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Friday, May 22, 2015

U.S. and Israel Have Worst Inequality in the Developed World By Times Of Israel

U.S. and Israel Have Worst Inequality in the Developed World

By Times Of Israel

When it comes to inequality, Israel is second only to the United States among developed nations, an OECD report says.

Blueprint of the PNAC Plan for U.S. Global Hegemony

Blueprint of the PNAC Plan for U.S. Global Hegemony

By Bette Stockbauer

Some people have compared it to Hitler's publication of Mein Kampf, which was ignored until after the war was over.

WPR Articles May 18, 2015 - May 22, 2015

World Politics Review

Editors Note

The Islamic State directs brutal propaganda at Western audiences, but uses much subtler messaging in the territories it controls. As Tyler Golson writes this week, much of its local propaganda focuses on the mundane—setting prices at markets and fixing potholes and streetlights—to normalize life under the caliphate. This media strategy “underscores a key strength of the Islamic State—namely, the banality of its coercion.”

In his feature this week, W. Jonathan Rue explains how Congress and the Pentagon have chosen to game the system when it comes to defense sequestration, inflicting more damage on the military. “The mindless mechanism that was designed to be so ludicrously stupid that it would force the White House and Congress to make tough decisions in the overall federal budget,” he writes, “has nevertheless failed to force the Pentagon and Congress to make hard choices in the defense budget.”

And in our new country report, Siobhán Brett looks at Ireland, where, after years of brutal austerity, the economy appears to be improving, but not everyone is experiencing the recovery.

Coming up on WPR: Carrie Manning on political tensions in Mozambique, Peter Salisbury on Yemen’s anti-Houthi factions and, in our next feature, Lisa Sachs and Nicolas Maennling on beating the commodities cycle.

Frederick Deknatel, Associate Editor

WPR Articles May 18, 2015 - May 22, 2015

Foreign NGOs Hamstrung by Indian Funding Regulations

By: The Editors | Trend Lines
Last month, India canceled the licenses of 9,000 charities and NGOs for failing to declare information about foreign donations. In an interview, Noshir H. Dadrawala, CEO of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy, discussed the relationship between foreign NGOs and the Indian government.

Latin America Weighs Risk and Rewards of Shale Revolution

By: Paul Shortell | Briefing
Latin America faces difficult choices as it looks to expand its nascent shale gas and oil industry. With approximately one-fourth of the world’s recoverable shale oil and gas reserves, the region is poised to reap the benefits of fracking, but it must weigh those against local resistance and environmental risks.

Yemen Coalition Provides Cover for Aggressive New Saudi Foreign Policy

By: Frederick Deknatel | Trend Lines
Saudi Arabia’s coalition against Houthi rebels is one thing in theory and another in practice, with Saudi forces doing the vast majority of the fighting, as airstrikes resumed across Yemen Monday after a brief cease-fire last week. The coalition gives Riyadh multilateral cover for its aggressive new foreign policy.

Under Pope Francis, Vatican Flexes Its Global Political Muscle

By: The Editors | Trend Lines
Earlier this month, the Vatican concluded a treaty that recognizes the state of Palestine, immediately drawing criticism from Israel. In an interview, John L. Allen Jr., an associate editor at Crux and expert on Vatican affairs, discussed the Holy See’s foreign policy under Pope Francis.

Ethiopia’s Suspenseless Elections Obscure Ruling Party Rivalries

By: Charles Schaefer | Briefing
Ethiopia’s elections Sunday look like a foregone conclusion: a one-sided victory for the longtime ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. Amid the stifling of opposition and signs of internal rivalries, most Ethiopians remain focused on the country’s economic boom.

Can Putin Rebrand Russia as Stabilizing Force in Ukraine, Syria?

By: Richard Gowan | Column
Vladimir Putin looked a little isolated on May 9, when world leaders largely stayed away from Moscow’s parade commemorating the end of World War II. But since then, Angela Merkel has gone to Moscow for talks, and John Kerry has visited Putin in Sochi. Putin may not be globally popular, but he is no pariah.

Islamic State’s Local Propaganda Key to Understanding Appeal

By: Tyler Golson | Briefing
To maintain support in Iraq and Syria and abroad, the Islamic State has developed a sophisticated local propaganda strategy across its territory. Unlike the savage propaganda designed to terrify Western audiences, the group’s local messaging focuses on the familiar and banal to normalize life under the caliphate.

Mexico’s Energy Reforms Must Address Indigenous Concerns

By: Alexis Arthur | Briefing
President Enrique Pena Nieto has touted the potential for unprecedented levels of investment in Mexico’s overhauled energy sector. Yet the energy boom could negatively impact Mexico’s indigenous communities. New government laws, critics say, give preferential treatment to private development over community rights.

New Advances Challenge Old Truths About China’s Nuclear Posture

By: Richard Weitz | Column
This year’s U.S. Defense Department report on Chinese military power details significant advances in Beijing’s nuclear forces. China’s nuclear capabilities have long been consistent with a minimal deterrence doctrine, but recent developments should lead us to revisit old truths about its nuclear posture.

Shell Game: Congress, the Pentagon and Defense Sequestration

By: W. Jonathan Rue | Feature
When Republicans took control of the U.S. Congress last year, some in Washington believed that defense spending caps imposed in 2011 would be loosened, and the threat of sequestration repealed. But Congress and the Pentagon prefer to game the system, inflicting more damage on the military.

Djibouti Cultivating Diverse Economic, Military Partnerships

By: The Editors | Trend Lines
China is in negotiations with Djibouti to open a military base in the country, adding to its current roster of French, U.S., Japanese and EU military facilities. In an interview, David Styan, lecturer in politics at Birkbeck College, University of London, discussed Djibouti’s foreign relations.

France’s Hollande Exploits Political Openings to Deepen Gulf Ties

By: Bruno Tertrais | Briefing
French President Francois Hollande’s triumphal visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia earlier this month took advantage of Arab displeasure at current U.S. policy in the region. But a look at the history and nature of France’s Gulf ties makes it clear that the honeymoon period could end up lasting.

The Real Iraq War Debate’s Lessons for U.S. Foreign Policy

By: Michael A. Cohen | Column
More than 12 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq, it seems we’re no closer to learning the lessons of what may be the most ill-conceived war in American history. Case in point: the current debate playing out on the U.S. presidential campaign trail over whether the invasion was a good idea.

BRICS Still Have a Long Way to Go From Grouping to Alliance

By: Frida Ghitis | Column
Ever since the BRICS grouping was coined in 2001, its members have been trying to transform their snappy acronym into a global player. And nobody has promoted that ambition more enthusiastically than Vladimir Putin. The problem is that not all BRICS members share his antipathy toward the West.

Scandals Upend Bachelet’s Reform Agenda—and Chile’s Political Class

By: Eric Farnsworth | Briefing
Elected in a landslide to institute social reforms, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has instead faced increasing political turbulence. On May 6, she asked her entire Cabinet to resign in order to breathe new life into her political agenda. It isn’t just Bachelet; Chile’s entire political class is on notice.

For Hint of Iraq’s Future, Take Another Look at Vietnam War

By: Steven Metz | Column
Although it was common to hear ominous warnings of “another Vietnam” as Iraq devolved into insurgency in 2004, many soon concluded that the Vietnam analogy did not apply to Iraq. But Iraq’s unraveling over the past year suggests the Vietnam conflict may provide indications of Iraq’s future after all.

The Five-Minute Commencement Speech

The Five-Minute Commencement Speech

Or, what IR theory can teach you about living a happy and productive life.

The new bin Laden documents prove the al Qaeda chief stayed engaged in international terrorism — and wasn't under house arrest

The new bin Laden documents prove the al Qaeda chief stayed engaged in international terrorism — and wasn't under house arrest

Basically unaffordable Replacing welfare payments with a “basic income” for all is alluring, but expensive

Free exchange

Basically unaffordable

Replacing welfare payments with a “basic income” for all is alluring, but expensive

American Innovation Lies on Weak Foundation

American Innovation Lies on Weak Foundation

Banks Are Now Pleading Guilty to Crimes. So Why Aren’t They Being Punished Like Criminals?

Banks Are Now Pleading Guilty to Crimes. So Why Aren’t They Being Punished Like Criminals?

irst Japanese reactors prepare for restart

irst Japanese reactors prepare for restart
Japan's nuclear regulator has approved Kyushu Electric Power Company's 'construction plan' for unit 2 of its Sendai nuclear power plant. The company hopes to restart unit 1 of the plant in July, with unit 2 following within months.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey request $2B in U.S. military equipment deals

Saudi Arabia, Turkey request $2B in U.S. military equipment deals
Washington (UPI) May 21, 2015 - U.S. Foreign Military Sales program deals are in the works to provide multi-mission helicopters to Saudi Arabia and upgrades to Turkey's Phalanx weapon systems. The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which is in charge of the FMS program, told Congress in its required notification that the two proposed deals have been approved by the State Department and are worth a combined tota ... more

US to sell bombs to Israel, helicopters to Saudis

US to sell bombs to Israel, helicopters to Saudis
Washington (AFP) May 20, 2015 - The United States said Wednesday it plans to sell thousands of bombs and missiles to Israel as well as 10 Seahawk helicopters to Saudi Arabia, in deals worth about $1.9 billion each, officials said Wednesday. The US State Department informed Congress of the proposed arms sales to two allies in the Middle East that are both wary of Washington's negotiations with Iran over Tehran's nuclear pro ... more

Japan PM unveils $110 bn plan for Asian infrastructure

Japan PM unveils $110 bn plan for Asian infrastructure
Tokyo (AFP) May 21, 2015 - Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday a $110 billion investment plan for infrastructure projects in Asia in an apparent counter to China's move to launch a new development bank. Abe said in a speech in Tokyo that Japan and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will boost their assistance by 30 percent to offer the massive investment aid under a five-year public-private partnership ... more

Obama equates Israel’s creation to African-Americans gaining right to vote

Obama equates Israel’s creation to African-Americans gaining right to vote - See more at:

The Week with IPS 5/22

   2015/5/22 Click here for the online version of this IPS newsletter   

A Chimera in Growing Cooperation Between China and Brazil
Mario Osava
A total of 35 agreements and contracts were signed during Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang’s visit to Brazil, as part of the growing ties between the two countries. But there is one project that drew all the attention: the Transcontinental Railway. The railroad will stretch over 5,000 km from ... MORE > >

Germany’s Asylum Seekers – You Can't Evict a Movement
Francesca Dziadek
In a move to take their message of solidarity to refugees across the country and calling for their voices to be heard in Europe’s ongoing debate on migration, Germany's asylum seekers have taken their nationwide protest movement for change on the road under the slogan: “You Can't Evict a ... MORE > >

Climate Change: Some Companies Reject ‘Business as Usual’
A. D. McKenzie
When it comes to climate change, business as usual is simply “not an option”. That was the view of Eldar Saetre, CEO of Norwegian multinational Statoil, as international industry leaders met in Paris for a two-day Business & Climate Summit, six months ahead of the next United Nations Climate ... MORE > >

Pakistan’s Streets Kids Drop the Begging Bowl, Opt for Pencils Instead
Zofeen Ebrahim
Khalil Ahmed's life story sounds like it could have come straight out of the plot of a Bollywood flick, but it didn’t. And that makes it all the more inspiring. Residents of the sleepy town of Gambat, 500 km from the Pakistani port city of Karachi, where Ahmed was an all too familiar face, may ... MORE > >

The U.N. at 70: Time to Prioritise Human Rights for All, for Current and Future Generations
Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin
Seventy years ago, with the founding of the United Nations, all nations reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, and in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small. The commitment to fundamental human rights that was ... MORE > >

Lessons from an Indian Tribe on How to Manage the Food-Forest Nexus
Manipadma Jena
Scattered across 240 sq km on the remote Niyamgiri hill range in the eastern Indian state of Odisha, an ancient tribal group known as the Dongria Kondh have earned themselves a reputation as trailblazers. Having fought – and won – a decade-long battle with a British mining giant that invested ... MORE > >

U.N., World Bank Set 2030 Deadline for Sustainable Energy for All
Thalif Deen
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, an unrelenting advocate of sustainable energy for all (SE4All), once dramatised the need for modern conveniences by holding up his cell phone before an audience in the Norwegian capital of Oslo and asking: “What would we do without them?” “We are all dependent on ... MORE > >

Latin America Must Address Its Caregiving Crisis
Fabiana Frayssinet
As in the rest of the world, the care of children, the elderly and the disabled in Latin America has traditionally fallen to women, who add it to their numerous domestic and workplace tasks. A debate is now emerging in the region on the public policies that governments should adopt to give them a ... MORE > >

Development Threatens Antigua's Protected Guiana Island
Desmond Brown
In June 2014, Gaston Browne led his Antigua and Barbuda Labour Party to a resounding victory at the polls with a pledge to transform the country into an economic powerhouse in the Caribbean. In their first 100 days in office, Prime Minister Browne’s Cabinet approved a number of private ... MORE > >

“Megaprojects” Can Destroy Reputations in Brazil
Mario Osava
Megaprojects are high-risk bets. They can shore up the government that brought them to fruition, but they can also ruin its image and undermine its power – and in the case of Brazil the balance is leaning dangerously towards the latter. As the scandal over kickbacks in the state oil company ... MORE > >

Opinion: Edinburgh University Bows to Fossil Fuel Industry
Kirsty Haigh , Eric Lai , and Ellen Young
The University of Edinburgh has taken the decision to not divest from fossil fuels, bowing to the short-term economic interests of departments funded by the fossil fuel industry, with little to no acknowledgement of the long-term repercussions of these investments. The decision, which was ... MORE > >

Murders of Gays Raise the Question of Hate Crimes in Cuba
Ivet González
During the events surrounding the eighth annual celebration of the Day Against Homophobia in Cuba, it emerged that a young transsexual had recently been killed in the city of Pinar del Río near the western tip of this Caribbean island nation. While efforts to combat discrimination against ... MORE > >

“Swachh Bharat” (Clean India) Requires a Mindset Change
Prerna Sodhi
“Swachh Bharat”, or Clean India, is a slogan that most Indians today associate with the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his first nation-wide campaign launched soon after taking office in 2014. The call has definitely awakened popular consciousness on cleanliness but whether citizens ... MORE > >

U.S. Officials Debate Expanding the War Against the Islamic State
by Lara Jakes
A U.S.-led coalition is grappling over how to fight the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed allies in Libya and beyond without taking its eyes off Iraq and Syria.

Who’s Part of the Islamic State? Depends Whom You Ask.

A U.S.-led coalition is grappling over how to fight the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed allies in Libya and beyond without taking its eyes off Iraq and Syria.

Provoking Beijing in the South China Sea Will Only Backfire on Washington

Provoking Beijing in the South China Sea Will Only Backfire on Washington
by Feng Zhang
When China declares an Air Defense Identification Zone in the South China Sea, the United States will have only itself to blame.

US architect of Iran economic isolation warns sanctions could backfire

US architect of Iran economic isolation warns sanctions could backfire

Former administration official predicts Washington’s favourite foreign policy tool will eventually be turned against the US

Thursday 21 May 2015 |
Richard Nephew, a former senior US official who was instrumental in constructing the global sanctions wall around Iran, is now warning that Washington’s fondness for sanctions as a foreign policy tool could have serious repercussions for the US.
Nephew is now at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs where he has produced a paper on The Future of International Sanctions in a Global Economy. It argues that the US, as the world’s sole superpower, has been able to exploit an asymmetric advantage in imposing economic sanctions, but that advantage is fast eroding and it is time to rethink:
As with the use of cyber warfare and drone strikes, the United States may find in the future that, having created a precedent that targeted sanctions are an appropriate response for all circumstances determined by the United States unilaterally, it is facing similar measures against its own companies, banks, and citizens.
In other words, the US is in danger of becoming Frankenstein and sanction’s its monster. Nephew said in a phone interview:

A New Turkish-Saudi Thaw is Helping Rebels in Syria and Worrying Washington

A New Turkish-Saudi Thaw is Helping Rebels in Syria and Worrying Washington

Why Bob McDonnell’s Bribery Conviction Should Be Affirmed

Why Bob McDonnell’s Bribery Conviction Should Be Affirmed

by Matthew Stephenson
One of the most high-profile public corruption cases in the United States in the last couple of years (and alas, there’s some competition for that honor) is that of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell—a case that both Rick and Jordan have written insightfully about before. Governor McDonnell was convicted of violating federal anti-corruption laws by accepting cash, loans, and lavish gifts from a local businessman, Jonnie Williams, in exchange for helping Mr. Williams secure research studies of his dietary supplement product at state institutions. Governor McDonnell’s assisted Mr. Williams' efforts by arranging meetings, recommending that other state officials meet with Mr. Williams about his product (using language indicating that Governor McDonnell supported and encouraged use of the product), and encouraging state officials to arrange for the research studies sought by Mr. Williams.
Governor McDonnell appealed his conviction, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit heard oral arguments in his appeal last week. (I can’t find a written transcript online yet, but you can listen to an audio recording of the argument here.) The governor’s primary argument on appeal is that he did not violate the relevant federal statutes because he did not perform any “official acts” on behalf of Mr. Williams. Interestingly, Governor McDonnell’s appeal has attracted support from a broad range of criminal law experts, including my Harvard Law School colleagues Professor (and retired Judge) Nancy Gertner and Professor Charles Ogletree. Judge Gertner and Professor Ogletree, along with Virginia Law School Professor John Jeffries, filed an amicus brief contending, in essence: (1) the things that Mr. Williams got from Governor McDonnell were not specific government decisions, but rather “access and ingratiation,” which do not count as “official acts,” and which the Supreme Court has said are not corrupt; (2) the broader definition of “official acts” accepted by the trial court (and reflected in its jury instructions) would render the anti-bribery statutes at issue so broad and vague as to violate constitutional Due Process rights.
Judge Gertner, Professor Ogletree, and Professor Jeffries are among the most distinguished criminal law experts in the United States. They have decades of experience practicing and writing about these issues at the highest levels, whereas I’m a comparative novice in this area, with zero practice experience. If they think one thing, and I think another, it would probably be a smart bet that they’re right and I’m wrong. All that said, I disagree quite strongly with the analysis in their brief.
A blog post is not the place to get into a detailed discussion of the nuances of the law, and this issue may seem rather parochial, especially to our non-American readers. But I actually think that the main problems with the Gertner-Ogletree-Jeffries (GOJ) brief stem from an important conceptual confusion that has implications well beyond this case, and perhaps outside of the U.S. as well. So with full recognition that I’m risking personal embarassment in advancing what might turn out to be a misguided critique, let me explain why I found the GOJ brief (and Governor McDonnell’s lawyer’s arguments along the same lines) unconvincing: Read more of this post

Israel's new deputy foreign minister: 'This land is ours. All of it is ours'

Israel's new deputy foreign minister: 'This land is ours. All of it is ours'

Tzipi Hotovely gives speech to Israeli diplomats in which she says she will try to achieve global recognition for West Bank settlements

Iraq enlisted 100,000 militiamen to fight ISIL and now it can barely control them

Iraq enlisted 100,000 militiamen to fight ISIL and now it can barely control them

BAGHDAD—With traffic on the Republic Bridge snarled up for half a mile and lunchtime fast approaching, the two pickup trucks chock full of armed men in desert camouflage decided they could stand the wait no longer. Mounting the sidewalk, they sent pedestrians scattering as they barreled towards one of the many checkpoints designed to stymie Islamic State (ISIL) suicide bombers in the Iraqi capital.

Islamic State 'seizes key Syria-Iraq border crossing'

Islamic State 'seizes key Syria-Iraq border crossing'

BBC | 22 May 2015 |
Islamic State militants have seized the last Syrian government-controlled border crossing between Syria and Iraq, a Syria monitoring group says.
Government forces withdrew from al-Tanf - known as al-Waleed in Iraq - crossing as IS advanced, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said.
The loss of al-Tanf to IS follows the group's takeover of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra on Thursday.
The US says that fighting the militants will be a "difficult challenge".

Theology for the Laity: The Eighth Commandment: Thous Shall Not Bear Fals Witness Against your Neighbor

The Rosary Light & Life - Vol 68, No 3, May-June 2015

Theology for the Laity

The Ten Commandments: Part Nine
The Eighth Commandment
"Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor"

As we have seen in our reflections on the fifth, sixth and seventh commandments, these precepts are presented as negative rules, but they urge us to embrace positive attitudes and actions in our relations toward one another. Our Baptism is a Baptism into Christ's Body, the Church. This sacrament gives us to one another, and we must respect the gift we have received, and reflect the one who has given it. When it considers the link between these essential truths and the eighth commandment, Our Catechism observes,
The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. This moral prescription flows from the vocation of the holy people to bear witness to their God who is the truth and wills the truth. Offenses against the truth express by word or deed a refusal to commit oneself to moral uprightness; they are fundamental infidelities to God and, in this sense, they undermine the foundations of the covenant. (CCC, 2464pa)
Throughout the gospel, the evangelists portray Jesus as the embodiment of God's truth. He, himself, says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life," (Jn. 14:6) and this truth sheds God's light upon the world and provides the example for all our actions. If we consider the matter, this is no more than we should expect of beings created in God's image: if we look like God, we ought to act like God. Mark Twain, somewhat cynically observed, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything." In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expresses the notion somewhat more nobly when he teaches, "Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more comes from evil." (Mt. 5:34)
Before we continue, we might do well to ask what truth is. The dictionary defines truth as "Conformity to fact or actuality." St. Thomas Aquinas teaches, "...truth resides primarily in the intellect, and secondarily in things as they are related to the intellect as their principle." (ST, 1, 16.1)
This is somewhat abstract, so let us consider the example St. Thomas uses, which is that of a house. The house is "true" to the extent it corresponds to the image in its architect's mind. Likewise, in the natural and moral sphere, God knows what things ought to be - whether they are rocks or moral principles. Individual things are true to the extent they correspond to the ideal vision of the object in God's mind. We have little difficulty identifying "true" rocks; moral truths, however, which are fundamental to our relations with one another, may, at least occasionally, be somewhat more difficult to determine.
And yet, this is the challenge and goal of our humanity. Our Catechism teaches, "Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it." The text turns to Dignitatis Humanae, one of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, which states,
It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons...are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth. (CCC, 2467)
The Catechism then provides synonyms for truth, "truthfulness, sincerity, or candor. Truth or truthfulness is the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation and hypocrisy."
We may take these notions for granted, but if we consider hypocrisy, which the dictionary defines as "maintaining or pretending to maintain attitudes or beliefs we do not actually hold," we quickly realize that truth is an absolutely essential element in the foundation of our social relations. Written contracts may bind individuals to perform certain actions, but the simplest daily interactions would be impossible if we could not rely on one another to tell the truth.
We see the immense value of truth when we consider the part it plays in every decision we make. Before we perform any act, we judge the act and its consequences against the truth of the action as we perceive it. If we have been misled, we cannot - ever - make an informed decision. This is a fate dreadful to consider in our natural, social and commercial transactions. Its spiritual consequences can be fatal.
Our Catechism turns to St. Augustine when it teaches, "A lie consists in speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving." (CCC, 2482) The text adds,
Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring a man's relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of a man and of his word to the Lord. (CCC, 2483)
St. Thomas Aquinas distinguishes among three types of lies. The first is the officious lie, told for convenience, in which no one is harmed. Here we might think of the excuses we invent for turning down an invitation we do not wish to accept, or (in past times, when a simpler world relied on more primitive telecommunications) a parent's instructing a child to tell a telephone solicitor, "I'm sorry, my parents aren't home." The second sort of lie is the jocose, told for amusement, or in which one exaggerates: "The fish was this big."
The third sort of lie, the meretricious, is a true lie. Such a lie generally provides the teller no benefit, but does harm to the person to or about whom it is told. The serpent's lie to Eve is a perfect illustration of this sort of lie. No one will be surprised to learn we judge the gravity of a lie by the quality of the truth it distorts, the intentions of the individual who tells the lie, and the ills suffered by those against whom the lie is told.
The Book of Proverbs warns, "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who utters lies will perish." (Prov. 19:9) To lie in public is no small matter; to lie under oath, in a courtroom, is perjury, a particularly serious offense against the eighth commandment. One who commits perjury is probably not considering what a misuse of God's gift the act represents, but we must not forget we were given the ability to speak to maintain order and harmony. To do otherwise "...contribute[s] to the condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or the increased punishment of the accused...." (CCC, 2476)
We need not enter a courtroom, nor even speak aloud, to see the damaging effects of lying. Any act that destroys another's reputation violates the eighth commandment. Such actions include
  • rash judgment, which assumes - without proof - someone has done wrong
  • detraction, which is telling the faults of another to those who have no reason to know the information
  • calumny, which is lying about another, and causing others to form false negative opinions of the individual.
"Honor is the social witness given to human dignity, and everyone enjoys a natural right to the honor of his name and reputation and to respect." (CCC, 2479) The Catechism here repeats a theme we have frequently seen in our discussion of the commandments: God's law is given to protect the social bonds that unite us. Truth is no more than we deserve; it is also an expression of Justice and Charity. Justice is the virtue by which we give each person what she or he has a right to. The virtue of Charity is our wish for another's good. Rash judgment, detraction and calumny deprive another person of justice, and certainly manifest no charity toward the individual.
The Catechism identifies other, subtler forms of lying, which include flattery, adulation and complaisance. All three are acts by which we strive to make ourselves agreeable to another person by distorting the truth about that individual. If we seek nothing more than a favor another person can grant, none of these acts is particularly harmful. However, each of these actions has the potential to become gravely sinful if it approves another person's immoral behavior, or if our effort to gain another's favor incites us to take part in someone else's immoral activity.
Regard for truth means we must take practical steps to repair any damage we may have done by lying. If the lie was public, the reparation ought to be public. And if the individual suffered harm as a result of a lie, she or he should be compensated for it in some way. An apology is a good place to begin the process of amendment, and is the very smallest step we can take to restore the Justice and Charity that ought to characterize our relations with one another.
While we may never lie about another person, or about a particular situation or event, we may not always be obliged to share whatever truth we may know. Priests, for example, may never reveal what they have heard in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Doctors, lawyers and other professionals are bound, to some extent, by similar codes. The Catechism expresses what ought to be no more than common sense when it states,
Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it. (CCC, 2489)
Modern technology provides nearly endless possibilities for the transmission of information, but with this promise comes a corresponding responsibility. Those who employ social media must embrace the challenge to use it carefully and respectfully, handing on information that is true - and complete. Here, too, however, the value of Justice and Charity must be taken into account and weighed against the apparent good of shared knowledge. We must ask whether the prize of being first to announce news is worth the possible cost of another's reputation.
We have said that Justice is the virtue by which we give to each person her or his due. This begins in our relations with God, to whom we turn in the prayer that is nothing more than He deserves. Our embrace of Justice continues in our witnessing our faith, which is acting to establish the truth or to make it known. We accomplish this in diverse ways, beginning with public worship and taking an active role in our civil society.
The highest witness to the faith, of course, is martyrdom, and a martyr's death is the highest tribute one can pay to Christ. Jesus gave His life for us, so Justice obliges us to offer our lives in return. Whether we are called to make the heroic sacrifice of martyrdom is God's decision, but our Baptism calls us to recall that death is the price of our resurrection. The martyrs are the noblest of our companions on our spiritual quest, and the Catechism pays them immense tribute when it says, "[Their lives] form the archives of truth written in letters of blood."
The poet John Keats ended his "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by observing, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." Our Catechism observes this connection between truth and beauty when it observes
...truth carries with it the joy and splendor of spiritual beauty. Truth is beautiful in itself. Truth in words, the rational expression of knowledge of created and uncreated reality, is necessary to man, who is endowed with intellect. But truth can also find other complementary forms of human expression, above all when it is a matter of evoking what is beyond words: the depths of the human heart, the exaltations of the soul, the mystery of God. (CCC, 2500)
God expressed His infinite imagination when He created the universe. We, who have been created in God's image, share in His creativity when we use our artistic talents to reveal and reproduce God's truth in the sights and sounds we perceive. We may not immediately connect art to the virtues of Charity and Justice, but consider what we have said about these virtues. Justice consists in rendering each person what is due. If our art reveals some truth about God's creation, we have performed a just act. Likewise, if a work of art draws someone closer to God, we have achieved the goal of Charity, which is to will the good of another.
The eighth commandment demonstrates a truth we have often observed in these reflections: once we begin to study, we may discover an unexpected world. Who would have imagined God's commandment to avoid lying could lead us to a consideration of art? And yet, both are rooted in a regard for truth, which, in turn, reveals our commitment to Justice and Charity.
We should hardly be surprised to find Mary our example of truth. In the Litany of Loreto, we honor her as "Mirror of Justice" and "Virgin Most Merciful." Her life on earth, from Cana to Calvary, was devoted to seeing that those she encountered received what she could provide them - even if this were no more than her tears. And our faith assures us she devotes her eternity in heaven to seeking our good. Her Rosary is a powerful tool for uniting our will to hers; let us embrace this gift and allow her devotion to truth to become our own.

All original material Copyright © 2015, Dominican Fathers / The Rosary Center, Portland, Oregon.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

America’s Self-Inflicted Wounds

Political dysfunction is doing serious damage to U.S. economic power.

Will the United States remain the most powerful country in the world? Many think not. Those who feel this way also tend to think that China’s ascent will lead to America’s decline. Harvard professor Joseph Nye, who is not a declinist, begins his new book Is the American Century Over? noting that “in recent years, polls showed that in 15 of 22 countries surveyed, most respondents said that China either will replace or has already replaced the United Sates as the world’s leading power.” Its giant landmass and billion-strong population, combined with rapid economic, social, and military progress over the last few decades, make China an obvious candidate to overtake the United States as the primary shaper of world affairs. But the attention in the United States to China and other foreign threats obscures an important fact: America’s diminishment as a world power may be driven as much by the fraying of its domestic politics and chronic institutional gridlock as by the rise of rivals abroad.
Several recent developments reveal how political and institutional fragmentation in the United States has produced self-inflicted wounds for the U.S. abroad. In all of these instances, America’s ability to exercise economic power in the world has been deliberately curtailed through decisions made unilaterally in Washington by American political leaders.

Tased Motorist to CBP Agent: 'What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?'

Tased Motorist to CBP Agent: 'What the Fuck Is Wrong With You?'

Would-be CBP agent gets the full CBP treatment at an internal checkpoint.