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Donald Trump is the end result of every subversive tendency in the Sexual Revolution. He is Justice Kennedy's "at the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life" incarnate and personified. That concept, of course, has nothing to with liberty: quite to the contrary, it is the installation of a tyrannical, uncontrolled ego at the centre of each human being's universe - the invention of a world of a million million tyrants. To "define one's own concept of meaning, of the universe" is to impose it on external reality. It is to say "that is what I want, that is what I order" to the world at large. Now the child of that thought walks into the White House.
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
For me, personally, the final evidence of the guilt of British criminal Hanratty, of anarchist Nicola Sacco. and of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg - however different the circumstances - have been a personal shock. They are the undeniable proof that people can lie even in the face of death and eternity, that claims of innocence from the scaffold are no more reliable than from any other point. The case of Sacco's fellow-accused Bartolomeo Vanzetti seems even darker: he was probably himself innocent, but he knew that Sacco was guilty as Hell, and he deliberately died with a lie on his lips, for the sake of his imagined revolution. (And to add a further taste of futility to his false sacrifice, the historical fact is that the only party who benefited from his and Sacco's executions were the Communists, who had organized all the protests against their executions, and who were sworn enemies of Vanzetti's Anarchists and would have murdered him a good deal more nastily if he had ever fallen into their hands.) But perhaps the most significant of these is the lie of Hanratty, because that had nothing of the ideological justifications of Vanzetti and the Rosenbergs. Hanratty was not fighting for any "cause", however bad: he was a rapist and murderer with no ulterior motives. And he declared his innocence right to the point of death with a passionate intensity that deceived generations of activists including myself.
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
This is without a doubt the most horrifying piece of news yet to come out of the Western side of the Cold War.
it seems that the American military had effectively worked to remove the supposed control over nuclear weapon from the President, and effectively allow any four officers who wished to to launch a missile. The considerations behind this piece of total insanity were purely military: suppose the C-in-C were disabled or otherwise unable to react, there could be no effective response to any kind of Soviet aggression. Well, DUH!! If the President had been taken out of the equation, then the war leadership would be probably gone, and all that would be left would be stupid, uncoordinated slaughter. Besides, the point with atomic weapon was not to use them, but to avoid using them, and above all to prevent the other side using them. Say what you will about mutual assured destruction, but it kept two power groups that hated each other's guts from replying the horrible, destructive folly of the two world wars.

But never mind the "Dr.Strangelove" option with four junior officers just deciding to go off and fire a Minuteman rocket on their own. Do you have the least idea what would have happened if this piece of idiocy by US armed forces had ever got out? NATO would have been finished, that's what. Are any of you old enough to remember the huge pacifist demonstrations of 1980-1982? I was there, and I can tell you what they were about. They were not Communist-led or pro-Russian; almost everyone who took part despised Soviet Russia as a backward, vicious tyranny. They were about the feeling that the USA were playing dice with the lives and future of Europeans. If WWIII ever came, it would have been fought in Europe. Every one of us was aware of that; many had been through military service - most European armies at the time were still conscript - and we were all aware that we were constantly staring down a lot of Russian barrels. We hated the idea that the American forces could essentially use our countries as a nuclear chessboard. That being the case, I can tell you with absolute certainty that if the European public had known that the armed aliens in their midst could launch nuclear strikes virtually at will, and that they had deliberately cut out both the US civilian leadership AND the European governments, there would have been a political earthquake. No country from Norway to Turkey and from West Germany to Portugal would have allowed a single American soldier to remain on its territory. It would have been the end of the alliance. And for that alone one has to say that the generals who had this bright idea were stupid beyond criminality.

Yet more evidence that "war is too important a matter to leave to generals" (Georges Clemenceau said that, and he knew a thing or two about it). It is an ugly thought that, today, an army that was capable of such folly remains the most respected - or at least least despised - institution in America. A few generations of corrupt and incompetent politicians have salted the fields of democratic institutions, making half the population hate one half of government and the other half the other. Let us just hope that we don't pay for this collective loss of faith.


Jul. 21st, 2014 10:48 am
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The narrow defeat of the Obama administration in the Hobby Lobby case has sent its supporters into ecstases of rage and hate that have to be seen to be believed, and that in some cases can only be described as murderous. I am glad I don't live in the USA. But this fury, that bewilders many conservatives and independents, does not bewilder me. The Mandate was criminal from the beginning, criminal in its prehistory. Remember how deliberately the President lied to poor Bart Stupak and destroyed his career. And the Mandate is really much more basic to the Obama project than people realize, because they can't see its actual purpose. Le me draw a historical parallel.

Ireland has one of the saddest modern histories of any country in the world. Repeatedly invaded and devastated by the larger neighbouring island, its Catholic majority was reduced to a pulverized peasantry, paying tax they could not afford to Protestant landlords and being tithed for Protestant parsons; a miserable swarm of penniless, ignorant and leaderless grubbers of the soil, fed by potatoes, with no middle class or aristocracy or any consistency. But what you have to realize is that, the destruction of the Irish educated classes, in spite of the frightful massacres and repeated wars, were not the result of military oppression or even of mass murder; they were, in the main, the result of laws. England wrote dozens, indeed hundreds,of laws, to destroy the Irish nation as elaborately and as legally as possible. As the Irish Protestant Edmund Burke said, the English laws against Irish Catholics - or "penal laws", as they are shamefully called - were "a complete system, full of coherence and consistency, well digested and well composed in all its parts. It was a machine of wise and deliberate contrivance, as well fitted for the oppression, impoverishment and degradation of a people, and the debasement of human nature itself, as ever proceeded from the perverted ingenuity of man.”

The Mass, of course, could not be said: to have it said or to say it meant life imprisonment. But neither could Catholics be educated: to set up a Catholic school was equally a matter of life imprisonment. And Catholics were to be robbed by law: "Every Roman Catholic was... to forfeit his estate to his nearest Protestant relation, until, through a profession of what he did not believe, he redeemed by his hypocrisy what the law had transferred to the kinsman as the recompense of his profligacy." The law encouraged Protestants to steal from their Catholic relations, or even pretended relations; and not just large amounts, but everything - every bit of property they had. "When thus turned out of doors from his paternal estate, he was disabled from acquiring any other by any industry, donation, or charity; but was rendered a foreigner in his native land, only because he retained the religion, along with the property, handed down to him from those who had been the old inhabitants of that land before him."

"....Catholics, condemned to beggary and to ignorance in their native land, have been obliged to learn the principles of letters, at the hazard of all their other principles, from the charity of your enemies. They have been taxed to their ruin at the pleasure of necessitous and profligate relations, and according to the measure of their necessity and profligacy,"

"Examples of this are many and affecting. Some of them are known by a friend who stands near me in this hall. It is but six or seven years since a clergyman, of the name of Malony, a man of morals, neither guilty nor accused of anything noxious to the state, was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for exercising the functions of his religion; and after lying in jail two or three years, was relieved by the mercy of government from perpetual imprisonment, on condition of perpetual banishment. A brother of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a Talbot, a name respectable in this country whilst its glory is any part of its concern, was hauled to the bar of the Old Bailey, among common felons, and only escaped the same doom, either by some error in the process, or that the wretch who brought him there could not correctly describe his person,—I now forget which. In short, the persecution would never have relented for a moment, if the judges, superseding (though with an ambiguous example) the strict rule of their artificial duty by the higher obligation of their conscience, did not constantly throw every difficulty in the way of such informers. But so ineffectual is the power of legal evasion against legal iniquity, that it was but the other day that a lady of condition, beyond the middle of life, was on the point of being stripped of her whole fortune by a near relation to whom she had been a friend and benefactor; and she must have been totally ruined, without a power of redress or mitigation from the courts of law, had not the legislature itself rushed in, and by a special act of Parliament rescued her from the injustice of its own statutes..."

It says enough about the power of brute prejudice, of a kind we see in the highest places today, that this unanswerable attack on a disgraceful law lost Burke an election he should have won. The English had been taught to hate Catholics so much that they evidently thought that nothing done to them could be wrong or unjust.

What the Mandate is designed to do, mutatis mutandis, is exactly this. This is why the political and media leadership of your country has fought for it so obstinately, so savagely, and so underhandedly; this is why it took even a narrow defeat with murderous rage. It is because the real purpose of this abomination is to exclude Christians and especially Catholics from economic life. In a world in which money is the only power that can really affect politics - as Obama and his people know all too well - it is intolerable to them that there should be a number, however small, of rich people and of company owners who take their Christianity seriously. In this day and age it is not yet possible to make it legal for a man of the government's party to simply steal the property of his dissenting relatives; and besides, there is not - or not yet - a simple test of identity to separate the government's friends from its enemies, as membership in the "Protestant" church was in Burke's time. But they can impose a tax for a purpose that no Christian can accept, and then savagely penalize them - not by jailing them, which is not what they want, but by fining them into ruin.

Look at it in this light, and the whole mechanism becomes lucid, clear, rational and perfectly designed for its purpose. It is intended to make it impossible for Christians to have any independent economic activity in the USA, by making sure that they either have to resign their principles or be taxed into bankruptcy for them. Of course, they could not possibly declare their purpose; of course they lied from beginning to end. But that, and nothing else, is what this Mandate does.

Incidentally, this also gives you an insight into the real view that Obama and his henchmen have of the political process in your country, and of the nature of political power. This law is not meant to strike at Catholic or Christian faith. It does not try to obtain conversions. It does not set up anything like the imposing apparatus by which republican France, after 1875, worked tirelessly to break the ancestral Catholicism of its masses. The only thing that matters, the thing for which they have fought, the thing for which they have lied, the thing for which they ruined Bart Stupak and compromised the word of the President of the United States of America, was to be sure that no rich Catholics or Christians should exist. Wealth had to remain exclusively among people who had no problem with paying tax to distribute IUDs and abortifacients with a shovel. Because in the eyes of Obama and his crowd, only the very rich are politically significant. This attempt to winnow the Christians from their numbers makes it perfectly clear.
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
The drift away from normative lifelong monogamous marriage seems to be as old as the human race. That seems to me to be what Our Lord meant when He said: "Moses told you so [allowing divorce] because of the hardness of your hearts, but from the beginning it was not so." Jesus had asked "What did Moses teach you [about marriage]?" And he had been answered that Moses - the biblical character Moses - had allowed a man to repudiate his wife. But Jesus answered that Moses - the traditional author of the first five books of the Bible - had, before that, taught that God Himself had made men male and female, and had ordered that they shall leave their respective families and become "one flesh". This is what God ordered, "and what God has put together let no man tear asunder."

In other words, the drift from monogamy had taken place even in the history of the Chosen People. Indeed, this was one thing in which Jews, Greeks and Romans were very like each other. It was not that the ideal of lifelong monogamy was not known; in the area I know best, Rome, it was implicit in numerous features of religious and ritual ideas, for instance the prescription that the priest of Jupiter (Flamen Dialis), highest ranking of all priests in Rome, should be married with a single wife who shared his duties, or the fact that the children who assisted in certain important sacrifices should be "patrimi matrimi", that is, having both parents living. This indicates that the condition of being married to the same wife, in an unbroken partnership, and having had children with her, was regarded as a religiously pure and desirable condition. But what was more likely was the life story of Caesar - who had actually briefly been Flamen Dialis at seventeen - who was married four times, and eventually had his much-desired male heir not from his wife but from Cleopatra, who was never married to him - but was the highest-ranking and most powerful monarch at the time. Caesar's enemy Cato the Younger "lent" his second wife Marcia to his friend and ally Hortensius, divorcing her so that Hortensius could marry her, and remarried her, with no problem at all, when Hortensius died! In the Greek world there are several accounts of brothers marrying their own sisters to keep the family patrimony intact, something, indeed, that seems to have become a system among the Ptolemies and the Seleucids, the Greek dynasties that ruled Egypt and Syria after Alexander the Great. Cleopatra herself (Cleopatra VII), Caesar's lover, was the product of more than a dozen generations of married incest. How she felt about that charming family tradition is shown by the fact that her first act as a ruling queen was to have her brother murdered.

All this has one clear, visible and easily identifiable common feature: power. Violations of the natural rule of monogamy always come from displays of power or consideration of political and economic convenience. Poor and middling folks did not take more than one wife, and did not divorce, things that would have cost money.they did not have; at most, they may have wasted a little money on a girlfriend, or a favoured slave, or a prostitute. (And their culture, from King Lemuel to Plautus, always warned them that such women were financially ruinous.) It was the sovereign kings of Egypt or Iran or China who kept harems, as a display of their personal power. It was the importance of holding large inheritances, or even royal power, in a single line, that led that very practical nation, the Greeks, to allow married incest. When Cato "lent" his wife to his friend Hortensius, it was because Hortensius, an older man and the greatest orator in Rome, was an important part of the alliance he was establishing against Caesar. (He would not give him his daughter, as would have been more natural, because she was already married to Caesar's worst single enemy, Bibulus.) Wealth, kingship, political power, and the display that go with them, were the levers that had broken monogamous marriage across the civilized world from Rome to China.

Even in the Christian West, and in spite of Our Lord's clear and revered teaching, the way of political power to get around His prescription was visible, often to the point of hilarity. In Ireland, indeed, polygamy was accepted by the local Church until at least 1200 in theory, and until 1500 and more in practise; in other words, it could not be uprooted until the English had set out to destroy the whole class of Irish lords in earnest. In the Germanic countries and in Italy, they took advantage of the fiction that the kind has two selves - his public and his private one - to invent the "morganatic marriage", a marriage that involved only the king as a private person. So many kings (such as the founder of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II) had two wives, one official and married as a matter of policy, but also meant to give him the heir, and one private, whose children were usually ennobled. In France we reach the height of farce: girlfriend of the King becomes, by the seventeen hundreds, an official post, and great balls are held to find the lucky candidate. As a result, the languid and undersexed King Louis XV chose the beautiful and accomplished Madame Pompadour as he had been expected to, but did little more, all her short life, than have friendly and enjoyable talks with her. It had taken enough out of him to have a son - the future guillotine victim, Louis XVI - with his official wife.

Obviously, nothing is clearer than that divorce, outlawed by the Catholic Church for more than ten centuries, re-entered the Western world thanks to the most brutal exercise of naked political power, that of Henry VIII. The results, for him, were absolutely disastrous; the first symptoms of that mental and physical illness that destroyed his life and ruined his kingdom were when he had Anne Boleyn, the very woman he had "married" after forcing his first wife away from him, murdered under form of law after less than a year of "marriage", out of a mere and monstrous suspicion that she had been having incestuous relationships with her own brother! Nobody ever saw any evidence of this beyond the King's suspicions, and I for one have no doubt whatever that this is nothing more than the paranoid fears of an aging and already very guilty man (he had already murdered his friend Thomas More and dozens of others, and unleashed the monster Thomas Cromwell upon the Church) when he saw his beautiful young "bride" chatting and enjoying herself with her brother - a young lord as handsome and charming as Henry himself had once been, and would never now be again. Mind you, Anne Boleyn was a home-wrecker and a slut, and while I don't say she deserved to be humiliated and murdered under form of law by the man she had seduced, she took her chances when she set her cap at an aging and already married tyrant. Kings are dangerous. But the principle of divorce, born in such elevated and admirable circumstances, remained on the English statute book, migrated to America with the first English settlers just as slavery did, was slowly broadened, and eventually spread across the West. And we are still lucky: if the Lutheran Philip of Hesse had successfully managed what he had plotted in secret together with Luther and seven of Luther's chief followers, Europe might have been saddled not only with divorce but with polygamy. But that proved a bridge too far, even for them.

Feminists ought to oppose divorce, polygamy and all other marriage "variations", because they are historically always born as displays of male power and that is what they are nine times out of ten in reality. However, I do not agree with what seems to be the implication here, that the degeneration of ordinary marriage has anything to do with the invention of "gay marriage". I think the issue there is quite different. Caesar may have married four wives, but did not consider marrying four husbands. Even in the most degenerate environments, men saw a fundamental difference between attachments between or within the sexes,and never thought of granting the status of marriage to the others. Juvenal makes a savage joke out of the very notion that a man might marry another.

No, the fact is that a new, and bad, doctrine has been introduced. It had, originally, nothing to do with sexuality at all. You may find it in a famous play, "Henry IV" by Pirandello, in which the protagonist manages to force the people around him to act as though he were the emperor Henry IV (a historical figure from the Middle Ages). Its basic doctrine is the omnipotence of the will, the notion that will forms the identity of a man independently of his/her birth, characteristics, connections. or anything else. This, it may surprise you, was the central doctrine of Fascism, I mean the real thing, the doctrine formulated by Benito Mussolini after he abandoned Socialism in the wake of World War One. Not surprisingly (although his admirers tend not to discuss the matter) Pirandello himself was a black-as-coal Fascist, a favourite of Mussolini's, and the head of Mussolini's Academy of Italy. The political relevance was that Italian Fascism promised Italy, a middling power in the shade of mightier neighbours, the ability to change itself into the Roman Empire, merely by concentrated will. Willpower was the god of the Fascists.

Having failed politically in the most extreme manner (and having shown for all the world to see that Willpower was exactly the quality which Mussolini most lacked), the doctrine of the omnipotence of the will and the malleability of the self migrated, of course, to the universities, especially in the USA. That is where you got people like the horrible Professor John Money applying them to real human beings in the context of sex. The rest you know. But the point is that, whatever evil we may have done or accepted in the context of normal marriage, "gay marriage" and the associated evils of gender ideology are something new. The drift away from the norm of one man, one woman, for life, is ancient, universal, and - taking the word to refer to fallen human nature - natural. The doctrine of the subservience of self and gender to will, on the other hand, is a wholly modern evil. It would be disastrous whether or not the situation of marriage were bad, just as it was disastrous - look at what it did to my country - when it had not yet been associated with gender and sex at all.


An English translation of Luigi Pirandello's three most famous plays, including "Henry IV"; http://www.gutenberg.org/files/42148/42148-h/42148-h.htm
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I am not an accomplished lawyer. I find quite as much material for a lecture in those points wherein I have failed, as in those wherein I have been moderately successful. The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the man of every other calling, is diligence. Leave nothing for to-morrow which can be done to-day. Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to it which can then be done. When you bring a common-law suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write the declaration at once. If a law point be involved, examine the books, and note the authority you rely on upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it when wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely to be litigated, — ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions, and the like, — make all examinations of titles, and note them, and even draft orders and decrees in advance. This course has a triple advantage; it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous speaking should be practised and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.

Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser — in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

Never stir up litigation. A worse man can scarcely be found than one who does this. Who can be more nearly a fiend than he who habitually overhauls the register of deeds in search of defects in titles, whereon to stir up strife, and put money in his pocket? A moral tone ought to be infused into the profession which should drive such men out of it.

The matter of fees is important, far beyond the mere question of bread and butter involved. Properly attended to, fuller justice is done to both lawyer and client. An exorbitant fee should never be claimed. As a general rule never take your whole fee in advance, nor any more than a small retainer. When fully paid beforehand, you are more than a common mortal if you can feel the same interest in the case, as if something was still in prospect for you, as well as for your client. And when you lack interest in the case the job will very likely lack skill and diligence in the performance. Settle the amount of fee and take a note in advance. Then you will feel that you are working for something, and you are sure to do your work faithfully and well. Never sell a fee note — at least not before the consideration service is performed. It leads to negligence and dishonesty — negligence by losing interest in the case, and dishonesty in refusing to refund when you have allowed the consideration to fail.

There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say vague, because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that their impression of dishonesty is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common, almost universal. Let no young man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to the popular belief — resolve to be honest at all events; and if in your own judgment you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer. Choose some other occupation, rather than one in the choosing of which you do, in advance, consent to be a knave.

Abraham Lincoln, 1850
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To be honest, this post ought to be made on July 4; but if I waited that long, I would probably have forgotten all about it by then.

I have repeatedly said that I regard the Declaration of Independence as just one step below the Sacred Scriptures, and its central statement - "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain [and] inalienable rights; that among these rights are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness..." - as words to live and die by.

However, while these words last for ever, there is a danger that the rest of the sentiments of the Declaration - a work very much of its time, after all, intended to bring about action and change then and there - can be misunderstood when not only the circumstances, not even the laws, but the very meaning of words have changed. The danger, in particular, is that our ignorance of the meaning of facts, laws and terms of language in the eighteenth century should give King George more credit than he deserves, and make the Founders, in spite of the nobility of their ideals, sound rather more sophistical in their political arguments than they actually were. In point of fact, once things are understood in their own contemporary colours, it will be seen that the case of Jefferson and Congress was literally unanswerable, because it was based on established law.

First and foremost, the meaning of the word colony has changed in the last two hundred years. To us, a colony is a distant territory ruled and administered from a distance, for whose governance it is the mother country - or colonial overlord - that is responsible. But that is by no means what a colony was in Jefferson's time. In effect, imperial oversight and direct rule only became the norm after the shock of the great Indian war of 1858. The British government concluded, rightly or wrongly, that it had been caused by the maladministration of the East India Company, the private body that ruled India; and decided, even more arguably, that the answer was to dispossess the Company altogether and make the governance of India its own direct responsibility. This is in general the default reaction of the London government down the century to any crisis - take control from Westminster. But that the enormous Indian colony, much larger than the Thirteen Colonies had ever been, could have been administered until 1858 by a private corporation ought to show that direct control from the central government was, to say the least, not the universal rule of colonial governance.

In actual fact, the law and legal precedent under which the American colonies organized themselves has a surprisingly long prehistory. It begins with the huge legal difficulties experienced through the middle ages by the merchants who came from the Christian West to trade with the Muslim powers of Mediterranean Asia and Africa. To trade was indispensable to both parties, but neither would allow its citizens to be under the power of the other. A practice evolved - independently, to the best of my knowledge, from the temporary formation of crusader kingdoms that imported Western feudal law to Palestine, Syria and Anatolia - whereby Western merchants, mostly Italian, would settle closely together in single areas of Eastern harbour and trading cities, often a single street separated from the rest. These quarters were legally treated like independent Italian city states - their chief magistrates being called Consuls - even when they only amounted to a few families living in a Muslim and Eastern Christian sea of people. They were responsible for their own administration and justice, in so far as it didn't clash with the larger government. At the same time they were regarded as colonies of the European mother countries from which the merchants came. I am not quite clear how this link worked in practice, but an offence made against a colony in Aleppo or Gaza would be felt as an act of war against the mother country. The largest number of these merchant settlements were Italian, but there were also quite a few from France, Aragon, and so on, and the principles on which they were based were universally understood in Europe.

As time went on, especially because of the destructive Turkish attitude to trade, the colonies withered; but they left behind a curious legal fact. Successive treaties between the Turkish Empire and France, as well as other European trading powers, allowed the Western party to keep "Consuls" as civil representatives in Turkish trading cities, for the benefit of Western merchants and travellers. The title of Consul for the legal authority of a country in an alien land remained as a kind of ghost, even when the settlements of which the Consul was meant to be the head no longer existed; and this is the beginning of the modern institution of the Consul, a diplomat who does not represent his government to a foreign government but rather guarantees its legal and other services to fellow-citizens in its territory.

Now my point is that the English colonies in America, and especially on the American mainland, were built on this precedent. In fact, their original mission was not necessarily mass settlement so much as trade with the natives, which brings them even closer to the medieval merchant colonies in the East Mediterranean. As with the merchant colonies, they were associated with the mother country, but they had their own civil - and increasingly military - authorities. Virginia, the first North American colony, set up its own legislature on the English model practically as soon as it began to exist, and all the others followed suit.

What this means is that, in modern terms, these were not colonies at all. They did not depend from a Ministry of Colonies in London - which at any rate did not exist; most of them had been set up by private companies chartered by the King. It was the King's Charter that established them as political entities, and to it was the King, not any other authority, that they vested with sovereignty. Legally, they were free states sharing one King or Queen with England; like Ireland, and, until 1707, Scotland. (And as for anyone who wants to sneer at the independence of Ireland from England in the age of Cromwell and of the broken treaty of Limerick - I said legally.)

This places the Declaration in its proper context. From beginning to end, it is addressed to the King alone, because the King is the one authority the colonists' law recognized. It is not easy to understand today, but the most savagely contemptous passage in the whole document is aimed at the Parliament in London: they are the "others" with whom the King "has combined... to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws". The give-away is in the words that follow - "...giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation". What else is Jefferson speaking here, except of the Royal Assent given to the Acts of a Parliament? His language is technical and precise, and thus his avoidance of the very word "Parliament" is the more telling. By giving the Royal Assent to Acts enacted by the Parliament in London pretending to legislate over countries on which they had never had any legal power, the King had connived at their usurpation. The contempt of Jefferson for the mighty assembly in Westminster is supreme; they barely deserve mention as a group - they are simply a mob of "others" whose "acts of pretended legislation" have the value of hot air.

Jefferson's argument is unanswerable, because it is correct. The Colonies had been chartered by the King, and their authority was involved with him, not with the Parliament of one - if much the largest - of his other dominions. They had always legislated by themselves, and on occasion carried on war (in particular King Philip's War) on their own authority and independently of London. There was no valid precedent for Parliament or the Government of England/Great Britain to intervene in their affairs. The King alone, and his appointees and officials, had that right - a right he had, in the colonists' view, abused with a view to making himself their absolute lord rather than king under law.

And that is why, from beginning to end, the issue is what the King has done, the wrongs he has committed, against his own dominions and their laws. The point is not to be free of the government of London; as far as the colonists and Congress were concerned, they had never been anything but. The point was to uncrown the King; to show that his own steps had made it intolerable and positively dangerous for them to acknowledge his authority. That is what the Declaration of Independence does, and does it supremely well.
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What was the most glorious moment in the history of England? Most of us, of course, would single out the awe-inspiring defiance of the summer of 1940, when, left with no allies and uncomfortably few weapons, the United Kingdom had to face an apparently invincible enemy coalition across three continents - and peace feelers from Germany were met with the response that of course Germany had the choice to surrender unconditionally! But Read more... )
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I am an opponent of "positive discrimination"; and while I love the study of history in all its forms, I detest the motives why black history or women's history is pushed on us. But in this age of all ages, when these things are popular and approved, can anyone think of a reason why a woman whose whole life is one long record of endurance, heroism, fighting for the right with no limit and no reward, never taking a penny for herself when her people owed her so much, is not mentioned in one breath with Garibaldi and Lincoln and Gandhi the men of Marathon and Salamis and every hero and heroine of freedom? And why do Americans, who are certainly not shy of praising and promoting the heroes of their nation, barely seem to know the name of Harriet Tubman?

This is an extract from the introduction to her first biography: the first edition of this story, under the title of "Harriet Tubman," was written in the greatest possible haste, while the writer was preparing for a voyage to Europe. There was pressing need for this book, to save the poor woman's little home from being sold under a mortgage, and letters and facts were penned down rapidly, as they came in. The book has now been in part re-written and the letters and testimonials placed in an appendix.

For the satisfaction of the incredulous (and there will naturally be many such, when so strange a tale is repeated to them), I will here state that so far as it has been possible, I have received corroboration of every incident related to me by my heroic friend. I did this for the satisfaction of others, not for my own. No one can hear Harriet talk, and not believe every word she says. As Mr. Sanborn says of her, "she is too real a person, not to be true."

Many incidents quite as wonderful as those related in the story, I have rejected, because I had no way in finding the persons who could speak to their truth.

This woman was the friend of William H. Seward, of Gerritt Smith, of Wendell Phillips, of William Lloyd Garrison, and of many other distinguished philanthropists before the War, as of very many officers of the Union Army during the conflict.

After her almost superhuman efforts in making her own escape from slavery, and then returning to the South nineteen times, and bringing away with her over three hundred fugitives, she was sent by Governor Andrew of Massachusetts to the South at the beginning of the War, to act as spy and scout for our armies, and to be employed as hospital nurse when needed.

Here for four years she labored without any remuneration, and during the time she was acting as nurse, never drew but twenty days' rations from our Government. She managed to support herself, as well as to take care of the suffering soldiers.

Secretary Seward exerted himself in every possible way to procure her a pension from Congress, but red-tape proved too strong even for him, and her case was rejected, because it did not come under any recognized law.

The first edition of this little story was published through the liberality of Gerritt Smith, Wendell Phillips, and prominent men in Auburn, and the object for which it was written was accomplished. But that book has long been out of print, and the facts stated there are all unknown to the present generation. There have, I am told, often been calls for the book, which could not be answered, and I have been urged by many friends as well as by Harriet herself, to prepare another edition. For another necessity has arisen and she needs help again not for herself, but for certain helpless ones of her people.

Her own sands are nearly run, but she hopes, 'ere she goes home, to see this work, a hospital, well under way. Her last breath and her last efforts will be spent in the cause of those for whom she has already risked so much.
Her last effort was, in fact, to set up and put on a sound founding a rest-house for elderly blacks in New York City; and for once, she had a little reward for her efforts, since that was the place where she died. But I say that her memory should be celebrated with drums and trumpets, and that her name should be one of those that sound to every decent human being like a moral call, like a reminder of what human beings can be.
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This unpleasant abortionist creep, who can't hold back from connecting opposition to abortion with Fascism, nonetheless agrees with me that it is specifically opposition to abortion that has fuelled the rise of the conservative movement. (History disproves her pathetic claim in that area: Fascism, and Nazism even more, were into free love, sexual licence, the abortion of inferior children, and euthanasia - all the dear, sweet, progressive programmes that re-surfaced in American universities - where Hitler had been widely popular in the thirties, after being briefly bombed into silence by American bombers in the forties.)

Marcotte misses the point that the Tea Party is a deliberate attempt to do what "fiscal conservatives" have been itching to do for years, which is get the anti-abortion majority to forget about such "divisive" causes as abortion and concentrate instead on such "uniting" matters as tax cuts for the rich. There are two forces in the general area of the GOP whose long-term aim is to defang the anti-abortion movement and co-opt its membership for their own political purposes: old-style party hucksters such as Karl Rove, who despise Christians and anti-abortionists pretty much as much as Democrats do, and the Murdoch empire, which is built on pornography and based on a debased view of human nature that could not survive a moralized society. The Rove Republicans have been trying for decades to ride the anti-abortion tiger without conceding anything substantial to it. The Murdoch group is smarter. Part of Rupert Murdoch's animal cunning, base but clever in its own way, is not to try and create movements himself. The British newspaper owners, his predecessors, tried that in the 1930 election and were destroyed, shamed and ridiculed by the professional politician Stanley Baldwin. Murdoch and his people keep an eye on popular movements and, when the time is right, co-opt them. Then they use their formidable financial and organizational power to direct, penetrate and corrupt them so that, whatever happens, the real interests of the Murdoch group are never harmed and always promoted.

These interests amount to two things: weakening corporate taxation and taxation on rich individuals - the whole Murdoch group is one enormous, matchlessly brilliant tax evasion operation designed in order to evade as much British, American and Australian taxation as possible - and insuring that their pornographic populism is never put under serious scrutiny. In doing so, they are quite willing to make some quite remarkable alliances. In Britain, for instance, Rebekah Wade, when editor of the original Murdoch porn sheet, The News of the World, took up with great enthusiams the cause of an anti-paedophile campaigner. This from the press group that has done more than everyone else put together to sexualize every corner of British life, which has made parents so used to smut on every page that they left it around for their children to read (literally - I saw that with my own two eyes, in umpteen British homes, in the eighties and nineties), and from which pre-teen girls learned to idolize softcore models such as Samantha Fox. But it makes sense in two important ways: first, Sara Payne, the movement's leader, is quite frankly an ignorant woman whom Rebekah Wade found easy to manipulate (Payne was shocked, poor creature, to find that she too had been on the phone-tap list of her dear friend Rebekah); and second and more important, it gives any possible sense of revulsion at the sexualization of society a focus and a limit. Child rapists, of course, are the lowest of the low; to focus and concentrate on them the disgust that in other ages was felt for pimps and whores of every sort offers a cheap salve to the violated conscience of natural man - and, even more, woman - in sexual matters. This, of course, is nothing but good news to the biggest pimp the world has ever seen, the inventor of the Page Three Girls, the exploiter of "reality" shows. It also, as a side effect, offers journalists in general a steady source of monster stories. In a sense, it is the ideal Murdoch compromise: the Murdoch media get to carry on untroubled with their appeal to the crotch, at the same time as they get to posture as moralizing campaigners. Really, if homicidal child rapists did not exist, Murdoch would have had to invent them.

The alliance with the Tea Party is a broader matter, but there are some points in common. The heart of it is to deviate, twist and corrupt an existing popular movement so that it works to the advantage of the Murdoch media. The popular groundswell against paedophilia had been going on for a couple of decades when Rebekah Wade took it up, as a natural and humanly inevitable reaction to the stated desire of Sexual Revolution theorists and publicists to sexualize children. (In Denmark, the age of consent was abolished in 1968 and only restored - as a result of some such groundswells of public opinion - in 1978; for ten years, child sex and child pornography were legal in one of the most prosperous and respected countries in the world.) Likewise, the movement against abortion, a despised fringe factor in the seventies, has been slowly picking up strength decade after decade until at present a majority of Americans declare themselves pro-life at every poll. Marcotte, the doctrinaire abortionist, calls it a "moral panic", but anyone without her blinders ought to realize that moral panics don't last three decades and don't pick up strength over that period. Certainly it could no longer be treated, either by the GOP or by Murdoch, as a noisy minority.

The Tea Party certainly started as a grassroots movement; but the Murdoch media pimped it from the beginning, and it is really remarkable to what an extent not only basic views, but talking points and intellectual fads they originated (such as the demonization of the little-know eighty-year-old academic Frances Fox Piven) spread like oil slicks across the whole movement right; and how even such an utterly compromised Murdochista apparatchick as Bill O'Reilly, whose sexual shenanigans should have put him beyond the pale long ago, remains a guiding light of sorts. Forty years ago, Murdoch's animal cunning identified an enormous gap in the market - the conservative/populist area; and the feeling that Fox-TV pundits are the ones who "speak our language" has since then increasingly blinded conservatives to the debasing, manipulative and mafia-like characteristics of Murdoch and his empire. Mere gratitude that someone noticed them has co-opted them into the Murdoch camp, with the inevitable corrupting results. Remember, this is a guy who managed to find enough "friends" in the Vatican to get himself awarded a Papal medal, at the same time as he published some of the most Jack T.Chick-like Church-bashing in the mainstream media.

And the Tea Party has been amazingly effective in drawing attention away from the scandal of abortion and to the obsession with tax. Some of its leaders have openly said that conservatives ought to stop pressing on "divisive" issues such as abortion. Never mind whether this is a representative view or not; the mere fact that it has been said and publicized means that abortion is no longer the central issue - that it is in play, one of many things on which conservatives may agree or disagree. And this is only the beginning. In actual fact, however "divisive" anti-abortion views may be, no opponent of abortion has ever done has been so recklessly divisive and socially and politically irresponsible as the Tea Party's successful attempt to blackmail the Senate and the Administration into not raising taxes at a time when that is desperately necessary and any sane "conservative", including Margaret Thatcher, would have. I have a suspicion that one reason why we haven't heard a lot from Sarah Palin in the last few weeks is that she is quite happy to let Michelle Bachmann and the other idiots run after this hare and compromise themselves in the long term. Any serious presidential candidate cannot indulge in this of idiotic rhetoric, on pains of being found out one day after taking the oath of office. You can bet your life that the next Republican President will raise tax (remember Ronald Reagan and "read my lips"?) with the subdued approval (subdued because nobody will want to draw attention to their duplicity) of the Republican Party and of selected Tea Party leaders; and those tea-partiers who stick to the anti-tax hysteria out of misguided principle will suddenly find themselves isolated and reduced to fringe specimens. Thus do party politics, especially in the age of Rupert Murdoch, work against integrity, whether right or wrong.

The true believers have been told that the purpose of the borrowing limit blackmail was to hurt the hated Obama presidency. As a matter of fact, it has hurt the Tea Party, by isolating it from a considerable area of Republican moderates and from any Democrat. But the hysteria about tax is necessary for long-term reasons that have nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with the corrupting use of party politics. As while abortion is something that generates its own disgust and its own opposition, to try and move at least a large mass of conservatives away from thinking against abortion, the propagandists had to offer them something equally emotionally involving and more short-term. The budget battle, which was a disaster for the USA, served to blood the Tea Party in an actual political battle, which will from now on dominate their imagination. And as the anti-tax hysteria rages, abortion moves further and further from the centre. And if the stock markets of the world crash and America loses power to China, what does Murdoch care? His corporations, insulated from stock marked concerns by a very peculiar property structures, are not apt to suffer; and he has spent decades flattering and supporting the coming Chinese superpower in the hope of being allowed a place at the table. As I keep saying, Murdoch is cunning. It's his only quality. And Mademoiselle Marcotte ought to thank him on her knees: he has managed to set the anti-abortion cause back at least twenty years. Had there been a Murdoch around in nineteenth-century America, there would still be slaves today.
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From the AMERICAN CATHOLIC blog, unchanged and uncut:

Easily the most controversial figure in the Civil War, probably the most controversial figure in American history, Nathan Bedford Forrest has always been the subject of fierce debate. Self-made millionaire who rose from poverty with much of his money made as a slaver trader; a semi-literate whose tactics and strategies as the most successful cavalry commander of the Civil War are still studied at military academies around the world; a brilliant general celebrated by the South and condemned by the North as the perpetrator of a massacre at Fort Pillow; a man who killed in combat 31 Union soldiers in the War but who after the War constantly had former Union soldiers visit him to shake his hand; and a racist who helped found the Ku Klux Klan after the War, but who also made a remarkable speech near the end of the life.

In 1875 Forrest was invited to address a meeting of the Independent Order of Pole Bearers, an early black civil rights organization in Memphis, at their Fourth of July barbecue on July 5. Forrest was told by many whites that he should not accept, but Forrest went. Just before he spoke he was presented a bouquet of flowers by Miss Flora Lewis, a daughter of one of the members of the Pole Bearers. Here is Forrest’s speech.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the Southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself. (Immense applause and laughter.) I came here with the jeers of some white people, who think that I am doing wrong. I believe I can exert some influence, and do much to assist the people in strengthening fraternal relations, and shall do all in my power to elevate every man, to depress none.


I want to elevate you to take positions in law offices, in stores, on farms, and wherever you are capable of going. I have not said anything about politics today. I don’t propose to say anything about politics. You have a right to elect whom you please; vote for the man you think best, and I think, when that is done, you and I are freemen. Do as you consider right and honest in electing men for office. I did not come here to make you a long speech, although invited to do so by you. I am not much of a speaker, and my business prevented me from preparing myself. I came to meet you as friends, and welcome you to the white people. I want you to come nearer to us. When I can serve you I will do so. We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment. Many things have been said about me which are wrong, and which white and black persons here, who stood by me through the war, can contradict. Go to work, be industrious, live honestly and act truly, and when you are oppressed I’ll come to your relief. I thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for this opportunity you have afforded me to be with you, and to assure you that I am with you in heart and in hand.” (Prolonged applause.)

After the speech Forrest thanked Miss Lewis for the bouquet and kissed her on the cheek. This type of familiarity between the races in public was almost unheard of at the time. Forrest’s speech was probably motivated by his desire to become a Christian. As his health faltered and his time on Earth grew short, Forrest sought to make amends for some of his deeds, and I think this speech was part of his attempt. This speech was also the last appearance at a public event by Forrest as a speaker.
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An individual in someone else's blog charged me with saying that the wars between native Americans and European settlers were justified. That was what led to my outburst a few weeks about putting words in my mouth; and it rankled so much that I went back and delivered an answer, although the sensible path would have been to just let the so-and-so stew in his prejudices. Now, as I do not trust that answer to stay up where I posted it, I reproduce it here, except for a few sentences that refer to local facts that have little bearing on the whole.

NO. I did not say that war with the Indians was justified. I said that it was inevitable. If you cannot see the difference, that means that you are not willing to accept that there are situations that will inevitably, without a miracle, degenerate, merely by the tendency of the facts and forces that make them up. [....]some of the most severe Indian wars (King Philip's War was, in percentage terms, the bloodiest war ever fought in North America, and one of the bloodiest in history) had already taken place [...] the general hostilities of whites and natives... were inevitable for three reasons: first, that while both groups may have had their own ideas as to binding treaties and political agreements, those ideas were so culturally distant that it was inevitable that each group should strike the other as faithless and deceptive; second, that as most natives were hunter-gatherers, the very notion of ownership of the land will not have been clear to European farmers, to whom bringing fertile land under the plough was the very business of life, and who would never understand any claim to land that did not involve settling and cultivating it;; therefore European encroachment was absolutely inevitable unless prevented by force; and third, that there was no cohesive "Indian" power with whom to have a credible peace, but an infinity of separate and independent cultures, each used to war with all the others, and each ready to go to war alone or in small alliances against the European power - and be singly destroyed.

In these circumstances, it is obvious to anyone (except, of course, someone who is deliberately refusing to understand) that only a sustained miracle, a miracle lasting over centuries, could have prevented continuous wars. And whether or not miracles do happen, they do not happen like that. God does not relieve us of our collective moral responsibility or of the crimes we would commit without him. War between whites and natives was inevitable. It was neither justified nor right, and both sides behaved atrociously over a matter of centuries. If you read this to say that I regard any of this as justified, it is only because you consciously or unconsciously want to stick me with a charge of immorality. And incidentally place in my mouth something that I not only would never say, but would be revolted to hear.
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I just realized this. 1609 is the date of the first permanent, enduring, never-ceased-till-the-present-day English settlement in North America: the permanent settlement of Virginia. This predates the so-called Pilgrim Fathers by eleven years, let alone that without the example of its (comparative) success the Pilgrims would never have left Europe. It was the first European colony in the New World to import the ancient European concepts of an elected Parliament of law-making representatives, and, on the bad side, the first to embody the dark side of the American experience - black slavery and Indian wars of extermination. Altogether, it legitimately represents the beginning of the American nation.

So why did nobody, all through 2009, celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of this world-changing event?

EDITED IN: Someone forgot, and so did I. The date was 1607. Thanks to [personal profile] wemyss for pointing it out.
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I wrote this essay some years ago. I still think it is interesting, and besides it has something to do with my remarks (to follow) about JK Rowling.

Read more... )
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The other conditioning feature of the American landscape, apart from the rise of the new aristocracy,Read more... )
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A plague on both your houses no.5: Mutant Democrats

In his otherwise illuminating account of social change at the top of American society, which I quoted in my last essay, Paul Krugman only briefly touches on the causes of the change. And there is something paradoxical and rather symptomatic about the way he does it.Read more... )


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