see the need for retrenchment. Britons appear to assume that the “fantastic growth in public spending” over the last decade has become an entitlement.

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