Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Sweden plunged into political chaos as PM loses no-confidence vote

The sticking point is the Sweden Democrats -- an anti-immigrant party. Even though they get a big share of the vote, no-one else wants to coalition with them

Stockholm: Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven has become the first head of government in the country’s history to lose office through a no-confidence vote.

The vote in Parliament toppled his minority coalition and plunged the largest Nordic economy into political chaos.

It is the latest sign that Swedish politics have been fundamentally altered since the rise of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats.

Lofven says he’ll now talk to his allies to figure out whether he can still patch together a viable coalition. Failing that, he may call a snap election, he said.

It would be the first time since 1958 that Sweden would need to head to the polls earlier than planned.

If Lofven resigns, the speaker of Parliament will ask the biggest parties to try to form a new government until scheduled elections take place next year.

The Prime Minister’s fate seemed sealed after he refused to back down from a deregulation plan aimed at the rental housing market. The gambit by the Social Democrat who’s presided over a fragile minority coalition since inconclusive elections in 2018, angered the Left Party, who said he had crossed a red line.

The Left then won support from a group of conservative and nationalist parties, eager to eject their political foe. On Monday, 181 of the 349 MPs voted against Lofven.

His party has just under a fifth of the seats in Parliament, preventing either bloc from reaching an outright majority. That reality has prompted parties to the right to agree to consider working with the Sweden Democrats, once deemed too xenophobic for the mainstream.

Carl Bildt, a former Swedish foreign minister, was quick to note the historic nature of Lofven’s defenestration. He becomes the first head of government in the country’s history to lose office through a no-confidence vote.

During the pandemic, Sweden garnered international attention for its decision to resist lockdowns and leave most schools, businesses and restaurants open.

But political instability has yet to spill over to its economy, according to Johanna Jeansson of Bloomberg Economics. “Confidence in Sweden’s economic outlook is stronger than confidence for the government,” she said.

“We expect the ongoing recovery to continue as the pandemic eases its grip at home and in Swedish export markets,” Jeansson said.

But Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson voiced her concerns, and pointed to the need for stability on the way out of the pandemic.

“A political crisis is not good in this economic situation,” she told reporters in Stockholm. “We are just beginning an economic recovery and a lot of businesses are considering whether to hire, whether to invest and there is a risk that those decisions will be postponed as a consequence of the political uncertainty.”

Lofven, a 63-year-old former union leader and welder, has spent the past 2½ years in a coalition that looked shaky from the start. His Social Democrats governed together with the Greens, and could only stay in power as long as they were backed by the Left Party, the Centre Party and the Liberals, who agree on few key pieces of legislation.

Until today, the Prime Minister had survived seemingly intractable conflicts, and emerged victorious from previous no-confidence motions brought against him. His removal from office now sets the stage for an uncertain political future in Sweden. If the country holds an early election, it’s far from clear that the next government will be much more stable.

“It took four months to form a government after the last election and forming a new one will not be an easy task,” said Daniel Bergvall, an economist at SEB. “An extra election will most probably not create a clear outcome either.”


Unanimous Supreme Court Gives Win to Religious Foster Care Agency

In a unanimous judgment Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a faith-based foster care agency, saying the city of Philadelphia could not disqualify it because of its religious beliefs.

The high court noted that Catholic Social Services has “long been a point of light in the city’s foster-care system” and that the agency simply wishes to be allowed to “continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs.”

Philadelphia officials had canceled the contract of the Catholic foster care agency, a familiar nonprofit in the city for more than 100 years, because it declined to assign foster children to same-sex couples.

“The city’s actions have burdened CSS’s religious exercise by putting it to the choice of curtailing its mission or [acting] inconsistent with its beliefs,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion.

The court held that the city government’s refusal to accommodate Catholic Social Services’ religious beliefs “violate[ed] the First Amendment.” As a result of the ruling, the agency will be able to continue to serve children in accord with those beliefs.

“I am overjoyed that the Supreme Court recognized the important work of Catholic Social Services and has allowed me to continue fostering children most in need of a loving home,” said foster mom Sharonell Fulton, who brought the case to the high court. “My faith is what drives me to care for foster children here in Philadelphia, and I thank God the Supreme Court believes that’s a good thing, worthy of protection.”

The case, Fulton v. Philadelphia, began when Philadelphia forced Catholic Social Services either to certify same-sex couples as foster parents, in violation of the agency’s long-held religious beliefs, or to end its foster care ministry.

The victory at the Supreme Court ensures that the agency may continue to serve children in accord with its beliefs, resulting in many more Philadelphia children being placed in a forever home.

“It’s a beautiful day when the highest court in the land protects foster moms and the 200-year-old religious ministry that supports them,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Law, who argued the case. “Today, I am grateful that the Supreme Court protected heroes of the foster care system like [Fulton], who gives of [herself] daily to care for children in need.”

The Supreme Court’s unanimous judgment was a clear win not only for Catholic Social Services but for First Amendment advocates looking for a strong denunciation by the court of blatant religious discrimination by the city government.

Even so, the court’s opinion was narrower than some advocates of religious freedom would have preferred.

The Catholic agency had asked the Supreme Court to overturn Employment Division v. Smith, a problematic 1990 opinion that has restricted the free exercise of religion for decades. The court instead found that this case fell outside the parameters of Smith and declined to reexamine the precedent.

The justices split 6-3 on whether the opinion in Smith should be overturned immediately.

Roberts’ 15-page opinion, which declined to overturn Smith, was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

Justice Samuel Alito penned a 77-page concurrence, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch, arguing that the court should overturn Smith.

Alito offered extensive textualist and originalist analysis of the Constitution’s free exercise clause, concluding that the “case against Smith is very convincing” because of how that decision “conflicts with the ordinary meaning of the First Amendment’s terms.”

In a separate concurrence, Gorsuch noted that the court’s failure to address the old opinion hands the Catholic agency a rather tenuous win. As Gorsuch explained, that opinion allows governments to restrict religious exercise through laws that are “neutral” and “generally applicable.”

In the Philadelphia case, the majority opinion found that the law in question contains a clause that made it not “generally applicable,” rendering the law’s restriction of religious freedom unconstitutional.

Gorsuch noted that “with a flick of a pen, municipal lawyers may rewrite the city’s contract” to remove the problematic clause and make the law generally applicable.

If this happens, Gorsuch said, the Catholic agency will find itself “right back where it started,” in danger of being shut down by the government and in a new round of litigation. For this and other reasons, Gorsuch supported Alito’s recommendation to overturn Smith.

The opinion issued Thursday also is noteworthy for its inclusion of a concurrence by Barrett. The Philadelphia case, argued in November, was one of the first cases Barrett heard after becoming a Supreme Court justice in October.

Because of Barrett’s short tenure on the court so far, she has had little opportunity to opine on religious freedom issues.

In her concurrence, Barrett said she finds the textual and structural arguments against Smith “compelling,” but expressed hesitation about immediately replacing that 1990 opinion because of the “number of issues” there would be to “work through” if the high court overruled it.

However, Barrett’s opinion, joined by Kavanaugh, expressed openness to revisiting Smith in the future.

Although the court did not overturn the 1990 decision, as many religious freedom supporters had hoped, First Amendment advocates will be heartened by justices’ strong condemnation of government-sponsored religious discrimination against faith-based entities.

Smith detractors also will be encouraged by Alito’s thorough analysis of the flaws of the Smith opinion, which could create a road map for the court to follow to overturn that decision in the future.

The new opinion points to a full-court commitment to require governments to respect diverse religious beliefs, including the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, as required by the First Amendment.

As Roberts wrote: “So long as the government can achieve its interests in a manner that does not burden religion, it must do so.”

The court’s clear and unanimous order to state, local, and federal governments to respect the diverse beliefs of all Americans not only is a win for religious foster care agencies, but for people of faith and those whom they serve across the nation.


Celebrate Juneteenth, a Republican Victory over Democrat Racists

President Joe Biden signed Juneteenth into law as a federal holiday on Thursday. Biden said that Americans “must” and “ought to” observe it — though he spent half a century in public office before doing anything about it.

Since June 19 happens to fall on Saturday this year, the federal government will observe Juneteenth on Friday, June 18, meaning that Biden shut down the entire U.S. government on short notice. (Remember that, the next time Democrats complain about a budget impasse.)

Juneteenth, also called “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day,” celebrates the day in 1865 on which Union soldiers informed black Americans in Galveston, Texas, that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation nearly two-and-a-half years before.

It is, in a sense, the celebration of a Republican victory over Democratic racists.

The holiday, carried nationwide through migration, has since also become an expression of African American heritage and pride.

Why was Juneteenth never a federal holiday before?

America already has a holiday celebrating the end of the Civil War: it is Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day.

Like Juneteenth, Memorial Day began as an informal holiday; freed slaves may have been among the first to celebrate it. And like Juneteenth, it took more than a century to become a federal holiday. But unlike Juneteenth, Memorial Day is not specific to one group of people, or to one side in the war.

Reconciliation was a dominant theme as the Civil War drew to a close. “With malice toward none, with charity for all,” Lincoln declared in his Second Inaugural Address, Americans should strive “to bind up the nation’s wounds.”

Though Northern cities built monuments to Union victory, the country abandoned ambitious policies to help freed slaves, partly to appease Southern resentment. Many U.S. Army bases were named for Confederate heroes as gestures of “healing.”

Juneteenth persisted as a folk celebration, or a local holiday, offering a counterpoint to the national emphasis on unity, and reminding black Americans, at least, that the war achieved a specific purpose that required the victory of one side over the other.

But it is not a divisive holiday. It celebrates the assimilation of black Americans into full American citizenship, whose true potential would only be realized a century later — again, over the opposition of racist Democrats.

The Black Lives Matter movement helped turn Juneteenth into a cause célèbre for the left. But few Republicans opposed it; many, in fact, had participated in Juneteenth celebrations, in various parts of the country.

That irritates Taryn Finley at the left-wing HuffPost, who accuses Republicans of “hypocrisy” for embracing Juneteenth while leading opposition to the use of Critical Race Theory to indoctrinate children to believe that America is guilty of “institutionalized racism.”

In fact, there is no contradiction.

Juneteenth is about freedom from physical slavery; Critical Race Theory imposes a new, mental slavery on Americans, who are being forced to see themselves and their country through a crude racial lens. It makes sense that Republicans should embrace the former and reject the latter.

Critical Race Theory teaches that America is guilty of “systemic racism”; Juneteenth asserts that America stands for freedom, when it is true to its core principles.

Some conservatives may be tempted to reject Juneteenth as a federal holiday because its adoption is partly a concession to the “woke” political atmosphere, or because there are already too many public holidays.

Yet Juneteenth presents the opportunity to tell the true history of this nation; to honor black patriots and conservatives; and to uphold the vision of abolitionists like Frederick Douglass, who described America’s core values not as “racist,” but as “saving principles.”


World Health Organisation’s advice to prevent fertile women from drinking alcohol is unrealistic and sexist

Blessed be the commanders of the World Health Organisation with their latest decree to the fertile women of the human race.

The same esteemed group that made Robert Mugabe a goodwill ambassador and told us there was nothing dodgy happening in Wuhan, have now announced that women of child-bearing age should not drink any alcohol.

No, not pregnant women or women wanting to conceive. The WHO refers specifically to that minor biological cohort that is any woman of “child-bearing age”.

According to their advice, females from their first period to menopause (so about 13 to 50 years old) must be teetotal.

That’s more than 30 years of abstinence for the sake of safe procreation.

What next? Make women with working wombs wear white bonnets and call them Oftedros?

The absurd recommendation is straight out of Gilead, the dystopian nation in Margaret Atwood’s novel (and TV series) The Handmaid’s Tale which documents the enslavement of fertile women.

To be clear, it’s not an official ban on drinking, but advice recommended on page 17 of the draft of the WHO’s Global alcohol action plan 2022-2030.

The document, released publicly on Thursday, urges countries to give “appropriate attention” to the prevention of drinking in certain groups, including “women of child-bearing age”.

While also recommending an international booze-free day or week, the plan also warns that people must be protected from the pressure to drink, “especially in societies with high levels of alcohol consumption where heavy drinkers are encouraged to drink even more”.

The blanket guidance, which seemingly includes all ovulating women, regardless of whether they want kids or not, was met with accusations of scaremongering, sexism and enabling ‘sharia creep’.

There are concerns that it is not just some harmless advice in a draft plan, but will be used as a justification to further curtail women’s rights globally.

“We absolutely have to stand up to an agenda which increasingly treats every woman of child-bearing age as ‘pre-pregnant’. We put women’s lives and wellbeing at risk when we reduce them to vessels,” British Pregnancy Advisory Service chief executive Clare Murphy said.

Matt Lambert, the chief executive of the Portman Group, the social responsibility and regulatory body for alcohol in the UK, said that the WHO’s advice should be ignored.

“As well as being sexist and paternalistic, and potentially restricting the freedoms of most women, it goes well beyond their remit and is not rooted in science,” he said.

Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “The idea that it is unsafe for women of child-bearing age to drink any alcohol is unscientific and absurd. Moreover, it is none of the WHO’s business”

Dag Rekve from WHO’s Alcohol, Drugs and Addictive Behaviours Unit told BBC radio that the next draft would make it clearer what they meant by “appropriate attention”, but warned that “if women are planning to become pregnant or if women are engaging in unprotected sex and can become pregnant, they need to know the incredible harm that can happen to their potential future child”.

Ostensibly, WHO’s advice aims to prevent harm to unborn children.

But the heavy-handed tactic fails to address that people who suffer alcohol abuse will not suddenly stop their heavy drinking just because WHO says so.

Nor do they address anywhere in their report the damaging effects of alcohol on men’s sperm quality.

WHO also seems to ignore the prominent role alcohol sometimes plays in facilitating pregnancy.

My friends and I joke about how, if it wasn’t for a few drinks, a tipsy contraception oversight and fortunate cycle timing, we’d never have had kids.

“I take it these are IVF twins?” the sonographer asked me during a scan a few years ago. “No, they’re red wine twins,” I replied. She nodded knowingly.


My other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://john-ray.blogspot.com (FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)


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