Ireland decides to close their embassy to the Vatican

Will they continue to send the weekly checks?
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

Catholic Ireland’s stunning decision to close its embassy to the Vatican is a huge blow to the Holy See’s prestige and may be followed by other countries which feel the missions are too expensive – and useless, unproductive.

The closure brought relations between Ireland and the Vatican, once ironclad allies, to an all-time low following the row earlier this year over the Irish Church’s handling of sex abuse cases and accusations that the Vatican had encouraged secrecy…

This is really bad for the Vatican because Ireland is the first big Catholic country to do this and because of what Catholicism means in Irish history,” said a Vatican diplomatic source who spoke on the condition of anonymity…

Over time, this will be seen as only the first of many departing a seat at the foot of the papal throne.

Dublin’s foreign ministry said the embassy was being closed because “it yields no economic return” and that relations would be continued with an ambassador in Dublin.

The source said the Vatican was “extremely irritated” by the wording equating diplomatic missions with economic return, particularly as the Vatican sees its diplomatic role as promoting human values…

Promoting human values? Only if your values are stuck into the 14th Century, your concern for your flock is cemented in 19th Century politics.

Dutch leaving Afghanistan as pledged. Government falls.

Light at the end of this tunnel

A day after his cabinet collapsed, the Dutch prime minister says he expects Dutch troops to end their mission in Afghanistan in August as expected.

If nothing else will take its place, then it ends,” Jan Peter Balkenende told Dutch television.

The cabinet fell after the two largest parties failed to agree on a Nato request to extend the tour of the almost 2,000-strong Dutch contingent…

Dutch troops have been stationed in Afghanistan since 2006. They should have returned home in 2008, but their deployment was extended by two years because no other Nato member state offered replacements.

In October, the Dutch parliament voted that the deployment must definitely end by August 2010.

Mr Balkenende’s government had not endorsed that vote, and the finance minister and leader of the Labour Party, Wouter Bos, demanded an immediate ruling from the prime minister.

When they failed to reach a compromise during marathon talks that continued into the early hours of Saturday, Labour said it was pulling out of the coalition.

Later, Mr Balkenende said there was no common ground and offered his cabinet’s resignation…

Reflect upon the principles involved in these political acts – and their absence from American and British government.

It starts with multi-party coalitions. Which the two TweedleDeeDum American parties are united to fight come Hell or high water. They will not allow multiple choice answers to logjam politics.

Then, they have a parliament that acts in democratic fashion – no filibusters, no procedural crap guaranteeing fence-sitting – to establish goals and then stick to them.

Followed by a head of government who lives up to that democratic vote even when he’s diametrically opposed to it – because that’s his job, his responsibility.

BTW – Expect to see and hear any discussion of this event on TV talk shows, today?

Marines’ Iraq command ends

The Marines marked the end of nearly seven years in Iraq on Saturday by handing the Army their command of Anbar province, once one of the war’s fiercest battlefields but now a centerpiece of U.S.-Iraqi cooperation.

The changing of the guard — overseen by military brass and some of Anbar’s influential Sunni sheiks — signals the start of an accelerated drawdown of American troops as the U.S. increasingly shifts its focus to the war in Afghanistan…

But fears are growing about a possible resurgence in sectarian tensions — fed by the Shiite-dominated government’s plans to blacklist more than 500 parliamentary candidates over suspected links to Saddam Hussein’s regime…

The White House worries the bans could raise questions over the fairness of the March 7 parliamentary election, which is seen as an important step in the American pullout timetable and a way to break political stalemates over key issues such as dividing Iraq’s oil revenue…

As many as 25,000 Marines were in Iraq at the peak of the fighting, mostly in Anbar province. Fewer than 3,000 remain. All but a handful of those will ship out in a matter of weeks.

The Marines’ extended stay in Anbar went against the grain of the Corps’ usual role as a fighting force designed to quickly seize territory and then turn it over to the Army to maintain control from fixed bases…

If all goes as planned, the last remaining Marines will be followed out by tens of thousands of soldiers in the coming months. President Barack Obama has ordered all but 50,000 troops out of the country by Aug. 31, with most to depart after the parliamentary election in March.

The remaining troops will leave by the end of 2011 under a U.S.-Iraqi security pact.


Another election, another debacle for New York Republicans – UPDATED

Dede drops out – and the national Republican Party was no real help

While GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava’s abrupt withdrawal Saturday from the Nov. 3 House election in upstate New York came as a surprise, it shouldn’t have — over the past decade or so the New York Republican Party has emerged as the political gang that couldn’t shoot straight, an operation so inept that it’s sometimes hard to believe it exists in the nation’s third-largest state.

The collapse of Scozzafava’s campaign—and the quick rise of the national conservative revolt sparked by her nomination—is simply the latest calamity to befall the New York GOP and an illustration of the utter ruin into which the state party has fallen. In just a few short years, the party’s presence in state politics has dwindled to the point of extinction-or irrelevance.

Little more than a decade ago, Republicans controlled the governor’s mansion, the state Senate, one of two U.S. Senate seats, 13 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and the New York City mayor’s office.

Since then, though, the GOP has declined at a steady and accelerating pace. Today, the party has virtually no presence in the congressional delegation-it controls just two of the state’s 29 House seats at the moment. It lacks a single statewide elected officer and represents only a minority in both chambers of the state Legislature-the first time since the New Deal that New York has had a Democratic governor and legislature. In 2006, in an open governor’s race, the Republican nominee failed to win even 30 percent of the vote…

Former Rep. Sherry Boehlert, an upstate centrist who saw his seat flip to the Democratic column after he retired in 2006, sounded a bleak note earlier this week when asked about the special election.

It probably says to a lot of people who are registered Republicans, maybe I should reconsider my registration,” Boehlert said. “I think, from a Republican standpoint, it would provide further evidence for some that there doesn’t appear to be any room in the Republican Party for people who are moderate in their thinking.”

No surprise to me. New Mexican Republicans retained exactly NO seats in our Congressional delegation during the Obama election. The only moderate Republican trying to stay incumbent was beaten in a primary by a right-winger – who proceeded to lose to a Democrat.

The sole important seat acquired since has been mayor of Albuquerque a few weeks ago – with a moderate Republican candidate in an election with the turnout at 25% of registered voters – who got 44% of the vote in a 3-way race against an incumbent trying for a 4th term.

Republican candidates for the next governor’s race have included the former overseer of Guantanamo Bay prison.

UPDATE: Dede endorses the Democrat, Bill Owens, and Newt indulges his hindsight.

Withdrawal from Iraq to start with 12,000 troops

Daylife/AP Photo

The number of troops in Iraq will drop by 12,000 over the next six months, the U.S. military says.

Two brigade combat teams and their support units will redeploy without being replaced, reducing the number of combat teams in Iraq from 14 to 12, the statement said. An additional 4,000 British troops will also be transferred from Iraq without replacement, the statement said…

“You all know about a week ago, the president outlined some milestones and some definitions of [our] mission as we operate with regards to the security agreement,” Coalition spokesman Maj. Gen. David Perkins told reporters Sunday at a Baghdad, Iraq, news conference with an Iraqi government spokesman. “That agreement has all U.S. forces withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2011. That is still our goal, and that is what we are working toward.”

Obama said the troops remaining in Iraq would take on an advisory role in training and equipping Iraqi forces, supporting civilian operations in Iraq, and conducting targeted counterterrorism missions.

This month marks the sixth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq.

Japan to withdraw from Iraq by year’s end?

Japan has said wants to withdraw its remaining military personnel from Iraq by year’s end, wrapping up an overseas mission that had pleased Washington but divided this pacifist nation.

Defense Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said the country was negotiating a withdrawal of its small military airlift mission because of the improved security situation in Iraq. He said the Iraqi government had asked for a reduction in the presence of foreign military.

However, the future of the Afghan mission is also in question as the law currently authorizing it comes up for renewal in January. Renewing the law may prove difficult because the opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, which controls the upper house of Parliament, is against renewal.

Perhaps – just perhaps – the ruling politicians in Japan will begin to listen to their citizens. If they do, they’ll have a headstart on the United States.

Iraqi PM backs Obama’s withdrawal plan

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki told a German magazine that he backed a proposal by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months.

“U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months,” he said in an interview with Der Spiegel. “That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” he said…

“Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business. But it’s the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that’s where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited,” he said.

The interview’s publication came one day after the White House said President Bush and al-Maliki had agreed to include a “general time horizon” in talks about reducing American combat forces and transferring Iraqi security control across the country.

The Bush administration has steadfastly refused to consider a “timetable” for withdrawing troops from Iraq.

That’s a clear cutting-edge difference between “timetable”, “time frame” and “time horizon”. Right?

Jokesters will have fun with White House [and McBush will follow] flip-flops. As they rightly did with the drag-ass decision to actually sit down and talk to members of the Iran [gasp!] government.

What we’re witnessing is a last-gasp attempt by a cadre of losers who recognize their lies and deceit must finally be tempered by a jot of reality. The nutballs who own the Republikan Party still hope to maintain a chunk of control in Congress in the coming election – even if it means developing a new set of lies to counter the contempt of voters.