The Hip Father Francis

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Hi everyone,

Pope Francis has been moving the world and although I, myself, am not Christian, the Catholic Church is a force to be reckoned with, so I thought I would look into what have these guys (literally) been up to.

The Pope has published a new teaching and since it is over 250 pages it is probably safe to call it a book (though not THE book). It is called “The Joy of Love” and it has a lot to say about sex, marriage and divorce (surely speaking from personal experience). Some of the main points include acceptance of divorcees to the Church, acknowledgment of alternate lifestyles and I dare to say a call for moderate modernisation of the Church. That all sounds great, however, it also clearly rejects the institution of same-sex institutional marriage and condemnation of the notion “safe sex”. Some of it seems quite contradictory, so for heaven’s sakes (pun intended) what is happening in the Catholic Church right now.

In my humble opinion the Pope has much more radical personal views than what he can reasonably say out loud. There has been an incident during his visit to the US that is illustrating that well. While there he met with his former student who happens to be gay and his partner. The private meeting was requested by the student and the Pope seemed more than happy to accept (there was some hugging involved I hear). At the same time during the same visit, one of the Catholic cardinals set up a meeting with Kim Davis (i.e. radical anti-gay public servant) which the Pope was not so happy about and soon after the cardinal was transferred.

To draw an analogy from this incident to the Church, it looks like the Pope would like to push for a more substantial change in the structure, but also must concede too the old school clergy that is very much in power of the administration. It is like a marriage of reason. The administration needs to improve their image and boost decaying Christianity around the world and the Pope wants to make a real change. Given enough time and opportunity he even might achieve that.

Lastly let’s also note that while the Pope is famous and popular, his voice doesn’t hold much sway in Protestant communities and various sects around the world that amount to roughly 40% of all Christians. Most importantly it is mainly those sects that perpetuate the hatred produced by people like Kim Davis.

Michael

APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION PUBLICATION

Other articles you might be interested in :

The American problem with NATO https://thinknewsblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/the-american-problem-with-nato/

The Chinese distrust of Xi-topia https://thinknewsblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-chinese-distrust-of-xi-topia/

How the Czech republic did not change its name

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Hi everyone,

recently a story broke out about the Czech republic wanting to change its name and it is has been misreported by all major outlets including The Economist and BBC or Wikipedia (shocking right ?).

The Czech republic did not change its name in any way. The Czech foreign minister Zaoralek requested adding a new name to the UN list of names of member countries. The official name did not and will not change. It is still the Czech republic.

Here is to why he made such a request. Foreigners tend to call people from Czech republic “Czech” which is correct, but it is also an adjective (and adjective only) and that results in a very frustrating questions like “so you are from czech ?” which is equivalent to asking “I guess you are from English or Arabic ? In a nutshell, I assume the foreign minister and the officials in the government who frequent international meetings have had enough of being called an adjective.

Now I would like to turn to why they picked Czechia. Historically, the country is a compound of lands of the Czech crown that are Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia. Logically then based on the pattern we get “Czechia”. Bohemia is the western half of the country and the other two share the rest. Bohemians are the majority of the Czech nation and that is also where the capital Prague is. People from Bohemia region colloquially call the whole country by a word that translates as Czechia (despite Wikipedia saying otherwise), ignoring the other regions. In the same way Moravians do not usually identify as Czech people, but as Moravians and ignore the rest. Unfortunately for them, Prague lies within Bohemia and majority of the government is Bohemian, so of course they will pick a term that is used in their colloquial speech and that talk of “confusion” you hear in the news are voices of people from the other two regions who, of course, don’t agree. Some people might also suggest using Bohemia, but in old French and older English that is the term for “gypsies” so it would essentially be like calling the country “gypsyland”. I guess that is why it didn’t make the cut. Some also suggested including Moravia in a joint name, but that was already done during Hitler’s occupation, so probably we don’t want to revisit that.

To close the matter, even if the new name added to UN name list sounds funky or confusing or whatever, it is at least a NOUN and it solves more problems than it brings, since it is a friendly nudge (not an official name change) to you all who, understandably, don’t know how the Czech language works or don’t understand what an adjective is.

Michael

P.S. “So you are from English ?” I mean really… how annoying is that.

 

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Other articles you might be interested in :

The Hip Father Francis https://thinknewsblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/22/the-hip-father-francis/

The American problem with NATO https://thinknewsblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/the-american-problem-with-nato/

The American problem with NATO

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Hi everyone,

politicians from both parties in the US have professed many opinions on NATO in the past few weeks. I think a European perspective is due.

First of all, dear Republicans please stop using Europe as an excuse for enacting your own insane policies (European mismanagement of ghettos is really not the reason to oppress your own citizens with police bigotry mr. Cruz). It was you who started the war in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Vietnam and what is Europe dealing with now is the result of your war on terror.

Secondly, when talking Republican let’s look at the claim that NATO is obsolete as proposed by mr. Drumpf. The North Atlantic Alliance was indeed created in post-WWII Europe in order to protect Western Europe. Without NATO the Soviet Union would easily take over the west as quickly as it did of the east. At the time US presence was vital, because weakened Europe, destroyed by war, would not stand a chance alone. It is true that the US then payed the majority of the bill. Let’s not forget though that the US rarely does anything selflessly. The Cold War was a geopolitical conflict featuring the Soviet Union and the US as the main stars of the show. Therefore the US had a vested interest in NATO. I am not afraid to say that it has so today too. The US and Russia are not friends. The Cold War is not over. It has just turned into a clandestine operation involving few more players. It doesn’t matter whether they fight a proxy wars in Syria or bully each other’s ships in the Baltic sea. Since 1993 the Russian Federation has involved itself in numerous conflicts either directly or indirectly in places like Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. The one thing these places have in common is that they are not in NATO. Russian aggression is real and undeniable, so calling NATO obsolete is ludicrous. If Ukraine was in NATO it would never have to face the current situation. Of course you can ask : why doesn’t Europe do something about it then ? Why does it need America ? Russia controls over 140 million people that can be all rallied up towards one goal (Soviet Union has shown that). Europe is fractured among dozens of nations, many of which have only several million inhabitants and each need to follow it’s own democratic processes. That is why Europe alone cannot involve itself in such large scale conflicts.

There was another claim from Senator Sanders that European NATO members should pay more and the USA should not pay 70% of the budget. There is some debate over what the percentage is. There are in fact three separate NATO budgets and the US pays about 22% to each which then adds up. In 2013 the US payed 66,6% of the total budget. Now that surely sounds unfair. After all, EU has 28 members so we should put up more of the budget, but there is also another number to consider. Total population of EU is about 508 million people. US population is roughly 316 million. Now, call me crazy, but the 66% of the budget doesn’t sound that inappropriate. Major European countries like UK, France or Germany do put up a significant amounts of money and so the problem lies with all the small countries. If you have just couple of million people you cannot even dream of defending yourself against 140 million strong Russian bear and so it doesn’t really feel right to put so much money into the army. Nevertheless, there are many small countries that have great military budgets and therein lies the problem, because instead of NATO we are putting money into our personal armies which is money well-embezzled of course. So what Europeans should do is to change the way money going to the army is spend, not to increase the volume. Point taken Senator Sanders.

In the end, the US have much bigger geopolitical interests than the Baltic states for example. The Baltic states just want to be safe and not to end up like Ukraine (It has a reason to worry, Russia historically have always had a fetish for owning small countries around its borders). The US wants to be the world leader and all parties use NATO’s might appropriately, so I think there is really no debate about usefulness of NATO or even who should pay more.

Michael

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The Chinese distrust of Xi-topia

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Hi everyone,

since there has been lots of China talk this recently, I would also like to take a swing at it. There have been several articles produced by The Economist that I think deserve putting together, because the big picture we get is quite interesting.

For some time already our Chinese big brother has been slowing down and that is a hard sale for the Chinese propaganda. If you are over 40 years constantly told how awesome your leaders are and how fabulous the economy is and slapped every year with the huge growth it is probably hard to believe that a slower growth will be just as good. China has hopped onto the emotional roller coaster that we call free markets quite recently and so they are utterly unfamiliar with its ups and downs. So when they found out it is not always going to be just easy peasy lemon squeezy they started to panic, which made us panic too, which made them panic even more. You catch my drift. Then the government ran in with the magical anti-depressant-like regulation that as we all know are only a temporary fix since, just as with regular anti-depressants, if you want them to work you need to raise the dose.

So what’s the girl (i.e. China) got to do. Uncle Xi (yes that is what they call him) has a plan. Of course. Just like every proper Communist autocrat he is China’s fix-it-all guy. President Xi is also called the chairmen of everything, because he seems to have under his control all key resorts and committees. I mean that wouldn’t have to be so bad if Xi actually knew something about free market economy. Which he doesn’t. None of his policies were particularly successful. As The Economist probably correctly pointed out Papa Xi is a tremendous politician, the most powerful since Mao in fact, but tedious in coming up with some real solutions. It seems like the Chinese businesses have picked up on that.

This year has seen a massive increase in Chinese takeovers of foreign companies. It has amounted up to $100 billion which is a huge number even by international standards. Now, let us think about why would they do that so suddenly. The first explanation at hand is to make profit and destroy the competition. I do not think that that is their only motive. As shown by The Economist these Chinese companies are making huge debts in China in order to take over foreign companies. The cash flows in from Chinese banks backed by the government which in turn makes it look like a safe deal so the companies do not have an issue with debts as high as 70% of their equity. That is particularly high in western terms, but it doesn’t seem to scare off western banks like Credit Suisse or HSBC either. Having the Chinese government footing the bill in case something goes wrong is probably very enticing.

Let me draw an analogy here with the 2008 crisis in the USA. The USA at the time had and still has banks that are simply too big to fail. Therefore if trouble comes up the government has no choice, but to bail them out. That is what happened in 2008. Doesn’t that sound like a familiar scenario ? China certainly would never copy any product of the US, right ? What if this sudden expansion by Chinese businesses abroad is basically nothing else than transfer of capital out of hands of the government and safeguarding it against the collapse of the Chinese economy ? I am not claiming that the economy will fail, but with tightening restrictions, regulation and erratic moves of ever-powerful Uncle Xi one should not be surprised that the Chinese businesses are giving themselves a way out. In case their domestic market fails the money will be safely out of the system and in western businesses and the Chinese government will be kicked to the curb. One must ask who is then going to pay for the massive debts that Chinese banks and the government have ? Wouldn’t HSBC and the rest of the gang be affected too ?

In my humble opinion the collapse of China (which is a real possibility considering how the government steers the economy) would mean a forced visit to the good old 2008 train. I am just not convinced that we have enough to pay for the ticket this time round. I have no doubt the US will suddenly be too busy to pick up the phone.

Michael

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Obama’s Nuke-free World Failure

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Hi everyone,

with the Nuclear Security Summit happening I thought to myself : What better way to end the week than prophecy of nuclear disaster. That’s at least what our Mondays usually feel like, right ?

Shortly into his presidency Barrack Obama presented his vision of nuke-free and safer world. With the Iran deal going on, undeniably, we have made some progress towards that. This summit should be a victory march for the administration (or a lap, i guess, since the table at NSS is round-shaped), but it is not so. If fact it is rather a disappointment from one reason specifically. Russia did not bother to come. Sure, there are 56 attendees including all of the nuclear nations, but here’s the thing. Nuclear material is like bed bugs, if you don’t get them all at once, it is like you never tried.

According to some reports Russia owns up to 8-10’000 nuclear warheads (5000 in the most modest estimates) and who knows how much nuclear material in total. It is surely awfully nice of them to bring it down from Soviet era’s 40’000 pieces and vow to non-proliferation and dismantlement, but, as we should already know, Russia finds putting money where its mouth is very difficult (I guess that is justifiable now when their economy is collapsing and the rouble is becoming junk). Traditionally any Russian institution that is not solely devoted to lining pockets of the regime receives low funding and that includes institutions that take care of Russian nuclear material. As stated in CIA  report from 2002 just in the 90s Russia lost at least 2 kg of highly-enriched uranium and who knows how much of it has gone missing since, considering the classic Russian love for transparency. I am not an expert, but i’d say that having any amount of enriched uranium unaccounted for is probably not a good thing.

The fact supporting my assumption that the issue of safety of Russian nuclear material hasn’t been solved and is very much on the table was presented by Rose Gottemoeller (U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security) in his remarks to the Nuclear Security Working Group at the NSS 2016 in Washington. Undersecretary Gottemoeller (I guess names of people and their positions at work must match in complexity) mentioned in his speech cases of smuggling of uranium in Moldova and Georgia from 2010 and 2011. I guess it’s clear where the uranium came from and keep in mind those are only the cases we found out about.

Russia has pretty much unrestricted influence over the region containing Georgia, Moldova and parts of Ukraine and without its full cooperation illegal smuggling will never be stopped and the world will never be nuke-free. That is why I would call Nuclear Security Summit a failure. Just like Huckleberry Finn only imagined being in a band of robbers and robbing fortunes, President Obama is just imagining his nuclear-free world.

To end on a positive note I would also like to mention one fruitful effort by the U.S., UK and EU. A landmark swap of nuclear material has been negotiated. UK will ship 700kg of its uranium to U.S. and the U.S. will send back its nuclear waste that will be then converted in France into material useful in diagnosis and treatment of certain kinds of cancer. At least if we cannot make the world safer it is a good thing that we are at least making it healthier.

Michael

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