tisdag 31 maj 2011

Strange music in the liturgy

Went to Mass on Sunday "somewhere in the south of England". The choir showed real talent, pity about the music, mostly from the 1970s, some written by P*** I*****. Rumty-tumty stuff, OK for listening to whilst half-asleep in a park deckchair, not quite the thing for the Sacrifice of the Mass. Afterwards there was an opportunity to to try out a setting for the new English translation which comes into use later in the year. I don't know who the composer was but the style would have been right for a TV ad for some washing powder.

Adaptations of the Gregorian settings for the Ordinary of the Mass might just work with the new English translations. Some of the Swedish settings for the Mass are simple adaptations from the Gregorian music originally written for the Latin texts and these are very acceptable. They were done in the first place for the Lutheran church, presumably just after the Reformation, and the Catholic church borrowed them when the vernacular was permitted after Vatican 2.

Things go wrong when contemporary composers try to be original and modern. It rarely works. If composers fail to come up with decent settings for the new English settings, the obvious answer is to sing the Ordinary in Latin to the original Gregorian settings. But it would be a pity if competent adaptations of the Gregorian settings did not emerge in the next few years now that we have a reasonable set of English texts.

torsdag 26 maj 2011

The trouble with democracy

Democracy is presently being presented as the highest value. It was not the view put in Plato's Republic - where it was argued that democracy is a step on the path to tyranny.

The difficulty with democracy is that it demands an electorate composed of voters who are mature enough to vote for any candidate other than the ones who appeal to their selfish short-term interests.

In practice, it seems that elections actually produce a worse result than random selection of representatives.

Anyone who thinks they can represent their constitituents should be allowed to put themselves on a list for selection by lot. The only qualification should be that they live in the area they wish to represent. Remuneration could be tied to a civil service grade.

We already accept the principle of random selection for jury service, so why not for government?

onsdag 25 maj 2011

Life joins advisory panel.

The predominantly Catholic "Life" organisation has been invited to join a new sexual health forum set up to replace the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV. Stuart Cowie, Life's head of education, said: "We are delighted to be invited into the group, representing views that have not always been around on similar tables in the past." In contrast, the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) has been omitted from the forum despite its long-term position on the previous advisory group and 40-year track record in providing pregnancy counselling nationwide.

Predictably, the report on this in the Guardian has brought forth a tirade of objections in its Comment is Free columns.

Occasionally surprising people do something right, in this case the UK coalition government. Why abortion is seen by "progressive" people as a good thing rather than serious violence against women and their bodies is a question that still calling for an answer. It is also surprising how so many who regard themselves as broad minded and tolerant can react vituperatively when their own views are challenged. And the BPAS appears not to be quite what its name would suggest, since, reputedly, its default position is to encourage the termination of unwanted or unplanned pregnancies, which is a strange kind of pregnancy advice.

söndag 15 maj 2011

Denmark introduces border controls

For Denmark to introduce border controls with Sweden is an exercise in self-harm. Many Danes live in the southern tip of Sweden because of lower house prices and they commute to Copenhagen to work. They are the ones who will be put to trouble and inconvenience. The Öresund region has been developing as a single integrated economic unit since the bridge was opened 10 years ago, a development further enhanced by the construction of the Malmö city tunnel which opened last December.

Sweden has received waves of immigrants since the end of the war, successively from Finland, Yugoslavia, Greece, South/Central America, Poland, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The earlier immigrants were predominantly Christian/Catholic and have generally integrated well, the church itself being an important means through which integration has taken place.

The later immigrants have been predominantly Muslim and it seems that they have not integrated will, with high levels of unemployment and crime. The reasons for this are complex, but one of them is that a substantial and conspicuous minority of them have no respect for the local culture, customs and religion, and no desire to integrate. However, the same is true in Denmark so one wonders who is trying to keep out whom?

The problem of unintegrated immigrants has a strong economic component. Wage-related taxes in both countries are high, which adds to employment costs. In Sweden this is aggravated by extra high VAT on services such as restaurant meals, thereby crippling the very industries where immigrants might have had the best chance of establishing themselves in employment.

There is a general need to establish an alternative model for raising government revenue so that public services and a welfare state can operate sustainably. The left in particular must recognise that it is time to get rid of the job-destroying taxes which have been the main source of funding for the welfare state for the past 60 years.

söndag 8 maj 2011

LibDems now dead meat

The LibDems are, at last dead meat. This was inevitable from the time the Liberals mated with the Social Democrats. The party never had a coherent philosophy as a base from which to work. But the Liberals had long before forgotten what they were about, and that was why they could slip into their empty partnership.

There is nothing the LibDems can do to make itself credible. It attracts nice people but, as a party, it has always lacked a coherent ideology and without that it has no driving power and no sense of direction. This did not matter so very much as long as it was merely a local force.

Those in the LibDems who do have a coherent vision now need to refine that and set something up from scratch. What the country needs is a party founded on the principles of the Liberals of 100 years ago. I was going to say they need to be updated, but they do not, as the same problems still need to be dealt with. I have no great hopes that any such grouping will emerge, but would like to be proved utterly wrong.

Will Hutton should read the paper he writes for

Will Hutton, has written a piece in the Observer, arguing that Britain needs an economic vision. He should read the Guardian more. The economic vision starts with the ideas of Henry George as explained in articles such as this one.


This policy was embedded in the constitution of the Liberal Party but it forgot about it after world war 2, lost its way and embraced Keynes. From there it was a logical step towards the soggy centre of social democracy, and was always vulnerable to be blown in any direction. Guided only by notions of fairness and a desire to be nice people (and most of its members seem to be), the LibDems, lacks any firm principles to which it can hold on to and was bound in the end to be sucked into whatever project one or other of the big parties was running at the time, as it happens, the neo-libertarian tory one.

lördag 7 maj 2011

No win for UK

Shocking that the country has thrown away the opportunity for much needed reform by using the referendum as an chance to kick a dishonest politician. But the £ has been rising sharply on the foreign exchange markets over the last 48 hours, so perhaps the result has given confidence to somebody that Britain is moving in the right direction.

The death of civilised debate

The Guardian has been steadily reducing the number of articles on which comments are allowed. On the newspaper’s web site, which used to ap...