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    • Obama’s Speech on War with the Islamic State
      Let’s just quickly point out the obvious: air power only works if you have effective ground troops backing it up, or your enemy is easily dissuaded from war by losses of infrastructure. Otherwise it wrecks great destruction, and does little more. To put it simply, this strategy will certainly help those fighting the IS, but [...]
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More Sandy images from the Princeton area

Here are a couple of videos that show how bad the storm damage was in Princeton.  The first one shows Witherspoon Street, which is one of the main streets in Princeton.  The second shows the area around Princeton, including some of the roads I drive on.  This was pretty typical of the damage around my town as well.  There are many downed trees blocking the road, and many downed power lines.  Roads through the Princeton area were detoured for a couple of weeks and as of last week, there were still traffic signals that weren’t working in parts of Princeton and Lawrenceville.

First video: Witherspoon Street, Princeton

Second video: Roads around Princeton.

Now, I know that many people are playing the world’s smallest violin for Princeton and somehow, we’re supposed to feel collective guilt for all the suffering that happened in New Orleans after Katrina because… because… fuck if I know.  I guess I should just forget all of the collection stations in the local shopping center parking lots to send stuff to NOLA.  Yeah, we’re just insensitive jerks with no sense of responsibility or empathy.  {{rolling eyes}}  And because we didn’t all drown, we should not ask for any money from the Feds, not even the 40 cents for every tax dollar we send to Washington that we don’t get back.

No, we didn’t all drown, but about 100 people in NY and NJ did in the shore areas and there were enough people hit by falling trees.  This was not just a severe thunderstorm.  NOLA was suffering on a personal scale as well as a property scale.  On the other hand, it’s not like the gulf coast isn’t used to hurricanes.  There’s even a famous NOLA drink named after them.  What these videos are showing is the unprecedented nature of this disaster on places that were not on the shore.  We live about 40 miles inland.  And while our area isn’t going to suffer the devastating economic losses associated with the shore, it’s not nothing here.  Pay attention to the second video, especially to the tree canopy overhead.  That’s what I’m worried about.  They’ve cleared the obstructions and repaired the power lines but some of those trees up there are still dangerous, just like some of the trees in Central Park are dangerous.  They’re compromised.  We’re going to find out just how compromised they are in the coming months.

This final video is pretty good.  It’s from a guy who has a house on Ortley Beach at the shore.  Note that these houses are not super swank millionaire “cottages”.  They’re pretty typical of well-established shore towns.  Some of the houses have been there for almost 100 years.

Life in Post-Apocalyptic New Jersey: Climbing the water tower to defend our honor

Tree down on a road about a mile from my house the day after Sandy.

I read a post by Chicago Dyke at Corrente this afternoon that was a little disturbing.  CD thinks that Chris Christie’s request of $36 billion is too much.  I think Chicago Dyke has a distorted perception of who actually lives here in New Jersey but I’ll address that in a minute.  Here’s my response to her from my comment at Corrente (edited) with an additional point that I think any liberal would love to sign on to:

New Jersey resident here climbing the water tower with a bucket of paint to defend new New Jersey’s honor.

First, we in NJ have been footing the bill for the rest of the country for years now. For every dollar of taxes we send to DC we get $.61. That’s right, we lose almost 40 cents of every dollar. We make up for the shortfall by paying the most punitive property taxes in the country. While I would LOVE to send my $.39/dollar of taxes to Michigan, it usually gets sucked down by Mississippi and Alabama who hate us for our freedoms.

Second, this is the densest state in the nation. There are a lot of buildings and a lot of people. And real estate here is not cheap. I live in the NYC metropolitan area in central Jersey where the average house price in my town is about $450K and the median salary is $108k per year. And at that salary, you’re barely middle class. I was making about $100k when I got laid off and I live in a modest townhouse and drive a second hand car that I bought in 2007. It’s just fricking expensive here.  So, anything that needs to be repaired is going to cost a fortune.

Third, the businesses wiped out at the Jersey shore are seasonal. There’s not a whole lot going on there in the winter. The shore businesses make their money from May to September. Imagine if you were the owner of a store in a mall and the mall burned to the ground before Christmas.  Now, imagine thousands of stores in that predicament. There are many people who will lose their shirts and their jobs next year if these businesses can’t be rescued.  The problem can be somewhat alleviated next year if we start now.

The shore is great for families who want something between a cruise and a staycation.  You rent a house there for a week or two, invite everyone you know and enjoy the sun and sea. So, tourism is big in this state. Homeowners who had their seasonal rental properties wiped out and restaurants and motels amusements all have to be somewhat ready before next summer.  By the way, I’ve rented a house at the Jersey Shore and it was just a little bungalow, nothing fancy.  It was no three story modern monstrosity on the beach.  Most of the properties down there are not owned by the fabulously wealthy.  They’re just simple little vacation homes with few frills.  The owners are the people who are going to be really hurting next year if they can’t rent their houses.

Four, the devastation was pretty bad in Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken. Those are not high rent districts, except for Hoboken, which is becoming gentrified and is the hot place to live if you can’t afford Manhattan. In other words, these cities were already hit hard by decades of neglect followed by an economic downturn starting in 2008. I think I know your heart CD and I don’t think you wish further hardship on these people. Not everyone lives in Princeton.

Five, the devastation was wide spread. This much I know for sure because I see it every fricking day. There are still parts of my township that were without power up until last week. The number of trees that are down is unbelievable. I mean, you really have to be here to see it. Some people walked out of their houses the day after the storm and were electrocuted on their front porches. I did a video of a neighborhood near mine. Check it out. There were huge trees down on almost every property, streets blocked off from fallen power lines and one house that was literally surrounded by fallen power lines. I don’t know how people in that house were able to leave it safely. I was out of power for 5 days which wasn’t so bad but without power when I had the generator, you can’t turn on your furnace even if it’s gas. Some people had to go almost four weeks without heat in the middle of November.

Princeton *was* extremely hard hit. There were main streets in downtown Princeton that were blocked off because of dangerous fallen and falling trees. (Witherspoon was completely blocked off at Nassau Street) Up until last week, I was still driving thru parts of Princeton that had no working traffic signals. In the coming months, there will be many more deaths from this storm. There are still too many damaged trees close to the road. Yours truly is very afraid of driving around my area and Princeton because a car is bound to get hammered by one of them at any point in time.  But not everyone in Princeton is rich.  There are many students, graduate students with families and regular, working people who live in and around Princeton.

And as to the intensity of the storm, when your house vibrates and shakes from the wind and you can hear trees groaning and snapping all around you for about 3 hours straight, it’s not just your average storm.  It came ashore as a hurricane and met with another storm system.  And it was scary as hell to live through so let’s not trivialize it.  For some people, it was wind, storm surge and fire all in one night.  I think it gave Katrina a run for its money. There may not have been as many deaths from drowning but the damage to property is extensive and much worse than Katrina because it is over such a big, densely populated area.

Finally, this state had an unemployment rate of 10.2% BEFORE Sandy. It’s higher now because so many businesses were damaged or forced to close during the power failure or lost money because counties like mine declared a state of emergency and told everyone to stay indoors until the dangerous power lines and fallen trees and street lamps and overhead power supports could be secured. To give you an idea of how long that took, it was November 16 before the kids could go trick or treating safely.

Sandy has been awful for a lot of people but there is a silver lining. That is with $36 B (and to me, that sounds cheap but that’s because I know what things cost here) we can put a lot of people back to work doing construction, clean up, maybe forward planning, insurance adjusting, relocations, etc. There will be enough money to maybe jump start this economy, which believe it or not, has been harder hit during the little Depression than most people know.

And here’s the thing that liberals should be onboard for: since the stimulus money was inadequate, pumping $36 Billion into New Jersey would demonstrate something that even  Chris Christie doesn’t want to admit.  Stimulus works.  This state is in pretty bad shape but now there is an opportunity to do something about it.  Just burying the power lines would be a HUGE improvement and would put thousands of people to work.  We’ve lost so much in the past 4 years.  The pharmaceutical industry, which everyone loves to hate but I loved working for, has pulled out of New Jersey leaving thousands of well educated, technically current people out of work, under-employed and just flat broke.  Will those people be looking for jobs in the clean up?  Um, yeah.  And once they’re employed, they’ll get off the unemployment rolls and start pumping money back into the economy.  Some of that money will come in the form of taxes where we will, once again, give away $.39 of every dollar we send.

One more thing:  If Chris Christie wants to get re-elected and be a real hero, he could use Sandy to apply a tax overhaul shock doctrine.  Now is the time to reform the highly regressive property tax system and collect taxes from the people who actually make a lot of money, including all of the businesses here who have been welching on local townships.  Sure, it will look like something only a progressive FDR type could do but remember that FDR got re-elected- three times.

Think about it, Chris.

So, I hope I’ve changed your mind, CD. We really need the money. It will be well spent. And it will do a lot of working class and middle class people a lot of good. Those people have been funding the rest of America for years. It’s time for America to give back in our state’s hour of need

Here’s a video from MacJersey (kinda shaky) of Mantoloking on the shore.  Some of the houses were built in the 1920s and never expected to be part of an inlet.  The landscape has changed and part of the road infrastructure is gone.

Ok, here’s my theory about why the Masters of the Universe want to kill the social insurance programs

Remember what I said about Wall Street workers?  Let me refresh your memory:

The finance class actually consists of a bunch of overqualified strip miners.  They’re overworked, which might explain the number of bad decisions they make, and their compensation system decouples the consequences of their actions from the actions themselves.  They are being paid to make “deals” and the purpose of those deals is to extract “wealth”.  In a way, it’s not that much different from getting into the cab of some giant piece of earth moving equipment and mowing down the side of the mountain and then loading that potential ore onto a conveyor belt to be separated from dirt.  They live in a “company” town and are paid “company scrip”.  It’s a truck system for them as well.  The compensation is not proportional to the amount of work they do, they can be fired at will and they’re never going to leave that mountain because they owe their souls to the company store.  The more they work, the more compensation in bonuses they are promised but it’s never enough.

Once you think about this metaphor of Wall Street doing the work of strip miners, the present set of circumstances will start to make a lot of sense.

We know that Social Security does not add to the deficit.  In fact, we have a trust fund worth almost $3 trillion dollars.  Sure, that trust fund has taken a hit in the past four years because so many people are out of work and can’t pay their taxes but once people are working again, the kitty will start to grow again.  And if all that is needed is a couple of tweaks to solve the minor shortfall, it’s really not as damaging to the economy or rich people’s ability to spend ungodly amounts of money on themselves as they pretend.

So, it’s not a deficit problem- at least not from the government’s side of things.  Sure, Medicare does need to be fixed but that requires some spine stiffening on the part of the Democrats to crack down on providers.  Did I tell you about my lab partner’s husband’s 4 hour hernia operation and recovery in the hospital?  $70,000.  No, that is not a mistake.  There’s something truly out of whack when if comes to costs and payments to hospitals, doctors, insurance companies.  It’s a real problem.  And since the rest of the developed world has found reasonable solutions at much lower costs, it’s moronic for our elected officials to tell us that the costly ACA, with downstream repercussions they failed to study, is the best we can do.  Please, do we look stupid to you?

Anyway, back to Wall Street.  The Social Security trust fund is solid and fixable and millions of us late boomers paid into the surplus funds to cover our own retirements.  What isn’t solid and fixable is the 401K system, which really is a Ponzi scheme.  Pretty soon, a lot of aging baby boomers will be taking money out.  That’s going to hurt someone’s bottom line.  The bonuses and skimming going forward isn’t going to be nearly so lucrative as it was over the past two decades.  After the Baby Boom came the Baby Bust in the late 60’s.  Looks like The Pill really caught on in a big way.

In the past couple of decades, many companies ditched their pensions for the 401K.  Let the kids pay for their own retirements.  None of this deferred compensation crap.  And life was good for the shareholders and the bankers.  But once that money starts to get withdrawn, the salad days will be over.  So, Wall Street must get more people into 401Ks or they won’t be able to continue strip mining.  The problem is that most people are already in one if their employer offers it.  The market is finite and pretty soon will plateau.  At some point, the investment portfolios are also going to reach a steady state.

BUT, if you raise the retirement age and keep a lot of older people working, they will be forced to put their money back into the market.  Well, they won’t be able to retire until they’re much older than their parents were at retirement.  If they have any hope of ever taking time out to go travel or garden, they’re going to have to risk their money in the market, hope that it will pay off so they can get out of the job market before they’re dead and forget about social security.

My theory is that raising the retirement age forces more savings to stay in the market longer and that with a pool of people who can’t retire yet still working, the amount of money going into 401Ks and IRAs is going to go up. Stripville!

It makes sense from a timing perspective.  There’s really no need to cut a deal with Republicans right now.  The Democrats have enough seats to keep things pretty much unchanged.  If the tax cuts expire, it’s going to look bad for Republicans to hold middle class tax cuts hostage in order to satisfy their rich friends.  In fact, just about anything the Republicans stamp their feet and insist on is going to look bad for them.

But Obama still wants to cut a deal and make us all a lot poorer as a nation and as individuals.  And he really doesn’t have to do this.  So, why do it?  I think it’s because the strip miners have told him that if he doesn’t, the market is going to start to drop and it will pick up speed and saving the banks is the most important thing ever!!!  All serious people agree about this.  If he doesn’t cut the social insurance programs in order to prop up the 401K system, it will be all his and the Democrats’ fault when the market finally starts to fall.

Yep, that would suck for seniors who are about to retire so if I were them, I’d start looking around for other places to put that money.  But history has shown that Obama and his droogs at Treasury will bend over backwards to please bankers even if it means opening a revolving line of credit for the bankers to the taxpayer cash stream in perpetuity.  (Read Neil Barofsky’s book for more horrific details).

It’s been my feeling that the 401K is behind a lot of what’s really messed up in our economy and for some reason, we never hear anyone of sufficient gravitas talking about it.  But just imagine what would happen to the economy if we tried to phase it out even if most of us hate it with a white hot passion.

All hell would break loose.

The Top Comment du Jour from the NYTimes article on killing the social insurance policies

The NYTimes writes with astonishment and confusion that Americans are not willing to eat their poisoned mushrooms where social insurance programs are concerned.  For some weird reason, they sent more liberal minded Democrats to Congress next term and those Democrats appear almost to be willing to represent their voters.  It looks like Americans who have for decades paid Social Security taxes, a Surplus tax (done because we are too menny) and Medicare taxes, are not buying the idea that Social Security is a drag on the deficit or that the burden to fix Medicare must fall solely on the shoulders of working people.

This in spite of the relentless media messaging that tells them that they must sacrifice more skin.  Maybe waiting until people have lost their careers, savings and houses in the biggest financial catastrophe since the Great Depression is not the best time to apply so much pressure to Americans that they cry mercy, especially since most of them won’t have big enough pensions (if they have them at all) to retire on.  You’d think the masters of the universe would have figured out by now that if you reduce or eliminate pensions and force everyone to “save” money in insecure and risky 401K programs that those dullards would naturally hang on to their social insurance programs with their dear lives and the politicians who are eager to cut a deal would start facing resistance.  Never fear, they’ll probably just threaten to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction, plunging the housing market into a further slump.  That’s more immediate than cutting Social Security and so Americans will take the deal.  I can almost see Mitch McConnell winding up for that pitch.

Whatever.

What I really liked was this comment in the Readers’ Picks section of the article.  This sucker from commenter Kevin Rothstein got over 350 recommendations.  It’s at the top of the list, which should tell the NYTimes what is really bouncing around in Americans’ heads:

Enact Medicare for all. Stop the political nonsense. Eliminate the Department of Homeland Security. Cut the defense budget in half. Leave Afghanistan now. Close most of our overseas military bases. Spend money on upgrading infrastructure. Invest in alternative energy. End our dependence on fossil fuels. Bring back tax rates prior to Reagan. There. Problem solved.

This is not rocket science.  Here’s another one from reader TS:

Mr Pear, Social Security and Medicare are NOT entitlement programs. It seems that the right has defined them as such but, as with many other issues, that doesn’t make it true. Anyone who draws a paycheck has SS and Medicare deducted. If the interest from those funds were untouched by greedy lawmakers they would be more than solvent. I PAY into Social Security. I PAY into Medicare just as I would an insurance policy. I’m not entitled to these benefits, I EARNED them.

Pretty much.   There’s more where that came from in the reader’s picks.  Oddly enough, the editor’s picks are calling the social insurance programs “entitlements” and think that we need to balance any cuts in “entitlements” with increased taxes and other cuts in spending.What’s really amusing is that those comments are getting less than half of the recommends than the reader’s picks.  So, I think we have to conclude that the unending propaganda and redefinition is not working.  The jig is up.  Americans know when they’re being conned.

We are assigned a Social Security number at birth.  That’s when we enter into the social compact to make sure we all have something to fall back on in case some young 28 year old asshole banker gambles away our futures, or our working parent dies or we develop a chronic condition and can’t work.  It’s sinful to take our money for decades, make promises based on actuarial data, take MORE money to cover a shortfall and then at the last moment, when there’s no way or time to make up the difference, pull the rug out from under a generation of Americans just so that we don’t raise taxes on the insanely wealthy.  To do that would be fraud and I’m agin’ it.

******************************

Later, a theory on what’s really behind the push to raise the retirement age and cut social security payments.  It’s only partially about taxes.

The spit in Glenn Beck’s tea

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I hate to clean my house.  Some people are positively orgasmic about clean houses and waste take a lot of time getting everything perfect and perfectly dirt free.  These people are a mystery to me and anyway, perfection is unattainable. (I keep telling myself this.) Recognizing the deficiency of clean genes in my genotype, I have to resort to trickery.  In other words, I download a book from audible and go to town on my floor or stove, distracting myself from whatever mind numbing chore there is to do.  Jo Nesbo has been my recent author du jour when I have to whip out the sponges and Comet.  But yesterday, when my audible credits renewed, I decided to take a look around for some different entertainment.  That’s when I saw this blurb for Glenn Beck’s newest “novel”, Agenda 21:

Just a generation ago this place was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of UN-lead program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as the ‘Republic’. There is no president. No congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.

There are only the Authorities.

Citizens have two primary goals in the new Republic: to create clean energy and to create new human life.

Those who cannot do either are of no use to society.

This bleak and barren existence is all that 18-year-old Emmeline has ever known. She dutifully walks her energy board daily and accepts all male pairings assigned to her by the Authorities. Like most citizens, she keeps her head down and her eyes closed.

Until the day they came for her mother.

Woken up to the harsh reality of her life and her family’s future inside the Republic, Emmeline begins to search for the truth. Why are all citizens confined to ubiquitous concrete living spaces? Why are Compounds guarded by Gatekeepers who track all movements? Why are food, water and energy rationed so strictly? And, most important, why are babies taken from their mothers at birth?

As Emmeline begins to understand the true objectives of Agenda 21, she realizes that she is up against far more than she ever thought. With the Authorities closing in, and nowhere to run, Emmeline embarks on an audacious plan to save her family and expose the Republic – but is she already too late?

:-^

I like the term “UN-lead”.  Is that Simon and Schuster’s subtle way of saying that it secretly thinks we should use unleaded gasoline or a punny commentary on the unenforceability of the agenda or are those ironic interpretations just artifacts of the non-conspiratorialist’s rational mind? Or is it like the word “unionize”?  To a bunch of Walmart workers, it means solidarity for better wages and working conditions.  To the chemist it means neutralizing a substance.  But I’m getting off track here.

I didn’t know anything about the real Agenda 21 initiative, which the US is a major signatory to.  So I looked it up.  It’s a voluntary initiative by the UN to promote sustainable development with the goal of reducing the impact of human activity on biodiversity and climate.  Oh, and also there’s some stuff in there about making sure women and other diverse populations don’t get stomped on by the white male affirmative action plan that’s been going on for the last 10,000 years or so.  Not only is it voluntary and a set of proposed standards, but since it’s not a treaty, the Senate hasn’t even taken up discussion of it in Congress.  This is the big threat to the nation.

Obviously, it’s a socialist plot, according to Beck.  Capitalism is apparently incapable of pulling off greater equality between the genders or decreasing dependence on a finite resource like petroleum so the socialists have to do it and conscript the unwilling American population into its wicked program for less pollution and more fairness.  The point of this book appears to be to argue that leaving things just the way they are with more and more people taking a back seat to oil money and power while keeping their place in the natural order of things, as miserable as that might be, is better than evolving.  It’s a little like trying to take the pro side of the debate on venereal disease at the High School Forensics Club meeting.

Glenn Beck is a brave man.  Cunning, manipulative, reckless and willfully ignorant, but brave. Or maybe he’s just enough of a big name that any stupid nonsense he writes will guarantee an audience to a major publisher.  Where is the UN-lead initiative for equalizing the playing field with regard to getting published?  Now *that’s* the kind of agenda that would give Beck the willies for sure.

While I was going through the spam filter last night, I ran across a link from a site that doesn’t deserve any additional attention that asked whether I was a secret Tea Party person because I questioned why the people of New Jersey should only get back $.60 for every dollar we send to Washington.  I think the site manager misunderstands my comment about taxes, deliberately, so as to mislead his merry band of Tea Party followers.

I don’t mind paying my taxes.  What I object to is a bunch of red states or red mentalities constantly interfering in our ability as a nation to evolve.  Not only do they interfere, they seem to take perverse pleasure in keeping the nation in an arrested state of development.  It’s a power trip without any purpose whatsoever.  That’s what I object to.  I object to Alabama taking our money and then spitting in our face and telling us that government is no good.  I object to the south not taxing its own people effectively while at the same time making sure that the underpaid in their states are treated as persons deserving neither respect nor dignity and then exporting that attitude to the rest of the country.

The Tea Party is notorious for collecting followers that express a wide variety of  miserable, hard hearted, nasty, unkind, selfish greedy behaviors towards their fellow Americans.  My anger is fairly typical of people in the coastal populations, rich in diversity and probably better educated, who can see that the country is being left behind by the actions of a mindless mob of mean spirited, religious, conformists who let people like Glenn Beck interfere with their thinking processes.

If they’re so worried about the horrors of Agenda 21, just let them leave already.  No, seriously.  I think the rest of us have had enough. Emigrate to Iraq or Russia or some other place where there are no rules or regulations to prevent testosterone poisoned capitalists from doing whatever the hell they want.  Let them see how natural law operates when there are no better angels to restrain it. It’s time that liberals toughened up and stopped being so damned accommodating or apologizing for our rational desire for regulation and restraint on the turbo charged financiers.

The Tea Partiers don’t want to live in one nation. (And no, that is no tribute to Barack Obama who wouldn’t know a sincere sentiment if it hit him in the face)  They want to continue on with a perpetual war against reality and modernity because they can’t see the iron fist of the uber wealthy pulling their strings.  Their power is going to wane anyway but not before they cause irreparable harm to the country they claim to love.  I challenge that assumption.  I don’t think they love this country.  They are in love with their power.  If they don’t like taxes or government, let them give back the $.40 per dollar that New Jersey sends to them.  We’ve got a bill for Sandy that’s going to run about $30,000,000,000.  We don’t have time for tribulationalist fantasies about voluntary UN initiatives that propose to make the world cleaner, more energy efficient or fairer to most of its people.  Only people like Glenn Beck would see that kind of society as some kind of dystopia.

I spit in Glenn Beck’s Tea.

The Pledge

Some of this pledge hit a funny note with me.  Because my mother was a Jehovah’s Witness when I was a kid and JWs are in to making their kids instant targets of childish affection in the classroom, I was not allowed to say The Pledge when I was in school.  The first day of class, someone from the office would pass the note to my homeroom teacher that would instantly condemn me to a year long club of my very own.  I don’t know how my sister and brother handled it but since they seem to be better adjusted, I’m going to assume they ignored the note and said the pledge.  Well, as long as there weren’t other JWs in the same homeroom class to report on you (and that was kinda their job), you could probably get away with it.

I never said the pledge.  I just stood there.  My mother put me in a difficult situation, especially when we lived in South Carolina and I didn’t know that I was supposed to stop in my tracks during Reveille (yes, they actually played it) and then recite the pledge no matter where I was standing.  I got my little 8 year old ears chewed out by the Vice Principal who followed me down the hall one morning when I returned to my classroom after an errand to the office and didn’t stop.  I was a totally clueless transfer student from hippy dippy California.  His attitude did not improve once he saw the note from my mother.  I could see it in his eyes.  That dude was out to make my world a miserable place to live in.

Anyway, well into my teens, I didn’t say the pledge.  But I started to realize that the people around me were just going through the motions.  They had no idea what they were saying or weren’t really thinking about it.  When they said the pledge, this video is what I heard.

Which explains a lot of what goes on in politics and public discourse today.  People tend not to think things through.  They like the comfort of repeating what everyone around them is saying.

I guess I should thank the JWs for making me realize that but oddly enough, I absolutely despise every thing about them.

The nature of the state and corruption according to Hilary Mantel

Thomas Cromwell by Hans Holbein

Hilary Mantel has written two Booker Prize winning books about the life of Thomas Cromwell. The first, Wolf Hall, introduces us to Cromwell’s humble origins and shows how he rises to power as a protege of Cardinal Wolsey.  The second, Bring Up the Bodies, tells us all about his role in the sudden coup that topples Anne Boleyn.  I preferred the first book, although both books are very good.  It’s just that the first book makes Cromwell more human while the second is much less introspective so we have to do a lot more guessing about what was going on in his mind.  I find his motivations where Anne is concerned to be somewhat at odds with the personality traits laid out in the first book.  There’s a lack of continuity there.  Except when it comes to the matter of the state.

Cromwell was the architect of the state, bringing medieval England into the age of commerce, regulation, standards, finance.  His goal was to eliminate the crisis that tore the country to pieces during the War of the Roses when insanity and rivalry kept contenders to the throne fighting each other for decades.

So, when I listened to this podcast interview of Hilary Mantel, I was pleased to find that I had identified the crucial scene of the second book.  It was a bit like getting the essay question right in English class.  (Hint: it takes place when Henry VIII is unhorsed and is taken to a tournament tent unconscious and not breathing.  What happens there tells you everything you need to know about how this story is going to end.)

But there was another bit of information that Mantel relates in this podcast that I found curious.  She says that in Henry VIII’s reign, the state functionaries supported themselves.  That is, they had to pay for their own staffs and activities.  For Thomas Cromwell who decided to create a state bureaucracy virtually from scratch, this meant he was spending his own money to pay for his clerks and minor officials.  Some of this money he was getting from the sinecures and land he was given by the king.  But it wasn’t enough to pay everyone he needed to pay to get things done.  So, he arranged financial deals for courtiers and he took a lot of bribes.  The elite aristocracy looked the other way until they wanted him gone when his state began intruding on their hereditary rights.

For some weird reason, I immediately thought of Warren Buffet’s idea to strip Congress people and Senators of their salaries and pensions…

Anyway, if you’re into that sort of thing, you might like this podcast of Hilary Mantel.  You can listen to it here.  I’m not quite sure that she’s right about what Anne Boleyn might have done with her male admirers.  By all accounts, she maintained her innocence right until the end, which was supposed to be unusual for condemned prisoners who were about to meet their maker in the 1500’s.  I’m inclined to think that her nerves got the better of her and her anxiety attacks were hard to live with.  Plus, she and Cromwell became enemies in the end and Henry just wanted her gone.  In any case, cutting her head off seemed a little extreme.  Anne would have been smart enough to take the deal had she been offered one.  Instead, 6 innocent people died.  Hilary Mantel never quite satisfies my curiosity about why that had to be.

Circa regna tonat.

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