Saturday, July 25, 2009

Monarchy: The Royal Family At Work

I'd recorded a few episodes of this series, but I was only able to watch a few minutes of it. There was some jumped-up little MP from the House of Commons saying snotty things about how he doesn't want to condone the notion of aristocracy, as if the opinion of elected riff-raff is good for anything.

I decided this series is going to make me too angry, so I deleted it and will now cheer myself up with a documentary about Ivan the Terrible. I wouldn't at all mind exhuming him to deal with insolent rabble like that MP.

Swan upping

In Her Majesty's Service, Loyal Minion Courts the Queen's Swans on Thames

Mr. Barber has a job that some see as a royal anachronism. He is the queen's swan marker, an official title he has held for 16 years, and his duty is to conduct an annual census of the river's newborn cygnets in service to the crown.

The five-day exercise, known as swan upping, dates back to the medieval era, when a royal edict deemed all the unmarked mute swans in the U.K. property of the monarchy. Today, Queen Elizabeth II maintains the right to claim all the country's mute swans, but she exercises her prerogative only on the Thames, where Mr. Barber monitors the birds alongside the queen's swan warden, Oxford zoology professor Christopher Perrins.

For the first time in her 57-year reign, the queen tended to her flock in person this year, appearing at the Monday launch of this year's swan upping. Mr. Barber rose at 5 that morning and nervously issued directions on the dock.

But at a time when the crown finds itself under fire for spending, curious royal pursuits like swan upping risk ruffling the feathers of British taxpayers. The monarchy cost the British public £41.5 million ($68.5 million) in the past financial year -- and the queen is expected to ask Parliament for a raise. According to annual reports, the royal family spends about £1.7 million each year on ceremonial functions such as swan upping, but the monarchy doesn't publicly itemize expenses.

It isn't Mr. Barber's job that disturbs some Britons, but rather what it and other royal ceremonies like it have come to obscure.

"Swan upping is harmless in itself, but it masks a wider anachronism which is unhealthy and unfair," says Norman Baker, a Liberal-Democrat member of Parliament. Such traditions, he says, make the monarchy seem like a charming and inescapable part of British life, even as the royal family uses millions in taxpayer money without offering detailed disclosure records and travels around the world on the public dime.

Symbol of Change

Monarchy in Morocco 'symbol of change', geopolitician says

Paris - Monarchy in Morocco is "the symbol of change and of major innovative momentums", said Charles Saint-Prot, director of the Paris-based Observatory for Geopolitical Studies.

Speaking on Wednesday at a ceremony held to present the book "Le Maroc en marche" (Morocco Moving Forward), published recently, Saint-Prot deems important that academics, experts and MPs joint efforts to make known the achievements made by Morocco over the first decade of H.M. King Mohammed VI's reign.

The significant progress achieved by the kingdom is notable at the political level with the "undeniable" consolidation of the rule of law, as well as at the religious level with major reforms initiated to show that Islam is also a religion of moderation, he said.

H.M. King Mohammed VI is also a symbol of this Islam of the happy medium, he said, adding that Morocco is witnessing, under the king, sweeping reforms. In addition to the drop in poverty rates, the kingdom has been witnessing large-scale projects and a substantial economic development with a high growth rate, he said.

Of course, what's good about monarchy is that it isn't about change, but stability. But I think in this case it's a case of semantics; we conservatives like reform, not "change". The word "reform" implying improvement of existing institutions, rather than revolutionary upheaval.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Science proves elections are a bad idea

This is Your Brain on Politics

The founders of the United States didn’t have the advantages of fMRI brain imaging and had no concept of the amygdala, but they were hesitant about political parties and political campaigning nonetheless. Fearful that a “torrent of angry and malignant passions will be let loose,” Alexander Hamilton railed against political parties in the first Federalist Paper, saying the parties would try to “increase the number of their converts by the loudness of their declamations and the bitterness of their invectives.”

It turns out there was some reason to be concerned about the relative influence of information versus emotion when it comes to political judgments and affiliations. Though it is impossible to know for sure whether people actually vote along party lines, many psychological studies have shown that political affiliation plays a large role not just in the voting booth but also when people must decide how they feel about political issues.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Grace Kelly in "The Swan"

From IMDB:

Princess Beatrice's days of enjoying the regal life are numbered unless her only daughter, Princess Alexandra, makes a good impression on a distant cousin when he pays a surprise visit to their palace. Prince Albert has searched all over Europe for a bride and he's bored by the whole courtship routine. He is more interested in the estate's dairy than Alexandra's rose garden. And then he starts playing football with the tutor and Alexandra's brothers.

Princess Alexandra (Grace Kelly) is infatuated with her brothers' tutor, but she confesses to him, "I want to be Queen." And so she continues to pursue the indifferent Prince Albert (Alec Guinness). This, of course, echoes Miss Kelly's real-life decision to marry Prince Rainier despite being in love with another man, which she made shortly after completing filming of this movie.

It's a beautifully filmed movie, with a stellar cast. It hasn't been released on DVD, but it's airing on TCM on July 31st at 6 pm.

(The original trailer can be viewed here.)

My favorite line: the Dowager Queen tells her rambunctious grandsons: "Quiet, boys, this is not a republic!"

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Links for the day

Courts Cannot Find Fault With Transparent, Open Govts, Says Perak Sultan

Sultan Azlan Shah said the perpetuation of the institution of monarchy was not only to the extent of fulfilling historical values and sentimental values of the people.

The ruler had a role to ensure the effectiveness of the check-and-balance mechanism which could help strengthen the institution of democracy, he said.

"As the head of state, the ruler serves as the pillar of stability, source of justice, core of solidarity and umbrella of unity. Implicitly, the perpetuation of the institution of monarchy is the continued retention of the identity of a government buttressed by the Malays.

"The role, duties and responsibilities of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as well as those of the Malay Rulers are based on the concept of the constitutional monarchy," he said.

This meant that the rulers had sovereign power and responsibility in accordance with the law and that a ruler was a ruler, whether it was in absolute or constitutional terms, he said.

Sultan Azlan Shah said the difference between them was that one had unlimited power while the other's power was in accordance with the constitution, but it was a mistake to assume that the power of a ruler was similar to that of a president who was bound by the constitution.

"The role of a ruler far exceeded that expressed in the constitution," he said.

Disclaimer: I don't know nearly enough about Malaysia to know if he's at all living up to his fine words here.

There's a good review of a new biography of French revolutionary Georges-Jacques Danton here.

ASEAN HUMAN RIGHTS Body 'A necessary start'

A journalist from Indonesia put Thailand's lese-majeste law into the context of Asean human rights by asking Kasit what the commission would do about the criticism of the Thai monarchy.

Kasit said Thailand has a constitutional-monarchy system that keeps the monarchy and especially the personality of His Majesty the King above politics.

"Don't mix it up, there are certain quarters in society that would like to bring the institution of the monarchy down into the political fight inside Thailand," he said.

"The royal institution and HM the King have no protection when they're being attacked. We have to have a law to protect the institution. The lese-majeste law is simply there to protect the institution of monarchy because they cannot protect themselves. The King cannot go to court," he said.

"What we have in Thailand is similar to what a lot of countries have with the institution of monarchy," he added.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hope is not a form of government

Hope to an End
from The Joy of Curmudgeonry by Deogolwulf

“Democracy is a daring concept — a hope that we’ll be best governed if all of us participate in the act of government.” [1]

It is another example of how connotations and motivating factors usurp the rule of a word’s denotations, such that a clear appreciation of what is meant or proposed or entailed is obscured. Naturally a hope that we shall be governed best if such-and-such happens is not a form of government, let alone a good one; it is merely a hope to that end. A hope, so far as I know, cannot be a form of government, except in the apolitical sense that it can govern a man’s deeds to good or ill effect. Hoping may well be a motivating factor in bringing the concept of democracy to realisation, so far as that is possible, but it has nothing to do with the concept itself. Furthermore the word “democracy” does not denote goodness, nor does the fact itself entail it; such is a connotation which a man fancies without reason. That said, I entertain a hope — though I dare say I am not governed by it — that the quiet and seemingly-innocuous emptying of words of their denotative meanings in the heads of many will not go so far as to bring about terrible consequences for all. It may well denote a vain hope.

[1] Brian Eno, “A New Politics”, Comment is Free (The Guardian’s weblog), 8th July 2009.

Quotation of the Day

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
~Benjamin Franklin

Hat tip Conservative History Journal.

Revive the monarchy?

Nepal royalists for referendum to revive monarchy

We can hope.

Here's an editorial by an African who believes in elected government. His naive shock that elected governments are doing bad things with the powers they so heroically wrested from kings is heart-rending.

Nigeria: The Stench From the British House of Commons

The people, led by Parliament, fought to wrestle power from the King only for Parliament to now turn against the tax payers in Britain by fleecing them. It must be said in clear terms that the present MPs have done a hugely reprehensible disservice to the memory of their compatriots who paid the supreme sacrifice to ensure Britain is governed by law and not by the will of one man.

For me, the 'expenses scandal' constitutes an emergency upon which the monarchy, if it still enjoys any modicum of power, should have dissolved the Parliament in order to save the British institution from disrepute and world-wide odium, especially since the scandal cuts across party lines. The British Constitution-cum-Democracy has been the source from which many nations of the world have drawn strength in constitutional development of their respective countries. That the MPs could dig their hands such unscrupulously and unabashedly into the public till reveals their inability to appreciate the moral influence the British institution, over the ages, exert on other nations of the world. What then should the British Parliament expect from the National Assemblies in Africa, Middle East, Asia and places where Britain is preaching the gospel of democracy and good governance?...

If indeed they wish to be remembered as men that have any modicum of honour, they should immediately, without further delay, pass a (unanimous) resolution calling on Queen Elizabeth to dissolve the Parliament. Then can the world believe that they are indeed sorry for their sins.

Friday, July 17, 2009

It seems I'm back.

I'm sorry I've neglected you for so long.

It’s a knockout

It is 2020, hereditary monarchy is over, and the British people are about to elect their first king or queen. Our special correspondent reports from the future

But live TV did win in the end: the hustings of the initial eight candidates for monarch attracted huge audiences for the BBC (though not as big, perhaps, as Regicide would have pulled in). The debates proved impassioned, and at times chaotic. George Galloway’s flamboyant candidacy, in which he promised to take the throne on behalf “of the dispossessed of the world and the countless unnamed victims of British imperialism”, attracted global attention. DJ Chris Moyles’s clownish campaign met only ridicule. Too old to catch the youth vote yet too offensive for everyone else, Moyles finished in last place in the first-round vote – a contest that set another astonishing record when 68 per cent of the electorate turned out.

Also, here's a good news feed for royal-related news I just found.


Maoists keep Nepal Monarchy alive, but why?

No body talks of the former monarch save the Maoists and the RPP-Nepal Chairman Kamal Thapa. Well, for all practical purposes, Kamal Thapa’s political stance is clear. Thapa wants the monarchy back. Whether he (Thapa) will succeed in his adventure or not could be a matter of intense debate among the Kathmandu elites. But, why the Maoists are scared of the now sidelined monarch remains a mystery? However, what is for sure is that the frequent remarks being made by the Maoists forwarding this or that reason has albeit come as a support to the now defunct Nepal’s monarchy. People are thus reminded of the past due to Maoists utterances as regards the monarchy.

Nepal’s monarchy is limited in the pages of history!

G&B: Who played the vital role, the Nepali People or the outsiders, for the fall of the Institution of Monarchy?

Thapa: I'll give the credit to the Nepali people.

After the gruesome massacre of Late King Birendra and his family members, there was the massive change in the people’s perception as regards the institution of the Nepali monarchy...a big question mark was raised which ultimately became the major factor for the fall of monarchy.

Even in the international front, after the Royal Massacre, the perception that the Monarchy could still institutionalize democratic framework vanished.

G&B: Do you mean to say that King Gyanendra's takeover ridiculing the democratic principles finally became the prime reason for the fall of monarchy?

Thapa: The biggest blunder was His step to cross the limits of the 1990 constitution.

King Gyanendra 'troubled and anguished'

Nepal's former King Gyanendra is "very perturbed" by the state of his country a year after the monarchy was abolished.

In his first statement since he was deposed last June, Gyanendra - who turned 63 yesterday (07.07.09) - expressed his concerns about the lack of progress in establishing peace and prosperity for his people.

He said: "Even in this changed context when I observe that there has been no improvement in the lot of my beloved fellow citizens, my brothers and sisters, I am very perturbed, very troubled and very anguished."

I must explore this blog further.

Paul Rahe: The servile temptation, part 2

Rousseau, who supposed inquiétude natural to human beings within civil society, charged that the bourgeois, commercial, liberal polities emerging under the influence of the Enlightenment in his day would profoundly intensify the malady, and he suggested as a remedy enforced social and economic equality.

Tocqueville took in all of this and turned Rousseau on his head. What the latter took to be a cure for the restlessness, anxiety, and uneasiness besetting man in liberal, commercial polities is, he argued, its cause. Where there were aristocratic polities, he observed, in times of turmoil, men could look for help and consolation to what Montesquieu had called "intermediary powers" - to local aristocrats, to great magnates, to the church, to the various corporate bodies constitutive of European monarchy - for, under the ancien régime, no one was isolated and alone.

But now, where equality has become the defining feature of their "social condition," he argued, men tend to feel helpless in the face of political and economic forces beyond their control. Even in the best of times, their ambitions exceed their capacity, the desires inflated by their vanity go unsatisfied, and they are anxious and uneasy.

A Little Late, But Still Interesting

Bastille Day: a celebration, yes, but why?

Bastille Day is today, July 14th. It marks the date in 1789 when the mob stormed the hated Royal fortress of the Bastille and freed 8 prisoners while doing so.

The real point of the storming though was not to liberate the prisoners but to gain access to the gunpowder stored therein: this was to be added to the large number of muskets that had already been "liberated" from other stores but which were without that vital additional ingredient.

There are two ways to consider the importance of the day: the first is the traditional one. That it marked the beginning of the overthrow of the Monarchy and the emergence of France into the light and reason of "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" and the modern era.

The second is to be more realistic about it. It did indeed mark the beginning of the end for a not very oppressive nor particularly inefficient monarchy, one soon to be superseded by the mass slaughter of the Revolution itself. A Revolution which quickly threw up Napoleon and the series of wars that kept Europe fighting from 1799 to 1815, a period in which millions upon millions died.

A funny thing to celebrate and have parades about but then that's the French for you.
PICTURE GALLERY: Twelfth Parade Ballymena

SCOTTISH Grand Master Ian Wilson addressed the demonstration in Ballymena today. He used the occasion to warn members that the Labour Party intends to scrap the historic statutes that have guaranteed Britain's liberties under a Protestant monarchy since the time of William of Orange.

The leading Orangeman revealed that the three United Kingdom Grand Lodges had met recently with Justice Minister Michael Wills in London.

Mr Wilson told the Ballymena Orangemen: "You must surely be aware of regular media speculation about the constitutional acts and about the possibility of scrapping the statutes that underpin our Protestant monarchy and have given our nation three centuries of settled democracy and religious liberty.

"I have to tell you, Brethren, it's no mere possibility any longer, it's on the cards. Make no mistake, our Protestant monarchy is finished unless we can stop our politicians unpicking the constitution.
Emperor and Empress of Japan honor WWII veterans at Punchbowl cemetery

PUNCHBOWL (KHNL) - It's a visit like no other for those who rest at the National Cemetery of the Pacific.

"Because they're not elected officials. They are royalty. They represent a monarchy with a heredity that is the oldest monarchy in the world. And that makes it special," said Gene Castagnetti, National Cemetery Director.

I didn't know that about them. Let's hope they keep their royal family.

EDIT: Here is an article summarizing the dynasty's history.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

So that's what Bertie Wooster's uncle was talking about.

I knew the general of it, but not the specific. Mencius Moldbug has just enlightened me.

Does anyone here remember sniglets? Made-up words, fashionable when I was in my teens, to describe some humorous concept? There was one I always liked: "Snargle". It means, "to lessen the impact of a horror film by filtering it through the fingers."

I snargled this wikipedia entry:

The 1909 (UK) People's Budget was a product of H.H. Asquith's Liberal government that introduced many unprecedented taxes on the wealthy and radical social welfare programmes to Britain's political life. It was championed by Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George and his strong ally Winston Churchill, who was then President of the Board of Trade. Churchill's biographer William Manchester called the "People's Budget" "a revolutionary concept" because it was the first budget in British history with the expressed intent of redistributing wealth among the British public. It was a key issue of contention between the Liberal government and the House of Lords, ultimately leading to two general elections in 1910 and the enactment of the Parliament Act 1911.

I wish I'd had a friend in the room to lend her fingers to mine; this could have used some more snargling.

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Fourth of July

I loved America.

I use the past tense, not because my feelings have changed, but because America has ceased to exist. A zombie in its shape continues to lumber along, for the moment, but all that is truly left of my beloved country is a precious memory.

Don't misunderstand me. Though I could list many of his deeds that I thoroughly disapprove of, I am not one of the pro-terrorist morons with Bush Derangement Syndrome who hates him for trying to protect Americans from terrorism (also known as "doing his job"), unlike Clinton, who declined Egypt's offer to hand Osama over to us and refused to speak to the head of the CIA even once during his eight years in office; Gore, who humiliated the country before the world with a ludicrous attempt to steal the election, and then tried to distract us all from the serious problem of terrorism with lies about the environment; or the foreigner currently illegally occupying the White House, who constantly humiliates us with his tacky behavior, has literally bowed to our enemies, and clearly intends to deliver us into their hands. Not one of Dubya's widely-denounced actions would have even been contemplated if not for the criminal folly of the past century of Democrats. (Not that all of the blame lies with them; they wrought the havoc, but we allowed them to do so.) Left with their mess to try to tidy up, he did as well as is humanly possible. I voted for Dubya twice and am glad I did so. I have to admit, as recently as the year I was born, Dubya would have been far too liberal on numerous issues for most conservatives' taste, certainly my own. But by the 21st century, no one who would have even dreamed of the proper course of action in these times could get elected Registrar of Deeds, let alone president. In Europe, such people are routinely thrown into prison nowadays, solely on the basis of what they say. I expect the same to be the case here before long.

But despite his many flaws, in this era when even "conservatives" have come to believe that children do fine with working mothers and that Western nations should continue to admit millions of Third World illiterates every year, Dubya was the absolute best we could possibly elect. Certainly he was far better than we now deserve. I am and will always be grateful to him. History shall recall him as the final American president. He gave our country its last chance.

Last November, we chose to throw it away.

Already, the usurper now at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has proven to be the worst president we have ever had, surpassing even Woodrow Wilson. Those Europeans who don't hate America but aren't too terribly keen on its hegemony might not be too dismayed at the thought of America's inevitable collapse in power and prosperity at this man's hands, but consider the consequences to Europe of previous bad presidents. Franklin Delano Roosevelt allowed the attack on Pearl Harbor so that he could drag us into the war and advance his socialist, democratic, universalist agenda. Without his connivance, the Soviet Union would likely not have been allowed to claim so much of Eastern Europe, and the Cold War might have been averted. Perhaps we may give Roosevelt a partial pass, because yes, the Nazis did need to be stopped, most urgently. Let us instead lay the blame at the feet of his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, without whom there would never have been a Second World War. The Treaty of Versailles, income tax, the League of Nations, and Prohibition are only a few of Wilson's evil legacies. These two presidents rode roughshod over America, but there is no doubt that Europe suffered far more because of them than we ever have. Do you really think our current scoundrel will leave Europe no worse off than it now is?

And to those Americans who keep dismissing my worries by saying, "All we have to do is elect a good man in 2012 and he'll fix everything," you are ignoring historical precedent. Of the vile things Woodrow Wilson inflicted on our country, Prohibition is the only one that has been rescinded, though not before who knows how many people were murdered or impoverished by it. We continue to suffer for all of his other crimes, and those of his left-wing successors. Even the best presidents we have managed to elect have never managed more than token gestures in restoring our freedom and rights to us. What makes us imagine that this time will be any different?

I still love my country, even though it no longer exists. I love our generosity, our optimism, our self-reliance, our ingenuity. I love these things even though for a century now evil men have twisted them to evil ends. I love them even though all of these qualities are being brainwashed out of us.

Unless a miracle happens, July Fourth will for the rest of my life be a day of mourning for me.

Forgot one!

Or rather, when I saw the link, I thought that it was already on my blogroll.

An Australian Young Fogey

See this post by him: Why I am a Monarchist

Monarchy is cheap and efficient. We have had over a century of politicial stability thanks to the Crowns check on political power, and we pay very little for it. The annual cost of the Governor General, the Governors and their respective staff and residence is nothing compared with the cost of to the taxpayer of our politicians and their staff and allowances and whatnot (I do not begrudge them any of that, so long as it is not abused). The cost of the Monarch herself (or himself, as it will be again in the future) is technically born by Her British subjects, but even then the annual allowance of fifty million pounds or whatever it may be exactly is more than offset by the hundreds of millions of pounds the Crown Estate (the income of which is granted to the Government by the Monarch in exchange for said allowance) generates per annum.

It may be that we could develop an institution that will provide the checks and balances of our present system under a republic, but how much more expensive will that be to initiate and maintain? How many independent watch dogs and committes will it require? We have a remarkably effective system at very little cost.

A couple of additions to the blogroll

Well. I've been holding these links to newly discovered blogs for a few weeks until I got around to sharing them. In the interim, a couple of them turned really trashy, and another was deleted. Here's the ones that are left:

Mary Tudor: Renaissance Queen

The New Crusade

A Blog dedicated to the promotion of the Traditional Roman Catholic Faith in union with HH Benedict XVI, to the preservation of our Traditional Græco-Roman Catholic Civilisation and to the New Crusade against Islam. This Blog is under the Patronage of the Sacred and Immaculate Hearts of Christ our King and His Holy Mother, our Queen and of Santiago Matamoros (St James the Moor-slayer) and the Crusader King, St Louis IX of France.
Praying with the Kaisers by John Zmirak

The job of protecting the liberty of the Church and enforcing (yes, enforcing) that Law fell not to the clergy but to laymen. The clergy were not a political party or a pressure group -- but a separate Estate that often as not served as a counterbalance to the authority of the monarchy. No monarch was absolute under this system, but held his rights in tension with the traditional privileges of nobles, clergy, the citizens of free towns, and serfs who were guaranteed the security of their land. Until the Reformation destroyed the Church's power to resist the whims of kings -- who suddenly had the option of pulling their nation out of communion with the pope -- no king would have had the power or authority to rule with anything like the monarchical power of a U.S. president. Of course, no medieval monarch wielded 25-40 percent of his subjects' wealth, or had the power to draft their children for foreign wars. It took the rise of democratic legal theory, as Hans Herman Hoppe has pointed out, to convince people that the State was really just an extension of themselves: a nice way to coax folks into allowing the State ever increasing dominance over their lives.

A Christian monarchy, whatever its flaws, was at least constrained in its abuses of power by certain fundamental principles of natural and canon law; when these were violated, as often they were, the abuse was clear to all, and the monarchy often suffered. In extreme cases, kings could be deposed. Today, by contrast, priests in Germany receive their salaries from the State, collected in taxes from citizens who check the "Catholic" box. So much for the independence of the clergy.

Is Democracy for the Demos?

It would appear that democracy benefits the rulers, as democracy alone has provided the most consistent means for those formerly in power to sleep and die in peace.

And the same holds for the courtiers, nomenklatura, and apparatchiks. These sycophants need no longer dread midnight's knife and muffled cries, and the subsequent crowning of a new king. The elite and bureaucracy can retire to their farms and while away their passing years without fear — their riches and posterity intact.

As I see it now, democracy is not to the advantage of the demos, it is to the advantage of the power elite. Something to think about.

Hat tip for both: Wilson Revolution Unplugged

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Job for Indian royal descendant

"It will great to have Madhu working for us. Actually, it will be a great tribute to the last Mughal emperor who played a key role during the first war of independence in 1857," Coal India Chairman Partha Bhattacharyya said.

The move by Coal India follows sustained efforts by a Delhi-based journalist Shivnath Jha, who launched a campaign to rescue her from poverty.

Madhu's cause was one of several highlighted by Mr Jha and his wife Neena in an initiative to rehabilitate descendants of the forgotten heroes of India's independence wars.