Yesterday, January 27th was Holocaust remembrance day. This is a day when we come together to remember the victims, not only of the Nazi atrocities but from genocides around the world. It is fitting then that President Trump signed the executive order suspending the US refugee programme (already the most stringent in the world) and banning entry from 7 countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – for 90 days. Not just barring entry for those with criminal records, or if they’re on a watch list but completely.
You see the Executive order was written so poorly it doesn’t distinguish between Mohammed al Mohammed el Mohammed bin Bazir the terrorist, and Mohammed al Mohammed el Mohammed bin Bazir the person with dual citizenship. Two Iraqis with valid visas are currently in the “green room” of JFK airport and have already announced they will sue citing the suspension of due process. CAIR and ACLU have also announced their intention to sue stating the exemption of Christians amounts to a “religious test”.
Trump and the spineless coward that is Paul Ryan claim this is a preventative measure to keep America safe, it completely ignores the fact that between 1975 and 2015 no refugee from those 7 states engaged in a terrorist attack, not only that but the report from the Cato institute found that no one with any family ties to those 7 states carried out a terrorist attack.
However, the same set of statistics show that nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by citizens from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey in the same time period — with the bulk of those killed being victims of the 9/11 attacks.
What is noticeable is the fact Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Lebanon aren’t on the list despite the fact the 9/11 hijackers all came from there, not only that but Trump’s vast business empire have links to those countries that should be on the list but aren’t. This all confirms what we have suspected and what the ethics department in Washington predicted, that Trumps businesses which he refuses to put into a blind trust and has instead invented a multi layered amount of bullshit (and a stack of blank pages that could form part of his wall) is a factor in his decision making.
This ban amounts to a complete betrayal of America’s founding principles and also her actual founding. America is the country built by immigrants, the American dream is that you can come to it with nothing and reach the top, to create a better life for your children that you yourself had as the plaque beneath the statue of Liberty says:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
It seems that everyday the papers are filled with an “Outrage”. Since it’s September it’s the beginning of the “Ban the poppy/Christmas” outrage bus, but it’s now at the point where an “outrage” is simply something as innocuous as a tweet*.
Take for example the “outrage” over a tweet Owen Smith sent back in April:
Yea it’s not exactly up there in terms of funny but at the beginning of September the Corbyn supporters found it and latched onto it as an example of how sexist and misogynistic Owen is. The Gobstopper is obviously a reference to shutting Sturgeon up especially since it was the campaigning for the local elections (one Labour did exceptionally well to avoid a total collapse/ won more than anyone ever has hail Corbyn!) so in context it’s hardly up there with something like this, which by the way is a perfect example of being a sexist waste of skin:
.@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man- he made a good decision.
Now for something I never thought I’d do with less than a week until the election results are due, I’m about to defend Jeremy Corbyn.
I’m not a fan or Jeremy anymore and my reasons are scattered throughout this blog and twitter. It all started on Sunday, a day when campaigning across the board ceased to remember the events of September 11, 2001. Amongst the posts from politicians expressing sorrow and remembrance was this from Jeremy:
My thoughts are with those whose lives were shattered on 9/11/2001 – and in the wars and terror unleashed across the globe in its aftermath
It’s an inevitability that anything Jeremy was going to post that day was going to be leapt upon his past associations and comments, not to mention his Director of Communications being the person who immediately blamed the US and once said the murder of Lee Rigby wasn’t terrorism because he was a soldier (then there’s the praising Stalin stuff) meant that it was going to be open season. Naturally a lot of people were annoyed that he had shoehorned some anti western sentiment into a sombre moment or that he was using it to score cheap political points (the irony of then using Jeremy scoring cheap points, to score cheap points was immediately lost)
But here’s the thing.
Is it really *THAT* offensive or outrageous?**
Many think that it simply wasn’t the right time to mention the aftermath of 9/11 but then they can never answer the question “then when is?” without giving the same answer “anyday but this”. The problem is I fundamentally disagree. In the 15 years since 9/11 we’ve went to war in Afghanistan, thrown lives and resources trying to bring order to a land that proved the downfall of the greatest empires in history, we’ve left behind a broken country in Iraq, where lawlessness, sectarianism, and now ISIS which rose from the ashes of the insurgency in Iraq controls vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. There’s been attacks in London, Madrid, Brussels, Paris, Nice, Tunisia, Bali, Baghdad, Mosul, Moscow, Kenya, Texas, Boston, Cologne, and many of which have their origins in the aftermath of 9/11.
Then there’s the argument of “Think about their families” well what about the Familiy of 13 year old Mohammed Tuaimanor the families of those killed in Yemen when a drone strike hit a wedding ceremony?
I think the issue is this has resulted in a war that hasn’t ended. In 3 months when people stop to remember the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor people will be thinking about the attack, the loss of life and some will think about what happened after, the remembering the victims in the aftermath comes in May and August with VE and VJ day. A day when we stop, fall silent and remember those who died in the battles that followed (for Americans at least.) There’s no single moment in the War on Terror where we can stop and think of everything that has happened after, there’s no VGWOT day.
I think it’s also important that we do remember the aftermath, how as a people once the dust settled we began to fight back, badly. 15 years and the only notable victory was the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Afghanistan is slowly falling back into the hands of the Taliban, Syria and Iraq are on fire, Libya is a mess, Egypt is in the middle of a brutal crackdown. If we don’t stop to remember what happened and what came next we’re bound to make the same mistakes, we relegate the “War on Terror” as a separate beast to 9/11 and disassociate what we’ve done after as a response to it. We doom ourselves to forget the lessons and if it were to happen again we’re bound to make them again.
As James Joyce wrote in ‘Ulysses’ “History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.”
At the end of the day Jeremy is vehemently anti-war, he was well within his rights to highlight what came next, we should never forget 9/11, the peaceful bright morning shattered by the sound of jet engines.
*As a caveat I’m not saying that all tweets aren’t worthy of outrage, I mean Donald Trump’s feed is testament to just how awful it can get and the less said about Katie Hopkins the better.
** It’s not like he wished his enemies a happy 9/11, I mean you’d have to be a grade A asshole to do tha- DAMMIT DONALD!
Beheadings have become commonplace in the territories held by the militant Islamic State, but the severed head reportedly found last month in the eastern Syrian city of Al-Mayadeen was nevertheless unusual.
It had a cigarette placed between its lips.
“This is not permissible, Sheikh,” someone had scrawled in Arabic on the decapitated corpse lying nearby, according to an account from the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a pro-opposition monitoring group. The body and head belonged to an Islamic State official, a deputy police chief.
From consuming alcohol to cursing, vices of all types are frowned upon by Islamic State.
But it is the militants’ injunction on smoking, in a region rife with chain-smokers and water-pipe aficionados, that may be the hardest habit to kick. (About half of Syrian men and one in 10 women smoke, according to the World Health Organization.)
Shortly after the group’s takeover of large swaths of Deir Elzur province in eastern Syria, Islamic State began to close tobacco shops and shutter the ubiquitous water-pipe cafes.
Although smoking is allowed under Islam, some ultraconservative variations of Sharia law condemn the practice as a slow form of suicide, and therefore haram — forbidden.
For those who live under Islamic State rule, a respite can be found beyond the “caliphate” it controls.
“I’m enjoying it while I can,” said Mohammad Khalil, relishing his cigarette recently as he sat near the gate of the Akcakale border crossing in southeast Turkey.
On the other side lay the Syrian town of Tal Abyad, where the Islamic State’s black-on-white flag was fluttering in the wind.
“Once I go across I can’t smoke in the open,” explained Mohammad, taking another long drag.
In November, Flavien Moreau, 27, a French citizen who had traveled to Syria to join Islamic State, was convicted on terrorism charges upon his return to France and slapped with a seven-year prison sentence, according to France24, the French news broadcaster.
His career as an extremist warrior had been brief. Only two weeks after joining the group, he said he handed over his Kalashnikov rifle and headed back to Europe.
“I really struggled with not smoking,” Moreau testified, according to France24. “I had brought Nicorette gum with me, but it wasn’t enough,” he explained, referring to the nicotine replacement product. “So I left my gun with my [commander] and I left.”
Violators of the smoking ban face a minimum punishment of 40 lashes with a whip. Repeat offenders face lashes as well as prison time — and, as in the case of the beheaded police official, may even be executed, according to activists contacted in Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa in northeast Syria.
Still, the ban hasn’t stopped people from trying to sneak cigarettes into Islamic State terrain. Contraband smokes arrive via the Turkish border and from areas under the control of less militant factions.
“There is a lot of smuggling going on,” said Abu Mohammed, a Raqqa-based activist who uses a pseudonym for security reasons. “There are many ways to do it,” he explained via Skype. For instance, smugglers hide cigarettes inside cans or in sacks of flour or stuff them inside bags of Arabic flatbread.
More innovative was an approach pioneered by a truck driver making regular runs to the Iraqi border town of Qaim, where there is no smoking ban. Once there, the trucker would strap cigarette packs to the wings of carrier pigeons for hassle-free home delivery to Raqqa, some 175 miles away, according to an account on an opposition news website on Facebook.
With tobacco a proscribed item, prices have skyrocketed.
“In the past you would pay 50 Syrian pounds for a pack of Gaulouises Red,” noted Abu Mohammed, a price equivalent to about $1 before the war began. “Now you pay 150 [Syrian pounds], and some times you can’t even find it.”
Hitherto unknown — and inferior — brands of cigarettes have also cropped up, often at highly inflated prices.
“People are forced to buy them anyway,” lamented Abu Mohammad. “It’s something that is important.”
What to say about Russell Brand that already hasn’t been said (criticism from the Sun aside)
Well I feel I should lay my cards out on the table. I’m not a massive Brand fan, I loved him in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshal’ and ‘Get him to the Greek’ and I respect him when he mentions drug abuse treatment. However for the most part I find him shallow, annoying and sounding like a first year Politics student who swallowed a thesaurus. Now his book ‘Revolution’ has been thoroughly deconstructed by people far better than me, and with more free time clearly. Usual criticism of the book is that it is devoid of content, riddled with factual errors and a waste of trees so bad it could be considered eco-terrorism.
Of course there is always more to this, for one it’s long been suspected that Brand didn’t write it and that accolade goes to Johann “I’ve changed” Hari, a man who would find impersonation very easy. Of course this makes it hard for the usual suspects on the Brand Bandwagon, take for example the Guardian.
The guardian must have struggled with this, for one they have an unhealthy obsession with Brand (although they seem to have flavour of the weeks anyway) Nick Cohen brilliantly reviewed the book here, but naturally it was a bit negative so what to do, especially since the comments from the readers went in a different direction.
Well they assembled a sort of bizarro avengers including Owen “Misinformation” Jones and a few other “of our young writers” the end result isn’t a surprise, they found ‘Revolution’ to be “a hopeful handbook of new ways of thinking.” While not agreeing with his call to “Not vote” (a message I hope returns if he decides to run for office.)
What annoys me isn’t Brand per se, I find him tedious yes, would I actively go out of my way to say, push him in a fountain?
probably not. My issue is with the media’s reaction to Brand, and the mentality of some of his followers.
Take for example the issues around the new era estate in Hackney, London. This is the story about an estate that was bought by a US firm Westbrook Partners who planned to refurbish the estate and hike rents from around £800 to £2000. Now this is a story that has been going on since March when Westbrook bought the estate. Now it’s worth noting that there were protests and 38 degrees were involved pretty much from day one. It was making news. However in marched Brand at the request of one of the organisers of the protest.
From then on the story the media picked up on wasn’t the shameful way this estate of 90 families were being treated, it was Russell Brand. The Sun leapt on him with the venom normally reserved for Paedophiles, or Ed Miliband.
Channel 4 gave up on journalistic standards and the golden rule of Journalism “Don’t be like the f*cking Sun” and decided to question him about his own house, because (and this is the rare moment I defend Brand) that is somehow relevant, because they clearly aren’t aware of Brands own background which isn’t exactly silver spoon.
The good news is Westbrook transferred ownership of the property to a social housing agent who has promised not to raise rents for a year and then assess the levels based on affordability (although a little piece of me still thinks we’ll be reading about Hoxton in a years time, pessimism prevails)
So this brings me to Act 2 of the Media Vs Russell Brand. Now the dust is settling how did they respond to the news that the residents prevailed. Well the Guardian went with the story, and mentioned Brand briefly, the Independent (whose demise will be welcomed since it’s been going downhill at great speed) went with the narrative the Brand saved it in the same way the US claim to have won WW2. The Metro (DM but free) went with “Did Russell Brands revolution work?”
Russell brands admirers however went with this being a massive victory for Brand, not for the residents, 38 degrees, or any of the local and national figures who spoke out. But Brand.
The truth is really, it was all of those things. Brand did bring a bit of attention to the campaign, although mostly so the media could get their claws out and savage him (for example there were more stories about C4 questioning his house value than the reason he was actually in front of the press. The reason wasn’t important he was just with the residents handing over a 38,000 signature petition) but his involvement came a bit too late for him to take the lion’s share of the credit, 38 degrees petition undoubtedly did some good, the protests at westbrooks london office would have also had an impact. Sidiq Khan, Labour and City hall calling on a reversal of the decision and the NY mayor lambasting Westbrook for their work in New York also added fuel.
But the real winners weren’t Brand, Khan, Labour or 38 degrees. It was the 90 residents of the estate who can after 9 months sleep in their houses free of the worry that they’ll be forced to move from their own homes, some of which they have lived in for decades. The losers though, have to be the media, they had a chance to help those residents, most didn’t until the prospect of settling a few scores got in the way.
As an aside it’s worth mentioning this, when “Brand’s” book was published a group I admin at over on Facebook were obviously mentioning it every 20 seconds (much to my protest) one person who never wrote or contributed chimed in saying Revolution was a serious book, full of good ideas and we should all read it and learn from it like she did.
She couldn’t answer one question about the book, or respond to criticism over the Book or Brand. Instead just went into personal attacks how we were just slaves to the system, anyway, it eventually came out that she hadn’t read the book beyond the first few pages so she got more and more personal until as admins we took the decision to remove the thread and her.
We thought that was the end of it but then some eagle eyed member saw her post in a Brand group that we were all fascists clamping down on dissent and opposing views, it had nothing to do with the drivel she was spouting or the personal attack. This is the sort of person who polluted the Hoxton stories on the Guardian for ignoring the contribution of the saviour and are claiming he won it single handedly.
So the problem isn’t really Brand, it’s the media who fawn attention/ attempt pathetically to discredit a man who doesn’t take that much effort to do that and the fanboys who think he’s the Moses coming down from the mountain.
When in fact as anyone who watched Brand on Question time knows, he’s a charlatan, a man who makes a lot of noise but lacks substance who until this week probably realised he was in way out of his depth and in the real world, it takes more than a cheeky laddish personality and a vocabulary Dr Johnson would be envious of.
Lisa: [I]f you’re the police, who will police the police?
Homer: I dunno. Coast Guard?
Mere days after a grand jury ruled not to indict the police officer who shot Michael Brown another grand jury, this time a New York grand jury, declined to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo over the death of Eric Garner, the reason for Garner being thrown to the ground? He was selling loose cigarettes and therefore skipping tax on them.
In the immediate aftermath of the Brown shooting many claimed that if the police wore body cameras it would and could save lives. In a town in california the police department introduced body cameras in the first year the use of force by officers declined 60%, and citizen complaints against police fell 88%. So you would think that if officers used cameras incidents like Brown would stop, or at least be so clear cut that an indictment would be pretty easy to secure?
Well, a pretty powerful rebuttal of that claim happened yesterday, because the death of Eric Garner was caught on film, and yet no indictment, though, not exactly.
Ramsey Orta was the man who videod the entire incident, he’s now awaiting trial having been indicted by a grand jury for possession of a firearm it’s alleged that Orta entered a motel known for drug activity and when confronted by the police he put an object into the waistband of a 17 year old girl. That object was a gun, that didn’t have Orta’s fingerprints on it. Not only that but DNA testing on the firearm hasn’t even been done and according to Orta the police officers referred to the video numerous times and claimed “Karma is a bitch.” Now I’m not going to comment further but that should highlight the flawed grand jury system.
Had Officers Wilson and Pantaleo been indicted it would result in a trail, in that case justice could be seen to be done, it wouldn’t rely on secret hearings that are generally sealed from public scrutiny. Part of the Anger over Ferguson and New York is because Justice isn’t seen to be done. It gives the impression that the police are a law unto themselves. Especially when the Medical examiner determined it was homicide, and the method of restraint was outlawed by the NYPD 20 years previously.
But this all hides another problem, grand juries are flawed, it involves a DA trying to secure an indictment of a local police officer, there is undoubtedly a conflict of interest. That’s why the statistics are so skewered between successful indictments between federal prosecutors and local prosecutors. For example In Texas, Harris County grand juries have cleared Houston PD officers in shootings 288 consecutive times. In Dallas, only one police officer was indicted from 2008 to 2012, after grand juries reviewed 81 shootings involving 175 officers.The last Chicago PD officer indicted was in 2007 and in Houston more than a quarter of the 121 civilians Houston Police Department officers have shot in the last five years were unarmed.
The police are given equipment to end human life, and they do so knowing that the odds are stacked in their favour and they can do so with almost complete impunity. Between the Brown shooting and yesterdays announcement a 12 year old, Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a police officer. The police officer had previously served in another force and resigned because he was mentally unfit for duty his instructors noted he fell to pieces on the firing range was incapable of coherent thoughts and his performance was substandard. Yet he was allowed to rejoin another force, drive to reports of a child with a gun, get out his car and open fire immediately. There was no warnings to Tamir, he was just snuffed out, the work of a jittery cop who shouldn’t have been there.
The Grand Jury will soon meet to determine if charges are to be pressed, again this is all caught on video, it’s therefore no surprise that expectations are already set that he will walk free.
“Rumour is a pipe
Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,
And of so easy and so plain a stop
That the blunt monster with uncounted heads,
The still-discordant wavering multitude,
Can play upon it.”
William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II
The Boston marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt is the first terrorist attack against a western target in the social media age. Not even 5 minutes had passed since the first bomb detonated changing the lives of hundreds and ending those of 3 before images were circulating on the internet, the most poignant of all is that of Jeff Bauman being wheeled away one leg missing and all that remains on the other is the bone and hanging torn flesh. For a moment 24 hour rolling news and Social media were working side by side, one feeding the other news instantaneously. Sadly that didn’t last.
Rolling news has a problem, that problem is rolling news. Just like newspapers need to get exclusives to boost sales and damage competitors, rolling news needs the same they need the next big story, with reporters and cameras at the scene before their rivals. Nowhere more clearly illustrated that than Boston.
When the AP put a flash out quoting one unnamed source that an Arrest was imminent it was quickly spread on social media, however, like a massive game of chinese whispers the “truth” became distorted.
Unless you were on CNN, in which case the truth got well and truly kicked in the nuts. When it comes to breaking news CNN used to be the master, it was one of the first 24 hour news networks and built up a respectable reputation for objectivity and good journalistic practice. Of course that was before competition from Fox news and MSNBC, now they seem more content to show celebrity or human interest stories and not actual news.
It was thought that the low point for CNN was the “hologram” used for the 2008 election in an attempt to get more viewers. However the 1 hour 40 minutes on wednesday left us all yearning for a return of the hologram.
It began with CNN contributor John King reporting a breakthrough in the identification of the bombers before describing them as a “dark skinned male” then saying that speculating on the suspect may inflame tensions, then followed up by repeating the dark skinned male line.
Shortly after King looked at his phone and broke in that there was an arrest, immediately AP tweeted this as breaking news and a media scrum ensured. Most major networks carried this as breaking news despite it coming from one unnamed source “close to the investigation.” What followed was half an hour of speculation on the suspect it wasn’t until an hour later when CNN law enforcement expert, Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the F.B.I., appeared on the air and reported that he had three sources who assured him no arrest had been made.
CNN then double backed and tried to distance themselves from the speculation they themselves had caused (or in the words of Jon Stewart; CNN had become the human centipede of news, eating it’s own shit in some sort of cycle)
This shows the main problem with 24 hour news on a developing story, you have 3,4 or more people with a lot of time to kill between developments, so, it’s obvious that speculation and gossip take over and now social media is such an integral part this now makes these broadcasts a bit like the drunk in the bar spouting off about anything to anyone who would listen.
Print media haven’t covered themselves in glory. Special mention goes to the -soon to be written off- New York Post, who haven’t endeared themselves to their owner, Rupert Murdoch, who is considering a sale of the paper. The NYP who faced criticism in December for reprinting a picture of Ki Suk Han trying to climb back onto the New York Subway platform. He was unsuccessful and Mr Han was killed under the headline “DOOMED.”
This time the Post headline was “Bag men” and contained an image of 2 individuals it said police were looking for. These two have two things in common, they have bags, but so did many people present. The other link is their skin colour, they’re both “brown.”
Salah Barhoun came forward to protest his innocence and now thanks to the internet and media is now fearful of reprisals. It transpired that the suspects weren’t brown they were Caucasian, in fact the only way they could be any more Caucasian would be if they were from the Caucasus, and they were. But the Post still decided to play a game of Where’s Ahmed with the crowd and along with some sections of the internet wrongfully identifies other innocent victims as suspects and again under the sole reason that they were “brown.” The MailOnline had an image under another accusing headline showing a man running away from the explosion claiming he was a suspect because “he was seen running in the opposite direction from the crowd” And also because he was Brown.
The media and internet detectives haven’t covered themselves in glory and it turns out the suspects were stopped by a combination of real police work and a vigilant city even with the hindrances of press and Internet.
So Thatcher is dead, ding dong and all that. Right now the TV is filled with rose tinted views of her, people who in life betrayed her and forced her out of office praising her strength and character. Others, especially here are relieved I suppose is the word. Some have gone too far and are partying in the streets in Brixton and in Scotland.
I myself, am nonplussed. Thatcher did good and in the North extremely bad is she worthy of the reaction? probably. Is it right? no. Now i’m not going to take the moral high ground and plead for decorum and to think of her family, after all she didn’t care about the families of the 96 at Hillsborough or the families who starved and went poor in her battle against the unions.
History will judge her, not you or I, Instead I leave you the words of Shakespeare:
“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;”
My feelings for the Richard III society are well known, while they do some excellent research into the life of Richard and his time, it is also filled with absolute fanatics. People who genuinely come across as having some sort of romantic feelings towards him and refute any criticism of Richard as “Tudor propaganda”
So imagine my surprise that another group of Ricardians have pushed for a judicial review into the reburial of the remains. The Plantagenet Alliance (The Judean peoples front to the RIII Society’s Peoples front of Judea) are pushing for a judicial review so the remains are transferred to York. Now that isn’t unusual, it was a certainty that someone would issue a challenge, however the Judean Plantagenet alliance are doing so under the Human rights Act claiming that -as relatives- they were not consulted.
Here’s where the lunacy of this challenge starts. The official statement from Leicester University (one I imagine was done behind tears of laughter) states that consent isn’t needed if the remains are over 100 years old as there won’t be anyone with a personal relationship to the deceased. That is is best practice to inter the remains in the nearest consecrated ground and -and here’s the kicker- that since Richard died childless there are no direct descendants, and thanks to 400 years, there are thousands of descendants who also don’t need consulting.
The basis for a burial at York is on shaky ground as is. The Ricardians claim that as a member of the House of York he should be buried there and the Plantagenet alliance also cite him being “Richard of York.” Here’s the thing. Richard of York is only used in that Mnemic device for remembering the rainbow and isn’t about Richard III. The Duke of York was Richards father who after his defeat in battle (gave battle in vain) had his head placed on a spike IN YORK.
Richard was Duke of Gloucester, had extensive lands in Yorkshire (another reason so say the Ricardians) but also holdings in Wales and East Anglia. This “Judicial review” won’t pass. I suspect it may literally be laughed out of court.
And as a final reminder, York Minster issued a statement saying they weren’t interested. It’s time for the Ricardians to abandon this romanticised image of Richard and look at the cold evidence.
The announcement from the Vatican that the Pope, Benedict XVI, is to retire on February 28 came as a shock to everyone, not least the Cardinals present in the room .
Much has been written about Benedict’s decision, especially the reasons behind it and more importantly his legacy. It’s also been noted that he is the first Pontiff in 500 years to resign the office of the Papacy. So who were the others?
The last Pope to abdicate was Gregory XII in 1415. His resignation ended the “Western Schism” which came about when the Papacy returned to Rome following the Avignon Papacy. The Schism happened when, under pressure from the mob in Rome to elect a Roman Pontiff the conclave elected Urban VI. Urban had been a respected administrator in the papal chancery at Avignon, but as pope he proved suspicious, reformist, and prone to violent outbursts of temper. Many of the cardinals who had elected him soon regretted their decision: the majority removed themselves from Rome to Anagni, where, even though Urban was still reigning, they elected Robert of Geneva as a rival pope on September 20 of the same year. Robert took the name Pope Clement VII and reestablished a papal court in Avignon. The second election threw the Church into turmoil. There had been antipopes—rival claimants to the papacy—before, but most of them had been appointed by various rival factions; in this case, a single group of leaders of the Church had created both the pope and the antipope.
By the time Gregory resigned there were 3 Popes although Gregory and the Pisan Pope resigned the Avignon Pope refused to resulting in his excommunication. The Papal conclave established by Gregory then elected Martin V as Pope ending the schism.
The first Pope historically known to resign was Benedict IX (c. 1012 – c. 1056) vilified by writers of the time as being unorthodox, homosexual and guilty of “Many adulteries and murders” in an attempt to rid the Church of this embarrassment his godfather paid Benedict a large sum of money to resign as Benedict wanted to marry. His Godfather became Pope Gregory VI whose short reign was one of turmoil.
Elements of the nobility had arranged the selection of Sylvester III who was soon forced out of Rome by Benedict. With Benedict and Sylvester vying for Power and Gregory’s influence waning a group of the clergy separated from all three “popes” and implored the Holy Roman Emperor – Henry III- to intervene.
Henry duly crossed the Alps and established the council of Sutri which aimed to resolve the dispute. The council stripped Sylvester of all rank and sent him to a monastery while Gregory resigned the Papacy with the words
“I, Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, do hereby adjudge myself to be removed from the pontificate of the Holy Roman Church, because of the enormous error which by simoniacal impurity has crept into and vitiated my election.”
The council convened a day later in Rome to remove Benedict from office, Henry selected his personal confessor as Pope Clement II who reigned just under a year before dying, on his death Benedict returned to the Papacy but was forced out by German troops.
In 1294 Pope Celestine V passed a decree making it permissible for a Pope to Abdicate, he then did so. However his successor Boniface VIII had him captured and imprisoned. Before finally having him murdered 2 years later.
Benedict’s resignation would be the 5th resignation as Pope, although the last was in 1415 he is the first to freely resign since Celestine in 1294. Popes until then have held the office until death, however one suspects that the experience of John Paul II deteriorating in his office and the “machinery of the Vatican rotted around him” and his knowledge that the problems facing the church, the child sex cases and dwindling numbers in the West need fresh Ideas has led to this monumental and shocking announcement.