27 November 2017   Leave a comment

On this day in 1095, Pope Urban II called for a “crusade” against Muslims occupying what he considered the “holy places” of Christianity.  He ordered Christians to retake those lands because “Deus vult!” or “God wills it!”.  Christian pilgrims had been traveling to these areas since the 6th Century, but when the Seljuk Turks occupied Jerusalem in 1042 the city was closed to Christians.  When the Turks threatened the Byzantine Empire, its leader, Alexius I, appealed to the Pope for help.  At the Council of Clermont Pope Urban gave a rousing speech which was not transcribed, but in one of the five versions of the speech written down by others, he exhorted the faithful in this manner:

“All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins. This I grant them through the power of God with which I am invested. O what a disgrace if such a despised and base race, which worships demons, should conquer a people which has the faith of omnipotent God and is made glorious with the name of Christ! With what reproaches will the Lord overwhelm us if you do not aid those who, with us, profess the Christian religion! Let those who have been accustomed unjustly to wage private warfare against the faithful now go against the infidels and end with victory this war which should have been begun long ago. Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians. Let those who have been serving as mercenaries for small pay now obtain the eternal reward. Let those who have been wearing themselves out in both body and soul now work for a double honor. Behold! on this side will be the sorrowful and poor, on that, the rich; on this side, the enemies of the Lord, on that, his friends. Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses; and as soon as winter is over and spring comes, let hem eagerly set out on the way with God as their guide.”

Both the faithful and the merely opportunistic responded to the call, and the Crusades, which sealed the enmity of Christians and Muslims for centuries, began and lasted until 1291.

The Council of Clermont


One of the more interesting changes in US President Trump’s foreign policy is the shift from being very critical of China as a candidate to a more benign attitude after his meeting with Chinese President Xi in April. There really has not been any change in China’s trade policies which were Mr. Trump’s main concern as a candidate.  Moreover, there is little evidence that North Korea’s nuclear policies as a result of China’s influence with the country, although there is always the possibility that China has exerted pressure which is not easily comprehensible.  Zack Beauchamp has written an article for Vox which suggests that one possibility for the change is Mr. Trump’s admiration for strong leaders such as Russian President Putin.  President Xi certainly fits that profile but that seems to me to be a small price to pay for being able to continue trade and investment policies which can hardly be described as “free”.

Presidents Trump and Xi in April 2017


“In an economic climate where the top 1% own half the world’s wealth, a new analysis by Credit Suisse suggests that millennials in several advanced economies are likely going to face the worst income inequality of any generation in recent memory. The report, which focuses on the US, Germany, France, and Spain, shows that millennials are generally saddled with more student debt, less inherited money, and stricter mortgages than previous generations. At the same time, a lucky few are set to become spectacularly wealthy, widening the already large gap between rich and poor.”
This inequality will not automatically “correct” itself.  It can only be corrected by political action focused on redistribution.  The natural tendency of the market is to further concentrate income and wealth as suggested by Thomas Piketty in his book, Capital in the 21st Century.

Posted November 27, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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