We are trying to roll out a few improvements in the website during the Northern summer when things are a bit quieter. The most evident one is changing from a newsletter delivered twice a week to one delivered five times a week, Monday to Friday.
Why? For two reasons. At the moment there are too many articles in each newsletter for any of you to read. We are publishing too much! Our feeling is that it will be easier if you only have three or four articles to check out.
Second, we can probably get more hits if we send out a daily newsletter at a regular time. Sometimes we have been a bit erratic. Given our resources, it will be easier for us to be punctual with a Monday to Friday newsletter.
You know that something is a Very Important Issue if the New York Times editorial board makes a statement about it – as they have today concerning a Supreme Court ruling about buffer zones around abortion clinics. I have not yet read the editorial but the headings on the front page tell me everything I need to know. “Abortion Rights Lose a Buffer”, and “Threats faced in trying to exercise a constitutional right were ignored” – the right in question being, clearly, the extinguishing of inconvenient lives, not the right to protest and attempt to counsel peaceably against it, which the court has defended.
Interestingly, though, there’s an opinion piece alongside the editorial by the prominent liberal (Harvard) constitutional law professor Lawrence H. Tribe headed, “The Court Was Right to Allow Anti-Abortion Protests”. Something else to read tomorrow. That’s the thing about the Times; they are all out for abortion rights and similar liberal causes, but they acknowledge that thinking people have other perspectives and cater for them, at least in boutique fashion. Keeps us reading.
Abortion is one of those issues we keep coming back to on MercatorNet because it concerns one of our core values – the dignity of human life itself – and is therefore, like same-sex marriage, something we can never make peace with. In that respect we are rather like the NY Times. Today’s article by Margaret Somerville addresses the situation in Canada, which, unlike every other Western democracy, has no law at all governing abortion. But there is a very live debate about whether and what sort of law there should be.
Starting from zero to achieve some protection of the unborn child presents a completely different challenge to that faced by pro-life movements in other countries, who have fought to retain established protections. What is possible in Canada? That is the question that Dr Somerville deals with, and I believe her suggested strategy deserves a fair hearing. I am sure she will welcome constructive comments.
There’s a good mixture of other new articles on the site, but if you feel like scoffing at something to let off steam just take a look at Michael Cook’s piece on the PC pretentiousness that is Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas.
Next Saturday, June 28, will mark the 100th anniversary of the assassination of the Grand Archduke Ferdinand, the event which triggered the First World War. The next four years of grinding, murderous conflict changed the world for ever. Even today this conflict is never far from the headlines. In the 1990s the city where it all began, Sarajevo, was once again the centre of a vicious war. Today, a rallying cry of the jihadists in Syria and Iraq is repudiation of the Sykes-Picot agreement, a secret World War I protocol which created today’s borders in the Middle East.
A popular interpretation of World War I is that it was the all-but-inevitable consequence of impersonal forces – the search for new markets, colonialisation, population pressure, Social Darwinism and so on.
I’ve never found those very convincing and so I was delighted to read a new book this summer on the war’s remote causes which demolishes such theories. Margaret MacMillan, of Oxford University, argues in her hefty book The War That Ended Peace that Europe could have pulled back from the brink. But key men in high places were too stubborn, vengeful, rigid, ambitious, venal or greedy to defend the peace.
“If we want to point fingers from the twenty-first century we can accuse those who took Europe into war of two things,” she writes. “First, a failure of imagination in not seeing how destructive such a conflict would be and second, their lack of courage to stand up to those who said there was no choice left but to go to war. There are always choices.”
Please God, there will be no Third World War. Most of us will never dodge bullets. But we have all been conscripted into a cultural war over some of our deepest values, especially marriage. MacMillan’s insistence that it is men and women of character who change history for better or worse is as true today as it was in June 1914.
As someone who lives more than 18,000 kilometres, or 11,000+ miles, from her Queen (Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth) and is seldom troubled by anything she does, it was probably a bit rash of me to write today about the Spanish monarchy, which is just as far away and even less relevant to my life. But there is something irresistible about the idea that that there are still kings and queens other than Elizabeth in Europe and that they occasionally do something dramatic, like abdicate or ascend the throne.
The passing of the Spanish throne from King Juan Carlos I to his son Felipe VI is such an occasion, accomplished this week on the very day that the Spanish soccer team lost to The Netherlands – something that clearly was not meant to happen after their great win last time. (“Cemetery of Kings,” read one Spanish headline yesterday of the World Cup defeat, according to a New York Times report.) The euphoria of a football win would have provided a terrific start for the new King – good try, Spanish Royals, sorry it didn’t come off.
Anyway, in spite of everything I think I am a royalist, and on top of that I am pro-Spanish. There is so much that is vibrant and attractive in the culture that I really want to see the country strong again – and that is the reason I have stuck my neck out and offered some tips to King Felipe.
BTW I asked the editor whether he thought it was a good topic and he replied, Yes. (Actually, he said, “Royalty sells.”) Then he wrote this: “My plan is constitutional reform so that Princess Mary of Denmark (born and raised in Hobart) will become Queen of Australia so that we will not have to curtsey before that dreadful Charles.” It sounds unlikely, I must say, but I agree with the sentiments…
In March and April 2003 an allied coalition led by the United States invaded Iraq to topple an appalling dictator, to neutralise weapons of mass destruction and to crush al-Qaeda. Iraqi soldiers melted away and within a few weeks, the Coalition had occupied Baghdad.
Eleven years later, Iraqi soldiers have melted away and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, a group more appalling than Saddam Hussein and more vicious than al-Qaeda, is approaching the gates of Baghdad. It’s a most dismaying spectacle. Did 5,000 coalition troops and somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 Iraqis die in vain?
Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister who sent his country’s troops into Iraq, says that it wasn’t his fault. “We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this. We haven't … The problems of the Middle East are the product of bad systems of politics mixed with a bad abuse of religion going back over a long time.” Nothing to do with us, nope, not at all.
I’m afraid that my sympathies are with Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, and a contender for the Tory leadership. He responded in the London Telegraph: “In discussing the disaster of modern Iraq he made assertions that are so jaw-droppingly and breathtakingly at variance with reality that he surely needs professional psychiatric help.”
The disaster zone which is Iraq (and Syria) today is a monument to the tragedy of good intentions. It was quite foreseeable that the tensions which built up under Saddam would explode with the force of an nuclear bomb when he was vanquished. It was negligent beyond belief for the Coalition to assume that ancient hatreds would subside as soon as the defeated Iraqis were delivered relief parcels labelled “freedom” and “democracy”.
I realise that this is a contentious issue with no easy solutions. Leave your comments here…