Archive for December, 2011

Christmas Oratorio

the Holy Night by Carlo Maratta

Two interpretations of Ich will nur dir zu Ehren lebenfor Christmas Day this year. The first beginning at 1:25, a faster tempo and with traditional instrumentation – violin, viola, and cello. The second with a full orchestra and a slightly slower tempo, a very grand setting. There is no better or worse, only what you’re in the mood for.

Happy holidays.

Ich will nur dir zu Ehren leben,
Mein Heiland, gib mir Kraft und Mut,
Daß es mein Herz recht eifrig tut!
Stärke mich,
Deine Gnade würdiglich
Und mit Danken zu erheben!

I will live only for Your honor,
my Savior, give me strength and courage,
so that my heart can do it eagerly!
Strengthen me
to exalt Your mercy worthily
and with gratitude!


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Sir Humphrey: Minister, Britain has had the same foreign policy objective for at least the last five hundred years: to create a disunited Europe. In that cause we have fought with the Dutch against the Spanish, with the Germans against the French, with the French and Italians against the Germans, and with the French against the Germans and Italians. Divide and rule, you see. Why should we change now, when it’s worked so well?

Hacker: That’s all ancient history, surely?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, and current policy. We had to break the whole thing [the EEC] up, so we had to get inside. We tried to break it up from the outside, but that wouldn’t work. Now that we’re inside we can make a complete pig’s breakfast of the whole thing: set the Germans against the French, the French against the Italians, the Italians against the Dutch. The Foreign Office is terribly pleased; it’s just like old times.

Hacker: But surely we’re all committed to the European ideal?

Sir Humphrey: [chuckles] Really, Minister.

Hacker: If not, why are we pushing for an increase in the membership?

Sir Humphrey: Well, for the same reason. It’s just like the United Nations, in fact; the more members it has, the more arguments it can stir up, the more futile and impotent it becomes.

Hacker: What appalling cynicism.

Sir Humphrey: Yes… We call it diplomacy, Minister.


An exchange from the outstanding British political comedy series Yes, Minister, underscoring the strategic failure of British Prime Minister David Cameron this week. Britain should aim for either a disunited Europe, as cynically expressed by Sir Humphrey, or a united Europe with Britain at the core along with France and Germany. A Europe with Britain at the periphery is simply bad foreign policy.

Two lines of spin were being reported today. One line was that Cameron’s position in the Brussels summit was the inevitable culmination of a position that has been constant for at least three premierships and two changes of party. The argument goes that from the days of John Major keeping the UK out of the euro to the Blair administration’s continuation of that policy, Britain has stood apart from some key elements of European integration. That is true as far as that line of argument goes. Yes in fact Britain, along with nine other EU members, is not in the eurozone. But the spectacular failure of Cameron was that none of these nine potential partners joined his position forcing a solely eurozone deal. The European Council outcome was not 10 to 17, with Britain comfortably aligned with other non-eurozone countries. The outcome was 1 to 26, with Britain standing alone. After five hundred years a united Europe, and Britain on the outside looking in (BBC).

Deftly, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel had laid contingency plans for an outcome of the eurozone against non-eurozone EU states, warning that the eurozone could go ahead with a solely intra-eurozone treaty if non-eurozone states wouldn’t agree – warning Cameron against pressing too hard in negotiations lest the 17 eurozone states proceed without him and other non-eurozone colleagues altogether. But the French and Germans didn’t even have to settle for this to this fallback position. With a 1 to 26 outcome it was Cameron as the odd man out.

The other line of spin was that the Brussels outcome was some sort of victory. Having not received assurances of opt-outs, particularly concerning safeguarding London as a global financial center, Cameron blocked an EU-level treaty change. Claiming the summit outcome as a win for Cameron, well there’s some chuztpah at work here. As Alex Massie points out, if this is a win then what would defeat have looked like? More power for the European core, more power for Germany, more power for France, a Europe that will ultimately resemble more closely the German and French visions, and less influence for Britain. Once again, if this is victory, what exactly constitutes defeat?

Despite this fiscal compact, the euro-uncertainty may go on. There are parliamentary assents to be gained in several EU members and the possibility of referendums. Crises throw up the unexpected and this European compromise could yet be derailed. But examining the four corners of this European Council, Britain has not done well. This European Council outcome demonstrates Sir Humphrey’s cynical definition of diplomacy, Britain as a disuniting force in Europe, is no longer tenable. Given the fact that Paris and Berlin will not be divided, the wisest long term strategy for Britain is inside Europe.

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