Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Impending Doom of Nation-States (As We Know Them)

      The following is a guest commentary by Tom Usher.

       Those lamps were the lamps of independence.  In Europe, independence meant conflict, just like it did here in the states.  We succumbed to central control first and then it was forced on Europe by America as a result of the war.
      I think that America was designed originally as it was because the founders looked at European history and realized that independent states would always be at war.  They designed a system that was supposed to allow for a common governmental framework in which these conflicts could be defused without the loss of independence.
       It took less than one hundred years to find out that peace among independent states is not possible and that a little control with only the power of man as its basis won't maintain it.  Peace, or at least the fiction of it, can only be maintained through force of a more eternal kind.
        And that's the real story of history.  Who has the power to enforce peace and whether or not they do it with justice or terror.  After the fall of Rome Europe became a place where subsidiarity was the rule.  City states and small kingdoms all competed for power.  Because there were many different actors and power was diffused a chaotic system kept any one group from holding too much power for too long.
       During the Middle Ages the system the American founders wanted actually existed, though to read modern historians one would never know it.  The Catholic Church became the great arbiter, a clearing house for grievances large and small which kept most of Europe independent and from each other's throat.  Most rulers had an allegiance to the Church and the Pope which gave the Church the power to step in when needed and decide the issue at hand before war broke out.
       A perfect system?  No.  But a better one than the one that came into place after WW I.  The American system of top down central control, developed after the Civil War, came into its own during the Roosevelt and Wilson administrations, and at the same time as the rise of the other centrally controlled system, Communism.  And Europe became the testing and battle ground for global central government. 
       In the Middle Ages, Europe stayed relatively peaceful (at least for Europe) due to the fear of God.  The limits imposed by the Church were shattered by the Reformation and the Age of Reason, culminating in the French Revolution and finally the force of government enforced through the fear of man and his arms after WW I.  Nations no longer feared God.  {Estase's note:  "God is dead"--Nietsche's statement was more sociology than philosophy.  Old Friedrich was only describing what had long been the case}  They looked to themselves for authority and the guys with the biggest guns had the most.  So, with the governors off, with nothing apart from national force as the benchmark of truth, we entered into a century of global conflict, a tug of war on a global scale;  an unnatural state of never-ending warfare on a global and all-consuming scale.
       That is the legacy of WW I and all that led to it.  A war that has never been decided, a peace that can only be maintained through massive force, which requires an expenditure of resources that cannot be maintained over time on a global scale never before attempted.  Entropy writ large.
       We're out of energy to apply to the false system of peace that was put in place at Versailles.  The system is collapsing and a new one will rise in its place.  We're about to see why, on the biggest human scale ever, the Second Law of Thermodynamics is not just a suggestion--it's a law.
       Personally, I think that we'll use the last of our rapidly dwindling energy reserves fighting to damn near global exhaustion this time and then we'll see the injection of God into history.  The power to rebuild had to come from the outside to keep the human system going or it will completely collapse and disappear.  God uses nature and He pretty much follows the laws he designed.  So buckle up.  Those that make it to the other side of this will have stories that will need to be passed down through the generations as a warning to those that come after.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade), Part Eighteen

         "By the fall of 1919, as the Kemalists were taking on the Greeks, Damad Ferid's government fell, and the Kemalists accrued more influence in government in Constantinople and throughout the country.  In the coming years there were three Greco-Turkish battles, and in September 1922 the Turks would burn Smyrna to the ground after killing tens of thousands of Greeks and Armenians and expelling the Greeks and remaining Armenians from the city and the region.
        As Kemalist nationalism found its footing and assumed unofficial political leadership, the nationalist stance against Armenia became increasingly virulent.  Procrastination by the Entente in Paris gave the Turks the time they needed to invade Armenia.  But before that happened, politics at the peace conference and in the United States made Armenia's situation tenser and even more complex.  In April 1920 the Allies asked President Wilson to draw a boundary line for the western part of Armenia;  but in May the United States rejected a proposed American mandate for Armenia.
        And on August 10, 1920, the Allies brought Damad Ferid Pasha and his government to the conference table with a treaty they had been preparing for months.  Like the Greek occupation of Smyrna, the Treaty of Sevres came as an affront to the Turks and especially to the Kemalists.  Because the Ottoman Empire had been a multicultural empire comprising numerous ethnic groups, many of which were living on their historic lands, the Treaty of Sevres in some ways was aimed at decolonizing the empire.
        Section VI, articles 88-93, of the treaty dealt exclusively with Armenia:  1)Turkey was to recognize Armenia as a free and independent state;  2) the president of the United States would determine the boundary between Armenia and Turkey, a boundary that would pass through the provinces of Erzurum, Trebizond, Van, and Bitlis;  3)the boundary was to include an outlet for Armenia on the Black Sea;  4)Turkey must renounce any claim to the ceded land;  5)although Armenia had been crippled by massacre and deportation, the European powers were asking Armenia to assume financial obligations for the former Turkish territory that was awarded to it;  6)Armenia would agree to protect the interests of minorities in its new state.  The treaty was at least a fair settlement for Armenia, but by the time it was signed, the politics in Turkey and the military advances against Armenia had made it almost obsolete.  Now the Kemalists were determined to revoke the Treaty of Sevres with its awards of territory not only to Armenia, but to Kurdistan and Greece.
        The 'National Pact' the Kemalists had drawn up in 1919 demanded all of Turkish Armenia, including areas that had been in Russia (Kars and Ardahan) that were now part of the Armenian Republic.  The Armenians desperately clung to the promises of the Europeans at Versailles and in the Treaty of Sevres, but the tide was turning.  The Kemalists were solidifying Turkey, and no foreign power was willing to accept a mandate for Armenia, even though the Europeans were agreeing to ask the League of Nations to consider the idea.  In the West the commitment to Armenia, in the wake of postwar fatigue, was dying fast."   The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian, pgs. 324-325. 

Brave for Liberty

       The following is from Cato's Letters #62:
       They who are used like beasts, will be apt to degenerate into beasts.  But those, on the contrary, who, by the freedom of their government and education, are comparing one man with another, that all men are naturally alike;  and that their governors, as they have the same face, constitution, and shape with themselves, and are subject to the same sickness, accidents, and death, with the meanest of their people;  so they possess the same passions and faculties of the mind which their subjects possess, and not better.  They therefore scorn to degrade and prostrate themselves, to adore those of their own species, however covered with titles, and disguised by power:  They consider them as their own creatures;  and, as far as they surround themselves, the work of their own hands, and only the chief servants of the state, who have no more power to do evil than one of themselves, and are void of every privilege and superiority, but to serve them and the state.  They know it to be a contradiction in religion and reason, for any man to have a right to do evil;  that not to resist any man's wickedness, is to encourage it;  and that they have the least reason to bear evil and oppression from their governors, who of all men are the most obliged to do them good.  They therefore detest slavery, and despise or pity slaves;  and, adoring liberty alone, as they who see its beauty and feel its advantages always will, it is no wonder that they are brave for it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

King's Bench

       It's been a while since Estase has blogged about King's Bench (AKA, the American Supreme Court).  One ingredient of the imperial presidency created by Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and strengthened by presidents as varied as FDR and George W. Bush, is that the court of King's Bench no longer decides on what the black-letter constitution says, but engages in dishonest though creative misreadings of this original document.  Furthermore, the Supreme Court has become an extension of the executive branch.  Justices are picked due to their predictable ability to tow the party line of whoever appointed them.  (One must concede, however, that Democratic presidents are much more adept at this than their Republican counterparts.  Anthony Kennedy votes far more like a liberal than would seem appropriate for a Republican appointee.  Even Sandra Day O'Connor had her embarassing Lemon case, which was also a lemon in another sense.)   Long ago cast to the winds was the Political Questions Doctrine as established in Luther v. Borden .  Today's Kings Bench is replete with such characters as Ruth Bader Ginsberg and "wise Latina" Sonya Sotamayor, who never saw a case of First Amendment religious freedom they thought deserved respect.  It is hard to imagine any of the more conservative members standing up to the executive, never mind the peril, in the same sense that James I and Francis Bacon clashed with Edward Coke.   It reminds one of W.B. Yeats' The Second Coming ,where the better people lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.   In a world where liberals think presidents are elected kings (see movies such as The American President and With Honors), Supreme Court justices are just another way to obviate the power of House and Senate.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The People's (Republic?) Pope

       In the 90s epic Braveheart, Edward I (played by Patrick McGoohan) opines, "The problem with Scotland is that is a nation of Scots."  In other words, Edward I chooses to deal with a people who won't knuckle under to him by replacing them with English colonists, extermination, and prima noctae, an antique custom allowing the local noble to rape newlywed women.  In much the same way, contemporary politicians choose to replace their populations with more pliable ones.  In about 40 years, the United Kingdom, with its capital city of Londinistan, will cease to be a nation of English, Welsh, and Scots.  It will instead be a colony of Pakistan.  (Relish the irony.  Britain colonized India, and now the reverse is happening!)  Our own politicians prefer the Hispanic to replace us with.
       Senator Ted Cruz gave a speech today where he called upon Vatican City to welcome unlimited numbers of poor Africans.  The Vatican, Mr. Cruz opined, has nothing separating her from the poor of Africa but the Mediterannean.  She has artwork valued at millions of Dollars.  Surely St. Peter's Basilica could accomodate thousands of poor people?  Why should Pope Francis turn a cold shoulder to these people?  Jesus was impoverished.  We are admonished to welcome the stranger and embrace the poor.  If Vatican City itself cannot accomodate the poor of Africa, perhaps the Italian government, which has always been a model of efficiency and solvency, could take in these people?  Perhaps some of them might carry exotic diseases like Ebola that they could share with the people of Italy?

        What, you say that what Italy and the Vatican do are none of America's business?  Why, Pope Francis seems to think that what the United States does is his?

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

PayDay Bar Goes Testicles

       Earlier this year, Norelco's ad executives showed us they had watched "The Silence of the Lambs" too many times when they had a man in a trimmer commercial remark, "I'd f*ck me," recalling the oh-so-disturbing sequence in which the transvestite serial killer dances in drag to "Girls on Film" and similarly remarks "I'd do me so hard."  Autoerotica, anyone? 
        The great Michael Savage once opined that all ad executives now are gay men, and one is inclined to believe it when one considers the current crop of ads (See my previous blogpost from January 2012 "Harpo Marx Doritos Commercial.")  The oddest, and argueably most perverted offering of late, is a commercial for PayDay candybars.  Using the bizarre slogan "Expose Yourself to PayDay," the add shows a PayDay bar mostly out of its wrapper, with a matrix blur over the middle of the candy bar, as though genitals exist on the product.  Where does one even begin?  First taboo:  most people consider indecent exposure laudable behavior, and of course all Americans love to think about a candy bar having its perverse, public nudity moment.  Second taboo:  if a PayDay bar has genitals, must that mean that snacking is a sexual act? 
       Estase doesn't want to go all Moral Majority here, but there is a definite and worrying trend here.  It used to be bad enough to imply that buying the right car would get you laid, but now we are advanced to such an advanced level of depravity that ad executives cannot sell a sub sandwich, Doritos, hair clippers, or candy bars without some kind of a sexual reference.  What is next?  I hope a wave of decency overtakes Madison Avenue, and there isn't need for a third post on the subject.

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Martyrs Were Suckers

      Being a martyr is an extremely unwelcome thing today.  Estase remembers a discussion in a history seminar about resisting Hitler.  One student said something along the lines of "But they had to participate in the Holocaust.  They would have been killed if they didn't."  Estase responded that the worst the Nazis could have done to a resistor is kill them.  "But they couldn't do that!," was the response.  Several students seemed to believe that there was a broad category of things you could be "forced" to do.  Estase responded that the only things a person had to do were be born and die.  He also said that it would be far better morally to be killed for refusing to cooperate with genocide instead of going along with genocide and then being executed for it.  In one case you would die with a clean conscience, and the other you would die with a guilty conscience.  By this line of reasoning, the early Christian martyrs did the wrong thing by dying rather than worshipping Roman idols.
       Estase does not have a Twitter account, and the reason why is that it facilitates superficial snippets and these snippets all too often are sarcastic and abusive.  One person on Twitter, going under the name of KeKe Dat Bitch, unfavorably compared Martin Luther King to Nikki Minaj.  This girl said that MLK was a criminal (owing to his incarceration), and Nikki has her own clothing line! (Oooh!)  When a rap star who made millions for negligible work is regarded as better than someone who risked his life repeatedly seeking equitable treatment for black people, there is something very rotten in Denmark.  It is yet another sign that martyrdom is an unpopular vocation today.
       Others on Twitter include Catholic Bishop John Wester, who tweeted that it would be wonderful if people first thought of Catholics as "joyful."  Bishop Wester is on record for saying that the problem with Obamacare was that it didn't include illegal aliens.  It is people like John Wester in the Catholic Church that are most averse to martyrdom.  Why, Saint Stephen made a colossal mistake!  The reason he was stoned was no doubt that he failed to exude enough joy!  The Catholic Health Association in Scranton supported Obamacare even as they knew it would drive them out of business.  If this is martyrdom, and not a conscious decision that Catholics shouldn't run hospitals, this is for the reader to decide.  One may follow KeKe, and say that becoming rap stars with a clothing line is far preferable to being a nun in today's world.  Or, like Bishop Wester, they might conclude that the only job of a nun is to be "joyful."  At any rate, don't make a fuss.  Do like the University of Notre Dame, and have Obama come tell your graduates that Catholicism isn't a satisfactory system of belief for young people.  The martyrs, after all, were suckers.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Partisanship and Limiting Power

      The following is from Cato's Letters #57:
       The honour of a party is to adhere to one another, right or wrong;  and though their chief be a knave and a traitor, their honour is engaged to be honest to him in all his rogueries and treason.  And this is a war of honour against honesty.
       The honour and bona fide of some princes have been of that odd and unprincely contexture, that they were never once restrained by the same, from decieving, plaguing, invading, robbing, and usurping upon their neighbours, and doing things which would have entitled a plain subject to the gibbet.  Their honour seems to have been deeply concerned to have no honour:  And though their faith was engaged to protect their subjects;  yet their honour, on the other side, was engaged to pillage and enslave them.  And here grew the royal war of honour against faith and equity!

These excerpts are from Cato's Letters #60:

       The experience of every age convinces us, that we must not judge of men by what they ought to do, but by what they will do;  and all history affords but few instances of men trusted with great power without abusin it, when with security they could.  The servants of society, that is to say, its magistrates, did almost universally serve it by seizing it, selling it, or plundering it;  especially when they were left by the society unlimited as to their duty and wages.  In that case these faithful stewards generally took all;  and, being servants, made slaves of their masters. .  .  .The only secret therefore in forming a free government, is to make the interests of the governors and of the governed the same, as far as human policy can contrive.  Liberty cannot be preserved any other way.  Men have long found, from the weakness and depravity of themselves and one another, that most men will act for interest against duty, as often as they dare.  So that to engage them to their duty, interest must be linked to the observance of it, and danger to the breach of it.  Personal advantages and security, must be the rewards of duty and obedience;  and disgrace, torture, and death, the punishment of treachery and corruption.

Kasab Taburu (Butcher Brigade), Part Seventeen

       "Ravished Armenia was based on the survivor account of an Armenian girl, Arshalois (meaning 'morning light') Mardigian, who in the United States had changed her name to Aurora Mardiganian.  Aurora had arrived at Ellis Island in November 1917, a sixteen-year- old with one surviving brother, for whom she was searching in the United States.  In New York City she was taken in by an Armenian family who placed ads in the papers to help her search.  The advertisements caught the eye of several journalists at the New York Sun and the New York Tribune, who interviewed Aurora and published her story.
       When Harvey Gates, a twenty-four-year-old screenwriter who would become known for If I Had a Million(1932), The Werewolf of London(1935), and The Courageous Dr. Christian(1939)--read about Aurora, he was both deeply moved and saw a unique opportunity.  He and his wife, Eleanor, persuaded Nora Waln, Aurora's guardian, that the girl should abandon her plans to work in a dress factory and pursue a career in the movies.  They soon became Aurora's legal guardians and transcribed her story, which was published as Ravished Armenia in the United States in 1918 (and as Auction of Souls in England in 1919).  The book came with a preface and testimony by H.L. Gates, the president of Robert College in Constantinople, and Nora Waln, who verified the truth of Aurora's story.  While the book sold well, its more sensational venue would be the big screen.
       Ravished Armenia was an epic story and a first in film history, bringing genocide to the screen.  Aurora's story begins in April 1915 in the city of Tchmesh-Gedzak (Chemeshgadzak), a town just north of the twin cities of Harput and Mezre in what Leslie Davis had recently called 'the slaughterhouse province' of Harput.  From her comfortable, affluent home (her father was a banker), Aurora is arrested and then abducted by Turkish gendarmes and thrust into a ghoulish world of massacre and violence.  As she describes the death marches across Anatolia, Ravished Armenia depicts the story of what Ambassador Morgenthau had already called 'the murder of a nation.'
       Col. William N. Selig, a pioneering producer from the 1890's, bought the film rights to Aurora's story, and Oscar Apfel, who had recently directed The Squaw Man with Cecil B. DeMille, was signed on as director.  Irving Cummings and Anna Q. Nilsson, well-known movie actors of their day, were signed to leading roles.  Just as President Wilson was heading to Paris for the Peace Conference, Gates was bringing Aurora Mardignian to Los Angeles to act in her own story at $15 a week.  'They said $15 was a lot of money,' and 'I was naive,' Aurora said, looking back at her life.  At the Selig studios in Santa Monica, Ravished Armenia was made in less than a month, with death march scenes filmed on the beach near Santa Monica and Mt. Baldy standing in for Mt. Ararat.
       Aurora barely spoke English and knew nothing about the world of cinema.  On the set, when she saw actors in red fezzes, she fell into terror.  'I thought they were going to give me to the Turks to finish my life,' she said, breaking down in the middle of the scene.  It took Eleanor Gates's consoling and explanations to assure Aurora that the actors were not Turks but Americans playing their roles, and that they would not harm her.  Today we would call Aurora's response post-traumatic shock.
       Having experienced the deaths of her mother, father, brother, and sisters at the hands of the Turks, she was left alone to endure and witness torture, mass rapes, the crucifixion of women, the sale of women into slavery and harems, and the notorious 'game of swords' in which girls and women were thrown by the chetes and gendarmes from horses and impaled on swords that were set blade-up in the ground.  As film critic Anthony Slide put it, no matter how hard both the book and the film tried to portray the violence Aurora experienced and witnessed, they were both 'relatively sanitized versions of what [she] actually suffered and witnessed.'
       When Aurora saw Apfel's version of the Armenian women being crucified on large, well-constructed crosses with their long hair covering their nude bodies, she told the director, 'The Turks didn't make their crosses like that.  The Turks made little pointed crosses.  They took the clothes off the girls.  They made them bend down.  And after raping them, they made them sit on the pointed wood, through the vagina.  That's the way they killed--the Turks.  Americans have made it a more civilized way.  They can't show such terrible things.'  Aurora then told Apfel and the others how her pregnant aunt, who was trying to protect her two-year-old son, was killed.  'The Turks, they took a knife and cut open her abdomen.  They said, this is how we are going to end all you people.  They pulled out a fetus from her.  Put it on a stone.  They took the end of the gun that they had, which was heavy, and started to pound and pound and pound her baby.'"  The Burning Tigris by Peter Balakian, pgs. 313-315.