Thursday, October 30, 2008

Good news

Bart Debie has been released. He will now have to be under house arrest, but at least they haven't sentenced him to death, which a prison term would almost certainly have been for him.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Democracy in Action

The entire farce is making me thoroughly gloomy this time 'round. Neither set of candidates will be any good even by the standards of elected officials.

It doesn't help that even those Americans who share most of my values still think this is a great system and that democracy will get us out of the hole we're in. Here I'm referring to the current financial situation as well as to the slow encroachment of civil liberties, which is far more advanced in Europe than here, but I believe it is only a matter of time before we catch up. For the past several decades, the entire Western world has been governed by elected officials, and our freedoms and our money has been steadily chipped away at. Politicians buy votes by promising that they will give special privileges to those who vote for them, or steal money from the productive and give it to the shiftless. That is how democracy works. "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." George Bernard Shaw said that. Ironic, considering that he himself advocated a system which robbed Peter to pay Paul.

But otherwise sane Americans close their eyes to all this and insist that by voting for good people, we can get all of the current disasters fixed. Never mind that democracy is how we got into this fix in the first place. Aside from the fact that even the handful of "good people" we've had in office in the last couple of decades have been, to say the least, very severely flawed, the policies proposed by both candidates will only make the situation worse. At least usually my party gives us someone who says he'll roll back all the entitlements and pork. The realistic know perfectly well that he can't even if he tries, but we like hearing it. But this time 'round, we're offering candidates who aren't even making the right promises.

It's becoming increasingly amazing to me that my fellow conservatives still believe that the decay of Western civilization, found throughout what was once christendom, can be reversed with a vote. I keep pointing out to them that there is only one partial case where it was at all. During the Reagan-Thatcher era, some of the creeping socialism was beaten back, though they didn't manage to do anything about abortion-on-demand or no-fault divorce or unrestrained immigration. And what's happened since? All their reforms have been reversed and the tide of socialist economics and speech policing and racial preference and excessive immigration has become a tsunami, and in addition we have a new menace: radical Islam, including sharia in the secular courts.

I keep having vague fantasies about moving somewhere else, but where? At least left-wing Americans can threaten to move to Canada if an election doesn't go their way or if laws they don't like get passed - though they never do seem to actually move there. They stay right here, whining about how terrible it is while they sip their lattés. Where do conservative Americans move to? Or conservative Europeans, for that matter? There is nowhere for us.

Of course, as a Jew, I could move to Israel, and the day when I do so might yet come. The way things are going, pretty soon my chances of getting blown up in a pizzeria will be about equal here as there.

Today I went to the "early voting" centers, which a lot of states have these days to ease the crush around the polls on election day. For blocks around people were having to park illegally, and the lines! I read that on Monday, some people were in line for as long as eight hours. Allegedly this is because of computer troubles that slowed things down and the lines are moving more briskly now, but they're still incredibly long. I have to wonder how many people are looking at this and wondering if adding their vote to the more than 100 million others is really worth it.

I resolved that in the future I'll avoid this with an absentee ballot, and then this very morning GoV links this:

10,000 absentee ballots in Gwinnett are flawed

The original ballots, designed to be filled out by hand, are flawed because of a printing error. The circle beside the candidate’s name is too thick and somewhat misshapen, and consequently an optical scanning machine won’t be able to read the votes on Election Day.

The county discovered the problem last week during routine testing.

Gwinnett had already mailed out 19,700 flawed ballots before it realized the problem.

Of those, 10,000 have already been marked and sent back by voters, said Lynn Ledford director of Voter Registration and Elections for Gwinnett County.

The printing mistake was not apparent to the naked eye, Ledford said.

The elections office will now have to transfer the votes from those 10,000 ballots onto new ballots so an optical scanning machine can read them, Ledford said. If more of the flawed ballots come back, that number will increase.

County spokesman Joe Sorenson said correcting the errors could be complicated.

“[Election workers] are going to have to take the bad ballots, take a look at what each choice is, and mark that choice for the second ballot,” Sorenson said. “There will be two sets of eyes on each ballot.”

From 200 to 300 election workers will be dedicated to this process, he said.


Guess what county I live in?

And how trustworthy are these "200 to 300 election workers" going to be?

Then I wielded my political power as the citizen of a democracy in another way, by taking the advice of GoV and writing a letter to the Belgian Embassy about the Bart Debie case. I am not going to summarize the case; the two links I posted do so admirably, and you need to read them. I sent an email. Hopefully a lot of people will email, write, and call, and maybe this outrageous sentence will at least be commuted. Nonetheless, it felt inadequate. How much good did it really do?

This appalling miscarriage of justice would not have been possible even a couple of decades ago. Maybe not even one decade ago. Thanks to the internet, I routinely come across left-leaning Europeans, some of them fairly sane people, who say all sorts of condescending things about how those benighted Americans are backward enough to think that laws against "racist speech" interfere with our freedom of speech. Can you imagine, we actually believe that being told what we may and may not say is being told what we may and may not say! And we are skeptical that those who would deprive us of our right to say things that someone, somewhere might interpret as racist would not then choose to deprive us of more of our free speech. We can give them an inch without them taking a mile, honestly! But it is these allegedly well-meaning laws against "hate speech" that have made this atrocity possible.

Notice that this former policeman who was convicted of making racial remarks which another man confessed to making when Mr. Debie was not even present has been denied the right to vote. How long before other such excuses are used to deprive dissenters from exercising our only hope of salvation under the democratic system, the vote?

Even if elected government worked, which it doesn't, the days when Westerners can rely on their vote being counted among the millions of others are numbered.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Links

The Evil Style Queen, who I linked a couple of days ago, has pointed out a couple more posts of interests in her blogs:

Some Bubble Bursting

So Charles and Camilla have married. Where have all those been, who are vilifying the former Mrs PB now, when the unspeakable "Queen of Hearts" was corrupting more than an entire generation of women and girls with her lack of dignity, obsessive self-centeredness and doubtful taste? She was a bad mother (it is well known how she draw her then small children into her marital problems), a bad wife, who did the worst to her husband any wife can do, namely to have a child by another man, she was bad --make that downright contraproductive-- in her job as Princess of Wales and deliberately tried to harm the institution that made her. As the, usually spot-on, Private Eye put it cynically: "In recent weeks (not to mention the last ten years) we at the Daily Gnome ... may have inadvertently conveyed the impression that the late Princess of Wales was in some way a neurotic, irresponsible and manipulative troublemaker who had repeatedly meddled in political matters that did not concern her and personally embarrassed Her Majesty The Queen by her Mediterranean love-romps with the son of a discredited Egyptian businessman."


Style Is An Attitude

Why do I think The Queen is stylish?


Welcome to this Blog

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, shown in the header as a young girl in a painting by Carl Theodor von Piloty and on the left, is emblematic for this Blog.


She also links to Windsor Style.

Monday, October 20, 2008

"U" and "non-U" English

An Intact Sense for Class Distinction Helps to Keep the Language Precise and Beautiful

There are, of course, other class indicators, for example at what time of the day one has what kind of meal, what clothes one wears, houses -- where and how, and whether one likes the late Princess Diana or not. The latter, in fact, managed to draw a sharply defined line between the middle classes, who adored Diana because she displayed ad nauseam all the maudlin and phoney values of which the middle classes are so fond, and the upper-classes, who hated her because she was, as "Private Eye" put it in a meanwhile removed article, "a neurotic, irresponsible and manipulative troublemaker who had repeatedly meddled in political matters that did not concern her and personally embarrassed Her Majesty The Queen by her Mediterranean love-romps with the son of a discredited Egyptian businessman".


Fair warning: there is some profanity in this post. Also some rather mild sneers at American speech, but we can take it. Besides which, much as I love my country, I will readily admit that our accents are terrible.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Quotation of the Day

A democracy cannot survive as a permanent form of government. It can last only until its citizens discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority (who vote) will vote for those candidates promising the greatest benefits from the public purse, with the result that a democracy will always collapse from loose fiscal policies, always followed by a dictatorship.

~Lord Thomas MacCauley or "Alexander Tyler"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Metric Martyrs

'Metric martyrs' given reprieve

The government is acting to end the prosecution of so-called "metric martyrs" - traders who continue to sell goods using only imperial measures.

The government will shortly issue new guidelines to local authorities to encourage "proportionate" action.

Campaigner Neil Herron called the decision "a fantastic victory".

Last year the EU ruled that the UK could carry on using imperial measures, but some councils have continued to take action against people doing so.

Earlier this month Janet Devers, an east London trader, was found guilty of using imperial weighing scales without an official stamp in a prosecution brought by Hackney council.

Last September, European Union commissioners ruled that Britain could carry on using imperial measurements such as pints, pounds and miles.

But under current UK law, traders must also give a conversion figure if they display weights in imperial measurements.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Mrs. Simpson at the movies

I've been neglecting this blog lately. Work's been using up all of my energy, among other things. But last night I finished my personal Wallis Simpson Film Festival.

The movies I watched were Edward & Mrs. Simpson, Wallis & Edward, Bertie & Elizabeth and The Woman He Loved. (The first three are available through Netflix; the final one isn't on DVD yet and I had to buy an old videotape of it on ebay.)

Of all of them, I have to say that Bertie & Elizabeth, in which Mrs. Simpson and Edward VII are supporting characters, was by far the best movie and the most historically accurate representation of them. We are shown a few examples of Mrs. Simpson's rude and inconsiderate behavior, and the self-centeredness of the future Edward VII, features missing from the movies which focused on them. The movie doesn't depict whatever strategems she used to bind the Prince of Wales to her, but all of the other characters have no doubt that it is ambition and not love that drives her.

The other three movies depict the story of the Prince of Wales and the American divorcée as a love story. Only The Woman He Loved showed the slightest skepticism about this interpretation. For instance, when Lady Furness asks her good friend Mrs. Simpson to "Take care of David while I'm gone" (David, in case any of you didn't know, being the name the Prince of Wales was called by his friends) and returns to discover that Mrs. Simpson has taken this request all too literally, we aren't given any excuse for this underhanded move. Wallis Simpson stole her friend's boyfriend, pure and simple. Also, while the newly crowned Edward VII was fighting to be allowed to marry her, Mrs. Simpson tells her Aunt Bessie, "I don't want to be Queen." Aunt Bessie replies, "Yes, you do. I know what's going on in your mind. You think that would make up for being so poor when you were a little girl." [Not a precise quotation from the movie.] Many historians have speculated that Mrs. Simpson indeed hoped to be Queen. It's likely that, being an American, she genuinely did not understand the constraints a king must live within. Our propaganda promotes the notion that kings are all despots with unlimited power, and I doubt that Mrs. Simpson had the discernment to see through this myth.

The Woman He Loved is also the only one of the movies focused on that pair that acknowledged Edward VII's Nazi sympathies in the least. It was a brief, throwaway scene, however, as if this were a matter of small importance. In Bertie & Elizabeth, by contrast, there is a scene where the titular couple, horrified, watch footage of the newly abdicated Duke of Windsor and his Duchess in Germany, giving the Hitler salute. It is said that when Edward VII abdicated, Hitler mourned, "I have lost a friend to my cause." Bertie & Elizabeth shows such contrast in the character of the royal brothers that the viewer is abundantly relieved that the reign of Edward VII was a brief one.

All of the movies deserve credit for having the actresses who played Wallis Simpson done up to look like the real historical personage, who was hardly a beauty. In addition, all of the actresses adopted the highly artificial manner of Wallis Simpson. None of the movies inflicts Tudors-style explicit scenes on us, not even dimly lit romanticized ones.

For those who, like me, love early-20th-century clothes, cars and music, all the movies are a feast for the eyes and ears. Edward & Mrs. Simpson had the additional bonus of opening with the old song, "I've danced with a man who's danced with a girl who's danced with the Prince of Wales."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Royalty over Politicians

I gather most of my fellow countrymen watched the debate tonight. While they were doing that, I watched Bertie and Elizabeth, about how bravely George VI and his Queen did their duty during the Second World War. Seeing the courage of English civilians during the blitz was far more uplifting than anything I could possibly hear about what's going on today. And as a descendant of Englishmen, I cherish such glimpses of an England that no longer exists.

There was a delightful anecdote. The Dowager Queen - the mother of Edward VII and George VI - told her family that she had followed the exhortations to the public to give rides to servicemen. "I gave a ride to an American. Wonderful man. But I think he had no idea who I was." If that's true, it's priceless.

The movie is excellent, and I recommend it to everyone. As a bonus, it is the only movie I know of that portrays Wallis Simpson as the selfish gold-digger she likely was, rather than romanticizing her story.